HOW TO MARKET BIG WHEN YOU’RE SMALL GIFTING SOLUTIONS
HACKING the Hackers
Steps to take to safeguard your data
HOW TO MARKET BIG WHEN YOU’RE SMALL GIFTING SOLUTIONS
HACKING the Hackers
Steps to take to safeguard your data
The games that keep players involved in comfortable environments
While the market for bartop gaming machines is still overwhelmingly dominated by IGT, technological advancements and the first appearance of competition have resulted in great leaps in the variety of offerings available to players at the bar—including the ability to wager on sports while playing video poker, keno or slots.By Frank Legato
The task of marketing and branding for smaller casinos in small markets has brought creativity and innovation to the promotion of the “challenger brand.”By Julia Carcamo
The advent of online and mobile gaming and sports betting has brought new challenges in the battle against hackers who attack an operator’s vulnerabilities.By Gus Fritschie
The importance of building and maintaining a workplace culture cannot be overstated, as it directly impacts a company’s performance.By Andrew Klebanow and Arte Nathan
Growth in the adoption and success of cashless wagering may depend on a consistent set of regulations across diverse markets.By Jess Marquez
The use of physical gifts as rewards for high levels of play has evolved as data collection has improved.By Dave Bontempo
Two months ago in this space I sounded an alarm: Be careful what you wish for. The subject of the column was a plea from the American Gaming Association for federal help in reining in illegal gambling, from the gray-area skill games we see across America to the illegal gaming and sports betting websites that pick off American bettors from their perches in offshore territories, resulting in fraud and no consumer protection.
It’s not that I think these illegal activities are harmless or should be ignored, it’s just that the open pleas for help from the federal government is like inviting the fox into the hen house. The federal government is more likely to use a sledgehammer on a problem rather than just some tweaks. So I believe it was dangerous to ask the feds for help.
But less than a month after the AGA’s plea—and probably not connected to it—are two proposals that would put the federal government all over the backs of gaming companies that truly want to do the right thing.
In that same edition, we ran a story about responsible gaming treatments, and in a sidebar the author, Marjorie Preston, wrote about New York Congresswoman Claudia Tenney and a bill she was introducing that would impose a federal .25 percent excise tax on all sports betting wagers, but it would apply only to casinos and exclude lotteries, sportsbooks and racetracks. When Ms. Preston called the congresswoman’s office for comment, a spokesman backed off a bit, saying that the bill was a work in progress and a final version will be released later.
While the industry makes millions of dollars in contributions to responsible gaming groups, a federal approach is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. The states where the gambling is occurring should be the ones to decide what and how much their gaming companies should contribute. But better yet, let’s have the gaming companies come forward and set up a program where reputable responsible gaming groups receive a fair share of the pie.
And then last month, another New York congressman—what is it about New York?!—Rep. Paul Tonko, came up with the brilliant idea to ban advertising by sportsbooks.
“The excessive, uncensored promotion of these sites needs to be put in check,” Tonko said in a press release. “My legislation puts a halt to this dangerous practice and sends a powerful message to the online sports betting advertisers. Congress must take the necessary steps to reel in an industry with the power to inflict real, widespread harm on the American people.”
IfTonko’s “Betting on our Future Act” sounds familiar it’s because it is modeled after a similar law that prevented tobacco companies from advertising. If enacted, the law would prohibit sports betting ads on any electronic medium, keeping the ads off television, radio and the internet.
Granted, there have been some sports betting companies that have gone overboard when soliciting for new customers—and they’ve paid for it in real dollars and a make against their reputation. But let’s not forget that sports betting in the U.S. is a relatively young industry, less than five years old. Will it always appear predatory when a sports betting company offers incentives to sign up? If not, where do you draw the line?
The sports betting industry is today heavily competitive, with lots of pressure from investors to produce. And given the fact that there are virtually no sports betting companies yet making money, that pressure increases exponentially with every passing day. That’s why it becomes more important that the members of the industry get together and create a set of advertising standards that will be acceptable to most regulators and ethical for the operators.
The American Gaming Association has an official “Code of Conduct” for its member and an outline for advertising, including sports betting, prohibiting ads that:
• Contain images, symbols, celebrity/entertainer endorsements, and/or language designed to appeal specifically to children and minors.
• Feature anyone who is or appears to be below the legal age to participate in gambling or sports betting activity or imply that underage persons engage in casino gambling or sports betting.
• Depart from contemporary standards of good taste that apply to all commercial messaging, as suits the context of the message or the medium utilized.
• Be placed with such intensity and frequency that they represent saturation of that medium or become excessive.
Now this makes sense, but it isn’t specific enough. What are “contemporary standards of good taste?”
Let’s convene a daylong seminar with all the major players—both operators and suppliers—so we can get down to specifics and decide how much is too much. An effective program that demonstrates integrity and trust will go a long way to keeping the federal government in the cage and make it more straightforward as to what is acceptable and what is not. Let’s draw that bright line.
Roger Gros, Publisher | email@example.com twitter: @GlobalGamingBiz
Frank Legato, Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @FranklySpeakn
Jess Marquez, Managing Editor email@example.com
Monica Cooley, Art Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Terri Brady, Sales & Marketing Director email@example.com
Becky Kingman-Gros, Chief Operating Officer firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Johnson, Communications Advisor email@example.com twitter: @LisaJohnsonPR
Frank Fantini | Dave Forman
Dave Bontempo twitter: @bontempomedia
Julia Carcamo | Gus Fritschie
Alex Goldstein | Andrew Klebanow | Arte Nathan Bill Sokolic twitter: @downbeachfilm
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD
Rino Armeni, President, Armeni Enterprises
Mark A. Birtha, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Hard Rock International
Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, President, Lifescapes International
Nicholas Casiello Jr., Shareholder, Fox Rothschild
Jeffrey Compton, Publisher, CDC E-Reports
Dean Macomber, President, Macomber International, Inc.
Stephen Martino, Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer, MGM Resorts International, twitter: @stephenmartino
• Jim Rafferty, President, Rafferty & Associates
Thomas Reilly, Vice President Systems Sales, Scientific Games
• Michael Soll, President, The Innovation Group
• Katherine Spilde, Executive Director, Sycuan Gaming Institute, San Diego State University, twitter: @kspilde
• Ernie Stevens, Jr., Chairman, National Indian Gaming Association twitter: @NIGA1985
• Roy Student, President, Applied Management Strategies
• David D. Waddell, Partner Regulatory Management Counselors PC
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The views and opinions expressed by the writers and columnists of GLOBAL GAMING BUSINESS are not necessarily the views of the publisher or editor.
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For the first time in history, the NFL Super Bowl was held in a state where sports betting was legal, Arizona. And with sports betting now legal in 33 states, the company most responsible for assuring the geolocation of each and every bet, GeoComply, reports that it had handled over 100 million geolocation checks on Saturday and Sunday, a 25 percent increase over 2022. In addition, GeoComply made over 100,000 checks in and around State Farm Stadium in Glendale, the site of the game.
GeoComply Co-Founder & CEO Anna Sainsbury said, “Super Bowl LVII was a record-breaking event. GeoComply data reveals that Americans’ interest in legally betting on the Super Bowl has never been higher. It also showed that many fans at State Farm Stadium embraced their newfound ability to bet while watching the game in person.”
In Kansas, home of the game-winning Chiefs, over 2 million checks were made but across the river in Kansas City, Missouri, where the Chiefs actually play and where millions of fans were rooting for them, anyone trying to bet from that state was rejected. In fact, GeoComply rejected a total of over 140,000 attempts to place bets from outside the jurisdictional line.
In Pennsylvania, home of the losing team, the Philadelphia Eagles, bets were up more than 15 percent over the 2022 Super Bowl. Overall, New York sportsbooks took the most bets.
With high rates of inflation and a looming recession, gaming operators are concerned about the impact on their customers—in particular, mobile sports bettors, the largest segment of sports wagerers. TransUnion last month released a study titled “Consumer Liquidity and Gaming Participation” to gauge players’ reactions to the bad economic news. The most revealing part of the study had to do with the demographics of mobile sports bettors. Millennials are the biggest segment of mobile and also seem to have a higher disposable income. To obtain a copy of the study, visit transunion.com/industry/gaming-gambling.
Global Payments Gaming Solutions was one of the first companies in the gaming industry to focus on cashless transactions. Christopher Justice has been in charge since the beginning, and now that there have been early adopters and the systems have proven to work, he talks with GGB Publisher Roger Gros about the next stages in cashless transactions. To hear a full podcast of the interview, visit GGBMagazine.com.
“Monopolies generally aren’t a good way of mitigating health dangers or other problems. They’re historical remnants.”
Kai Mykkänen of Finland’s NCP’s Parliamentary Group on the proposal to end the monopoly of Veikkaus, the state-owned gaming operator
GGB: It’s been over a year since the cashless revolution really started rolling. What’s your interpretation of how it’s been working for Global Payments and for the industry?
Christopher Justice: I think we’ve been really in the typical early adopter phase of a product rollout but the pace is certainly increasing. I really believe we’re in the fast follower phase now, which really is the steepest phase with the right kind of movement. In terms of adoption, you’re going to see that there are numerous people that are on the launchpad, and that will launch in ’23, which will really cause the growth of this revolution to accelerate quite quickly.
Global Payments was one of the first payment processors to get into the cashless space, but now there are literally dozens of companies you compete with. Do you think this is muddying the waters for the operators trying to make a decision about what program to invest in? There are really two ways to do it. One is based on TITO and the other is based on the traditional wagering account that’s been around for decades. We believe that the TITO solution really represents the easy button. It’s the easiest one for the consumer to download and use that allows rated and unrated play. It’s just a much easier path toward fast consumer adoption.
It’s also the easy button for the operator because it’s easy to install, easy to maintain, easy to account and reconcile, because it leverages all of the existing infrastructure. So where I think things are muddy is that the wager account side of things is very crowded, because that’s where all of the other providers really sit. And unfortunately, I think that also creates a solution whereby it’s hard for folks to figure out because typically it’s a very complex implementation for operators.
You’ve got some big clients—some of the big operators of multiple properties, but we’ve noticed that lately you’ve been signing up several tribal casinos and stand-alone commercial properties. How can you scale your products to be affordable for them and effective for the big and small casinos alike?
Well, it really works the same way whether it’s a big operator or a small operator, because we leverage the TITO infrastructure. It’s a system-agnostic way for folks to roll out without having all of the IT integration and cumbersome complex processes that are required for some of the other systems. So it really does become very plug-and-play.
So there’s no need to install another system on top of the normal CMS system?
Correct. There’s no need for expensive and complicated system changes because it leverages the existing processes and procedures. There’s no need to have to rewrite minimum internal controls and to add all of the incremental job functions that have to come along with overlaying a system that operates differently from the rest of the casino.
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I would think that smaller regional casinos with that local loyal clientele would have better success at converting their players to cashless just because they know them so well. Does that really work?
What it really boils down to is convenience, security control, and responsible gaming. What we are finding is that the biggest players that are the higher tiers in the casino’s database are also the players that are moving the needle relative to mobility. The players that are spending the most money are also those high-wealth individuals who typically have shorter attention and patience levels than a lot of other folks. They’re also folks that want it their way, and they want control. So the ability to deliver control and convenience to a player to help them really fund up their game the way they want to play is a huge advantage.
March 7-8: iGaming Next: New York, The Convene-Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Produced by iGaming Next. For more information, visit iGamingNext.com.
March 13-16: SIGMA Eurasia, InterContinental Dubai Festival City. Produced by SIGMA. For more information, visit SIGMA.world/Eurasia.
March 15-16: IGSA 2023 Technology Summit, Italian American Club of Las Vegas. Produced by the International Gaming Standards Association. For more information, visit IGSA.org/en/igsatechnology-summit-focus-sports-betting.
March 27-30: Indian Gaming 2023, San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California. Produced by the Indian Gaming Association. For more information, visit IndianGamingTradeshow.com.
March 29-30: Prague Gaming & TECH Summit ’23, Vienna House Andel’s Prague, Prague, Czech Republic. Produced by Hipther. For more information, visit Hipther.com.
April 19-20: East Coast Gaming Congress, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Produced by Spectrum Gaming and Cooper Levenson. For more information, visit eastcoastgamingcongress.com.
April 19-20: SAGSE LATAM 2023, Buenos Aires Hilton, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Produced by Mongraphie. For more information, visit SAGSELATAM.com.
May 9-11: SBC Summit North America, Meadowlands Exposition Center, East Rutherford, New Jersey. Produced by SBC. For more information, visit SBCEvents.com.
May 15-17: Casino Marketing Boot Camp, General Managers Edition, Rolling Hills Casino Resort, Corning, California. Produced by J Carcamo & Associates. For more information, visit CasinoMarketingBootCamp.com.
May 24-25: CasinoBeats Summit (CBS), InterContinental in St Julian’s, Malta. Produced by SBC. For more information, visit SBCEvents.com.
May 25-27: Gambling Brasil, Frei Caneca Convention Center, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Produced by Afiliados Brasil. For more information, visit GamblingBrasil.com.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published as a GGB News Special Report on February 10, 2023, two days before the Super Bowl
With Super Bowl LVII around the corner, football fans across America geared up to place their bets on the big game. According to new American Gaming Association (AGA) research, a record 50 million Americans planned to bet a collective $16 billion on the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles.
This year’s Super Bowl, hosted in Arizona, was the first to be played in a state with legal sports wagering. 2023 also is the first year in which more than half of American adults (57 percent) have access to legal sportsbooks in their home state.
With the expansion of legal wagering, traditional Super Bowl bettors were expected to exceed casual bettors for the first time ever. Thirty million American adults planned to place a traditional sports wager online, at a retail sportsbook or with a bookie (up 66 percent from 2022), while 28 million planned to bet casually with friends or as part of a pool or squares contest (up 50 percent from 2022)— and of course, many did both.
These figures tell a familiar story: Americans want legal betting options and are taking advantage of the protections of the regulated market when they are available. Seven in 10 adults who planned to bet on Super Bowl LVII said it is important that they place bets only through legal, licensed operators, and that number rises to 74 percent among adults in legal sports betting states.
Legal wagering also continues to drive fan engagement with leagues, teams and media properties: more than a third (34 percent) of NFL fans say that the expansion of legal wa-
gering has made watching an NFL game more exciting.
As the legal market grows, everyone involved in the sports betting ecosystem must maintain their commitment to providing consumers with the knowledge and tools to bet responsibly. The AGA is helping lead these efforts through our Have a Game Plan. Bet Responsibly campaign, which is bringing together the broader sports betting industry—including NFL team partners Washington Commanders and New York Jets—around responsible gaming education and messaging.
