“Never has it been more important to stick together” asserts the R Franco Group, with the gaming provider entering of one its biggest challenges.

Earlier this week Spanish Government accelerated a number of restrictions severely restricting all gambling advertising as well as implementing a number of further prohibitions on bonuses, promotional offers and marketing opportunities.

On top of this the country’s spread of the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, with fatalities rising above 10,000 on the same day that the company made initial donations as part of the nation’s ongoing fight against COVID-19.

Santiago Escribano, CEO of the R Franco Group, has been speaking to CasinoBeats about the ongoing situation, accelerated restrictions and how can suppliers and operators weather this difficult time.

CasinoBeats: As one of the Hispanic market’s most established gaming companies, what’s your take on the ongoing situation?

Santiago Escribano: This event will likely prove to be the biggest challenge the industry has seen in recent years. What we’re facing at this point is unlike anything we’ve had before. The combination of an economic recession, a global pandemic, social isolation and the closure of retail networks is unprecedented.

At this point, with the retail market halted, an adjustment of short-term strategies is essential to deal with this challenge. For the majority of gaming producers, there’s not much that can be done aside from development and R&D; as well as shifting all focus to online. As a company focused on entertainment, we can help fill the void of sport with creative and enjoyable ways to keep our partners’ customers engaged, but it is imperative we do so with a principal focus on social responsibility.

CB: How has the Spanish market reacted so far? Are daily operations being affected by the current measures?

SE: Spain has been hit harder than most, and as a key stakeholder in the country’s future, we’re here to contribute to the support of our country during these testing times. We’ve already made an initial donation of 13,000 reusable masks across Spain as part of the nation’s ongoing fight against COVID-19.

To ensure the safeguarding of the health and wellbeing of each of our teams across our global operations, we also immediately enacted our contingency plans several weeks ago to ensure our network can work fully remotely for as long as the ongoing crisis continues.

When it comes to the market, it’s never been more important for us an industry to share a message of solidarity and hope to customers, suppliers and operators during these tough times. The cancellation of sporting events around the world (and especially for La Liga in Spain) is going to hit the industry hard, and there’s no way of sugar coating that fact.

All we can do as an industry is as I have already mentioned; together with operators we need to focus on engaging (and responsible) ways to show that there is still a wealth of entertainment out there, especially online casino, that is there to be enjoyed. Of course, as one of Spain’s leading online gaming suppliers, we’re doing everything we can to support our partners in doing this and have ensured that the situation will not affect any of our planned rollouts of online casino products.

CB: The Spanish Government recently accelerated its advertising restrictions, and have been even more heavy-handed in their approach than originally understood – what can you tell us about this?

SE: In principle, what we’re looking at now is a ban on advertising all gaming related products, unless between 1am and 5am. This applies to TV, radio and online video sites including YouTube. To a certain extent, this was expected. However, what has been a shock is their unexpected ban on all bonus and promotional offers by operators, which has also been prohibited, together with a blanket ban on direct marketing to players via email.

To say we are disappointed with these additional actions is an understatement. As a company that has been around for the last 53 years (and in many ways instrumental to the Spanish economy), we are shocked that the government has intentionally enacted a measure that goes against a sector that pays its taxes and goes out of its way to ensure its compliance efforts are second to none.

We understand what the Spanish Government is trying to do, and we’re fully onboard with player protection, so much so that I’d be happy to call us one of the greatest proponents for responsible gaming out there. However, this is not going to achieve what they want.

These draconian measures are going to result in a landscape devoid of choice. Players are going to be driven back towards black sites due to a lack of options and a search for bonuses and free spins – where none of us can ensure they’re protected and will only worsen the issue the government was trying to solve.

CB: And finally, on taking the initiative – how can suppliers and operators weather this difficult time?

SE: As they say in Britain, keep calm and carry on! When it comes to Spain’s latest measures, I expect to see the market contract once it returns from its hiatus. The recent tightening of advertising regulations, and the negative press attention that comes with it, naturally makes the Spanish market less attractive to international companies. Growth will be slowed by a reduction in the number of operators applying for a licence in the Spanish market.

Of course, there are still opportunities here, and as a key industry stakeholder – it’s going to be our job to help communicate this to the outside world. When it comes to online casino, key here will be to look for new business niches and make the most of every euro invested. Welcome bonuses may be on their way out, but there’s a solid case for diverting your resources into promoting customer loyalty once they’re acquired.

My advice here to operators is to focus on affiliates and social networks as well as content-rich SEO messaging. Specialised and metric-based marketing plans are also going to be essential, as well as being far stricter with the monitoring of metrics and analysis of
your traffic sources.

This doesn’t hide the fact though that we’re dealing with a situation that was unimaginable just months ago. Admittedly, we’re a global organisation that is able to work fully remotely, with our technological capabilities enabling us to ensure that there will be no changes to any of our rollouts or launches for 2020.

However, when it comes to the industry’s smaller players, many of whom are essential to innovation and agility in the Spanish gaming industry, we need to do all we can to help
them through this. Never has it been more important to stick together and make sure we come out of this stronger and better than ever before, and we will be doing everything in our power to make that happen.