Miguel Ángel Ochoa Sánchez, president of the Association of Permit Holders, Operators and Suppliers of the Entertainment and Gambling Industry in Mexico (AIEJA, for its initials in Spanish), highlighted in an exclusive interview with Yogonet, that 2022 did not bring “the long-awaited recovery” that had been predicted at the beginning of the year, but considered that 2023 will be the year “to strengthen this full recovery that we had hoped would come a little earlier, with a substantial growth in the activity, especially in the digital aspect.”
After two years of the pandemic, what is your assessment of the sector’s performance during 2022 in Mexico?
There is no doubt that 2022 has seen the industry gradually return to “normalcy”, although the brutal impact of two years of the pandemic is still not completely overcome.
Little by little, land-based casinos are finding their traditional clientele, in addition to having expanded, for the most part, their offerings by accelerating or integrating digital options that they did not necessarily have before March 2020. Additionally, 2022 has obviously seen the arrival or appearance of many new online operators in our country, with substantial growth in their activities.
However, the long-awaited recovery that we had predicted at the beginning of the year has been somewhat slowed down by a series of elements, some exogenous and others specific to the national dynamics, which have dampened the country’s economy in general, and consumer confidence in particular.
The high inflation that we continue to experience, the proposals of several ongoing reforms to laws that have not necessarily favored the industry, together with the report of a substantial increase in extortion of businesses in general in different states of the country, have forced businessmen to review their expansion plans and delay certain projects.
But the industry has been recovering. With around 390 casinos in 29 of Mexico’s 32 states, gambling is in good health in Mexico and has great potential.
What role did AIEJA play in this context?
Since its creation, AIEJA has focused a large part of its efforts on strengthening the union as a cornerstone to vindicate the benefits of a sector that is poorly known to the general public and to empower our dialogue with the authorities at the three levels of government. This has allowed us to contribute constructively to the proposals sent to the legislative branch, in order to design an ideal legal framework and achieve the full development of our activity.
The crisis generated by the pandemic offered AIEJA the opportunity to organize in each state different working groups composed of multiple companies, regardless of their affiliation to our association, which allowed us to facilitate state negotiations for reopenings and to engage in constructive dialogues with state and municipal authorities.
In short, I would say that AIEJA seeks to join forces to strengthen a union in the process of maturing. It is important to remember that the Mexican gaming market, as we know it today, is still relatively new.
2022 also meant a return to in-person attendance at various events around the world. What is your assessment of the trade shows held this year?
A real return to life! There is no doubt that we needed it. After two years of total or partial isolation, depending on our countries or regions, the events in which AIEJA decided to participate exceeded the most optimistic expectations we could have had.
New players, multiple mergers of business groups, technological innovations, legal advances, exchanges of experiences…. the world of gaming has come together again, more dynamic than ever.
The other issue that merits highlighting is the growing interest in Latin American markets in general and Mexican markets in particular, for numerous European, U.S., and Asian investors. It is clear that one of our greatest challenges will be if we wish to expand the domestic market, our ability to offer interested companies legal certainty, and the best tax options to make Mexico an attractive location for operators.
What can we expect from the gaming industry in Mexico in 2023?
For AIEJA, 2023 is shaping up as a year to strengthen this full recovery that we had hoped would come a little earlier, with substantial growth of the activity, especially in the digital aspect. The efforts made by our land-based operators to move towards omnichannel, as well as the arrival of new players in the market, suggest a great dynamism in the industry for the years to come.
And to show this to the world, AIEJA will organize, at the end of March, the III International Gaming Convention, which will bring together most of the industry players operating in our country, as well as other guests interested in joining us. The online world and its innovations will have a privileged scenario there, without forgetting networking, exchanges of experiences, and spaces for reflection and debate, under innovative formats. So book your place so as not to miss this great event that will vindicate our contributions to the dynamics of the country.
What would be your year-end message to the sector, where will the industry continue to grow, or what changes do you think are in store for 2023?
Neither economics nor political science is an exact science. And unfortunately, our industry is somewhat dependent on the pace imposed by both areas. But what I can predict, without fear of being wrong, is the stupendous potential of a very dynamic and creative sector with an overwhelming capacity to overcome the obstacles that arise. Mexico represents, after Brazil, the largest and most attractive Latin American market. Not only because of its geographical location, its climate, its tourist attractions, its proximity to the United States or its nearly 130 million inhabitants but also because of its constantly evolving infrastructure and access to the best existing technologies.
Additionally, the insufficient and somewhat outdated regulations in force offer us precisely the opportunity to shape an ideal framework for the development of this sector, applying the best practices that have already been tested in other corners of the planet and anticipating the innovative trends that are on the horizon.
And finally, my year-end message to the sector would be: Thank you! Thank you for your efforts, thank you for your patience and, above all, thank you for your trust. The union of our guild is the cornerstone of the growth of our activities.