Gaming America Jul/Aug 2022

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Jul/Aug 2022

DIGITALIZING THE CASINO FLOOR The evolution of land-based operators 





COO, EDITOR IN CHIEF Julian Perry EDITOR Cameron Saunders


STAFF WRITERS Robert Collins Ricky Gray Jr. LEAD DESIGNER Brendan Morrell DESIGNERS Olesya Adamska, Christian Quiling DESIGN ASSISTANTS Radostina Mihaylova, Svetlana Stoyanova, Gabriela Baleva MARKETING & EVENTS MANAGER Mariya Savova FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION ASSISTANT Julia Olivan IT MANAGER Tom Powling COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR Deepak Malkani Tel: +44 (0)20 7729 6279 US BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Aaron Harvey Tel: +1 702 425 7818 ADVERTISING SALES EXECUTIVE Ariel Greenberg Tel: +1.702 833 9581 SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGERS Michael Juqula Tel: +44 (0)20 3487 0498 Martin Dilleigh Tel: +44 (0) 203 435 5628 ACCOUNT MANAGERS William Aderele Tel: +44 (0)20 7739 2062


COO, Editor in Chief



With the dense, muggy heat of summer now upon us, it is time to descend to the cool, air-conditioning of the casino floor. But what’s this? The casino floor has changed? Slowly but surely, it has indeed. With the rise of digital gaming, the casino floor is going through an evolutionary phase. In this issue we look at the ways in which this is so, speaking to Hard Rock Digital and hearing a host of other viewpoints on the matter. Then there is tribal. In the run-up to the OIGA Conference and Tradeshow, we take a closer look at how far along gaming in Oklahoma has come over the past few decades. Oklahoma isn’t the only place where gaming is staking a claim for itself. Look no further than Chicago – the nation’s third largest city – to see what the future holds: Bally’s Chicago, which will be one of the preeminent new casinos in the next decade. Soo Kim and Chris Jewett – people instrumental in its construction – tell us all about it. There are other areas of interest that we cover in these pages. Too many to tell here, but, if you are after a sweet taste: the rise of regional casino databases, AI on the casino floor, self-regulation in sports betting, the battle for the soul of California, and fraud in iGaming. We certainly hope you enjoy this with the rest of your summer. Editor Cameron Saunders

Clive Waite Tel: +44 (0)20 7729 0643 BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Michelle Pugh Tel: +44 (0)20 7739 5768 CREDIT MANAGER Rachel Voit WITH THANKS TO: Ari Fox, Sheila Morago, Gus Petropoulos, Stephen Crystal, Marino Bogard, Oliver Lovat, Matt Primeaux, Jonathon Wilson, Quincy Raven, Soo Kim, Chris Jewett, Bill Pascrell, Matthew Morgan, Kiley Proffitt, Dr. Steve Bright, David Stoveld, Christopher Justice, Haushalter, David Forman, Brian Wyman, David Lucchese


Gaming America magazine ISSN 2632-766X Produced and published by Players Publishing Ltd

All material is strictly copyrighted and all rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is forbidden. Every care is taken in compiling the contents of Gambling Insider but we assume no responsibility for the effects arising therefrom. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher.


Managing Director Betsson


Chairman Bally's





















Defying all odds, the post-pandemic return of land-based operators continues to pick up speed.

Different states have different tax regimes and this map takes a closer look.

This year's OIGA tradeshow is expected to be a raucous return to form.

Contributor Gus Petropolous gives us the skinny on the movement of legalization across the land.







Stephen Crystal of SCCG probides invaluable lessons on casino management.

In our Huddle interview with Marina Bogard we learn what a European company must do to cross an ocean.

The world-famous Sahara is given a closer look by Vegas historian Oliver Lovat.



Matt Primeaux, President at Hard Rock Digital, divines the future of the tribal sector.

While iGaming has boomed during the pandemic, with that comes the rise of fraudulent activity.

Aspire Global's Quincy Raven elaborates on the possibilities of regional tribal ecosystems.

Soo Kim and Chris Jewett of Bally's tell us about their monumental plans for Chicago.





Bill Pascrell shows us that it is in all of our best interest for companies to take a stand against problem gambling.



Can self-regulation and self-deposits keep big government out of sports betting?















In our Viewpoints section, we take a look at the growing importance of digital gaming on the casino floor.

With the newly-renovated Palms, tribal operators are at last on the Las Vegas Strip.

A closer look is taken at the newest products shaking up the consumer experience.

Oklahoma's gambling ecosystem comes to life in a way that has a national reach.

Casino management mavens OPTX tells us about the AI at casinos present and future.

David Stoveld of Armadillo Studios sees a future in which sports related content guides the way.

The referendum on sports betting in California continues to rear its head as battle lines are drawn.



2022: THE YEAR OF LAND BASED? Gaming America examines the impressive growth that the land-based industry experienced during the opening months of 2022. What caused this level of expansion? How can the industry sustain it in the coming years? When President Donald J. Trump declared a national emergency regarding the Covid-19 virus on March 13, 2020 – shutting casinos and gaming properties across the nation – many believed they would be back at full capacity within the month. That poker tables would once again be packed with eager players, and roulette wheels would continue to spin. Alas, this was not to be: the weeks went on, turning to months and eventually a year, as the land-based industry suffered blow after blow, culminating in what many saw as the death knell for an industry that had so long sustained North American gaming. For almost 18 months, it seemed that every land-based recovery was short lived, that every victory


was met with a new variant of Covid-19 which slammed casino doors shut once more. But, at last, as we enter the summer of 2022, the land-based industry is back and, miraculously, bigger than ever. How did the industry perform such a recovery? We examine that question here.

THE NUMBERS In a recent report, the American Gaming Association stated that land-based casinos had their greatest start to a year in the industry’s history. Attendance was up 11.3% compared to pre-pandemic 2020 and a staggering 34% from 2019, the previous most-attended year. In terms of revenue, the industry generated $11.5bn in table games and slot revenue, a 22.7% increase over

2021 and a 10.6% boost on 2019’s numbers, the highest year on record. Essentially every jurisdiction has experienced growth during 2022 thus far, with the Las Vegas Strip and Atlantic City dominating the landscape. With this overall increase, average casino gaming revenue per admission landed far above pre-pandemic records, growing 35.8% when compared to pre-pandemic levels. But what led to this resurgence in consumer confidence? And can that industry replicate it in the months and years to come?

HOW LAND-BASED DID IT How did land-based casinos overcome this seemingly existential challenge to their existence, and even more so, how


Table Game Revenue








-100% Q1 2020

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did they go from strength to strength in the wake of Covid-19? In short, the industry embraced change and welcomed innovation. In the last year we have seen the eyes of the casino industry fall on one specific idea: the idea of omnichannel. From Hard Rock to Caesars International and Wynn Resorts, omnichannel is the approach that the industry used to move itself forward and grow beyond anyone’s expectations. But what is omnichannel? Put simply, it's the attempt to give consumers a truly integrated experience. In a casino that embraces the omnichannel approach, visitors will have access to an app that may allow contactless payments, room bookings, sportsbook usage, and cash wallets. Across the nation omnichannel approaches boomed, making the casino and integrated resort a truly enticing prospect to many that previously felt uncomfortable returning to such a public place. Moreover, as with every industry, the land-based market learned a number of lessons from the pandemic that allowed

Q4 2020

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it to move forward. At the forefront of this is the embrace of cashless gaming. It is not an exaggeration to say the casino industry has dragged its feet on cashless when you compare it with other industries, but the pandemic made it a must for all properties that wish to succeed. Much like the omnichannel approach, this acceptance of cashless gaming made visiting a casino a smoother, more enjoyable experience, further adding to its growth. Embracing these two emerging technologies allowed casinos to be an attractive prospect to those who may have been reticent to return to properties and, combined with a pent up desire to have some fun again, led to a boom for landbased casinos.

HOW TO CONTINUE THIS GROWTH This growth is undoubtedly a win for the land-based industry, but if it wants to sustain itself (and compete with iGaming's inevitable explosion) it has to adapt further. Embracing innovation is a sure-fire way to continue expansion. One key aspect casinos

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will need to get right if they wish to continue this unprecedented period of growth is catering to a younger audience of gamblers. This is already being done successfully at a number of properties with the inclusion of sportsbooks in casinos, but for the land-based industry to truly remain at the forefront of gaming it must change further. Ari Fox, of the Casino Esports Conference, has argued extensively that if the land-based industry wishes to bring in a Gen Z audience, it must embrace esports, video games and the gambling potential that comes with it. Fox suggests that every casino should have an area dedicated to these activities, as young gamblers simply are not attracted to traditional slot machines. By doing this, casinos can future-proof themselves, ensuring profit and growth in the coming years and decades. Nevertheless, the industry must applaud what land-based casinos have achieved in the last year, recovering from a seemingly fatal blow and surpassing all previously held records. 2022 could very well be that year of the land-based casino. GAMINGAMERICA | 9
















Nevada is the birthplace of gambling as big business, so in a way makes it is apt that the rate of taxation is so low here. Even when you include licensing fees, the rate only comes out to 7.75%. As is often the case with gaming taxes, the monies collected are put in the state’s general fund.



Colorado has a low tax rate – only 10% – and a relatively streamlined licensing process. This makes the state a favored one for sports betting operators going live for the first time and, as a result, there are at least 25 online sportsbooks currently active in the state.

TAX AND GAMBLING | GAMING AMERICA Every state has the right to set its own tax rates when it comes to gambling, and, as a result, tax rates vary hugely across this vast country where already there are highly different regional approaches to taxation. What is the average? And what is made possible or impossible by different levels of taxation? This map takes a closer look.




















New York has a notoriously high-tax regime: sportsbook operators have to reckon with 51% rate on their gross revenue (this compares the 11% median seen nationwide). This, combined with a $25m one-off licensing fee and the $5m per year that server-housing casinos must pay, makes the Empire State a notoriously difficult market in which to make a profit (despite its phenomenally high betting handle). The only other state to share such a high rate of taxation is New Hampshire.


Pennsylvania has a relatively high tax rate when compared to the rest of the country. When all sources of taxation are added together, the rate comes to about 41% of operating revenue. While most of this is collected by the state government, about 2% is set aside for local and county governments.




Oklahoma is notable in the gaming landscape on account of the fact that all gaming is tribal. At the federal level, it is worth noting, tribal entities are completely exempt from taxation. On the Oklahoma level, operators have it pretty good too: typical of this region with an aversion to government meddling, the tax rate is only 6.5%. As a result, revenue raised by the state is paltry in comparison to how much is played.



PARTY ON THE PLAINS Gaming America gives a preview of the fast-approaching OIGA Conference and Trade Show.

Living up to its nickname once again – ‘the biggest little show in gaming’ – the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association’s (OIGA) 27th annual Conference and Trade Show is returning on August 9-11. Expected to draw around 3,000 vendors, visitors and guest speakers, this year’s event is to be held at the Cox Business Convention Center in downtown Tulsa. Coming off of last year’s somewhat subdued event in Oklahoma City – which was celebrating an industry still reeling from the pandemic and beset with problems stemming from the Delta variant – this year’s event in Tulsa is expected to be a return to form. OIGA representative Sheila Morago struck an appropriately upbeat tone when commenting on this summer’s event: “We are thrilled to tell you that OIGA’s 2022 Conference and Trade Show, taking place August 9-11 in Tulsa, will be back at full throttle, with an energized trade show floor, exciting conference sessions, and some new twists designed to take everyone’s experience up a notch or two.” Things are going to transpire slightly differently this year. The doors will open early, for one. This will allow for 12 | GAMINGAMERICA

SHEILA MORAGO OIGA Executive Director

an expanded program, “for maximum networking” explained Morago. She went on, “and instead of the formal luncheon, our awards will be presented on the trade show floor stage, with a more casual meal. Thursday will be filled with more sessions and fun at the trade show.” Furthermore, doors will stay open later on that first day to accommodate a “blowout welcome party” in addition to

poker and blackjack tournaments to be held on the show floor. For early arrivals, too, there will be the trademark John Marley Golf Tournament held on Tuesday morning. “We’re taking everything you love about the party: the food, bars and fun – and maybe even some karaoke – and creating a fun, new way to celebrate” said Morago. Expect the tradeshow floor to be flush with vendors from all walks of the industry: gaming machine manufacturers, casino equipment companies, food service and hospitality professionals, architects and local craftspeople. The state’s representative business entity – Made in Oklahoma – will have its own corner of the floor for the fifth straight year. The whole event will celebrate what is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant gaming regions in the nation. Tribal players come front and center in the Sooner State, which has a diverse array of casino operators – not to mention the numerous ancillary companies that help the industry thrive. Expect them to be out in full force in Tulsa this coming August.


