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GGB Global Gaming Business Magazine
PROBLEM GAMBLING IN INDIAN COUNTRY SPORTS BETTING PLATFORMS RESTAURANTS TRENDING CAESARS TAKEOVER
August 2019 • Vol. 18 • No. 8 • $10
AGS uses talent across the board to continue its climb to the top
Apple a Day Why the app store is creating headaches for iGaming and sports betting
Mystery How predominantly Muslim countries embrace gaming
Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers
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Vol. 18 • No. 8
Global Gaming Business Magazine
18 COVER STORY AGS’ People Power
AGA 10 A Banner Year for Commercial Gaming
Supplier AGS has been one of the most solid performers in the gaming market over the past five years because of what CEO David Lopez calls “bench strength”—a reserve of exemplary team members that keeps growing as the company continues to expand its product portfolio.
Fantini’s Finance 12 David Buys Goliath Frank Fantini
Making My Point 55 Throwing the Counterpunch
By Frank Legato On the Cover: AGS “bench strength:” Top Row: Cheli Kroupp, Vice President, Table Games Engineering; Gabe Baron, Senior Director, Table Products; Laura Olson-Reyes, Vice President, Marketing & Corporate Communications; Mike McKiski, Vice President, West Coast Sales; Denise Enarson, Executive Assistant. Front Row: Kris Morishige, Chief of Staff & Senior Vice President, Finance; Mike Skvorzov, Vice President, Field Service; David Lopez, President and CEO; Meredith McEvoy, Engineering Operations Director; and Mark DeDeaux, Senior Director, Slot Products.
FEATURES 14 F&B Matures Innovative concepts in food and beverage are meeting the needs of an increasingly sophisticated casino resort customer. By Matt Armstrong and Jeff Hartmann
26 Gaming in the Middle East Casino gaming is a healthy industry, even in Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and North Africa. By Steve Gallaway and Andrew Tottenham
30 Gaming Giant The merger of Eldorado Resorts and Caesars Entertainment creates the world’s largest gaming operator, but the combined company faces a large debt load. By Patrick Roberts
32 The Trouble With Apple The policy of computer giant Apple of closing its App Store to all gamingrelated applications is creating problems for the emerging iGaming industry. By Marjorie Preston
By the Numbers
13 AGEM 36 Emerging Leaders With Everi’s Adam Fong, J.P. Morgan’s Kyle Bender, and Golden Nugget Biloxi’s Sydney Hatcher
48 New Game Review 50 Frankly Speaking
38 Responsible Gaming in Indian Country The tribal gaming industry has stepped up efforts to battle problem and compulsive gambling with treatment, education and prevention programs. By Dave Palermo
51 Cutting Edge 52 Goods & Services 57 People
44 Sports Betting’s Engine As states scramble to approve sports betting programs before the start of the NFL season, suppliers of sports betting platforms and technology ramp up their game.
58 Casino Communications With Winnie Wong, Chief Responsible Gaming Officer/Vice President of Special Gaming Projects, Sands China Ltd.
By Dave Bontempo
AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Bless Me, Father… Roger Gros, Publisher
Vol. 18 • No. 8 • AUGUST 2019 Roger Gros, Publisher | email@example.com twitter: @GlobalGamingBiz Frank Legato, Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @FranklySpeakn Marjorie Preston, Managing Editor email@example.com Monica Cooley, Art Director | firstname.lastname@example.org
hen Global Market Advisors’ Steve Gallaway and Andrew Tottenham came to me with the story in this month’s GGB about gambling in the Muslim world, I jumped at it because I had never read any in-depth report on how gambling and Islam coexist. After all, Islam is a religion that’s very strict about right and wrong, and gambling definitely falls on the “wrong” side. But the GMA piece shows us why you should not discount Muslims when marketing your gaming property. I’m old enough to remember when the Arab sheiks were the “whales” of the casino industry in the 1960s and ’70s, primarily in the casinos of the “swinging” London of its day. All you need to do is watch any James Bond movie and see him play chemin de fer with the sheiks to know that they enjoyed an honest—or sometimes less than honest—gamble. While the Quran cites gambling as a “grave sin” and “abominations of Satan’s handiwork,” it also seems to hedge its bets when it remarks on gambling and wine: “In them both lies grave sin, though some benefit, to mankind.” But of course the Quran isn’t the only holy book that condemns gambling. The Bible equates the “love of money” with gambling, calling for believers to be content with what they have. Mormons are advised not to play cards simply because of the connection to gambling. Hindus are taught to avoid gambling because of the concept of karma—basically, what goes around comes around. Buddhism doesn’t directly condemn gambling—it’s a little more tolerant—but does decry the motivating factor of greed. Jews are also a bit more accepting of gambling, but not by much. In the Talmud, rabbis call gambling a risky proposition, and addictive. They say the winner is really a loser because the loser doesn’t expect to lose and therefore winning the bet is tantamount to stealing. I’ve had discussions many times, working in the industry and reporting on it, about how people of faith can work in a business with the basic goal of winning money from gamblers. I’ve known some who have simply quit the industry altogether over this supposed dichoto-
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
my. One actually became a monk! But most people who work in gaming have good hearts. They understand that gaming is a form of entertainment, and like any other, it costs money. You just pay that money in a somewhat unconventional way. And when you really investigate the objections that mainstream religions have to gambling, they often crumble. Growing up a Catholic, I remember the emphasis given to the weekly bingo games in the church hall. They would attract hundreds of people each week, and the money earned there went to the betterment of the parish. As a gaming observer, it didn’t take long to note the proliferation of Mormons within the gaming industry. Maybe it began with Howard Hughes, who reportedly hired a staff made up completely of Mormons because he perceived them to be honest and incorruptible. I can name at least a half-dozen Mormons off the top of my head who rose to high levels in the casino industry. When I was a dealer in Atlantic City, I witnessed busloads of Hasidic Jews from New York being dropped off to spend the day gambling in the casino. They were often big players and usually enjoyed their time at the tables. So, no religion has a corner on the “holier than thou” market. If a believer can find a loophole in his religion’s rules, so be it. He can be like me—a “supermarket” Catholic who picks and chooses what he believes and doesn’t believe. At any rate, no one should judge the person sitting on the other side of the table or at one of the slot machines because of the religion they seem to be representing. For those of us in the industry, I see no conflict between being religious or even just a spiritual person and working in this business. As long as you individually treat the customer and your fellow employees with respect, are aware of any harm that may occur through their participation in this enterprise and live a life in line with the tenets of your religion or your sense of right and wrong, working in the casino industry should be no different than any other job.
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 Columnists Casey Clark | Frank Fantini | Roger Snow Contributing Editors Matt Armstrong Dave Bontempo twitter: @bontempomedia Steve Gallaway | Jeff Hartmann Dave Palermo twitter: @DavePalermo4 Patrick Roberts | William Sokolic | Andrew Tottenham __________________
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 twitter: @CDCNewswire
• 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 Casino Connection International LLC. 901 American Pacific Drive, Suite 180 • Henderson, Nevada 89014 702-248-1565 • 702-248-1567 (fax) www.ggbmagazine.com The views and opinions expressed by the writers and columnists of GLOBAL GAMING BUSINESS are not necessarily the views of the publisher or editor. Copyright 2019 Global Gaming Business LLC. Henderson, Nevada 89014 GLOBAL GAMING BUSINESS is published monthly by Casino Connection International, LLC. Printed in Nevada, USA. Postmaster: Send Change of Address forms to: 901 American Pacific Dr, Suite 180, Henderson, NV 89014
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BiG TiMe GaMinG MarkeTS T
he annual American Gaming Association’s State of the States Report is out and once again is chock full of information about the U.S. commercial gaming industry. Starting with a “state of the industry” statement, the report covers the kinds of gaming legal in each state, tax rates, fees, responsible gaming commitments, sports betting, innovation, technology and even a section on tribal gaming. At right is the annual outline of the largest gaming markets in the U.S. To obtain the State of the States Report 2019, visit the website of the American Gaming Association, AmericanGaming.org, and download a copy.
lot route operations—or distributed gaming—is becoming a major factor in the U.S. gaming industry. Illinois just surpassed $1.5 billion in revenues with approximately 30,000 machines. Oregon almost reaches $1 billion with 12,000 machines, and Louisiana almost $600 million with 13,000 machines. A new comprehensive report on distributed gaming has just been released by Fantini Research and Fifth Third Bank that details the machines, locations, companies involved and revenues achieved from distributed gaming in the states where it is legal. The report also outlines states that have some forms of distributed gaming and those that are considering its legalization. For more information, contact Ashley Diem at Fantini Research at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
Top 20 U.S. Commercial Casino Markets
Distributed Gaming in the U.S.
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Vice President of Marketing, Ocean Casino Resort
he saga of the Revel/Ocean property in Atlantic City took a major upturn earlier this year when Mike Donovan, a former marketing executive at the Tropicana, was hired by the new owners, Luxor Capital, to lead the Ocean marketing team. Donovan has wide experience in Atlantic City and other jurisdictions, and has delivered some tried-and-true formulas to turn around the fortunes of the struggling casino. And it seems to be working, with the property posting the highest gross gaming revenue ever in June. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at Ocean in July. To hear a full podcast of this interview, visit GGBMagazine.com. GGB: What did you find when you first arrived at the property in terms of a marketing plan? Donovan: Over the last 100 days, we’ve taken the property in a much different direction. When I got here at
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the beginning of March, the property had historically had good table games business, good non-gaming business, but it lacked slot business, which we all know is the core of every property in Atlantic City. I saw several things that we were not doing or we were doing poorly. We weren’t communicating with the 1 million-plus people we had in the Revel database. We knew exactly who they were, we knew how much they spent the last time they were here, but we weren’t talking to them. We are now. And we’re talking to them in a very influential way. Before, they were getting weekly offers that were lower than other places in town. Now they’re getting daily offers that are better than anyplace in town. So we’re combining a value piece with the exceptional product we have here, and people are responding. What other things did you change?
Just from a physicality standpoint, we saw other improvements we could make. One of the complaints was that it was too big, too cavernous and you can’t find your way around. We installed simple-to-understand wayfinding signs that direct people easily. We put in a new elevator that makes it easier to get from the hotel to the casino, so you can get to the casino much faster. We built a separate promotions area that eases the burden on the main desk area, and made it easy to find. We added kiosks like most other Atlantic City casinos. So, we’ve addressed key deficiencies of the property and brought it up to a level that makes people comfortable. Ocean has some great meeting and convention space. Is that a focus in the new regime as well?
Yes, and it’s getting easier the longer we’re open. The largest segment of your meetings book a year or two out, and with the uncertainty around the property before, they didn’t know if the place was going to be open that long. But now there’s a lot more certainty. It’s always been a great setup for meetings with great rooms, accessibility and amenities. And now they have the understanding we’ll be here for a while. Ocean has also been set up for great entertainment with Ovation Hall and the smaller venues. How important is that for the property?
Incredibly important. The property is big, so you can definitely see a difference when there’s a major event going on. We’ve had entertainment in Ovation Hall pretty much every weekend since the spring and plan to continue with that for the rest of the year. We have a great partnership with AEG Live where we’re beginning to get some big-name acts. Food and beverage has always been an important element to this property. How have you begun to use it?
The property has always had great food and beverage—we need to tell more people about it, but it’s always been there. In some of the surveys we did, however, people complained that it was too expensive. Now we give weekly dining comps so people can come in every week, which softens that blow a little bit. And we’ve added some more casual dining options that are affordable, like a food court that will open soon. We’ve opened up Sky Café on the hotel lobby level, along with a coffee shop. We’ve got a frozen daiquiri bar on that level. So we’re starting to add components for the peak season.