Importantly, the industry’s education efforts continue to resonate:
• The overwhelming majority of traditional Super Bowl bettors (71 percent) report seeing a responsible gaming message in the last year.
• Importantly, younger Americans (under 35 years old) are more likely to recall seeing a responsible gaming message and younger bettors are more likely to say it is important toBY DAVE FORMAN
only wager legally.
By doubling down on our investments in responsibility, we will continue to build a safe, sustainable product that doesn’t repeat the mistakes that have impeded the long-term health of some overseas markets.
Find more Super Bowl LVII wagering trends below:
• Bettors were evenly split on the outcome of the game with 44 percent each planning to bet on the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.
• Eagles and Chiefs fans were equally likely to bet this year: about one-third of each fanbase said they were wagering on the game.
• More women (11 percent) said they were betting this year compared to last year (7 percent).
• Gen Z and millennials were nearly twice as likely to bet as Gen X and three times as likely as boomers.
Dave Forman is vice president of research for the American Gaming Association.
Seven in 10 adults who planned to bet on Super Bowl LVII said it is important that they place bets only through legal, licensed operators, and that number rises to 74 percent among adults in legal sports betting states.
After decades of being a growth industry where investors focused on return on capital, brick-and-mortar gaming has become a more mature place where many also seek a return of capital, namely share repurchases and cash dividends.
That is not to say that growth is no longer important. For many gaming companies, growth is the primary strategy. Consider Churchill Downs and Boyd Gaming with their incremental, almost inexorable, expansions. Or look at Red Rock Resorts, which pays a nice dividend yet is financing a long-term growth plan to fully maximize its potential in one of America’s fastest-growing and increasingly affluent metropolitan areas, the Las Vegas Valley.
Share repurchases have become one of the favorite forms of returning capital to shareholders.
The attractions are obvious. For one, buybacks have flexibility and opportunistic qualities. The number of shares repurchased can be raised to take advantage of lower stock prices or reduced to save money for investment when growth opportunities come along. And repurchases can be halted with less consternation, or damage to the stock price, than slashing or omitting a cash dividend.
The rationale is that repurchases amount to a free and non-taxable increase in each shareholder’s ownership of a company, thus enhancing earnings per share.
Unfortunately, the promise of a larger ownership stake in too many cases turns out to be, in effect, a lie. Too many companies spend money to buy back shares only to dilute, or completely undermine, the stated purpose of building shareholder value by granting overly generous stock options to management, even to the point that some companies actually grow the share count.
Such abuses give share repurchases a bad name and lead to proposals such as that to tax buybacks.
Fortunately, gaming companies buying back shares have met the letter and the spirit of the in-
tention. Boyd, for example, has reported that the fourth quarter’s average number of diluted shares had been reduced to 105.6 million from 114.1 million a year earlier. Year-end share count was down to 102.8 million. (Boyd promises $600 million in return of capital—$400 million in repurchases and $200 million in cash dividends.)
Dividends, while sometimes criticized because proceeds are taxed as income, have the advantage of putting money into the pockets of investors who can decide for themselves what to do with it.
Dividends are also subject to less manipulation and sleight of hand. You know what you get.
One good way to return capital is Boyd’s balanced approach of both buying back shares and paying dividends.
Red Rock provides flexibility to dividends by paying both recurring and special ones. That allows the company to reward shareholders while keeping recurring dividend costs low enough to avoid having to reduce payouts during hard times while also saving money to invest in growth opportunities.
Red Rock pays $1 a share annually in recurring dividends for a 2.2 percent yield while its recent $1 special dividend doubled the yield to 4.4 percent, a nice return in these inflationary times. If the company wants to save money in hard times or to finance acquisitions, it can lower or omit the special dividend without upsetting investors in the way done by cutting or suspending the recurring payout.
For investors who are not buyback enthusiasts, the combination of recurring and special dividend is ideal.
The biggest recent splash on this front came from Monarch Casino. Almost on cue (as within two working days of our column mentioning the possibility), the company announced a special dividend to be followed by a recurring quarterly dividend.
The large special dividend will be $5 a share. The recurring dividend will be 30 cents a share each quarter. Annualized, the regular dividend yields 1.5BY FRANK FANTINI
percent. Combined with the special dividend, that’s a 7.7 percent yield in the coming four quarters.
With EBITDA over $180 million a year, and the recurring dividend costing under $25 million, Monarch will continue to pile up cash even while rewarding shareholders.
Now, to be complete, we need Golden Entertainment to follow through on our speculation in that column.
Golden will sell its Maryland casino for $260 million this year, meaning that, even after taxes and with around 30 million shares outstanding, it could pay a very nice special dividend. And with a strong balance sheet and EBITDA well exceeding planned capital investments, the company also could initiate a recurring dividend.
No discussion of dividend-paying gaming companies would be complete without mentioning Aristocrat Leisure.
Every generation, it seems, has a dominating games company—Universal, Bally, IGT. Today, it is Aristocrat.
Aristocrat’s stock has risen 44 percent in the past five years and its dividend currently yields 1.4 percent. Analysts expect 15 percent stock growth this year.
For truly long-term holders, Aristocrat has been a stock to grow rich on. Shares are up 5,200 percent since the late 1990s—and 68 percent just since the Covid-caused stock market collapse of March 2020.
Impressively, Aristocrat not only maintains its successful slot games culture, but has moved into both real money and casual online gaming in both casino and role-playing genres in ways that suggest its run is far from over.
Gold Member Profile Aristocrat Leisure Limited aristocrat.com
Aristocrat Leisure Limited is an entertainment and content creation company powered by technology to deliver world-leading mobile and casino games which entertain millions of players across the globe, every day. The company has three operating units: Aristocrat Gaming, Pixel United and Anaxi, supported by more than 7,000 employees in over 20 locations around the world.
Bronze Member Profile Empire Technological Group etgltd.com
Las Vegas-based Play Synergy, aka Empire Technological Group, was founded in 2012. Known for its engineering capacity to innovate table game technology directly on the casino floor, ETG has expanded its marketable products with a portfolio of relevant and compelling live table games that can immediately refresh the table game pits.
Associate Member Profile Catapult Global catapultglobal.com
Catapult Global, LLC offers solutions for companies looking to source products in Asia. The company was formed in 2004 with the aim of providing customers high-quality, OEM/ODM products at reasonable prices, on-time, from design through distribution.
• Since the last AGEM meeting, Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo appointed a new chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, Kirk Hendrick, along with a new board member, George Assad. Lombardo also appointed Brian Krolicki to the Nevada Gaming Commission to fill the term of Ben Kieckhefer, who left the Gaming Commission to serve as Lombardo’s chief of staff. AGEM’s Daron Dorsey and Mike Alonso were able to meet with Hendrick recently, and look forward to the opportunity of supporting efforts to re-establish Nevada’s place as a leading innovation and technology jurisdiction, as directed by Lombardo in his recent address to the Nevada legislature.
• The ICE London exhibition took place February 7-9, and was a success, both from and operational and trading perspective. Early (unaudited) numbers from Clarion noted visitor attendance of over 40,000 people, a first for the show that eclipsed the previous record in 2020 of around 36,000. Billed as the industry’s largest international trade show, Clarion states that over 50 percent of attendees operate in both land-based and online sectors while the remaining group were online-only operations, and this was visible on the show floor. While Europe is still the largest area of attendees with over 70 percent as reported by Clarion, there were significant numbers from Asia and North America. This edition of ICE took over the whole footprint of the ExCeL Centre for the first time, and already 80 percent of the exhibition is rebooked for the 2024 event, per Clarion representatives.
• In a bid to provide absolute transparency, Clarion Gaming announced prior to the show that it has entered the next phase of its research and consultation program to determine the future location for ICE. In partnership with specialist consultants Equimore, a finalist short list of four host cities has been identified: Barcelona, London, Madrid and Paris—all of which meet the exacting criteria set out in the process. Each city will be making a formal bid to host ICE for the period 2025-2029, in the same February dateline. The process will be completed later this year with an announcement scheduled for Q3 2023, per Clarion.
• AGEM members received an in-person presentation by Jennifer Carleton of AGEM associate member Sightline Payments, who also helps lead the Indian Nations Gaming and Governance (INGG) program at William S. Boyd School of Law (University of Nevada, Las Vegas). She highlighted two initiatives that are currently being offered by the law school. The first is a symposium on March 2-3, which covers “Indian Gaming Past and Present,” and is open to all interested attendees. The second is a much-needed Internship/Externship Program that will see its inaugural launch this summer after having been put on hold due to the pandemic. At the meeting, AGEM members were encouraged to look at taking on law students with an Indian gaming background for summer internship and externship programs. Information on both these initiatives is available on the William S. Boyd School of Law website at https://law.unlv.edu/ or via Carleton.
AGEM is an international trade association representing manufacturers of electronic gaming devices, systems, lotteries and components for the gaming industry. The association works to further the interests of gaming equipment manufacturers throughout the world. Through political action, trade show partnerships, information dissemination and good corporate citizenship, the members of AGEM work together to create benefits for every company within the organization. Together, AGEM and its member organizations have assisted regulatory commissions and participated in the legislative process to solve problems and create a positive business environment.
The AGEM Index increased by 113.32 points in January 2023 to 952.42, a 13.5 percent jump from the prior month. Compared to one year ago, the index was up 26.55 points, or 2.9 percent. During the latest month, 11 of the 12 AGEM Index companies reported stock price increases, which resulted in 11 positive contributions to the AGEM Index and one negative contribution. The largest positive contribution to the monthly index was sourced to Aristocrat Leisure Limited (ASX: ALL), whose 11.3 percent increase in stock price led to a 44.55-point gain to the index. Meanwhile, Crane Co. (NYSE: CR) observed a 15.4 percent increase in stock price that translated to an 18.7-point gain to the index. The lone negative contribution to the index was sourced to Ainsworth Game Technology (ASX: AGI), whose 3.7 percent decrease in stock price resulted in a 0.01-point loss for the AGEM Index. All three major U.S. stock indices saw month-over-month increases in January 2023. The NASDAQ increased by 10.7 percent from the prior month, while the S&P 500 grew by 6.2 percent. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.8 percent from December.
I’ve been lucky to have worked in many companies and many territories. And, while I often have the impression that people are most taken by the billboard-worthy work I’ve done in Las Vegas, some of my best work has been done in very small markets where we had to be more creative and innovative—sometimes just to stay competitive.
It was many years ago that I was introduced to the notion of a “challenger brand.” Before this, I had worked for some of the leaders in the industry. This time, it was not the case. So, the notion of being the underdog, while new and uncomfortable, was now my reality.
We don’t often look at today’s brands as underdogs, but many started as such and found a way to bring themselves to the top. Do you remember the idea of getting a movie sent to you in the mail? What a crazy idea. There was a Blockbuster a short drive away. Why would you use this new Netflix mail service?
Today, Netflix has put most of those video rental locations out of business. It has also simultaneously become one of the most prolific producers of original programming, garnering an impressive number of Emmy and Oscar nods. Imagine the conversation at any big studio when word spread that Netflix would start producing content.
Looking back on the company’s evolution, you’ll find that although they were the underdog for years, they never acted like it. They set out to be the best and the biggest by acting like they already were—with the confidence of a first-place brand. You can do the same. Whether you are a new entry into the market, one that has fallen behind, or one that has welcomed a categorykiller competitor, you can take some easy steps to think like a challenger brand and become a market leader.
Adam Morgan first introduced the concept of the challenger brand in his book Eating the Big Fish in 1999. At the time, the most common usage was associated with underdogs, but today the focus is more on what the brand is challenging rather than who—consider what drives a category or the guest experience.
It is defined by a mindset where an operation might have ambitions (more considerable than its immediate resources) to break through the category. Still, they are prepared to do something bold that can go against existing conventions.
The idea of being a challenger brand can often be reduced to a shallow concept of David vs. Goliath, but this notion can often block market leaders from the agile mindset of a challenger. In other words, although what follows could be a playbook for a small operator, large operators might consider adopting these lessons. Moreover, given the shift in consumer habits, it could be a valuable strategy for us all.
For smaller casinos, taking on a challenger mindset can be essential in standing out among the competition. This strategy harnesses the idea of “eating the big fish” by identifying ways to leverage competitive advantages they may not even be aware of and turning a smaller entity into a powerhouse. It also allows them to modernize traditional practices and processes, giving casinos with limited resources an edge in agility that might often bog down larger competitors.
How can you change how you create opportunities to grow loyalty and revenue? The Savannah Bananas are on a quest to make baseball fun and create a remarkable fan experience filled with “you wouldn’t believe” moments.
Ultimately, taking on this pioneering attitude can help level the playing field for smaller casinos, allowing those who take it seriously to break away from the competition and come out ahead.
Of course, this doesn’t come without risks. When trying something new or taking on larger players, there will always be a certain level of uncertainty. Still, a well-crafted strategy focused on customer satisfaction can help smaller casinos carve out their place in the industry.
The first step is changing your view from a state of the marketplace to a state of mind, a shift from who you are challenging to what you are challenging. Many brands we see in our lives have found success by shifting the view: Walmart, Nike, Apple, Virgin, Target, Dove and more. Your brand could easily be added to this list.
There are 10 main types of challenger mindsets. Understanding where you are can provide clarity to your strategy.
1. Democratizer brands believe in bringing access to all, mainly what might have been available to an elite audience only.
2. Dramatic Disruptors offer something significantly superior to the status quo. Consider how Casper revolutionized the mattress market.
3. Enlightened Zaggers deliberately swim against the tide.
4. Feisty Underdogs see themselves in a battle between small and big, good and evil, or us and them. Chutzpah is a thing for them.
5. Irreverent Maverick brands use wit and humor. They are provocative in their goal to entertain and engage.
6. Local Hero brands champion the local needs, local culture and local people through their deep understanding of and presence in the community.
7. Missionary brands wear their purpose on their sleeve and are usually focused on righting an existing wrong.
8. Next Generation brands might question an entire category believing new times call for new brands.
9. Peoples’ Champion brands are driven by mandate. They are agents of change, often creating people-powered alternatives.
10. Real & Human brands challenge a certain industrialism in the category and appeal to consumers more emotionally.
You may immediately see yourself in one of these categories, but as I’ve al-
ways said, brands are living organisms. Just as we grow and change, so do our brands. While I invite you to see yourself as one of these challenger brand types, I advise you to review this periodically.
None of us can afford to rest on our laurels. Technology is transforming our businesses every single day. More importantly, guest expectations continue to morph. More competitors are reaching their hands into the wallets of our customers. The battle for the entertainment dollar continues to challenge us.
A challenger mindset keeps you focused on the next edge and can keep us from becoming complacent. But there are some great recommendations for developing that mindset.
