Gaming America Sep/Oct 2022

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GamingAmerica.com

Sep/Oct 2022

THE CEO SPECIAL Including 15 industry leaders and prominently featuring Ed Pitoniak, Scott Butera, Alex Dixon Anika Howard and Erika Ayers Nardini






COO, EDITOR IN CHIEF Julian Perry EDITOR Cameron Saunders Cameron.Saunders@gamingamerica.com

EDITOR’S LETTER

STAFF WRITERS Robert Collins Robert.Collins@gamingamerica.com Ricky Gray Jr. Ricky.Gray@gamingamerica.com 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 Deepak.Malkani@gamblinginsider.com Tel: +44 (0)20 7729 6279 US BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Aaron Harvey Aaron.Harvey@playerspublishing.com Tel: +1 702 425 7818 ADVERTISING SALES EXECUTIVE Ariel Greenberg Ariel.Greenberg@playerspublishing.com Tel: +1.702 833 9581 SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER Michael Juqula Michael.Juqula@gamblinginsider.com Tel: +44 (0)20 3487 0498 ACCOUNT MANAGERS William Aderele William.Aderele@gamblinginsider.com Tel: +44 (0)20 7739 2062 Clive Waite Clive.Waite@gamblinginsider.com Tel: +44 (0)20 7729 0643 Grover Ho Grover.Ho@gamblinginsider.com Tel: +44 (0) 203 435 5628

JULIAN PERRY,

COO, Editor in Chief

CAMERON SAUNDERS,

Editor

It is the season of the G2E trade show and, with that, comes our annual CEO Special, in which Gaming America brings together leading lights from the industry so that our readership can see how it’s done. Ed Pitoniak at VICI Properties runs the real estate investment trust that owns half of the land beneath the Strip; Erika Ayers Nardini at Barstool Sports covers the media angle; for sports betting we present Scott Butera and his Fubo Gaming’s innovative approach to the user experience; in the land-based vertical, there is Alex Dixon’s Q Casino in rural Iowa; and, last but not least, there is Anika Howard at WONDR NATION, the company making waves in interactive gaming. Adding color are numerous shorter interviews with the CEOs of key companies representing a broad swathe of the industry. The reader will glean insight from groups as diverse as Evolution, Acres Manufacturing, Nuvei, Bluberi and Velvix. Finally, we offer to you some of our more regular features: fine words from contributors like Stephen Crystal, Oliver Lovat and Bill Pascrell. There is an interview with a VP of Gaming at the PGA TOUR. And what would this issue be without a preview of the Global Gaming Awards Las Vegas, which is due to be held the week of G2E. We do hope you enjoy... Editor Cameron Saunders

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Michelle Pugh Michelle.Pugh@gamblinginsider.com Tel: +44 (0)20 7739 5768 CREDIT MANAGER Rachel Voit WITH THANKS TO: Stephen Crystal, Oliver Lovat, Bill Pascrell, Scott Warfield, Ed Pitoniak, Erika Nardini, Scott Butera, Alex Dixon, Anika Howard, Brooke Fiumara, Chad Hoehne, John Acres, Andrew Burke, Stanley Ku, Craig Libson, Cleve Tzung, Martin Carlesund, Simon Hammon, Umberto Corridori, John Hinton, Brett K. Ewing, David Nejelski, Mike Larson, Andrew Kreft

FEATURED IN THIS ISSUE

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.

ED PITONIAK

CEO VICI Properties

ANIKA HOWARD

CEO WONDR NATION

CHECK OUT GAMINGAMERICA.COM FOR THE BEST IN BREAKING NEWS



GAMING AMERICA | CONTENTS

18

10

26 FROM THE TOP: GLOBAL GAMING AWARDS LIVES UP TO ITS NAME

We sit down with Julian Perry, COO of Players Publishing, and hear how GGA became a coveted prize for companies the world over.

12

THE WESTERN ECOSYSTEM

14

US SPORTS WAGERING FOR THE US ECONOMY

18

EXPERIENCING LUXOR: A JOURNEY DOWN DENIAL

22 24

26

AFFILIATES COME TO AMERICA

30

CEO SPECIAL: LEADING IN A YEAR OF WONDERS

32

AN ACQUISITIVE JOURNEY

38

THE PEOPLE'S MARKETER

44

WALL STREET AND GRIDIRON

48

AMERICAN DREAMING

54

A PARALLEL EVOLUTION

This month our map takes a look at the evolving state of gambling in the western United States.

Stephen Crystal of SCCG again lends his expertise to Gaming America by explaining the effects that the legalization of sports betting has on the US economy.

Gaming America's resident historian Oliver Lovat looks at Luxor, one of Las Vegas' most recognizable attractions.

HITTING THE LINKS

In our Huddle interview we speak to Scott Warfield about the future of betting in the PGA TOUR.

THE POWER OF FIXED-ODDS HORSE BETTING

In his trademark column, William J. Pascrell III, Esq. explains the benefits of fixed-odds horse betting.

8 | GAMINGAMERICA

We take a look at what Europe's bustling affiliate market can bring to the Americas.

In our annual CEO Special, we take a look at the lives and careers of five movers and shakers who have each left a mark on the industry.

Ed Pitoniak's VICI Properties has gone on one of the wildest property acquistion runs in Vegas history. Gaming America tries to figure out how it happened.

Erika Ayers Nardini, the CEO of Barstool Sports and leader of the media arm of one of the biggest sportsbooks in America, sets her sights high.

Scott Butera's life in sports and finance has set him up to lead Fubo Gaming, an innovative approach to betting on a streaming platform.

From the heart of the Midwest, Alex Dixon's Q Casino offers a bold vision for what a land-based operation can offer rural communities in the US.

Anika Howard's career is exactly what the Mashantucket Pequot Trible Nation needs to embrace iGaming.


CONTENTS | GAMING AMERICA

48

66

60

A VISION FOR SUCCESS

74

EVOLVING APACE

62

STAYING ON TRAC

76

TAPPING INTO AMERICA

64

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

78

REACHING THE APEX

80

US IGAMING PAYOUTS: THE NEED FOR URGENCY

66

OPTX co-CEO Brooke Fiumara shows us the science behind her fast growing company.

Chad Hoehne, President and CEO of CasinoTrac, tells our readers how the world of casino management systems work.

John Acres, Founder of Acres Manufacturing, is serious about customer retention and has advanced methods of seeing it through.

FRUITFUL PROSPECTS

Bluberi's CEO Andrew Burke sees G2E as only an early step in massive growth for his company.

68

NEW ON THE SCENE

70

STRONG FLEX

72

Velvix CEO Stanley Ku speaks of the value of publicity and the importance of brand awareness.

Craig Libson, CEO of Flexia Payments, tells Gaming America about his bold vision for the future of the company.

A PATH TO FRICTIONLESSNESS

Passport Technology CEO Cleve Tzung sees a future where casino management is streamlined. Others are seeing his vision too.

Martin Carlesund of European gaming giant Evolution has grand plans for the American market.

Magnus Olsson, Chief Commercial Officer at Play'n GO, has his sights trained on the American market.

Simon Hammon, CEO of Relax Gaming, talks 2022 launches, as well as what is in store for the year ahead.

Umberto Corridori of Nuvei shows our readers how to stay ahead using cashless technology.

84

WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS

88

FROM LAND-BASED TO IGAMING

94

WHAT'S NEW

With G2E upon us, Gaming America takes a look at what can be expected from the industry's premier trade show.

In our Viewpoints section, leading industry architects reveal the major trends currently defining casino design.

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.

GAMINGAMERICA | 9


GAMING AMERICA | FROM THE TOP

FROM THE TOP: GLOBAL GAMING AWARDS LIVES UP TO ITS NAME We sit down with Julian Perry, Editor in Chief of Gaming America, and hear how GGA has become a coveted prize for companies the world over. Having recently returned from the inaugural GGA Asia, what were your impressions of the event? To be honest, I was completely overwhelmed. I know that the reputation of the Global Gaming Awards (GGA) in the Americas and Europe is one of prestige, fairness and integrity. However, I was not prepared for how far that reputation had spread. When we shortlist a company, it is for a good reason. Then the company gets presented to the judges and published in our shortlist magazine. Of course, companies celebrate winning, but they also celebrate being shortlisted as one of the top ten in a given category. Overall, the reception was incredible, and Asia will definitely become a permanent event to add to the Americas and Europe.

How has the event evolved over the years? Despite a global pandemic affecting most of the world, the GGA has gone from strength to strength. Every year the number of companies that self-nominate has increased. For our next event, Las Vegas in October, hundreds of companies nominated themselves and often in multiple categories. I also feel that GGA awards are now truly established as the one award that you want to win. Because of the nature of the judging panel, it is effectively the industry as a whole saying that you are the best in that category. This you can see by the way they celebrate 10 | GAMINGAMERICA

the win: on their website, though press releases and on social media.

How do you feel the synergy connecting the three awards? When we started the awards almost a decade ago there was only one event in Las Vegas, and it covered every country.

However, with so much expansion of the industry in both Europe and with digital online play, a second European event was the obvious next step. After this it became a certainty that we would need to launch an event for the fast changing and exciting Asian region. However, the fundamentals of the awards have not changed. There is a large number of completely independent judges, all casting a first and second choice vote. The reasons why companies are nominated for their success and achievements over the last 12 months are always published in the shortlist. There is always the same number of companies in each category, and any judges with a conflict of interest in a particular category are excluded from voting. Finally, the whole process – from the online voting system source code through to verifying the votes of specific

"THE EXPOSURE THEY GAIN FROM THAT FIRST YEAR WHERE THEY MADE THE SMALLER AMOUNT OF WINS REALLY GIVES THEM MOMENTUM GOING INTO THE NEXT YEAR"


FROM THE TOP | GAMING AMERICA

"AT FIRST IT SEEMED LIKE DIVERSITY OF WINNERS MAY BE A PROBLEM, BUT FROM THE INAUGURAL YEAR OF THE GLOBAL GAMING AWARDS TO NOW, IT HAS BEEN CLEAR THAT THIS IS NOT THE CASE"

judges and monitoring – all remain the same.

and wins several titles in a row. For instance, in tennis you may have an era of dominance from a Federer. But

then a Nadal will come along, and after that a Djokovic – likewise there is not a monopoly on the spread of winners at GGA. Being a judge is like having your finger on the pulse of the industry. For instance, I’ve spoken to former panelists who see interesting, lesser known companies on the ballot that’ll start to generate some buzz. Judges will hear about these and look into them and they might get some votes that year. But then the next year, they can come and sweep the awards. The exposure they gained from that first year, where they made the smaller amount of wins, really gives them momentum going into the next year.

What is most exciting to you personally about the upcoming GGA Las Vegas Awards in October? Last year we ran the event at half capacity to ensure not just that we complied with rules but also to ensure people’s safety. This year, the best thing by far will be a room packed with top level executives all hoping they get to make that trip on stage to everyone’s applause.

Coming from GGA Asia, do you feel the gambling industry is still Macau-focused? Have other Asian markets opened up more in recent years? While Macau is a very important market, it is clear that companies are looking to other countries and the opportunities they present, whether that be Japan, Korea, Cambodia, or the current country on everyone’s lips – the Philippines.

Were you worried about whether there would be a diverse enough range of winners when starting GGA? Have you noticed a change in the spread of winners? At first it seemed like diversity of winners may be a problem, but from the inaugural year of GGA to now, it has been clear that this is not the case. It seems a bit like a major sporting event, when one player gains momentum

GAMINGAMERICA | 11


GAMING AMERICA | WESTERN ECOSYSTEM

THE WESTERN ECOSYSTEM As G2E descends on Nevada, Gaming America takes a look at the evolving state of gambling in the western United States. CALIFORNIA

All eyes are on California, where this November there will be a statewide referendum in which voters will choose the nature of sports betting in what is the biggest market in the country. This messy contest has pitted the majority of the states' tribes against the national commercial operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

ARIZONA

In Arizona, we see a state that has tried to have it both ways. There is a very vibrant tribal casino scene, one in which 16 different tribes run a total of 24 Class III casinos. Online sports betting has also really taken off: since its debut in Spectember 2021, 18 online sportsbooks have become operational in Arizona.

NEVADA

Since 1931, when the state government legalized gambling to offset the economic damage wrought by the Great Depression, the Silver State has been the beating heart of the industry in the United States. Today, it has 334 casinos, more than any other state in the nation.

12 | GAMINGAMERICA

WASHINGTON STATE

Gambling has seen a steady rise of acceptance and popularity since horseracing was introduced in 1933. In the 1970s, a state-run lottery came into effect, and, after the Federal Government gave the green light to tribal gaming, casinos began sprouting up at reservations across the state. Today there are 29 tribal casinos.

COLORADO

Since going live in September 2020, mobile sports betting has proven to be immensely popular in the state of Colorado. In fact, many sportsbooks choose to open American operations here due to the relative laxity of licensing laws. Today, there are 25 legal betting apps available.

NEW MEXICO

To drive through the stark and beautiful landscape of New Mexico is to be confronted with casinos dotting lonesome highways. Here, tribal gaming is supreme: 23 casinos and four gaming travel centers are owned by 14 tribes. .across ten counties.


WESTERN ECOSYSTEM | GAMING AMERICA

WA

MT OR ID WY

NV

UT

CA

CO

AZ

NM

GAMINGAMERICA | 13


GAMING AMERICA | SCCG

THE PROGRESS OF US SPORTS WAGERING Stephen Crystal of SCCG lends his expertise to Gaming America as he explains the vast implications that the legalization of sports betting has on the US economy. Despite weak global economic trends, the American Gaming Association (AGA) released a State of the States 2022 report showing that the sports betting industry will generate $4.3bn in revenue in 2021, up 179% from 2020. In 2022, sports betting revenue will surpass $6bn, with New Jersey leading the way with $816m. With ten more states preparing to join over 30 states that have legalized sports wagering, VIXIO Gambling Compliance predicts the total sports wagering market in the US will grow to $18bn by 2025. Since the opening of regulated sports wagering following the US Supreme Court’s 2018 PASPA ruling, we’re talking about $143trn in handle, $10bn in revenue and $1.5bn in taxes to regulated sports betting jurisdictions. Currently, the best generalized regulatory model involves legalizing mobile betting in a competitive market throughout the state. This general model does not apply to 14 | GAMINGAMERICA

state-run monopolies such as Oregon, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.

THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF SPORTS WAGERING GROWTH The booming growth of regulated US sports betting markets doesn’t just benefit sports wagering in a vacuum – it boosts other areas of the US national economy in several ways. Businesses proximal to sports wagering, such as racetracks, casinos, and online wagering operations, are obvious direct beneficiaries. Advertising, which is helping drive this massive growth, also benefits directly. With these core businesses driving industry growth, in the last three years, sports wagering has driven over $700m in tax revenue and added $22.4bn to the US gross domestic product. Sports wagering has already created 200,000 new jobs and increased direct employee wage earnings by $11bn. Oxford Economics, a renowned think

tank, estimates that legalized sports betting could add about $8bn to the US economy every year in direct and indirect labor.

SPORTS WAGERING PARTNERSHIPS WITH MAJOR SPORTS LEAGUES Unprecedented in the decades before the expansion of US sports wagering, partnerships between sports leagues and sportsbook operators are now a significant element of both parties' marketing strategies.

FANDUEL AND THE NHL The NHL has announced that it will partner with FanDuel to increase engagement for daily fantasy and sports betting in the US. The companies plan to use the NHL’s most popular camera assets, such as NHL tentpole events and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, to drive engagement for their new venture. BetMGM is excited to continue its relationship with the NHL and is partnering with prominent sports figures, including



GAMING AMERICA | SCCG

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid. The partnership will continue through the 2022 season, with the two companies extending their agreement to include the Canadian market. The NHL and BetMGM will also partner on category designations and signage in NHL arenas. Additionally, the companies offer premium hospitality solutions throughout the NHL season. Fans can place wagers on their favorite NHL teams without compromising the integrity of the game. The NHL and FanDuel will continue to grow their relationship, and the companies will access customized content from the league across its controlled media channels.

MGM RESORTS INTERNATIONAL AND THE NBA A multi-year partnership between MGM Resorts International and the NBA is underway. MGM Resorts will be the official gaming partner of the NBA and WNBA through the agreement. The partnership will also use official NBA and WNBA data and branding for MGM Resorts’ sportsbook operations. Both entities will continue to promote the NBA and WNBA to fans and potential patrons. More details are expected to emerge later. NBA-MGM Resorts International’s partnership is notable for several reasons. The first is that MGM Resorts will use official data from the NBA and WNBA to provide a new platform for sports betting. 16 | GAMINGAMERICA

sportsbooks in the world at the Westgate Resorts Hotel. The partnership will also provide FC Cincinnati fans access to a new mobile betting app. Other news for the MLS franchise is that the Columbus Crew, dating back to 1994, has partnered with sports wagering site Tipico. The Columbus Crew is home to the Memorial Tournament and Jack Nicklaus. The two teams currently sit sixth and seventh in the Eastern Conference standings. In addition, the MLB’s oldest team, the Cleveland Indians, has partnered with Underdog Sports Wagering. Located in Brooklyn, Underdog is better known for its fantasy sports platform.

STEPHEN CRYSTAL SCCG Founder MGM Resorts will also work with the NBA to protect the integrity of the sport and anonymize data when sharing it. The deal also represents the first major league initiative following the landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court in May of 2018 that relaxed sports betting laws.

