"The most important thing is the ability to communicate with people." Interview with Dmitry Anfinogenov, Development Director of the Krasnaya Polyana Gambling Zone
The kazino-game24.online editors continue the series of interviews with professionals from the gambling industry. Dmitry Anfinogenov, Director for Development of the Krasnaya Polyana Gambling Zone, became the hero of the new publication. His work is aimed at attracting foreign guests to the casino, whose share last year amounted to almost a third of the number of all visitors. In 2020, plans to expand direct flights between Sochi and major foreign cities were disrupted due to restrictions related to the spread of the coronavirus. The gambling zone was closed from March 28 to June 1. Sochi Casino, Boomerang, Bonus Slots slot machine hall and Sochi poker club are currently operating in Krasnaya Polyana. Dmitry Anfinogenov managed to take the time to answer questions from kazino-game24.online.
— How has your work changed in connection with the coronavirus pandemic?
— In a colossal way. To be honest, I can't find a place for myself. For almost two months I have not been on a single business trip, and over the past 3 years I probably have not had even two weeks so that I was not somewhere at meetings or negotiations outside of Sochi. For our new projects, we were supposed to hold meetings in America, in Macau, but the coronavirus left its mark and life changed by 100%.
— How did this affect employees?
— Before we worked 24/7, and now there is an opportunity to relax in this mode, and we ourselves are sometimes shocked that such a story suddenly happened. Everyone needs to stay at home, this is a new experience for everyone, but I am sure that everyone will become stronger. Many of our team are engaged in self-development, listen to some online courses, improve their skills in foreign languages. Well, they are happy to spend time lying on the couch, because there is an opportunity to sleep off, rethink life and relax a little.
— How are you going through the quarantine yourself, do you spend your free time?
— Once upon a time there were dreams, I wish I could just take a couple of months and relax, or at least lie down somewhere on the islands on the sand by the ocean for a month. And now an opportunity has arisen, but unfortunately there is no sand or ocean nearby, because everything is closed.
How do I spend my free time? Sports in the morning. I get up out of habit around 7:00 - 7:30, ride a bike for 15-20 kilometers, after that I take care of the children. Then we hold Zoom conferences, discuss pressing issues with colleagues, each from our own homes. I will not say that I spend time in some kind of personal development, I rather perceive it as a vacation. I try to relax and watch more shows. I’ll start watching Game of Thrones.
— The first reports of an outbreak appeared at the end of 2019. How did the situation with the virus develop in relation to the attendance of the gambling zone?
— We first heard this story before the New Year, when we were in the active phase of launching new flights from China. And for the first time, we heard from our Chinese partners that some new disease is spreading there. Then no one used the word “coronavirus”, they talked about the next bird or swine flu. But despite this, we launched the plane. As a result, only 4 flights were made, and of course, our plans, which we wanted to implement this year in April-May, all of them flew off.
The disease spread more slowly than rumors about the disease, so groups from Israel and several groups from India were canceled already in January. There was a recession, of course,cancelled the tournament of millionaires, which we had difficulty collecting, and some of the players lost due to the virus story in Sochi Casino in March. 702
— Как давно вы работаете в сфере азартных развлечений?
— Exactly three years. It all started quite banally and spontaneously, because in "Krasnaya Polyana" I performed commercial functions, was engaged in pure income at the resort as a whole, was responsible for receiving and servicing guests. When the shareholders faced the task of attracting a new audience to the gambling zone, I was given new tasks.
— В обычное время как проходит ваш рабочий день?
— It's always different. Sometimes on the plane, sometimes at meetings outside of our country or even on another continent, sometimes in my cozy little office at Casino Sochi. The only thing is that I still try to attend general planning meetings on Mondays in order to be aware of the changes and additions from my colleagues. If I can’t myself, then one of my deputies or one of the team members participates.
— How many employees do you have?
— The international development team consists of 7 people with me, in direct subordination I have 3 girls and 3 boys. I have the nearest deputy and further heads in the directions. That is, we segment the market according to the directions from which guests come to us.
— Do you have an irregular schedule?