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
“We bring the William Hill and the Stars Group access partnerships. Caesars has a plethora of sports partnerships, including league partnerships, team partnerships, ESPN… and we see them all fitting together. We would see William Hill and TSG rolling into access deals across the Caesars portfolio to the extent that they’re not already offered in our portfolio. But we think the opportunity in sports betting in the combined company is as good as there is out there at this point.” —Tom Reeg, CEO, Eldorado Resorts, telling reporters how the company will reconcile its sports betting agreements with those signed by Caesars Entertainment as the companies merge
CALENDAR September 5-6: Scandinavian Gaming Show, Stockholm, Sweden. Produced by Eventus International. For more information, visit eventus-international.com. September 9-10: Strategic Perspectives in the Gaming Industry, University of Nevada, Reno’s Gaming Management Program. For more information, visit bit.ly/StrategicPerspectives2019. September 11-12: Casino Marketing Strategies, University of Nevada, Reno’s Gaming Management Program. For more information, visit bit.ly/CasinoMarketing19. September 17-20: Betting on Football 2019, Olympia, London. Produced by SBC Events. For more information, visit sbcevents.com/betting-on-football-2019. September 17-20: CasinoBeats Summit 2019, Olympia, London. Produced by SBC Events. For more information, visit sbcevents.com/casino-beats-summit-2019. September 18: UNLV Gaming & Hospitality Education Series: Retail and Food & Beverage—A Menu of Options, Stan Fulton Building, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Produced by GGB Magazine and UNLV William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. For more information, visit UNLVGHES.com. September 23-25: Gaming, Entertainment & Tourism Summit (GETS), Bhairahawa, Nepal. Produced by Eventus International. For more information, visit EventusInternational.com. October 2-3: ICE Africa, Sandton Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. Produced by Clarion Gaming. For more information, visit ICEAfrica.za.com. October 14-18: Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2019, Sands Expo Center, Las Vegas. Produced by the American Gaming Association and Reed Exhibitions. For more information, visit GlobalGamingExpo.com. October 28-31: Advanced Management of Slot Operations, University of Nevada, Reno’s Gaming Management Program. For more information, visit bit.ly/AdvancedSlots19. October 30: UNLV Gaming & Hospitality Education Series: Customer Service & HR—The People Factor, UNLV’s Stan Fulton Building, Las Vegas. Produced by GGB Magazine & UNLV William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. For more information, visit UNLVGHES.com. December 9-12: Certificate in Gaming Leadership, Oklahoma State University. Produced by OSU Center for Executive & Professional Development, Hard Rock Casino Tulsa, and Gaming Management, University of Nevada, Reno. For more information, visit business.okstate.edu/cepd.
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AMERICAN GAMING ASSOCIATION
A Banner Year for Commercial Gaming State of the States report shows record high revenues for U.S. gaming industry
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ear after year, the commercial casino industry reaffirms its role as an economic powerhouse in the United States. The latest numbers prove no different: the commercial casino industry logged its fourth consecutive year of revenue growth in 2018— surging nearly 3.5 percent from the prior year. The 465 commercial casinos nationwide reached a historic high of $41.7 billion in gaming revenue, according to the American Gaming Association’s annual State of the States report, outperforming the national economic growth rate. What’s more, half of the 24 commercial gaming states reported record revenues last year, with nearly every state showing increased revenue, reflecting the strength of local economies across the country. More than just economic benefits, the vast impacts gaming has on communities continues to shine through. Gaming taxes generated $9.71 billion to state and local governments in 2018, along with the billions more from indirect sales, income and other taxes. This revenue allows states and communities to invest more in education and infrastructure, expand social and emergency services, and provide tax relief for hard-working Americans all around the U.S. Legal sports betting’s impact on gaming cannot be understated. With the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) overturned, states and sovereign tribal nations have started to build their own legal, regulated sports
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Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
By Casey Clark
betting markets generating $430.2 million industrywide over the last year. This is a dramatic jump from the $261.3 million in revenue generated by Nevada alone in 2017. Legal sports betting has proved to be wildly popular, with nine states operational today. This growth will continue as new markets emerge across the country, making it more important than ever that we get sports betting done right as it expands across the U.S. and into the more than eight states that plan to be operational in the next year. All new markets should be established with strong consumer protections, sensible tax rates and provisions that put responsible gaming at the forefront. Our industry’s future is bright. Most Americans agree that casinos are helpful to local economies, and nearly nine in 10 adults view gaming as an acceptable form of entertainment. We’ve seen new commercial casino properties open in Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, and recently welcomed Arkansas as the 25th state to legalize commercial casino gaming (and the 41st state overall with legal casino gaming, including tribal casino operations). As we look ahead to the future, the AGA is committed to building on this great progress to continue to modernize the industry, build strong partners in local communities and Congress, and ensure that legal, regulated sports betting is rolled out in a responsible manner.
Our industry’s future is bright. Most Americans agree that casinos are helpful to local economies, and nearly nine in 10 adults view gaming as an acceptable form of entertainment.
Casey Clark is senior vice president of strategic communications for the American Gaming Association.
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David Buys Goliath The Eldorado-Caesars deal creates the world’s largest gaming company, but is it just the first shoe to drop?
he biggest news so far this year is Eldorado Resorts buying Caesars Entertainment. It creates America’s biggest casino company, presents opportunities for others through coming property divestitures and underscores the value of casino companies. For pure entertainment value, it is a great story of a small family-owned Reno business in a few short years becoming the nation’s largest casino operator. And it promises to be profitable. Eldorado has a track record of growing the profitability of companies it acquires. Eldorado CEO Tom Reeg believes the company can generate up to $4.5 billion in EBITDAR and $1.5 billion in free cash flow, or approximately $10 a share. That suggests Eldorado shares could trade over $100—not bad for a stock now below $50, and that not all that long ago was in the single digits. Eldorado expects first-year synergies of $500 million, $375 million of which would come from lower costs. Reeg gave an example of Eldorado’s comparative leanness: Caesars spends $60 million on third-party service providers. Eldorado spends $2 million. And, you can bet that $500 million is conservative. It’s just a first-year figure. Eldorado grows profitability over time. EBITDA margins were 16.5 percent when it began its acquisition spree in 2014. They were 25.1 percent last year. Further, with both companies nearly done spending on hotel room renovations, they will be in cash flow harvesting mode, Reeg said. Here are some quick observations on the deal: • If there were an award for casino CEO of the decade, it would have to be a co-presented to Reeg and predecessor Gary Carano, now Eldorado’s executive chairman. The stock has multiplied tenfold under their stewardship and, as noted, the price could more than double from here. • A new approach. Caesars has been a bureaucratic and centrally run company. The new company will take advantage of centralized functions such as purchasing but will empower executives at the re-
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
By Frank Fantini
gional level who are closer to customers, Reeg said. • Whew! It’s over. Eldorado’s five-year acquisition run is basically over. Further, it has enough to chew on in the U.S. that international expansion isn’t in the picture. • The Las Vegas Strip might get more competitive. One criticism of Las Vegas has been the lack of entrepreneurship and customer care with Caesars and MGM Resorts controlling so much of the Strip. Ownership will diversify as Eldorado slims down Caesars’ Strip presence. Already, TI owner Phil Ruffin and Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta have expressed interest in buying properties. As for other possible buyers, divesting properties could give Boyd a chance to return to the Strip. • REITs do it again. Once more, a deal that might not have seemed possible a few years ago has been made possible by a real estate investment trust, in this case, VICI Properties. • Related winners. William Hill and The Stars Group have been little-publicized winners as Eldorado expects to take its sports betting partners into the expanded company.
WHO’S NEXT? The age of big regional casino mergers may be over. It is hard to see MGM Resorts, Boyd, Penn National or the new Eldorado-Caesars merging, given antitrust issues and concerns about unproductive overlap in many markets. That doesn’t mean there won’t be mergers, especially with REITs eager to facilitate deals. Here are some possibilities offered purely for the fun of speculation: • MGM and Wynn Resorts. We’ve seen this movie before when MGM bought Steve Wynn’s Mirage Resorts more than a decade ago. The strategic rationale is that Wynn’s Las Vegas properties would give MGM dominance in the city’s upscale market, both for domestic customers and Asian VIPs. In addition, Wynn CEO Matt Maddox says the company intends to build casinos in major cities. That’s MGM’s strategy, too. And Encore Boston Harbor would fit nicely with MGM’s properties in
the Washington, D.C., and New York City areas, Biloxi, Detroit and Atlantic City (Philadelphia). • Someone buys Red Rock Resorts. The Fertitta brothers have made their billions and can move on. They don’t need Red Rock. Owning their most upscale Las Vegas locals properties (Red Rock, Green Valley Ranch, Palms, Sunset Station) and divesting the others could appeal to MGM or any of the big regionals, except local competitor Boyd because of concentration concerns. • American Indian interests. Mohegan has a strategy of growing internationally, but it also has the wherewithal to buy U.S. expansion if it desires. Foxwoods needs geographic diversity. The Poarch Creek could pick off a divested property or two. Hard Rock International could make a big splash regionally or in Las Vegas. Cosmopolitan has a hefty price tag at a reported $4 billion-plus, but if it can be worked out, the property and its customer base fit the Hard Rock brand. Or maybe Planet Hollywood, which already has a Hard Rock-like theme. • International companies haven’t been eager to jump into the U.S., except for Genting, perhaps because of intrusive suitability investigations required to get licensed. But the money, and perhaps the ambition, might be there. Melco Resorts CEO Lawrence Ho is U.S.-educated and is expanding internationally. Galaxy Entertainment already owns 5 percent of Wynn and might want more. • Private U.S. companies that have been steadily growing like Neil Bluhm’s Rush Street Gaming and Tilman Fertitta’s Golden Nugget. Both are ambitious. Rush Street is pursuing a license in Japan and, as mentioned, Fertitta has expressed interest in Caesars properties. Finally, a company not often mentioned in speculation like this: Churchill Downs. It owns a number of small properties that might be of interest to other small operators, while the Kentucky Derby and online wagering platform Twin Spires could appeal to a bigger operator—say, Penn National with its own horse-racing heritage. Frank Fantini is the editor and publisher of Fantini’s Gaming Report. For a free 30-day trial subscription email email@example.com.
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AGEMupdate AGEM MEMBER PROFILE Jeff Farrell, through his Portland, Oregon-based studio at Outpost Creative, Inc., works with clients throughout North America. A new Associate member of AGEM, Farrellâ€™s company describes itself as a â€œcreative Swiss Army Knife.â€? â€œLike the versatile tool, Iâ€™m handy to have in your pocket,â€? says Farrell. As a veteran designer, art director and photographer, Farrell has served many top gaming, hospitality, entertainment, tech-manufacturing and nonprofit brands. He is a real-world expert in brand and promotional design for all media, as well as still and motion photography. Outpost Creativeâ€™s trusted collaborators and Farrell understand that originality, thorough communication and speed are the essential ingredients of any successful marketing project. The companyâ€™s niche is providing independent agencies and in-house creative teams with an experienced, widely capable, freelance resource for design and imaging. The majority of the companyâ€™s work comes through repeat clients and referrals. EXPERTISE INCLUDES: â€˘ Brand and Marketing Design for all Media â€˘ Logos and Corporate Graphics â€˘ Special Event Invitations â€˘ Promotional Theme Graphics â€˘ Collateral, Catalogs and Sales Kits (print and digital) â€˘ Graphics Standards Guides â€˘ Outdoor Advertising including Billboards and Vehicle Wraps â€˘ Trade Show Display Graphics â€˘ Customâ€“Responsive Websites, CMS and SEO, Email Templates â€˘ Still & Motion Photography (studio and location) â€” including Food, Facilities, People and Products â€˘ Digital Image Compositing, Retouching and Enhancement â€˘ Historic Photo Digitizing and Restoration â€˘ Creative Team Building and Production Workflow â€˘ Digital Asset Management/Archiving Outpost Creative plans to expand product photography and feature video production with a new method for capturing high-resolution still images and video simultaneously. The company also is expanding WOWexteriors, a dynamic exterior image that will help successfully market the character of any property, venue or corporate headquarters. For more information or to view sample galleries, call or email Farrell at 503-882-0859, Jeff@Jeffarrell.com.