WESTGATE RESORTS AND FC CINCINNATI The MLS team FC Cincinnati recently announced that it had entered a sports wagering partnership with SuperBook Sports, a company that operates one of the largest

CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT AND BASKETBALL Two prominent basketball teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Philadelphia 76ers, have entered into a multi-year partnership with Caesars Entertainment. The partnership will involve marketing the casino’s sportsbook and mobile app during games. Additionally, the casino will rebrand the 76ers’ Prudential Center restaurant and bar as the Caesars Club. Fans who attend games can also enter a contest to win free stays in Caesars’ New Jersey properties. The proximity of the two teams’ fanbases was an apparent factor in the deal since Caesars operates four casino properties within 150 miles of the Prudential Center and Wells Fargo Center. However, a more


SCCG | GAMING AMERICA

significant factor in the agreement was the international reach of the 76ers, who have a large fan base in Asia and China, in particular. In addition, the 76ers recently played two preseason games in China.

PROMOTIONAL SPEND DRIVING SPORTS WAGERING GROWTH Opening new legal sports betting markets in the United States drove a land grab mentality among sports book operators. Despite the restrictions on gambling advertising, sports book companies are still spending big on their favorite marketing weapon: promotions. According to industry data, the most prominent sportsbook companies spent $2.3bn on marketing in 2018 alone, increasing by 193% in the past two years. This increased spending is primarily attributable to new markets in Louisiana

and New York. Newly legalized online sports betting has led sports book operators to spend vast amounts of money to lure customers. The gaming industry spent $488m on advertising between November 2020 and November 2021, with $336m going to television and fantasy sports companies like FanDuel and DraftKings. Other companies that have invested heavily in marketing and advertising include Caesars Entertainment, BetMGM and bet365. In the first nine months of 2021, DraftKings spent $703m on promotional marketing. That was up 132% from the same period last year. Another sports book, FanDuel, spent $398m in the first six months of 2021. The companies’ marketing investments ranged from traditional television and digital advertising to out-of-home displays and sponsorship agreements with sports properties. Its marketing investments also

"THE HIGH PROMOTIONAL SPENDING IS NOT SUSTAINABLE, AND THE BUFFET OF BONUSES WILL EVENTUALLY BE PULLED BACK TO MORE TRADITIONALLY COMPETITIVE LEVELS"

include sponsorship agreements with other brands, editorial partnerships with news organizations, and offers for new customers. Focusing on Caesars Entertainment for a moment, its sportsbook marketing strategies are designed to build loyalty among a targeted audience and increase its share of wallet. Unlike its competitors, they also expect non-targeted customers to participate in games, thus changing their profitability. The company has established itself as the leader in New York, with a market share of 40%. DraftKings and FanDuel are following, each having a quarter of the market share. The sports betting business represents a significant part of Caesars Entertainment’s digital business, including iGaming and sportsbook offerings. The company reported an Adjusted EBITDA loss of $554m in the first quarter of 2017 and hopes that the cutbacks in its marketing will drive the company to profitability. Caesars has launched sportsbooks in New York and Louisiana in Q1 2021 and has not seen a decline in its sports betting handle share. This high promotional spending is not sustainable, and the buffet of bonuses will eventually be pulled back to more traditionally competitive levels. Still, as new markets continue to emerge, the push to capture market share within these new sports gambling states should continue to extend high promotional spending regionally for several years. GAMINGAMERICA | 17


GAMING AMERICA | OLIVER LOVAT

EXPERIENCING LUXOR – A JOURNEY DOWN DENIAL Gaming America’s regular contributing historian, Oliver Lovat, gives us the skinny on one of Las Vegas’ most recognizable attractions. When you talk to executives and customers in Las Vegas they will tell you, with near ubiquity, that it is all about the experience. Las Vegas is ground zero in the fusion of customer-centric development and strategic marketing; the casinos were selling the same product, but the consumption (and attracting the specified customers) was determined by placemaking. The customers interpret 18 | GAMINGAMERICA

this as the experience, and positive experiences lead to the desire to repeat them, thus engendering loyalty. In the 60-year history of Las Vegas there are many landmarks in charting the evolution of experimental design within the customer experience: from Caesars Palace to The Cosmopolitan, customers have been taken on journeys of escapism, aspiration and fantasy. Perhaps no story is more instructive in understanding the

failure of strategic thinking and poor decision-making than that of Luxor.

CIRCUS TENTS, CASTLES AND A PADDLE STEAMER As the decade moved from the 1980s to 1990s, there was no doubt that Circus Circus Enterprises was the dominant casino corporation in Nevada. The leadership duo of Bill Bennett and Bill Pennington had proved formidable,


OLIVER LOVAT | GAMING AMERICA

shifting Jay Sarno’s Circus Circus from the most radical, but loss-making, casino to ever open in Las Vegas to the basis of a $15 per share, $300m IPO in 1983. Under their lead, Circus Circus Enterprises grew to a regional giant, acquiring and operating casinos in Las Vegas, Reno and expanding The Edgewater and paddle steamer inspired Colorado Belle in Laughlin. In 1991, the company produced gross revenues of $620m, with a market-leading operating margin of over 30%. The share price was over $60. The unprecedented success of this company was due to the operational and management capabilities of CEO Bennett, a ruthless controller of costs, who had assumed primary control of company by the decade’s turn. Bennett had always surrounded himself with smart guys. From Mel Larson and Mike Ensign to Clyde Turner, Bill Paulos and Glenn Schaffer,

and many more in-between. This relatively small leadership cadre achieved tremendous success in

shaping the casino industry. Although Steve Wynn beat him to the opening punch with The Mirage, Bennett’s first ground-up development in Las Vegas – Exalibur – opened its doors in summer of 1990. Pete Earley, in his book “Supercasino,” observed: “During its first year, the Excalibur became the most profitable Circus Circus casino. It had cost $300m to build and it earned $80m before taxes, netting as 26.6% return.” After Excalibur’s success, Bill Bennett announced his retirement. Shortly after. however, he recanted this decision.

PROJECT X – THE GREATEST PYRAMID EVER BUILT

OLIVER LOVAT Denstone Group CEO

What prompted Bennett’s change of mind? Was it Steve Wynn announcing Treasure Island to compete squarely on his turf, was it a conflict with his lieutenants that had patiently waited for his retirement to assume the GAMINGAMERICA | 19


GAMING AMERICA | OLIVER LOVAT

mantle, or was it that he still had unsated ambition? Perhaps all of the above were in consideration when Bennett announced Project X, a pyramid-shaped casino resort to be designed by Veldon Simpson and built by Perini on land adjacent to Excalibur. Everything that Bennett had learned from his career was funneled into this property and everything inside was experiential. The Luxor was to be the peak of the genre of themed properties.

THE EXTERIOR SET THE SCENE. The black glass pyramid is striking enough, but at full power, the 42.3 billion candela beam could be seen from 275 miles away. Inside, the focus on a narrative experience was evident throughout. Restaurants, including the Winds of The Gods dinner show, were Egyptian themed, as were staff uniforms, carpets, statues and the hand-painted hieroglyphics, which were prominent throughout the property. Executives planned the experience 20 | GAMINGAMERICA

-based journey in great detail, bringing in movie director and special effects guru Douglas Trumbull to create 3-D movies, theater and simulators to suit the narrative. SEGA’s entertainment center included the latest games and activities, and 'Jody and Elias', animatronic camels who chatted at passing guests. Simpson’s architecture included unique features, with 'River Nile' waterways, inclinators up the sides of the structure and narrow declining walkways to evoke the journey taken by Howard Carter in his archeological discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. The resort opened with 2,524 rooms encased in the main structure. Outside, the landscaping included over 100 fountains, with a sound and light show, featuring video projections on the water, and laser beams shooting from the giant Sphinx that guarded the entrance. From top to bottom, this was carefully considered and crafted to be the most ambitious experiential property in the world. At 6.45 pm on October 14th, 1993, William G Bennett flicked the switch.

The iconic pillar of white light filled the sky, marking the Luxor open to invited guests, with the public entering the next day. However, by January 1994, not all was looking so promising at Circus Circus Enterprises. The Luxor was beset with operational challenges stemming from the unique and unproven design of the property, compounded by the constant challenge to control costs. The backlash proved costly for Bennett, and on July 9 th, 1994 he resigned and departed Circus Circus Enterprises. That year, companywide, Circus Circus Enterprises generated almost $1bn in revenues. The Luxor cost $380m to build, generated profits of $90m in year one and $86m in year two. It ran at over 90% occupancy. After Bennett’s departure, Luxor saw significant further investment in renovation and expansion, with over 2,000 additional rooms and an increase of amenities at a cost of over $625m in total, but the company’s focus had moved on.


OLIVER LOVAT | GAMING AMERICA In 1998, Wynn’s Bellagio elevated the resort experience, proving that luxury resorts could generate superior revenues, in both gaming and non-gaming, bringing increasingly affluent customers to Las Vegas. The year 1999 saw Sheldon Adelson’s Venetian and The Mandalay Bay open. The latter marked the end of the Circus Circus heritage and Bennett’s middle-class experiential model. Instead the paradigm was aligning with the emerging convention and wealthier customer that was discovering Las Vegas. To mark their new flagship, management took the decision to rebrand Circus Circus Enterprises as The Mandalay Resort Group.

THE LUXOR PARADOX Luxor, Treasure Island and The MGM Grand all opened in Quarter 4 of 1993. All saw families as a core customer segment and were experience-driven, but none to the extent of Luxor. These resorts had a significant impact to the growth of Las Vegas but there was a glaring problem. Between 1992 and 1994 visitation was up by 29%, room inventory by 16%; in Clark County (where the Strip is located) gaming revenue was up by 24%, but Strip gaming revenue was down per person by 4%. More people were coming to Las Vegas, but on average, they were gambling less; this huge investment was not luring gamblers to the casino! In truth, Circus Circus Enterprises

had never attracted high-rollers to their properties, despite expectations that Luxor would compete against The Mirage for such customers. Looking through the telescope of gaming revenue, the Luxor gamble did not pay off, but, with a wider lens, in terms of popularity and non-gaming visitation, it was transformative. After MGM Resorts’ $7.9bn acquisition of the company in 2005, many of the old Mandalay executives were replaced by younger, more corporate management teams. Incoming Luxor President, the late Felix Rappaport, said in 2007: “We’re not a British museum with ancient artifacts, we’re a casino-resort.” Under Rappaport’s leadership, the Egyptian theme was gutted. Hieroglyphics became history. The atrium, once packed with attractions, saw bars, restaurants, lounges and entertainment venues supplanting them. Lobby bar, Nefertiti’s became Aurora. LAX nightclub opened (as the nightclub crowd discovered Las Vegas), alongside cocktail bars Noir, Flight and Liquidity. Even still, a former Executive, present at the time of the renovations, told me, “Whatever you do inside, or however you try and market it, it’s a big, black pyramid in the middle of the desert.” MGM Resorts spent $300m on de-theming Luxor, equating to 80% of the original construction budget.

1992

1994

% Increase

Visita�on

21,886,865

28,214,362

29%

Room Inventory

76,523

88,560

16%

Room Tax

$52,259,477

$76,876,787

47%

Clark County Gaming Revenue

$4,381,710,000

$5,430,651,000

24%

Clark County Gaming Revenue PP

$200.20

$192.48

-4%

LESSONS FROM LUXOR Management decisions left Luxor stranded in the desert, hidden between the exterior’s promise of escape and fantasy, inside delivering just another casino chasing the latest customer fad. It became the premier victim of the homogeneity found in this period of casino management. This aspect of managerial thinking has been proven a failure as prevailing practice has moved from managing individual assets to a broader holistic market with segmentation and customer offering more nuanced, with a reversion to creating a variety of experiences. True, 'themed' properties were not a driver for visitation in their own right, but in a market that has over 150,000 hotel rooms, the ability to differentiate between products remains of value. Compare the performance of the properties that retained their experiential offering - Caesars Palace, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Paris and New York New York - versus those that eliminated them - The Mirage, Rio, Monte Carlo and Luxor. With hindsight, was there a proven investment case to de-theming? Today, nearly 30 years from Luxor opening and after 18 years of MGM’s ownership, the prevailing strategic thinking is in driving multiple visitation metrics to provide an appropriate revenue related to the customer, and today’s customer is younger and seeking more than gaming, if gaming at all. When developing resorts, operators need to think far more strategically in meeting the needs of their customers, emotionally as well as functionally. In this respect, Luxor was decades ahead of its time. To recapitulate, when you talk to executives and customers in Las Vegas they will tell you, with near ubiquity, that it is all about the experience. Like the beacon atop the Luxor, Bill Bennett’s light is still visible to all that care to study his legacy. GAMINGAMERICA | 21


GAMING AMERICA | THE HUDDLE

HITTING THE LINKS Gaming America speaks to Scott Warfield, Vice President of Gaming at the PGA TOUR to let us in on the future of sports betting in golf.

SCOTT WARFIELD PGA TOUR Vice President of Gaming

For those of us more used to betting on team sports, could you please give us a brief overview of what areas of golf are best to bet on? Unfortunately, I don’t bet on golf anymore now that I’m an employee of the PGA TOUR. Some of the markets we’re seeing the most interest in are the head-to-heads– this player versus that player Also first-round leader has been a very popular bet, so you have your return in one day on Thursday evening. Lowest finishing American and lowest finishing European are popular and, ultimately, the biggest upside for the 22 | GAMINGAMERICA

game is the birth of in-game betting, which is a large part of the overall pie. In more mature markets it represents over 70% of all bets, and golf sets itself up really nicely for that phenomenon because of how much content we have – we have golfers on course from seven in the morning to seven at night, multiple balls in the air at the same time, a really advantageous pace of play where someone takes a shot. It takes a few minutes to walk over the ball, a few minutes to choose the club. The amount of options you have from a data perspective is tremendous. That was ultimately the cause of the decision to move over. Golf and baseball, I think, have the most upsides as in-play takes off in the US.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of how professional golf caught the gambling bug? How does a new idea get introduced to something so established? And what about the practical side of the matter, with media and data partnerships with betting companies? Betting has been a part of this sport since the first time a tee was put into the ground. From the PGA TOUR standpoint, we were very methodical about how we got into the space and then about some of the concerns around integrity and responsible gambling. The Supreme Court made its decision and up to


THE HUDDLE | GAMING AMERICA We want to leverage this new legal activity to grow the sport's popularity. That’s really the lens through which we look at sports betting. How do we use this to get more people to watch our events, watch longer and ultimately deliver value back to the Tour and, most importantly, to our players, as that’s who we work for.

Speaking of which, PGA TOUR recently signed a partnership with bet365. What does a typical deal with a betting operator look like? What does the PGA TOUR hope to gain?

thirty-two states have some form of legalized gambling now. The PGA TOUR got into it and the first thing we did was an integrity partnership with Genius Sports, and we’re going to establish responsible gambling with American Gaming Association and the National Council on Problem Gambling and make sure we did everything we could to shore up our core product so that we could explore things like content partnerships and commercial partnerships with the likes of FanDuel and other big sportsbooks.

What we’re trying to do is expose this sport to as many people as possible through the mouthpieces that are bet365, BetMGM and so on. They all have various mouthpieces and they’re all talking to the sports fans every single day. So through these partnerships, they’re promoting the TOUR, our events, our tournaments, and what we’re ultimately trying to do is grow the golf handle, getting more people interested in putting in a $5 bet, this player versus that player, which you can imagine would make you more interested in that Sunday’s telecast. If you’re betting $10 on the final three holes, and who’s going to score the lowest, that is something that we think will entertain an audience, drive media value and sponsorships. For us, again, it’s about engaging the core fans and trying to gain younger fans, 24-34-year-old fans who have not previously been exposed to the game of golf.

"WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO IS EXPOSE THIS SPORT TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE THROUGH MOUTHPIECES THAT ARE BET365, BETMGM AND SO ON." GAMINGAMERICA | 23


GAMING AMERICA | BILL PASCRELL

THE POWER OF FIXED -ODDS HORSE BETTING In his trademark column, Bill J. Pascrell III, Esq. proposes to readers of Gaming America his solution for turning around the fortunes of horseracing in the US. “A horse gallops with his lungs, perseveres with his heart and wins with his character,” once said Federico Tesio. Horseracing has been a historic, long and successful sport steeped in rich tradition throughout the globe. It has been one of the most popular sports for many centuries. It is known as the “Sport of Kings.” The list of the world’s best horse race events is endless: The US Triple Crown, The Melbourne Cup, the Prix de I’ Arc de Triomphe (Paris), Royal Ascot (UK), The Dubai World Cup, The Grand National (UK), The Breeders Cup World Championship (US), and The Nakayama Grand Jump (Japan), to name a few. America has a population of over 330 million and it does approximately $11bn in horse betting handle, down significantly from 10 years ago when we did approximately $16bn. In Australia, which has a rich legacy in horseracing, there is a population of 24.5 million and they do $40bn a year in handle. This contrast is largely the result of the introduction of fixed-odds horseracing in Australia 13 years ago. It has complemented and stabilized the traditional pari-mutuel tote betting systems. The US horseracing industry has seen a

drastic decline over the past dozen years. This is due to complacency, lack of innovation, and an aging fan base. US horse tracks are closing every year; over the past 20 years, over 45 tracks have closed while only three have opened. This industry deserves a boost and a chance to thrive and flourish once again. Fixed-odds horseracing will revolutionize the US horseracing industry and give it a chance to get off the back foot. In August 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy authorized fixed-odds betting on horseracing, marking a metamorphic moment in US horseracing with global impact. With the passage of this legislation, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to legalize fixed-odds horse betting, continuing to position the Garden State as a leader in the US gambling industry.

