Andres Burget has an intimidating goal: create unforgettable gaming experiences for what will soon become one of the world’s most luxurious casinos.
For Andres, a gaming industry veteran with over 30 years of experience, this meant answering two important questions. First, what are the essential pillars of an unmissable casino experience? And, equally importantly, what to avoid like the plague?
In search of answers, Andres travelled to seven countries in 21 days in February 2020, visiting casinos to learn everything there is to know about what makes them succeed and fail.
Read on as Andres shares the seven most valuable lessons from his trip that are currently being poured into the foundation of the ultra-luxurious Bombay casino, opening its doors for Bitcasino and Bombay Club VIPs in Tallinn, Estonia, early 2024.
Trust is the only thing we sell
The very first casino I visited was in Seoul, but the casinos in the capital were for foreigners only. I had come to see how Koreans play, and for that, I went to the Kangwon Land casino East of Seoul. Here, the atmosphere was electrifying: gaming tables and slot machines, all full of locals as far as the eye can see. I couldn't find an empty seat anywhere for about an hour and a half. I've never seen anything like this before, and I don't think I ever will again. Las Vegas is nothing compared to this place.
It was in Kangwon Land that I noticed something I'd never seen before. People were "booking" slot machines by leaving cash on them and then just walking away. Absolutely no one touched the money. It was still there when they returned. I haven't seen this level of trust anywhere else in the world.
Trust is key. That's the most important lesson I learned in South Korea. And that's what we strive for in the Tallinn Bombay casino as well. You can leave your money out in the open, and it will still be waiting for you when you return. Trust is the only thing we sell in gaming. If you're my customer, but you don't trust me, you're gone.
Never fake it
If Kangwon Land in South Korea was nothing like Las Vegas, then in the Philippines, the similarities ran a bit too deep. I saw a lot of fake smiles, fake conversations, fake everything. Being there was like stepping into a made-up show for tourists.
That's not the message you want to send to your players. Don't fake it. Show who you are, and don't try to play a role. Asian customers trust a person who actually shows them the real me. And that's exactly what we aim to do in Tallinn.
Wouldn't you feel special when you're treated as if you're at home, even when you travel to the other side of the world? This is one of the core values of the Bombay casino. For our players, Estonia will be this perfect place on the far side of the globe where they can feel like everyone knows them and their culture. And there will be nothing fake about it.
Don't be an ice box
Coming from Asia, I knew that the casino culture in Australia would be different. And it was but not necessarily in a good way. What I saw was a lack of real, sincere emotions. The reception from the staff felt dry and just not on a level I hoped to see.
This hadn't really been an issue for me when visiting Asian casinos. In South Korea, every staff member that I spoke to was caring. They always asked about my needs and wants without ever overdoing it. But in Australia, nobody even came to talk to me. I was left all alone, minding my own business. The only people that actually showed any emotion were the Chinese customers playing in the Baccarat room.
So, ironically, my takeaway from sunny Australia was this: don't be an ice box. Be there for the customer and show your emotions. This can be tricky for us Estonians, and learning to overcome this takes some time. In the Bombay casino, our staff is made up of a mixture of multiple nationalities, making it easier for the locals to show their emotional side. Our players will appreciate that. After all, who would want to visit a casino where the staff behaves like emotionless robots?
Don't be invisible…
If the casino scene in Australia made me think of a shopping centre, then the Singaporean casino I visited felt like a factory line. It was the most sterile mass-market experience I've ever had in a casino.
Despite its vast size, there was nothing there to keep me engaged for hours. I wondered if anyone works there because I never saw any staff members. Nobody paid any attention to me whatsoever. I had high hopes of learning something valuable because Singapore's casino culture is well-known; however, there was nothing for me to see. The country and the people were terrific, but I would never visit that casino again.
Singapore taught me exactly what not to do in the Bombay casino. Don't just disappear, be there for your customer. Casinos have staff for a reason, and that reason has nothing to do with being invisible. And, bloody hell, come out of your skin and show some emotion to the customer who has come to your casino from the other side of the world!
… but don't overdo it either
If the staff was almost entirely absent in Singapore, Cambodia swung wildly to the opposite end of the spectrum. They completely overdid it. There was hardly a moment when someone was not talking to me, possibly due to COVID heavily thinning the ranks of customers. This made the casino experience feel unnatural and even invasive.
Never overdo it, no matter what. Keep that bit of polite distance with the customer. Nobody wants to have another person in their face all the time. Attention is all well and good, but providing the best customer service includes recognising the moments when it's better to step away.
Finding the best combination of staff visibility and invisibility is a fine balancing act. In Tallinn, we already have the perfect opportunity to solve this problem. We employ people from Japan, Korea, China, India, Vietnam, Turkey and many other countries. The best customer service is born from learning to understand their cultures thoroughly. Only a person from Cambodia can accurately tell you how Cambodians really like to be approached. And that is precisely how we plan to make sure that people from various cultures feel at home when they come to our casino.
The right atmosphere is crucial
I fell in love with the Indian casino scene. I felt like I had arrived home. The staff was effortlessly friendly but didn't take it too far. It didn't matter whether or not you're a foreigner. Everything just flowed so naturally. India offered me exactly the kind of atmosphere I was looking for.
Interestingly, gaming almost takes a back seat when everything around you feels so natural. The money doesn't matter all that much anymore because you're thoroughly enjoying yourself every step of the way. And that really is the goal, isn't it? To make the customer feel welcome, comfortable, and just right. Everything else is built on that rock-solid foundation.
India offered me one of the most valuable lessons of the entire trip: creating the right atmosphere is absolutely essential. Obviously, this is easier said than done. The atmosphere isn't just one thing but a combination of many puzzle pieces fitting together perfectly. But that's why visiting casinos in different parts of the world is so valuable, right? I discovered which pieces fit well into the Bombay casino framework and which are better left unused. Now all we have left to do is assemble the perfect picture.
Embrace the future
On the last leg of my trip, I travelled to Nepal, but also back in time. Nepalese casinos reminded me of the early 90s in Estonia. The staff were friendly and nice but the clothing, decorations and even the equipment took me back 30 years.
I didn't find this trip to a bygone era offputting; just slightly weird. Why would they choose this approach? There were a lot of tourists in the casino who were surely accustomed to something more modern. And yet the stage was occupied by a show that would look more at home at a local culture house than a Vegas stage. It was all a bit puzzling and outdated.
What's the lesson here? The Bombay casino in Tallinn will not get stuck in the past. You won't see washed-up 80s pop stars on the stage. We need to change and go with the flow because we will die out if we don't. More than anything, my experiences in Nepal reaffirmed that we're already on the right track. We already have our own app, and unlike our land-based competitors, we focus on crypto customers enjoying themselves in truly a cashless gaming environment. Weirdly enough, I had to peek into the past in Nepal to understand that embracing the future is the only way forward.