AGEM Board of Directors Actions â€“ July 2019 â€˘ Recent developments in Japan have seen the creation of the Preparation Office of Japan Casino Regulatory Commission. This government body is looking to set up a preliminary gaming laboratory to test equipment and systems in readiness for the introduction of integrated resorts, and has contacted AGEM requesting introductions to member suppliers. â€˘ AGEM has agreed to contribute $12,500 toward a new study titled Gaming Industry Overview which is being conducted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (IIJ-UNAM). The study will cover the entire industry in Mexico, and is being supported by the main trade associations in the region as well as the largest operators, including Codere, Cirsa, Caliente, Orenes, Juega y Juega and Palacio de los Numeros. â€˘ The Canadian Gaming Summit took place June 18-20 in Edmonton. The event continues to be a main focus for the industry in the region, and AGEM was a proud sponsor. This yearâ€™s event saw more than 800 attendees and featured some new items with a focus on â€œDriving Changeâ€? with specialized training and discussion, a Plenary Stage and new Summit Marketplace area combining the trade floor and reception space. â€˘ AGEM members approved the annual contribution of $50,000 for funding to the Problem Gambling Center, which provides evaluation, plus individual and group counseling services to those who have gambling problems and the family and friends of clients who are affected by gambling, without regard of their ability to pay. The facility has been renamed the Dr. Robert Hunter International Problem Gambling Center after its founder, who passed away last year. Gaming, â€˘ AGEM welcomed three new Associate members at the July meeting. Clarion based in Lon don, is a global business that delivers exceptional outcomes and experiences for customers through live events, supported by training and content, in every active gaming market and vertical; Enterprise Holdings, the transportation provider based in Las Vegas, has a global network that covers more than 90 countries, 100,000 dedicated team members, and more than 1.9 million vehicles taking customers wherever they need to go; and MdME Lawyers, based in Macau, is a leading full-service law firm involved in most of the key projects that have shaped the economic landscape over the last decade.
FORTHCOMING EVENTS Nominations for the AGEM Memorial Awards Honoring Jens Halle and Peter Mead are open. Nominees should have a minimum of 10 years working in the industry and possess the qualities that both men displayed. The winners will be announced and presented during G2E Las Vegas in October. Please visit www.AGEM.org for more information.
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The AGEM Index increased in June 2019 by 22.34 points to 505.34 points, a 4.6 percent gain from May 2019. The AGEM Index's May 2019 growth was driven by a 5.5 percent increase in the stock price of Aristocrat Leisure Limited (ASX: ALL), which rose from AU$29.12 to AU$30.72. The stock was responsible for 13.96 points of the AGEM Index's monthly growth. Crane Co. (CR) experienced a 9.1 percent stock price gain from $76.46 to$83.44, which most AGEM Index led to acontribution of 6.86 points. Overall, increases in stock priceduring the month, trending positively and companies reported with eight five moving negatively.
2019 www.ggbmagazine.com AUGUST
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The August Moon concept gives the “drive-in” theater experience to diners
What’s New in Restaurants? Emerging dining trends that can drive bottom line results for casino resort owner operators By Matt Armstrong and Jeff Hartmann
s has been the case in the retail industry, consumers of food and beverage have gotten more sophisticated in their tastes and expectations about what their experiences should be when dining out. Dining, shopping and entertainment are beginning to merge into some innovative and exciting concepts. Casino resort operators that recognize this trend can expect a big payoff in casino visitation and ultimately developing repeat and loyal customers. It used to be that just putting the name of a celebrity chef over the door of a restaurant was enough. This trend emerged back in the 1990s and 2000s as a way to infuse excitement and energy into the dining experience, but now guests want more. “Food as Entertainment” is one of several new emerging concepts that are drawing customers from farther away and getting customers to stay longer. Restaurants used to be able to market food quality and the hope the celebrity chef would be sited in their restaurant, and that was enough. But now customers expect high quality with locally sourced product as a cost of entry. The food and beverage concepts that can deliver above and beyond the food quality promise, provide a great value, and offer an entertaining dining experience are the ones that are currently winning the share of the diners’ wallet. Maydan is an interesting new concept in the Washington, D.C. market. It uses tableside wood-fired grills to create a very entertaining dining
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
experience integrated into a very authentic and unusual “dinner as theater” concept. Another soon-to-be-launched and interesting experiential concept is a restaurant called August Moon. It takes the drive-in movie concept to a whole new level. Enclosed in a giant indoor bubble, you sit in authentic old-fashioned cars while watching a movie on an enormous IMAX-sized screen, dining on high-quality food and cocktail concepts. Local concepts and “pop-ups” are also newly emerging onto the casino hotel scene. Years ago, you would have casino-owned restaurants, some national concepts and celebrity chefs. Now, we are seeing a proliferation of local-market chefs and concepts in a variety of different formats. Having a flexible restaurant and event space that can be activated during evenings and on weekends can be a real draw to gaming customers, convention guests and local diners. Also it allows programming that is constantly evolving and provides for new guest experience on every visit. We also find that the more interesting and entertaining amenities a casino resort has to offer, the more successful the property is at capturing the lucrative group and convention business.
Buy & Eat The blending of retail, dining and entertainment is another trend in the restaurant business. Take, for example, the restaurant concept called Sugar Factory. You arrive at the restaurant through the company’s store, a visually appealing array of candy, ice cream and other delectable goodies mer-
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Washington, D.C.â€™s Maydan restaurant brings tableside woodfired grills to the dining experience
chandised in an exciting variety of dispensers and comingled among other retail goods including gifts and clothes. Then at the dinner table, your visual, taste and auditory senses continue to be stimulated by an exciting array of menu items that combine great food presented in unusual ways and delectable treats and drinks that are prepared tableside with garnishes such as dry ice, sparklers, fizz-bombs and other types of confectionary garnishments. Then when it is all over, you can stroll through the shop again on your way out and take some souvenirs with you. Itâ€™s a lunch or dinner that you will not soon forget. These sensory-heavy experiences create Instagram moments that will delight your customers. Puttshack, Fight Club Social Darts and Ace Bounce are three innovative experiential dining experiences from the same company that combine entertainment and dining. As their names would suggest, Puttshack takes miniature golf to the next level using technology and interactivity, while Fight Club Social Darts takes the old staid concept of barroom darts and puts a new twist on it with technology and social interactivity. Ace Bounce is a bar and grill concept centered around ping pong and other bar games to create a very social and engaging experience where, rather than just Puttshack combines sit at a table, you have the opportunity to mingle and miniature golf with a fine dining experience meet new people. In all three of the above examples, it is important to note that they start with a very high quality and indifferent point-of-sale transaction options available. novative bar and menu, and then build the entertainment around that. BeIn addition to the traditional, cash, credit, debit, self-pay and electronic cause if the food quality is lacking, no amount of entertainment will make payments options, many restaurant operators in hotel-casino environments up for it. also accept casino loyalty rewards points, coupons, employee discounts, gift Sustainability and wellness do not have to be boring; in fact, many cards and other forms of payment specific to the resort. guests now migrate to those fast-casual concepts that are viewed as more enThis all requires a sophisticated POS and audit system that can speed vironmentally responsible and serve up the healthier fare. The current throughput, eliminate risk in the system, help to combat fraud, and also trends toward paper straws and plant-based hamburgers are two prime exensure timely and accurate reimbursement from the casino resort operator. amples that consumers are embracing without any perceived loss in satisfacCustomers have grown accustomed to these new forms of payment, but tion or guest experience. typically, restaurants have been somewhat reactionary to them. The ones Restaurants need to adjust to the changing diets and food habits to that embrace it early will have much higher odds of success. Additionally, meet the alternative protein and vegetarian requests by customers. Cusintegrating customer data gathered from third-party operators at your tomers can opt not to eat at restaurants that they do not perceive as having casino resort must be negotiated into your lease and operating agreements the food options they expect. New fast casual concepts that have emerged to ensure you have a complete view of the customer spend at your property. in the last five years such as Cava, Honeygrow, Sweetgreen and Lemonade Spyce is a concept that integrates new technologies throughout the enoffer high-quality, healthy options that we anticipate opening in the casino tire dining experience, from ordering to food preparation, all the way to resorts as operators look to replace legacy food court options. payment. While touch-screen ordering is nothing new, this restaurant then puts your order up on a monitor that sits above a row of robots, which then Show Me The Money do the finishing touches on your meal while you watch. Payment technologies form a particularly important developing area for Weâ€™ve seen restaurant concepts use technology but then miss the restaurant operators in casino hotel environments, as there may be several AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Honeygrow brings together fast food with sustainable, high-quality and healthy meals
Spyce uses technology and automation to amaze the customers and bring more money to the bottom line
human touch and sensory elements that are an important part of any dining experience. Spyce had made it clear that they put the food and service elements first, and then augment these elements with interesting and fun uses of technology; it’s one of the better concepts we’ve seen in this genre.
Ultimate Room Service Another trend is the proliferation of online ordering and third-party delivery systems. And not just to homes, but within casino resort environments as well. We’re seeing more and more food operators wanting to extend their customer experiences into the guest room at the hotel. It used to be that you could order room service with times and menus dictated by the hotel. Now at many casino resorts, you can call down to the fast-casual restaurant and have it delivered to your room. Room service is historically a money-loser for hotels, so if you can find a way to improve the guest experience, maintain a secure hotel environment and drive business to your tenants (who probably pay percentage rent), then it is a win for everyone. Kitchen United is a concept backed by Google that aims to create 400 virtual kitchen centers and over 5,000 actual kitchens across the country to help restaurant brands increase their off-premise businesses. They are a third-party operator of kitchen and delivery services offering restaurants a way to expand their presence into new markets with a much lower capital spend than would be required if they tried to do it themselves. Off-premise dining now accounts for over $100 billion, and it is expected to double by 2025. It needs to be an integral part of any restaurant operator’s business plan. With all these examples of new and innovative concepts, let’s not forget that the restaurant business thrives on service. With automation comes a loss of some of those human-touch elements that customers hold dear. And as the labor market continues to tighten, finding quality staff hires at all levels remains a challenge. Employee training, retention and development are paramount to running a successful operation. The recent changes in many laws surrounding minimum wages, tipping, immigration and overtime are all combining to drive labor costs higher. And in the case of a casino resort environment, you may be competing with their employees who most likely have benefits packages higher than your own. So, keeping employees happy, motivated and safe in their respective positions will lead to better service levels, and ultimately, more satisfied customers. 16
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
The “Uncommons” food court in the new expansion at the Sycuan casinos outside of San Diego features local chefs and restaurants, like Lucha Libre Taco Shop
Matt Armstrong is a seasoned hospitality and gaming executive with experience in the hotel, casino and retail industries. Armstrong’s expertise encompasses the disciplines of project development, construction management, property management, marketing, project financing and tenant leasing. Formerly, he was president of Gordon Group Holdings, a large developer of innovative retail projects including the Forum Shops at Caesars Las Vegas, the Beverly Center in Los Angeles and Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods. With more than two decades as chief executive officer, chief operating officer and chief financial officer at renowned casino resorts, Jeff Hartmann has played a seminal role in the growth of the gaming industry. His career spans the landmark casinos of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, Revel in Atlantic City and Mohegan Sun Pocono in Pennsylvania. Armstrong and Hartmann are the co-founders of Experientia Development Partners, the next generation of retail developers, with expertise in design, development, leasing, finance and project management. Experientia is a team of unique developers who understand not only retail development, but gaming and hotel operations as well, customizing every engagement to each client’s needs. For more information and business inquiries, visit experientiadevelopment.com.