EXPANDING SPORTS BETTING LEGISLATION Legal expert Gus Petropoulos gives the rundown on the progress of sports betting legalization across the nation. Fewer than two years before the coronavirus pandemic pushed nearly all of society online, sports betting pools of all kinds were illegal throughout most of the US, and online sports betting was virtually non-existent. Until 2018, sports betting was restricted by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). Barring four states (DE, NV, OR, MT) with grandfathered sports betting operations, PASPA prohibited any state or person from sponsoring, operating, advertising, promoting licensing or authorizing sports betting schemes. On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association that ruled PASPA unconstitutional on the basis that it placed state legislatures under the direct control of Congress. PASPA was not a valid exercise of federal preemption under the Supremacy Clause for the following reasons: it did not represent the exercise of a power conferred on Congress by the Constitution, and it regulated state rather than private actors. This note will briefly explore how both retail and online sports betting have rapidly proliferated and expanded since Murphy. New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Mississippi positioned themselves for the advent of sports betting by passing sports betting legislation even before PASPA was overturned as unconstitutional, and most other US jurisdictions have since followed suit. Today, US states and territories fall into six distinct categories with respect to sports betting. First, jurisdictions in which both retail and online sports betting are authorized (AZ, CO, CT, DC, IA, IL, IN, LA, MD, MI, NH, NJ, NY, NV, OR, PA, PR, RI, TN, VA, 14 | GAMINGAMERICA

GUS PETROPOULOS Hughes Hubbard & Reed Partner

WV, WY). Second, jurisdictions in which only retail sports betting is authorized (AR, DE, MS, MT, NE, SD). Third, jurisdictions in which retail sports betting is authorized solely for tribal entities (NC, ND, NM, WA, WI). Fourth, jurisdictions that have already authorized but have not launched one of the foregoing (ME, KS, OH, NE, WI) or that have votes pending to authorize one or more of the foregoing (CA, MA, SC). Fifth, Florida – where online sports betting was halted after it began in November 2021. Sixth, jurisdictions that have neither authorized sports betting nor have pending legislation (AK, AL, GA, ID, HI, KY, MN, MO, OK, TX, UT, VT). Californians will likely vote on sports betting ballot proposals in November 2022. One such proposal would authorize

retail sports betting solely at tribal properties and certain horse tracks, while the other proposal would authorize commercial online operators to partner with tribes. Massachusetts and South Carolina are also considering legislation but as yet have no clear path toward passing the same proposal. Finally, Florida launched online sports betting in November 2021 via a 30-year compact with the Seminole Indian Tribe but was forced to pause sports betting operations when a US District Court held the compact to violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act by not geographically restricting wagers to Indian lands. Florida appealed and is also considering whether to enable state-wide sports betting via a 2023 ballot proposal. Billions of dollars in sports bets came out of the shadows after the Supreme Court struck down PASPA’s federal ban. Just three short years after the 2018 Murphy case, only about a dozen states have yet to authorize any form of sports betting. Although a number of states and territories have limited sports betting to retail locations, the pandemic has taught us to live our lives online, and jurisdictions that forego online wagering may find that they are leaving increasingly large sums of money on the table. Indeed, tax rates applied to online sports betting are often higher than tax rates applied to retail sports betting. Also, tax rates for sports betting can reach up to 51% of gross gaming revenue, making in an attractive option for governments looking to raise funds.


WHAT IS CHANGE MANAGEMENT, AND WHEN IS IT NECESSARY? Stephen Crystal of SCCG Management walks us through different approaches to change management, weighing the value of disparate approaches to running a casino.

In the casino industry, project management is relied upon to deliver something of value to the organization. Everything from deploying sports wagering or iGaming products to improving WiFi infrastructure for guests to access the internet requires professional project management resources to manage schedule, budget and resources to deliver what is expected. However, the change management discipline should be added to the effort whenever the project’s deliverable, is new to the organization, changes how many job classes in the company do their jobs, or how customers engage with your organization. The real value of change management is that the discipline focuses on how the project the - if successfully implemented - creates change in the organization. This is especially important when management and leadership do not intuitively understand these changes and are not surfaced 16 | GAMINGAMERICA

on traditional project management tracking tools. For example, imagine a casino operator deploying a standalone iGaming platform with free-to-play content. This seems exceptionally straightforward, as there are no apparent workflows that move between the current operation and the new hosted social casino. The project manager and third-party provider efficiently and quickly deploy the branded social gaming platform and roll it out to their customers, on time and within the budget. Success! Immediately, management and leadership start getting uncomfortable feedback from the operations teams. The players club, hosts and other employees on the customer front line are inundated with questions like: • How do I download the new app? • I don’t think I was given the right number of free play coins this week - can you check? • Can you tell me why my password doesn’t

work anymore, because it worked yesterday? • I don’t understand why I can’t use my comp dollars to buy more free play coins. Is that a thing? Internally, marketing now owns two sets of customer data, one from the casino management system and another from the free-to-play system. It looks like there’s a lot of overlap between the two, but there’s not a 100% clear way to tell if these accounts map to an individual player. These scenarios can cascade on and on. Depending on the level of automation your organization has, attempting to manage these new, fantastic capabilities with existing management tools, break down and fails. This is the difference between project management and change management. Project management is the genie that grants your wish. Change management is the friend next to you, explaining why your wish will come back to

SCCG | GAMING AMERICA haunt you -- unless you choose your words more wisely. Let’s look at four approaches to change management, and why you might want to rely on one over another.

LEWIN’S CHANGE MANAGEMENT The Lewin’s Change Management model is a framework for organizational change. It involves three distinct phases: the development, the refreezing and the implementation. When implemented properly, Lewin’s model becomes highly effective. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of Lewin’s change management model. The first stage of Lewin’s change management model is “unfreezing.” This involves convincing management of the need for a change. To make this easier, you should use empirical proof or other means to convince management. Once the management team accepts the change, the next step is to implement it company wide. Employees should be given incentives to make the change stick. This will motivate them to make the change. This stage is the most challenging. The second phase, “refreezing,” is crucial for effective implementation. In this stage, people must be convinced that the change is a good one. People need closure, and they need to feel that they will be successful. Change management requires the organization to adjust its organizational structure to accommodate the changes. Lewin’s change management model has many applications and can be used to manage change effectively in a variety of

settings. There are some specific scenarios where Lewin’s change management model may prove most effective. Ultimately, Lewin’s change management model helps managers make the right decisions by analyzing the culture, strengths and landmines in the organization. This model is helpful for organizations that have cultures that resist change, or have been burned by bad decisions in the past.

ITIL FRAMEWORK The ITIL framework for change management was initially intended to give IT support providers a more hands-on role in a business’s overall structure. As such, the IT change management process aims to ensure that changes are implemented as smoothly as possible while minimizing any negative impact on the business. The framework is divided into various methods that can be used for different types of changes. Some key areas of concern include workforce management, IT service management, change and project planning, and change monitoring and evaluation. The first step in implementing changes is planning. The process includes conducting tests and assessing the effects of changes. Depending on the type of changes, a remediation method may be necessary if something goes wrong. Another example is the absence of key performance indicators. Without these, the changes may be delayed or not meet their intended goals. However, the ITIL framework for change management has numerous other benefits. As well as the focus on change assessment and testing, the framework focuses

on governance and service workflows, especially services managed by customer service support staff using systems that help them solve customer problems. ITIL is also dependent on heavy communication between operations and key stakeholders, which can be a burden, and honest and open communication, which can be difficult. This model is helpful for any size organization with significant investments in IT infrastructure, information workflow automation and system integrations.

PROSCI METHODOLOGY The Prosci Methodology for change management is an agile methodology that blends elements of individual and organizational change management. It also has heavy involvement with end users affected by the change. Prosci provides a roadmap to successful change management and helps organizations make the right business decisions by determining the overall structure of change projects. It identifies goals, aligns strategy, and tracks results. It also includes a change management framework called the Prosci Change Triangle, which identifies three pillars of successful change: goals, process, and people. Using the Change Triangle, Prosci can help organizations define the reasons for a change and ensure that it meets its goals. This is especially helpful for change management initiatives that affect large numbers of internal and external customers. It has also been widely and effectively used – especially for projects that require agile change management.



DICE is an acronym for “deploy, improve, sustain.” Among its many benefits, it can help organizations ensure that change is sustainable and meets business goals. DICE scores measure the likelihood that a project will succeed or fail. A positive score indicates a “WIN ZONE” opportunity, while a negative score means a “WORRY ZONE.” Using the DICE framework, leaders can predict project outcomes and allocate resources strategically, maximizing the overall program or portfolio of initiatives. While it GAMINGAMERICA | 17

GAMING AMERICA | SCCG may sound complicated and overwhelming, it’s a powerful tool for implementing change programs and strategic initiatives. It can help you track each initiative’s status and avoid making mistakes that won’t lead to success. The DICE framework makes it easier for change managers to focus on the right things and minimize unnecessary stress. This discipline is best suited for large organizations trying to deliver lasting change across all company silos. It has a “we will get there” philosophy that does NOT focus on minimizing change, the specific benefits of the change, or how long it will take to get there.

At the forefront of the process, leadership needs to look at its available level of involvement and commitment and the resilience of its organization to change. If either or both of these factors are limited, we recommend that you defer these changes until they improve. If you don’t have a real choice and have to implement change because of exigent circumstances, such as regulatory or market forces, be vigilant and ready to kill the project quickly if there are early signs of risk. Stopping a project is not failure. You can always start again after different solutions have been identified, project and change

management have been restaffed, or organizational bomb-throwers have been removed. We have two final pieces of advice for you: • Get help from people with real-world experience in the kind of transformation you are making. • Get your entire leadership team in line behind you, giving you full-throated support for the change process. Remember: In 1519, Hernan Cortez and his experienced crew destroyed his ships upon arriving in the New World. His men knew, not by easy words but through visceral action, that turning back was not an option.

THE BOTTOM LINE All of these disciplines: • Integrate with and create additional tasks to the project plan. • Involve change agents not typically involved in project implementations. • Add work to operations teams responsible for running the current state business. • Require the total commitment of the executive team - frequently with the chief executive as the project’s champion.




COMING TO AMERICA Gaming America spoke with Marina Bogard, Managing Director of Betsson North America. The company, which is a stalwart in the European market, has recently launched in Colorado. We ask about ambitions for the North American market further afield. were properly filling out the paperwork, but Colorado is such a positive gaming state. The process went fine. Betsson has been in the business since the 1960s. In terms of longevity, the kind of reputation Betsson has definitely helped in getting that process to go through as smoothly as it did.

Could you please tell us about the product that Betsson recently launched in the US? Absolutely. So, we indicated to our investors and shareholders that we would be launching a BetSafe branded sportsbook in the US in the first quarter, which we did at the end of March, with a fully functioning sports mobile app specific to the Colorado market only. We focused on the whole player journey experience, with a full array of sports that are available to bet on, as well as feature functionality that is specific to this market. We will continue to innovate and create new features and functionality for this market as we receive feedback from our players to ensure BetSafe's brand remains a best-in-class experience.

Just to be clear, is this a B2C or a B2B offering that you have brought to the US? It’s a B2C offering in Colorado to start, but we will also be expanding our B2B presence here.

Looking forward, which do you see as more important in the North American market? Our objective is to move more broadly into the B2B space by utilizing our B2C approach in Colorado as well as in Canada as a showcase. We hope to be able to show our B2B potential partners what the experience would look like, as well as all of the various support resources that we have to offer – from a manage services solution perspective 20 | GAMINGAMERICA

Did you specially choose Colorado because it’s known as a smooth state to open in, or was there another reason behind that?

MARINA BOGARD Betsson Managing Director

to getting them ready for onboarding as a turnkey – whatever flavor they want that they can manage on their own.

I wanted to ask a bit about the licensing process. Your company is European, and we’ve heard that European companies coming into the US find it a little disorienting – how every different market and every different state has a different set of protocols and rules when going live. Has that been your experience at Betsson? Actually, licensing in the Colorado market has gone very smoothly. We had external resources of counsel to ensure that we

Well, it was one of the early states – as you probably know – in terms of getting a sportsbook live. It has a very advantageous tax bracket but it also has a sweet spot of demographics in terms of a 50/50 gender spread. It’s a diverse community with a high net worth, high education and high-income levels. So, it really encapsulates a lot of what the sports betting demographic would look like, which is why 20-plus other types of companies are here doing the same.

As far as other markets, are you currently going through the licensing application process? We’re done in Colorado. We are opening with the regulated market of Ontario, so we’re going though that process, where the BetSafe brand is today. But as you know, Ontario went from an unregulated market to a regulated market. So, we’re going through that licensing process and expect to be live there in that market sometime in the late third quarter.



Is there a market difference in getting a license in the United States versus one in Canada in your opinion? Every country is different, and every state is different as well, but in terms of the process, they are fairly similar with different regulations and requirements. In fact, in some respect, I think Canada is a little bit easier. It just depends, but so far it has gone relatively smooth for us.

About iGaming or digital casinos: you hear in the US today it’s about sports betting, but iGaming is going to be really big in the next five years. Is this Betsson’s view, and do you have big ambitions for iGaming as you move forward into the US and Canada? I do think iGaming and sports betting in general – mobile sports betting – will continue to increase. The American Gaming

Association just recently came out with some statistics on iGaming and sports betting for the first quarter, and it’s about $2.8bn altogether. That’s split about 50/50 and will continue to grow. I think there’s tremendous opportunity. It’s still in really early stages for the US market. I do think the whole unfortunate Covid experience has opened up an opportunity for states to look at more mobile and digital solutions. For one, there is the ability to increase revenue for the state that wasn’t available before. I think that it has opened up more of an opportunity to take a look at digital solutions for gaming.

Hypothetically, five years down the line, do you think that iGaming will be a much bigger part of Betsson or do you think it will be pretty evenly split between mobile sports betting in terms of the services you provide? At this point, looking into the crystal ball, I’d say it will be pretty evenly split. I think it will be really interesting to see. At least from the numbers I see across the board from other operators, it seems to be about evenly split. But certainly, it’s going to be determined in time as more states open up.

You have products that are available in Europe and then brought to the US. Do you adapt those significantly for the American market or is it a pretty smooth transition? We’ve adapted certainly in terms of terminology, in terms of how odds are displayed. We are Americanizing, or North Americanizing, the experience to ensure that it’s more conducive to the culture here.

But overall, in terms of sports, we’re going to be providing a plethora of them across the globe on which people will be able to bet. The same sports will be there, but In terms of communication and style presented, it will certainly be more Americanized.

Would you characterize this as European technology coming into the US and Canada? I don’t know so much about the technology but certainly the opportunities. Europe has been doing mobile gaming for decades without significant issues, so I think they present the opportunity to have digital gaming for real money. It is the ability for the US to learn from and expand on what’s happened in other areas geographically. Those lessons will be brought into the US markets.

I don’t know how much you can say, but after Ontario what are Betsson’s strategic plans for opening in new markets? I can’t speak to the whole geographical expansion, which is something Betsson has been doing for decades – to diversify geographically – but from a North American perspective and on the BetSafe brand, we will be looking to expand our B2B presence and grow through our B2B platform. Then we’ll determine whether or not we go B2C anywhere else where it makes sense. First, though, we will really focus on growing our B2B business unit.