• Get Clear On Your Challenge. Understand what change you’re trying to bring about. For Netflix, it wasn’t merely about getting subscribers to rent from them; it was about changing how people would rent movies. That was a bold ambition indeed. We know, as casino operators, that we can make a splash with new slots, new rooms, new restaurants and more new, but ask yourself, “What am I challenging? What bold, ambitious change can my brand bring about?”
• Be Intelligently Naive. Consider the many companies launched in
someone’s garage, like Apple. When you read their history, it is mind-boggling to consider how much they didn’t know about the categories they were entering. Innocence can be unexpectedly beneficial. Jeff Bezos was a hedge fund manager who thought he could sell books online. How can you change how you create opportunities to grow loyalty and revenue?
If you follow the Savannah Bananas, you might know about their owner Jesse Cole (the “Yellow Tux Guy”) and his over-the-top meetings where employees are encouraged to think with no restrictions. The Bananas are creating a new way to enjoy America’s pastime without the confines of the usual rules. In an odd coincidence, the Challenger Project has put the Bananas on the list of brands to watch in 2023.
• Steal With Pride. I love looking at other industries to see what they are doing right and how I can use the same idea. Method founder Eric Ryan once said, “All the big ideas I could ever need are already out there. I just have to find it and work out how to apply it to my business.” IKEA is an excellent example of applying an idea from outside the industry. Rather than looking at other home furnishing retailers, it considered an entirely different category and then overlayed those rules onto their business. One result of this process is their Guggenheim-inspired store layout. Whenever I have workshops, there is usually a point when I ask participants to bring ideas from companies they admire so they can discover how they could apply the concept to improve their marketing.
Have your team bring examples of ideas from other industries to your next meeting and see how you can adapt them to your business. Encourage them to avoid trying to find ideas that easily fit. You want bold, out-of-thebox thinking that will make you stand apart.
• Find Your Religion. Do you know the old saying, “if you don’t stand for something...?” It’s similar to finding your brand’s religion. What does your brand stand for that is something deep at the core of the brand? What provides clarity, direction and focus on everything that is done? What is it that will draw others to join you?
Simply put: What matters most? Challenger brands build lighthouse identities—a compelling truth that invites customers to navigate by them and is projected consistently in everything they do.
Zappos created a company that no one could have seen coming, removing the friction from buying shoes by making it easy to shop, return, and get assistance. Today, we see more businesses guiding themselves by the Zappos ethos.
This might be the trickiest of the mindsets for some operations because they may not have had the time to codify their “religion.”
What do you believe in as a business, and how do you behave in support of your beliefs?
• Get Noticed And Be Famous. Challenger brands will project their beliefs consistently (and almost insistently) in everything they do. You will see them even if you’re not looking for them. If you think it takes a lot to level the playing field, imagine how much more you need to invest in puncturing inertia. The greatest danger for a challenger brand is not rejection. It’s indifference.
Most of the readers of this magazine travel at least once or twice a year on business and perhaps a few more times for pleasure. For most, it’s not an experience to write home about. When a new player enters the ranks of airlines, they may publish a press release and get a local news story if their airport partner creates an “event.” We might give them a look, if only to check routes and rates.
Now consider the launch of Virgin’s inaugural flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas. Virgin could have done a standard ribbon cutting and a flight of VIPs and called it a day. They had a brand name that had cache and some interest. But rather than do the expected, Virgin’s founder Richard Branson dressed in a dinner suit and harness and attached himself to a rappel-like system, taking a running jump off the side of the Palm Casino Hotel in front of a large crowd and television cameras. Unfortunately, no one considered the winds that would blow him twice against the side of the building, causing him to rip the seat of his pants. Mishap? Yes. A splash no one would forget? Absolutely.
I’ve seen casinos take these brave leaps in a one-off promotion, but what leap could you take that truly lives on in your brand? Please don’t jump off your buildings.
• Sacrifice. We’ve all heard the famous Steve Jobs quote about being as proud of the things Apple said no to as he was of the things the company said yes to. I should have made a poster of this quote and put it in my office. I have unfortunately said yes to projects that either didn’t turn a profit or that didn’t advance my ultimate business goals. Even small brands need to learn to say “no.” After discovering that visitors who enjoyed New Zealand the most explored and experienced the country rather than setting up a base at a hotel or city, Tourism New Zealand chose to forgo marketing to 90 percent of its potential target market. Instead, they focused on “the interactive traveler,” a group comprising only 10 percent-15 percent of the company’s possible universe.
They understood this group would not only engage with the country and enjoy the experience, but they would also go home and tell others (or rather, Instagram) their experiences. Additionally, the brand sacrificed what might seem to be significant (although secondary) messages and focused on “Pure New Zealand.” Strong brands are single-minded in their communications. The sacrifice mindset might be the most important when clarifying your brand essence. What will you focus on with unrelenting passion, and what will you say “no” to?
While it may seem like the big players will always come out on top, casinos with a challenger mindset can be the leaders in their marketplaces. By being different and offering something unique, they can set themselves apart from the competition and offer customers an experience that they won’t soon forget. So don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo —your customers will thank you for it.
Julia Carcamo has held property and corporate leadership positions at medium to large casino companies. She is the president of J Carcamo & Associates marketing consultancy and founder of Casino Marketing Boot Camp. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Challenger brands will project their beliefs consistently (and almost insistently) in everything they do.You will see them even if you’re not looking for them.
Competition helps the gaming supply sector thrive. Particularly on the slot floor, competition between the top manufacturers has led to innovation and variety for the player.
One area of casino supply, though, has seen little competition over the years. The market for bartop gaming machines has remained the overwhelming realm of one manufacturer for decades. At any one given time, nine out of 10 bartop machines in the industry are IGT machines.
The reason is that bartops have been the realm of a style of game invented by, and still overwhelmingly dominated by that same company, IGT: video poker.
But the fact that IGT dominates the bartop market doesn’t mean there can be no variety in this genre of product. In fact, as the first competition in bartops has appeared from another market-topping manufacturer, Aristocrat Gaming, variety is definitely coming to the casino bar. The main selling point of the Aristocrat bartop is the inclusion of multi-line slot games that currently dominate much of the slot market, led by the Buffalo series.
IGT has added its own popular slot games to its newest bartop, the
PeakBarTop. But the powerful processor inherent in this unit has allowed a lot more game variety, including a parade of new keno games and new specialty video poker including Ultimate X and other multi-hand collaborations between IGT and Action Gaming.
The PeakBarTop was originally launched in January 2020, just in time for the global pandemic and its accompanying industry shutdowns. It was the first follow-up to the ubiquitous G20 and 80960 bartop units that had dominated the product sector for 14 years. As the industry has recovered from the Covid-19 crisis over the past two years, the PeakBarTop has steadily grown its footprint in U.S. casino bars and route locations.
“It has to do with performance, and variety as well,” says Brad Fredella, senior product manager, video poker and keno content for IGT. “We make a conscientious effort to make sure that we continue to keep the best content, and the best variety out there, and the best hardware that we can put out. And I think we’ve hit all three of those points really well on the PeakBarTop.”
Meanwhile, Aristocrat Gaming’s Winner’s World bartop units have evolved to an advanced 2.0 version—but the company has had its own pan-
demic-related issues, having first introduced the Winner’s World units shortly before Covid-19 appeared.
“We launched our bartop product in 2019, but progress stalled with the pandemic shutdown,” explains Jon Hanlin, Aristocrat’s senior vice president of commercial strategy & business analytics. “Bars and convenience stores were the first to open as restrictions started to ease, and we began to see an increased awareness of our bartop Buffalo slots.
“We intentionally invested in ongoing customer feedback to better understand what our core audience wanted from us in this segment, resulting in the development of two new products. In the gap between 1.0 and 2.0 versions, we came out with a 1.5 version that included a few slot games and one new keno game. This bridge release was met with positive customer reactions, and players found the new content enjoyable. We most recently released the full version, which offers a much greater variety of product and includes progressive capabilities for video poker and keno games.”
The Aristocrat Winner’s World, and IGT’s reaction to the challenge of new competition in the bartop area, has ushered in a new era of variety in games available at the bar.
IGT, for one, is doubling down on the variety available in the PeakBarTop. “Customers are realizing, when they put them on the floors, that there is a very good mix of those tried-and-true games and game themes that those players are used to playing, and that they’re seeking out, and they can play their favorite video poker game as well,” Fredella says.
“They can play their favorite keno game, and then they’re also finding that those same players and even other players are being drawn to the bartop because there is so much new content on there. We have seven different new keno games that are on these PeakBarTops between the SuperStar and Game King (product groups). We’ve got an entire new suite of high-line-count video slot content on there.”
“The product has really taken off,” says Ryan Reddy, IGT’s senior vice president, product marketing, vlt, systems, payments & poker. “It’s doing extremely well, and we’ve just steadily increased placements over time. We have the vast majority of the bartop space today already with our existing legacy IGT product. Now, we’re steadily replacing those with the PeakBarTop, and the key thing for us is that we’re seeing a lot of repeat business. Customers that have a large presence of the older bartops today test the market by buying a few PeakBarTops to see if the business case is there.
“The economics make sense for them to upgrade. And they’re coming back and buying more PeakBarTops—which we think is a really great sign for the overall success of the product and the value that is there for our customers.”
One prominent showcase for the PeakBarTop can be found in Downtown Las Vegas, at the Circa and D casinos. The Circa features the sprawling Mega Bar, with a remarkable 53 PeakBarTop units—spanning 165 feet, making it the longest bar in Nevada. The bar features expert bartenders “with dazzling behind-the-bar flairs,” as noted on its website.
The D, meanwhile, features the 100-foot Longbar, featuring 37 PeakBarTop units fronting TV monitors for sporting events.
While the PeakBarTop units have all that variety, video poker is still king, says Allen Randal, director of slot operations for the Circa, D and Golden Gate casinos.
“Typically speaking, video poker for any casino tends to run about 10 percent of your slot floor in Las Vegas,” Randal says. “Here at Circa, we’re closer to 13 percent or 14 percent. And the main reason is that there are so many of these long bar-type areas. Mega Bar, of course, is by far the biggest. But you also have the underhang and overhang areas, with more than 40 ma-
chines. And then at the D, there is the Longbar.”
Randal says the PeakBarTop fits right into all the unique setups. “Personally, I like the screen on the PeakBarTop,” he says. “The rounded nature of the screen makes it a lot easier to see. But what I like most about the more modern machines is how much more memory they have.
“All of a sudden, instead of just doing Black Rhino for slots, which was standard for almost 20 years, you have twelve slot games, and there’s just so much more available for it—you’ve got multi-card keno, you’ve got Caveman Keno... All of a sudden you just have so many more themes that help me to get more of a hold out of the machine—because poker by very nature is a low-hold offering.”
IGT’s bartop units meet the upcoming competition this year with one more unique offering: sports betting. The company is in the process of rolling out PeakBarTop with Sports Betting in all legal sports betting jurisdictions.
These units incorporate the sports betting platform released over the past two years in the on-floor Crystal Betting Terminal. But instead of the dedicated sportsbook terminal offered by the Crystal product, this new version of the PeakBarTop allows a full menu of sports wagers, that can be made while a customer plays favorite slot, video poker or keno games.
“We showed a new interface last year’s G2E which was really well received,” says Reddy. “What we’re enabling the players to do is to have the option of playing Game King X games in full screen, and then also easily toggling into a sports betting mode to place a wager. So far, the feedback from operators at trade shows and demonstrations has been really, really positive.”
Reddy adds that players have the ability to redeem winning bets at the PeakBarTop terminals.
IGT still offers the Crystal Betting Terminal, but has added the PeakBarTop as the newest option. “We’re still offering the Crystal Betting Terminal because we feel like that provides a different play experience,” Reddy says. “But the intent is to provide both the Crystal and the PeakBarTop with Sports, and really try to hit both types of players—those that
play at the bar, and then those that will be on the floor, and maybe sit in the sports betting section of a casino where they can watch games on the monitors and play in real time.”
Operators can configure the new PeakBarTop to offer the option of showing a live stream of a game, with the ability to make even in-game bets without leaving the slot, video poker or keno game. “We are able to match whatever is approved from a regulatory perspective within a given jurisdiction,” Reddy says. “From our perspective, it features the same betting categories available at the retail book, kiosk or mobile device.”
In addition to the casino market, Fredella says the PeakBarTop is expanding its presence in the distributed gaming market, particularly as new tavern venues open. “We’ve seen success with a number of new openings on some of the routes in the tavern market,” he says, “and a number of taverns have opened recently with all PeakBarTops.
“It makes quite an impact. When you walk into a tavern location that has nothing but the PeakBarTops, it basically looks great. We are really proud of that hardware—and the software, and the content that’s on it. For a newer, more upscale bar to have a newer, more upscale, sleek, modernlooking cabinet on their bar is something they appreciate.
“It’s going to be something that I think is going catch on and grow and grow in that market as time goes on, because I think the players are going to gravitate towards the PeakBarTop product.”
Meanwhile, Aristocrat continues its entry into the bartop market, its Winner’s World continuing to spread its footprint in several jurisdictions, including Downtown Las Vegas, where Randal says he will soon trial the product at the Circa.
“We have placed several Winner’s World games on bartops, as well as slant-top and upright boxes,” says Hanlin. “We have focused on providing Aristocrat’s best-in-class slot content as well as innovative keno content, which is on the cutting edge of the bartop market. Overall, both operators and players are enjoying the variety of games that we offer.”
He adds that the footprint is growing steadily. “We have done very well in the Western U.S., specifically in Nevada and California, and we are start-
“We have focused on providing Aristocrat’s best-in-class slot content as well as innovative keno content, which is on the cutting edge of the bartop market. Overall, both operators and players are enjoying the variety of games that we offer.”
—Jon Hanlin, Senior Vice President of Commercial Strategy & Business Analytics, Aristocrat
ing to see greater adoption nationwide,” Hanlin says. “Our product appeals to a wide variety of players, and because we have a diverse product offering in the Winner’s World suite of games, we attract both locals and visiting players. This gives us the ability to place this product wherever our customers want it to be.”
As its adoption spreads, Hanlin says Aristocrat will concentrate on maintaining, growing and improving the content package for Winner’s World. “While we are early in the multi-game video poker, keno, blackjack, slot-type market, we continue to generate interest, as our slot and keno offerings are seen as innovative and fresh. We’re focused on bringing our core differentiators to this type of product.”
That means player-favorite proprietary slot brands like Buffalo, Miss Kitty and Lepre’coins, both in the slot titles and in new keno games carrying those well-known brands—Buffalo Keno, Buffalo Heard Keno, Miss Kitty Keno, and Lucky Lepre’Keno.
