Home away from home

Mar 12, 2022peter

Eifer Group’s newest casino promises domestic comfort. Lyudmyla Kyrychenko chats with Eifer group director Dmytro Lizenko before opening the third establishment in Ukraine

Poltava is known to have existed for 1,200 years—perhaps longer. Traces of Scythian and Paleolithic inhabitants have been found within its borders. It had already been greatly fought over by the time it gained its present name in 1430. Perhaps it is most famous as the site of Peter the Great’s decisive victory over the Swedes in 1709. All of this conflict has caused Poltava to be ravaged several times over, but the sturdy city keeps coming back from the ashes.

It is in this burg, with a rich and cosmopolitan mix of history, that Eifer Group has chosen to plant the flag of its newest casino. And, as Eifer Group Director Dmytro Lizenko freely admits, “Residents can stay cozy and warm inside the new casino during winter and enjoy the cool casino halls during a hot summer.” It’s not a vast facility, having fewer than 70 slot machines and a modest complement of table games. But Eifer Group knows its market and will undoubtedly prosper.

In his talk with Casino Life, Dmytro Lizenko elaborates on the importance of the DR Gaming Technology operating system, how he chooses slots and tables, and what makes the Poltava casino unique. He also addresses the subject of responsible gaming and Eifer Group’s commitment to it, making the company part of a wave of operators who are bringing this crucial issue to the forefront of casino operations.

Poltava is halfway between Kyiv and Kharkiv. Can you tell readers about the city?

Yes, you are quite correct, Lyudmyla. Poltava is about three and a half hours drive from Kyiv, and is situated on the banks of the Vorskla River in what I guess one could call the ‘east middle’ part of Ukraine. Whilst it is home to about 300,000 people it remains quite a hub for tourists due to its proximity to a vast number of local museums, amazing architecture, and a number of historical battlefield and other heritage sites. In fact, archaeologists say the ancient parts of the city have existed since before the eighth century.

From a climate perspective we enjoy a pleasant summer with temperatures in the mid-twenties, whereas in winter I’d estimate that the range from lows of about minus-five to maximum temperatures of probably around 12 or 13.

What were the main reasons for the choice of DR Gaming Technology to provide your casino’s operating system?

I personally worked with DRGT™ in 2007 at River Palace in Kyiv. I say DRGT™, but at the time it was SiP, a company that DRGT™ acquired in the early 2010s as I recall. Nonetheless, our relationship goes back some time, and when re-introduced to Jean-Michel (De Busscher, MD: DRGT™ Online) by Kubilay Özer (Vice President: Global Sales and Marketing, Apex Gaming) it was more of a “hello, old friend” than an introduction.

Notwithstanding our prior history, the systems’ functionality, ease of use and stability were the core drivers of our decision. We needed a system that was cost effective as well and one that we could install quickly, and DRGT™ ticked those boxes. We also wanted to offer wide-area (linked) jackpots as soon as we opened a second location and DRGT™‘s system-driven jackpot solution afforded us that functionality at the outset.

So far the installation has gone well and we are operating without any glitches. That said, any service provider that promises an operator no glitches or problems during an installation is being unrealistic. Luckily for us though it all went relatively smoothly – we are happy, and managed to resolve the niggles we had quickly and without too much hassle.

When did the casino open and how many slots and tables does it have?

Golden Gate Poltava officially opened on 17 October 2021 with 69 slots, as well as three live American roulette tables and seven live poker and blackjack tables.

So far players appear to be enjoying our mix of games, and footfall has been steady; we can’t complain. I’d estimate that our regular tables players are here twice a week, and our regular slots players around three times a week. With local gaming legislation requiring us to have a four-star hotel associated with our casino, we obviously enjoy custom on an ad-hoc basis from these guests too. If this casino had been in Kyiv, we would have had to been associated with a five-star establishment.

In addition to our gaming floor mix, we have also received many compliments related to our design and décor which is always nice to hear; you hope you’ve gotten it right and when that is validated it is very satisfying. All in all we are very proud of the product we have here in Poltava.

How do you choose slot machine manufacturers and how many slots do you have in total?