In 18 to 24 months from now, where would you like to see Betsson in North America? Certainly, I’d like to see our expansion with B2B into the current partnerships we are in discussion with, and I am sure there will be plenty more to come. We want to have a stake in the US market specifically with B2B partners that are dispersed across the states. More states will be opening up as well, so we could also look to grow the expansion of those states. I am very confident that we will have the ability to announce some of those partnerships in the near future. GAMINGAMERICA | 21


A SAHARAN STORY On October 7,1952, The Sahara Hotel and Casino first opened its doors in Las Vegas. It has been a journey that inspired modern Las Vegas. became the first corporation to own major a casino hotel, with a separate operating company running the casino, a trend that has continued to dominate the industry from that first deal.

BINGO! Milton Prell was the owner of Club Bingo. A couple of blocks south from the Club, The Desert Inn opened in 1950 and The Sands in 1952. Prell decided that bingo was out and resorts were in, and commissioned Max Maltzmann to design the Sahara, which had 240 rooms and cost $5.5m. The immediate success led to further rooms and investment. Arizona developer, Del Webb, invested in and built a 120 room addition. Casino manager Sam Boyd also participated in the fundraising and was charged with the management of the new resort. In 1958, the Sahara was ready for further expansion and Prell met with E. Parry Thomas and Jerry Mack for a loan. The Bank of Las Vegas was led by Thomas and Mack, who had a mission to use traditional financial methods to fund local development and back legitimate businessmen. Businessman Prell suited the brief and was awarded Thomas and Mack’s first casino loan: $600,000 to add another 200 rooms in a 14-storey tower to be designed by Martin Stern Jr. If this loan had defaulted, there would have been no




“clean” route to financing Las Vegas’ early growth. With the property growing in popularity, and as one of the town’s early jewels, Prell exited The Sahara, selling to Del Webb in 1961 as part of a wider trade. Del Webb

Delbert Eugene “Del” Webb, was a prominent card in the rolodexes of every casino owner in early Las Vegas. Webb’s business was building, initially setting up The Del E. Webb Construction Company in 1928. He focused on retail stores but began expanding to all sectors in short order. When Benjamin Siegel needed a building contractor for his Flamingo, he turned to Webb. As noted, The Sahara and Mint were also built by Webb, followed by acquisition of The Thunderbird and Lucky Strike casinos in Las Vegas, Sierra Tahoe, Reno’s Club, Prima Donna and The Golden Nugget Laughlin. They all received expansion and finishing touches by the now named, Del E. Webb Corporation. The company also built national landmarks, including The Beverly Hilton, Phoenix Towers, LACMA and Madison

OLIVER LOVAT | GAMING AMERICA Square Gardens. In order to manage the diverse interests, Webb needed good people, and trusted lieutenant L.C. Jacobson brought in businessman William G Bennett. Initially serving in Tahoe, then moving to Las Vegas in 1966, Bennett was ultimately to manage Webb’s casino empire, including The Sahara. Webb’s period was emblematic of wider corporate management. Initially there is a period of investment; in this case, Webb added a further 400 rooms in a 24-storey tower, a convention center and a range of improved food and beverage options. Plus, he hired trusted management to run things, and Bennett excelled. However, the desert sands were shifting, and the generic template seen in the Las Vegas offering was about to change. 1966 saw the highly experimental Caesars Palace open, followed by Circus Circus in 1968 to the west of The Sahara, and Kerkorian’s International in 1969 to the east. All of these properties were amenity and experience heavy (although Circus had yet to have any guestrooms) and were positioned to compete against the established order. Many of the high rollers from the early post-war generation moved to the newer properties, but also a new customer was emerging, and they wanted something else. As revenues fell, reinvestment diminished and slowly, throughout the late 60s and early 70s the once great properties of The Sands, Dunes, Riviera and Sahara all fell down the pecking order of relevance. The Sahara was built by and for those like Prell and Webb, men that

wanted to enjoy themselves during the post-war growth years. Their departure from the industry marked a changing shift in Las Vegas management and the experiences that were offered.

HABOOB Despite further investment in new towers, The Sahara looked and felt old compared to the new competition. Neither appealing to mass market customers, high-end gamers or even families, and without the range of offerings of the mega-resorts to bring people in. In 1981, The Del Webb Corporation sold the property to Paul Lowden, the owner of The Hacienda, for $50m and fully divested from its gaming and hospitality portfolio over the subsequent decade. Del Webb, the first corporate gaming company and one of the biggest names in Nevada casinos was now out of the business, never to return. At the beginning of the decade, Atlantic City had legalized casinos and within short order had captured much of the high-end play. The MGM fire had shattered the illusion of safety in Las Vegas’ resorts, especially the older properties, and a double-dip recession and economic crisis had eroded consumer confidence. Sam Boyd and Bill Bennett had built their reputations at The Sahara, but by the 1980s they were directly challenging their old stomping ground, with Boyd at The Stardust and Bennett at Circus Circus. Steve Wynn’s Mirage opened in 1989, followed by Bennett’s Excalibur and then Luxor, the second MGM Grand, Treasure Island and

Rio, plus the resort was challenged with additional rooms at the Riviera, Desert Inn and Circus Circus all seeking to compete in “new” Las Vegas. The future of The Sahara remained uncertain when in 1995 Bill Bennett returned to the industry, having recently retired from Circus Circus Enterprises. He acquired The Sahara for $193m. The property was not in good shape. Bennett was possibly the greatest casino operator in the history of Las Vegas, certainly in the top few. He had a clear understanding of his customers’ needs, meeting them with an amenity-heavy and themed offering.

FEEL THE NEED In Jack Sheehan’s biography of Bennett, “Forgotten Man,” his daughter, Diana Bennett observed, “There might have been some nostalgia involved there, because The Sahara was the first property on the Strip that he managed, but the main thing is he thought he could do something with the place… there were bones in the construction that he could work with.” The two Bennetts worked together for a short time at the property, with Diana as General Manager, but she was soon to depart, just one of many executives through the continually revolving doors. It was clear that Bennett was physically ailing, but his formula remained proven. Under the Bennett ownership, The Sahara saw investment. Firstly, he brought back the desert motif. The casino floor was enlarged for more slots, the hotel received new rooms, in came the buffet (it was said that


GAMING AMERICA | OLIVER LOVAT Bennett watched two metrics more than any other: slot coin-in and buffet eaters), a steak house, and then came the rides. The former navy pilot loved speed, and so came Sahara Speedworld, one of the earliest interactive VR racing machines followed by The NASCAR Café and Speed – The Ride, a full-loop rollercoaster. Although the changes brought in new customers, Bennett died weeks after the property celebrated its 50th birthday. The Bennett Family sold the resort to Stockbridge, a private equity company, and Sam Nazarian’s Los Angeles based SBE, for $331m in 2007.

PLAY IT, SAM. Sam Nazarian, then aged 32, was already established as one of the coolest creatives on the West Coast. He operated nightclubs, lounges, restaurants and hotels in LA, and had successfully dipped his toe in the Las Vegas market, notably with Hyde at The Bellagio. It was clear that operating a family-themed, value proposition was not on his agenda. On 16 May 2011, after a 59-year run, The Sahara closed its doors. Then work began on the new SLS Las Vegas, incorporating the greatest hits of SBE, those beloved by the cool crowd that was discovering Las Vegas. The remodel retained many of the external structures, but the interiors were gutted. Despite success with the contemporary dining offering, a clear customer focus and strong management team, the resort did not meet revenue projections. Stalled resorts, such as Echelon and


Fontainebleau, left The SLS alone in a virtual desert on the northern Strip and the target customers from LA were highly prized by others, with other resorts targeting the same customer. Ultimately, Las Vegas SLS was a failure and in 2017 Stockbridge announced its exit for an undisclosed amount to serial entrepreneur and owner of Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Alex Meruelo.

LEGACY REVIVED The Sahara brand had one of the richest histories in Las Vegas. The SLS couldn’t touch it. The Beatles stayed in room 2344 when touring the city in 1964. Entertainers from George Burns to Bobby Darin, from Marlene Dietrich to Tina Turner, played at The Sahara over the previous six decades. Under the new ownership, Meruelo’s team sought to eradicate many of the SLS’ perceived faults, most visibly by returning the property to its former name, (albeit capitalized) SAHARA Las Vegas. It embraced its unique history. Although a differentiator, legacy alone cannot sustain a future. The $200m budget for renovations has been well spent, including remodeling the rooms to a sedate palate and bringing a diverse range of imported culinary offerings. Mexican inspired Uno Mas was introduced, sports bar Chickie’s & Pete’s made its Vegas debut, local favorite Chef “Sam” Xin opened The Noodle Man, and the highly acclaimed Jose Andrés’ Bazaar Meat was

retained from the SLS. The successful Magic Mike Live was enticed from The Hard Rock to the new showroom. The 2022 SAHARA is a very different proposition to past iterations. It is without the fantasy desert theme of Prell, the post-war gambler's den of Webb, the discount offering of Lowden, the family excitement of Bennett, or the Gen X industrial urbanism of SBE. But make no mistake, today’s SAHARA is a themed property, and the theme is the self-assurance of classic Las Vegas. Compared to recent modernizations, there is a notable serenity and comfort to the experience. It has an old school elegance and warmth that seems to be absent elsewhere on the Strip, especially in some of the newer additions. The first corporately owned hotel is decidedly un-corporate. It is aimed at the convention customer, without being a clinical business hotel, instead, providing a casual environment equally suiting leisure customers. It is undoubtedly good value, without being a value proposition. This was the traditional Las Vegas promise. Much of what we know as modern Las Vegas started at The Sahara. This property has seen it all and emerged sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. As the Northern Strip re-introduces megaresorts to replace the imploded past, SAHARA will find itself less isolated, which has been its curse for the past two decades. 2022 marks it’s 70th anniversary and the SAHARA Las Vegas gives us all a reminder: what is lost can be found, if you look for it.


TRIBAL NATION GOES DIGITAL As the star of digital continues to rise, tribal operators are adapting apace. Gaming America spoke with Matt Primeaux, President at Hard Rock Digital, to discuss the future of this major segment of the industry. What takes up more hours in the day at Hard Rock Digital – online sports betting or iGaming? Can you describe this breakdown a bit? Online sports betting still consumes the majority of our day-to-day operations and, in general, is a more time intensive sector vs. iGaming due to the nature of its trading and operations. It also tends to have more customer touchpoints and contacts vs iGaming, which requires additional headcount investment. While our work and investment in 26 | GAMINGAMERICA

iGaming might not be felt yet, we believe we’re building a great foundation to grow and expand our footprint in the gaming space in the US and internationally. We’re in the process of debuting some incredible products.

What can the designer of a sports betting app do to stand apart from the competition? There’s no one right answer, but for us, it’s building the Hard Rock brand experience into our products and entertaining our

players in a way no one else can. Products have to be organic to their company, brand and its positioning, values and targeted customer segment, and Hard Rock is an entertainment and lifestyle brand that’s fun, user-friendly, inviting and approachable. We believe that our products will stand out if we stay true to those core fundamentals in development and design. Making that Hard Rock experience available anywhere, at anytime, is our focus across the company: from our design

MATT PRIMEAUX | GAMING AMERICA building that brand experience into our mobile products. A strong omnichannel approach will allow Hard Rock to create unmatched integrated in-person and online player experiences as well as provide an opportunity to entertain our players in a way no one else can.

team simplifying the betting interface to our trading product team working to provide new and exciting bet mechanics, to our platform team reducing deposit and withdrawal friction. If our products provide players with that fun and engaging entertainment experience that Hard Rock is known for, they’ll consistently come back.

Speaking in a more macro sense, do you think tribal operators are adequately meeting the challenge of the digitalization of the industry?

Can you give us some examples of what data analytics and AI can do to improve digital offerings? We’re using all the tools at our disposal to optimize the player experience, providing a more personalized and more secure interaction with our product. One example has to be simplification, particularly in the context of sports. We offer hundreds of thousands of different selections for our customers to bet on at any given time, on dozens of sports, taking place in hundreds of countries worldwide. Finding the right bet at the right time is key. Personalization and localization has to be top of mind for digital operators to minimize the cognitive burden facing the customer. Analytics and AI are also major drivers of security and responsible gaming solutions. Without AI augmented solutions, it’s impossible to accurately identify and take rapid action when customer behavioral patterns stray too far outside their statistical norms. These tools help to keep customers playing responsibly and protected from bad actors.

How is Hard Rock Digital preparing for the rising tide of iGaming that is inevitable in the United States in the coming years? Do you see it as the next behemoth? Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming have been extremely successful at building one of the world’s largest casino businesses, and we want to replicate that success and experience online, both domestically and internationally. In New Jersey, online casinos already make up almost 30% of the overall casino revenue, and our continued online expansion will be a meaningful and important avenue for diversifying and expanding Hard Rock’s overall revenue.

MATT PRIMEAUX Hard Rock Digital President

"WHILE OUR WORK AND INVESTMENT IN IGAMING MIGHT NOT BE FELT YET, WE BELIEVE WE’RE BUILDING A GREAT FOUNDATION." If iGaming indeed becomes more popular than land-based casinos, how can tribal operators – or any traditionally land-based operator – adapt to keep up with the times? What would the future of the casino floor look like in a world dominated by iGaming? You will always find a variety of preferences when it comes to entertainment and gaming, and the more engagement options you offer, the better experience you can provide to customers. Whatever the future casino floor looks like, we believe that Hard Rock is uniquely positioned for success, with the legendary entertainment offered at our properties worldwide and by

Absolutely. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to digitization – some have chosen to build their own platforms, while others have entered into lucrative partnerships. When you look at tribal operators across the country, all have provided solutions to their players and are taking advantage of the opportunities available in their market. Our partnership in Arizona with Navajo Gaming is a great example of tribal operators coming together to meet this challenge by pooling resources and creating a customer-first model that delivers a best-in-class entertainment and hospitality experience for our players.

