We spoke to Konrad Komarczuk, chairman of the board of Fortuna online betting, about changes to the Polish gambling laws.
E-PLAY: Recently, you were appointed chairman of the board of Fortuna, one of the biggest bookmaking companies in Poland. Before that, you worked for TS (Totalizator Sportowy – the Polish Gambling Pool) where you were responsible for innovation and product development. What is your experience handling one of the biggest operational companies in Europe? What are your biggest challenges to come?
Konrad Komarczuk: To be accurate, apart from being Director of Innovations and Development at TS, I was also Project Manager. While running this department I supervised the strategy for implementing a state monopoly from 2012 to 2016. As a restult, TS reached record results in terms of sales, payments and budget. The strategy involved developing marketing communication, finances, sales network development, investments and client management. Before working for the monopolist, I was involved in telecommunication projects, as well as working for optimising costs for banking companies . I think that I have management essentials, which make me profitable both for the company and its clients.
E-PLAY: Apart from its stationary outlets, Fortuna offers online bookmaking. Which is more popualar? Is the online sector developing faster? Perhaps the outlets have greater potential?
Konrad Komarczuk: The online market boasts higher sales dynamics. At the same time, the stationary market, referred by you as terrestrial, has a regular set of customers who prefer them either out of habit, for social reasons or for other reasons. In my opinion, both distribution channels still have equal potential. The number of users who use the two channels is almost equal. Of course, the growth will be more noticeable online, but I think the stationary network can’t be neglected, because it still has the potential for development and we want to invest in it.
E-PLAY: The changes to the gambling laws envision the possibility of blocking websites which aren’t legally situated in Poland. Is this an efficient solution for companies owning Polish concessions?
Konrad Komarczuk: If these regulations are enforced, the demand will partially move to bookmaking products from the illegal market to the legal market. This is what happened in France and Denmark. Apart from legal operators, the state treasury will also benefit from these changes because of new gaming taxes. If this regulation comes into force on July 1, and is properly executed, it will have a positive impact on the legal gambling market in the second part of the year. However, in my opinion this isn’t the best solution, because companies with Polish licenses will still be offering poorer products to customers of the illegal market because of the 12% tax on games.
E-PLAY: You compete with other bookmaking companies for football club sponsorship. Your flag club is Legia Warszawa, this year’s participant in the Champions League. Do you plan on sponsoring different sports?
Konrad Komarczuk: The emotions experienced when betting on sports would not exist without the emotions awakened by the sport itself. That’s why we will be continuing and expanding our sponsorships throughout Poland. I think it’s our duty. Bearing in mind the benefits of sponsoring not only Legia but also Podbeskidzie or GKS Katowice, when preparing next year’s budget, I want to focus on increasing the recognition of our brand as a legal entity.
E-PLAY: What is your view on the state monopoly on slot machines? Do you have any thoughts concerning the state’s appropriation of other sectors of the gambling market?
Konrad Komarczuk: I think that the market should be regulated in order to protect players. It is impossible to pretend that the state isn’t regulating this high demand market, which a lot of people did in the previous years. I fully support any action to regulate the market and eliminate the grey market. I don’t know if monopolizing the market through new laws can be called appropriation. Personally, I support the competitive market. In my opinion, a concession system would be more appropriate from a business point of view. It would also be more beneficial for the player as well as the state. I also believe that my friends from TS will carry out the project professionally and in accordance with the monopoly strategy.
E-PLAY: Your new position comes with new ideas and plans. Are you ready to develop Fortuna’s structures in Poland? Aren’t you worried that your vision of running such a big department will be contrary to Group’s policy? Your predecessor wasn’t a Polish citizen, a condition I consider necessary for understanding the subtleties of the Polish market.
Konrad Komarczuk: My new job comes with responsibility, both towards the owner and the employees. I wouldn’t want to let them down. I think I’m well prepared for leading team of competent, committed people I have been working with since December 1. My bosses were looking for someone with experience on the local market, who would work based on the specifics of the Polish market and who would take the chances offered by its laws. One of the recruitment stages involved preparing a operation strategy for Poland. My strategy was accepted by the owners, so I’m not worried about conflicts in this area. Moreover ,I think that the exchange of knowledge and experience between Poland and other countries in which Fortuna operates can only bring benefits. My predecessor left the company in a sound financial condition. We also have a great team. I believe that these conditions as well as the strategy we will implement on the Polish market will let Fortuna develop in Poland.