DEFINING FIXED-ODDS BETTING The US has largely utilized a 'pari-mutuel' system for horse betting since 1927. The French term translates to 'to wager among ourselves,' and it’s fitting: under a pari-mutuel system, gamblers place bets into

"HORSERACING HAS BEEN A HISTORIC, LONG SUCCESSFUL SPORT STEEPED IN RICH TRADITION THROUGHOUT THE GLOBE" 24 | GAMINGAMERICA

a pooled system, against each other, and the tracks take a small rake for handling the bets. The most important component of pari-mutuel betting is that the odds are not finalized until after all pre-start bets have been tallied. As such, larger players can dominate the movement of odds in a market, which can result in late odds fluctuations. Fixed-odds horse betting, however, allows bettors to place a wager on a horse at a set price, alleviating concerns that the odds may fluctuate before the race. This system also places a bettor’s wager against the track or bookmaker, rather than another bettor. The odds you get are the odds you get. Fixed-odds betting is more consumer -oriented. It helps gamblers to place secure bets at a fixed price; it simplifies the process of betting; it introduces an innovative product to horseracing; and a fixed-odds bet on horseracing is classified under New Jersey law as a horse bet, not a sports bet, so it isn’t taxed. These factors make the act of horse betting much more enticing for gamblers, which unlocks new revenue that ultimately flows back to stakeholders while growing an exciting sport. It opens the industry up to a new generation of punters who are younger and more familiar to traditional sports betting, which operates in a fixed-odds system.

HORSE BETTING IN THE GARDEN STATE Fixed-odds in New Jersey are available online through BetMakers Technology


BILL PASCRELL | GAMING AMERICA Group, the only managed trading services company offering a fixed-odds platform licensed to serve the state. BetMakers is an Australian publicly traded company that manages trading, develops technology and innovation in racing, and is also a data company with massive reach and power. In this role, BetMakers devises odds, manages risk, and secures deals with horsemen’s associations and tracks to offer fixed-odds on its cards. The group, through the stellar leadership of CEO Todd Buckingham and SVP for International Operations Dallas Baker, has a fixed-odds management and distribution agreement with Monmouth Park, New Jersey’s only thoroughbred race track, and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. Fixed-odds horse betting is ramping up in the Garden State, thanks in great part to Dennis Drazin, President of Darby Development, the operator of Monmouth Park’s Track. Mr. Drazin executed a unique first-of-its-kind agreement between the track, The Thoroughbred Horsemen, and BetMakers, starting with exclusively on-track betting. Fixed-odds horse betting launched at Monmouth Park on May 6, 2022, opening day at the track. I had the privilege and honor to place the first bet. All relevant stakeholders will benefit from this fixed-odds offering: the track, the horsemen, and the betting operators who love the additional content. Bettors’ options also include online fixed-odds betting, with the state’s sportsbook operators now able to take fixed-odds horse bets. The work of Monmouth Bets, the mobile app that launched the offering, will continue to help grow the reach of fixed-odds horse betting.

only states to allow fixed-odds horse betting as an alternative to the standard pari-mutuel model. It is also very important to note that fixed odds horse betting will compliment the pari-mutuel tote system. By providing this additional content to the sports betting operators, it helps grow their business. If we can have betting during the global pandemic on Russian table tennis, then introducing thousands to horse races in a weekly offering will surely help everyone in the supply chain.

GALLOPING FORWARD With the introduction of fixed-odds horse betting, the future of horseracing in the US is bright. It is far more consumer-friendly, more in line with responsible gambling standards, and will attract younger punters more familiar with sports betting type wagers, giving the industry a much-needed shot in the arm for the future. Far more states have introduced regulations or legislation to permit fixed-odds horseracing in their respective jurisdictions. As the success of Monmouth Park’s trailblazing entry into fixed -odds horse betting grows, more states will jump in for sure. Fixed-odds betting represents the most

exciting and transformative change to horse racing in the last 50 years. We are witnessing incredible innovation in the sport with Entain’s recent launch of a world-first, virtual reality horseracing experience in the UK. Horseracing continues to grow in popularity, due in large part to the industry’s embrace and promotion of fixed-odds betting. Perhaps most importantly, bettors around the world are slowly but surely finding themselves with new and exciting means of recreation – and we’re only getting started. I hope that elected officials, regulators, industry leaders and bettors choose to support fixed-odds horse betting in the years to come, as a means of promoting efficiency, profitability, responsible gambling and fun for all involved.

EXPANDING TO COLORADO New Jersey’s rollout of fixed-odds horse betting serves as a model for the rest of the US. This past March, the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission approved a change to the state’s sports betting rules, allowing for an 18-month trial of fixed-odds wagering on horse and greyhound racing. Colorado and New Jersey are currently the GAMINGAMERICA | 25


GAMING AMERICA | GAMING AFFILIATES

AFFILIATES COME TO AMERICA As the star of gaming rises in America, so too does that of affiliates, those vital online marketing lifelines that already dominate the European market. The value of a modern affiliate goes far beyond the number of first-time depositors they generate in a month. They provide expert feedback, educate new players and are low-risk, as they are paid on performance. While the importance of affiliates is now being recognized throughout North America, the industry has yet to fully mature. At present, four ‘super-affiliates’ dominate the US market – Catena, Better Collective, XLMedia and Gambling.com Group. On the surface, they seem to have plenty of competition, both from smaller US affiliates and European affiliates moving into North America. 26 | GAMINGAMERICA

However, the numbers indicate the four main players have a stranglehold on the affiliate market. Catena reported an 11% increase in the first quarter of 2022 for a record $45.6m revenue, while Better Collective collected $70.8m in revenue in Q1. XLMedia, meanwhile, projects $44.5m for the first half of the financial year. Smaller US-based affiliate companies such as Media Troopers and Affiliated Sports Fans (AFS) cannot compare to these figures. Media Troopers reported annual revenue of under $5m. This leads to the question: is the relatively new US affiliate market already oversaturated? AFS Co-Founder & CMO Siska

Concannon believes the ‘oversaturation’ idea is a misconception. She says, “There’s not always differentiation in the products produced by affiliates, so many end up competing for the same audience which can be perceived as a saturated market. “Product differentiation will be the key. Innovation in this space is critical for continued long-term success and ensuring new audiences can be reached.” Catena’s North America VP Dustin Gouker agrees there is room for competition in the market for those who can differentiate with their product offerings. However, he believes that limited resources will make it harder



GAMING AMERICA | GAMING AFFILIATES for smaller affiliates and newcomers. He comments, “It’s not impossible to break into the US online gambling affiliate industry as a start-up or a European site. But you definitely need to bring a will and money to compete with the largest affiliates, as well as some kind of differentiated offering.” Common sense says there must be plentiful ‘new and relevant’ audiences yet to be reached in the US. How could four super-affiliates have a ‘quadropoly’ on a market that is not yet fully open? Gouker concedes that the door for North American affiliates hasn’t slammed shut. He points to the possibility of online sports betting in California, Texas and Florida, as well as the potential for online casino betting in all states currently without it. BestOdds believes the US affiliate market is ripe for new entrees. BestOdds CEO Will Armitage categorizes his company as a start-up but says it is “seeking to break into the vast landscape of the US affiliate market. We’re aware of the experienced behemoths that have done so much to forge their position of strength in anticipation of the current regulatory landscape evolution.” So even with the acknowledgment that these ‘behemoths’ exist within the US market, smaller companies are still hungry to get into this action that is still unfolding. Concannon comments: “Affiliate marketing as a business model is on the rise in the US, with revenues expected to increase 10% year-over-year. The affiliate model is a proven revenue model for operators and affiliates alike. “It is imperative that offerings are relevant and there is an intimate knowledge of the customer… The American sports bettor is unique; the US has a very different market and audience from any other country. Those that understand this going in are far more successful than those that don’t.” In other words, companies will have to specialize and adapt. Concannon outlines how AFS is doing this. It is a market disruptor, most easily understood as an engagement solution for those in the gambling and sports industries. The company implements a hybrid marketing and acquisition technique 28 | GAMINGAMERICA

"THE BENEFIT OF AGILITY WILL BE IN OUR FAVOR AS WE PIVOT ON THE BACK OF INSIGHTS AND PERFORMANCE" which concentrates on top-of-mind brand management, player retention value strategies, and brand awareness campaigns. As Concannon explains: “We are invested in not just bringing new audiences to our operators, but in providing personalization at scale throughout these players’ journeys with the operator. This places ASF in a very unique category of its own.” While ASF is still in its ‘start-up’ phase, it will focus on performance and scale rather than baseline revenue in the upcoming year. ASF believes its flexibility will allow it to grow exponentially in the near future. As Concannon says, “The benefit of agility will be in our favor as we pivot on the back of insights and performance.” Agility is key with huge customer acquisition opportunities still up for grabs nationwide. Armitage agrees with this sentiment, saying that BestOdds “don’t hold dear a template to which we feel compelled to abide by… As our hands are not tied we can be more agile and experimental in our business model, which helps with our vision to build a brand which doesn’t have to conform to the norm.” Armitage says BestOdds “rushed out” the MVP of its company ahead of the last NFL Season to give it data with which to optimize the design of its V2 product. The next iteration of V2 is already in the works for this fall, ahead of the 2022 NFL season. The company will hit the drawing board for V3 next year. With its unique domain, BestOdds is also planning to launch a BestOdds UK Lite website ahead of the soccer World Cup in the coming months. Media Troopers CEO Shmulik Segal

backs the idea that super-affiliates can be challenged in a dynamic, reactive way. He says that the company’s small size is an asset: “Our size allows us to be faster, more reactive, and provide attentive customer service while creating value for the end customer. “We are closer to the ground, and use that to our advantage. That’s why we are very big in terms of our delivery, compared to our size – we deliver many millions of newly-registered, newly-depositing players every month. That’s not despite Media Troopers’ size, it’s due to it.” Gouker, however, questions whether agility will be enough when it comes to pouncing on emerging markets. He comments: “The scale and resources that the largest affiliates bring to bear definitely poses a daunting task to newer sites.” “We (Catena) are able to bring a large network of national and regional sites to bear on any new market. The strength of our overall portfolio is an advantage, as a handful of sites all have a chance to sit atop the rankings for key search terms at launch. Our revenue is constantly working with operators on pre-live offers, and they have us ready to go as soon as operators want to give a green light for customer acquisition. “There’s been a lot of consolidation already of these companies swallowing up startups, and I’d actually think we’ll see more consolidation even at the top of the food chain, eventually.” Whether Catena and other super-affiliates can be dislodged remains to be seen. But all US affiliate players agree on one thing: the landscape is ever-changing and nothing is yet settled.



GAMING AMERICA | CEO SPECIAL

CEO SPECIAL:

LEADING IN A YEAR OF WONDERS As the gaming industry reaches ever greater heights, Gaming America takes a look at the qualities of leadership that are essential in guiding a successful company.

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CEO SPECIAL | GAMING AMERICA

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GAMING AMERICA | ED PITONIAK

AN ACQUISITIVE JOURNEY Ed Pitoniak, CEO of VICI Properties, has overseen one of the greatest property acquisition runs in Las Vegas history. How does he do it, we wonder? Ed Pitoniak’s leadership skills were honed in the magazine industry. Long before he led VICI Properties – that now hefty real estate investment trust (REIT) that emerged in 2017 out the debris of Caesars bankruptcy – Pitoniak had been the editor-in-chief of SKI

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Magazine, the industry standard publication covering that perennial favorite of winter sports. What does running a magazine devoted to skiing have to do with helming a company which boasts a $30bn market capitalization, and owns half of the land beneath the Las Vegas Strip? In a word: storytelling. Magazine journalists tell stories and so too do the leaders of real estate investment vehicles, at least according to Pitoniak. “When you reduce business leadership to its essence,” he explains, “it is telling a story to your people that unifies them around what it is you need to do as a business day by day to create value and a strong unified culture.” The story that Pitoniak is telling his employees at VICI, as well as to potential investors, is a novel

one: the institutionalization of an entirely new real estate investment category: casinos. While the last two decades have seen the emergence of similarly new categories (data centers, cell towers, logistics hubs), for various reasons, asset managers had avoided investing in casino real estate: the view that casino owners were buccaneers, potential objections from the investment community, but, mostly, says Pitoniak, it was simply that they didn’t know much about the space. “It’s kind of a pedagogical process, saying not that you should invest in this but that you should really learn about it. That’s the initial challenge: convincing people that it’s worth the time to know about it.” To go about introducing the company to the investment community and capital markets, the group first had to address an initial, three-tiered challenge: structure the company soundly, install a superb board of directors, and, most importantly, reduce and restructure the company’s debt so that it was able to make new acquisitions. New acquisitions are the lifeblood of REITs. These entities don’t operate the properties they own. Rather, they collect rents on the underlying land while their tenants deal with operations (in VICI’s case, the management of casinos and resorts built on said land), pay taxes on the land, and see that


ED PITONIAK | GAMING AMERICA

insurance and maintenance costs are covered. The more acquisitions the REIT has, the larger and more profitable its portfolio is, and the more money comes in in the form of rents. When the VICI REIT was established, it was comprised of the physical properties previously held by a pre-bankruptcy Caesars Entertainment. Trouble had begun for the company in 2005, when Caesars and Harrah’s combined (the latter purchasing the former for $9.3bn and then later assuming the Caesars name). Private equity firms Apollo Global Management and TPG Capital then purchased Caesars in a take-private deal that costed $27.8bn. Of this sum, $10.7bn of Harrah’s debt was assumed, the private equity firms injected $6.1bn of their own capital, and the remaining $11bn was financed with new debt. And then 2008 happened. The global economy cratered. People stopped going to casinos. They stopped spending money at lavish resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. The ensuing bankruptcy was a contentious one. Eventually the company would be divided: the operational side became Caesars Entertainment while land beneath the once-great company’s properties became a REIT, VICI Properties. By now it was 2017, but this trust was still encumbered with debt and faced a hard road to profitability. A recent report from Stanford University phrased the predicament succinctly: “VICI

"ITS A KIND OF PEDAGOGICAL PROCESS, SAYING NOT THAT YOU SHOULD INVEST IN THIS BUT THAT YOU SHOULD REALLY LEARN ABOUT IT " was a new gaming REIT in a nascent REIT category without the proven track record necessary to attract widespread investor interest. Most of VICI’s original owners were looking to exit their investment – not provide additional capital. VICI had no natural investor base and no readily available pool of capital to access at a time when it was highly levered, without a board, without a CEO, without a track record, and without a strategy.” The first step was to address the personnel issue, for only then could the deleveraging and new acquisitions begin in earnest. Pitoniak was elected CEO at this point, and would be joined by James Abrahamson as board chair, John Payne as president, Samantha Gallagher as general counsel, and David Kieske as CFO. This core team brought with them deep wells of experience in worlds of real estate, finance, and the capital markets.

EDWARD

It would come in handy as VICI had to address debt levels that were expected to be 10.5 times the first year’s EBITDA. The early months of facing down this debt were spent convincing existing investors to do a debt-for-equity swap, bringing the debt-to -EBITDA down to 8.5. Then management was presented with an opportunity to purchase Harrah’s Las Vegas for $1.1bn. Too good to be true. They convinced the shareholders to provide $1bn in new equity, made

B.

PITONIAK

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GAMING AMERICA | ED PITONIAK

the purchase, and debt was down to 6.8 times EBITDA. This was just low enough of a ratio to have the company go public. That’s when the acquisitions really began. Today, the New York City-based company, with only 22 employees at the corporate level, has seen $30bn in acquisitions over the last five years; a remarkable $21bn of those were in 2021 alone. Across the nation, it holds the deeds on 44 casinos, hotels and racetracks, most notably the land beneath Caesars Entertainment properties and and that of MGM Resorts International’s (purchased by VICI in 2021 for $17.2bn). Among the many jewels in its crown are the Venetian, Mandalay Bay, Harrah’s Las Vegas, Caesars Palace and the Luxor. And it’s not just Las Vegas. From New Jersey to Iowa to Mississippi, you can walk into a casino and be stepping on land owned by VICI Properties. But there is one fact of which the CEO is particularly proud: VICI moving from IPO to the S&P 500 faster than any REIT in history. From a personal perspective, Pitoniak has done well, considering that his journey to the heights of Wall Street began on a farm in New England. He grew up at the foot of the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts, where his father ran a dairy operation. “It was a good country upbringing and it was a long time ago,” he says. Scholarships allowed him the opportunity to leave the farm, first attending an elite boarding school before matriculating to Amherst College, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1978.

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"WHEN YOU OPERATE PLACE-BASED EXPERIENCE, YOU ARE MANAGING THE GUEST EXPERIENCE OF TIME AND THE GUEST EXPERIENCE OF SPACE" “Then I made my way to New York, like so many people do.” Growing up in the shadow of the Berkshires instilled in him an abiding love of skiing, which led him to the aforementioned role at SKI Magazine. By 1996, it was time for a change, both of job and country. Pitoniak went into ski resorts operations and relocated to British Columbia. He found a home in the world of hotels and resorts and remained in this field for nearly two decades. First it was in the brass tacks of things, working his way



GAMING AMERICA | ED PITONIAK

"IT [BUSINESS LEADERSHIP] IS TELLING A STORY TO YOUR PEOPLE THAT UNIFIES THEM AROUND WHAT IT IS YOU NEED TO DO AS A BUSINESS" up to senior executive of resort operations. Eventually, though, he would find his calling in managing REIT, first in Vancouver, eventually returning to the US, and finally, ending up leading one of the biggest REITs of them all: VICI Properties. Its phenomenal success in just five years shows that he is up to the task. Hot off the heels of its flurry of acquisition for the group, one must wonder about the criteria by which VICI decides to purchase a property. There are four, as it turns out. Pitoniak rattles them off: First, there needs to be “lower than average cyclicality versus consumer discretionary at large.” In layperson’s terms, this can be understood as the fact that gaming is not subject to the vicissitudes of the economic cycle (cyclicality) compounded with the fact that people are willing to spend

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money at casinos (consumer discretion). Second: “We want the absence of secular threat – we want an operator providing an experience that cannot be attained at your home.” This sentiment harkens back to those industries that have been upended by the advent of the internet. Just think of all of those shuttered bookshops undone by Amazon. Gaming and resorts – experiential as they are – do not have to wallow in existential anxiety. Third is a healthy supply and demand balance – “By which we mean assets that are of a cost and complexity that is not easily replicable or vulnerable to over supply.” This consideration dovetails quite neatly with VICI’s real estate portfolio. How many mega casino resorts can be built on the Las Vegas Strip anyway? How fast can new ones arrive nationwide to clutter the market?

