The First Official Gambling Operator in Ukraine Talks About the Work in The Country
Storm International of Michael Boettcher, a company with 30 years of experience and an impeccable reputation, was the first to come to Ukraine after the legalization of gambling.
Darren Keane, CEO of Storm International, shared his thoughts on working in Ukraine and the first results.
How quickly did Shangri La get the license?
In fact, it was very simple. The Gambling Regulatory Commission made the process easy enough. We agreed on all the documents that we needed to get. We made several phone calls, there were only a couple of questions about specific documents. And as soon as they collected the entire package of documents, they submitted an application and very quickly received a license. The biggest problem was that the hotel had to get permission to host the casino first. Many hotels had problems because they did not know exactly what documents to provide. But when it came to a real gaming license for us, as an operator, the Commission made it very, very simple. They did a great job.
Tell us about Storm International. Where is it based?
Storm International has over 30 years of experience. The company is based in Holland. It was founded by Mr. Michael Boettcher. I, Darren Keane, have been CEO of Storm International for the past 13 years. We can say that I led our departure from Russia and entered the international market. Despite the fact that we were a very large company in Russia, several years ago we became an even larger international multinational and multicultural company. Opened in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Latvia, Mexico, and Germany.
You are known as a Russian casino. Wouldn’t that be prejudice for players from Ukraine?
No, absolutely not. I will explain why. We are British. Many years ago, we decided that we wanted to open a casino in Russia. But we also opened casinos in different parts of the world. I started working at Storm International 25 years ago, not in Russia, but in Venezuela. I have friends who worked for our company in Ukraine. When we had a casino here, or in other countries, for example, in Romania.
So, anyone who knows anything about the gaming business knows that Storm International, Darren Keane noted, is a British company that has been around for 30 years. Anyone who wants to associate us with Russia can say that we only worked there for many years. And it was good business for us. But as soon as Russia changed the law, leaving only zones inappropriate for running a gambling business, we left. Since then, we have opened in several more different countries.
Our management is completely international, predominantly British-Australian. We have managers from Armenia, Belarus, Latvia, Georgia, from all over the world. We don’t have Ukrainian managers yet, because we didn’t have a business in Ukraine before. However, we had many Ukrainian employees working for us both in Georgia and in Armenia. And many of these employees are now returning with us to work in Ukraine. I think that next year we will have our first Ukrainian manager, that would be great.
Why did you choose Ukraine to do business here? Why is it interesting for your company?
We have been waiting for the opening of the Ukrainian market for six or seven years. I have personally been to Ukraine 10 times over the years, met with different people, and traveled to different gaming forums to discuss when the legalization of the gambling business will take place. This is a very interesting market for us.
When we left Russia, our company had over 6,500 employees and they all spoke Russian. This is one of the working conditions in our company. When we work in Venezuela, the management must speak Spanish, in Romania, they speak Romanian. As a result, we had many foreign international managers who spoke Russian.
Our brand “Shangri La” is widely known not only in Russia but also in post-Soviet countries. We were regularly visited by players from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine. When we decided to leave Russia, we had a huge player base from all over the former Soviet Union. We didn’t have players from England, we didn’t have players from Germany. And there are players from Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Ukraine. Therefore, it was logical for us to develop the brand in these countries.
When you have a brand that is popular and recognized for its excellent reputation, high professionalism, luxury, comfortable games – it makes sense to take this brand and use it in countries where it is recognized. After all, when we went to Mexico, our brand was not so recognizable, that is, there was no such effect. But when we open in Armenia or Georgia, players immediately come to us because of the brand’s recognition and professionalism.