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Richard and the Entertainment, Lodging, and Leisure experts at Fifth Third Corporate Bank do more than offer competitive capital solutions. They build personal relationships with clients to provide meaningful guidance through all economic cycles—resulting in a partnership that’s truly strategic, knowledgeable, flexible and efficient. This is banking a Fifth Third better.
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AGS continues its rise in the slot market, building a strong â€œbenchâ€? to foster continued growth By Frank Legato
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
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Far left: AGS President & CEO David Lopez. Top row: Denise Enarson, Executive Assistant; Gabe Baron-Senior Director, Table Products, and Mike Skvorzov, Vice President, Field Service. Middle Row: Cheli Kroupp, Vice President,Table Games Engineering; Mark DeDeaux, Senior Director, Slot Products, and Laura Olson-Reyes, Vice President, Marketing & Corporate Communications. Front Row: Kris Morishige, Chief of Staff & Senior Vice President, Finance; Meredith McEvoy, Engineering Operations Director; and Mike McKiski, Vice President, West Coast Sales.
n early June, more than 100 loyal customers of gaming supplier AGS traveled to Oklahoma’s WinStar World Casino and Resort for what has become an annual ritual, the GameON Customer Summit. The fourth annual GameON, as usual, offered unique keynotes and presentations that have practical business value, in addition to the normal previews of the product roadmap. It’s a customer event like nothing else in the industry. But then again, AGS itself has put on a show like nothing else in the industry since David Lopez took over as president and CEO five years ago, growing from a small Class II supplier into a full-service company with complete divisions developing slot machines, table games and equipment, and most recently, interactive gaming technology. But don’t expect Lopez to take credit. He quickly and consistently points to the team he has assembled as the reason AGS is among few suppliers these days consistently drawing “Buy” ratings from just about every Wall Street gaming analyst. For AGS team members, though, everything AGS has accomplished can be traced back to Lopez, but more specifically, to the company culture he has created at AGS. It’s a culture that encourages empowerment, debate and a diversity of opinion, and it has created a loyalty—and lack of turnover—rarely seen in this business. It’s also why Lopez was given a Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award as a Top CEO for 2019, an honor based on anonymous and voluntary employee reviews. Lopez received a 98 percent approval rating from his employees. Characteristically, Lopez deflects any praise for this or any other industry recognition, pointing right back to his team. “If we hire the right executives in the C-suite, and the right executives in the senior suite, it builds a great foundation for the rest of the company’s culture,” Lopez says. “We set standards with core values, and from there, we really turn it over to the employees. The culture belongs to the employees. “Yes, we have core values. Yes, we hire the senior executive team, which needs to adhere to those core values. But as a team, we all want the same place to work. And we want to work at a place that is moving very fast, that doesn’t have a lot of red tape, and is absent of politics—because we want to get stuff done.” The culture at AGS is exactly the opposite of the traditional top-down management style of many larger
companies. Lopez says a healthy culture is one in which no one is afraid to express an opinion—one of his most often-quoted rules among his senior team is “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.” “If we can do that—being very open with one another—we’ll accomplish a whole lot more,” Lopez says. That healthy culture also values diversity, AGS being one of few companies in the industry with multiple women in the C-suite—Chief Marketing Officer and Executive VP of Investor Relations Julia Boguslawski and Chief of Staff and Senior VP of Finance Kris Morishige—and its board of directors, which includes W.A. Richardson Builders co-owner Yvette E. Landau and Anna Massion, a longtime gaming analyst and non-executive director at Playtech, Plc. Lopez says diversity and inclusion are simply the results of recruiting the best people, regardless of gender, race or any other consideration beyond their abilities. Landau and Massion are “two of the smartest people we know,” Lopez says. “We’re obviously delighted that we have a mixed-gender board now (Massion was added in June) and executive team, but it is the fact that they are smart and accomplished people that really makes them successful.”
We want to work at a place that is moving very fast, that doesn’t have a lot of red tape, and is absent of politics—because we want to get stuff done.” —David Lopez, President and CEO, AGS
Building on Success The numbers of those smart people are constantly rising, as AGS continues to not only expand its senior executive team, but adds management in sales, marketing and R&D. Avid baseball fan Lopez likes to use a baseball manager’s analogy, saying AGS is constantly looking to create long-term stability by increasing the company’s “bench strength.” AGS, in fact, is so committed to this strong “bench” that it asked that a few of those contributors be put on the cover of this magazine, instead of the usual C-suite executives. Lopez says the group in that photo—representing nearly every internal department—is “just a small representation of the incredible talent we have here at AGS. “Recruiting is an ongoing thing; you get no days off in recruiting,” says Lopez. “We’re focused on development, and we’re focused on our future from a product perspective, and our support functions such as finance and accounting.” Nowhere has recruiting been more vital than in the expansion of research and development in all AGS product areas—beginning with slot development. The company has grown from a single studio in Atlanta, AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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“G2E is going to be another great showcase for AGS. We’ll be debuting more new games than ever, more themed families of games, and several larger form factors designed to attract and delight players.” —Mark DeDeaux, Senior Director of Slot Products, AGS
where Chief Technology Officer Sigmund Lee formerly ran R&D for legacy company Cadillac Jack, to five development studios. The company now has a studio in Austin, with access to a steady stream of engineering talent coming out of the University of Texas main campus there. AGS recently opened a second game design studio in Australia and one in Reno. And of course, the main Atlanta studio is in a constant state of expansion. The main goal? “More hit games,” says Lopez. “From an R&D perspective, it’s very methodical. We’re trying to expand our teams. We’re trying to get bigger and more robust—more throughput, but still highquality winners.” The expanding studio system naturally multiplies those hit games, and as such, Andrew Burke, senior vice president of slot products, has expanded his own team. In March, he brought in Mark DeDeaux as senior director of slot products. DeDeaux, a veteran slot developer formerly with Scientific Games and Bally Technologies, as well as a former slot operations executive with Caesars and Trump casinos, says the expansion of development studios means more innovation and, as Lopez says, more hit games. “Each new studio brings more diversity of talent, creativity and experience,” DeDeaux says, “giving us fresh creative input into our game-design approach and practices, including art, play mechanics, animation, audio, and of course, math. This enables us to increase the depth of our content library, bring new games to market faster, and accelerate our investment in innovation.” He adds that more studios mean a leg up in the never-ending competition for top talent among the slot suppliers. “Our studios, and their highly attractive locations, provide us with fertile recruiting ground to continue building our AGS talent pool,” DeDeaux says. “There are terrific universities near each of our studios which provide an opportunity to choose from the best and brightest, and each studio is in an area where people want to work and live. “Our Australia and Reno locations give us access to experienced game developers, while our Austin and Atlanta locations attract incredible tech talent from across the globe.” While many manufacturers encourage a healthy competition among multiple game studios, AGS’ philosophy is to share talents between the studios. “At AGS, we focus on a culture of collaboration,” DeDeaux says. “We use our respective studio skills and talents to help build on each other, to spur more creative input to
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
share ideas and best practices, and to work together to create high-performing games for our customers and entertaining experiences for players.” Among the latest result of that collaboration is the Orion Upright, the newest generation of AGS’ hit marquee-style cabinet series that features vertical flatscreen monitors surrounded by game-controlled LED lights. Officially launched at June’s GameON Customer Summit, the Orion Upright features the distinctive starwall design and game-synchronized lighting of the original Orion Portrait and the Orion Slant core cabinet, launched last year. “With its dual 27-inch HD displays, ergonomic LCD button deck, dual highbright spin button and integrated charging port, it is an attractive and highly recognizable cabinet that offers a comfortable and engaging play experience,” says DeDeaux. All this means a bigger-than-ever display at October’s Global Gaming Expo. “We’re excited to showcase our new game platform, the Atlas 3D,” says Lee (who as CTO is responsible for game, hardware, platform and system development and strategy), “which is primarily for our Orion cabinets, but is backward-compatible for (core cabinet) ICON too. It’s a more powerful game engine that takes advantage of the latest video processors and offers a best-in-class development environment for game designers.” “G2E is going to be another great showcase for AGS,” adds DeDeaux. “We’ll be debuting more new games than ever, more themed families of games, and several larger form factors designed to attract and delight players.”
Setting the Tables Just as with slots, the AGS Table Products division continues to grow because the company hires the right people—not the least of which was the first hire, Senior Vice President of Table Products John Hemberger, who has created a vibrant table division from scratch in barely five years. Hemberger, who formerly ran the proprietary games division of SHFL entertainment, used a combination of R&D talent and acquisition—popular games like Buster Blackjack, War Blackjack, Criss Cross Poker, Bonus Spin and more—to build a division that has achieved more than 3,285 product installations around the world (as of March 31, 2019). “When building the foundation of our table games division, we had a very concentrated focus on people and products,” Hemberger says. “We wanted people who were positive, competitive, and passionate about
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the table games business. And we wanted products that could be the ‘gold’ standard in their segment of table games. And I think we’ve successfully accomplished both.” High-performing games like Buster Blackjack and Criss Cross Poker are complemented by progressive side-bet products like the STAX and Bonus Spin progressives, which present affordable and potentially lucrative side-bet opportunities for players—which, of course, also raise the house hold in the pit. The company has a vibrant pit display business as well, with easy-to-understand display units setting out pay tables and displaying progressive meters without encroaching on the atmosphere of the traditional table games. Some of the displays use unique graphics, themes and animated characters. “We now have more than 1,000 of our award-winning STAX and Bonus Spin progressives in the North America market, and they are truly viewed as the gold standard in the industry,”
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We now have more than 1,000 of our award-winning STAX and Bonus Spin progressives in the North America market, and they are truly viewed as the gold standard in the industry.”
—John Hemberger, Senior Vice President of Table Products, AGS
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The rise of AGS is not driven by one single reason, but rather the combination of factors that really starts with a foundation created by the truly unique and refreshing culture.” —Matt Reback, Executive Vice President, AGS
Hemberger says. “AGS took table game progressives to the next level with the five independent meters and the musthit-by jackpot, but for us, the development piece never ends there. That’s where the excitement stems from, on our side and the customer side; we continue to enhance those product lines to keep delivering a better player experience. “Our overlying goal is always to grow the table game player base, so in our development initiatives, we always take into consideration: Does this make the play experience better and make more people want to play? It is extremely important to us that we join with our casino partners to expose more players to the tablegame experience.” Hemberger has concentrated on expanding the Table Products division into a full-service stop for pit supplies. The latest expansion of the division involves not games, but utility products, which began with last fall’s introduction of the Dex S single-deck shuffler, recently certified by Gaming Laboratories International. At G2E this year, the company will launch its next shuffler product, a single-deck packet shuffler to be called Pax S; and ACOT, a versatile 12-tube chip tray. “We’re certainly excited about the collaboration and support we’ve received from our customers as we introduce the Dex S in markets like Connecticut, Michigan and Nevada,” says Hemberger. “The Pax S will include card recognition and conveniently fit on existing tables.” The ACOT chip tray, developed by the AGS engineering team, is available for lease or purchase, and comes with or without a no-peek device. It fits into existing table cutouts. “With all our momentum in the progressive space, it’s a natural new addition to our portfolio,” Hemberger says. “As we continue to introduce new table hardware like the shufflers and ACOT, our goal is to always give operators options. And it makes our product portfolio much more well-rounded, providing our customers with a one-stop shop for their table games and table products.” Many of the table division’s newest products are the result of feedback from customers. “Customers are always a huge driver of our innovation initiatives,” Hemberger says. “They have a huge influence on our future product roadmap. AGS is focused on being the easiest table game supplier to do business with—we can develop things quickly; we’re nimble; we are easy and flexible. So when operators have ideas for new products, we are the team they call. Foxwoods is a prime example; they drove the development of our Golden Seat feature (which offers customized rewards) for the STAX Progressive.”