— Yes. Sometimes we work at night, early in the morning, and late in the evening. In principle, everyone involved in international development lives according to the time of all time zones that exist.
— Routine tasks every day?
— I would not say that there are any then routine tasks every day, everything is quite spontaneous in our business. There is some kind of plan for the year, taking into account meetings, business trips, events, and you build your schedule based on this. But everything is changing at lightning speed in life, as it is now, for example.
— What do you consider the most important thing in your work?
— The most important thing, not only in my work, but in general, I think is the ability to talk and communicate with people, find the right mutually beneficial solutions, explain them to your guests, partners, employees. You can negotiate with any person, so the ability to communicate is the most important thing.
— What skills did you acquire while working as a development director?
— Probably, he honed his communication skills. He took on a large layer of decisions related to the international environment, not only for Casino Sochi, but for our Krasnodar Territory as a whole. Sometimes some decisions that you make outside the country about opening a destination, that is, flights specifically to Sochi, you implement on your own and there is no time to coordinate something. You understand what risks there may be, and ... you influence the fate of people. Because then a person comes to Sochi for the first time and, perhaps, falls in love with the city, finds his destiny here, stays here or something else - there are many such moments in our life. Therefore, the ability to make decisions quickly is the key thing that I have acquired.
— If you compare Russian casinos with establishments in Las Vegas and Macau, what do you see as the main difference and what could be adopted from foreign colleagues?
— Vegas and Macau are, of course, the meccas of the gambling business, much is better than ours in terms of entertainment in general. But some issues are resolved much more quickly, and some moments in Sochi Casino look even more preferable. From the point of view of the games presented, the professionalism of the staff, we are definitely not inferior to either Vegas or Macau.
In its purest form, one could borrow an approach to entertainment and infrastructure around gambling establishments. There is a person involved 24 hours. All kinds of shows, circus du Soleil, MMA fights, superstar concerts, shopping, etc. At the same time, you can go from casino to casino through a closed passage without going outside, people ply, traffic increases many times over. And the entertainment industry brings no less income than gambling.
Dmitry Anfinogenov believes that the peculiarity of Sochi Casino and Boomerang compared to foreign gambling establishments is their originality.
— Tell us about poker tournaments. How is the preparation for them going and how is the development director involved in this process?
— The preparation is always colossal, the Sochi Poker Club team is doing a great job. This includes forecasting by the number of participants, and placing additional tables. It's just that each table implies the payment of a tax on gambling equipment, so the submission of permits according to one or another list is required. Recruitment, attraction of new employees, their training.
As a director of development, I am more responsible for the image of the event, its status. We also help in solving visa issues, in organizing flights for guests. We have our own people almost anywhere in the world, and we can quickly pick up the phone and work will begin to boil on any continent.
— You have the right to sit at the table at the poker tournament in Sochi Casino?
— Yes, no problem. We don't have any hard limits. And part of my job is to show our new guests how things work. And poker tournaments are generally open to everyone, so yes, in principle I can play.
- Spend time gambling?
- Rather not. Sometimes I like to spend time playing roulette or playing blackjack, but I will not say that I am very fond of it. I like sports games more, I enjoy playing hockey and football, I love team sports.
— What kind of junket tours do you offer? How much can such a vacation cost?
— We have tours for every taste, for every budget. Already from 1000 c.u. you can get a tour in which the flight or travel to our gambling establishment, hotel accommodation will be compensated. With this money you will receive chips and be able to play. And you will be able to enjoy all the benefits that we have inside the gambling zone. It is clear that now the story with the junkets has sunk ... to zero, like any visit. But in general, already from 1000 USD. you can easily buy a combined tour.
— What is the peculiarity of your interaction with VIP clients, what can they expect in terms of service and conditions?
— The question is not very correctly formulated: for us every client is special. All people are different, everyone has their own preferences and wishes. Our task is to ensure that the wishes of our customers not only coincide with our capabilities, but that we anticipate the expectations of our guests. This is a task for our entire team, absolutely for everyone, and this is 1600 employees of the gambling zone! And they all work to ensure that all our guests (and any guest is a VIP client for us) receive decent service.