Finally, Pitoniak notes, the importance of a durable end-user experience, for “it’s the experience that ends up constituting the durability of the real estate.” If the user is happy, they will keep coming back for more. In this regard, casino operators – his tenants – are nonpareil in getting the most out of their customers and keeping them coming back: “When you operate place-based experience, you are managing the guest experience of time and the guest experience of space. And what gaming operators do better than anybody I have ever seen is constantly challenge themselves on how good an experience is for the guest in a given increment of time and in a given area of space.” By way of example, Pitoniak notes that operators saw the daylight hours at resorts as underused times of day. What did they do? They imported the ‘dayclub’ from places like Ibiza. Soon, there were swimming pool parties fueled by booze and electronic dance music at two o’clock in the afternoon. “You’re creating new experiences,” he finished. “By creating new experiences, you’re creating new revenue streams, by creating new revenue streams you’re creating new profit streams, and, overall, you’re getting much higher asset utilization which leads to higher capital return.”



GAMING AMERICA | ERIKA NARDINI

THE PEOPLE'S MARKETER Erika Ayers Nardini, the brain behind Barstool Sports’ breakneck expansion, speaks to Gaming America about what her strategies can offer a burgeoning sports betting industry. Give the people what they want is a distinctively American value that marketing maven Erika Ayers Nardini has embraced since the outset. The times dictated this. Her career matured in an era when the internet itself came of age, and the world of marketing would never be the same. How does one sell a product when we are all spending half our day online? With great innovation and shrewdness, as Nardini has shown, and for two decades she has consistently found herself at the forefront of a changing world. Since 2016, she has been the CEO of Barstool Sports, one of the great juggernauts

to have emerged in this age of the new media. Barstool began out of Boston in the early 2000s as the brainchild of Dave Portnoy, a marketing whiz of his own sort and an unapologetic sports bettor. In its first incarnation it was a printed newspaper and tip sheet distributed at Beantown mass transit stops. Soon it became a regional blog focused on betting and sports, directed (as it still is today) to a primarily male audience, aged 14 to 49. Over time, it became inextricably linked with the personality and antics of its founder. More recently, thanks in large part to Nardini, expansion has happened at a rapid pace. When

Nardini took the reins, the company had 12 employees and $3m in revenue. Since then, revenue has gone up 1,200%, the number of social media followers has expanded by 5,700%, and the number of employees stands at close to 400. Its purview has grown significantly since the early days. A denizen of Barstool will be met with audio, visual and social media encompassing a galaxy of subject matters: sports, comedy, sex, military, pretty much anything that qualifies as entertainment on the internet. Content, content, content. Barstool produces no fewer than 90 shows and in the first half

ERIKA

NARD I

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ERIKA NARDINI | GAMING AMERICA

"WITH THIS GOAL IN MIND, SHE ENTERED THE TRENCHES OF THE EARLY INTERNET AND ROSE FAST TO SEVERAL KEY POSITIONS AT MAJOR COMPANIES"

video views. As well, it stays true to its sports betting roots. Indeed, Penn Entertainment – one of the largest sportsbooks in the nation – purchased a 36% stake in the company for $136m in 2020, a move that led to the debut of Barstool Sportsbook. In August of this year, the final deal was completed after Penn Entertainment purchased the rest of the company for $387m. Nardini can be thanked for the huge growth in value the company has undergone over the last half decade. Born in Colorado but a New Englander by upbringing, Nardini’s education was a high-minded one; she studied sociology and philosophy at Colby, a liberal arts college in Maine. At first she thought she wanted to be a lawyer but soon realized that marketing appealed more to her creative sensibilities. With this goal in mind, she entered the trenches of the early internet and rose fast to several key positions at major companies. For her first role after college, she was at Fidelity Investments, the financial services behemoth that was then spending nearly $100m a year on the internet. She ran all things digital

elaborates: “What I’ve always loved about the internet is that it gives people exactly what they want, where they want it.” She would take this lesson with her wherever she went: at Demand Media, where she helped develop the platform and was part of the company’s IPO, and then at AOL, where she was Chief Marketing Officer. Nardini likens the world of the internet in the first decade of the second millennium as similar to where sports betting is today: “It

for the company: “At the time I bought a lot of URLs that Fidelity ultimately went and built businesses on.” Then it was several years at ad agencies before her big break, at Microsoft as Senior Director of MSN Global Branded Entertainment & Experiences. She was there for two years and, in 2007, delivered $50m in advertising revenue. By 2008, this had gone up to $75m. She would move on to Yahoo! in due time and learn a great truism about the internet. Editors at Yahoo! came in thinking the audience was like that of the Wall Street Journal, seeking news and information. Nardini saw the data suggested otherwise: people wanted to read about celebrity gossip and the such. She

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was kind of the Wild West. There were some early players. People were figuring out ways to do things. There was a huge amount of fragmentation in the market. There was a lot of trial and error. There was a lot of money thrown out the window.” Even in this age when everyone was “feeling their way,” the benefits that the internet brought to the marketing game were evident to her: “It was so powerful and new. Being able to connect with a consumer one-on-one, and articulate a product, and get them to sign up in that experience, was fairly revolutionary. It was those types of things that made it such an exciting time and such an exciting opportunity.” Eventually, she had the canvas of Barstool Sports on which to apply these lessons. Already she had become expert at exploiting content in the service of brands, and Barstool is nothing if not a content-rich super platform. The excess of content is something that she sees as a strength: “The speed, the informality. When you look at most media companies, it’s studio shows, there’s a desk, somebody has a script, they’re wearing

a suit, there’s lighting, there’s a lot of post-production. In our case, we’re making content for the internet, which moves very fast. If you’re not on a topic when the topic happens, you are irrelevant.” The speed at which Barstool moves is matched by its propensity for disruption. It is famous for not shying away from controversy, either in that of its content or that of Portnoy, the company’s founder and spiritual lodestar. But Nardini sees the disruption as more entrenched than the actions of any one personality. “What I would argue,” she says, “is that the way we do things is very disruptive. We make content in audio, video, social experiential, merchandise, and we do this all simultaneously. We distribute that simultaneously and we distribute it on a very low-cost basis. That is very disruptive.” It is this approach that she hopes to bring to the not-so-subtle art of sportsbook marketing. Too often, sportsbooks resort to old fashioned methods of advertising: 30-second TV spots,

15-second radio hits. Even more deleterious for the bottom lines of these operators are the promotional offers. Whenever betting goes live in a given market, thousands of dollars can be dangled to entice a new customer. As a result of these free spending ways, many sportsbooks – even the biggest ones like FanDuel and DraftKings – are struggling to be profitable at a time when betting is unquestionably more popular than it’s ever been. And what’s worse, these sportsbooks are all doing the same thing, they all look alike. Barstool is a company where the gambling content primarily serves its eponymous sportsbook, but it is also a place that would like to help integrate betting into the national sports psyche more genererally. A pro-betting stance is in the group’s DNA. Portnoy, for instance, had already been pushing betting tips for 15 years before PASPA came along in 2018. “We have a level of authenticity,” Nardini maintains, “which will help make sports betting conversational. Our talent has been betting for years. They didn’t start betting because PASPA was released, which is how I’d categorize a lot of the talent out there.” The uniqueness of the talent – whether it be Portnoy or Big Cat, who has his popular

"THIS IS A NEW APPROACH TO MARKETING THAT EMPHASIZES INFORMAILITY, PERSONALITY AND IS, ABOVE ALL, PROLIFIC"

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GAMING AMERICA | ERIKA NARDINI

‘Can’t Lose Parlay’ show – is what draws people in. “Most times their bets are terrible, but they’re compelling. And they’re average guys, which is really similar to the audience we cater to.” This is a new approach to marketing that emphasizes informality, personality and is, above all, prolific: “We do live streams of games every night. They’re talking, they’re ribbing each other. The way we think about sports betting is very different from our competitors. It’s

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conversational. We’re talking about sports betting on every possible platform: on Twitter, on podcasts, on video shows.” And now the platform is owned by Penn Entertainment, a company that has been on an acquisition run over the last few years (not only did it purchase Barstool, it also added Canadian operator theScore to its roster). Penn Entertainment provides the technology to operate Barstool Sportsbook, while Barstool serves as a marketing arm. But

Nardini sees more than that coming the parent company’s way: “We are a marketing arm, yes, but we also have a lot of potential to diversify Penn’s revenue stack. We’ll be introducing commerce as a revenue stream, we’ll be introducing advertising as a revenue stream.” Indeed, with the union of these two great forces – the media kingpins and the sportsbook operators – the world of betting just got a lot more interesting.



GAMING AMERICA | SCOTT BUTERA

WALL STREET AND GRIDIRON Gaming America takes a look at the career of Scott Butera, President of Fubo Gaming, following the circuitous path his life has taken from the football field to Wall Street and then back again. Sports has always been important in the narrative of Scott Butera, the current president of Fubo Gaming, which is the betting arm of the fast-growing streaming platform, FuboTV. Before everything, he was just a fan. Butera hails from Boston, Massachusetts, one of the most infamous towns in the annals of American fandom. His allegiances were tested at a young age, when his father’s job saw the family relocate to southern Connecticut, firmly in the sphere of the formidable New York teams: “So I lived the Boston-New York rivalry in enemy territory, and, being a huge sports fan at a time when New York typically beat Boston, this was a terrible thing.” For him, fandom led seamlessly to participation. He would matriculate to Trinity College in Hartford, CT, where he joined the football team. While his size today might belie the fact, in college Butera was defensive end, one of the more physically demanding positions in a game filled with them. But it is the lessons from being an athlete

that are truly applicable to his current role as the steward of Fubo Gaming: “What you really learn is teamwork, camaraderie and sacrifice for the greater good in a very special way... Similarly, in business you have to see that the company always wins. I’ve always done that. [In sports] you learn that you only accomplish things through hard work. Wins and losses are not decided on the playing field, they’re decided in the gym, in training sessions and practice.” Prior to getting into gaming, Butera was on the more traditional Wall Street track.

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"BECAUSE I HAD A VERY STRONG RESTRUCTURING BACKGROUND, IT GAVE ME AN EDGE GETTING A JOB AT COMPANIES THAT NEEDED TO BE TURNED AROUND" 44 | GAMINGAMERICA

By the time he had finished at Trinity and received his MBA from New York University School of Business, the go-go eighties were in full swing and, from just two miles south of NYU’s Greenwich Village campus, the center of the financial universe was beckoning. In these formative years of his career, he moved around some of the leading investment banks of the industry – Bear Stearns, Citi Group, Credit Suisse/First Boston and UBS – working with and among legends of Wall Street, such as Ace Greenberg and Jamie Dimon.


SCOTT BUTERA | GAMING AMERICA

As an investment banker, Butera’s specialty became real estate deals: lodging, leisure, consumer facing operations and “of course,” casinos. These were interesting years on the Street, ones in which there was a lot to learn for a hungry young banker. “It was banking in some tougher times,” he explains, comparing it to the situation we are faced with today. “There were a lot of companies that weren’t doing so well, were failing, and financing was difficult. As a result, I got involved with a lot of tricky deals, and that taught me a lot about operations.” There were a few lessons that Butera would keep from his time on Wall Street. Perhaps taking the page out of his experience as a football player, he learned how to think strategically about business: “What can you accomplish in your market given your talents and resources,” as he puts it. He learned, too, that his ideal role would be a managerial one: “After having been in banking for fourteen years, I realized I liked business, I liked operations, I liked working with customers and I liked working with employees.” But it was the skillset with which he emerged from the world of investment banking that was to define the next chapter

in his career. While working on on Wall Street, he developed a reputation as a go-to person for restructuring, for turning around failing companies and setting them down the right road. “Because I had a very strong restructuring background, it gave me an edge getting a job at companies that needed to be turned around.” With these lessons and insights, he moved on to the next phase of his career: a manager of distressed casino companies. Casinos appealed to Butera as businesses. They are complicated and multi-faceted in a way that other sectors are not. Not only is it the gaming floor, it is also the hotel, the resort, the food and beverage, the entertainment. It is all the ancillary problems that come with uniting many things under one roof. And it was this synergy between component parts that drew in Butera: “All of those businesses on their own – casinos, restaurants, hotels – they’re all very tough businesses to operate. They’re low margin, grind businesses. But when you get them together, they feed off of each other and create something that’s really economically superior.” With this abiding interest in casinos and a knack for turning around companies, he first trained his sights on none other than Trump Entertainment Resorts, the casino company – which included three

locations in Atlantic City and one in Indiana – owned by the man who would go on to become the 45th President of the United States. Donald Trump's company was in a slightly distressed state, and Butera joined as COO and President in 2003 to aid with the restructuring. Under the terms of the deal, Trump would have to reduce his majority stock ownership position of 56% down to 27%; bondholders at the company would have to exchange some of their securities for stock; finally, Morgan Stanley agreed to finance the restructuring to the tune of $500m. In 2004, Trump Entertainment Resorts was able to file for bankruptcy.

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GAMING AMERICA | SCOTT BUTERA

"IF YOU TAKE SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE THINK YOU CAN'T DO, AND THEN ACTUALLY PULL IT OFF, IT CAN BE A GREAT MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER"

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SCOTT BUTERA | GAMING AMERICA

Butera pointed out that there were certain problems ancillary to a restructuring from which he was able to derive lessons. He pointed to the importance of maintaining a public image of success at the same time as a restructuring: “This was right when The Apprentice was launching, so we had to go through a very difficult deal at a time when NBC was promoting Donald as a very prominent business man. We had to make sure the messaging was correct. I learned a lot about PR.“ He and his team were able to smoothe out some of the edges. They would say that Donald’s turning the property around, that he’s going to take care of things; they didn’t call it a restructuring but, rather, a recapitalization. All that being said and done, “Unfortunately, we did a deal where we essentially wiped out about $3bn of debt, and in order to do that, we had to file bankruptcy. I wish they had another word for that.” Still, the lesson wasn’t lost on Butera. He had faced down a difficult task and emerged

victorious: “If you think you have a shot and you want to create a name for yourself, if you take something that people think you can’t do, and then you actually pull it off, it can be a great moment in your career.” From there the pattern was set. Following his experience in the orbit of Trump, Butera’s career would move from strength to strength: a year as COO of The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, two years as President and CEO of Tropicana Entertainment Inc., four years as President and CEO of Foxwoods Resort Casino. The former athlete found his way back into the world of sports, becoming commissioner of the Arena Football League for three years. One of his last roles before entering the world of Fubo was in 2018, when he became President of Interactive Gaming for MGM Resorts International. Here he was tasked with brokering the deal between it and Entain, the European juggernaut. This partnership created BetMGM, which today is consistently ranked among the most popular digital sports books and casinos in the country. But sports still beckoned, and it arrived in

the name of Fubo. With over 100 channels and 50,000 events annually, FuboTV, which launched in 2015, is one of the largest sports streaming platform in the market. With the rise of sports betting in the country, FuboTV saw an opportunity: an integrated sports book and streaming platform. “I talked a lot about the casino analogy, where you bring a lot of things together and create something special. Basically, this like doing that in the digital world.” Times have changed, and there are hurdles that sports entertainment companies must jump to stay relevant. People don’t want to just sit and watch sports, like they did in the old days. They want to be involved, to be in on the action. With this approach the number of bettors is expected to multiply: “We are not a sportsbook, we are a media company that incorporates sports betting to make a great media experience. Our idea is to draw from our pool of active subscribers and convert them to sports bettors. If people watch a lot of sports, they tend to bet on sports.”