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
Interactive Emergence Right on the heels of the Table Products division has been the evolution of AGS Interactive, originally created with the 2015 acquisition of leading social gaming supplier RocketPlay. The interactive division now offers a B2B social white-label casino mobile product, called ConnexSys, and B2B real-money gaming through AGS’ AxSys Games Marketplace. As with the other divisions, finding the right people to lead the interactive division has been a priority, an effort which culminated in June with the hiring of Anthony Abrahamson as senior vice president, interactive. Abrahamson was most recently senior VP and general manager for payment provider Prepaid Network, Inc., and before that held top positions with Sportech Inc.-Draft Day Gaming, which developed a white-label daily fantasy sports platform for B2B and B2C operations, later acquired by NYX Gaming Group. These jobs involved partnerships with realmoney gaming operators in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Europe—experience AGS hopes to tap to move forward in growing interactive markets. “We are thrilled to have Anthony Abrahamson on board as our new senior vice president for the AGS Interactive division,” says Matt Reback, executive vice president of AGS, “and we’re looking to leverage his strong relationships with operators, regulators and suppliers in the real-money gaming space. He has quite an impressive background and track record of success. “We were patient and spent quite a bit of time looking for a candidate who could complement our existing interactive team and fit into our culture. We put a premium on candidates who had real-money gaming experience and good reputations with operators, suppliers and regulators. We also sought individuals who shared our passion for the potential represented by a business that was focused on expanding the distribution of AGS games online, whether in social or real-money gaming casinos.” Reback says the white-label social casino is beginning to take off for AGS. “Demand for our ConnexSys Social White Label Casino is at an all-time high,” he says, “and we expect to announce multiple new deals with casino operators who appreciate the value they can create by offering their patrons a way to interact with their brand online in a social, playfor-fun casino environment. “Savvy land-based operators are recognizing the benefits of extending their relationships with patrons to the online/mobile space when they are not on property.” For real-money gaming, the company is using the
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AxSys Games Marketplace content aggregation platform, acquired with Gamiom Technologies in June 2018. “We are now distributing AGS games, along with hundreds of titles from our third-party suppliers such as High-5, Gaming Realms, Ainsworth and Gamomat, to operators in regulated markets around the world,” Reback says. “Our operator partners include GVC, Ladbrokes/Coral, 888, Bet Victor, William Hill and Rush Street Interactive, to name a few.” He says games including Golden Wins, Jade Wins, Longhorn Jackpots, Fu Nan Fu Nu and Rakin’ Bacon! are performing very well online. Lopez says the company’s aim is “to position AGS to take advantage of new online markets in the U.S. and around the globe. And as we carry that momentum into 2020, we’ll look, over time, to expand and add a little bit of bandwidth, whether it be an additional platform, or a move into other segments of real-money gaming and online wagering.” One of those options could be a sports betting platform. “I think that we have to look at sports betting technology,” Lopez says. “We keep our eyes on it, but we’ll probably look for sports betting partners, more than we look at technology.”
Just Getting Started Clearly, the evolution of AGS is an open-ended proposition—even Lopez can’t predict where the company will be five years from now. “What’s next? You tell me,” he says. “We don’t know what’s next, but from sports to a casino management system, an acquisition, maybe something internationally—it’s all on the table.” In the near term, of course, the company is soaring toward what should be a memorable G2E show in the fall. “Visitors to our booth will see a whole new lineup of premium games,” says Lopez, “innovative new game packaging complemented with our proven game designs; and new cabinets in both the core and premium categories. G2E will truly be a testament to our investment in R&D and to the talent and creativity of our incredible innovation-focused teams.” “I’m excited to showcase our new game platform, expanded Orion family of cabinets, and new premium product offerings,” says Lee. “I think our new premium offerings will capture a lot of attention. All these innovations are the result of the great people and organization we’ve created.” In the longer term, the AGS team is sure to keep growing, and to keep churning out the hits that Lopez seeks. “At AGS, our product management and
R&D teams are constantly in the market, visiting casinos, playing games, and talking to customers and players,” says Reback. “We also analyze game placement and performance data and study nongaming consumer, technology, and social trends to identify attitudes and behaviors that might indicate customer demand.” “We’ve evolved our platforms to take advantage of the latest hardware technologies and game engines,” adds Lee. “The combination of great hardware and software are foundations for our game technology and equally important.” “Right now, we are tapping into a trend illustrated by portrait-oriented monitors,” says Reback. “You can see this quite easily on casino floors and specifically in the AGS Orion Portrait cabinet. On the consumer electronics side, this trend may have been created or at least promulgated by the ubiquitous presence of smartphones and tablets, which have made consumers comfortable interfacing with high-resolution, portraitoriented monitors to interact with their devices.” Adds Lee, “Technologies in lighting and displays as they are used for cabinet and sign designs are emerging. I think these are areas we look to enhance and apply to our existing and future product designs.” All the while, the most important challenge as AGS grows will be to maintain the company’s employee-focused culture while adding talent in every department. “The rise of AGS is not driven by one single reason, but rather the combination of factors that really starts with a foundation created by the truly unique and refreshing culture,” says Reback. “The culture starts and ends with the dedicated people—the employees who work hard and proudly own every part of this organization. “It became apparent when I started at AGS that this company was special and was poised for a long and sustainable string of successes.” “Because we’re doing well with recruiting,” says Lopez, “and we’re doing well with evangelizing our message of what we want in our R&D department— that obviously comes from Sigmund Lee—we’re getting exactly what we want from our teams, and they continue to perform from a game perspective, from a cabinetry perspective, and obviously, as employees, as part of our culture.” And that 98 percent approval rating from his employees that got Lopez the Glassdoor Top CEO award? Lopez likely already has a plan to win over that other 2 percent. And that’s a good bet as well.
The combination of great hardware and software are foundations for our game technology and equally important.” —Sigmund Lee Chief Technology Officer
AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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GameON! AGS holds its fourth GameON Customer Summit
former FBI Keynote speaker Chris Voss, author of ing -sell hostage negotiator and best erence: Diff the t Spli er Nev k boo the On It ed end Dep Negotiating As If Your Life
AGS CEO David Lopez greets attendees
aming supplier AGS has grown into a major force in the past five years, and right along with that growth has been the evolution of the company’s unique customer event, the GameON Customer Summit. In June, AGS held its fourth annual GameON event at the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. It was the largest GameON event yet, with 142 attendees including more than 100 customers, plus investors, media and Wall Street analysts. In his opening speech to attendees, AGS President and CEO David Lopez recalled how Julia Boguslawski, AGS’ chief marketing officer and head of investor relations, originally designed GameON as “a customer event like no other customer event,” to provide real value and entertainment to the company’s customers. “We recognize that coming to GameON is an investment in time and travel for our customers,” Boguslawski says, “so we strive to offer valuable content that is meaningful and useful, both professionally and personally. Our customers appreciate the opportunity to learn, grow, and bring back new ways to drive revenue and add value at their properties.” GameON is different from customer events staged by most of the major gaming suppliers. It does feature the nuts-and-bolts proprietary content in the form of presentations and panel discussions designed to share news and plans affecting the AGS product roadmap, to attendees dominated by the supplier’s major customers, the casino operators. But what has distinguished GameON have been keynotes, presentations and discussions beyond one company’s products. For example, this year’s keynote presentation was staged by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator who has authored a best-selling book relating how techniques he used while with the FBI were designed to trigger certain brain mechanisms to achieve the negotiator’s results—techniques that can be used by anyone in just about any business venture. As with many of the event’s
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
John Hemberger, AGS Senior Vice President of Table Products
featured speakers, Voss presented a funny and entertaining mix of stories, visuals and Q&A to illustrate his theme. Another great example was “Managing Today’s Multi-Generation Workforce,” featuring Jenny Holaday, president of the Fuel Leadership consultancy and a veteran of 25 years in casino operations and marketing, who examined the fundamental differences between the baby boom generation, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z, just entering the workforce. In another intriguing and funny presentation (aided by some hilarious videos illustrating generational differences), she offered valuable advice on understanding members of each generation as a way of building teams and retaining talent. Topics of other presentations included sports betting, esports, the guest experience, and the power of employee culture—a keystone of Lopez’s management philosophy. Strategically placed among the unique presentations were product demonstrations and updates from AGS officials on what’s happening with the company’s slot, table, and interactive product portfolio, and highlights from the company’s innovation roadmap. AGS Senior Vice President of Slot Products Andrew Burke covered the
M R M C L H M
Ch W D
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“Top 5 Reasons You Want More AGS Slot Product on Your Floor,” focusing on the company’s continued investments in R&D and its hardware product roadmap, including last month’s launch of the new Orion Upright cabinet. John Hemberger, senior vice president of table products, shared updates about AGS’ table products roadmap and the company’s mission to drive revenue and deliver value for customers. For AGS’ interactive B2B social business, GameON attendees were invited to participate in free-play tournaments through the GameON social casino app, experiencing the company’s ConnexSys social white label casino solution firsthand. Along with two full days of conference content, there were numerous networking opportunities during GameON, including a golf tournament and an event at The Star, the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters and practice facility. Charlotte Jones Anderson, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer (and daughter of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones), addressed conference attendees, followed by meet-and-greets with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley, a fivetime Super Bowl champion and five-time Pro Bowler.
In addition to attendees, the GameON event drew praise from Wall Street gaming analysts, including David Katz of Jeffries Equity Research, who reiterated a “Buy” rating for AGS stock. “The AGS GameON event in Thackerville, Oklahoma coupled with our recent channel checks support our positive thesis on the name,” Katz wrote. “Our attendance at PlayAGS’ GameON event... provided an opportunity to review the product range, the product development roadmap and to interact with senior management. Perhaps most important, it provided an opportunity to talk with the company’s customers, who provide insight into the performance of currently placed games and enthusiasm for future releases.” “I think it keeps getting better,” Lopez says of the GameON event. “I love speakers who bring in a different twist, a different angle to the business and the lives that we lead every day. We’re not trying to give you the same old program. “Our goal for GameON is to continue to raise the bar each year, and have every single panel, every single speaker, every single minute of GameON be riveting. That’s what we hope for.” —Frank Legato
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Gambling in the
Muslim World Why the Middle East and North Africa are often gaming-friendly By Steve Gallaway and Andrew Tottenham
ccording to the Quran, Muslims are forbidden to gamble. However, there are casinos in countries where Islam is the predominant religion, and there are numerous other countries throughout the world with casinos that focus their marketing strategies on attracting gamers from Muslim-majority countries. In the 1960s and â€™70s, the high-end casinos in London were populated with Arab customers awash with their newly found petrodollars. Millions of pounds sterling were exchanged on a nightly basis. Today, in the London casinos, one will still find some of the largest players from Arab nations rubbing shoulders with Asian players. Despite all the historical and current troubles in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Middle Easterners continue to seek gambling opportunities both within the region and in the West and the Far East, where larger integrated resorts attract the highest-net-worth players from around the world. With such intense investment and development originating from Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds and other major corporations, especially in the hospitality and leisure sector, the region may be primed to become a major gaming and integrated resort destination. However, it is important to consider the previous successes and failures of the market, as well as the delicate balance of casino gaming within the culture of any Muslim-majority nation.
