MAR 26 DE ENERO DE 2021 - 08:08hs.
Renato Almeida turns 25 at FBM

"For the gaming sector, there is no market with as much potential to be explored as Brazil"

In 1995, a young man from São Paulo started working at FBM (still FABAMA back then - Brazilian Factory of Automatic Machines in Portuguese). From that moment, the company expanded and grew to become a giant in the market. Renato Almeida is today 25 years old within the firm and, in that period, he took all the necessary steps to reach the position of director. In this exclusive interview with GMB, he reviews his beginnings within the industry, analyzes the Brazilian market, the effects of the pandemic on the market and FBM's future plans.

Renato Almeida is a professional with extensive knowledge of the gaming industry and in 2020 he is celebrating 25 years within FBM. His analytical capacity, management and business vision have contributed to the expansion of the company, a benchmark in the video bingo segment worldwide.

With tremendous effort and dedication Renato worked at FBM as Technical Supervisor, Production Manager and Factory Manager. When FBM was founded he assumed the position of Technical Director and a few years became Vice President. Renato currently holds the position of Director and he is one of the chairs on the Board at FBM.

GMB - How do you remember the Brazilian gaming market when you began working in FBM?
Renato Almeida - The market that I met at the beginning of my career was marked by simplicity with small bingos. The industry evolved and had a real growth explosion until its first break.

When activity resumes, with the reopening of the market, there is a noticeable evolution of bingo on several levels. The quality standards of the products have risen considerably and the gambling rooms have assumed gigantic proportions, almost like casinos, offering complementary services such as restaurants and shows.

This meant that there was a diversification of the audiences that visited the bingos. The youngest and the oldest also saw in this space a social program, in addition to the activity of the game itself. It is fair to say that in this evolution until the interruption we are currently experiencing, the Brazilian market has been able to successfully reinvent itself and ensure the continuous renewal of its player's profile.

Throughout this journey, which one did you think was the best thing you brought to the company and the best that the company gave you?
The company brought me a global view of the market and a very large growth at the administrative level. At the time I joined FBM, my vision was more focused on the technical part. The company opened my doors and allowed me to grow in other very important areas in this sector. Today, I work exclusively in the administrative part with knowledge that I learned almost 100% already within the company.

On the other hand, I brought to FBM a very detailed knowledge of the implementation of ISO 9000 in previous experiences. So I believe that I brought a lot of specialized knowledge and improvements to FBM, with consequences in the optimization of procedures and in raising the quality standards of the final product delivered to customers.

Participation by FBM in a gaming event in Spain, in 2011

What differentiating aspects have led FBM to take a leadership role within the industry?
There are two very important factors that have allowed us to follow this path of success and expansion with almost 20 years at FBM. The first one to highlight is, without a doubt, the quality and innovation that we carry for the products. This merit has to be given first to Rui Francisco, who had the ability to take the first steps and always had the vision to guide us in the market with great growth over all these years. We must also highlight here the contribution of all professionals who have accompanied us in this journey of developing high quality software and hardware.

As an example, we were pioneers in the introduction of features such as the extra ball or the multi-card in video bingos and those steps forward that we took at the right time earned us the leadership that we knew how to maintain in this segment today. That is what we have done until today and it has allowed us to achieve this status as a leader and we will certainly continue to do so in the future. All of this, looking at the greatest diversity of offer we have now, but always trying to be at the forefront of markets with high quality products.

The second factor is the trust, personalization and closeness that guide relations with our customers. While looking for novelty and added value to deliver on products, we listen carefully and permanently to feedback from our customers. This allows us, many times, to anticipate needs that will appear later on the market and create solutions to the challenges that our customers will face. Our product development process seeks to be more proactive than reactive, but it is always customer-centered, so that they feel comfortable, confident and happy to work with us.

This combination of the constant search for technical excellence with a unique and dedicated relationship with each client has been the formula of our success.

How did the pandemic affect FBM's business and projects?
The pandemic affected the business directly, as it did in several other industries. Physical casinos in the markets in which we operate have closed their doors temporarily following the guidelines of the general quarantine decreed by governments and will also reopen in accordance with their instructions.