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GAMING AMERICA | ALEX DIXON

AMERICAN DREAMING While Alex Dixon's life serves as a model for inclusivity in the gaming industry, the casino he runs in Iowa serves as a model for all rural America. Dubuque, Iowa is a small-sized city that falls at that point on the Mississippi River where, if you’re looking east, Wisconsin becomes Illinois. The place has known its fair share of vicissitudes since Europeans staked a claim there in 1785 in the form Quebecois pioneer Julien Dubuque. River traffic was the prime mover of the economy, and its fortuitous location allowed it to become a locus of regional manufacturing. Being Iowa – the beating heart of the rural Midwest – food production was also a major pillar of the economy. By the end of the 19th century, it was among the one hundred largest urban agglomerations in the entire United States. Things were humming along nicely until the second half of the 20th century, when deindustrialization and the Farm Crisis of the early 1980s undermined the economic ecosystem. Businesses started shuttering, the population declined. Dubuque – like many communities in rural America – was

facing an existential crisis. It was in need of a savior. Into this dire state of affairs came the Dubuque Greyhound Park & Casino. Located on Captain Schmitt Island, just off the Mississippi River, it is an entity spurred open by the citizen-representing Dubuque Racing Association, kept licensed by the grace of the people’s vote, and completely owned by the residents of Dubuque. It is a non-for-profit, community casino – completely serving the city – and there is only one other like it in the entire US (Prairie Meadows Casino, Racetrack & Hotel, also in Iowa). It opened in 1985. The year before, the Iowa State Legislature, in an effort to address the economic crisis, had passed the Pari -mutuel Wagering Act, which permitted the opening of horse and greyhound racetracks across the state. Things moved quickly from there. For one, the $8m dollar bond which city voters had approved to finance

"I QUICKLY REALIZED THAT BUSINESS ALLOWS YOU TO DRIVE CHANGE WHILE POLITICS, THOUGH A TOOL, MOVES AT A SNAIL’S PACE" 48 | GAMINGAMERICA

the venture was paid back in 1991, 14 years ahead of schedule. Upon a $33m expansion, table games were introduced in 2005, turning the facility into a casino proper (2022 will be the last year greyhound races will be held). A 116-room Hilton Garden Inn was also added. In 2017, it was renamed to the rather sharper sounding Q Casino. All the income from Q Casino goes back into Dubuque. For this 60,000-person city, that’s no trifling detail: $20m in free cash flow and $12m in distributions going straight to the community. That’s one-third to the city general fund, another third to local non -profits, and the final third reinvested into the island on which the casino sits. The money helps people, whether it be the school funded for at-risk youths, the new fire station, or the property taxes that are kept low, the better to encourage development of local industry. “If you’re the government seeing where wealth is created, and the equity goes back to the people, this model particularly works.” These are the words of Alex Dixon, CEO of the Dubuque Racing Association, and a man with as interesting a backstory as that of the casino he runs. As an African American, Dixon is an anomaly in the C-suites of gaming institutions across the land. The unfortunate reality of this country's experience, of course, has seen people of color largely excluded from the top echelons of


ALEX DIXON | GAMING AMERICA

ALEX DIXON business. In fact, Dixon is only the third black person to hold the top job at a casino in the nation’s history. To hear of how he got to these heights – and the story of his parents, whose experience provided the foundations of his later success – is to learn of the progress that African Americans have made in this country since the end of the Second World War. As a third-generation local in a town with a short memory span, Dixon’s Las Vegas bona fides are beyond reproach. This is a city whose history is also intimately connected with the profound changes of the postwar era, having largely emerged out of the desert from the 1950s on. That’s when Dixon’s grandmother moved there from Tallulah, Louisiana – “She was the first to leave the plantation, if you will.” But, seeking a better life than what she had known to that point, she did not arrive in some post-racial utopia. Dixon continues, “When she arrived in Las Vegas, she could not walk through the front door of a casino. When she arrived to fully participate in the American dream, it said, you’re not welcome here.” His father, also from the Deep South,

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"HE REMAINS FULLY COGNIZANT THAT HIS LIFE IS A PARADIGM FOR THE PROGRESSION OF INCLUSIVITY IN THE GAMING INDUSTRY"

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GAMING AMERICA | ALEX DIXON

arrived in Vegas thanks to the US Air Force, which stationed him at its Nellis base just north of the city. After he was discharged, he went to work at the Flamingo, where he, too, had to start at the bottom of the ladder, working first as a porter and then as a barback. But change was in the air. The 1950s saw the Civil Rights Movement forcefully assert the rights of black Americans, a movement that culminated in 1965, when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Vegas was not unaffected. African Americans were allowed on the casino floor from 1960, after a deal was brokered by local honcho Hank Greenspun (though largely thanks to the heavy-handed encouragement of Frank Sinatra, an ardent anti-segregationist). Dixon’s father moved up the ladder, becoming a bartender in 1971, after the Federal Government sued the gaming industry for violations of civil rights. Moving further up, he would go on to leave the world of hospitality all together and become a parole officer. The younger Dixon was the beneficiary of this progress. Born in 1980, he was the first in his family to attend an integrated elementary school. “I grew up in the suburbs of Las Vegas knowing what it’s like since birth to understand that, ‘I am equal to everyone else and have everyone else rooting for me.’ I know what inclusion is. I know what a level playing field looks like.” At high school in Vegas he found himself drawn to historically black colleges and would go on to attend Howard University

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in Washington DC. Here, he played running back, was Mr. Howard University (an actual title), and began doing summer internships in the world of finance, in New York City. His junior year internship at Goldman Sachs led to a job after graduation. As an analyst specializing in mergers and acquisitions, he wanted to learn about business and, in so doing, would spend a year in New York, a year in London and a year in Los Angeles. But it wasn’t the single-minded pursuit of wealth that led him down this track. Dixon sees business for someone of his background as a vessel for change in a systemically racist society. “I quickly realized that business allows you to drive change while politics, though a tool, moves at a snail’s pace… I not only want to represent, but also want to open doors for people who have been historically unrepresented in the American landscape.” From his posting in Los Angeles, his hometown – and its marquee industry – began beckoning. But a former analyst at Goldman is not going to enter the world of casinos the same way his parents had. “All my experience growing up was, my family were the porters, the cooks, the maids, the dealers. I want to work in Vegas, but this is a big industry, and I don’t want to work valet.” He got a job at a boutique investment firm, raising money to build resorts. From here, he climbed the ladder at the majors, working mostly in a finance capacity: planning at Harrah’s Las Vegas; debt restructuring at Caesars Entertainment. He would get postings at locations across the country: four

years as VP and Assistant General Manager at Horseshoe Baltimore; General Manager at MGM Springfield in Massachusetts. At last, he again returned home, becoming President and COO at Circus Circus. This would last until MGM Resorts International sold Circus Circus. He stayed in Vegas until a headhunter reached out to him in 2021 with an offer from Q Casino in Dubuque, Iowa. “What’s Q Casino?” he asked. “Where is Dubuque? Where is Iowa?” By this time his role in the industry had been established, and while in his hometown he is the ‘black executive,’ outside of it he is the ‘Vegas executive.’ He has embraced his role in the corn belt with rigor and is now focused on reinvesting casino earnings into the island. He wants to see this location – a drive of just three hours from Chicago – become a major tourism draws in the region. Indeed, he sees the Q Casino experiment – a non-profit casino serving the community – as one that rural communities, fallen on hard times, can look up to. Dubuque has seen a renaissance thanks to casino traffic. “I think any state legislature in new markets that are opening up should look to our model and come pay us a visit.” Still, Dixon hasn’t forgotten where he came from, where his family came from. He remains fully cognizant that his life is a paradigm for the progression of inclusivity in the gaming industry. “This is a totally different America than the one I grew up in.” He finishes, “I’m the first in my family’s lineage to enjoy the full benefits of what our country espouses to be."



GAMING AMERICA | ANIKA HOWARD

A PARALLEL EVOLUTION As gambling has been revolutionized by the digital world, Anika Howard has played a vital role in directing this change. Gaming America looks at how she managed to stay ahead of the curve. Anika Howard is the inaugural President and CEO of WONDR NATION, the newest venture from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and an interactive gaming company whose remit is to use emerging technologies “to create new and exciting experiences for players.” For those not in the know, the Mashantucket Pequots are an Algonquin people whose nation is located in southeastern Connecticut, near to where the Long Island Sound terminates and the Atlantic Ocean begins. Today, the people are best known as the owners and operators of Foxwoods Resort Casino, that behemoth of Northeast gaming that covers 9 million square feet and counts no fewer than six casinos on its grounds. WONDR NATION is a canny move for the tribe. At the moment, Connecticut is one of the six states in the country which allows online casino. The tribal-state compact was structured so that there are effectively two online casinos. One license was granted to Foxwoods, which it operates with DraftKings

(Mohegan Sun and FanDuel partner for the other one). With the online casino market only having been active since last year, this new WONDR NATION venture marks a bold step for the stakeholders to make a name for themselves in this incipient market. Fortunately, the powers-at-be have chosen a worthy candidate to lead this effort. Over the last two decades, Anika Howard has shown an adeptness at being ahead of digital trends in the gaming industry. Coming of age in the fervency of digital revolution, she has been a driving force in the industry’s evolution into all things online. Howard originally hails from New Orleans but spent a large part of her upbringing in Washington DC. While this is largely known as a company town, the presence of the Federal Government brings with it a lot of ancillary benefits, a fact that was not lost on her parents, who wanted to expose their children (Howard is the eldest of eight) to the multitudinous opportunities the city has to offer. Howard recalls: “From dance, music,

working and taking educational programs at the Smithsonian, a random program at NASA to plan a mission to Mars in elementary school, performing arts and going to the theater… I was really fortunate to have these experiences that were a combination of art and technology. It shaped how I viewed the world and made me think differently.” Indeed, it was this combination of creativity and science that would define the course that Howard’s career was to take. She left DC for Arizona State University, where she obtained an MBA and a Master’s in science and information technology. While at Arizona State, she had her first foray into the gaming industry, working at Harrah’s as a summer intern. She would eventually get hired. Though gaming was not at the top of her list, her time at Harrah’s (which would eventually join forces with Caesars Entertainment) proved consequential. For one, Howard appreciated the leeway granted even its younger staff. Unlike other fields she

"COMING OF AGE IN THE FERVENCY OF DIGITAL REVOLUTION, SHE HAS BEEN A DRIVING FORCE IN THE INDUSTRY'S EVOLUTION INTO ALL THINGS ONLINE" 54 | GAMINGAMERICA


ANIKA HOWARD | GAMING AMERICA

had been considering in college, gaming gave her a much greater degree of autonomy. “They would give you projects,” she recalls. “They’d say, ‘Here’s a real-world problem to solve. Sink your teeth in.’” That, though, is when she started noticing a significant technological lag in the industry. She had found the blueprint that would define her subsequent career. Howard was among the youngest at the company, and the world was changing very fast. The 1990s had seen the personal computer truly become part of everyday life. By the end of the millennium, the internet was connecting everything, and very few corners of society were left unaffected. True then as it has been since, the young were hipper to this change than the higher-ups, something which was glaringly obvious to Howard, who began to take advantage of this discrepancy in knowledge while at her first job at Harrah’s: “When I got there, even as an intern, I saw immediately that there was a big gap. These gaming companies had a conservative approach. I thought, why aren’t people playing online? What are some of the things we could do? Soon, I was very interested in the gaming industry and in how technology could transform it.” Additionally, in gaming she saw a place for her to lead this revolution. While at school she had been studying robotics and computer engineering and was setting up for a life in the backend of where the internet was happening, she saw in gaming the opportunity to be

“creating what this can be” – to be leading from the front. She was sent back to New Orleans, to launch the website of Harrah’s New Orleans, one of the biggest land-based projects of the decade. Though this was an impressive beginning for someone straight of college, she was destined for an even higher place at the company after her ideas – “spoken with all the arrogance of youth” – got in the ears of the right executive at what had in 2005 been renamed Caesars Entertainment. She was called back to Vegas for an interview and in short order became Caesars’ first interactive employee. “They hired me as the lead for interactive and I was tasked with consolidating all of their web. In hindsight, it was an insane opportunity to have.” At that time, a major company like Caesars Entertainment would have an online presence more resemblent of a disorganized mess than anything unified and coherent. Each property would have its own website. Howard’s vision was to bring this all together into a cohesive platform. This was something easier said than done. It’s been noted that the gambling industry is instinctively conservative, and,

indeed, the manager of each property was protective of its online presence. “There was pushback,” says Howard, “because casinos thought that it would be taking away their individuality by wanting to bring it all under one umbrella.” In order to convince casino managers that it would be to their benefit, Howard had to do the work of a seasoned politician (the Atlantic City bosses were especially difficult to convince). She travelled to every property owned by Caesars and sat down with its leaders, slowly educating these industry veterans that the new way, represented in her youthful bearing, was the way of the future and (ultimately it was this that sealed the deal) to greater profitability.It wasn’t just modernizing the

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GAMING AMERICA | ANIKA HOWARD

website. Areas like rewards programs had to go digital too. Casino bosses were worried that they would lose the ability to track preferred customers. But they were willing to change their minds, to try her approach, after she assured them: “Whatever we do, we’re putting the player first, we protect the revenue, and we make sure that all of your inputs are included.” Her methods were adopted with great success, and her model became one that the rest of the industry would follow. After nearly eight years at Caesars, she had a six year stint at IGT, where she worked more in the realm of iGaming. Then, in 2018, she came to Foxwoods. The whole time, she was breaking the mold. By being at the vanguard of new technologies in an era completely upended by technological innovation, it was impossible that there was a clear trajectory for her. She explains: “One thing I can say about my career is that, because it was so new, there was not a path. Essentially, I created that throughout. Even up

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GAMING AMERICA | ANIKA HOWARD

until this position today, one of the things that has been amazing, but also incredibly challenging for me, is that I’ve never stepped into a pre-existing position. Every position I’ve had has either been designed by me, created for me, or created because this was the next path that we were forging ahead. While the industry was changing and evolving, so was my career to keep pace with it.” Now she has made it to the level of CEO. The company she leads, WONDR NATION, exists in a market that is sure to experience stratospheric growth in the coming years as the popularity of online casinos grows and more states begin allowing it (the New York State government, for instance, is due to introduce legislation legalizing iGaming

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in its next session). Howard, though, is always looking ahead. Just as she was given an outsized role when starting out, she appreciates the invaluable perspective that youth offers and makes an effort to development creative partnerships with

local institutions such as New Haven University. “We need to bring more young people into the industry,” she says. And what major initiatives might we expect out of WONDR NATION and Foxwoods? “I think esports has a lot of potential.”

"ONE THING I CAN SAY ABOUT MY CAREER IS THAT, BECAUSE IT WAS SO NEW, THERE WAS NOT A PATH. ESSENTIALLY, I CREATED THAT THROUGHOUT"



GAMING AMERICA | OPTX

A VISION FOR SUCCESS Brooke Fiumara, the co-CEO at OPTX, discusses her company's work harnessing data to provide optimum casino solutions. What does OPTX do? OPTX is a casino data platform. We sit on the disparate systems and collect the data in a unified way and present it to users in an easy to digest and actionable way. So for the three different departments: we have slots, we have marketing, we have player development, and for each of these areas we have artificial intelligence models that layers in throughout the features and functions of the product. One of the questions we need to ask is what’s our USP, the one thing that makes people buy our product? And that’s the magic of OPTX, much of the platform can solve operational challenges in very individualized ways. The reality is the data foundation for all of these departments is exactly the same, so what we have done is operationalized it in one single platform. You don’t have to worry about the left hand not talking to the right hand. The answer to what causes one person to buy a product isn’t that simple, it depends on who’s using the product.

Where do you see OPTX’s technology fitting into the future of gaming? When we think about creating sustainable advantages and experiential products you think about your technology and how it’s going to help the operator do that. It all comes back to data. There’s going to be no shortage of incremental data around your players and around your machines. The major manufacturers are realizing that the operators want access to the machine level and transaction level data, so I think you’re going to see the large vendors offer that up. 60 | GAMINGAMERICA

Once operators have access to that data, what are they going to do with it? They need a tool like OPTX to ingest it and to operationalize it for them. We are in a perfect position to collect that data and use it in a meaningful way for the operators to help them create sustainable competitive advantages. Every operator wants this 360 degree view of the player, but the reality is capturing all that data at the point-of-sale or lodging system is very challenging. It requires multiple SOPs, systems and technologies. With better data you can create a better guest experience, it’s that simple.

You need a tool like OPTX to do that. We’re positioned perfectly for that and you’re going to see a lot more competition, which I think is good as it makes us all better.



GAMING AMERICA | CASINOTRAC

STAYING ON TRAC Chad Hoehne, President and CEO of CasinoTrac, tells our readers how to stay abreast in the high-tech world of casino management systems. What services does CasinoTrac provide to the industry?

How does the company stay ahead of the competition?

What’s in store for the upcoming year?

CasinoTrac is singularly focused on providing a comprehensive casino management system that includes user and customer facing features (that many casinos have to purchase separately from third party providers) with its current CMS solution. This includes features like an integrated player -focused KioskTrac, DataTrac for in-depth data analytics and dashboarding, reflexive rewards auto tiering, an offer generator, mobile app, cashless transactions, player information web portals, and, of course, our Table Trac table games CMS.

We look at our industry through the lens of how a CMS can impact the betterment of our customers’ experiences while gaming. Our two most recent patents are examples of technology applied for the benefit of the casino gamer at our customers’ casino: one in the area of responsible Covid-19 re-opening and another personal mobile device app which controls conveniences like cashless transactions while you are gaming.

More cash and cashless innovations along with a major version update, version 5, which reimagines system ease of use with the addition of smart guidance tools and a new look and feel for the user.

How have your products evolved over the last year? During this last year we upgraded all of our customers to a new version – 4.6. This enhanced our ability to create and offer a broader range of promotions and new kiosk based games, added more flexible revenue reporting in the accounting area, and added multi-game pay table level tracking and reporting. CasinoTrac customers receive these version updates , including installation and training, at no extra cost.

What does Casino Trac hope to get out of a major tradeshow such as G2E? It is an important time where we can gain exposure to other casinos that need our solutions but who may not be familiar with us. Also, we meet with other providers in the space where introductions and cooperation for mutual benefit arise.

"IT IS AN IMPORTANT TIME WHERE WE CAN GAIN EXPOSURE TO OTHER CASINOS THAT NEED OUR SOLUTIONS" 62 | GAMINGAMERICA



GAMING AMERICA | ACRES MANUFACTURING

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS John Acres, Founder of Acres Manufacturing, speaks from a deep well of experience as he tells us about what a casino must do to retain its customers. Can you describe your product for our readership? We make products that make the gaming experience more enjoyable for players, even as they lose. The whole point of gambling management is to make profit from player losses but help the player get an enjoyable experience in return. That enjoyable experience should boost their self-esteem and make them feel like a winner. Our goal is to provide rewards that make the player feel happy, make them remember the rewards they won rather than the money that they lost. If you won $100 dollars we want you to remember that rather than the $200 you lost. As the experience goes on, the player reaches a frustration point – they have a budget of money, a budget of time and a budget of boredom. If you hit that budget of boredom where nothing much is happening, or you hit too many losses in a row, that’s when you want to leave. We make equipment that measures everything that’s happening on our machines: every button push, every slot insertion, every play; and if you take too many losses in a row, we will issue you with a reward. That reward is selected for you individually, according to your personality.