Gambling in MENA Countries Today In Egypt, the 14 or so casinos in Cairo still do a good business, generating over $200 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR) annually. Casinos are only permitted within five-star hotels, and Egyptian citizens are not supposed to enter the casinos. All players must present their passports at the door to gain entry. However, in the Middle East, many people have dual citizenship, and even Egyptians will show another passport to gain access to casinos. Other quirks are that the casinos have to pay a gaming tax of 50 percent of GGR, and this has to be paid on a daily basis. If the casino loses on any particular night, the loss cannot be netted against casino wins in the following nights for tax purposes. The basis for the gaming tax and the consequent win/loss volatility work against high-action games such as craps
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
Cairo, Egypt is home to approximately 14 casinos, including (top to bottom) the Cairo Marriott Hotel and Omar Khayyam casino, the Conrad Hotel Casino Cairo and the Sheraton Hotel Casino Cairo
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and roulette. Morocco is similar to Egypt in that it allows casino gambling, albeit with a smaller number of casinos than Egypt at only seven, and Moroccan citizens are also not supposed to enter the casino. However, similarly to Egypt, many wealthy Moroccan citizens are holders of two passports. The casinos are all located within five-star hotels and resorts in Marrakech, Agadir, El Jadida and Tangiers. The length of licenses and the gaming tax are negotiable depending on the level of investment made. Tunisia allows casino gaming but only for foreign visitors. There are currently three casinos in the country. There were more, but many have closed since the downturn in tourism following a terrorist attack in Sousse that targeted foreign tourists in 2015. Not many people realize that in Lebanon, the Casino du Liban operates in the coastal town of Maameltein, about 20 kilometers north of Beirut. It was originally opened in 1959 and closed in 1986, only to reopen after a $50 million refurbishment in 1996. The casino has more than 60 tables and 600 slot machines, a 1,000-seat showroom, a 600-seat theater, three restaurants, and banqueting for up to 600 people. The casinoâ€™s average annual GGR is approximately $175 million. In 2017, the casino had gross revenues of $150 million, of which 50 percent was paid out in taxes and $80 million was paid out in salaries; the company has over 1,400 employees. Casino du Liban is a public company, quoted on the Beirut OTC market. Shares of the company have traded as high as $550 per share but are currently trading at $140 following years of losses. More than half of the shares that are not in the public float are owned by Intra Investment Company, which is owned 35 percent by the Lebanese Central Bank, 10 percent by the Lebanon Ministry of Finance, 4 percent by the Kuwaiti National Bank (which used to own 23 percent but has sold down), and 3 percent by the Kuwaiti government. There appears to be no restriction on Middle Eastern governments owning shares in casino companies, whether domestic or international. Another Middle Eastern fund that has no difficulty investing in casinos is Dubai World, the sovereign wealth fund of the government of
Dubai. In 2007, Dubai World invested $5.2 billion in what was then known as MGM Mirage, in order to bail out the company due to the strain of developing CityCenter in Las Vegas. Istithmar World, a subsidiary of Dubai World, invested heavily in Kerzner International in 2006 to take the company private, emerging with a 30 percent share of the company. Kerzner International once owned the Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas, but its only gaming property today is the Magazan Beach and Golf Resort in Morocco. Other non-Middle Eastern countries that attract customers from these regions include the approximately 25 in Northern Cyprus; Melcoâ€™s City of Dreams resort under construction in Cyprus; the five casinos in Batumi, Georgia, which is just a short drive away from the Turkish border; the casinos in Tbilisi, Georgia, which are widely popular with guests from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Israel and Iran; and many other countries in the region. In addition to those listed above, London casinos still attract some of the highest-net-worth players in the region. One would need only to walk into a London club to see who these big players are. In addition to the few Chinese players in the region who will always find their way to the casino, the casinosâ€™ largest whales tend to be of the Middle Eastern persuasion. AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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The oldest casino in the Middle East is the Casino du Liban in Lebanon, located just north of Beirut
Defunct MENA Gaming Markets Turkey used to have a vibrant casino gaming market. In fact, Turkey’s gaming market was too vibrant. The first casino opened in Turkey in 1990, and there was little established in terms of regulation. When casinos were eventually banned in Turkey, it wasn’t the number of casinos in the country, but rather the ubiquity of casino-style slot machines in bars and restaurants throughout the country that led former President Süleyman Demirel to ban all forms of gaming except the lottery. Today, any Turk wishing to gamble can simply hop on a plane to Northern Cyprus (whose official name is the Turkish Republic of With gaming now illegal in Turkey, many gamblers in that part of the world Northern Cyprus) or Georgia. visit Tbilisi, Georgia, where casinos like the Shangri La and the casino at the Biltmore (above) welcome them There was a casino in Jericho, a Palestinian city in the West Bank, with 120 tables and more than 300 slot machines. It was permitted to open by Yasir Arafat in 1998 in the hope that it would bring a much-needed economic boost to the Palestinian National Authority, despite the fact that many of the residents of the territory are Evaluating the MENA Gaming Market as a Whole Muslims and do not agree with gambling. Is this a billion-dollar market? Yes. However, not all of the money is filtered The intent was for Israelis to gamble in the casino because casino gamthrough the aforementioned casinos. Much of it finds its way over to larger bling was, and is not currently, allowed in Israel. The casino was a commercasino resorts in Asian countries, such as Genting Highlands in Malaysia. In cial success for the two years it operated, with gaming revenues estimated at Malaysia, while it is illegal for Malay Muslims to gamble, there is no particroughly $160 million per year. Unfortunately, rioting and a subsequent ular gambling ban for Muslims from other countries. When walking on the travel ban on Israelis visiting the territory put a halt to the casino enterprise. casino floor at Genting, while the majority of players are coming from Similarly, Azerbaijan formerly allowed casinos, although a scandal inChina and elsewhere in Asia, the presence of gamers from the Middle East volving the current president and gambling overseas led him to close the is staggering. casinos as a part of his moral crusade against gambling. While the Middle East does generate substantial levels of gaming play, it In Iraq, prior to the first Gulf War, there was a casino in the Ishtar Shercomes at a price. Deep discounts on losses are to be expected. While loss aton Hotel in Baghdad. Although intended for foreigners staying at the discounts of 20 percent to 30 percent are expected, some casinos in North hotel, many Iraqis enjoyed playing in the casino. Following the onset of the Cyprus will discount players’ losses by as much as 50 percent. The game of first Gulf War, the casino closed, and the expatriate staff was evacuated. The choice is Russian Poker, a house-banked version of five-card poker. While casino has yet to reopen. the hold percentage of this game can reach upwards of 35 percent, which During the reign of Shah Reza Pahlavi in Iran, there were casinos in Ismakes large discounts on play more palatable to the operators, larger players fahan and Tehran, as well as one on the island of Kis. The casinos were purwill often negotiate the rules with the casinos prior to visiting. By adjusting ported to be owned in part by the Pahlavi family. They were operated by the number of hands that one can play simultaneously, and through other British companies, including Ladbrokes, and they were extremely popular unique rule changes, the players can lower the house’s advantage. and highly profitable with a high volume of play from wealthy Iranians and Many of the guests who frequent these casinos arrive through a junket others from countries nearby. The casinos closed when the Shah was overprogram. With these programs, the casinos often need to arrange for the thrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1978.
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
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Very profitable in its short existence, the Oasis casino in Jericho closed when Israelis were forbidden to travel into Palestinian territory
players to receive discounted or free hotel rooms and food, and often some amount of free play or direct bet in the casino. In certain circumstances, the operator will share a percentage of the total win from the group with the junket operator. However, operators must be very careful in selecting the junkets with whom they partner, as the players arriving to Middle Eastern casinos via junkets are not usually high worth. Very often, the average junket player might only lose $800, against which the casino had $400 of promotional allowances. While there can be high levels of risk taken on by the operators based on considerations for promotional allowances and potential adjustments to the rules of the game, these casinos can make substantial amounts of revenue. Those casinos that are successful can generate upwards of $4,000 per table per day. While slots are not as popular, they are growing and beginning to attract more players.
Despite the Sharia law mandate prohibiting Muslims from gambling, gamers from the Middle East account for a sizeable share of gaming dollars spent throughout the world. However, as most of these dollars are lost to casinos outside of the Middle East, a significant challenge remains in ensuring that these revenues are kept closer to home. While many Muslim-majority countries chose to offer casino gaming only to foreigners or non-Muslim visitors, the performance of these casinos is often hindered by high tax rates and impractical regulatory barriers. The ideal Middle Eastern gaming market would enable casino operators to achieve sustainable gaming revenues with a moderate tax rate that yields the optimal amount of revenue to the host nation, all while respecting the rich culture and norms of Muslim-majority nations and ensuring that casinos and integrated resorts are welcomed within local communities, an essential aspect of any successful gaming operation.
Steve Gallaway is managing partner of Global Market Advisors, the leading consulting firm in the gaming and hospitality industry; and Andrew Tottenham is managing director of Tottenham & Co., the leader in gaming consulting in Europe, and a director of nQube Data Science.
AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Eldorado, Caesars Agree to $17.3 Billion Merger
Eldorado will look to sell off assets, particularly on the Las Vegas Strip— although flagship Caesars Palace is undoubtedly safe
The long-awaited merger between Caesars and Eldorado is a cash and stock mega-deal that will create the largest casino operator in the world, but for Eldorado it also carries a ton of debt \ By Patrick Roberts
t’s been expected for weeks and even months. It’s finally happened. Eldorado Resorts and Caesars Entertainment have shaken hands on a merger of their two companies in a $17.3 billion cash-and-stock deal that will create the world’s largest casino operator. Corporate raider Carl Icahn, who has amassed a controlling 28 percent stake in Caesars over the last several months, professed himself “pleased.” Icahn, the main catalyst for the deal, had been pushing hard for a sale of the Las Vegas-based gaming giant, which had shed some $10 billion in debt through a reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court of its largest operating company two years ago, but was unable to generate much lift under a share price that’s lagged below $10 ever since, despite an enormous portfolio of 53 properties in 14 U.S. states and five other countries. Once Icahn swooped in, eventually claiming three seats on the board of directors, a sale was all but assured. “This merger is the quintessential example of how an activist shareholder, working collaboratively with the board, can enhance value for all stockholders,” he said in a prepared statement accompanying the announcement of the merger last month. “The deal price represents a premium of 51 percent over Caesars’ trading price on the day before our representatives joined the Caesars board on March 1, 2019.” Needless to say, that’s a huge profit for Icahn and a win overall for Caesars shareholders. Eldorado was a relatively obscure Northern Nevada operator that went on a buying spree five years ago and transformed itself into a major player in the U.S. regional market with 26 casinos in 12 states. It will acquire all of Caesars’ outstanding shares for $8.40 in cash each, and 0.0899 shares of Eldorado stock based on Eldorado’s 30-calendar day volume-weighted average price per share as of May 23. Based on that formula, the deal values Caesars’ equity at $8.54 billion, or $12.75 per share, and is worth in total approximately $17.3 billion, comprised of $7.2 billion in cash, approximately 77 million Eldorado shares and the assumption of Caesars’ outstanding debt of roughly $8.8 billion. Respectively, Eldorado and Caesars shareholders will hold approximately 51 percent and 49 percent of the shares of the combined company, which will retain the Caesars name. Shareholders of both companies need to approve the merger, which is expected to close some time next year.