“Aristocrat has never been an ‘us too’ type of company, and as we created a bartop product, we deliberately set out to differentiate ourselves from other suppliers in this space,” says Hanlin. “By investing in innovation, we created a cabinet that clearly stands out from other bartop products, from appearance to content diversity, and created a product mix that capitalizes on player-favorite Aristocrat proprietary titles.”
Winner’s World entered the market with a core mix of 18 games. The newest version of the product, now available across North America and Europe, features 73 games.
Both IGT and Aristocrat are constantly improving the bartop product, and both Reddy and Hanlin say to expect new advancements to the genre this year.
“Without getting into too many details, we do have some exciting products coming out later on this year that we’re looking forward to showing at G2E and some of the other trade shows,” says IGT’s Fredella. “New Action Gaming titles are going to be a big part of that, and titles specifically for the bartop as well are going to be a big part of what you’ll see later on in 2023.”
Says Hanlin, “Our newly released Pack 2 has great new features we are excited about. Mark your calendars for G2E 2023, where we will reveal some additional innovations that will knock your socks off.
“Our focus has been and will continue to be on the player. Our ultimate goal is to provide the best gaming experience possible. We designed our product to speak to a wide audience of players, but especially those who already love Aristocrat content, and to offer them a new type of gaming experience on bartops.”
While Aristocrat’s niche in the genre is growing, Circa’s Randal predicts IGT will continue to dominate the segment, because of the continued dominance of video poker as the biggest draw at the bar.
“IGT is video poker, for better or worse, and as long as poker is the main game being played on bars, they will stay on top,” he says. “If we could ever convert people over to playing slots and keno, you might see a change. But no one else is going to dominate that market anytime soon.”
“Our approach is to build on the success that we’ve had historically in this space,” says IGT’s Reddy. “We focus on the feedback we get from operators and players. You see what we’re doing already with integrating sports betting into the PeakBarTop. And, our intent over time is just to build on a rock-solid product and a fantastic position in the space and the market. And we’re confident that if we stick to the plan and continue to listen to operators and players, we will be able to have a great path of opportunity in the future.”
“We are planning out our software and the content that goes on the PeakBarTop based on what we hear from our customers, and from their players,” adds Fredella. “We lead the space because we listen to the people who are playing games and to the people that are putting them on. What the competition does isn’t our primary focus, so we keep the best variety of games out there that people are asking for on our top product. That is what we’re going to continue to build on and offer for our customers.”
The new competition from Aristocrat can only improve the overall variety available in a growing genre.
“Bartops are an exciting and competitive market segment,” says Hanlin. “While it can sometimes be seen as more difficult to convert players, we are committed to growing this market, and we have product updates planned for years ahead to continue to keep content fresh and interesting for players.”
The gaming industry has seen a rapid growth over the past five years, starting with the expansion of sports betting in the state of New Jersey and online and mobile gaming options also becoming available in other states. A few states have also launched iGaming along with sports betting.
The introduction to new gaming technology requires operators to complete various forms of security testing. Security testing is crucial to ensuring the integrity and security of gaming systems. It is a process of evaluating the security of a system or application by identifying vulnerabilities, assessing the risks, and testing the system’s response to potential attacks.
What are the common security tests performed in the gaming industry?
Penetration Testing: This involves simulating real-world attacks on the system to identify vulnerabilities and assess the system’s ability to detect and respond to those attacks.
Vulnerability Scanning: This involves the use of automated tools to identify potential vulnerabilities in the system, such as weaknesses in the software or configuration errors.
Compliance Testing: This involves testing the system to ensure that it complies with relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards, such as the GLI-33 or GLI-19 standards for electronic gaming devices.
Operational Testing: This involves testing the system in a live environment, simulating real-world scenarios, such as heavy traffic, to ensure that the
system can handle the load and maintain its security.
Risk Assessment: This involves evaluating the potential risks to the system and identifying countermeasures to mitigate those risks.
Many gaming regulations enforce security testing; however, they are not uniform on the requirements and tests needed and not all states require it. For example, Mississippi does not require security testing for sports wagering; in West Virginia the security requirements only apply for sports betting and iGaming, not land-based casinos; and in Colorado only technical security testing is specified—no compliance assessment to evaluate operational and managerial security controls are needed.
These are just a few of the differences; almost every state takes a slightly different approach. Testing details also vary state by state, in some cases simply stating that a “security and integrity assessment” needs to be performed, whereas others provide specific requirements (e.g., penetration testing, firewall rule review, GLI-33B).
Because there are various security testing requirements across different jurisdictions, it can be challenging for gaming operators to keep up with the latest standards and best practices, while demonstrating compliance in a cost-effective manner—while simultaneously providing regulators with test results needed to ensure that the integrity of gaming is intact.
What is working and what needs to change with information security testing in gaming?
One of the key success factors is the use of industry-standard testing frameworks such as the GLI standards (GLI 19B, 27 currently being updated, and 33B), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.
These frameworks provide a comprehensive set of guidelines and best practices for protecting sensitive customer data and ensuring the integrity of gaming systems. Gaming operators that adhere to these standards and undergo regular security assessments have been able to effectively
and remediate vulnerabilities in their systems.
These techniques allow gaming operators to simulate real-world attacks and identify vulnerabilities in their systems before attackers can exploit them. Our testing experts at Bulletproof can identify vulnerabilities that could pose risks to both the operators and their players. The results of these tests allow the vulnerabilities to be fixed prior to exploitation.
While I am not a fan of compliance just for the sake of compliance, there is no argument that having these requirements forces operators and suppliers to perform basic security assessments. While a certain number of operators would perform these even if they were not obligated, there is a decent percentage that would not.
Having security testing in the regulations at least ensures these independent security assessments are performed regularly. However, as I always like to say, “compliance does not equal security, but if you are secure, you will be compliant.” Too often, organizations approach compliance-oriented security assessments as a check-box approach, rather than making sure they are really taking steps to increase their security posture.
One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with the ever-changing threat landscape. New vulnerabilities and attack methods are constantly emerging, and it can be difficult for gaming operators to stay up to date with the latest threats and vulnerabilities. This has led to a lack of preparedness in some cases, with breaches occurring.
Also, just because a gaming operator conducts a security assessment does not indicate that they are immune from attacks. In some cases, the current requirements do not include tests/reviews that would identify risks in emerging attacks. Recent reports of operators such as DraftKings and BetMGM experiencing data breaches or takeover attacks have made headlines. In every case, the operators were up to date with the required security tests.
Many gaming operators rely on third-party vendors for a variety of services, such as payment processing and customer data storage. However, not all vendors have the same level of security in place, and this can create vulnerabilities in the gaming operator’s systems. It’s essential for gaming operators to conduct thorough security assessments of their third-party vendors and ensure that they have adequate security measures.
Different countries and states have different security testing requirements, and it can be difficult for gaming operators to keep up with the various regulations and standards. This lack of standardization can lead to confusion and inconsistencies in security testing, making it harder for operators to ensure the safety and integrity of their systems.
While all of these above areas are important, I believe the most pressing issue facing the industry related to security testing is the lack of standardization and the state-by-state approach. Not to say that the security testing requirements do not need to be updated to assess current risks facing the industry; they do, and that is something GLI and Bulletproof are working on with our update to GLI-27, the standard on network security. We hope this will be a modular and practical approach covering all aspects of security testing in the gaming sector from online to land-based, cloud, lottery, cashless, and many more.
Same with third-party vendor management, another critical area and extremely important in gaming with the reliance of multiple vendors to bring systems to market. We have to look no further than the Target breach where the entry point was a vendor that Target used. We have also seen similar breaches in the gaming sector where the initial weakness that allowed the attacker to obtain a foothold was in a third party’s system.
However, if we do not address the larger issues of lack of standardization and consistency, we will still face the same challenges. This is a significant
Different countries and states have different security testing requirements, and it can be difficult for gaming operators to keep up with the various regulations and standards. This lack of standardization can lead to confusion and inconsistencies in security testing, making it harder for operators to ensure the safety and integrity of their systems.
hurdle to overcome as I do not see an approach where these requirements are centralized at the federal level as they are for, say, the SEC or FTC. State regulators must work together to solve this problem with input from gaming operators and independent testing labs.
We are starting to make progress, although slowly. Last year, Dan Hartman, director of the Colorado Division of Gaming, organized a security and integrity working group to discuss these challenges and possible solutions. The goal was to agree on standard terminology, approach, requirements, and reporting. Progress has been made, and it’s a step toward the right direction; however, there’s still room for improvement and opportunity.
The answer is in continuous compliance . Rather than static annual assessments, the goal should be to always be compliant and meet security controls. We saw last year the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) under Paul Resch update their security testing rules to require not only annual assessments for iGaming and sports betting, but to also mandate quarterly vulnerability scans conducted by the operators and suppliers and require remediation plans to be submitted to the PGCB so the regulator is more informed and updated on current security risks.
One of the first states that pops into our mind when we think gambling is Nevada. For the longest time, Nevada did not have any specific requirement around security testing. We saw that change late last year when the Nevada Gaming Commission updated its security requirements. The new regulation requires covered entities to perform an initial risk assessment and determine what best practices are necessary to mitigate the risk of a cyberattack.
It states, “At least annually, have its internal auditor or other independent entity with expertise in the field of cybersecurity perform and document observations, examinations and inquiries of employees to verify the covered entity is following the cybersecurity best practices and procedures.” This applies to all gaming operators, not just online but also land-based. Again, progress is happening, just slowly and not consistently.
I do not have all the answers. However, I do believe the current process is not scalable and sustainable as gaming continues to expand. Operators such as BetMGM, Caesars Digital and FanDuel that are in every legal jurisdiction should not have to report separately state by state, and on different time frames, when the majority of their security controls are similar. This is where the concept of continuous compliance comes into play.
With continuous compliance, gaming operators could proactively identify and address security issues in their systems, rather than waiting for a regulatory audit or incident to occur. This approach allows gaming operators to maintain a state of ongoing compliance with relevant regulations and standards, and to address security issues as they arise.
Bulletproof is currently developing a framework that would allow operators to track and show compliance with these security requirements more easily. Obviously, this would be smoother if the regulations were standardized. However, even if we cannot get to that point yet, GLI and Bulletproof are committed to designing solutions that allow us to meet the requirements that the regulations specify and, at the same time, have less friction for operators so they can focus on their core business.
In conclusion, security testing in the gaming sector is a critical component of ensuring the safety and integrity of gaming systems and the protection of sensitive customer data. While there are several areas that are working well, such as the use of industry-standard testing frameworks, penetration testing, and the requirement to have the basic level of testing performed, there are also several challenges that need to be addressed, such as keeping up with the ever-changing threat landscape, managing third-party vendors, and standardizing security testing requirements across different jurisdictions.
Gaming operators must stay vigilant and adapt their security testing strategies to address these challenges and ensure the safety of their customers’ data. The same applies to regulators and independent testing labs.
One of the first states that pops into our mind when we think gambling is Nevada. For the longest time, Nevada did not have any specific requirement around security testing. We saw that change late last year when the Nevada Gaming Commission updated its security requirements. The new regulation requires covered entities to perform an initial risk assessment and determine what best practices are necessary to mitigate the risk of a cyberattack.
Every company talks about the importance of its workplace culture, but few approach it as a strategic initiative. Because of the impact culture has on a company’s performance, it should not be left to chance. It can and should be crafted and nurtured in ways that reflect a company’s needs, hopes, aspirations and goals.
An organization’s culture refers to the values, beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact, perform and conduct their business. Companies spend a lot of time and effort creating a culture, and yet it is often not as good or robust as it could be, which is a shame because it affects employee hiring and retention, employee and customer satisfaction, performance and productivity, business results and public perceptions.
Workplace culture is important because it gives employees something to believe in, to feel good about and to base their loyalty on. When an organization’s culture is good, employees want to be employed there and remain there. When it is not, it diminishes that attraction and employees’ interest in doing their best.
At its most basic level, a sound workplace culture is manifested in the service that employees provide to a casino’s guests. A good culture
can be manifested in ways that are simple, as in employees offering guests a sincere welcome, wishing them good luck and thanking them for their patronage. A good culture makes guests feel appreciated. In addition to guest service, it can have a profound effect on many other aspects of the business.
Whether one likes it or not, applicants are attuned to the buzz that exists about companies. If that buzz is good, they are apt to apply for a job or wait for the right opportunity to leave their current employer. If it is bad, they stay away.
Much of the information that creates this buzz comes from current employees. If they are happy, it shows in their faces and actions when working and, since many applicants may also be guests of the casino, they notice this on the gaming floor, in the restaurants, and at the hotel. They also can see if the property is understaffed. That too is a sign of a casino’s culture, and the impact it has on current employees and job applicants can be significant.
Everybody today is talking about the Great Resignation, or Quiet Quitting, or any of the other employment issues that have arisen since the end of Covid shutdowns.
While it is understandable that many companies had to lay off employees at the start of the pandemic, how they did that, what communications they put out before, during, and after those layoffs and how (or if) they called employees back to work had a great deal to do with how employees perceived management’s commitment to psychological security, trust and other issues reflective of their culture.
A casino may conduct employee attitude surveys, but their guests and competitors can assess those attitudes directly by how employees talk and react to them. Good or bad, these reflect the impact of culture on employee satisfaction, behavior and performance.
Workplace culture is on full display not just to guests and job applicants, but also to vendors and even investors. It is all tied to the company’s beliefs and practices, which again, are all over the faces and actions of their staff. But all of this is obvious if an organization is attuned to its employees.
Two practices can better align your actions with the needs of your employees and have a direct impact on your company’s culture:
Servant leadership is a personal leadership philosophy built on the belief that the most effective leaders strive to serve others, rather than accrue power or take control. Servant leaders put their employees’ interests and needs ahead of their own. With a traditional leadership approach, the leader encourages people to do their jobs by providing them with guidance, direction and motivation. A servant leader focuses on the people that work for them, rather than the company as a whole. The emphasis is on effectiveness, doing the right things and not just being right. When your people feel valued, they value what they do.
Many companies say that “employees are our most important asset.” In the post-Covid era, employees are looking for the substance behind that boast, and it can be found in management’s practices and the company’s culture. Emotionally intelligent leaders are aware of the things that affect them and their employees, and empathetic to the issues that impact their employees. This creates trust and respect, the kinds of things that influence
whether employees like their work, their supervisors and the work they do. Servant leaders tend to be emotionally intelligent.
The casino industry is replete with examples of great organizational culture. Many can be found in Las Vegas as well as in Native American casinos. Their organizational cultures were created by their founders and passed on to future generations of leaders.