Where would you like to see Hard Rock Digital in 18-24 months? We’re excited for the future and believe we have all the key ingredients to be successful in the domestic US gambling market – our own technology, a team that can navigate the intricacies of the state-by-state market rollout, capital to invest in the high startup costs, and a ‘fight to win’ mentality. The combination of our team at Hard Rock Digital and our partners at Hard Rock International and The Seminole Tribe of Florida embodies the complete package. We strive to deliver the legendary Hard Rock experience to our players – anytime and anywhere – through our products. In the next 18-24 months, we expect continued expansion within the Hard Rock footprint and through strategic partnerships, allowing us to provide integrated online and in-person experiences. GAMINGAMERICA | 27


IGAMING, BONUSES AND THE PROGRESS OF FRAUD As iGaming grows in popularity, so too does the possibility that players get exploited by nefarious fraudsters. AU10TIX tells us what can be done. The growth of online gambling shot up during the pandemic. However, this promising spike for the industry has been a double-edged sword, as it coincided with a sharp increase in fraud targeting online gambling. The iGaming sector is booming across in the states in which it is active (Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New 28 | GAMINGAMERICA

Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia), and legislatures across the country are preparing for more to follow. The American Gaming Associations and industry players all believe that online gaming is the next huge thing. But with this influx of new customers comes more concerted and ingenious schemes devised by online fraudsters to

take advantage. The statistics to back this are daunting: globally they show a 393% increase in fraud attempts over 2020, with this figure amounting to a 261.9% spurt in the US. This rate came to 36 billion breaches of personal records across the industry. Among the guises this activity assumes include the mimicry of real account


"THE IGAMING SECTOR IS BOOMING ACROSS IN THE STATES IN WHICH IT IS ACTIVE AND LEGISLATURES ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE PREPARING FOR MORE TO FOLLOW." holders as well as those who have engineered to withdraw winnings through what are known as synthetic identities, as well as the use ‘synthetic identities,’ in which the fraudster combines real identities with fake information to create an account and abuse the promotions that gambling operators are so fond of. Exacerbating this problem is the issue of credential stuffing, a term that refers to the use of the same password on multiple accounts. Once one account’s password is obtained, the fraudster has access to a range of them. Of course, this is nearly as much the fault of the user as it is the criminal: according to one study, no fewer than 71% of user accounts are bound together with the same password. Finally, one of the biggest information leaks in the business revolve around the offering of bonuses, a technique that gambling companies use to lure in new customers. In fact, about 45% of Tier 2 operator revenue goes to these bonuses. Incidentally, they are easily exploited. Among the different methods you can deploy to exploit this system are emulators, virtual machines and residential IP addresses. The risk is nothing if not real, and to combat it more sophisticated techniques for addressing fraud are required. Cybersecurity is at risk of falling behind the increasingly advanced methods of the ill-intentioned. One-step verification, the industry norm, simply no longer works. To get a better idea of what can be done to counter this efflorescence of fraud, Gaming America talked to Jonathan 30 | GAMINGAMERICA

Wilson, Chief Risk and Compliance Officer at AU10TIX, an Israeli company that specializes in identity verification, one of the key bulwarks in the further prevention of fraud.

You mentioned identity fraud and theft are rising with the spread of legal gambling, both worldwide and in the US. Please talk about some of the factors causing this increase. How much is due to there simply being more states legalizing gambling and how much is being driven by other reasons? The increase in legal gambling is presenting bad actors with more opportunities to commit fraud within gambling operator systems, as well as abuse operator systems and games. The gambling and gaming platforms themselves are often targeted for illicit purposes and fraudsters don’t want to use their real identities for these activities. If a fraudster has managed to take over a legitimate account and wants to withdraw winnings, they may easily use the identity of the real account holder to perform the withdrawal. A bad actor may also use a fake or synthetic identity – in which breadcrumbs of real identities are combined with fake information – to create an account to abuse a promotion that the operator is running. Often, promotions provide monetary incentives in exchange for gameplay, and these are often abused to generate a large sum of money owed from these incentives without engaging in legitimate gameplay.

If the industry relies on one-step verification - what is that one step exactly? Tagging on to Question 2, what is “reverification” and how will it help slow down fraud? One-step-verification often comes in the form of platforms requiring players to provide identity verification at onboarding, for example providing a government-issued ID. This is a step in the right direction to preventing fraud, however, reverification can slow down fraud by requiring an individual to reverify if their activity is deemed risky. Instead of relying entirely on a single onboarding check, companies can execute identity checks periodically over the lifespan of the account when the level of risk is deemed appropriate for reverification. Reverification can be completed more than once depending on the activity performed by the individual, such as a suspicious amount of withdrawals.

You mentioned AU10TIX is working with 888, Aspire and Genesis. What are some of the biggest compliance hurdles these companies are facing as they expand into new states? Obtaining the licensing necessary to operate within each state is time-consuming and cumbersome. Each state operates its own licensing and compliance framework which can be challenging to navigate. Fortunately, the technical solutions exist to comply with the state requirements, including the requirement to verify that the consumer is physically in the state when engaged in game play.

Is AU10TIX going to be involved in Canada as legalized sports betting goes online there? How many US states is the company in today? AU10TIX may look to get involved in supporting gambling operators within Canada if the operators start to move there, however there are many factors that must be considered. In the United States, we are following the spread of legal gambling from up close and definitely eyeing an expansion of our footprint here soon.


PLAYING IT SMART: TRIBAL OPERATORS PRESERVE THEIR VALUES Aspire Global’s Managing Director of the US, Quincy Raven, explains how dramatic cuts to tier-one operator marketing budgets can play into the hands of well-established tribal operators within the United States’ underestimated heartlands. Earlier this year, Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg told investors that spending on sports betting marketing would be curtailed “dramatically” following his brand’s successful launch in New York. Customers signing up had enjoyed a $300 welcome bonus, as well as a deposit match of up to $3,000 as part of what had been billed as a $1bn launch of the new digital segment. The realization has swept across tier-one operators that such a strategy is simply not sustainable, or indeed desirable, in the long-term. Once the initial customer acquisition frenzy from operators with the biggest pockets has now died down, as the initial wave of sign-ups draws to a close, there has to be a better, more efficient way of engaging with customers in the long term. But what does this all mean for the online betting and casino market outside of the 32 | GAMINGAMERICA

biggest names in the US? Those operators outside the top tier may not be able to match the initial marketing outlay of their tier-one rivals, but that doesn’t mean they are out of luck – far from it, in fact.

SCALE The scale of the opportunity presented by well-established tribal operators who are looking to enter the digital realm for the first time is made clear by looking at the statistics. Connecticut’s tribal casinos are perhaps the best known to the wider world, principally in the form of Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort. However, examining the scale of tribal operations in other states provides a telling indication of the advantages they already possess in terms of customer databases. Take Oklahoma, for example: across 33 tribes including the

Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation and the Cherokee Nation, there are a total of 143 casinos in operation, one of which – WinStar World Casino and Resort – is the largest in the entire world. In Arizona, meanwhile, tribal casinos bring in around $2 billion in annual revenues, making it the fifth-large tribal gaming state. With a vast experience of interacting with their enormous customer databases, these operators know the value of effective marketing. While there is no getting away from the fact that acquiring players is expensive – even without offering enormous deposit bonuses – tribal casinos know what makes their customers tick. While huge brands will inevitably expand their scope across the US as sports betting and online gaming continue to roll out, tribal casinos are not multi-state, national brands. Instead, they


draw loyal customers from a local radius and have built an understanding of the different game types those players enjoy most, which varies from state to state. It is all about building the brand and keeping the player returning, month after month and year after year, and tribal operators with enormous, valuable player databases are acutely aware of the importance of effective, efficient CRM systems.

THE RIGHT TOOLS At Aspire Global, we utilize a variety of advanced toolsets to address customers. Our data platform incorporates a wide range of services to deliver an improved player journey and greater customer satisfaction, with real-time top-level marketing capabilities that enable operators to sharpen their approach to player engagement. This encompasses key areas such as bonus management, personalized messaging and user segmentation. Our system also allows operators to connect their own existing CRM tools to the platform, in addition to providing an easy-to-use self-management interface. Our own heritage in B2C operations

QUINCY RAVEN Aspire Global Managing Director US

teaches us that the fundamental principles are the same for all operators: offer the player the entertainment they want and provide them with the incentives to keep coming back. Truly engaging with the customer journey, providing them with

anything and everything from slots to sportsbook to live dealer, is what ultimately creates loyalty. Our advanced engagement tools are designed to enhance that effort, bolstering existing brand loyalty. I believe that the key to the opportunity for tribal operators who are moving online is to stick with the core principles that made them so successful in the first place. There is huge value, for example, in constantly analysing and sourcing new ways to engage with an operator’s core VIP list, which may have taken years or even decades to build up. Are these players still playing in expected ways and if not, what are the incentives that can be produced around that? When it comes to online gaming, given the right system, compelling offers and suggestions can be made to players in real-time. Tribal brands are already known and loved by their players within their communities, across a vast portion of the US. Leveraging the deep knowledge of what makes their local customers tick through smarter marketing, rather than the issuing of lavish welcome bonuses, could ultimately dictate their success in the brave new digital world. GAMINGAMERICA | 33


A CASINO BLOWS INTO THE WINDY CITY A brand new, top-of-the-line gambling and entertainment destination is coming to the nation’s third-largest city. We spoke Soo Kim and Chris Jewett of Bally's Corporation, the two people most instrumental in its construction. For decades, there have been rumblings about building a casino in Chicago, the third-largest city in the nation and one of its largest tourist destinations. At long last, this dream is becoming a realitym, and it is Bally’s Corporation that has managed to pull off the coup, after Mayor Lori Lightfoot awarded the city’s sole casino license to the Rhode I sland-based company. While it still has a few zoning and regulatory hurdles, the political process of approval is all but complete. At a cost of $1.74bn, Bally's Chicago is to be constructed on the site of the old Tribune Publishing Center, where for decades one of the city’s hometown papers was blasted out of industrial printing presses. This means it is well-connected: not only centrally located (abutting the North Loop and 34 | GAMINGAMERICA

River North neighborhoods) but close to both the rail lines and the river (the casino will be accessible by water taxi). Due to be completed within four years, it will be a true downtown casino. We spoke with Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim and Vice President of Corporate Development Chris Jewett, who has been tasked with overseeing the construction of the Chicago project, to hear what we might expect from the upcoming project.

What is the attraction of constructing in the neighborhood you have chosen? What can one expect from the final product? Soo Kim: There’s been gaming in Illinois and the surrounding states for a long time, and, for a long time, gaming has been prohibited in Cook County and Chicago City proper. As a

result, all of that gaming revenue and activity has been pushed out; all the jobs associated with gaming were being pushed out of the city. What this property represents is an attempt from the city to, far from pushing it out, pull it back in: you won’t have to go to an exurb to play and you can actually tap into the surrounding areas, bringing people to what is actually one of the largest tourism cities in America. Chris Jewett: Just to add a bit on the site and the project: we’re going to have up to 4,000 gaming positions mixed with slots and tables. There are few unique aspects to the project too. There will be water taxi access from across the river. There is a lot of outdoor space – about two acres. A river walk is going to extend over 2,000 feet and will be open to the general public. Additionally,


SOO KIM Bally's Chairman

there will be a 3,000-seat theater, or mixed-use events complex, which is unique to the area. Obviously, there will be food and beverage offerings, but there will also two-story open air rooftop bar.

to the permanent facility. The temporary will be located in an existing building, so there’s very little work to do, and it will generate profits right from the start. Our plan is to build the permanent facility over the next four years while operating the temporary facility through that time, with the moneys from that helping the profit as we construct the main site. And then, remember, Bally’s itself generates $300m-$400m of operating profits; and that’s free cash, our cash earnings every year. If you think about a project that’s going to be built over four years, where we also have a contemporary facility continuing to contribute to our operating profits along the way, we believe that we can build this easily with internally generated funds over the next few years. But, if all of that fails, we actually have sufficient liquidity in a landbank that we can tap into to accelerate that spend if we so want.

According to the Chicago Tribune, this is a $1.74bn project. How does one go about financing a project on this monumental scale?

So you have the approval of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, but it still needs to go through several rungs on the ladder to get approval from the City Council and the Illinois State Gaming Board. Are you concerned about this stage? Are you actively lobbying to ensure its passage?

Soo Kim: Our company has what is called a land bank. A lot of rival operators have much more of their casino fleet which has been leased back, which means they are just the operator of a property that is owned by these companies like VICI and Gaming Leisure Properties. We have not done that. We still own the vast majority of our properties – just as we purchased the land on which the Chicago property will sit – and we can tap into that landbank to generate real money that we can then invest into building new properties. But the most important thing to remember is that this project will be built over four years. We have a plan to put up a temporary casino over 12 months, and that will be located a mile from the main property. This will allow us to start to build a customer database and build and operate an employee group that we can then move over

Soo Kim: I think the political process is over. The first political process was being selected by the mayor. The mayor ran an extensive, multi-quarter process to solve this problem. Remember, when we talked about what this means for the city, we were talking about, not pushing out all of this activity that should be pulled back in. The city has been trying to do this for thirty years, so credit this mayor for actually having gone through the processes to solve it and bring in an operator to build it. The second part of that political process was getting that approved through City Council, and, ultimately, the final vote was 41-7. It was overwhelming. And I think that speaks for a political base for this idea that is well beyond just even the mayor. The City Council is behind bringing this to Cook County and the city of Chicago. The final step is a regulatory one. We

CHRISTOPHER JEWETT Bally's Vice President Corporate Development have to bring this to the Illinois State Gaming Board. We have one major advantage here which is that our company is already an operator in the state of Illinois – we operate a casino out on Rock Island, on the border with Iowa. They know who we are. Obviously, we need to walk with them through our project, but we are excited to do so and we’re confident that we should have no problems getting through the final hurdles.