One-Upping Yourself It’s the biggest casino sale since Caesars’ ill-fated leveraged buyout by TPG and Apollo Management in 2008 which ultimately landed the gaming giant in 30
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
Chapter 11. Counting Eldorado’s 26 casinos—23 after a pending sale of two casinos in Missouri and one in West Virginia—it’s a massive portfolio, one that carries nowhere near the debt load of the Apollo-TPG deal but sizable debt nonetheless. Eldorado shareholders reacted negatively to the announcement, sending the stock down more than 8 percent. What appears certain is that the new Caesars will be looking to sell off assets, especially in Las Vegas, where they’re likely to fetch higher prices. “I think that there’s more Strip exposure than we would need to accomplish our goals with our regional database,” CEO Thomas Reeg said. “So I would expect that we would be a seller of a Strip asset, but that decision has not been made.” The sale in June of the three Missouri properties is expected to ease regulatory approvals there, but questions remain in Atlantic City, where a merged Caesars/Eldorado company would control four of the city’s nine casinos—Caesars, Harrah’s, Tropicana and Bally’s. Although Caesars alone had previously controlled four casinos up until 2014 when it shuttered the Showboat, there were also 12 casinos open at that time. Bally’s seems to be a prime candidate for closure, but the rooms would likely remain open, with Caesars absorbing the Wild Wild West casino, where a new sportsbook just opened.
Global Shrinkage It’s expected also that the deal will spell the end of Caesars’ aspirations globally, particularly in Japan, which has attracted interest from all the industry’s major players. “The opportunity internationally is going to have to be, frankly, stupendous for us to be running in that direction. But no firm decisions have been made at this point,” Reeg said. One firm decision has been made, however, prior to the merger. The Gold Coast Bulletin in Australia has confirmed that Caesars will no longer be pursuing an integrated resort in Queensland. The newspaper quoted Queensland Tourism Department Director Damien Walker as saying the deal was not “an attractive opportunity” for Caesars. As for Tony Rodio, who Icahn pushed into the position of Caesars CEO, it’s expected he’ll remain on the job at least through the closing of the merger, and possibly after that. Rodio ran Tropicana Entertainment when Icahn owned that company and reportedly was a key figure in the negotiations that led to Eldorado’s 2018 acquisition of Tropicana’s eight casinos for $1.8 billion. Rodio said, “I’m familiar with Eldorado and its management team, and I look forward to collaborating with them to bring our companies together.”
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Apple Upsets the iGaming Cart Is it a consumer-protection measure or a monopolistic power play? Here’s how the technology giant is big-footing gaming operators By Marjorie Preston
ennsylvania gamblers first became aware of the Apple-online gaming controversy in May, when SugarHouse.com in Philadelphia deployed its online platform and iPhone users couldn’t get in on the games. For reasons that are still not fully clear, Apple has decreed that its App Store will no longer offer any app that “provides access to realmoney gaming, lotteries or charitable donation.” According to the order handed down from Silicon Valley, “This functionality is only appropriate for code that’s embedded in the binary and can be reviewed by Apple”— i.e., not the standard HTML5 format. It’s Greek to a lot of people, but the issue is pretty straightforward: Apple won’t offer mobile gaming apps in its ubiquitous online marketplace unless providers hurry up and rewrite their code to match iOS native code. New providers in breaking markets like Pennsylvania will be completely shut out. And without a speedy solution, current providers will be out the door in a month.
Playing Hardball Coincidentally or not, Apple’s decision was first handed down in August 2018, shortly after New Jersey took its first online sports bets. The decision constitutes a big roadblock for online gaming providers and a good portion of their customers. According to Statista.com, in March, 52.1 percent of U.S. smartphone subscribers used Google Android devices, with Apple a close sec-
ond at 47 percent. By simple reckoning, that means almost half of potential online casino players will be barred from participating in iGaming, at least on their most frequently used devices, until someone comes up with an answer. Kent Young, founder and CEO of Spin Games, with U.S. headquarters in Reno, Nevada, says Apple could be motivated by several things: worries about the ever-wobbly Wire Act; “the whole commercial aspect,” as the company derives no revenue from iGaming; and concerns about illicit transactions, unregulated markets and underage players. Whether its motives are benevolent, mercenary or a little bit of both, the corporate giant has handed a big headache to gaming operators and their partners. “In North America, virtually everybody has developed their products in HTML5, which would now need to be rewritten,” says Young. “There are over 600 games just in New Jersey, so it would be a significant tech-stack change in direction. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about whether it can be done at this point.” Plus, any reconfiguration of the products would be subject to regulatory review and approval, which would complicate matters and stretch the timeline even more. At a July meeting of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, AGEM leaders decided to “retain outside counsel to investigate the appeal process with Apple, (with) the possibility of initially asking for an extension to the dead-
It’s Greek to a lot of people, but the issue is pretty straightforward: Apple won’t offer mobile gaming apps in its ubiquitous online marketplace unless providers hurry up and rewrite their code to match iOS native code.
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
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“In North America, virtually everybody has developed their products in HTML5, which would now need to be rewritten. There are over 600 games just in New Jersey, so it would be a significant tech-stack change in direction.” —Kent Young, founder and CEO, Spin Games
could soon go coast to coast. Andrey Kuznetsov, CEO of European gaming operator KamaGames, is confident a solution will emerge, and possibly soon. “It’s safe to say we’re not overly shocked by the move… On the development side of things, it shouldn’t be an overly complicated requirement to implement.” He added that there are “clear downsides, most notably the added inconvenience” for users. “We know that the experience for the user will be messy and complicated,” Kuznetsov says. “Unfortunately, Apple hasn’t shown any signs of making this process any more straightforward, instead leaving the ironing out of these details to developers.” One workaround could be bypassing the App Store and allowing Reports conflict about Apple’s requirements and the industry’s options. players to access iGaming through their browsers. Lindsay Slader is vice According to a June 3 post on PlayPennsylvania.com, the conversion to a president of regulatory affairs at GeoComply, a leader in geolocation native iOS code for sports betting may be easier to effect because the oncompliance solutions. As she notes, each extra step a consumer must take line books are still in development. to gamble online increases the possibility that he or she will throw in “If they are standalone programs, moving to a native iOS code the towel and opt out completely. won’t be excessively difficult,” wrote “Think about the journey the player columnist Bart Shirley. “With any luck, has to take,” Slader says. “If I've never most of the app developers in soon-toplaced a sports bet in New Jersey before, open states will have had the foresight to I need to pick which website I want to develop the sports book independently.” try; I need to set up an account; I need But a July 7 article on Crossingto go through the KYC process to verify Broad.com seemed to contradict that, my identity and age. I also need to desaying Apple is “further complicating posit money into the account, and given matters by requiring casinos to offer their some banks don’t process payments reonline casino and sports book in the same lated to internet sports betting, there can app.” And that 50-50 iOS-Android split be challenges for the user there as well. aside, the Philly news site noted that Geolocation then follows—still prior to about 67 percent of its readers, “mostly bet placement. Given these steps reyoung male sports fans in Philly,” use quired pre-bet, any extra friction point Apple devices. That means a lot of frus—Statement from Apple Inc. in this overall journey can affect the trated consumers in a U.S. market that line and a direct meeting.” At that meeting, David Lucchese, executive vice president of digital and interactive business at Everi, suggested contacting the American Gaming Association to “gauge its plans and possibly partner on a response.” Giving the industry yet another “yikes” moment, at the meeting it was further noted that “Google and its Android system may follow Apple’s lead, but nothing has been announced so far.” This is not just a problem for U.S. or North American operators and manufacturers, of course. It’s global.
“We’re proud to have created the safest, most secure and trusted platform for customers and a great business opportunity for all developers around the world.”
AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Beijing Requested Hundreds of App Shutouts “Apple hasn’t shown any signs of making this process any more straightforward, instead leaving the ironing out of these details to developers.” —Andrey Kuznetsov, CEO, KamaGames
Whether its motives are benevolent, mercenary or a little bit of both, the corporate giant has handed a big headache to gaming operators and their partners.
business funnel.” Young says he’s hopeful that there will be “a somewhat seamless transfer from using an app to using a web-based solution. For example, if you go on Google and put in www.harryscasino.com, the casino will pop up and play as if you were playing on the app. The challenge there is that existing players are used to getting the app and they won’t be able to do that anymore. This is definitely going to impact the player experience.” A web-based portal is “not perfect, and I don’t want to underestimate the issue,” Young continues. “But I think the industry is coming together to devise a solution that hopefully will suffice in the short term, until we come up with an answer to what we can and can’t do.”
Playing Monopoly Apple is starting to feel the pushback for its seemingly monopolistic practices, including assessing a 30 percent commission on developers in the App Store. Even retail T. rex Amazon has accused Apple of overreaching. Last fall, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a suit against Apple may proceed; in it, iPhone users upset by high app prices say Apple does business like a
In a report issued in mid-July, Apple Inc. disclosed that in the second half of 2018, 11 international governments asked that the technology giant remove certain apps from its App Store. Most of the requests came from the Chinese government; according to Apple, “the vast majority” of the 626 apps in question were related to illegal gambling and pornography. Apple withdrew 517 of them. During that period, a total of 11 countries asked that apps be removed from the App Store; Apple complied in 634 cases.
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
cartel, maintaining high prices and squashing competition. Apple defended the App Store, saying, it is “not a monopoly by any metric. We’re proud to have created the safest, most secure and trusted platform for customers and a great business opportunity for all developers around the world.” The lawsuit may not have direct implications for the iGaming issue, and until the matter is resolved, gaming operators around the globe will have a front-burner problem that could squeeze the online gaming and mobile sports betting industries just as they’re catching on. “There are a lot of technical challenges that go into rebuilding a new user experience, new webpages, and new functionality, and it all has to be approved by the regulator,” says GeoComply’s Slader. “That takes a lot of time—and September is really close. Everyone is feeling the pressure to develop a new product in a very short time frame. “If the user experience is not going to be app-based, I think everyone is trying to figure out how they redesign it to ensure their business remains viable and accessible. That might mean everyone needs —Lindsay Slader, Vice President, to go back to the drawing board.” Regulatory Affairs, GeoComply
“There are a lot of technical challenges that go into rebuilding a new user experience, new webpages, and new functionality, and it all has to be approved by the regulator. That takes a lot of time—and September is really close.”