Sam Boyd, Bill Harrah and Wilbur Clark (Desert Inn) were iconic figures whose personalities and beliefs served as the foundation for their respective corporate cultures. They were soon followed by other charismatic leaders such as Jackie Gaughan (El Cortez and Union Plaza), Claudine Williams (Harrah’s), Henry Lewin (Las Vegas Hilton and Sands), Benny Binion (Horseshoe) and Steve Wynn, founder of Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts.
Today, Frank Fertitta III and Derek Stevens are making their mark on their businesses that reflect their personal beliefs. They, and the great casino operators that preceded them, are all larger-than-life figures whose business and personal identities are so intertwined that employees often refer to working for them rather than the businesses they owned. These leaders were always on the floor, talking to employees and guests, and they never hesitated to share their personal thoughts about their success and the success of their businesses.
There is no confusion about what was important to these great leaders—they were the first ones to pick something up off the floor or extend a smile and handshake to guests and employees alike. Their organizational cultures were based on the way they lived their lives, and people enjoyed being part of that.
Great workplace cultures can also be found in many of the restaurant brands that are now found in casinos. Sirio Maccioni, founder of Le Cirque, who opened an outpost at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, embodied the idea of culinary culture and style. Employees in his restaurants were more than servers, bartenders, and cooks—they were professionals inspired to be better by the style and beliefs of the Maccioni family.
There are so many other celebrity restaurateurs and chefs (too many to name for fear of inadvertently leaving one out) who added their ideals and beliefs to Las Vegas—they spawned a whole new era in culinary excellence that added to the city’s uniqueness. Their success in turn spread to other gaming markets and their celebrity restaurant brands can now be found in casinos across the world.
Native American casinos often bring their tribal culture to their gaming enterprises. Reflective of their rich history, the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho is a great example of leveraging a tribal culture of hospitality to inspire the culture of all of their enterprises. Others include the San
When your people feel valued, they value what they do.
Servant leadership is a personal leadership philosophy built on the belief that the most effective leaders strive to serve others, rather than accrue power or take control. Servant leaders put their employees’ interests and needs ahead of their own.
Manuel Tribe, operators of Yaamava’ Resort and Casino at San Manuel in Southern California and the Palms in Las Vegas, and the Mohegan Tribe, operators of multiple casinos in the United States including its flagship Mohegan Sun Casino Resort in Connecticut, to name but a few. Their tribal cultures are instilled in their casino businesses and employees.
The challenge for any casino operator is to integrate their business strategies and core beliefs into the company’s workplace culture.
Whether developed organically or not, workplace culture should be crafted and internally marketed carefully and effectively, much like marketing plans and public relations strategies.
There are basic steps that any casino operator can implement:
First, have your leadership team develop mission and vision statements that reflect what the company does (its mission) and where it aspires to be in the future (its vision). Add to these the values leadership collectively believes in and lives by.
This is not an easy task, so one should consider taking the leadership team away from the property for a few days to work on them. Make sure everyone participates and takes ownership of the final statements, and that they are aligned when releasing and supporting them. Perhaps what is most important is that leadership must truly believe in the company’s mission, its vision and its core values. If not, developing a sound workplace culture will fail.
After that much effort, leadership needs to develop a plan to put them to use rather than have them relegated (as often happens) to a shelf in the office, there to remain out of sight and out of mind. Worse still, painting the organization’s mission, vision and values on the walls of the employee dining room without leadership believing and living them every day will only harbor resentment and cynicism from employees.
Next, have your human resource and marketing departments collaborate to define and graphically display the company’s mission, vision and value, and include them throughout the employment life cycle in the same style and manner that a casino designs the marketing pieces it sends to its guests. Include the statements and values appropriately in job postings, job offer letters, new-hire orientation materials and every other announcement or correspondence that is shared with employees. This way, the company’s mission, vision and values come to life in everything you do throughout someone’s connection with your company, and they are never out of sight nor out of mind.
And finally, teach your managers and supervisors the roles they play and the responsibilities they have for keeping the mission, vision and values alive in the company’s culture. It should become more than just a poster on the wall.
Culture is way too important to leave to chance. It should be honest and simple—not contrived. And it should be the basis for the relationships your employees have with your company, their colleagues, and your guests. Done right, it is a powerful recruitment and retention tool, and powers your employee relations and guest services. Left on its own, it too often becomes unfocused and ineffective. If your employees are indeed your most important asset, treat them and organize them in ways to maximize their impact on your company’s overall performance and success.
Arte Nathan is president of Strategic Development Worldwide (sdwnet.com). Previously, he was chief human resources officer at Wynn Resorts and opened all the company’s properties in North America and Asia.
Andrew Klebanow is co-founder and a partner at Casino Consultants Consortium (C3 Gaming). He has worked in the casino industry since 1977 and as a gaming consultant since 2000. He can be reached at andrew@C3GamingGroup.com.
First, have your leadership team develop mission and vision statements that reflect what the company does (its mission) and where it aspires to be in the future (its vision). Add to these the values leadership collectively believes in and lives by.
Culture is way too important to leave to chance.
Afar-reaching industry like gaming can attract high-achieving professionals from a diverse set of career paths. Some professionals arrive in gaming when they are already well on their way through their professional lives while others are attracted to the industry before their careers even start.
For Ryan Loveland and his career path, it was the latter route that brought him to gaming.
Loveland, the chief financial officer at Laguna Development Corporation, was exposed to the industry when he was still young. “The gaming industry appealed to me at an early age,” explains Loveland. “My family has ties to thoroughbred horse racing, which has its own unique flavor of excitement, and I think that sparked my initial interest.”
With his family piquing his interest in the industry, Loveland credits a mentor with setting him up for success as he pursued a career in public accounting with a focus on gaming.
“Brandon Valentini took me under his wing and taught me quite a bit about the unique accounting and financial nuances in gaming,” says Loveland. “The world of public accounting is challenging, but the enjoyment of serving gaming clients, specifically tribal gaming enterprises, established a strong skill set that would later prepare me for an executive leadership role as a CFO.”
Recognizing that Loveland has reached the C-suite of a leading tribal development corporation, it’s not surprising that he finds enjoyment working in a competitive market.
“It is rewarding to contribute to some financial planning and strategy aimed at maintaining and growing market share,” he says. “My role as CFO requires a great deal of attention and care to financial reporting, internal controls, and compliance rooted in the previous month, quarter, or year.
“I often have to pull myself out of that thought process and devote focus to more forward-thinking planning and collaboration with the executive team.”
Looking back at his career to date, Loveland is most proud of having the opportunity to serve and contribute to the economic prosperity of the Pueblo of Laguna Tribe. “The president/CEO, the COO, and our board who I am proud to serve with, have been working hard to establish strong lines of communication and trust with tribal leadership,” explains Loveland.
“I get to play an active role in responsibly managing the company’s finances and ensuring the shareholder, the Pueblo of Laguna, shares in the success of the company, which directly enhances their ability to provide essential government services for their community.”
For young professionals in the early innings of their careers in gaming, Loveland challenges them to embrace diversity within the industry.
“Embrace the diversity of the industry and the people who serve it, diversity in peoples’ backgrounds and talents, as well as the wide skill set needed to succeed in gaming. The career path can appear daunting as you uncover that it requires an understanding of so many different areas, but it takes an open mind and willingness to collaborate across departments to be successful.”
—Mike Vanaskie is senior vice president and partner at The Innovation Group.
Jordan Whitten, director of slot analytics for MGM Resorts International, was unsure what career path he was going to take after earning his MBA from Mississippi State in 2011. Having returned home to Memphis in the midst of the recovery from the Great Recession, Whitten applied everywhere, submitting over 200 job applications and going to many interviews that went nowhere.
Whitten took a break from job applications, moving to Washington, D.C. to intern for a Mississippi senator. After returning to Memphis with as much direction as he had before D.C., Whitten looked three hours south to Greenville, Mississippi, where Harlow’s Casino Resort was searching for a manager trainee, thus beginning his career in gaming. Today, Whitten calls himself “lucky” to be given a chance in the industry, one that he has loved ever since.
Previously, Whitten had never considered the casino industry, as he had only been in a casino once in his life. However, he saw the opportunity as a new option and took it with an open mind. At Harlow’s, Whitten did everything possible to learn the operation.
As it was a smaller property, he offered to help out wherever he could, committing significant time and asking questions. He states, “At my first property, I constantly volunteered to work marketing events and to stay late sitting in on meetings to learn. I have continued this across multiple jobs to help get exposure to new people as well as be in positions to ask questions and learn new things.”
Whitten, throughout his career, credits his abil-
ity to ask questions, absorb every detail, and put in extra time as traits that have helped differentiate and advance him.
Whitten’s experience in slot analytics at Harlow’s jump-started his love for slots, but he craved living somewhere new. Whitten moved to Reno, taking a job in the slot technical department, where he learned about the machines that he, as he puts it, “is obsessed with.”
His stay in Reno was short-lived, as he took a position running the slot department for the Jacobs Entertainment casinos in Colorado, where he met one of his most important mentors, Ara Telian. From Telian, Whitten learned how to “be a little more laid back and a little less stressed… and let things come to you in how you interact with other people.”
Adopting these traits, combined with his already existing ability to absorb new information, Whitten continued to prosper in the industry.
After his stint in Colorado, Whitten joined VizExplorer, a slot, marketing and player development business intelligence firm, working with slot and marketing analytics, a move he credits as having the largest impact on his career.
To this point, he had exposure to a few smaller operations and did not have a large network of people that he could lean on. Whitten says his time at VizExplorer “allowed me to travel all over the world meeting casino operators of all shapes and sizes. I leveraged these meetings to learn all kinds of new theories around successful gaming operations as well as build a network of individuals that I could bounce ideas off of down the line.”
Whitten has carried these new perspectives and ideas with him as he has continued to grow within the industry.
Whitten eventually found his way back to Las Vegas, joining MGM Resorts International as the director of slot analytics, where he oversees the analytics team and works with all 15 domestic MGM properties. He is an advocate for the company’s mentorship program, which he has actively participated in since joining.
Whitten encourages those in the program to put in extra time and ask a lot of questions, as he has. He points out, “You get paid for doing what you are supposed to do, (but) you get promoted by doing more.”
From his experience, he urges young professionals to get involved, gain exposure to the operations, and take on new challenges. These tips led to Whitten’s discovery of his love for slots and his advancement through his career, and he emboldens others to do the same.—Alex Goldstein is an analyst for The Innovation Group
Before he graduated from New Jersey’s Stockton University with a B.S. in finance, Brian Kraft spent more than seven years earning a living playing poker, much of it online. A Northfield, New Jersey native, his proximity to Atlantic City didn’t hurt his avocation.
“I started playing poker with friends for fun in 2002/2003,” Kraft says. “I quickly became infatuated with No Limit Texas Hold ’em and began reading poker books like Doyle Brunson’s Super System and Phil Hellmuth’s Play Poker Like thePros.”
No Limit Texas Hold ’em expanded in popularity into the mid 2000s. By 2004, Kraft played poker full time.
“I certainly never set out to play poker professionally; it just kind of developed on its own,” he says. “But that experience certainly helped to shape my career and life.”
The Justice Department brought the hammer down on online gaming sites, including seizing PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, two of the core sites Kraft made a living from. He shifted to live poker at Borgata, but after graduation pivoted to finance.
“Poker taught me patience, calculated risk-taking and one of my favorite lessons: focusing on the process of decision-making, rather than the outcome itself,” he says. “A strong process will eventually lead to the desired results.”
At Caesars Entertainment in Atlantic City, Kraft worked as a marketing and financial analyst for little more than a year, then moved out of the gaming sphere as a financial analyst with Inspira Health. In 2014, Kraft hooked up with Amaya Gaming as a risk analyst and later with NYX Gaming Group Ltd. After moving up to different positions, he joined NetEnt in 2018, where he rose to vice president commercial, Americas.
Most recently, Kraft served as head of business development for Evolution Group North America, where he oversaw commercial decision-making across the U.S. and Canada.
“In this role I established and maintained trusting relationships with the largest online gaming operators in North America and ensured those partnerships were driving strong revenue,” he says.
One thing Kraft was never short of were mentors—beginning with Kevin Winters, who brought him onboard at Caesars after learning his background included playing poker. “Kevin taught me how to think about casino gaming in terms of analytics and was an infectious leader,” he says.
Hamish Brown served as COO for NYX Gaming Group during Kraft’s time there.
“Hamish was a tremendous leader and mentor that entrusted me in my first management role,” he says. “More recently, Erik Nyman, former managing director for NetEnt, Andy Whitworth, former CCO for NetEnt Group, and Gavin Hamilton, former CEO for Red Tiger, helped shape my career.”
Under Evolution, Kraft collaborated with and learned from Todd Haushalter, who really has an original way to think about product and business. “Todd’s great work speaks for itself. I’d like to personally thank all of the mentors that have helped me along the way. You’re appreciated.”
As states roll out sports betting, and to a lesser degree online casinos, the industry will continue to evolve. Indeed, Kraft moved on in late February to Rush Street Interactive, where he serves as vice president, commercial.
“I’d expect another handful of states to launch online casino over the next half decade, and a market value exceeding $10 billion in U.S. GGR by the time we approach 2030. Poker will have a bit of a renaissance as states form compacts to share player pools, thus adding to the liquidity drawing players in with large tournament pools.”
As for future financial analysts, Kraft as a simple word of wisdom.
“Excel will be your best friend—learn it early and keep a standard format of how you run your analyses.”—Bill Sokolic
For several years, cashless payment systems have been a staple of conversation in and around gaming, and have long been considered to be the next evolution of the user experience for both retail and online operators.
The majority of those discussions, however, have been just that— vague and speculative talks about what the technology will look like down the road, rather than the current reality for most companies and properties. But that’s not for lack of trying. Regulators and providers have collaborated on the topic for years; it’s just that the process of crafting and enforcing sensible and secure guidelines for any new technology takes time, especially for an industry that prides itself on doing things the right way, the first time.
Cashless providers may lament the fact that gaming has not caught up with most other retail industries with regards to payment processing, but they also recognize that the opportunity is there for those patient enough to see it come to fruition. This is especially true with the rapid expansion of all three pillars of the U.S. gaming industry—land-based casinos, mobile sports betting and iGaming.
Of course, the variation between states inevitably makes it difficult for large-scale adoption and implementation of cashless technologies, but by and large, it feels as though the general tone of the conversation has shifted from hesitant and cautious to willing and responsive. The last thing to do now is put pen to paper.