In the Bally’s proposal, special attention was paid to ESG issues, for instance guaranteeing that a strong proportion of the contracted businesses working on the project would be minority owned. What part did this play in Bally’s getting the license and is this a policy that is held across the board at the company? Soo Kim: That’s an excellent question. Just so you know, when the state of Illinois passed casino licensing for the city of Chicago, they put these under-represented, minority-ownership guidelines right into the statute, which I think called for about 20% ownership from these groups that are extraordinarily underrepresented. As a company, Bally’s believes that everything we’re trying to do is to make GAMINGAMERICA | 35

GAMING AMERICA | BALLY'S money for our shareholders but we also feel we can make money the right way. These values that are increasingly important to our society, we think are important to our company. We believe that the best companies reflect their customer bases, that the team members reflect this base, that the management reflects the team members, and that the management is reflected on the board. On our board itself, four out of nine directors are actually women and minorities. So we’re diverse from our customer base to our associate pools and on all the way to the top of the company. This matters to us. We just think it is good business. And I think our corporate philosophy and the way in which we conduct business did help us in Chicago. What we were able to do was take this rule that the state gave us and say, you know what? We’re going to exceed these numbers. We thought that we could comfortably exceed them because we thought that there were enough qualified investors, there were enough qualified future team members, builders and suppliers. I’ve said this many times: gaming is a public/private partnership. I’m not surprised that the regulatory bodies – whether it’s the city or the state – have somewhat imposed upon us these standards. What I want to tell you is that we’ve embraced them, we’ve exceeded them, and we’ve said that this is good business. Ultimately, companies that are reflective of their customer base are good businesses. We have so many different casinos. We’re up to 14 across ten states. When we’re done with this round of acquisition and building, we’ll have 17 across 11 states. We’re in blue states, we’re in red states, and our

company needs to reflect all of those varying points of view. It’s something that is important to us, and it did give us an advantage in this process. Chris Jewett: We sat through a handful of special committee meetings, questioning from City Council, questions from the mayor in our evaluation, and every time we were questioned, Bally’s was reiterated as at the top over and over, not only just on these categories but on all the evaluation categories: we were at, tied at the top, or simply beyond in every metric. This was especially in these minority quota categories. Chicago is over 65% black and brown. We just have to be thoughtful about it. It was easier for us in some ways because our whole company is like this.

With Bally’s Chicago, you have the opportunity to be building a casino from the ground up. Will there be new digital features will be integrated in this project, one that has the potential to be completely state-of-the-art? Soo Kim: The answer is absolutely. As many people in the business know, the company started with our very large Providence casino, and many of the further casinos we purchased. We are probably one of the most acquisitive gaming companies out there. When you acquire a casino, many times you are buying it as is. We’ve done the renovations, but for the most part, you are limited to what you can do. This Chicago project is an exciting


opportunity. For us to build a casino that reflects all of what we know and have learned; to bring it to this city which is, again, the third largest in America and has more than 50 million tourists (which is in excess of Las Vegas) is very exciting. There are many exciting ideas we have to make it experiential. Bally’s, remember, is the only casino company that is about half physical casinos and about half online gaming. Most of the other ones are about 90% one way or another. They define themselves a certain way. We value both aspects of our business: we value the online but we like the experiential aspects of land based, those elements that you can only do physically. I think you should see in the actual project that’s going to get built over the next three-plus years, the melding of online [mobile sports betting is legal in the state of Illinois], the Bally’s sports brand, as well as the gaming experiences, not to mention all of those things that accompany hotels and resorts (eating, lodging and entertainment), come together in a very exciting way. The melding is going to be more seamless than you see elsewhere because we own and value both sides of the industry in this aspect.

Where will the Chicago location sit in the larger galaxy of Bally’s resorts across the nation? Soo Kim: Obviously, Chicago will be our flagship destination. Chicago’s a wonderful city in the sense that it’s right in the middle of the country, and, I think, it reflects more of what the country stands for than some of the coastal cities. I think it’s an opportunity. Because we are across different jurisdictions, building one right in the middle is such an amazing opportunity to define what the new and reborn Bally’s company means. We’re going to take advantage of that. It’s a brand that everyone instantly recognizes. In fact, it’s a brand that was built in Chicago, and its re-establishment in Chicago is a way to solidify the brand in Americans’ minds as something that stands for entertainment and innovation.


THE SPORTS BETTING INDUSTRY MUST ADDRESS PROBLEM GAMBLING Fighting this social blight is necessary for the industry's survival

Thirty states have live, legal betting markets, nine more than last year. Another five have legal, not-yet-operational markets, and three more have active or pre-filed gambling legislation or ballots in 2022. 29 million more Americans can legally wager in their home state than this time last year, and every major gambling company reported record bets placed on Super Bowl LVI. There is no question that the United States is currently undergoing a massive cultural, regulatory and financial shift toward gambling. With this surge comes a parallel need to address the threat of problem gambling. More than five million Americans meet the criteria for gambling addiction. Problem gambling is a unique addiction compared to substance abuse disorders in that it almost universally imposes financial challenges for addicts and their loved ones. The effects are obvious, chronic, and – most importantly – avoidable. Regulatory boards, federal and state governments, and even consumers themselves have a role to play in ensuring the safety of gamblers. No group bears a greater responsibility, however, than gambling companies themselves. Operators have full control over their products, and as such, countless shifts can 38 | GAMINGAMERICA

be made to reduce the likelihood and impact of problematic gambling behavior, from player safeguards to incentive limitations. To successfully implement these changes, however, operators need to be understand the long-term consequences of problem gambling on their survival as an industry. One need look no further than the social media industry for an example of companies failing to protect their customers and paying the price. Facebook faced countless criticisms and constant public scrutiny for years due to its inability, or lack of interest, in sufficiently addressing threats posed to its users, ultimately shifting its strategy and name to focus on building a metaverse. Despite this tenuous attempt to distract shareholders and the public at large from Facebook’s myriad controversies, the company lives in a perpetual state of crisis. Nowhere is this more evident than in its stock performance: on September 10th of last year, Meta stock was valued at $378.69 per share. As of May 31st of this year, it sits at $196.74. The lesson from Facebook and other social media companies that have failed to address threats to their consumers is clear: for an industry to thrive, it must protect its customers. Gambling companies should take heed of this warning and address problem gambling

accordingly. The industry must deploy and embrace a comprehensive approach to responsible gambling. Simply posting 1-800 numbers, which are required by regulation, is not enough. A comprehensive approach that includes continuing research, massive education, innovative technology tools, and effective treatment is crucial to ensuring the safety of all gamblers. Operators need to make large-scale adjustments to their gambling products

WILLIAM J. PASCRELL III Princeton Public Affairs Group Partner


to more effectively track problematic gambling behavior. “Markers of protection,” or the range of data points that indicate addictive gambling behavior, should be fully incorporated into gambling companies’ compliance and safety practices. Further, gambling companies need to align their advertising practices to reduce exposure to vulnerable populations. Advertisers’ interest in bolstering their revenue and customer base must be balanced with a consideration of the effect that extensive advertising can have on problem gamblers’ psyches. Companies can redirect their advertising to channels that allow users to opt out of gambling ads. Among the changes made are online display advertisements, enhancing the portion of their ads dedicated to responsible gambling and more aggressively promoting responsible gambling, in and of itself, through all of their communications channels. Industry operators should also fund initiatives that are actively educating gamblers and those in high-risk groups on the dangers of problem gambling and the steps one can take to limit their exposure. Entain Foundation US, for which I serve as a Trustee alongside Martin Lycka, SVP for American Regulatory Affairs and Responsible Gambling at Entain Plc, and former New York

Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer, sponsors or partners with a range of responsible gambling organizations. These include EPIC Risk Management, which facilitates “lived experience” responsible gambling classes across the country. Kindbridge is an independent virtual clinic that provides mental health services to people suffering difficulties related to gambling and gaming. There is also the NFLPA Professional Athletes Foundation, a provider of financial assistance and counseling for former NFL players to create, market, and launch live and virtual educational programs for NFLPA members. Academic research must play a central role in addressing problem gambling and ensuring comprehensive self-regulation on the part of gambling companies. To that end, we invested $5 million in a multi-year partnership with the Harvard Medical School Faculty at the Division on Addiction, providing Harvard with access to anonymized player data across a range of our brands, and partnered with the UNLV International Gaming Institute to provide information to legislators and regulators about sports integrity, youth gambling impact, illegal marketplaces and Americans’ perception of gambling. Education continues to serve as a crucial component of responsible gambling programs. Entain Foundation US partnered

with the Seton Hall University School of Law to establish an annual multi-day gaming, integrity and compliance educational Bootcamp, as well as former NBA All-Star Charles Oakley’s “Oak Out Hunger” community project, which provides education in responsible gambling with other forms of support to impoverished, underprivileged communities facing hunger, addiction and economic challenges in cities across the US. The project further promotes Gamble Responsibly America, a cutting-edge mobile app that educates users on safe gambling habits, and Wager Score, a new platform that rewards responsible gamblers by converting 1% of every dollar bet into charitable tax deductible donations for social causes. I often refer to responsible gambling as “sustainable gambling,” and for one reason: in the absence of an industry-wide, genuine focus on promoting responsible gambling and protecting consumers, the gambling industry will be plagued by the same crises that Facebook and other social media companies have been subject to for years. This is one clear example in which doing the right thing is also good business. I only hope that more gambling executives will wake up to that reality in the weeks and months ahead. GAMINGAMERICA | 39


THE MAKING OR BREAKING OF SPORTS BETTING? Gaming America's Ricky Gray Jr. takes a look at self-regulation and self-deposits in a future where operators are increasingly worried about problem gambling. Many mobile sportsbooks are hoping that self-regulation is in their future. However, at the moment, it doesn’t seem as if it will come to fruition. Why? Frankly, the government has deemed that self-regulated sportsbooks could skirt the normal protocol. The question 40 | GAMINGAMERICA

is whether or not sports betting apps should be allowed to be self-regulated. Another area concerning bettors and sports betting apps are self-deposits. Self-deposits allow bettors to make deposits and withdrawals from the comfort of their own homes. However, not every state is

allowing these functions. In certain areas, you’ll actually need to go to a physical location to deposit or withdraw money. Both self-regulation and self-deposits go hand in hand, which is the focus of this article. What does it mean for sports betting apps to be

SPORTS BETTING | GAMING AMERICA self-regulated and how could it help or hurt the industry. Along with that, is it possible that self=deposits could promote problem gambling. If so, what is the foreseeable future of self-deposits.

WHAT IS “SELF-REGULATION” AND WHY DOES IT MATTER? Self-regulation has to do with individual sports betting apps keeping government regulations out of the mix. However, it does pose a question that has to do with responsible gaming and what regulations will be put in place. Plenty of countries are doing what they can to ensure that “problem gambling” doesn’t continue to grow. From advertising restrictions to disallowing credit card use for gambling, there are a plethora of tools being used. The question for sports betting apps surrounds what would they do to ensure problem gambling doesn’t continue to grow. For example, during the first month of sports betting and online casinos in Michigan, calls to the state’s gambling helpline soared 1,000% year over year. Considering that more states are legalizing sports betting and mobile sports betting, there is likely to be more problems with gambling. However, there are steps that sports betting apps can take to ensure it doesn’t get too out of control. However, they’ll have to lead the way.

SPORTSBOOK AND SPORTS BETTING APP TECHNOLOGY AND HOW IT CAN HELP As more sportsbooks and sports betting apps develop new technology, it can be used in self-regulation. Christopher Snowden recently wrote a paper for the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs regarding this. Snowden stated: “Not every company uses their technology to prevent harm in the same way, but they could. Best practice could be made standard. There is currently a mix of regulation, self-regulation, guidance, and private initiatives aimed at reducing gambling harm that could be consolidated, formalized, and made

legally binding.” Although Snowden is referring to the UK, the same thing could be said for the United States. Keith Whyte of the National Council for Problem Gambling (NCPG) was quoted in 2021 stating: "If the industry says, 'Hey, we don’t want to be over-regulated because we’ve got all these great behavioral data tools to address responsible gambling,' then they’re going to have to own that.” With the technology available,


self-regulation shouldn’t be much of a problem for sports betting apps. The question is, what are they doing now to take steps in the right direction? Protecting yourself while betting online or through mobile sportsbooks is a top priority. However, sports betting apps need to have functions in place to prevent another surge of problem gambling. For example, the NCPG had the Safer Sports Betting Initiative (SSBI). The goal was to develop innovative responsible gambling partnerships and comprehensive problem gambling programs. Individual sports betting programs could use the same metric used by the NCPG to develop their own programs. These were a few of the key indicators of problem sports betting listed in the SSBI program: mobile wagering; allowing for instantaneous and immediate gambling, which has been shown to be associated with increased gambling problems; young adults, who already have high

rates of gambling and will be increasingly exposed to advertising and promotions for sports betting. Problem gambling prevention and treatment services, the NCPG found, are insufficient in most states and non-existent in several. As always, part of the responsibility falls on the gambler and their tendencies. However, most problem gamblers don’t recognize they have a problem until it’s too late. This is where sports betting apps can step in and use these indicators as a guide for their own programs.

SPORTS BETTING ADS COULD BE TARGETED IN THE US One way to help their case for self-regulation in the US is by limiting ads that promote sports betting. In the UK, ads are banned from running during the broadcast of games, in what’s called the “whistle-to-whistle” ban. In Italy, sportsbooks are banned from advertising on players’ jerseys or as part of a stadium’s name. Italy also restricts broadcast ads for any form of gambling between 1-5 am. According to the Associated Press, this is something that one NFL organization, in particular, doesn’t want. Jeff Fernandez wants “to make sure we don’t have to go to a whistle-to-whistle ban like what happens in the UK.” Fernandez is the New York Jets VP of Business Development. Joe Asher cautioned against “a backlash on the advertising going on today and the excessive amount of it going on,” adding that “it’s not something that lends itself to self-regulation.” Asher is the president of sports gambling tech company IGT. Asher also added that, “it’s not something that lends itself to self-regulation.” During this conference, others voiced that advertising is needed to attract new customers. For instance, PointsBet Chief Marketing Officer Kyle Christensen said: “We have taken a focused view by listening to what our bettors want and reaching them where they are.” Christensen continued: “We have a philosophy not to spend irrationally but be aggressive and disciplined. It has served us well, made our users happy, and will GAMINGAMERICA | 41

GAMING AMERICA | SPORTS BETTING continue to be our perspective as we look at future advertising budgets.” President of the American Gaming Association Bill Miller called these ads “an unsustainable arms race.” He also asked the question, “Is it too much? Is it an unsustainable thing?” To avoid what happened in the UK, companies need to avoid over-advertising. It’s definitely a way to acquire new customers, but it doesn’t help promote self-regulation. In fact, you could argue that it forces the US government to take more action.

an area designated for responsible gaming tools. However, these are mostly all based on the user admitting that they have a problem or need help. To push for self-regulation, these companies need to use their own technology to identify problem gamblers and restrict access. Deposits are a popular topic among companies looking for self-regulation. However, self-deposits directly from bettors could pose an issue.