How has the product evolved over the last few years? We know the destination we want to get to, but the obstacles are in infrastructure. We want to bring casinos into the modern era. Casinos are based upon doing marketing 64 | GAMINGAMERICA

"OUR GOAL IS TO PROVIDE REWARDS THAT MAKE THE PLAYERS FEEL HAPPY, MAKE THEM REMEMBER THE REWARDS THEY WON RATHER THAN THE MONEY THEY LOST"

from the old ‘snail mail’ days – one offer a month or one offer a week. The internet has taught society to expect immediacy. To expect changes in the moment, especially if we’re talking about younger people. However, we saw that the infrastructure for accomplishing that wasn’t there. For instance we see cashless as a key gateway for technology. We see a lot of opportunity to reduce that friction, but the other thing we

see from cashless is that we get 100% player identification. So the issues I was talking about previously – getting to know your players personally – right now in the US, is based on the player identifying themselves with a player card. A lot of players for a lot of reasons don’t use those but, if you’re using cashless, we know who you are all the time. There’s no such thing as an anonymous player in cashless.



GAMING AMERICA | BLUBERI

FRUITFUL PROSPECTS Bluberi's CEO Andrew Burke talks about product growth, US expansion and his excitement over this year's upcoming G2E. trying to build some great product. Our process is more about having some people who have great ideas and collaborating to get those ideas into a form that we think will be fun for players. So we do player focus groups, we do internal focus groups, and internal surveys of each other. We have lots of eyes on every game we’re developing, and that’s really resulted in some good success for us.

How do you plan on growing your market share in the next year?

ANDREW BURKE Bluberi Chief Executive Officer

How have Bluberi’s products evolved over the past year? We’ve really had a deep focus on our core products and, in particular, the process that we use to develop those games. As a result, we’ve seen some really great results from our newest games including, or starting with, Treasure Hunter and Fortune Filler, and culminating with the game Devil’s Lock, which we saw got off to a great start. We’re also really happy to see the progress with our core products on our Novusb49 cabinet over the last year.

I was wondering if you could speak about the R&D process? We have a really sophisticated process that puts a tremendous amount of input into development. We don’t really subscribe to the notion that there’s one person in the basement mixing magic elixirs, 66 | GAMINGAMERICA

The biggest thing for us is going to be entry into new markets. So we’re only licensed in about 40% of the total markets in North America and we’re applying to a handful more, but over the next year, you’re going to see us hopefully be licensed in every single market in North America. Beyond that who knows? But that’s really our focus for the next few years – getting new jurisdictional licenses.

What is Bluberi hoping to get out of G2E this year? We’re really excited. We’re going to try to take everyone who comes into our product booth on a

journey and really help them understand all the stuff we’ve put into place over the last year and what that’s resulting in. We’re excited to show people our core roadmap and we’ll have all the latest and greatest games on that roadmap on display, with hopefully some more in-depth insights to the game development process, even more so than you would get at another booth. We really believe in transparency and trying to lift the magic curtain on game development to let our customers understand why we made the decisions we made and how we came up with the games we came up with.

Where do you want to see the company 18-24 months from now? We want to be big; we want to grow. Right about now we have 2,900 units, call it around 3,000 units, total in North America. We want to have 10,000 units in the market by the end of 2025. We have big ambitions to grow the business and we’re on pace to do that. We’re on pace for our plans for this year and and we really want to become a bigger business than we are today.



GAMING AMERICA | VELVIX

NEW ON THE SCENE Velvix CEO Stanley Ku discusses the value of publicity, growing brand awareness and his company breaking into North America. What is Velvix’s place in the industry?

How does your company stay ahead of the competition?

Velvix is a newcomer to the US market but by no means new to the gaming and game design industries. The company maintains three offices, each with its own unique mix of team members that bring a variety of experience to the company. Our Los Angeles office is the head of our North America operations team. Our sales, marketing and gaming operations departments are located here and include team members who are well-versed and experienced in the gaming industry, both in the United States as well as overseas. Our office in Sydney, Australia, includes our game design and R&D teams. Velvix employs artists, developers and mathematicians with years of experience in the development of electronic gaming machines. Finally, our Taiwan office is home to our executive team and advisors, all bringing experience in the development and distribution of slot games to the organization.

The core goal at Velvix is to continue to solve problems for our clients while offering innovative games and technology that players will enjoy. It can be difficult for newcomers to the market to gain traction. We have worked to build brand awareness in a variety of ways. The first is ensuring that we attend all of the relevant major trade events and shows. From G2E to NIGA and other regional events, it is important that we stay in front of our customers and show them that we are truly connected to the market. Next, we ensure that we maintain constant communication with our customers and partners. While the placement of games is integral to our business, so is the continued communication and support of our partners. We promise to deliver best-in-class games to the marketplace and we can

How have your products evolved over the last year? While Velvix is relatively new to the North American gaming market, we have taken the short time we have been operating here to further elevate, enhance and develop our product line. This includes not only the creation of new games, but enhancements to several of our key launch titles based on customer and player feedback. Game evolution is powered not only by our own internal research and development team, but also directly by the feedback we get from customers and players on the floor. This is how we plan to continue operations: ensuring that we are always evolving and staying ahead of marketplace changes and demands. 68 | GAMINGAMERICA

only achieve this by constantly pushing for feedback and comments from our casino operator partners.

What does Velvix get out of a major tradeshow such as G2E? As a newcomer to the market, global trade shows such as G2E are key to us developing awareness of our brand and showcasing our products. Trade shows such as G2E and NIGA help us reach our target market as well as allow us to showcase new games to our existing customers and contacts. We also greatly appreciate learning about new trends in the industry. These are important and help us make data-based decisions on the development of new products and services.

What’s in store for the upcoming year? In addition to the launch of our first products in California and Oklahoma, we aim to develop new titles based on recent market feedback. The creation of new games with exciting features that will continue to engage players and keep our customers flush with new titles is our goal. Our team will be launching two brand new titles this year at G2E in Las Vegas, with even more titles planned for the spring of 2023.



GAMING AMERICA | FLEXIA PAYMENTS

STRONG FLEX Flexia Payments CEO Craig Libson tells Gaming America about his bold vision for the future of the company. How has your product evolved over the last year? We’re at an exciting, pivotal moment for Flexia. We recently signed agreements with four significant casino management platform providers for complete integration of our cashless gaming solution, with more systems in the works. We can now offer our instant registration and onboarding, compliance, funds transfer, data, and marketing features to more than 500 casinos that use these systems. One of these platforms can also service up to 1,000 small locations for lottery. We have had a great reaction to our product over the last year.I think we are universally recognized as the best solution out there. And while we’re a lot smaller than other household names in the market, we’ve been more nimble; we built this product from the ground up. We’ve had a great pent up demand, so we see this next year as having explosive growth for us.

What are you looking to accomplish at G2E this year? At G2E this year, we’re looking forward to being able to actually schedule implementations with the casinos now that we have added integrations to the platform. We are also hoping to roll out new relationships, such as companies that we are integrating with both in terms of card issuance and card load. I think, most importantly, what we’ll see at our booth this year as opposed to last year are the names, logos and personnel of some of the other casino management systems with which we’re involved, so there will be a certain prominence in our booths of those relationships. As well, when you visit the booths of some of these other casino systems, they’ll be displaying Flexia as their preferred cashless solution. 70 | GAMINGAMERICA

"OUR PLATFORM IS A MULTI-FUNCTIONAL HUB AMONG OPEN LOOP AND CLOSED LOOP ACCOUNTS – EMPOWERING INNOVATION AND ENHANCEMENT" We’re going to have our own footprint that is going to be the next level from anything you’ve ever seen, so that’s an exciting step up for us.

Where do you want to see the company 18-24 months from now? The path that we’re on in the casino environment , where we have some good tailwind, should take a natural progression of significant growth. We’ve started some discussion with online operators, which is the first step in achieving our dream: to serve as

a bridge between online and casinos, as well as other ecosystems such as lottery. We’ve started initiatives in a few other verticals like the video game market and esports betting (whether peer-to-peer or traditional betting). Again, our platform is a mutli-functional hub among open loop and closed loop accounts – empowering innovation and enhancement. Expanding into these other verticals is what you’ll probably see, especially 12-24 months from now. The next 12 months are all about casino and online gaming.



GAMING AMERICA | PASSPORT TECHNOLOGY

A PATH TO FRICTIONLESSNESS Cleve Tzung, CEO of Passport Technology, recounts the accomplishments of the year gone by and the direction for future growth. How have your products evolved over the last year? We’ve focused on platforms like DataStream and Lush. These are platforms that add value in unique ways and are hard to replicate. DataStream is our proprietary switch that allows us to add reliability and redundancy to a casino’s ATM and POS payments on the floor. We’re also introducing differentiating pricing products through DataStream, allowing casinos to manage payment pricing by customer tier level and through the peaks and valleys of customer demand. We bought our loyalty platform, Lush, before G2E last year and are aggressively rolling it out. We view loyalty as a solid standalone product, but our product roadmap really changes the game when we add loyalty to payments.

How do land-based casinos stand to benefit by integrating your technology? The basic function of getting cash must be as frictionless and reliable as possible to ensure the highest velocity of cash movement on the floor. As we have with our LiveCage,

DataStream and CashStream products, intelligent automation helps a casino increase speed and accuracy. The other benefit our loyalty platform provides is improved customer retention and value. Casinos spend large amounts of marketing dollars acquiring and attracting customers. Once they become customers, our automated, customizable loyalty products heighten the brand awareness of the casino through programs designed to reward their loyalty and spending at the casino.

How do you stay ahead of the competition? We’re focusing on identifying what the casinos and the patrons need and want and then delivering it to them. That focus will drive our success.

How has Passport Technology benefitted from its merger last year with Automated Systems America Inc.? We’ve broadened our geographic scope to be a global player while also broadening our

"WE'RE FOCUSING ON IDENTIFYING WHAT THE CASINOS AND THE PATRONS NEED AND WANT AND THEN DELIVERING IT TO THEM. THAT FOCUS WILL DRIVE OUR SUCCESS" 72 | GAMINGAMERICA

product portfolio. The combination allows us to scale up our efforts with a broader and better set of tools to deploy for the benefit of our customers.

What are your major aspirations for the next year? We’ll be entering new geographic markets and introducing new products that will tie our systems together in some truly exciting ways. We’ll be doing this through a combination of internal development and the right financial and strategic partnerships.



GAMING AMERICA | EVOLUTION

EVOLVING APACE Gaming America meets with Martin Carlesund, the CEO of Evolution, to hear about the unique offerings of his behemoth company as well as its plans for the Americas. What can Evolution do to retain its position as a market leader in the US? I think we can do a lot. The most important things are sometimes forgotten in our industry. The customer and user experience are the only things that matter. If they have a feeling of happiness and contentment, then that’s perfect; then it will not be hard to get and retain new users. Evolution has always pushed that. From a wider perspective, the incoming generations will not be satisfied with what they had before. The young generation is on TikTok, their lives are fast-paced, and their attention spans are low. You need to capture them with an entertainment factor. The games’ speed and volatility need to change. It’s not like everyone will continue playing Blackjack or Roulette or the other classic games. Evolution tries to do that every single day. We are always striving to constantly develop that. We have 16,000 people in our company and the majority of these are between the ages of 20 and 30.

How have your products evolved over the years? As you say, you’re trying to stay contemporary. They have evolved a lot. Eight years ago, we only had the classic casino games. Over the course of our development, we actually invented what is now known in the industry as the game show category of games: a classic blend between RNG and table games, which is something that greatly increases the entertainment factor for players. That blend with RNG is something that you simply cannot do in the land-based sector. That is one giant step, and now a lot of other companies have followed. 74 | GAMINGAMERICA

Recently we acquired NetEnt with Red Tiger, BTG, and now Nolimit City in the slots arena. We now have the ability to mix these games, having fantastic land-based elements, but also fantastic RNG as well. So, we’ve done a lot to move forward.

Do you think these products are less well-known in the US and perhaps that this is something like a new release? In the US market, there are a lot of states and only essentially five regulated ones for online casinos. The knowledge base of users in the market is still fairly low. If you look at Europe, there has been development in the online space for the last 15 to 20 years. In the US, more knowledge is needed: how does online work? What are the normal progressions? Specifically, we are figuring out how to obtain new players. I want to contribute to that. One of the big things for us is the percentage of live playing. The percentage of players wanting to play live casino games was initially low due to the lack of knowledge, maybe they’ve never seen it before, and don’t trust it. So, it starts low, in the 10% area, and then moves upward from there, to the 30% or 40% mark. To achieve that – in the US in particular – we need to launch new competitive games and enrich the user experience.

Does Evolution have any further acquisition plans for the US? We’re always looking for acquisition opportunities, especially for what we can do technically. And we are always

trying to broaden the range of world-class games we can offer, and we have added the best games that I think exist in the market: BTG (Big Time Gaming), Nolimit City and Red Tiger. The point is, that we are constantly looking, although there are no firm plans right now.

Has Evolution made progress in the LatAm market? I think the Latin American market is fantastic and we’ve made great progress over there in the last year or two. I think it will develop and become a significant market, both because it’s regulated and awakening now, but also because we are targeting it and putting more focus on it. We have not done this in such a structured way before. As worldwide demand is increasing – and Evolution is really all over the world now – we can focus on different parts where we weren’t so active before.



GAMING AMERICA | PLAY'N GO

TAPPING INTO AMERICA Magnus Olsson, Chief Commercial Officer at Play’n GO, speaks to us about this European supplier with high ambitions for the American market. What are some of Play’n GO’s best known titles? I’m sure your readers are familiar with Book of Dead, the world’s number one online slot game, loved by players in regulated markets globally. It’s become such a classic because it perfectly captures our approach to building great games, starting with a strong story that always prioritizes entertainment. We’re really excited to bring it to the US for the first time, where we are sure it will prove just as popular in New Jersey and beyond. We’re pioneers of grid slots, too, and many of these titles are favorites across multiple regulated markets. These games take a huge amount of skill, work, and expertise to design and build, so they aren’t being produced by the majority of suppliers. The games are performing particularly well in newly -regulated markets like Ontario, and we’re looking forward to bringing them to the US as well.

What does the company hope to get out of G2E? Although we are the number one supplier to regulated markets globally, this is actually

our first time exhibiting at G2E. Regulated online gaming in the US has been a long time coming, and we know we need to make the right first impression. We’re leaning on our experience elsewhere, but we also appreciate these are unique markets with different player priorities and needs. We aren’t taking anything for granted, but we now have such a strong portfolio of highly-recognizable titles that we are confident in finding the right combinations to succeed wherever we are active. In terms of the show itself, we’re excited to introduce our games to a new audience, listen and learn from others, and explore opportunities at the frontier of regulated US iGaming.

What’s on the horizon for next year? Our focus has been much the same for the past 15 years: to help operators in regulated markets grow their businesses. We were doing this when regulated markets made up only a small fraction of the total industry, and it has really prepared us to make the most of opportunities such

"FOR THE NEXT YEAR AND BEYOND, WE'LL CONTINUE TO MAKE THE MOST ENTERTAINING GAME POSSIBLE TO HELP OPERATORS BUILD AN ENGAGING YET SUSTAINABLE PROPOSITION FOR PLAYERS IN THESE MARKETS" 76 | GAMINGAMERICA

as those we now see emerging in North America. For the next year and beyond, we’ll continue to make the most entertaining games possible to help operators build an engaging yet sustainable proposition for players in these markets. And I think we’ll see that, in regulated markets, having Play’n GO as a supplier is a distinct competitive advantage too. Building the future of world-class gaming entertainment is the story of Play’n GO.



GAMING AMERICA | RELAX GAMING

REACHING THE APEX Simon Hammon discusses Relax Gaming's plans for the American market and how to stay ahead of the curve. What is Relax Gaming’s place in the industry? Relax is a multi-product provider of bingo, poker, casino and aggregation, so our position in the industry is quite broad. In recent years, it’s probably our casino offering and expansion that has courted the most interest among players and operators alike. Relax as a provider of content is fast becoming a ‘must have’ in every good operator’s portfolio. With over 70 studios on our roster coming from a broad variety of household names to young and upcoming studios, there’s a huge amount of choice for our operators. As well as that, Relax’s own content production is becoming well-known for industry-leading content. Launching some of the biggest titles in recent years, the company is now synonymous with top-quality productions and innovative mechanics. Our place in the industry is as a fast-growing, multi-content provider that is arguably the best on the market.

How have your products evolved over the last year? Relax’s productions have seen a dramatic evolution over a very short period as our games have become well-known for their top-class quality. This is saying something as there’s so much content on the market so standing out is key, but far from straightforward. Every quarter, we look to see how we can improve and create even stronger productions, and this drive to build upon what has come before is very much a part of Relax’s DNA. We’re advocates of the philosophy that the moment you stop trying to be better is the moment you stop being great. Our upcoming launches of Money 78 | GAMINGAMERICA

Train 3 and Dead Rider’s Trail will be clear testaments to that – we’re not a company that rests on its laurels. Of course, there are many facets to business evolution and, during this same time, Relax has made two new UI updates, entered new regulated markets and launched our Dream Drop Jackpot product. Not only has this addition to our offering been massively successful, but it also leverages our Relax Apex technology, which is unique in the marketplace.

has its eye on the US. G2E is effectively a central meeting place for everyone, including keen European studios like ourselves, who are excited to discuss the potential of this ever-growing market. It’s a fantastic show for us to see not only existing partners but also meet up with prospective clients in the US market. So, our primary goal will be to establish valuable connections with our existing and future partners.

How does your company stay ahead of the competition?

What’s in store for the upcoming year?

Staying ahead of the competition is something we constantly strive for. However, our process here is very simple: we stay true to our core belief that quality and competitive pricing underpinned by first-in-class technology is an unbeatable recipe for success. As well as maintaining a culture of outdoing ourselves at every turn to maintain the high regard of our operating partners, we also work to instill a sense of being humble about our growth and achievements. These principles have served us well thus far, so it makes sense for us to continue living up to the standards we have set for ourselves.