The Covid-19 pandemic was, and in many ways still is, an inflection point for the gaming industry at large. The cratering and subsequent resurgence of revenues is a good indicator of this phenomenon, but for cashless companies, the sudden abhorrence of cash was an undeniable and unforeseen boost to the sector’s regulatory efforts, which were not necessarily gaining momentum before the spring of 2020.
For Omer Sattar, co-founder and co-CEO of Sightline Payments, the conversation around cashless and the belief in its adoption have been influenced by three key factors in recent years: 1) the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which showed state officials that “the backbone of a successful online sports betting market was the ability for customers to deposit and
withdraw money using digital payment methods;” 2) endorsement of cashless by leading organizations such as the American Gaming Association (AGA); and 3) “consumer trends away from cash due to and through the pandemic,” which greatly “accelerated regulator interest in cashless.”
Sattar notes that the latter changed regulators’ perception to the extent that they now “increasingly view cashless as inevitable, and as a result, we’ve worked closely with them to help educate them on payments and how to implement a safe and seamless customer experience.”
And of course, despite what operators may sometimes think, regulators are people too, and taking a cautious approach is inherently part of the job. One of the difficulties of cashless, however, is that it is fundamentally not a gaming-related technology, which in turn raises more red flags than other advancements.
In recent decades, Pennsylvania has emerged as one of the premier gaming markets in the U.S., and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has had to work hard to stay abreast of all the moving pieces that must work in tandem to facilitate optimal cashless play.
“Without a doubt, Covid-19 accelerated the move toward cashless and
contactless payment technology in the gaming industry as casinos reopened in July 2020 after a four-month closure,” the PGCB said in a joint statement to GGB.
“Casino operators were responding to customer demand to eliminate the need to handle cash and player rewards cards at slot machines, table games, ticket redemption machines and the cage. For a variety of reasons including health and safety concerns of patrons and employees and a huge shift toward digital payments everywhere from drive-through lanes to parking meters, we understood the importance of allowing cashless wagering as another option for patrons to fund their gaming experience.”
For younger patrons, cashless and contactless payments have become increasingly commonplace outside of gaming, and they’ve grown accustomed to the speed and convenience of the technology. Thus, as the board says, “we anticipate the adoption of cashless gaming will continue to grow.”
As we transition further away from the eye of the Covid storm, however, providers want to keep momentum going for as long as possible. Everi Holdings, due to its unique arsenal of offerings which includes cashless technologies as well as games, is well accustomed to regulatory dialogue, and similarly to Sightline, it has seen this relationship improve greatly in recent years.
According to Victor Newsom, senior vice president of product management, payment solutions for Everi, the process between the two sides has “gotten more collaborative,” and officials have become much more interested in “how these technologies can meet the needs of their constituents as well as remain compliant.”
That said, Newsom also cautions that “as the novelty of the pandemic and the crisis kind of fades, there’s a temptation to go back to business as usual and not finish what we started in some cases. While it was a galvanizing force, it’s not a long-term driver of change. I think it just got the ball rolling.”
As mentioned previously, cashless technologies represent a unique challenge for regulators due to their complex nature—there are more safeguards to put in place and more boxes to check than nearly any other gaming-related innovation that’s come to market in recent decades. While jurisdictions may vary in terms of their desires and expectations, they all must ensure that patrons are able to safely move their money from Point A to Point B and back again, and that licensees remain compliant with antimoney laundering (AML) guidelines, which have long been a staple of all commercial gaming markets.
“Ensuring that the solutions are compliant with federal AML laws remains a priority for all regulators,” explains Christopher Justice, president of Global Payments Gaming Solutions. “In particular, gaming institutions must comply with Title 31 of the Bank Secrecy Act or risk costly fines. The increase of cashless and mobile gaming has also increased awareness around fraud and security issues.”
To help combat these issues, providers such as Global Payments need to be as transparent as possible—Justice says that the company’s VIP Shield offering comes complete with a flurry of acronyms to help keep track of transactions, including “Multiple Transaction Log (MTL), Negotiable Instrument Log (NIL), Monetary Instrument Log (MIL) and chip log transactions, as well as Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR).”
Even though physical cash has seemingly become embedded into the ethos of the land-based casino experience, the fact remains that cashless is miles better in terms of visibility and traceability. And for gaming to expand into new markets and be successful long-term, security will have to be top-of-mind for all involved.
“Payments are complicated,” says Sattar. “Consumers do not see this, but moving your money has a lot of steps involved. I like to say that customers have never cared and will never care about payments—they just expect it to work. But for a regulator, they need to know about the movement of funds and who controls them at any given stage in the process. And we’ve spent a lot of time educating them about that to help them get more comfortable with the process—and most importantly, understand that the process is safe and secure.”
In addition to the laundry list of protections that must be put in place on the operator’s side, regulators must also concern themselves with responsible gaming initiatives, as things like loss and deposit limits and exclusionary lists become more commonplace not just in the U.S., but around the world. Thankfully, today’s cashless providers understand these concerns, and have implemented the technologies necessary to promote responsible gaming like never before.
Per the PGCB, the ability to implement various limits “is key to responsible gaming.” The board says that with regard to cashless, it requires “self-limit tools that are very similar to what we have in iGaming,” in the sense that “patrons can set deposit and spending limits and track their spending by viewing their transaction history just like they would review their bank statement.”
Before the technology even reaches the floor, however, it must undergo strict testing via third-party labs as well as the board’s in-house gaming lab. Then, each property must run a trial testing period “to ensure
“We understood the importance of allowing cashless wagering as another option for patrons to fund their gaming experience.”
—Omer Sattar, Co-founder and Co-CEO, Sightline Payments
the cashless wagering system works under the stress of live gaming.”
For Justice and Global Payments, cashless is “simple and readily accessible to allow a patron to gamble responsibly and efficiently,” and it encourages guests to “play responsibly to build and support the integrity and sustainability of the gaming industry,” thanks in part to benefits like “preset spending limits, cooling-off periods, voluntary exclusion,” and more.
Although much work has been done, there’s still a long way to go for both sides before cashless becomes the industry standard that most believe it will be at some point in the future.
Sattar notes that uniformity for cashless providers from a regulatory perspective is the first step in the right direction.
“In many markets, licensing does not even consider payments and payments companies,” he says. “Now, we want to be licensed. We want to be regulated. But in some markets, Sightline is a vendor, others a supplier, others a payments registration. It stifles market innovation by not having a consistent definition for payments companies and certainly restricts new entrants in many jurisdictions. We’ll continue to work with regulators on
gaining consistency as this market continues to grow.”
Additionally, the lack of physical presence and interaction when signing up or registering for cashless accounts has been a sticking point that is slowly starting to iron itself out.
Justice applauds the Nevada Gaming Commission’s (NGC) decision in January 2022 to update its regulations “to allow patrons to remotely establish and fund cashless gaming balances without being on the casino floor,” which he describes as “a huge step for casinos and patrons alike because it proved the value that cashless technology has for the gaming industry.”
It is vitally important, he says, for “cashless technology to seamlessly integrate into the casinos’ existing management systems without requiring a total overhaul of their existing infrastructure,” and the NGC’s ruling represents a “massive” step forward.
Similarly, Newsom points out that there is an inherent assumption that “there’s always a casino employee involved in the transaction,” which is not always the case. Instead, he asserts that one of the key reasons for Everi’s growth in the sector is its “tremendous technological capabilities” for facilitating easier enrollment.
“I can go put a driver’s license into a Veridocs scanner and prove it’s a legitimate driver’s license,” says Newsom. “I can have my Everi camera take a picture of my face, use facial recognition to match it to the driver’s license, and I could then say that I believe that this is a human equivalent process. But the assumption that there’s a casino employee or a casino employee-like behavior is in many cases becoming a gating problem to all the downstream benefits of a fully cashless, omnichannel operation in jurisdictions unwilling to change.”
Gripes aside, the PGCB reminds us that going from implementation to widespread adoption takes time, and does not solely fall on regulators’ shoulders. In a lot of ways, consumers themselves have to be willing to change as well, and they also have to trust that the technologies made available to them have been vetted properly. Competition among providers will also have a say in what products are successful long-term.
“Cashless gaming is still very new and similar to TITO tickets that were introduced in 1992 but not widely adopted until the early 2000s,” says the board. “We anticipate that as patrons get better acclimated to the digital payment world and cashless gaming, the adoption rate will continue to increase. As with most new technology products, consumers are wary until they understand how the product works and learn the benefits they can obtain from using the product.”
Cashless technologies represent a unique challenge for regulators due to their complex nature—there are more safeguards to put in place and more boxes to check than nearly any other gaming-related innovation that’s come to market in recent decades.
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In the casino world, all that glitters is gold. Especially when it comes to gifting.
Psychological bells and whistles accent this significant industry realm in the age of hyper casino access. Technology bringing record gambling availability to patrons’ fingertips raises the stakes of customer retention. Gamblers literally hold a casino in the palm of their hand when wagering via their phones.
Casinos catering to that dynamic compete amid the abundance of information, and new offers. They need initiatives to rise above the level of loyalty points, small discounts and other gestures that quickly evaporate. Something has to last, to be held, and be valued enough to cut across the online and brick-and-mortar worlds. It must target a player’s sense of importance.
That gesture must say thank you in grand form, reflecting thought, pampering and the personal touch. Casinos that master this subtlety can walk the
tightrope between customer appreciation and spend.
Operators can do nothing about competitors targeting their customers. But properties can invest in the emotional enrichment of their players. This pays dividends.
Patrick Papaccio, CEO of Imagine This, believes his company has a component to embrace and anticipate market conditions. Imagine This launched the first weekly Continuity Gift Program, accompanied by analysis to measure its performance, in 2004.
The program has accompanied the industry through several gifting eras, ranging from birthday, VIP, grand opening and anniversary offerings to the age of simply staying on a customer’s radar.
“Over the last decade, the power of the weekly Continuity Gift Program
has continued to increase in popularity,” Papaccio says. “In the last four to five years, this program has gained momentum, and is now discussed on various conference panels.
“There are a variety of ways properties run this program,” he adds. “We estimate that over 90 percent of properties will be engaged in weekly gifting by 2030. Why? Instant gratification and tangible merchandise drive significant participation levels ranging from 15 percent to 30 percent nationally. These participation levels coupled with the incremental trips generated make what our clients say is their No. 1 promotion.”
Papaccio says it’s not a particular product, but a program and mindset provided by his company that help operators drive customer engagement. The program sparks incremental trips from any property’s best players, yielding higher revenue and profit, he asserts. He says high-perceived-value free-gift offers to qualified players motivate players to come to the property.
“We call it couch marketing,” he says. “Motivate the players to get off the couch and come in. Player cards are used to redeem and play in order to receive future offers. Data is obtained to measure many areas of the program to make decisions on how to improve results and manage expense.”
A wide variety of gift categories is used for these promotions, he indicates. Top performers include household goods like luggage, bedding, small appliances, jewelry, cookware, apparel, handbags, wellness, textiles like robes and blankets, and bakeware.
The industry has incorporated a nuance into gift deployment. It once appeared cut and dry: award patrons in tiers, providing the nicest gifts for those who spent the most, just as an airline rewards status for frequent flyers. But that’s been changing.
“Tiered gifts were popular 10 years ago, but the logistics involved plus being stuck with surplus make a tiered gift program more complicated,” he says. “Imagine This has measured tiered programs versus a high-perceivedvalue collectible set of goods, and the participation levels are surprisingly equivalent across all levels. The ease of a single gift per week makes the promotion logistics much easier.”
How that gift is used becomes important. Papaccio indicates that over 30 percent of the players who redeem gifts end up re-gifting them. That’s why non-logo products are the key to Continuity Gift items outperforming decorative and/or themed items.
The burgeoning online world has contributed its share of benefits and logistical quandaries. In the last two years, due to labor shortages, online gifting companies have sprung up to offer drop shipping of gifts, he says. And some drop the ball.
“You can imagine the calls,” he says. “Package didn’t arrive. Package was damaged. Package was delivered to the wrong or my old address. The other issue is that online drop ship gifting is offered by companies that don’t have actual inventory where they can manage and adjust quantities as needed.
They rely on third-party suppliers selling their products on Amazon and other drop ship sources.”
Because of this, the amount of available product in a certain style and cost category often shifts during the promotion due to lack of ample inventory from the sellers. That creates confusion and extra work for the property marketing and purchasing teams, he adds.
“These are the reasons we’re seeing many of these properties revert back to in-person redemption, where instant gratification has a greater response rate,” he says.
Jay Bertsch, senior vice president and chief commercial officer for Konami Gaming, says the company has evolved into a strong gifting position. Konami listened to what the industry wanted in this emerging realm and responded, he says.
“When Konami Gaming was in its early years, we heard a lot of casinos talk about the need for more data-driven, targeted, and configurable player rewards and incentives,” Bertsch indicates. “Casinos wanted to digitally deploy rewards campaigns through the patron tracking system, in ways that were appropriate to patron historical spend and relevant to their preferred activities.
“From this, Konami launched an industry-leading marketing tool kit
through its Synkros casino management system. And for years since, casinos across the globe have used Synkros to send digital rewards, offers and incentives to players, directly through the system.”
Specific to rewards and incentives, Synkros has the practical convenience to transform awards from blanket promotions into a life cycle of personalized engagement based on direct input from patrons, according to Bertsch. Because offers are based on targeted player activity and preferences, operators can optimize awards to motivate key actions and behaviors.
“Whether the goal is increased visitation, share of wallet, carded play or market share, Synkros gives operators the tools to drive targeted player behaviors, while rewarding players in a life cycle of customer engagement with offers that the player actually wants based on preferences,” he adds.
Bertsch says rewards should be targeted, indicating a company’s knowledge of its customers. Gifting should be appropriate to the guests’ preferred activities and spend. “A patron who prefers table games probably isn’t going to get a sense of loyalty or reward from repeated awards and offers for bingo,” he asserts, “and a patron you regularly find in the high-limit room is probably going to want rewards that reflect a higher volume of spend.
“By leveraging the analytics in Synkros Advanced Incentives, operators have the data to deploy targeted awards and offers to targeted player demographics. This allows players to connect and engage with property promotions
that are relevant to their carded activity.”
This has grown to include the online world. The Synkros casino management system offers a robust, real-time interface for operators to treat online players the same way they treat those who visit their land-based properties.
“This allows casinos with both land-based and online operations to create a single view of the player by accessing a single player loyalty account and payment processing cash wallet account, tracking play, managing loyalty point earnings and redemptions, and enabling targeted rewards and incentives,” he indicates.
“For example, through a robust integration layer, online players and casino players can link their loyalty accounts and cashless funding accounts to be used either online or at the casino. The operator can then track, analyze, and reward that player based upon their behavior and total spend. Rewards can be delivered via Synkros and can be redeemed online or in the land-based casino.”