This is an area where things begin to get a little muddy because of what self-deposits can mean. In some places such as Las Vegas, you have to go out of your way to set up self-deposits and ACH transfers. Some sports betting apps don’t even support the function. However, there’s a reason for this and again it has to do with responsible gaming.

Limiting ads during broadcasts and preventing gambling at certain hours is definitely a way to help. However, there are other ways to promote self-regulation by providing resources of your own. Both DraftKings and FanDuel have areas of their sites dedicated to responsible gaming. They also have links containing ways to gamble safely and signs that you might have a problem. DraftKings also has “selfexclusion” which offers all users the ability to self-exclude on all DraftKings products. FanDuel has a similar operation but focuses on state-wide exclusion. However, it looks as if the state-wide exclusion is only available in Pennsylvania. Connecticut residents can exclude themselves from FanDuel through the Department of Consumer Protection’s website. Something that other mobile sports betting apps can take from FanDuel is the “Timeout” feature. All users need to do is enter the amount of time they need away from the app and they’ll be logged out until the time has passed. Betblocker is a tool that was designed to help with problem gambling. The tool is designed to help users control their urge to bet by blocking access to nearly 15,000 gaming websites. Similar to the Timeout feature offered by FanDuel, Betblocker can be set for an amount of time and will restrict access for the duration. To be fair, most mobile sportsbooks have 42 | GAMINGAMERICA


"PROTECTING YOURSELF WHILE BETTING ONLINE OR THROUGH MOBILE SPORTSBOOKS IS A TOP PRIORITY." If self-deposits were allowed nationwide, we could see an uptick in problem gambling. Bettors would have access to instant withdrawals from their own personal accounts, which could be trouble. In an article for Wired, the story of Greg Weber proved to be an eerie warning of self-deposits. Fascinated by the recent legalization of sports betting in 2018, Weber began betting heavily from his phone. Over the course of two years, Weber had exhausted his sources of cash, no longer able to open loans or credit cards. Weber

stated: “My entire life was kind of in a hectic state.” This is just one of the problems that can arise from mobile self-deposits, which is why some mobile sportsbooks don’t offer it. There are some upsides, such as being able to instantly withdraw your winnings. Offshore sportsbooks don’t offer this feature which is why business has boomed stateside.

THE CURRENT STATE OF SELF-DEPOSITS IN THE US Here’s where things continue to get more interesting. In May of 2022 Nuvei partnered with Hard Rock Digital to offer payments for its Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile app. The app is currently live for players in Arizona and Virginia. What Nuvei will offer players is the ability to instantly deposit funds to and from their gaming wallet to their bank account using Nuvei’s Instant Bank Transfer technology. This process operates through Nuvei’s integration with The Clearing House’s real-time payments (RTP) network. Executive Managing Director and President of Hard Rock Digital, Matt Primeaux, said: “Hard Rock Sportsbook is building the best product in the market with an engaging, entertaining and frictionless experience for the sports betting player, and being able to provide instant access to funds is fundamental.” In another move, Earlier this month, Nuvei announced a partnership with Fifth Third Bank, National Association to add real-time deposits for sports betting and iGaming in the US. This partnership will allow merchants to receive instant real-time deposits. The difference between this and ACH transfers is that these real-time deposits use The Clearing House’s RTP network and move more quickly. The RTP network is accessible to financial institutions that hold 75% of US demand deposit accounts or DDAs. The network currently reaches 61% of US DDAs. As we can see, instant deposits and withdrawals are already here, whether we like it or not. The only question is how it will affect self-regulation going forward.


A HOME ON THE RANGE Gaming America's Cameron Saunders looks at the industry in Oklahoma, where in just a few decades a vibrant, nationally influential economic ecosystem has emerged. In your mental image of Oklahoma there are endless plains punctuated by oil derricks, a landscape criss-crossed by the wandering vortex clouds of early spring’s tornados and bisected by lonely roads leading to a distant horizon. This view is a reductive one. One of Oklahoma’s most outstanding features is its place in the history of native peoples, especially since the establishment of the United States. It is a land where the tribal legacy runs deep, and the modern incarnation of the state (and of the gaming industry within the state) is one indelibly marked marked with this history. This legacy is etched into the the very name: it comes from the Choctaw language, in which ocla means ‘people’ and humma means ‘red.’ The history of 44 | GAMINGAMERICA

the territory speaks to a tragic pillar of US history, in which native peoples were forcibly removed from across the Southeast. Prior to the forced removals in the first half of the 19th century, the land belonged to the Osage and Quapaw peoples. In quick succession, the US government began dividing up the land for others coming from elsewhere. The first were the Choctaw, who arrived on the famous Trail of Tears from present day Mississippi and Alabama in 1831. The arrivals from the Trail of Tears are often erroneously said to be the Cherokee, but these people came slightly later, from the Carolinas. In total, 17,000 Cherokee (and 2,000 of their African-American slaves) were transported. Then others from across the nation came to what was then known as Indian Territory. Today,

Oklahoma is home to no fewer than 39 tribal nations and, unsurprisingly, has one of the strongest tribal characters of any state in the nation. Into this mix comes gaming. When tribal gaming was effectively allowed – first in 1983 with the Supreme Court decision California vs. the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians and later, in 1988, when it became federal law with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act – Oklahoma was uniquely placed to benefit. Indeed, it created one of the most exclusively tribal zones of gaming in the country. But it didn’t happen overnight. “The story of tribal gaming in Oklahoma is an exciting success story,” says Matthew Morgan, the Chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. “We started from very humble bingo halls situated

OKLAHOMA | GAMING AMERICA in retrofitted buildings.” From that point came the tribal/state compacts, the agreements between tribal and state authorities (every state with tribal gaming has one) that further regulated the activity. The first of these was in 1992 and it allowed for pari-mutuel horseracing at casinos. From here, Class II games were introduced. By 2004, the state and the tribes again came together to allow Class III gaming. Ball and dice games were included in the compact in 2018. Over a few decades, an industry has been created, and today there are 35 tribal nations in the state of Oklahoma operating over 130 gaming facilities. Within these are about 72,850 differing types of electronic games as well as 5,300 seats of bingo. And it’s not just gaming: included in the 20 casino/resorts that are active in the state are a combined 5,000 hotel rooms and 500,000 square-feet of meeting space. With all of this comes economic benefits

over 50 gas station and convenience store locations, in addition to numerous retail opportunities. He then went on to note that, “They also create their own ancillary ecosystems – things like bookkeepers and accountants, marketing teams, housekeeping staff, chefs and kitchen teams.” Also – to dispel the notion that there are only land-based operators in the state – many gaming companies that service the industry are based in, or keep offices in, Oklahoma, among them being Aristocrat, Gaming Capital Group, Dynamic Gaming, Purpose & Performance Group and Castle Hill. We spoke to one of them – Casino Cash Trac – which is based out of Tulsa. Casino Cash Trac provides analytical systems designed to help casinos streamline and automate operations, aids in their revenue audit processes and offers quality data analysis. The company is a lesson in the breadth and influence an Oklahoma company can have: not only is its technology installed in 80%

that reward residents across the state. We're not just speaking about over $2bn in tribal gaming revenue seen in 2021, or the $163m in tribal exclusivity fees that the state collected last year (a 32% increase on the year before), but also the implementation of an elaborate regional market that both supports the tribal sector and which the tribal sector supports. Chairman Morgan noted this, commenting: “Gaming itself is really just the beginning. Tribal gaming does create and drive an ever-expanding robust economic ecosystem. Around that primary industry – gaming – we’ve been excited to see Oklahoma really blossom into an industry leader in game design, technology and manufacturing, financial services food and beverage and more.” Morgan then goes on to enumerate the many businesses that thrive as a result of gaming: 200 restaurants and bars, nine golf courses, five spas, seven RV parks,

TOTAL EXCLUSIVITY FEES Source: Oklahoma Goverment

FY 2021


FY 2020


FY 2019


FY 2018


FY 2017


FY 2016


FY 2015


FY 2014

$122.6M $128.1M

FY 2013 FY 2012

$123.9M $122.2M

FY 2011


FY 2010


FY 2009 $81.7M

FY 2008 $46.4M

FY 2007 0






GAMING AMERICA | OKLAHOMA of gaming facilities throughout the state, it has also been installed in 200 land-based operations across the US, Canada and the Virgin Islands. Company Marketing Manager Kiley Proffitt spoke to the accomplishments of this company borne of the high plains: “We are proud to be a company with Oklahoma roots. Casino Insight [the company’s marquee product] is… across the US and is currently being used in both tribal and corporate casinos in 22 states. Over the past few years, we have helped several corporate casinos as well, with the the opening of Resorts World in Vegas, Circa, Live! Philly and, most recently, the reopening of the Palms Casino. We will continue to focus on expanding across the country and overseas to help clients streamline their operations and create efficiencies across the organization.” And these companies active in Oklahoma are looking to the future. Cashless adoption,


"GAMING ITSELF IS REALLY JUST THE BEGINNING. TRIBAL GAMING DOES CREATE AND DRIVE AN EVER-EXPANDING ROBUST ECONOMIC ECOSYSTEM." says Proffitt, is a huge force now and expected to remain so for the coming years. Her company, “is helping several tribes implement processes to handle those new changes as we have experience in other states handling sports betting and cashless.” Digital gaming is also a good move for Oklahoma (so often seen as a stronghold for traditional land based offerings) as it moves into this next phase of American gaming. Chairman Morgan expressed as much when discussing the need for the

industry in Oklahoma to adapt: “Digital gaming is a fun and exciting trend that appeals to broad segments of our audiences, specifically younger players, so we are looking for ways to meet that interest with exciting offerings. Tribal gaming is a nimble and innovative industry… digital gaming can engage new audiences or serve as an energizer, or something new to play for more established clients. Digital gaming is here, and at this moment it has the potential to become a big part of the future.”


GAMBLING FOR ROBOTS Dr. Steve Bright, a particle physicist by training, heads data analytics at OPTX and has been charged with implementing artificial intelligence elements into the casino gambling experience. Gaming America asks him about the use to which this cutting edge technology can be put.

Could you describe to our readership what OPTX does and also your overall mission as the VP of data science? OPTX is a casino analytics software platform, a delivery method for information findings and recommendations to casino operators. This information will help them operate more efficiently in every aspect of the business. We base our value around ingesting data from all sources in a casino environment. Our long-term objective is to get data from player and gaming systems, the machines themselves, from the hotel and the food and beverage side – everywhere a property interacts with a customer. In most casinos now, those systems don’t really talk to each other and are very siloed off from one another. What we do is take in all of that data and unify it into one consistent schema across these various functions of the casino and all these various touchpoints with the player. This allows us to report back to the client, the casino operators, and gIve them a holistic view of their players and their property. We also give a host of reports that the operators 48 | GAMINGAMERICA

need to understand their business at any state of time.

How does artificial intelligence fit into your overall mission as a company? So right now we are looking to add AI features on top of all of this data analytics work I have just been describing. In fact, I was brought onboard to oversee our development in this area. By way of definition: AI is just any kind of computer that tries to mimic human cognitive function. That can be something really hard – like understanding and interpreting human speech or driving a car – or it can be something less complex, like recommending a movie on a screening platform. In all of these cases there is a computer algorithm that is just doing some math under the hood and, in doing so, providing actionable recommendations and insights. We are trying to add AI features on everything. Basically, instead of just reporting a player’s past value, we’re looking to tell the operator that “based on what we know about this player, here’s what we believe

their activity is going to be like in the future.” For instance, we can figure out how likely a player is going to be in responding to a particular offer or the type of offer that will be best for this player, or here is how we can automatically process this data and learn from it. The algorithms we will write will provide that curated and hosted experience. I want to be clear: I don’t view AI as a replacement for humans, I view it as a supplement – a co-pilot not an autopilot. We want AI to provide additional facts and contacts to the provider, but ultimately the human operator is going to do what the human operator is going to do. I think it’s wise to have an AI that is more of an assistant to the human. It’s also important that our AI features collect feedback from the users. The most important piece of information that you get when you’re building AI features is knowing how the human you’re intending to help is reacting to your AI recommendation. Sometimes the human is going to take those recommendations and implement them, sometimes they’re not going to. You want to know the cases when they are not because


that’s really some useful feedback as the human might have some information that your AI does not. Ultimately you want the AI to help the property get smarter, and the human to help the AI get smarter.

OPTX is currently working more with land-based casinos rather than in the online world, but I’m wondering if AI looks differently for land-based operators versus online ones? The underlying data should probably be richer for online. I would imagine that, for an online operator – and I haven’t yet seen the data, so I am speculating here – you would insist on collecting much more detailed information about gameplay. That means things like: how much is a player betting each time? Do they change their bets with regards to individual actions like winning or losing? I think that sort of information about how humans behave at the microtransactional level is data that we don’t really have for the most part in land-based casinos. In a land-based casino most of the data wehave is at the session level: where you

know that this person came in, stuck their card in, played the game for 20 minutes, pushed the button this many times, won this amount, lost this amount. But you generally don’t get the individual handle/ pull-level data. I think having modelling, understanding, of that human behavior would be super useful for the folks who design those games. In addition, with land-based operations you are going to also have hotel data and food and beverage data, something that’s not a thing for online casinos. And it helps the bottom line for these businesses. Casinos sometimes have offers that are food and beverage related. So, it would be useful to know the dining preference of your slot machine players or their musical preferences for certain events.

