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ZITRO


Zitro is on the verge of becoming a major player in global gaming; a visit to their Barcelona campus reinforces the impression of a company that is really moving in the right direction.


surroundings. Casino International visited one of Zitro’s beautiful campuses outside Barcelona and sat down with company founder Johnny Ortiz, and CEO Sebastian Salat, to find out what makes them, and the company, tick.


A


Casino International: Johnny, what is your background? How did you get here?


Johnny Ortiz: I was a big operator in Brazil and I began there with bingo halls because machines were not allowed – but when they were allowed, I said this is a good business idea so I started putting in video bingo machines because it at that time, slots were not allowed. So we could say that thanks to the government of Brazil we invented video bingo! When that was the only thing that was possible, we did that and we did it very well. We began very small; we didn’t know anything about slots or video bingo, or machines, and we begin to place them; luckily, they worked very well. I started with bingo halls in 1995 and video bingo machines at the end of 1996. Then in 2004, our president prohibited gaming. So that night I went to bed as an entrepreneur and I woke up as a bandit. It’s unbelievable. Three hundred thousand people unemployed from one day to another. We worked until 2006 because we went to court. I had


invested a lot of money in the best bingo halls in the world; then I thought, why not work in other countries? So I came here to Spain. In the beginning it was very small, ten people, then 20, 40, 80, 106... Now almost 300 engineers, artists, all the people you need to make a good game. We started from scratch in 2007 and now 11 years later we are working toward becoming a global leader.


CI: It’s a very impressive setup you have here…


JO: Well, our facilities are really good. Not many companies in Europe can have these facilities and the number of engineers and skilled people that we have. People would say to me a long time ago, you have very good graphics, you have


60 FEBRUARY 2019


Fuelled by


modern gaming company must be just that – modern. If you want to recruit hot young talent, you have to have a setup that can compete with major technology companies, and adopt a similar mindset when establishing your


Founder Johnny Ortiz, left, with Sebastian Salat


very good people, why don’t you do slots? I always said, first we are the global leader for our video bingo, but I’m going to do slots in a way that is very far from what our competitors are doing. Some people see what we are showing now at exhibitions,


they say ‘Wow, you’ve done this in one year!’ Of course not, all the research for everything they see began three years ago at least. So we prepare everything, we take care of every detail. The graphics, the sound, the machine. We take care of every single detail. We decided to go forward, because with video bingo you can’t go everywhere – but with slots, you can go everywhere. It was a natural step, but we only did that having in mind that for everybody in video bingo to arrive to where we were, would take them at least three years and a lot of investment and people, so we knew it would be a long road. I have a lot of passion, and I try to communicate this to our people; the important thing is to have a good team with a lot of passion. They are proud to work here, they see we are growing and that our products are really good. Right now we have the best slots product in the world, Link King; when we place this in a casino it gives double or triple the average, I could not imagine in my wildest dreams having a game like this, but we have it.


CI: Where did the Bryke brand come from?


Sebastian Salat: When I joined the company, Johnny already had games in the pipeline, just not in the market yet. No machines were placed yet. He decided to do the first test of video slots, but he did not want to commit the Zitro name to that, we wanted to make sure that by putting the product on test we were not compromising the Zitro name. We wanted the players to test the product with neutrality, without knowing it was Zitro; we were so well known as video bingo manufacturers. We did not want any expectations. We placed the first units in Mexico under the Bryke brand, with a cabinet you could buy off the shelf. We placed a few hundred machines, and later on the product was so successful that players were asking for the Bryke machines. We knew then we could not get rid of the new brand, we had created a successful product and it had an identity and personality among the players, so we maintained it for video


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