Paul Gordon, senior vice president of sales for Rymax, says companies service a public with a growing appetite. The desire for players to be rewarded has grown as casinos expand to new states and within existing ones. Customers see more options, more competition and an increased sense of value they want operators to reward.
“The change that has happened over the past decade is that the player is more savvy about the quality of the gift and has higher brand awareness due to available information via social media,” Gordon says. “The days of off-brand and ‘tchotchke’ products are no longer desirable. Players are part of a community and want to be recognized for their loyalty and share their experience.
“That is why products are much more impactful than free play, as it delivers a trophy value and a residual impact. In its most basic example, if you received a nice watch as a gift from the casino, as long as you wear that watch you will associate the good feeling towards the casino.
“Get the same value in free play and the recipient will not only forget about it but in many cases will not have much to show for it. The era of player loyalty is growing, and our challenge as a marketing partner is to continue to provide products that are in demand and constantly update our product assortment.”
Gordon says Rymax is eclectic in its product portfolio and how it delivers its programs. The company’s web capabilities allow it to customize the site by client and provide them with analytics on redemptions and trends.
This arms Rymax clients with marketing insight that improves their bottom line from a budgeting standpoint.
“It also gives them a historical context for what drives redemptions and increases traffic and coin-in,” Gordon says. “Because we are in all different types of business verticals across the country, we have a consultative perspective on re-
demption trends that helps our casino clients make decisions.”
Gordon indicates that thepsychology behind player loyalty gifts is to initiate trial and to increase frequency of play. This has become increasingly significant as the next frontier of gaming emerges via online betting.
“Today, the initiation of trial is primarily in the form of free play, which can easily be countered by the competition and does not build long-term loyalty,” he says. “Having a product gift component parallels the successful casino programs and creates differentiation by website.
“For all casino loyalty programs, we stress a strategy of segmentation and concentration. Do not have a ‘one size fits all’ approach, since the level of play and the demographic of the players necessitate the need for different rewards.”
Indeed, many sizes fit all. Gifts that resonate with players are primarily in three major categories, Gordon indicates:
• Home cookware, tools, appliances
In today’s economy the player is interested more on their need than their desire, says Gordon.
“Money is tight and inflation is high, so people are driven by products that they need,” he says. “There also is an element of re-gifting, so we should not make decisions in a vacuum when we consider the product reward. Seasonality
May 21, 1964 — January 30, 2023
It is with a heavy heart that the family of Casino Connection and GlobalGamingBusiness magazine bring news of the death of our web director, Rob Rossiello. He died suddenly in the early morning hours of January 30 nearby the love of his life, Laura Chinnis.
Rob joined Casino Connection almost 20 years ago where he served as the art director for Casino ConnectionAtlanticCity. When the Atlantic City magazine folded, he transitioned into the web director for GGB and its related websites and publications with little experience. It was during this time that Rob really stepped out of his comfort zone and learned all he could about the web and its increasing value to this industry. Rob's dedication to his tasks was unmatched. He wouldn't rest until he was completely satisfied with the outcome of the projects he was working on.
comes in play, and we always encourage our clients to tie in their gifts with important cultural happenings such as big sporting events, entertainment award season and cause-related months.”
Employee programs to help recruit, train and retain employees are also important in today’s environment, he contends. In the casino industry, the need to “upsell” at check-in and to drive other services for revenue plays in to the need for an employee recognition program.
Gordon says Rymax sees tremendous growth with clients that view an employee recognition program as a key element for the health of the organization.
Gifting in the casino world is one method by which the industry can also be a community visionary, Gordon says. “The casino industry has a very positive impact on society as it creates jobs, revitalizes cities and helps the community in education and infrastructure through its tax contribution,” he says.
“The industry needs to tell that story better, as some people look at the industry in a less favorable light. Those of us in this industry should be proud of what this industry delivers. And as the industry grows, it is important to contribute to its past success and lay the foundation for continued growth.”
Throughout the industry, this is quite a realm. Everything in business is calculated at a price. But the reward for making someone feel important is priceless.
Rob lived life immersed in art and music, surrounded by many close friends and family. He lived In Ventnor, New Jersey near Atlantic City for over 20 years until recently moving to Pennsylvania to be closer to his family. During his last years in Atlantic City, he participated in the “48 Blocks” project that erected pieces of art, paintings and murals around the city. He truly loved to give back to the arts in his community. He will be missed by all of us at GGB, not only as a trusted and loyal colleague but as a true friend. We offer his family and friends our deepest condolences during this most difficult time.
This game on Light & Wonder’s giant Mural cabinet combines a persistent cascading feature with both spinning wheel and free-game bonus events.
The base game is a five-reel video slot available to casinos in five-line, 10-line or 25-line configurations. The fiveline version applies to the highest denominations, $1 and $2. The more common penny version is a 25-line game.
The distinguishing feature of this game is a persistent event that plays out on a reel array that can expand up to eight rows of symbols, called the “Coin String Feature.” If a player lands a coin symbol inside a ring of fire, it pays a cashon-reels award for that coin and any coin above it on the reels. The reels then cascade downward, repeating the payoffs for any fire-ring coins until none appear on the reels.
This new slot series on Aruze’s oversized Muso-55 cabinet features unique free-game and hold-andspin sequences. There are two inaugural base games, Firestorm Lion and Firestorm Bull.
The base game is a five-reel, 50-line video slot. During the primary game, a “WIN” symbol appearing on the reels changes to one of 15 different symbols. If several WIN symbols appear on one spin, they all change to the same symbol for potential big wins.
Manufacturer: Aruze Gaming
Manufacturer: Light & Wonder
Format: Five-reel, five-line, 10-line or 25-line video slot
Max Bet: 150, 240, 600
Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10, 1.00, 2.00
Top Award: Progressive; $2,000 reset
Hit Frequency: 26.07%
Theoretical Hold: 6.04%-12.99%
Triggering symbols activate a two-level bonus wheel. The double wheels spin, and the outer wheel lands on a free-game number while the inner wheel indicates the height of the reels for the free-spin round, up to 10 rows of symbols. Ringed coin symbols stay in place for the duration of the free games, for multiple pays as more coin strings appear. The wheel can also award one of four jackpots— static awards on the penny version of $25 (Mini) and $50 (Minor), and progressives resetting at $500 (Major) and $2,000 (Super).
Format: Five-reel, 50-line video slot
Max Bet: 75-975
Top Award: Progressive; available resets ranging from $5,000 to $100,000
Hit Frequency: Approximately 35%
Theoretical Hold: 7.8%-14.61%
There are two main bonus events. A scatter symbol on three or more consecutive reels (beginning with the leftmost reel) triggers the free game feature. A number then appears on each of the triggering symbols; the numbers add up to the number of free spins awarded—numbers from one to 10, for a free-spin round from three to 50 spins.
Six or more gold or purple fireball symbols trigger the main Rising Fire bonus event. This is a hold-and-re-spin event that starts with three free games. The triggering symbols are held in place during the re-spins, and any additional fireballs lock in place and set the free spins back to three. The feature continues until no free spins remain or the entire four-by-five reel array is covered with gold fireball symbols. That triggers the top jackpot.
Each fireball returns a credit award or one of four jackpots, with static prizes of $10 (Mini) and $50 (minor), and progressives resetting at $1,000
(Major) and $5,000 (Grand). Alternate versions of the game feature higher Major and Grand jackpots, the top available prizes resetting at $10,000 and $100,000, respectively. The jackpots also can be won through line combinations.
The purple fireball symbols unlock additional rows in the reel array—up to a sevenrow reel set. Numbers at the right of the screen indicate the thresholds of purple fireball symbols needed to unlock each row. Unlocking all rows awards a special “Up Up Jackpot” progressive, resetting at $500.
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This game on Aristocrat’s Neptune Single cabinet replicates several classic carnival games in unique bonus events. This new version of the game series includes classic Aristocrat base games Buffalo, Timber Wolf and Power of 88.
The base game is a 1,024-ways-to-win game on a five-by-four reel array (five reels, four rows of symbols). Jackpot Carnival triggering symbols can activate one of three carnival-themed bonus events.
The Clown Bonus displays a clown above a pachinko-style game board with five buckets. The clown pitches bonus balls onto the board to land in buckets marked with credit awards and multipli-
This new game on Everi’s Flex Fusion premium banked platform is packed with special bank-wide primary-game features and two separate bonus events.
Manufacturer: Everi Holdings
Platform: Flex Fusion
Format: Five-reel, 30-line video slot
Max Bet: 500
Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10, 1.00, 2.00 (multi-denom available)
Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset
Hit Frequency: Approximately 35%
Theoretical Hold: 2%-14%
The base game is a five-reel, 30-line video slot. At any time during the primary game, the entire bank can launch into “Hyperdrive.” Occurring every 10 minutes on average, this feature—to the backdrop of Europe’s 1986 power ballad “The Final Countdown”—launches a mode in which frequently hitting cash-on-reels symbols build to a cumulative bonus award.
Randomly during the feature, the bank will go into a “Diamond Warp,” which features a rocket going through a wormhole to collect coins and diamonds for additional credits.
Three or more scatter symbols trigger up to 20 free spins, in which credit prizes, multipliers and extra free spins can be landed. There is a “Locomotion Wild” symbol that sticks after landing, and shifts position from spin to spin; and a “Starboard Wild” that displays an increasing multiplier.
Six to eight scattered coin symbols trigger Rocket Respins, a classic hold-and-respin feature. Triggering symbols remain locked in place as cash-on-reels symbols for three spins, and any additional coins reset the spin count to three. One of four jackpots also can be won during this feature—static wads of $15 (Mini) and $50 (Minor), and progressives resetting at $500 (Major) and $10,000 (Grand).
Manufacturer: Aristocrat Gaming
Platform: Neptune Single
Format: Five-reel,1,024-ways-to-win video slot
Max Bet: 800
Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10 (multi-denom)
Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset
Hit Frequency: Approximately 40%
Theoretical Hold: 7.22%-11.22%
The New Hammer Bonus replicates one of the testyour-strength hammer contraptions at carnivals. At the bottom of the screen are credit awards from 200 to 1,000. The player presses a button to launch the hammer to move up a multiplier ladder rising from 1X to 10X, which multiplies the credit award.
The main Jackpot Carnival bonus connects bonus symbols from left to right to trigger one of four jackpots—static awards of $10 (Mini) and $50 (Minor), and progressives resetting at $500 (Major) and $10,000 (Grand).
The other bonus event is the classic free-spin bonus, identical to each of the traditional base games.
As an advanced technology supplier, BetConstruct is enhancing its extensive scope of innovative solutions with the new Dataspot product.
Dataspot is an advanced analytical tool, unwrapping a range of new opportunities for operators, offering valuable insights into the behavior and preferences of their players. As a comprehensive website analytical tool, Dataspot delivers secure, accurate and industry-specific solutions to cater to the players’ needs and optimize the user experience.
Tailored to provide statistical data via easy-to-use charts and data vizualisations, Dataspot is a useful tool that will assist BetConstruct partners in identifying trends and patterns in player behavior and extending the level of player experience.
In addition, Dataspot’s funnel analysis section allows tracking users’ funnel by setting up any preferable action order. This is an incredibly useful fea-
PRODUCT: Nizoni Gifts
MANUFACTURER: Imagine This
Imagine This has launched one of the most modern-yet-stylish tech brands, Nizoni, for casinos to offer in promotional gifting programs.
After working with professionals in the tech space, Imagine This has worked hard with its in-house team of developers to bring cutting-edge high-tech products to the casino.
Their latest Nizoni product line uses unparalleled technological capabilities designed to provide the ultimate gifting solution for a casino. The line is curated to provide tranquility and ease of use within any home or location. Utilizing a sleek design, the latest Tranquility Collection is designed to bring an immersive sense of relaxation to every user. This collection includes:
Nizoni Wireless Phone Charger Alarm Clock Radio
Nizoni White Noise Sound Machine
Nizoni USB Desktop Humidifier
Nizoni LED Dome Lamp Wireless Phone Charger & Speaker
The Imagine This team is constantly scouting new product ideas to test and review. They dive into the hottest, upcoming retail trends to identify high-perceived value, collectible gifts accompanied by packaging design. As the industry continues to evolve, so does the Imagine This product design team. They continuously stay ahead of the curve to provide top-tier gifts for their clients.
Imagine This is focused 100 percent on the gaming industry. Each product is designed exclusively to encourage players to come in each week of the month.
ture in terms of identifying where customers may be dropping off in the conversion process.
Offering the most innovative solutions for all partners, the new Dataspot gives a unique opportunity to stay ahead of the competition and build dynamic results for the business.
For more information, visit betconstruct.com.
The company does this to protect the high perceived value of the items produced. You will not find them for sale in a major retail store, online, or anywhere else.
As they continue to expand their line of products, Imagine This promises to provide their clients with unmatched service and 100 percent ontime deliveries.
Contact Adam Bullock at 877-491-4900 for more information.
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The Artisan Hotel in Las Vegas is rebranding as “The Lexi.” The rebranding includes an intriguing element.
The Artisan is a boutique hotel near Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue, near some of the largest casino properties in Las Vegas. There is no casino—not even video poker in the bars, as far as I can tell—but they provide some very cool non-gaming attractions, like a “topless optional” European pool. (Thanks, I’ll keep my shirt on.) There’s an ultra lounge bar, and they have an option where you can rent the entire hotel for $9,500.
Also, after the rebranding, the newly named Lexi will have 64 remodeled rooms, including an entire fourth floor that will be deemed “cannabisfriendly.”
According to KSNV in Las Vegas, the fourth floor will have a special RestorAir filtration system to get rid of the reefer smoke. That was the only detail in the KSNV report that would indicate a cannabis-friendly environment. I’d like to know what else will be going on in those fourth-floor rooms.
How about a “Munchie Station?” Donuts, pies, cakes, maybe cheeseburgers? I’d call that essential for a cannabis-friendly hotel room. Also, for my money, the entertainment would have to include Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Yes.
I know, very 1970s, right? But I’d guess a lot of ’70s-era potheads would frequent these rooms.
I’m guessing no casino because, though recreational weed is legal in Nevada, they don’t allow pot in the casino-hotels. I always thought the state was missing a lot of casino revenue from this rule. Imagine the possibilities.
“Sir, are you sure you want to hit that 19?”
“Well, on second thought... Maybe...
Heck, I’d put games by the topless pool. Distractions like these would translate into a lot of dumb decisions. And big casino win.