As for the more demanding customers, a full range of services is also provided for them. From anywhere in the world you can get to us by direct flight on a private jet, and in Sochi a varied program is available: ski resorts, seaside holidays, amusement parks, shopping and much more.
— You mentioned 1600 employees of the gambling zone . People of what specialties are included in their number, into which departments is the company divided?
— Representatives of more than 200 different professions are involved in the work of the entire Krasnaya Polyana gambling zone! The two most powerful areas are, of course, the gaming department and F&B (restaurants, bars, cafes). In third place is probably the economic department, which monitors the cleanliness of our place. Another technical department, security service, financial and legal service, various departments for all kinds of purchases. The key marketing department and the PR and promotion department integrated into it, my international development department, people who deal with junket history and hotel management. In short, so.
— Do you prefer to hire professionals or grow your staff from newcomers?
— We have a very balanced team, there are people who worked in the field of gambling even before the law on gambling zones. For example, the leadership of the gaming department. Almost everyone there has a long gaming experience, including in the post-Soviet space and in Russia before the ban on gambling. As for the line staff, there are different people. For example, in our own croupier school, we train employees from scratch.
— What were the plans for the development of Krasnaya Polyana for 2020 and how much have they changed in the current situation?
— I had several key areas planned. The first is to build regular interaction with China, bring direct flights between Shenzhen and Sochi to four flights a week, so that guests can fly in from there. The second objective was to increase direct flights from Tel Aviv to 20 per week starting in May 2020. And get at least 2 planes from Delhi or Mumbai directly to Sochi. 2 more charters per week from Bahrain from May to December. It's all moved aside, and it's still unclear when it will be returned.
In order to reach 30% in terms of occupancy by foreign guests, we spent 3 years, and at the end of 2019 we reached this indicator . But how to return to this indicator again? Let's see how international air traffic will be restored in general. If it's fast, then I think by the end of the year we will be able to reach at least 20 percent. And next year, to restore those losses that were not realized in this year.
Among other plans, we were going to organize a stable loading of WOW ARENA with fights, fights, concerts. All events have been canceled since the end of March.
— If we talk about the plan for 5-10 years, how will the gambling zone change?
— There are a lot of plans. We are planning to open a golf club, because this type of entertainment is interesting for many foreigners. They will be able not only to spend time playing in the casino or visit the Olympic heritage sites in Sochi, but also to play golf. And then we have plans to implement two superprojects. The first is a huge virtual tournament platform, similar to the one that operates in Montreal. It will be available to visitors of all ages. The second project will be a landmark for the gambling industry throughout Europe. I won't talk about it yet.
— And if we talk about the industry as a whole, what would you change?
— Probably the first thing that comes to mind is tax breaks. We remain a business with a human face, and I would somehow fix the rules somehow. So that industry representatives sit down with the state at the negotiating table and agree on the rules of the game for the next 20-25 years. Invite professionals, specialists, economists, to calculate and record everything, so that it would be easier for everyone to predict and develop.
Even before the launch of Casino Sochi, we had calculated a model, an action plan. And suddenly, in 2016, the visa policy with Turkey changes. Following this, we change the business plan. Then changes are made to the tax legislation, taxes on gambling equipment grow by 2 times. Our business plan is undergoing changes again. As you understand, such things have a negative impact on any business.
We, for example, welcome the abolition of visa restrictions. More precisely, the introduction of electronic visas for a very large list of countries from January 1, 2021. I hope that this will give an additional impetus to the development of not only the gambling zone, but also the greater Sochi as a whole, and will affect the tourist flow to our country. Yes, tourism has now suffered greatly, but this area is the third in the world in terms of profitability, this is an extremely attractive business. People travel, pay good money for bright emotions. And because of the difference in exchange rates, our country becomes a super-attractive object to visit.
— If casinos in Russia cease to exist tomorrow, what will you do?
- Probably I will become a patron of some kind or I will write memoirs, sitting on the ocean. But seriously, I would probably concentrate my efforts on further benefiting people. I would like to be useful to our city, our region, our country. In what capacity it will be, it does not matter at all.
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