This naturally brings a break in the flow of business at FBM in this period. There must now be preparation for a necessarily different routine within the casinos and bingo halls, in order to ensure that all health and prevention measures are respected. It is possible that these changes have a negative impact on the flow of people visiting casinos and gambling rooms, thus directly affecting the business.

On the part of land-based customers, we see different reactions to this context. Some saw in this context the ideal opportunity to prepare for the launch of their online casinos. Others focused their attention exclusively on defining a strategy that will allow the best possible performance to be achieved during the reopening period, with part of that strategy going through the search for new products that reinforce their offer.

In the online universe, confinement has brought a spectacular increase in demand. This resulted in an increasing volume of contacts from industry agents. We already had some integrations in progress and others planned in the pre-pandemic period, but we were contacted by other players in order to move on to new operations.

Therefore, the projects keep their course with the necessary adaptations. Moreover, all the plans that were in progress with regard to expansion into new markets are still alive and the negotiations will certainly be new in the period of return to normality.

FBM presentation at G2E Asia 2014

With your experience, how do you see the post-COVID market? How long do you think it will take to get back to normal?
The market after the pandemic will necessarily be different. All companies will have to study a new reality in the gaming spaces and we will also have to understand what has changed in the players' mindset and behavior after this experience.

The road to recovery will be hard for everyone. I believe that it will be a slow start because there is a job that the governments and the regulators of each market will certainly lead in the necessary adaptation of the activity's legislation. The rules of movement and permanence in the game spaces will also dictate the time it will take us to return to the usual business flow.

In temporal terms, presenting an exact date for the end of this situation is not possible. Over the past few months, we have noticed how circumstances change from week to week and sometimes even from day to day. What we do know, for sure, is that we are dependent on the discovery of a vaccine or a remedy that will mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and thus we will be able to really return to normality.

The 2020 plans included a strong international expansion of the brand. Were you able to achieve part of these goals before the pandemic?
FBM's plans contemplated and continue to contemplate the expansion for this year. Despite the pandemic, the period until the end of March had already brought us expansion, mainly in the online segment with new integrations carried out before and during the outbreak.

In the physical casinos segment, there will be, naturally, a readjustment of the timings for the execution of our plans in the markets where we already have operations. However, we maintain the ambition, objectives and commitment to launch new products so that we can take advantage of the reopening of the market in the best possible way.

All expansion plans for new markets are still alive and the negotiations will certainly be new in the period of return to normal.

Is FBM's online area now more than ever playing a key role in the company? What is coming in this sector to offer the market?
The events dictated that the online now present greater preponderance in this scenario of general confinement that we live in society, but our plans and ambitions are the same. We want to increase the number of integrations with online casinos, we want to expand the games portfolio within the categories we have and bet on new types of gambling in the near future.

Why do you believe the Easy $ Link and Mythic Link video-slot games were so successful in the last edition of ICE SHOW?
The new video-slot games that we developed at FBM brought a considerable upgrade to the offer we had. We felt that, in addition to the new possibilities provided by the game modes and the features included in the Easy $ Link and Mythic Link games, there was a big improvement in the graphics, sounds and animations. The positive feedback and interest we noticed at ICE London came, in a way, to confirm this data that we already felt when we finished developing the product.

Do you believe that this is the right time for Brazil to legalize gambling and generate new economic resources after the crisis? What do you think is missing for this to happen?
In Brazil, the political situation is quite complex and troubled. Even at this time of fighting the pandemic, there is no unity or consensus of ideas. Apart from that, economically this pause period will also have a very marked negative effect in the country. With these two crises at the same time, it seems difficult to proceed with the legalization of the activity in the immediate or short term.

The legalization of activity would undoubtedly be a way for the Government to be able to accelerate the recovery of the economy. I say this because it would be possible to generate jobs and, at the same time, collect important revenues for the State through taxes. However, I believe that the legalization of the gaming sector can only happen when the nation is in a more stable political scenario.

As a Brazilian, do you dream of returning to work in this market that can be a giant when it opens?
Yes, no doubt. It was in Brazil that I took the first steps in this industry and I believe that this is a market with tremendous potential. It is believed that in the world there is not a market with as much potential to be explored as Brazil and, as proof of this, we have the evolution known in the past, during the periods when the activity was allowed in the country.

Source: Exclusive Games Magazine Brasil