Still, there are a lot of non-gaming attractions at locations all around the Lexi. For instance, it’s near the bricklaying competitions in the parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Of course, I’m talking about the “Spec Mix Bricklayer 500” event. (Segue rating: 7.) This is where 24 teams of bricklayers compete to build a 26-footlong brick wall in less than an hour, to determine the title of the World’s Best Bricklayer. It’s held in conjunction with the World of Concrete trade show. (Naturally.)
Teams consist of a bricklayer who slaps the brick and mortar on the wall, and a tender, who makes sure the brick and mortar are in the right position for the bricklayer. At the last competition, held in January, thousands of spectators cheered as the team of bricklayer Michael Shlund and tender Aaron Kowalski of Wisconsin won the title with a wall of 759 bricks, and took
home the $125,000 top prize, including cash and a new Ford F-250 truck.
OK, I have several questions here, as you may have suspected.
First, what the heck do they do with the walls after the brick and mortar dry? Do they leave them there for a wrecking ball competition in conjunction with the next trade show?
How do thousands of people entertain themselves watching bricklaying? I think I’d like “Watching the Paint Dry 500” competition just as well. “Home Insulation Challenge?” “The World Championship of Kitchen Cabinetry?”
Finally, as I’m sure you’re all wondering, when will they be moving this competition to the U.S./Mexico border?
Moving on, the art of slot influencing took on a new meaning last month, as investigators in Minnesota looked into allegations of two men running a TikTok gambling scheme.
According to a report on WEAU-TV in Minnesota, two brothers have been collecting fees for playing slots on behalf of others. After an initial $5.99 subscription fee, the brothers would take $25 of every $100 deposited for wagering. Then, they would live-stream their slot play on TikTok, and the subscriber would get any winnings.
It’s illegal because state law prohibits making wagers on behalf of a second party, but my bafflement here centers on why anyone would pay someone to play slots for them. These guys had 165,000 followers by the time authorities caught on.
Are there really that many people who are so lazy they’d pay someone to hit a button for them repeatedly? And 25 percent of wagers, at that?
“Madge, let’s go to the casino and play some slots.”
“I don’t feel like it today, Herbie. Let’s just pay those online guys. Then we can stay in bed and still play slots. Pass the nachos.”
I know what you’re thinking. How great would this go with the weedfriendly hotel? Get stoned, visit the Munchie Station and pay someone to play slots for you.
Something to do between bricklaying events, right?
On February 7, Sightline Payments introduced VIP Select, which allows invited clientele to access a Play+ account with a balance of up to $1 million, a signiﬁcant increase from current limits via Sightline’s VIP program. Gaming operators will be able to offer the VIP Select option to patrons via invitation only.
VIP Select patrons will undergo an enhanced due-diligence process, including an extensive application process and veriﬁed history with their operator account. A patron will not be eligible for VIP Select without a proven account in good standing and veriﬁcation that the customer is not on any responsible gaming, self-exclusion, or other watchlists. The new high-limit program has the same account structure as a traditional Play+ account, ensuring that operators can enable this feature for their patrons with no additional development.
“Our partners want the ability to offer increased account limits to their high-value clients,”
said Jamie Parks, vice president and product manager, payments. “Operators have long viewed Play+ as an indispensable payment solution across the gaming industry, and offerings like VIP Select further solidify our place as the payments solution across North America.”
Sightline’s ﬂagship Play+ product enables consumers to safely access gaming and entertainment with nearly every regulated digital gaming company in the United States. The Play+ cashless offering enables players to place their funds in a secure, FDIC-insured account, giving them access to their funds anywhere, anytime, while also earning rewards for all of their spending.
Aruze Gaming Europe announced that the Muso Curve-55, one of the company’s top gaming cabinets, will be available in the European market for the ﬁrst time. The Muso Curve-55 is a part of Aruze’s premium line, bringing the most upto-date casino gaming experience to the European market.
The company made the announcement ahead of last month’s ICE London trade show, where the cabinet was shown to European customers.
Some of the industry’s most inﬂuential personalities and best-known commercial organizations were honored in the ICE Landmark Awards, presented at the show last month.
The lineup of Landmark recipients comprise Ernie Stevens, Jr., chairman and national spokesman for the Indian Gaming Association, whose leadership during Covid helped to protect and preserve tribal gaming and secure the vital funding needed to keep tribal casinos solvent through the worst of the pandemic.
Stevens was joined by another U.S. industry stalwart, Roy Student, who celebrated 50 years in the business, a career which included being part of the executive team responsible for opening the original Las Vegas MGM Grand in 1973, and includes such technological advances as central accounting programs, player tracking innovations and server-based gaming. Student was one of the ﬁrst to emphasize the importance of non-gaming revenue.
European-based Landmark recipients include veteran industry journalist David Snook, who ﬁrst reported on the exhibition, then known as ATEI, in 1968; and Per Jaldung, who has served as chairman of the European Casino Association since 2015.
The posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award was granted to Jimmy Thomas, who died July 30 at 88 years old. Thomas was a pioneer, innovator and philanthropist whose creative spark changed the face of the U.K. gambling industry. Simon Thomas, who is executive chairman of the Hippodrome Casino, accepted the ICE Landmark in honor of his father.
The Muso Curve-55 delivers alluring aesthetics, with its midnight black color and dynamic 55-inch screen. Honeycomb pattern design and eye-catching graphics attract attention from all over the gaming ﬂoor.
According to a recent report from Eilers-Fantini Research, the Muso Curve55 is one of the top-performing cabinets in the North American market. Research shows that the cabinet entered the market as the top-performing portrait cabinet and has remained on the list of top performers.
The parent company to Betway, Super Group, and multi-brand online casino Spin, have agreed to the sale of a division of Digital Gaming Corporation to Games Global. The non-core B2B sale is expected to be ﬁnalized in the latter half of the year.
Games Global, a leading supplier of content to the iGaming industry, deals with more than 200 customers across the world.
Operating in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan and Connecticut, DGC’s B2B division brings global expertise and experience to the U.S. market, while supplying games content.
Walter Bugno, CEO of Games Global, said the sale presents an exciting opportunity.
“The acquisition accelerates our entry into the growing U.S. iGaming market,” Bugno said, according to European Gaming. “This will enable us to access some of the best operators in the sector and… leverage our portfolio of over 50 partner studios, more than 3,000 proprietary games and a record-breaking progressive jackpot network, including Mega Moolah and Wow Pot, which have paid out over €1.5 billion since inception.”
Slot supplier Light & Wonder, Inc. has entered a deal with the Oregon Lottery to test its newest video lottery terminal cabinet and games. Light & Wonder will test 100 of its new Kascada Dual Screen Multi-Game VLTs at retailers around the Salem, Oregon area.
The cabinets will feature games including Treasure Fruits, Flush Frenzy Poker, Lightning Tusks, American Original Stars & Bars, Bier Haus, Blazing Hot Celebrations and Quick Hits Money Wheel. The trial, which is set to begin in March, will mark the ﬁrst release of the Kascada Dual Screen Multi-Game domestically.
The members of the International Gaming Standards Association (IGSA) have elected their board of directors for 2023. Following the election process, the board of directors met to select its chair and vice chair. The members and appointees are as follows:
• Chairman: Earle G. Hall, President & CEO, AXES.ai
• Vice Chairman: Nimish Purohit, Global Vice President of Quality-Gaming, Aristocrat Gaming
• Treasurer: Paul Burns, ALC (ex-officio, retired)
“I speak for the entire management team when I say congratulations and thank you to our elected board members for this new and exciting year,” said Peter DeRaedt, president of IGSA. “We have a great roadmap this year and the members could not have selected a better board to lead our initiatives.”
“I am honored to represent the prestigious global membership of this fine organization,” stated Hall. “Our industry needs us more than ever. The acceleration of artificial intelligence, payments, cloud, and security issues require new standards to support our members and our regulators. This year will be a great year, and we plan to serve our members with pride, diligence and proximity.”
The International Center for Responsible Gaming (ICRG) convened last month in Las Vegas and elected Mark Lipparelli as chair of the governing board. The board also welcomed new members Birgitte Sand, former executive director of the Danish Gambling Authority, and M. Cristina Romero De Alba, partner at the LOYRA law firm in Madrid, Spain.
Lipparelli, the founder of Gioco Ventures LLC, is the past chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board and a past member of the Nevada state Senate. He has served on numerous boards of gaming companies and is the current board chairman of Galaxy Gaming.
The ICRG Board honored outgoing chair Alan M. Feldman for his vision and leadership, and tire-
less work on behalf of the ICRG’s mission. Feldman is Distinguished Fellow in Responsible Gaming at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Sand served as executive director at the Danish Gambling Authority from 2008 to 2020. She is currently an independent consultant covering gambling legislation and regulation, gambling authorities, player self-exclusion, responsible gambling, market strategies, reporting and the use of gambling data.
De Alba specializes in advising financial institutions and investors including private equity, operators and suppliers in the gaming and betting industry. She is focused on multi-jurisdiction and cross-border transactions as well as regulatory and licensing proceedings in the United States, Latin America, the European Union and the United Kingdom.
PlayAGS, Inc., a leading supplier of high-performing slot, table and interactive products and services to the global gaming industry, announced the company’s board of directors has appointed Adam Chibib, current board member and lead independent director, as chairman of the board. Chibib succeeds David Sambur, who recently stepped down from the board after serving as chairman for the past five years and as a member of the board since 2013.
“We are excited to welcome Adam as our new board chairman,” said AGS President, Chief Executive Officer and board member David Lopez. “He is an incredibly well-respected leader within the gaming industry, and his depth of experience has been invaluable to AGS throughout his years of service. Adam’s guidance and leadership from day one of the company’s initial public offering has played a critical role in shaping who we are as a company today. I look forward to continue working with him in his new role.”
Chibib commented, “I am extremely honored to serve as AGS’ chairman of the board. Over the past five years, I have gained a great deal of respect for my fellow board members and the company’s executive leadership team. I look forward to leveraging my previous experience in gaming and other industries to help guide AGS to the next level.”
In a unanimous vote, Erwin van Lambaart has been elected by the European Casino Association (ECA) as the new chairman of the organization. The announcement was made after the ECA General Assembly, held at ICE London 2023.
Van Lambaart replaces Per Jaldung, who was chairman for the last eight years. Jaldung was recognized by his successor in the press release announcing the change.
“I would personally like to thank Per Jaldung for his distinguished stewardship of the association and for his ongoing support, advice and leadership,” van Lambaart said. “I look forward to working with him in the future and wish him the best in his new ventures.”
Serving on the ECA board since 2021, van Lambaart brings a wealth of experience to the position. He served as CEO of Holland Casinos for six years and most recently was named chief executive of Casinos Austria and Austrian Lotteries in March 2022. Prior to working in the casino industry, van Lambaart worked in a series of other senior roles across the media, hospitality, event, marketing and entertainment sectors.
The International Center for Responsible Gaming was formed in the mid ’90s as the industry effort to combat problem gambling by conducting blind research, where gaming companies fund the research but have no say in its outcome. Mark Lipparelli took over last month as chairman, continuing the momentum begun by the past chairman, Alan Feldman, and the president, Art Paikowsky. Lipparelli has deep experience in all gaming disciplines. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros in February in Las Vegas. To hear a full version of this podcast, visit GGBMagazine.com.
GGB: You are probably the most qualified person ever to be named chairman of the of the ICRG—you have experience as an operator, as a regulator, a legislator, and now you’re on the supply side. How do you think that’s going to help you guide the path of the ICRG?
Lipparelli: I kind of see myself as a unicorn. I do think that my background is well suited to be the chairman. And I have seen the industry from lots of different perspectives. I never planned for it to be that way, but I’m glad the things that I have done have given me a unique perspective.
For the last 10 years, you’ve been on the board of the ICRG and seen how the organization works, correct?
Yes, certainly. And we’ve had a really good cross section of people associated with the ICRG. It takes a little time to get an understanding of the ICRG’s purpose, and the strong contributions that it’s made to the industry. And seeing it from all those different perspectives is valuable.
When Art Paikowsky became president, he really hit the ground running.
No doubt. Art came in at a really interesting time. Like many of the organizations in our industry and in society at large, we suffered from
the Covid meltdown. So we were struggling to hold on to funding, and people have been very supportive of the ICRG. But that was a very difficult time when everyone was taking their budgets to zero across the board. And for those who haven’t met Art yet, he has been a dynamo. He’s really helped us to get back on track. And I probably would say that we’re as healthy as we’ve ever been.
With the advent of iGaming and sports betting becoming prominent in the industry, obviously, you want to prevent any kinds of problems coming out of those areas. How important is it to really focus on those new developments?
I think it’s super important, and it has broadened the perspective of what our mission is. And I would even go so far as to say that it goes beyond the advent of iGaming and mobile gaming, with sportsbooks to now include an even broader focus to gaming in general. It’s probable that many of the dynamics associated with even console gaming or online gaming or esports in a broad context can be very much subject matter for our researchers. So, sure, not only has iGaming and mobile sports been another place that we have to place our emphasis, but it’s even broader than that.
Are these new iGaming, sports betting and esports companies joining the ICRG and making contributions at the rate do you think they should be at this point?
We never want to be negative on the companies who have or have not joined. I want everyone to have a better understanding of the value of the ICRG and the product that it produces. We have Art out there in the world exposing the mission of what the ICRG does. And I’m confident that some of those folks are coming on board, and we hope to make an even bigger impact with the peo-
ple that are in that mobile sports and iGaming business, as well as even those adjacent markets that I just spoke about.
Right from the start the ICRG was funded by the industry, but separated by the blind contributions from companies that gave money, and had no say in how the studies would come out or the final research. How important is that still to the mission of the ICRG?
We are, and always have been, super focused on that. We have always said that the scientific advisory board really manages the research of the ICRG, and our charge is to make sure that the organization’s properly funded. We want to make sure that people are aware, as operators, manufacturers, participants in the industry, even some governments now, of things that we’re doing and our researchers are doing. But we’ve also had that bright line in place that says the research and the researchers’ chosen fields will remain with them. Our scientific advisory board manages that. And to this day, we’ve never interfered in that process.
We know that policy began right at the beginning when Dr. Howard Schaffer of the Harvard Medical School became involved. He has the utmost of integrity and would never tolerate any funny business going on.
When I talk about the ICRG, I always point that out. Howard is a giant in his field. And I think Frank Fahrenkopf and Judy Patterson and the original group within the AGA established that as a critical component. And Alan Feldman (immediate past chairman) has been a guardian of that as well. I think our scientific advisory board has always been respectful and cooperative, and let us know that they’ve got interesting researchers that have interesting ideas on where they want to go. Their job is to look into valid, interesting studies, and they take care of that for us.
“I want everyone to have a better understanding of the value of the ICRG and the product that it produces.”
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