As a person with one foot in the present and another in the future, what does the casino of the future look like? That’s a great question. Is the trend going to be more toward online rather than traditional gaming? Maybe. I know that there

are places where online gaming and online sports betting is widely adopted. I think, though, that there will always be a need for a Las Vegas-type destination. I suppose you should distinguish a Las Vegas of the future from a casino of the future. Gambling destinations like Vegas have people arrive and almost pretend to be somebody else for a week. I think people find that very fun and liberating, that they can cut loose from their everyday life. I think there’s an innate human need for that sort of vacation. As far as casinos go, I think it’s a fun group activity, and people will want to go and spend time with their friends and gamble. If you had asked me this question five or ten years ago, I would have said that esports would be absolutely huge and dominate everything. It hasn’t turned out to be the case. I don’t think the industry at large has really figured out the alchemy of games of chance combined with video-type games of skill; participation versus spectatorship and how to monetize that. There’s some really great business in there somewhere, some really great experience, I just don’t think we’ve really figured it out. GAMINGAMERICA | 49


CAN SPORTS-THEMED CONTENT RESONATE WITH US PLAYERS? David Stoveld, COO of Armadillo Studios, believes that there is plenty of potential for success within sports-themed content in the United States. A carefully cultivated brand can be a remarkably effective and powerful tool to influence customer behavior. Companies and individuals build up their brands to embody a certain set of values in order to elicit a positive response. In the United States, sports 50 | GAMINGAMERICA

teams, organisations and personalities are a perfect example of the way a brand can become a focal point to be identified with by fans, ultimately for significant commercial gain. In the age of social media, athletes have taken a hold of their own messaging

to build bonds with their supporters like never before and their influence cannot be understated. That is particularly the case in the US, the natural home of the larger-then-life superstar. As we see it, this background presents the potential for success within sport-themed

DAVID STOVELD | GAMING AMERICA slot content, provided it is very carefully focused on the right sports and brands. In the land-based casino sector in the US, the industry’s biggest suppliers have long since known how attracted players are to instantly recognizable names. Significant sums of money are pumped into acquiring a particular IP, with the end result often being a spectacular audio-visual experience that dovetails with player expectations inherent within that brand.


For example, you might have a famous singer whose image is prominent on the cabinet with her hits forming the foot-tapping soundtrack, or a cult sci-fi film utilized within a huge, curved cabinet with dedicated seating. These sorts of highly immersive cabinets, based on widely recognised brands, are far from cheap to produce but can certainly draw big crowds in Las Vegas. Even on casino floors, though, branded sports-themed games are a relative rarity and there have been many examples of high-profile failures over the years. Sport is tribal and its stars often provoke mixed reactions from fans, depending on allegiances or geography. The gender balance is also uneven, with a football game, for example, possibly less attractive to female players given that the sport at its highest level is heavily balanced towards males. For myriad reasons, creating a sports slot with mass appeal has often proven to be a very tough nut

to crack. So how can an iGaming studio possibly hope to create a winning sporting slot with mass appeal – particularly when it will typically be played out on a mobile device, without the razzmatazz of the spectacular dedicated cabinet?

CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS A seismic shift is underway in the way casino games are experienced in the US, with the balance of power moving away from brick-and-mortar and toward iGaming. The rate at which on-the-go casino content is being consumed is growing exponentially and, in turn, new player demographics are emerging. Younger players might not have the time, cash or inclination to make an extended weekend trip to the Las Vegas strip but could be inclined to download an app that allows them to play slots on their commute to and from the city. When homing in on that younger end of the spectrum to whom iGaming holds a strong appeal as on-demand entertainment, the selection of the right brand can be a powerful agent of engagement. At Armadillo Studios,

DAVID STOVELD Armadillo Studios COO

our research indicated that a game based around mixed martial arts (MMA) could become successful. As a modern, growing and highly entertaining sport that resonates with the 21-40 age demographic, its stars are household names. The data we examined indicated that, in terms of age groups who enjoy iGaming, a lack of gender divides within the sport’s popularity, and its commercial success in the US, a range of titles based on the theme could prove successful within online casino. Having selected the right sport, it was then a case of finding the perfect match within a high-profile star. Amanda Nunes – also known as The Lioness – fit the bill. As the current reigning champion of the women’s UFC featherweight division, Nunes was the first woman to become a two-division UFC champion and the third fighter in history to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously. Her impeccable sporting prowess has seen her popularity stretch from coast to coast, a factor which is paramount given that our intention was to craft games that can be rolled out successfully countrywide. The selection of a brand or personality that appeals to the new iGaming audience in the US can also provide an entirely new channel for marketing. This can be particularly effective given that the above strategy taps into existing fandom and brands, with the stars themselves advertising the products given that it is in their commercial interests. The opportunity to attract a new stream of players, at a cost that is far less than the eye-watering amount operators are currently spending on acquisition, makes branded titles very attractive. Times are changing, quickly, and the old rules don’t necessarily apply any longer. The combination of mass-market appeal, commercial potential and the ability to attract a whole new generation of players is one that it would be unwise to rule out. That is not to say that picking a winning brand for sports-themed games in the US is a slam dunk, but it is certainly worth plenty of consideration. GAMINGAMERICA | 51


BROAD COALITIONS EMERGING Top two sports betting propositions will draw millions of dollars. As the countdown continues to the ballot initiative contest to legalize sports betting in California this November, backers of the two leading propositions are already maneuvering to win the hearts and minds of potential voters by gathering key endorsements. The prop that would allow in-person wagering at all tribal facilities and the state’s four racetracks was proposed by four tribes: the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. This measure originally was ticketed for the 2020 General Election, but it was pushed back two years by Covid. The “California Solutions To Homelessness & Mental Health Act” is the legal name of the proposition backed by DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, WynnBET, Bally’s Interactive, Fanatics Betting & Gaming and Penn National Gaming. If approved by voters, it would allow online sports betting anywhere in the Golden State – including outside of Indian lands – and proposes to raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year for homelessness and mental health services. The Coalition for Safe, Responsible

Gaming, the group leading the Yes campaign (for what is referred to as the in-person tribal sports wagering measure) and the No campaign against the online wagering measure, had an active month in May. One of the headliners to join the cause was the California Teachers Association (CTA), which on May 24 said its State Council of Education voted to formally oppose the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition – what the tribal in-person folks call the DraftKings/FanDuel initiative. According to a statement issued by the CTA, the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition would “legalize online and mobile sports gambling throughout the state – turning virtually every cell phone, laptop and tablet into a gambling device.” “Parents, educators and others warn this deceptive measure would expose kids to increased risks of addiction and problem gambling,” the Association said in its statement. The CTA cited research from the Journal of Gambling Issues, which it said found the accelerated speed of play and easily accessible nature of online and mobile gambling are “especially attractive” to youth.


“Further, this measure would shortchange schools and public education, along with other state priorities,” the Association continued. “That’s because the measure explicitly circumvents Proposition 98’s guaranteed minimum funding to California public schools. Under their measure, out-of-state gambling corporations would profit billions off of online sports gambling, but not a single penny of tax revenues would be dedicated to public schools or education.” Earlier in May, the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming released a list of what it described as statewide business leaders and small business advocates that were in “strong opposition” to the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition. “Opponents contend the Corporate Online Gambling Proposition is a direct attack on California’s local, brick-and-mortar tribal casinos that would jeopardize California jobs and economic progress,” the Coalition declared. “At the same time, the measure would send the vast majority of sports wagering profits out of state without creating any jobs or making any real investments in California.” Tracy Stanhoff, President of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of California, added: “As Native American people, we are proud of the fact that tribal casinos have proven to be powerful economic engines in tribal and non-tribal communities alike. The Corporate Online Gambling Proposition is a direct threat to tribal casinos and the thousands of small businesses and workforce that depend on them.” According to the American Gaming Association, California’s tribal casinos generate $20bn annually in economic impact

COALITIONS | GAMING AMERICA for the state economy, support 125,000 jobs, and share more than $1.7bn in revenue with state and local governments. “The Corporate Online Gambling Proposition was written for the sole benefit of out-of-state gambling corporations,” asserted Pat Fong Kushida, President and CEO of the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce. “This measure would give online gambling corporations near total control over the sports wagering market, effectively hijacking any local economic benefits for our small businesses, while sending 90% of profits from sports gambling out-of-state and even out of country.” Julian Canete, President of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, added: “This reckless measure would turn virtually every cell phone, tablet, laptop and video game console in California into a gambling device – exposing our kids and other vulnerable communities to the highly addictive nature of online gambling. All at the same time, it would jeopardize good-paying jobs and revenues for our communities and economy.”

Director of the Kings Tulare Homeless Alliance. “Homelessness is at a crisis point across this state. This provides a safe and responsible path to legalizing online sports betting and generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year that will help local leaders fight homelessness. California can’t afford not to act.” “Every solution to homelessness – the crisis in all our neighborhoods – necessitates long-term and stable funding,” said Jamie Almanza, CEO of Bay Area Community Services. “We have to get vulnerable Californians off the streets and prevent homelessness before it starts, so this crisis does not worsen. By creating a safe and age-restricted online sports betting market, California can capture hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and use it to help solve one of our greatest challenges. This funding will be used to build housing and help provide mental health treatment to our neighbors in need.”



On the other side of the ballot, more than a dozen homelessness and housing service organizations and local leaders have joined the coalition to pass the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act. Proponents say the initiative will deliver “hundreds of millions of dollars” each year to fight homelessness and fund mental health and addiction treatment in California by licensing, tightly regulating, and taxing online sports betting conducted in partnership with California’s Tribes. They noted nearly half the country has created a “safe and responsible” online sports betting marketplace. “The initiative strictly limits betting to individuals age 21 and over and blocks minors from using legal sports betting platforms by utilizing state-of-the-art identity verification technology,” backers said. “Our organization strongly supports the initiative,” said Miguel Perez, Executive

Nathan Click, a spokesperson for the initiative, noted it is supported not only by the sportsbook operators, but also the mayors of five of California’s largest cities: Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Sacramento Mayor

Darrell Steinberg, and Henry Lo, City of Monterey Park, along with Council Member Ali Sajjad Taj, City of Artesia. In addition, nine homelessness or mental health service providers back the measure, including All Home, a statewide homelessness service provider, the Regional Task Force on Homelessness for the San Diego area, The United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Community Forward San Francisco, Kings Tulare Homeless Alliance, and the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness. The National Hispanic Council on Aging and the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund also recently endorsed the measure. According to Click, all of these groups recognize the need for a monetary source to address the homeless crisis in the Golden State. “California relies on capital gains tax to fund its budget and homelessness solutions are funded exclusively by one-time dollars,” he explained. “Next year, with the stock market in decline, we are going to be in a completely new situation. There is a need for sustainable funding, and our measure provides this.” Click dismissed concerns about underage gambling, arguing 25 states have legalized online sports betting, and have proven that it can be done safely and responsibly. “Age verification technology is used by banks and financial institutions to prove identity. To sign up for an online sports betting account, the person’s identity must be verified, with a financial institution account in his or her name,” he said. “Californians currently spend millions of dollars using illegal, offshore operators, with no consumer protections. Why not set up a safe, responsible marketplace?” The online proposition recently submitted 1.6 million signatures, which are being verified by county registrars. It needs 1.1 million to qualify for the ballot, with Click reporting the validity rate has been 75%, “which means we will get the number we need.” “On June 30, the Secretary of State will confirm which measures will be on the ballot, and it will be off to the races,” he said. GAMINGAMERICA | 53


FROM LAND BASED TO IGAMING In this edition of Viewpoints, industry experts take a look at the growing clout of digitalization on the casino floor.




President, Global Payments Gaming Solutions

Chief Product Officer, Evolution

Vice President, Research, American Gaming Association

Christopher Justice is a veteran leader in the world’s payment and commerce industry. Spearheading Global Payments’ Gaming Solutions division, his 25-plus-year career spans executive leadership roles at organizations such as CenPOS, Century Payments, Ingenico, Merchant Link and First Data.

Todd Haushalter has been Chief Product Officer at Evolution since 2015. Todd oversees all aspects of Evolution’s games and product development. Having previously worked as Corporate Vice President of Gaming at MGM Resorts and as Vice President of Business Strategy at Shuffle Master, he has a wide and varied knowledge of the casino industry.

David Forman serves as Vice President, Research at the American Gaming Association. Forman leads the AGA’s research efforts and partnerships across the full spectrum of issues affecting the gaming industry, including taxation and economic issues, sports betting, responsible gaming, consumer perceptions, and regulatory matters.



Senior Vice President, The Innovation Group

Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing & Digital, Everi

Brian Wyman, Senior Vice President at The Innovation Group, is an executive with over 15 years of experience transforming data into actionable intelligence, insights and bottom-line results.


David Lucchese, Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Digital for Everi, has worked in the gaming industry for over 15 years. Previously he was at Bally's. Lucchese is also President of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers.


