Below are the main excerpts from the interview:
GMB - I would like you to tell us a little about the history of FBM. It was born in Brazil, at the time when bingos were allowed, is that right?
Rui Francisco - Yes. FBM started with legalized gambling in Brazil during the 1990s and early 2000s. That's when FBM emerged with a great challenge to develop something entirely national. At that time, I lived in Brazil and we had great success, developing high quality products and excellent acceptance. For us it was a big investment in terms of development. Brazil was excellent and the starting point where FBM emerged. Then, another major challenge, relying on our products, was to expand to other countries, taking the company to markets where other large and consolidated companies already existed.
In other words, the closing of bingos in Brazil, which could negatively impact FBM, propelled the company into its international life…
Yes and no. We idealized FBM as an international company, with an administrative core totally separate from the Brazilian company. When it appeared in the United States, it was administered independently from Brazil. With the closing of the Brazilian market, the people who were in the country, important human resources, turned to give support and to be able to help in whatever way possible to make FBM Internacional even more productive. Of course, this helped with the speed with which the business was expanding around the world. It is always good to remember that human resources are extremely important to a company's success. Taking advantage of these resources that were from Brazil in the company that was expanding internationally helped in the momentum.
And how does FBM position itself today in the international gaming market?
FBM is doing very well and has been growing fantastically over time. Today FBM is one of the largest companies in the world in bingo games - if not the largest. Like all other companies, we want to achieve new and great goals. We lead the world market, but we want to expand our reach. Based on this, we have been making large investments. We have a huge engineering team in Europe and have been able to develop high quality products that are on par with other manufacturers that today provide TOP casino products. We had the dark period of the pandemic and shortly before we had finished the development of new products aimed at the casino market. We are just waiting for the return to normal to present these products to the world.
In how many jurisdictions is FBM approved and what were the most difficult requirements to be met?
It is interesting to analyze the question in two aspects. One is about the most important requirements. I would say that there are no difficult requirements. There are requirements. They have to be attended to. If they are technologically difficult, then it is a problem. But for us, who have no technological limitations, if a country approves a game and gives us the specifications, we can meet and obtain the necessary certifications. The great detail is to evaluate what is worthwhile, since some markets offer great opportunities, but which do not arouse commercial interest from the point of view of financial success. So, we are certified in countries that we identify as interesting. We are certified in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Ireland, Philippines, Macau etc. Of course, we look for other interesting jurisdictions and we will meet the necessary requirements in them.
What were the main milestones that FBM has achieved in recent years and what are the challenges you faced to consolidate the brand?
Our goal was to be a company with products that give us satisfaction. If we, who are following the development of our technology, look at our product and are amazed by the quality, I would say that we have achieved our goal. This is what happened with FBM, when developing market-leading TOP bingo products and consolidating itself as a market leader. Another milestone was to be able, before the pandemic, to develop a very high-level product to compete with slot machines in the major casinos in the world. Thus, our milestones were to consolidate us as a world leader in the bingo area and now to be able to compete on equal terms with the big companies that manufacture casino equipment.
How was this year with the pandemic for FBM, and what do you expect in the near future?
The pandemic was terrible for all companies, as casinos were closed and opportunities were very limited. But FBM was very well prepared and we managed to maintain our entire workforce around the world. We invested in human resources and in our development teams so that they could go through this period of seclusion. We will have great success with the products that our teams developed during this period.
Does FBM also have products for online gambling?
Yes. We have a specific division for that. It is FBM Digital Systems, already certified in Malta, with products for any online casino in the world. We have a great product line, and we are already in many online casinos. And the trend is for growth in this segment, with the expectation of reaching more than 100 sites.
How do you, who lived a long time in Brazil, see the Brazilian gaming market? We have sports betting and online casinos in operation, but without regulation. Do you believe in fast market regulation?
I am not very aware of what happens in Brazil. With the pandemic I didn't even have the opportunity to go to Brazil. What I know is that a law for sports betting has already been passed, but so far it is not regulated. As for online casinos, we can say that they are not prohibited, but there are also no regulations. Thus, we see Brazil as a ‘gray market’. It is not good. Ideally, we should have a law regulating all sectors. The lack of guidelines creates problems that are not very pleasant.
Today we have online sports betting in operation in Brazil from companies based abroad, without collecting taxes…
It is unfortunate. Brazil is an extremely important country and a big economy in the world. There are few countries with this democratic profile in which gambling is not regulated. And when gambling is not regulated, we know that it goes underground and the failure to pay taxes. This is not good, but I think that everyone in Brazil connected to the sector wants the regulation. And I believe that this will not take long, as it is a matter of common sense.
And when that happens, what will be the FBM's strategy?
The Brazilian market is spectacular. FBM is going to make big investments and, if that happens, we intend to set up a factory in Brazil, as it was in the 90s, and use the technology we already have developed and adapt it and transfer it to the Brazilian market. FBM has complete confidence in its products to be able to compete in the Brazilian market with any other company in the world. The investments will be very large, but they will pay off.
You talked about challenges, even in this pandemic era. How it was to address all these challenges. We even know that FBM has made a series of initiatives to help various communities.
The pandemic has arrived devastating. People were panicked and it didn't happen in one country or another. It was all over the world. We have our engineering in Portugal and companies in Malta, Luxembourg, the United States and Asia. The behavior was exactly the same. In some countries, people do not even have labor rights. I will give the example of the Philippines, where we have around 600 employees. There, the law says that if you have nothing to do, you can send the employee away. Imagine what goes on in the head of a person who lives in a country with a law like that. We are proud to say that we kept our entire team and paid full wages during that time regardless of whether they were working or not. This was an investment we made in human resources and with this support people recognized and are still happy to work with us and deliver quality products to us so that we can present them to the market after the pandemic.
In addition, we serve several social projects in countries where we have large investments. In the Philippines, we made large donations to hospitals that were struggling financially to care for patients with COVID. We also help some sectors, such as jeepney drivers. There are about 500,000 in the country who depend on their work to eat. We can't solve everyone's problems, but like other companies, we helped with some social works, within our possibilities.
And what are FBM objectives for next year with the resumption of the economy?
This year was very different. Every year, during the last months, we plan for the next year and everything we programmed in 2019 went down the drain. 2021 is still unknown, as we do not know exactly how it will be due to the pandemic. But the future of FBM, if it happens as planned, will be one of great growth and large investments. If the products respond as they have already done, we project a growth of 20% to 25% compared to 2019.
Source: Exclusive GMB