This year has been nothing short of phenomenal so far, and we now expect 2023 to be even bigger and better. It’s fair to say that this will take some doing as this year has already seen the release of our Dream Drop Jackpots as well as our entry into new markets like Italy, Spain and Ontario. We are sure that what we have in the pipeline is more than up to the task. We have developments in all areas of the business but, most notably, we are actively working to expand our growing regulated market footprint. That includes regulated US states while simultaneously bringing new and exciting content to market.

What does Relax Gaming get out of a major tradeshow such as G2E? As we recently entered the North American iGaming market via Ontario, and because the US market is growing stronger and more regulated by the day, it’s no secret that Relax



GAMING AMERICA | NUVEI

US IGAMING PAYOUTS: THE NEED FOR URGENCY Umberto Corridori tells Gaming America how instant payouts can win and retain new players in the iGaming market. As the US iGaming market expands, the opportunities for operators to accelerate revenue growth will be seismic. Research predicts we will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 10% between 2022 and 2030 as the industry matures, more states come online and the player base increases in states that have already regulated. Market leaders and international operators are eyeing up the US market, and disruptive start-ups will squabble for market share in an increasingly saturated market. This will push player cost per acquisition (CPA) up via increased marketing spend and sign-up incentives, and potentially lifetime value (LTV) down as fickle players switch between multiple options. Player experience is crucial for operators wanting to successfully navigate this challenge, and this begins with the cashier. The range of payment methods, a seamless authentication process, smart deposit sum suggestions, and likelihood of payment acceptance are some of the ways deposits

can have an impact on overall player experience. The importance of payouts can be overlooked because a clunky or failing experience doesn’t have the same immediate effect on player acquisition as factors such as acceptance rates. However, this could be a critical mistake. As our recent whitepaper on the impact of real-time payments on the US iGaming industry explains, offering a seamless payout experience is the key criterion on which players judge operators.

INSTANT PAYOUTS: A GAME CHANGER FOR PLAYER EXPERIENCE Players with a bank account integrated into Nuvei’s Clearing House’s Real Time Payments (RTP) can request an instant payout via Nuvei Instant Bank Transfer. Now operators can integrate instant payouts to cards as well. There are several reasons why integrating instant payouts to cards can have a significant impact on player experience:

"THE THE IMPORTANCE OF PAYOUTS CAN BE OVERLOOKED BECAUSE A CLUNKY OR FAILING EXPERIENCE DOESN’T HAVE THE SAME IMMEDIATE EFFECT ON PLAYER ACQUISITION AS FACTORS SUCH AS ACCEPTANCE RATES" 80 | GAMINGAMERICA

FAST PAYOUTS ARE PLAYERS’ TOP PRIORITY Industry research says quick and secure access of funds is the most important consideration for iGaming players. Demonstrating frictionless cashing out is a critical tool for player acquisition. Also, fast payouts allow iGaming merchants to explore new marketing activities to engage with existing players.



GAMING AMERICA | NUVEI

THE VALUE CHOICE TO CONSUMERS Factors including convenience of bi-directional payment flows, security concerns, availability, willingness to embrace new technology, and the likelihood of acceptance mean that consumers have developed strong personal preferences when it comes to payment methods across eCommerce. The extent of checkout options is a determining factor in whether a consumer chooses to complete a transaction with a merchant. For iGaming operators competing for players in a saturated market, failing to convert players due to limited deposit or payout options could have

a dramatic impact on CPA and also damage LTV.

PHYSICAL CARDS ARE STILL PREFERRED Despite the emerging popularity of alternative payment methods, cards remain the most commonly used online payment method in the US. Research says 56% of US consumers use credit cards to make online purchases on a monthly basis and 49% use debit cards. Next up at 38% is digital wallets, while only 9% of online purchases are made via online bank transfers. Almost two-thirds of US consumers say their preferred online payment method is a physical card.

"CARD ACCEPTANCE RATES HAVE IMPROVED DRAMATICALLY AS BANKS AND ISSUERS HAVE BECOME MORE COMFORTABLE WITH REGULATED IGAMING, MAKING CARD PAYMENTS INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT FOR PLAYERS" 82 | GAMINGAMERICA

The US online payment landscape is different due to issues with card acceptance rates and players’ reluctance to share financial details with operators. There has been less reliance on card payments, with alternatives such as instant bank transfers being popular. But card acceptance rates have improved dramatically as banks and issuers have become more comfortable with regulated iGaming, making card payments increasingly important for players that prefer to use cards for their online payments.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR INSTANT PAYOUT – CARD INTEGRATION? Marketing leading payments providers know the importance of instant payouts to cards and are working with card schemes to make this a reality for operators. Push payment platforms such as Visa Direct and Mastercard Send enable operators to send funds directly to their customers’ cards. The impact of Nuvei Instant Bank Transfer’s RTP capability has been dramatic for iGaming operators in North America. Instant payouts to cards is an effective tool for maximizing operator revenues and accelerating business growth; it must be strongly considered across the industry.



GAMING AMERICA | G2E PREVIEW

WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS A return to normalcy: Gaming America examines what's in store for the first truly post-pandemic Global Gaming Expo.

The Global Gaming Expo 2022, famously known as G2E, will again showcase the rapid pace of industry innovation, from the casino floor to online gaming and digital payments to crypto and Web3. Anticipation for the convention has swelled partly due to it being the first truly post-pandemic G2E. Although the Expo returned in person in 2021, following a one -year hiatus, it was still subdued by stifling Covid-19 precautions which dampened both attendance and the convention’s trademark liveliness. Excitement is in the air for the event. Registration opened in June – four months ahead of the Expo – in anticipation of high demand from people across the industry. As of this writing, 250 diverse companies are already locked in to attend as exhibitors. G2E Event Vice President Korbi Carrison's

commented on attendees’ enthusiasm, striking an appropriately upbeat tone: “The demand we’re seeing for G2E 2022 reflects not only the strength of gaming’s recovery but also the impressive growth of new gaming verticals and technology.” As we enter the first G2E of the post-pandemic era, the most immediate question is: should attendees expect a return to ‘normalcy’? Carrison noted: “G2E will look more like a ‘typical’ G2E, with a full expo hall, the education program jam-packed with sessions, and more in-person networking opportunities. “Knowing that G2E is back to what attendees have come to expect has driven a ton of excitement from exhibitors, attendees and media alike.” Expect a focus on education for the convention this year: organizers want

"WE BRING TOGETHER THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST COMPANIES AND MINDS TO PROVIDE GAMING'S PREMIER ANNUAL EVENT FOR MAKING CONNECTIONS AND GETTING BUSINESS DONE" 84 | GAMINGAMERICA

attendees to be prepared for what’s sure to be an expansive, engaging experience. Available for all visitors is a tailored education plan and a ‘build your own G2E experience’ quiz where attendees can create personalized agendas. This educational experience has been divided into different tracks, where attendees can choose to attend the sessions of their choosing. The tracks include: the future of iGaming; compliance, regulation and risks; digital payments and cryptocurrency; tribal gaming and the international perspective. Then there is the ‘Innovation Lab’, which offers fifteen-minute, TED-style talks and demo kiosks, and gives G2E attendees the chance to learn about cutting-edge gambling technologies and how they may impact the industry. Speaking on the Innovation Lab, Carrison said that it will have an “all-star roster of experts” discussing contemporary issues ranging from tribal compacts to cryptocurrency in gambling. This year’s Innovation Lab program is organized across topical industry themes: disruptive technology on Tuesday; new uses for existing technology on Wednesday, and emerging trends on Thursday. American Gaming Association VP of Industry Relations Allie Barth feels that the Innovation Lab can live up to its name by



GAMING AMERICA | G2E PREVIEW revitalizing the discussion surrounding the gaming landscape. Barth commented: “Now in its fourth year, the Innovation Lab has evolved to inspire conversation and spark creativity on issues like artificial intelligence, cyber defense and more…. It will showcase the most exciting new developments in the gaming world.” The Education Hall will open its doors on Monday, welcoming gaming industry professionals from around the world to define their vision for the future of gaming. Scheduled debates will include: balancing regulation with constant change; the sustainability of the sports betting model, and whether esports is a passing trend or a new vertical. The main event kicks off the following day, when the Upper Hall of the Venetian will be transformed into a gigantic tradeshow floor, with vendors from all walks of the industry. Gaming machine operators, hospitality professionals, iGaming specialists and journalists will all freely mingle.

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Carrison commented: “In the last two years we saw tremendous expansion with iGaming and online sports betting, and that’s certainly reflected in the range of G2E exhibitors.” Leaders in the industry will gather to discuss the future of gaming. Key topics will include the business of sports betting, tribal government gaming sovereignty, and what’s next for iGaming, digital payments and cryptocurrency. As Carrison sees it, G2E is a platform from which the global gaming community can come together to formulate exciting new agendas. She says: “From debuting new products to discussing emerging trends, we bring together the best and brightest companies and minds to provide gaming’s premier annual event for making connections and getting business done.” G2E 2022 is an essential event on the calendar for all in the industry: from established powerhouse slot machine

providers like IGT to payment companies like Nuvei. The trade show will continue, as well, to provide its most vital function of greasing the wheels of communication and networking. This where companies come to spread the word of their innovation. G2E remains relevant and important. As Carrison summarizes: “Just like the gaming industry itself, G2E will continue to evolve and expand to meet the needs of its customers, reflect the changing global landscape, and provide a platform for the future of gaming.”



GAMING AMERICA | VIEWPOINTS

FROM LAND-BASED TO IGAMING We ask leading architects in the industry what major trends will define casino design in the coming years.

JOHN HINTON

BRETT K. EWING

DAVID NEJELSKI

Principal, Director of Native American Projects, Bergman Walls & Associates

Principal and Executive Director, Cuningham

Principal, Creative Director,

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TBE Architects

MIKE LARSON

ANDREW KREFT

Architect and Project Director JCJ Architecture

Executive Senior Principal/Director of Design, Lifescapes International


VIEWPOINTS | GAMING AMERICA

Vegas From the Las rts are so re Brett K. Ewing: g in lands, gam Strip to tribal ude more immersive and cl in to g e their in seek riences to mak dynamic expe d out. An example is properties stancent work as Architect re Cuningham’s the redesign of Aria’s on rd co Re ond and of AA Five Diam Sky Villas, a A ar destination, which Forbes Five St xtured interiors with te blends richly ement of exceptional pl m co ll a fu t Aria as the further cemen services that r luxury on the Las Vegas standard fo atures include colorful fe Strip. Design ique seating spaces, art un s, ng hi ith waterfall furnis bathrooms w deco-inspireders, and full kitchens that steam show hire a celebrity chef to to allow guests onal meal for them inside prepare a pers their villa.

onal casino, ink of a traditiand kitschy, th u yo n he W John Hinton: ine something theatrical rienting to you likely imagcus on the games and diso ymore. In dimly lit to fo ople from leaving. Not anes, today’s discourage peoperators and Native trib rtainment, te my work withes more options, more ensign. consumer crav w levels of service and de have evolved and ne ming spaces perators must ga , de ca de Over the pastost any other amenity. O th in design bo m faster than al ovide something unique, that bring continually prtics, as well as experiences ck. and aesthe customers ba have mastered the ar ul ic rt pa in s e same of mer Millennial ga tasking and demand thly-refined, ih lt ig u h amic, art of m r something nments: dyn their enviro teractive spaces that offet their high in high-energy, ting at every turn to meegeneration new and exci . Designing for this new corporates expectations grated approach that in – from the te ts requires an inc functional requiremen d security si an e ba ’s us no ho si fa ca ce to back-o hotels, guest experien exceptional design for . ith nd w g yo – alon ed ubs and be restaurants, clsign now focuses on elevatd an de s, no ea si ar ca it Contemporary here, not only in high-lim cements in luxury everyw odern materials. Advan orate more rp m co light, fresh, d other surfaces can in vid-19 also glass, resin an es and colors than ever. Co trons want Pa . ur ns xt er te nc tic artis d safety co r and protective an th al he ed othe highlight tween one anere meant to be there. more space be ey w th e lik ok lo and beverage shields should essential. Dynamic food , rather than so ts al in is po l ca Variety ing tables can serve as fo components around the periphery. Gam ents and em d el being locate spersed to create design . also can be divisual interest throughout

ia i: Digital med David Nejelsk come more and be continues to ed into the guest at gr te in e or m all levels, from experience atpact features to large scale imtity. Interactive brand iden n now blend ca multi-media h the aesthetic it w ng gi sa est mes as well as gu environment, through their connectivity s. Also, many ce personal devi standards in ng lo s de ca be de have had to 19 gaming design Covidst po e th in revamped s have different era. Guest Lower gaming . expectations shift away from a density and l buffet in lieu of the traditionat dining choices lower contacst a few. are ju

So much of Andrew Kreft: far has been us th this decade the pandemic, impacted by ses on creating cu and design fo n of a safe and the perceptio nment. Fresh air ro healthful envive been imperative, ha s tio ing and pa venues extend with so many to the outdoor their space ndscape blurs La environment. een indoors and tw be es lin me the plants to beco out, allowingarchitecture and part of the natural light and ve spatially weathe design so that air through feel like they are guests never d in a box. trappe

THETIC S E A R O J A WHAT M K THIS R A M S D N E TR E OF D A C E D G N STILL YOU SIGN? CASINO DE oughtful and ng a more th operty’s brand ei se e ar e W pr : Mike Larson proach to conveying theitecture. Operators ap sophisticatedth exterior and interior archn it comes to their he throughout boowledgeable than ever w this data to request ng kn gi e ra or ve m le e aking e ar s and they ar ands while m core customerwill both reinforce their brfeeling of comfort designs that feel at home. Even if the ill feel a sense of their guests l' to the guest, they will st ents. is 'aspirationalonging in these environmat being mindful be ing attempt rporate that into there’s a grow Additionally, location and of how to incofort to use local ef ’s of the casinoThis is not theming, but andesign and make for . e gn th si ire de sp e This in th ecific location. of d materials to on influences an ession of the brand in a sp si es pr ean ex a unique exprmplished with a rich but cle shapes, materials is often acco ry design aesthetic. Thes ds toward obvious a contemporas also support current tren cleaning in a ional ease of at er op r and geometrie fo re ent. d the desi est cleanliness an post-Covid-19 environm and overall guation g in m m ra og pr gr te of in e iv ss ct le pe ge From the perse trend toward a more seam food & bevera experience, th tertainment, sports, anding to capitalize on en ok g, ties are lo of gamin and inues. Proper tween sports offerings cont d blurring of the lines bexus of those things the continue to become a natural ne complementary t of entertainmen ers. The result is myriad hich aim to satisfy w to their customr individuals and groups mand. experiences fodiverse entertainment de

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GAMING AMERICA | VIEWPOINTS

singular, Rather than ategrated in Brett K. Ewing: c space, an gaming-specifis a guest’s comfort from er id ns co to when they resort they wake up the moment By combining hospitality , go to sleep. n entertainment design io with destinatresort provides guests with an integrated ey want before they evenate everything tht it. To successfully anticip to an nts realize they ws, designers work with clie and t, ed ke ar ne ’ et m guests eir goals, targ in understand th s. By putting themselvest a ce local resour s, designers can predic or. guests’ shoe on and off the gaming flo rt guest’s needs,le of an integrated reso cord An examp d on as Architect of Re & orke Cuningham w expansion at Viejas Casinoost m st s te a’ la ni e or is th Southern Calif to Resort, one ofg destinations. In addition e th in m popular ga e project’s centerpiece is s the casino, thotel and Spa, a luxuriou ired Willows H ory, all-suites hotel. Insp e e-st y, th 159-room, fiv of the surrounding valle ract by the beauty ates nature with an abst sed design integr of the landscape expres s, interpretationfinishes, soft neutral tone in rich wood gold. The hotel includes and bursts of uare-foot spa and a h a 7,000-sq exterior pool with beac rage -foot 3,000-square ol bar. New food and beven. io entry and a poe also part of the expans concepts ar

ve some th facilities hategrated bo le hi W : on in Mike Lars gn characteristics, an ficient, common desi ld provide a cohesive, ef an ou ts sh or ) pp (IR su rt reso r ul design that and thoughtf experience across a numbea t ch hi es w gu extended throughout the days in -stay of amenities on property. The longercess guest might bewill want convenient ac es guest at an IR e amenities at various timng to more divers is often will mean linkifor amenities of day, and th of different gher number of s n io ct n fu the e hi bined periences. Th combined ex IR, along with these com sign an de l at al er es iti ov e en th am can increase ave experiences, some ways but will h nce. in rie ge pe n ex le t chal gues also impact on the tremendous cohesively designed, will ts es le gu e th to An IR, whi d t energies offer differenr stay – at times restful an d ei an th ic ut m ho na throug other times dy over a longer relaxing and at als to a guestleave feeling pe ap is Th g. tin to ci ex lowing them time time frame, alcomplished more in their the ac ss e ro ’v ac ey es that th ried experiencguest profiles away. These va verse di t or pp su elers. property also leisure and business trav nce rie th pe bo e ex y ud nl cl -o to in res to a casinod exciting, which is This all compa nse an te in e or ration. m that will be latable for a shorter du pa lly ra ne ge

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grated ski: The inte David Nejel eks to create a . resort se y experience stay-and-pla ay for several st Guests may r a weekend as days or ove just visiting the opposed to for the evening. local casino antly expands This signific market depth e the effectiv can tap into. ty er p ro p a sorts offer a Integrated rey of gaming, et ri wide va tertainment at dining and en to ensure th experiences ything a guest and not only ever is available could want but also to offer convenient, nces which make new experiet memorable. the visi

rs to A casino cate Andrew Kreft:er/guest needs for a what the gamtrip or an overnight drop in/day e other hand, an stay. On th resort provides integrated e offerings: food vers numerous di tertainment, event, en , ge ra ve and & be ace, spa, gym convention spol destinations that swimming poly woven together in nt are convenie, encouraging guests to ty er op pr s days. one for numerou come and stay integrated resort is The goal of anests so many choices to offer its gu el like they need to they never fe erty during their ided leave the prop . They are prov extended stay s that cater to their enough choice every mood.