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’s coming. ere yet, but it an effect, th t no ’s It : ve A LT ER n this long to haression. Now TO D D H A U SH ing that it’s take og While it’s surprisd aspects of the industry’s pr this pandemic ng Covid has delayeting to make our way out of America is getti that we’re star d especially now that North me much easier co an t, be ill en e ing, it w environm ith online gam e two, and I think you will se e th more familiar w th in n s ee es tw cc be Su p s. to bridge the gakly over the next five yearer demographics ic this evolve qu g to look very different, playors for players to industry is goinange, and the deciding factntered around the will start to cherator over another will be ceywhere – whether choose one op favorite game is available an . idea that their online or on the casino floor


ly has a ming definite ct ways ga l ita ig D : N re A di BRIAN WYM you can see this in really e operators d presence, an e subtle ones. Directly, th erators of as well as moring tend also to be the op co-branding of online gam and since there is often rtisements direct adve sports betting, ok, there are . Less obviously, we’re or of the sportsbo flo e , whether no on th for online casigitalization of table games games, seeing the di of e-tables or live-dealerme newer, in the form -style blackjack or so mbined o ium such as stad tensive craps games. Clayers now less labor-in eration of cashless, p ithdrawing, lif w with the proacclimated to depositing, lly. ta g are becomind making decisions all digi an



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, and I think great questionntent start to a ’s It : R E LT SH A see co TO D D H A U y scenario is that you will g to want to be able the most likel rections. Players are goiney’re sitting at home flow in both di es they love, whether th floor, so land based m access the ga or physically on the casinoolve quickly to make on the couch ing to have to start to ev great way to achieve a casinos are go Dual play is going to be at Evolution – take an y. it do al y re ad a re e casino that mething we al e game on th this and it’s sog roulette or baccarat table. This process will already existin am it to players at hom een digital and land floor and stredevelop as the gap betwsaid, it won’t just be continue to es less obvious, and, as Ieated outside of the based becom ocess. Content that’s crr way onto the casino a one-way prme shows, will make thei d excitement that an casino, like ga that increased energy they decide to play. ng r gi ve in re br , he floor pect to see, w players will ex


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goes on, it ESE: As time DAVID LUCCH nse that operators will se would make offering the same slot nd yo be r fa ns in their go no game optio titles and casi that they currently have online casino sed casino. The next in the land baould be to create their logical step wto be available in both promotions . Allow patrons to earn ies, and casino options , drawing entr ts in po d ar crossw h re offers throug promotional e guest of the future . Th platform play to a similar gaming will expect rdless of the way that ga experience, re ther from the way that he W . ay pl platform they nds in a crossthey access fu t, to the games they casino walle sino patrons will likely , ca chose to play operators that bridge e th to . flock this new divide


ar s should not fe sed operator ement solutions ba nd La E: IC pl ey im ER JUST CHRISTOPH tal gaming, especially if thss gaming experience le am se a h ore, some it the rise of digi patrons w ls. Furtherm that provideysical and digital channe neering their solutions across all ph logy providers are engi r operators in addition gaming technoback-office operations fo for patrons. Global to strengtheng the gaming experiencel benefits to operators, to enhancin Mobility provides severang exposure, improved ri Payments’ VIP ced anti-money laundeimplementation costs. including redu metrics and limited ire additional technology performanceIP Mobility does not requ a simplified transition V Additionally, s on the floor, creatingracing system-agnostic certificationdigital gaming. By emb tap the flexibility needed to cashless, VIP Mobility, casinos can ional forms of funding, solutions, liketal alternatives to tradit patron expectations. to offer digi operating costs and meet minimize

ught us years have tarception o tw st la e AN: If th that the pe DAVID FORMe gaming industry, it ’s e gaming vertical is th on in by ng en hi , both driv anyt the pandemic can only be that growth During the years followingare thriving, and the antiquated. aditional casino gaming g and online sports online and tr e pie is growing. IGaminrcentage of revenue etail overall revenurly produce the largest pe a surprise. R ntly ue betting regulathat should not come as eq ns es and co growth, but ature market in most stat on to think iGaming as m a re is no g is in nefit e gam exist to the be to grow. Ther has less roomal casino gaming cannot co . stry and traditionof the overall gaming indu

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VEGAS GOES TRIBAL The Palms has reopened under tribal ownership, bringing together two fundamental pillars of the nation’s gaming industry. On 27 April 2022, two great rivers coursing through American gaming – tribal and Las Vegas – at last converged into one. The event prompting this union? The official grand reopening of the Palms Casino Resort Las Vegas which, after being sold to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in 2021 for $650m, has become the first tribally-owned and managed casino on the Strip. The move by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians marked the latest – and by far one of the most prominent – instances of tribes diversifying their portfolios by inserting themselves into the world of commercial gaming. In this case, the actual purchase and management was done by the tribe’s government agency, the San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority. Vegas’ newest casino will have a range of offerings for its guests. Two towers will contain 766 hotel rooms and suites; there will be all the eating and entertainment choices that people have come to expect of casinos. The game floor itself will be top-of-the-line and stretch


over 95,000 square feet. Among the other features in the complex’s newest iteration are 190,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, a 2,500-seat theater, a pool and spa area with two separate pools and 39 unique cabanas (many of which containing their own private pool), a 14-screen movie house, 600 further units of condominiums, and, with poetical flourish, a wedding chapel. Overseeing the operations of this new Strip heavyweight will be Cynthia Kiser Murphey. She brings to the role a wealth of experience, including degrees in hotel management and administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas – the institution where she was a part-time faculty member and adjunct professor prior to assuming her new role. Her position before this one was as President and Chief Operating

Officer of the New York-New York Hotel & Casino, also in Las Vegas. Before that, she worked several different positions at MGM Resorts International. Murphey commented on the opening, which was on of the city’s most anticipated for years: “April 27, 2022 is another milestone date for Palms, for Las Vegas and the San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority. We are thrilled to welcome guests back to this spectacular resort and our entire Palms team looks forward to creating a lively and fun environment throughout the property.” The Palms Las Vegas is located just to the west of the Strip’s focal point, off I-15 on Flamingo Road.


WHAT'S NEW Gaming America takes a look at some of the market's newest and most exciting gaming products, available for both online and land-based players across the country. VAASK With the pandemic becoming endemic, this device will show your guests you care about their health and safety. The Vaask touchless hand sanitizing fixture makes hand hygiene convenient and offers customizable finishes and logo options to complement the style of your facility. The aim is to provide your guests and management with a better experience: • AC power or POE (no batteries required) • Cast aluminum; 5-year warranty. • PalmPilot sensor that precisely detects hands • Large capacity; refillable with any sanitizer gel. • Customizable colors, metals and graphics.



• Recessed, wall-mounted or freestanding. • Manufactured in America Providing reliable, high-capacity sanitizing dispensers is crucial to improving hand hygiene and reducing the spread of germs, which in one day can multiply from a single germ to 8 million, something to consider when dealing with cards, chips and slot machine handles. Not surprisingly, studies have found bacteria, fungi and E. coli on statistically significant levels on all of the above, despite gaming facilities’ rigid cleaning protocols. In fact, the owner of one chip cleaning company described just how filthy they can be: “When a chip is dropped into the water, a gray cloud of dirt rises alongside hundreds

of microscopic bubbles.” But the logistics of cleaning chips and other gaming necessities are complicated, which is why it makes sense to go straight to the source of the germs. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hand sanitizer over hand washing in common situations, and Vaask presents an easy, effective and economical solution. Within months of its debut, Vaask has been honored with nearly 20 awards, including the Red Dot, BDNY, TIME’s Best Inventions and Healthcare Design’s Product Innovation awards. The Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo honored Vaask with both its Architect's Choice and Most Sustainable Product awards.

GAMING AMERICA | PRODUCT REVIEWS TICK TOCK JACKPOT Eclipse Gaming’s new Tick Tock Jackpot video slot is delivering performance and entertainment in tribal gaming markets across the US by offering an adrenalinepumping experience. The Count Down Pick Game adds rapid action as players work to beat the clock to pick the best symbols and create chain reactions that explode to reveal prizes. Tick Tock Jackpot also features the player-favorite hold-and-spin bonus and expanding reels to give players more opportunities to win big. In this 5x8 reel, 50-line game, three, four, or five bomb symbols on consecutive reels initiate the fast-paced Countdown Pick game.

Lucky Envelope

LUCKY ENVELOPE ™ A golden tree covered in striking red envelopes is the central object of fortune in Konami’s Lucky Envelope premium 64 GAMINGAMERICA

Players choose a bomb on screen to create an explosion that awards credit prizes or the progressive jackpots. Three to five tick tock symbols across sequential reels trigger the tick tock hold and respin feature with expanded reels. Credit prizes and the progressive jackpots are awarded when the tick tock symbols lock into place on the reels. In addition, there’s a lucrative free games bonus in which players can collect three, four, or five free spin symbols that award seven, ten, or 12 free spins, respectively. This game’s a time bomb of excitement and anticipation, ready to provide explosive wins!

linked progressive series. Lucky Envelope opens fresh possibilities of player excitement around the enduring gift-giving tradition of the red envelope, through exhilarating symbol-driven prizes, as well as surprising mystery-trigger events. Showcased on Konami’s award-winning DIMENSION 49J, Lucky Envelope is a 243 Ways game with four progressive jackpot levels that scale by denomination. Wild red envelope symbols appear on reels one and two throughout primary play, which can randomly trigger the jackpot pick game. When awarded, 30 red envelopes flood the screen for the player, revealing a guaranteed jackpot award: mini, minor, major, or grand. Players can also win an instant mini or minor award through the game’s coin feature. During primary play, the coin feature is triggered by collecting a red envelope on reels one and two in conjunction with coin credit prize symbols on reels three, four and five. Lucky Envelope is available now with two original base games: Jade Wealth and Plum

Tick Tock Jackpot

Riches. With its rich, serene green tones, Jade Wealth infuses the Lucky Envelope free game feature with random multipliers. Three or more free game symbols trigger up to 15 free games, where wild symbols on reels one and two may include additional 2x or 3x multipliers. If a wild red envelope symbol lands in any position on reels one and two, coin credit prizes on the remaining reels are awarded, with the multiplier applied to all prizes except the minor and mini coins. The free game feature found in Plum Riches takes the coin feature even further, by only requiring a red envelope on reel one, with coin credit prizes available across all the remaining reels. The progressive pick free is also available during the free game feature. With elegant LED signage and 49-inch curved screen delivery on the premium DIMENSION 49J, this original slot series creates a spectacular spotlight on the casino floor.

PRODUCT REVIEWS | GAMING AMERICA LUCKY BETTING SHOP Lucky Betting Shop is a betting-themed 5x3 video slot introduced by Expanse Studios – a company established in 2017 whose main goal is to provide maximum top quality online games based on players’ preferences. It’s played on 1024 paylines and packed with wilds, multiplier reels, free spins, bet tickets,

and gamble features. The main story takes place inside a betting shop and all fans of sports betting will undoubtedly be thrilled with the title’s design. Behind the grid you will see bar tables and chairs, lists with the offer of matches you can bet on, broadcasts of the most interesting games and different types of devices that will ease your stay in

the shop itself. At the very bottom of the paytable, you’ll find four low-paying neonstyle royals (J-A), while red devices, two TVs, shop customers, and employees in red shirts are the premium symbols here. Also, we should not forget wilds in the form of a betting ticket and the game logo icon that represents the scatter. Lucky Betting Shop comes with five reels (with an additional multiplier reel), three rows, and 1024 paylines where, in order to score, players must land at least three identical symbols across a single line. The betting range starts at 0.25 coins and goes all the way up to 25 coins per spin. Wilds will appear on reels two, three, and four and replace all regular symbols except scatters. By landing at least three scatters anywhere on the grid, a player will trigger the free spins round and the game will award 15 spins free of charge. The game’s main highlight is undoubtedly the bet ticket feature that can be activated by clicking on the ticket on the left.

operating system. Triton Casino Systems works to refine what made its precursor, Bonus Jackpot System, successful by adding a wealth of new features to enhance the casino floor. Triton Casino Systems aims to provide casino partners with the flexibility for a variety of progressive configurations including daily jackpots, real-time progressives and tiered progressives. Simplifying the dealer procedure and jackpot payouts is the inventive and easyto-use dealer pad. The new Triton sensors are available in a variety of colors and are calibrated to operate in a variety of

lighting conditions. Speaking on this new product, Todd Cravens, President and CEO of Galaxy Gaming, said: “We have delivered a successful progressive jackpot system for many years.But we listened to our partners and developed a brand-new platform that gives them the features and customizations needed for this evolving industry. The Triton Casino System is more than a new progressive jackpot system. It’s a scalable tool that allows Galaxy Gaming and our customers to continue to develop best-inclass experiences.”

Lucky Betting Shop

GALAXY GAMING Galaxy Gaming, a distributor of casino table games and technology, has recently announced the launch of Triton Casino Systems, a brand-new table game progressive

Galaxy Gaming


GAMING AMERICA | PRODUCT REVIEWS VIZONDEMAND Your data is the driving force behind your most critical business decisions. VizExplorer's newest product offerings bring that data front and center and make it easy to obtain clear and actionable insights. Our VizOnDemand platform embodies simplicity and automation through a clean, intuitive user interface that leverages AI and provides predictive analytics. VizOnDemand covers the most critical areas of the casino business – slots and player development and marketing. Operators have seamless access to their most important data. VizOnDemand products are configurable and provide actionable recommendations as well as insightful reports that track both machine and player data. VizOnDemand’s out-of-the-box reporting capability provides immediate impact and syncs with industry-best practice analytics. Whether you want to see high-level performance metrics or drill down into granular detail of your games, manufacturers, and/or players, Viz makes it simple to grab these insights and make revenue-driving decisions from them. Ease of use and flexibility are big differentiating factors for the reporting suite. With just a couple of button clicks you can


VizOnDemand navigate from reviewing slot performance to visualizing how the player development team is pacing. In addition to that, the ability to rapidly develop and deploy custom reports that show you where the business is going is a game changer. Our recommendation engines are unique. We leverage AI and disparate data sources to guide the operator through a fully automated, customizable set of prioritized recommendations based on ROI. We leverage both customer and machine data to provide an extraordinary level of insight into customer and machine behavior with future predictions built in.

Slot Recommendation Engine (SRE) automates two time consuming but critical casino functions: optimizing slot floor decisions and estimating – in advance – the ROI for any given slot change. SRE uses both machine and customer data to provide rapid and prioritized recommendations for products that are already on the casino floor. SRE helps operators quickly find new revenue opportunities by analyzing the entire floor to find hidden low cost and high impact changes. This allows casinos to optimize their capital spend and ensure that the right games are in the right place for the right customers.

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