At present we operate 156 slots across our Golden Gate Casino in Poltava and our Golden Gate Slots Hall in Dnipro.

The manufacturers we presently utilise were chosen based on their historical success in Ukraine. As you know all gaming was halted in the country in 2008 and things have only just re-opened. As such, we initially went for the tried and tested games from CT Gaming, EGT, IGT and Novomatic; we’ll be testing out some Apex EGMs during the first quarter of 2022.

In order to ‘hit the ground running’ we felt that historically popular themes and games were the way to go – players know them and it made sense to us to follow this plan as our opening strategy. To date the strategy seems to be working, but as I said we will be trying out some new Apex machines and games soon, and will need to do the same with some other manufacturers too. We are very aware that in order to remain relevant we need to ensure that we keep providing players with what they want.

The above said, we are hoping that the addition of the aforementioned wide-area progressive jackpots will also assist us in remaining relevant to our players.

What other aspects of the casino have involvement from DR Gaming Technology?

As you know cashless gaming is legislated in Ukraine so this module from DRGT™ was a non-negotiable, and in fact in relation to your earlier question was probably one of the other key reasons we selected DRGT™ as our systems supplier. They are world-renowned for their cashless functionality.

In addition to cashless, our intention was always to offer linked player loyalty across all our casinos and slots halls, as well as linked jackpots, so the company’s jackpot and player tracking are also part of our systems bouquet along with player registration and cage functionality.

Would you recommend DR Gaming Technology to other Ukrainian casino operators and if yes why?

I have already proposed DRGT™ to a number of other local operators in Ukraine. As I said earlier I have found the system to be easy to install and easy to use too; with both the front and back quite intuitive, which makes things easier for our staff and our players.

We will also soon be adding the promotions module to our offering, something that again should prove beneficial to us in respect of player retention and game play levels, whilst offering players a further opportunity to be rewarded for their loyalty and to have some additional fun.

What are some of the unique aspects of the casino?

I think the homeliness of it all. Poltava is not a massive city, and as a result of us being the only casino here, we really are a home away from home for many of our players. They come here to have fun, relax and to be with their friends.

With our tables offering on the ground floor, and our slots area downstairs it all is quite cosy and separated; most of our players are local, with many of them visiting a couple of times a week, so notwithstanding the gaming itself, as I said, they are often here spending time with their friends.

How is the casino dealing with the Gambling Commission’s compliance requirement for responsible gaming I think what is easy for us is the fact that the Commission already manages and mediates on exclusions, and self-exclusions. They are also responsible for maintaining that database, which we as operators have access to, and are required to reference each time anyone enters our establishments.

Whilst players are not required to join our loyalty programme, they are required to register each time they enter any gambling facility and it is here, when they present their ID or passport that we verify them against the Commission’s database.

The Eifer Group is a proud supporter of responsible gaming and we will do our best to ensure that at all times our players are playing in a safe environment, and one that has their interests and the interests of their friends and families at heart.

What difficulties is the casino experiencing now?

We pay too much gaming tax, ha ha – isn’t that the biggest challenge of any casino operator anywhere in the world, Lyudmyla?

Seriously though, what we do find challenging is the current tax that we are required to levy on players when paying out winnings. The legislation itself is rather old and quite ambiguous. Whilst we are not opposed to the tax, we believe that the way it is presently implemented needs to be re-looked at and updated. Whilst the intent is clear and sensible, exactly how and when it should be levied presently remains, in my view, punitive to players.

Is this the only casino of Eifer Group or are there others, and if so where are they located and are there plans for more?

Golden Gate Casino Poltava is the only casino of Eifer Group. However, we do presently operate the Golden Gate Dnipro Slots Hall in Central Ukraine. It opened in December and I am sure by the time you go to print we would have opened our second slots hall: Golden Gate Kharkiv, which is situated in the east of the country.

Casino licenses in Ukraine are limited to one location with no limit to the number of slots and tables a licensee may operate, whereas a slots hall license is limited to 250 slots with no limit to the number of locations, other than the fact that any single slots hall must operate a minimum of 50 EGMs.

*This feature interview was originally published in Casino Life Ukraine Magazine in February 2022*