RSON, E P Y A L E H T FOR N OF G I S E D E H T HOW IS ESORT R D E T A R G E AN INT ASINO? C A M O R F DIFFERENT s, e of amenitie e a wide rang , rs ur at ba , fe s bs rt lu so tc Integrated re space s, pools, nigh John Hinton:g retail, spas, health clubnference and exhibition where ty co in er s, includ room a prop resort is not . The lounges, show restaurants, , a casino. An integratednor is it just a big casinoin the se y, do it ur d en co an of e am and, just another , Walls y things to se the casino is g is that there are manmain attractor. Bergman h The in it e th w t th e casino is importan e first on produced th sort, but the integrated res’ founder Joel Bergman s Vegas. Mirage in La tegrated resort: & Associate ing an in de When sign ize walking distances im in s. 1. M e component a shared between all th with es ic rv se y lit ci . e fa 2. Consolidat ck and distribution centercasino should loading do aurants, bars and the nt, e hotel, rest ests and patrons. Be efficiestaff. d 3. Service to th gu an s with rvice not cross pathst distance possible for secess to all venues. te with the shor rking and provide easy acg area, so make sure in e pa 4. Consolidatwant views of the surroundews, or that views vi ts 5. Hotel gues mponents do not obstructmechanical units. p other co a sea of roofto space won’t include oftops to create useable ro . ts en 6. Use of ev le for memorabthe shared experience sino part of enities. ca e th e am 7. Mak for the other


VIEWPOINTS | GAMING AMERICA

aming, digitization, iGpact on of t gh au sl on The rge im Mike Larson: orts betting has had a ladesign. When and online sp dustry, including casino e is to create the gaming insino design, the end gamence it comes to caultimate in-person experig the physical the ers visitin ill keep custom nce of digital – one that w the ease and convenie tized world, ite gi space, desp post-Covid-19, hyper-di ection and gaming. In a ng desire for human conn d through there is a stro ion that cannot be satisfie inue to cater social interact sign will contwhether for de no si Ca g. online gamin in-person experiences, rger social to an array ofayers, small groups, or la are seeing individual pl ents. In some cases, we e digital th outings and eves serve as a 'bridge' to to promote physical spac as gaming brands work ntinuous , co gaming worldofferings and, thereby, a ugh iGaming their digital the customer base thro rams. connection tots, events and loyalty progexpeditious produc for a more raction, n also allows inte This digitizatioof many facets of guest t on a game functionality at the cage, placing a be ost cases, m whether it be your loyalty rewards. In ce-to fa g in al ag on iti an m ad or fer the tr anning casinos still of t increasingly we are pl hich w bu ks n, io os ki ct e ra lf-servic -face inte streamline cations for se zones and lo by many guests and also s. are preferrederations for the propertie op

ners are sino resort ow Ca g: in to appeal Ew es K. Brett r properti ei th e nc ha t more looking to en s of the future who wanntage of er va ad om st ke cu ta to at periences th ern casino immersive ex nology. Successful mod ical and ch ys te the latest lp guests bridge the ph for ways designs he Designers should look fortable . digital divide l experiences more comningham ta to make digi pealing. For instance, Cubook at ap ts and visually mpleted a Caesars Spor ton that ng co hi ly as nt W ce in re guests Tribe Casino the Spokane ly dynamic space where e casino al th su of vi offers a all angles 86-foot games from can observe ham designed a customd a curved ng an ni t Cu un . or co l flo the visual ith a high pixe LED screen w ts ticker that maximizes shape is or ed sp rv e cu scrolling the space. Th r people impact acrosse Tribe’s history as a rive ning the bi th m by co ed By ir . er insp e flow of wat ents into and mimics thts betting, and bar elem ed into a m or or dining, sp e, this area is transf h a direct a single venurt of the casino floor wit t from en pa m g ge in ga m en welco at increases lized a connection thulti-use venue also utireturn m e is th izing fans. Th rint, maxim smaller footpon investment.

t: Andrew Kref ally re ’t n es o d is Th dscape apply to lan re. tu ec it arch

se i: The increa David Nejelsk throughout a in technologyentertainment casino, from rvices to the and guest selves, continues se games them e space required th d an p to ex date servers to accommo stems. New sy l ro and cont uires re often req infrastructu n of specialized the inclusio the design and to consultants team to properly constructionew technologies. integrate n

LIZATION A IT IG D IS W HO ESIGN D E H T G IN R E ALT OF CASINOS?

gitalization nying that di nos which de no is e er si Th John Hinton: casino design. Online caes from the has impactedusers to play casino gam cessible at allow their eir own homes, are ac ere’s no comfort of th any place. Moreover, thhen using any time andabout the dress code w a decent k need to thin no. You just need to havel, the online an online casi tion to have fun. As wels variety. ec es internet connindustry also offers endl fail to provide s g in no bl si m ca ga ed many games hing land-bas That’s sometphysical limitations. Howsino? Chances ca of ur local because ibly find in yo 30, and the can you possswer is between 20 and ay offer more are, the an of the same casino m rm es. online platfo than 300 gam ty of customers en pl ill e are st munal However, thergamble in a social or comportunity op to e er im ef pr pr a ing who This is provid into gaming environment.underperforming spaces stomers and cu to redesign ges that attract new other for developingd keep d or sports loun an s, am re an st t new revenued experiences that attrac so requires amenities an property. Digitalization alto be space e s guests on th cal support. There need rolled server ni nt ch co te ee at or im m larger and cl allocated for oms within the facility. ro

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GAMING AMERICA | VIEWPOINTS

e ain issues of thing The supply ch ng Mike Larson: s continue to be a challe eing ar last couple ye design process. We are se the aspect to the dynamic changes in what mber some pretty s may be. Whereas a nu e m th critical path iteago, steel may have beencoolers s in th kon al m w of w that may be ains critical path, nowall systems. What rem ement le ur ab oc pr d or oper an gn at the desi allenges in some consistent is th anticipate ch need to make w no s se es proc oject and the st for them. pr e th area of ations to adju nges will exist, od m accom these challe ng -term As for how lo be differing mid-to-long rtain to ce s , ar m pe er -t ap e mid there b and oblems. In th arcs to the pr ials and fabrication will ebmestic er do at m rm g te in rild te or bu se to the sh tivity. flow in respon nditions and building ac versus co re ic he t om econ emen ainty. some improv We’re seeing o, but there is still uncertpply ag even a year , the risk for ongoing su from Longer-term n for materials coming lve. chain disruptioh greater and harder to sotion uc uc overseas is me around silicon chip prodosion pl ng ex le al an ch e ng ei Th as we’re se is is well knowncomponents requiring th rvice g in ild food se to in bu s en re sc om LED ificant technology, frowever, we’ve seen a signturing H ac t. uf en an m pm E ui & eq chain/ -shoring of FF amount of on ess. In solving the supplyhigher cc su ng t ei so se with grea owners are al es of shipping issue,ucts, albeit not at the pric od pr ity al qu the past.

ed s been impactery Each of us ha liv Brett K. Ewing:n issues, from delayed de d by supply chai s to inflation for goods an e of purchase , in the design industry wd rly an ila m er Si gh . hi are services ing. for materials see that costs for items can be challeng lays ns de tio d op an y s er st liv co de e impact of ble To minimize thwe strive to be more flexitheir h s, nt ac ie re cl help us on our g materials to e is no when selectintimeline goals. While ther issues n d ai an ch et ly dg pp bu know when su s. The crystal ball to there is some good newases a d, le se re York will be ea PI) e Bank of New re Index (GSC r Federal Reserv su es Pr n ai Ch fo ll ly fe pp x Su de l in ba e th Glo est In July 2022, each month. ight month, hitting its lowwith ra st that pe ho e the third W . nuary 2021 tions point since Jations easing and more op ic, em ric nd st pa re e el th trav pact work safely in to get back tocontinue with a positive imfor y ill lit w bi availa this trend and material ultimately, our d on the budget an – ts ec oj pr construction clients.

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s Anyone’s gues Andrew Kreft: pply chain issues su how long the construction, but will impact cting the design they are impation process of and specifica ements (finishes, el materials anditure, etc.) on every pottery, furn nts for US-based job. Our clie tly in design and cting projects curren are often dire construction erials (domestic us to use mat) that either are or imported k in warehouses already in stoc ica or are solely in North Amerin the US to avoid d manufacture uction and freight od pr as se er tain ov n choices (cer delays. Desig pottery etc.) have s, paving, finisheand sometimes the been altered,ific areas has been look of spec commodate what adjusted to ac ailable. is av

sponding i: Effectively re David Nejelsk chain issues can be to supply it is a continually difficult sincetoday. Construction evolving realityat historically have materials th adily available may re always been mand and difficult to de gh hi ent be in erial procurem acquire. If matuately anticipated has not adeq shortages, projects d in these newfoun ificant delays ses. gn si ve ha n ca ea cr in et dg d bu completion anon and warehousing Early acquisiti erials is sometimes of certain matd communication and necessary. Gooeen ownership, design planning betwuction can sequence and constr oject to factor in aspects of a prad time items within le unusually longth and minimize delays. the critical pa

CHAIN Y L P P U S E V ION? T HOW HA C U R T S N O LED C ISSUES STIF ESE H T E R A G N HOW LO TINUE? N O C O T D EXPECTE

e of building for wide rang s. Supply es ic pr g tin ocke date ve led to skyr tended facility opening has also led to ex Shortages ha John Hinton: and schedule delays have truction durations, which materials, also causing longer cons costs. and most e increased tion projects, 22. We will uc chain issues ar tr ns co in nt reduction for the remainder of 20 seen a significa ects I have not yet oving ahead on their proj ens in 2023. m stretched from pp e ha ar t s ha or w at e er se and steel has 24 weeks for op s as gl as ch materials su es are averaging 18 to nstruction tim kes to acquire y co The time it ta ths, (shortages and lead rcing contractors to delaicating business weeks to mons of building products) folity of materials is compl eet project e availabi ds and m almost all type tainty about th as they try to price out bitime for delivery before er nc U . es lin dead ample lead n companies and delay for constructioing necessary supplies withrisk of having to overpay e er th rd te O . guidelines projects will help mitiga ects 22 and likely proj their use in ue through 20ortages could in nt co ill w chain issues prove gradually, so sh im say the supply Most experts also expect conditions to 2024. ey me items into so r fo ue in into 2023. Th nt co



GAMING AMERICA | PRODUCT REVIEWS

WHAT'S NEW Gaming America takes a look at some of the market's newest and most exciting gaming products, available both for online and land-based players across the country. PRISM VXP™ Incredible Technologies’ newest hardware innovation redefines the expectations of casino gaming and is moving gaming into a new era. Prism VXP™ expands what gaming means, literally. Primary gameplay takes place on a 27” 4K touchscreen display at eye level while the 55” 4K VXP display located behind the primary screen provides a stunning backdrop with an unexpected, interactive twist. In a smooth and unprecedented move on a core cabinet, a motor physically expands the display upward to extend gameplay by over 13 inches! The monitor surges to life for bonus events and big win celebrations. The newest software includes an eye-catching 'wave' attract feature. When a bank of games is empty, the monitors will raise and lower themselves to create a 'wave,' capturing the eyes of players passing by. As the first core cabinet with physical movement integrated with gameplay, Prism VXP could stand alone on this element. But IT remains all about the game with theme performance to back up its most impressive hardware yet. Prism VXP 94 GAMINGAMERICA

drives coin-in with thrilling game families, each utilizing the expanded canvas for unique bonus events. With incentivized bet structures and frequent bonus events, players return to Prism VXP again and again for a slot experience unlike any other. Set to debut at the 2022 Global Gaming Expo, new themes and software innovations allow for Prism VXP’s full “flex” of innovation. The latest software has been designed for more frequent expansion

features and an Elite bank package to show case the cabinets’ full potential. Proven performers like the Ultra Rush Gold X™ and Pinwheel Prizes™ game families will be on display at the show, as well as the next generation of software to flex the full potential of one of the most innovative cabinets of casino gaming. Make Your Move and visit IT at G2E in Booth 4047 or learn more at gaming. itsgames.com.


PRODUCT REVIEWS | GAMING AMERICA MEGA DIAMOND AGS’ first high denomination, three reel video game, Mega Diamond™, available on its Orion Curve™ cabinet, is turning up the heat across casino floors. Designed with high rollers in mind, this no-frills, all-action title splits the 49-inch monitor between a three-by-three, nine-line reel on the bottom and a large pay table on top. The game features three different Mega Diamond Wild symbols in red, blue, and pink, which award the top, mid and low progressive tiers when three of the same wild symbols land on a played pay line. The more players wager, the more they are incentivized with additional wild symbols on the reel, resulting in an increased likelihood of progressive hits.

GAMING ARTS LAUNCHES THE BRIAN CHRISTOPHER’S POP’N PAYS MORE!™ SLOT GAME In July, Gaming Arts launched a very unique new slot game, Brian Christopher’s Pop’N Pays More!™, the flagship game of its new Pop’N Pays More! series of games which also includes Piñatas Olé and Big Top. In addition to fascinating game play, what makes this game so unique is that Gaming Arts partnered with Brian Christopher, America’s no. 1 slot influencer, to design this innovative game that revolves around the Brian Christopher character. The patent pending Brian Christopher game with 1,047-ways-to-win, features randomly expanding reels that expand up to eight symbols high and occur on

a staggering 70% of all spins, producing maximum excitement and entertainment for the player. At full expansion, there are 16,384 ways to win on every spin. In addition, there is a rapid free game feature offering up to 15 free games with frequent re-triggers and also including fast hitting progressives that can even be configured with the Gaming Arts’ exclusive Rocket Rollup™ mystery progressive for even more excitement. The collaboration between Christopher and Gaming Arts is natural. Gaming Arts is an extremely inventive slot company with an acute understanding and appreciation for how rapidly evolving social media will influence gaming in the years to come. This is the first of many new games planned. GAMINGAMERICA GAMING AMERICA 95


GAMING AMERICA | PRODUCT REVIEWS PICK 2 WIN CRAPS Pick 2 Win line of products is available in various options and configurations. As standalone set up, Interblock supports many exciting versions, with three separate automated dice generators. The player is offered to choose which two out of three color distinctive dice generators covered with a shutter (without knowing the dice result) will provide the game result. Another option enables the player to use the mechanical buttons on the ETG terminals to trigger two out of three dice generators to get the results. Interblock’s Pick 2 Win products are simulating the real live craps game by inviting the player to become a shooter – therefore, the player has the ability to participate in the game result generation. The next player becomes a shooter after every '7 out event' and stays in the shooter’s role until the next '7 out.' The standalone option comes with eight or ten gaming ETG terminals along with

attractive lights and a sound package adding additional stimulation and excitement to the game. Best-in-class innovative Player Information Display with a 75’’ screen and an accompanying LED screen on the top of the generator will make the product stand out on the casino floor, displaying additional attractive content. Next to the traditional craps game, Interblock also offers new and exciting craps game variations, which will attract new

players who are not familiar with the traditional craps game yet. New and simplified craps games are the key to attract beginners who are eager to roll the dice. This new and exciting feature is also available for Stadium and Pulse Arena products. Options that are available for standalone product will help to introduce craps and its simplified version to the new players who have not yet been introduced to the world of the traditional craps game.

"THIS NEW AND EXCITING FEATURE IS ALSO AVAILABLE FOR STADIUM AND PULSE ARENA PRODUCTS" 96 GAMINGAMERICA



GAMING AMERICA | PRODUCT REVIEWS

SUZOHAPP At this year's G2E, SUZOHAPP will be launching three new additions to our sports betting ecosystem. SUZOHAPP has designed this ecosystem with the idea in mind that sports are inherently social. People like to watch sports with other people which is why they congregate in bars. SUZOHAPP aims to encourage that social experience of a bar by creating a betting atmosphere reflective of the location that customers want to be in. In the European sports betting market, almost 70% of sports betting revenue is from in-play betting. In the US, inplay betting is the industry’s greatest opportunity. SUZOHAPP has solutions to allow customers to place those in-play 98 GAMINGAMERICA

bets in retail settings without removing themselves from the social event by betting on their phone and instead engaging in the atmosphere. Last year, SUZOHAPP launched the SBT-500, a cashless tabletop sports betting terminal designed to fit in video poker bar slots, allowing customers to place bets while actively watching a game. This year, we are releasing an updated model that includes cash acceptance with a bill validator and cash box matching the dimensions of existing video poker machines for an easy swap, allowing customers to continue that in-play betting anonymously with cash. Additionally, SUZOHAPP is launching the SBT-750, a fully immersive and inclusive betting experience that is ADA accessible,

designed to create a sports book stadiumlike feeling for everyone. Lastly, SUZOHAPP is launching a handheld betting device for operators, designed by retail and restaurant industry veteran Elo Touch Solutions, that allows customers to remain anonymous but is perfectly primed to be wherever the customer is. This handheld device with a mobile printer allows bets to be placed in cash with an employee and prints a bet slip on site. All units are built with the same foundational hardware allowing updates and training to be made across the ecosystem and are supported by SUZOHAPP’s traditional kiosks: the SBT-1000 (the cashier point-of-sale) the SBT-OTC, and the payout cash redemption terminal (the CountR Silver CashIO).