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EMERGING LEADERS Money Management Adam Fong Vice President, Product Management Team, FinTech Division of Everi Holdings, Inc. dam Fong did not leave his heart in San Francisco. He grew up there, but moved to Las Vegas in 2003 for his undergrad and graduate degrees at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I intended on finishing school and moving back, but Las Vegas grew on me, so here I am 16 years later,” says Fong, vice president of the product management team for Casino Solutions, part of the FinTech Division of Everi Holdings, Inc. Early on, he worked for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, testing platforms. Being on the regulatory side exposed Fong to operators, manufacturers and senior gaming execs that proved invaluable. “It gave me an understanding of their perspective and vision,” Fong says. “I also learned the role of regulators. I tried to carry those experiences with me. Co-workers joke that I still have regulator in my DNA. I wear that as a badge of honor, because compliance is such an important part of our industry.” During his regulator days, he met the management team of the former Multimedia Games, which merged with Global Cash Access to form Everi. “I felt like I might be able to help with the integration,” he says. Global Cash Access morphed into FinTech, the side Fong stayed with after the merger. In his current position, Fong oversees many FinTech solutions such as anti-money laundering platforms, credit intelligence products, cash handling and jackpot management. “Our mission is to enhance the operator’s experience by delivering solutions that increase efficiency, make better decisions, and manage regulatory obligations,” says Fong, who likes weekend trips to explore new places and experiences with his wife, Agnes. In his career, Fong has dealt with challenges, including learning different facets of the gaming industry as his job title changed. “I went from being a regulator testing for a single jurisdiction to managing regulatory testing for hundreds of jurisdictions. It took a good amount of time to learn how gaming technology was regulated outside of Nevada and get exposure to technology not found in the state.” When Fong went from independent testing
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
“Our mission is to enhance the operator’s experience by delivering solutions that increase efficiency, make better decisions, and manage regulatory obligations.” company BMM to the supplier side with Global Cash Access, he studied new areas of the industry. He relied on mentors in his corner for help. Mentors like Travis Foley, at BMM, who gave him his first start in gaming working for NGCB. “He took me under his wing, gave me a ton of opportunities and always challenged me to be better,” Fong says. At Global Cash Access, Tim Richards exposed Fong to the fundamentals of product management and what it takes to get a product over the finish line. “Lastly, Darren Simmons helped me understand the FinTech side of the business and empowered me with tremendous responsibility to make an impact.” Fong says the future is limitless. “I’ve really enjoyed the ride so far and intend to continue my career in gaming,” says the Game of Thrones fan. “There is so much to learn within this industry, and that excites me.” As the industry evolves, Fong expects to help bring further innovation and compelling experiences to players and operators alike. He says gaming welcomes newcomers. “The industry can benefit from fresh perspectives,” says Fong. But come with an open mind, he advises. “Make friends with a few industry veterans and spend as much time as you can with them. Not only will they have a lot of wisdom to impart, but they have some great stories, too!” —William Sokolic
Investment Advice Kyle Bender Managing Director, Gaming, J.P. Morgan hortly after his April arrival at J.P. Morgan as managing director, head of gaming, Kyle Bender led a team that advised and provided financing for the pending merger of Caesars Entertainment with Eldorado Resorts. The deal was just the latest transaction for the Los Angeles native since he graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. Penn exposed Bender to investment banking and the skills needed for his career choices, which started when he returned to Los Angeles after graduation. “I began as a generalist at Banc of America Securities but joined the gaming investment banking team about six months in. I have dedicated most of the last 16 years to covering the sector,” he says. As an analyst, Bender faced a challenge during the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008. His team at Banc of America relocated to New York, so for him to continue covering gaming in Los Angeles, he moved to UBS Securities. From UBS, he joined Jeffries & Company for two years, followed by more than six years with Macquarie Group. In terms of his progression, Bender took time to get the transition right from execution responsibilities to client management. “It takes a different set of skills to be successful in client management,” he says. Early in Bender’s career, his focus was on deal execution—making sure things got done. “In my current role as a sector head, most of
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Teaching Tables Sydney Hatcher Director of Table Games, Golden Nugget Casino Hotel Biloxi
“The rollout of expanded gaming is already leading to some exciting business relationships between casino operators and leading betting companies.” my energy goes into developing and maintaining relationships with companies, generating financing and advisory opportunities and managing a team of talented people. It’s my responsibility to deliver J.P. Morgan’s capabilities to gaming clients,” he says. One of the lessons Bender learned over the years is that reputation is very important. “Gaming is a small industry, so if you have a poor reputation, that can follow you around.” For Bender, the most interesting evolution to watch revolves around the growth of legal online gaming. As states roll out mobile sports betting, there is a good chance it could normalize digital gaming and lead to more states going full online as exists in New Jersey, he says. “I don’t believe this will replace land-based gaming, but rather act as a complement and player development mechanism,” he says. “The rollout of expanded gaming is already leading to some exciting business relationships between casino operators and leading betting companies.” Now a veteran analyst, Bender has his ideas on how novices can succeed. Most important? Develop and maintain relationships with senior team members at the outset of your career. “In my experience, if you work hard and contribute to your team’s success, the people you work with are likely to take an active interest in your career development,” he says. “I remain close to many of the people who supported me when I was a young banker.” — William Sokolic
ydney Hatcher graduated from DePaul University in his hometown of Chicago with a degree in English and secondary education. He taught high school English for a year. So, how did he find greener pastures in the casino industry? Hatcher first worked in gaming while in school. He saw an ad that Horseshoe Casino, in Hammond, Indiana, was hiring for various positions. “I had never stepped foot inside a casino before, and had no idea what I was getting myself into,” he says. “Turns out, it was the best decision that I could have made.” The income from Horseshoe financed Hatcher’s college education, and during his year of teaching, he earned extra money as a dealer. “I decided at the end of that school year, the casino industry would be my chosen profession,” he says. His degree has come in handy anyway: teaching table games, collaborating with human resources teams and facilitating leadership training. In his career, Hatcher has traveled from casino to casino, part of life in the industry. Today, he serves as director of table games at Golden Nugget Casino Hotel in Biloxi. Along the way, he had strong support of mentors like Brian Bentley, who was director of table games at Harrah’s Casino in Joliet, Illinois. “He was the first person to see potential and groom me to be a shift manager. He taught me everything he knew about the business during the four years we worked together,” says Hatcher, who is into video poker when he isn’t working in a casino. His most recent mentor, Tim Hill, vice president of casino operations at Scarlet Pearl Casino in D’Iberville, Mississippi, encouraged Hatcher to go for the position at Golden Nugget. At the time he applied, Hatcher had several years experience as shift manager at Scarlet Pearl. He first worked for Hill at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. “He helped me mature and grow in this business. He taught me to operate as if I was running my own personal business venture.” Hatcher had never been to the Gulf Coast before, but liked what he saw. “I was happy to be working with my mentor again, so it was a perfect decision,” says Hatcher, who enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with friends and family. “When I went in for the interview at Golden Nugget, I asked lots of questions to see if the role would be a good fit. I was very pleased by what I heard, and was excited to join the team, and apparently, they felt the same way about me,” Hatcher says. He hopes to advance with the Golden Nugget, but doesn’t dismiss the fact that opportunities might dictate something else. It’s one of the facets newcomers have to face if they embark on a career in gaming. “My advice if you want to try a new industry is to give it your all before you decide whether or not it’s a good fit for you. Some realize early on that they just don’t have the appetite for it. Others, like myself, fall in love with it almost immediately.” — William Sokolic
“My advice if you want to try a new industry is to give it your all before you decide whether or not it’s a good fit for you. Some realize early on that they just don’t have the appetite for it. Others, like myself, fall in love with it almost immediately.”
AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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GOOD BUSINESS TREATMENT
Tribes step up problem gambling efforts By Dave Palermo
merican Indian governments, operators of the largest segment of the country’s legal gambling industry, are stepping up efforts to confront problem and compulsive gambling, an addiction that targets indigenous Americans. Although tribes have worked to combat problem and compulsive gambling since before enactment of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, efforts have intensified over the years with emergency hotlines and treatment, education and prevention programs, many in partnership with state chapters of the nonprofit National Center on Problem Gambling (NCPG). Tribes have also worked with NCPG chapters on self-exclusion programs and employee training to detect and intervene when casino employees spot signs of problem gambling among their customers. “I would say that tribes have come a long way,” says Robert Jacobson, executive director of the California Council on Problem Gambling. “They made some moderate leaps from 2001 to around 2011. From 2011 they’ve made some much greater leaps. “Many of the tribes have exhibited an ongoing commitment to continue to go even further,” Jacobson says. “There’s still more we can do.” “The larger, sophisticated tribal casino operations are doing some pretty good stuff with problem gambling,” says Keith Whyte, executive director of NCPG’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. “But there are a lot of tribes doing little, if anything. It’s a real dilemma. We want to celebrate the ones that are doing well. But at the same time you’ve got to push the folks that aren’t.” Whyte and others also credit state tribal gambling associations with advancing the need to deal with problem and compulsive, or pathological, gambling, particularly in those jurisdictions with large Indian casino industries such as California, Oklahoma, Washington, New Mexico, Florida and elsewhere. 38
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
Smart Play In Oklahoma, where 32 tribes operate gambling facilities ranging from travel plazas to casino resorts, tribes have recently rebranded their responsible gambling efforts with the slogan “Smart Play, OK” on billboards, pamphlets and electronic signage. Tribes working through the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association (OIGA) also have upgraded their employee training program and instituted a cloud-based computer system for the statewide self-exclusion program. “I don’t know of any tribes across the country that cooperate as much as we do in Oklahoma,” says Wiley Harwell, director of the Oklahoma Council on Program Gambling. Of the 132 tribal operations in the state, 90 of them are linked to the self-exclusion program. “It’s the smaller tribes, particularly in the northeast sector of the state, that don’t participate,” Harwell says. “As far as the large tribes, they all participate, so that’s very helpful. We have the large areas covered.” “It was a commitment by the tribes,” Whyte says of the self-exclusion program in the Sooner State. “It was not something the state government required. It was something the tribes had to invest money in. They had to agree among themselves that they were going to use it. “It was an OIGA and Oklahoma Council project,” Whyte says. “They got it done.” The Responsible Gaming Association of New Mexico, which consists of 11 of the state’s 14 tribes, has a $300,000 contract with the Center for Responsible Gaming to update a 2005 prevalence study to focus on younger gamblers. “We want to spearhead our prevention efforts on youths,” says Rebecca Beardsley, president of the association, particularly with the likelihood of legalized online gambling and sports wagering.
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Tribal leaders are challenged with balancing the benefits of gambling revenues, which provide needed government services to tribal citizens, with the risks of compounding addiction and other behavioral problems in their communities. “Kids are having a lot of face time with online gaming. Computer games are starting to look like casino games. The casino industry is starting to create games that look like computer games. We want to see if that is increasing the risks. “We have a pretty good suspicion it is,” Beardsley says. “We want some clinical data that says how much and just what can we possibly do about it.” “In 1998 when I started here, we were just beginning to understand what problem gambling was,” says Maureen Greeley, executive director of the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling in Washington state, an affiliate of the NCPG. “Today there is a much greater awareness. But there are still a lot of questions. “I think the beautiful thing is problem gambling is being recognized as an issue that needs to be dealt with. The larger tribes in particular are doing a great job of that.”
A Genuine Concern Native communities have long been plagued with poverty and the chronic disease risk factors that often lead to addiction. The risk is particularly acute for residents of remote, economically deprived reservations that serve as home to more than 30 percent of indigenous Americans. While the research is limited, studies have shown the rate of problem gambling among Native Americans to be two to 16 times higher than non-Indians. Surveys have shown roughly 1-2 percent of the general population suffers from pathological gambling. A recent survey of Native military veterans also found 10 percent met the criteria for pathological gambling, nearly six times the rate for the general population. Introducing casino gambling to Indian Country can be problematic for communities plagued by alcohol and substance abuse, depression and other risk factors for problem and compulsive gambling. Yet tribes today operate roughly 508 gambling outlets in 29 states, facilities ranging from traffic plazas to gambling resorts, according to the American Gaming Association and National Indian Gaming Commission. The operations generated $32.4 billion in 2017, according to NIGC. Tribal leaders are challenged with balancing the benefits of gambling revenues, which provide needed government services to tribal citizens, with the risks of compounding addiction and other behavioral problems in their communities.
It stands to reason that many of the 250 casino tribes in the lower 48 states would take a lead role in programs to confront problem and compulsive gambling. Unlike alcohol, drug abuse and other addictions, there are no federal agencies assigned to fund and direct programs for problem gambling. The void has left it up to tribal and state governments, the industry and nonprofits such as NCPG and its affiliates to combat gambling addiction in the U.S. Many programs are funded through provisions of tribal-state regulatory agreements, or compacts, required under IGRA in the 29 states with Indian casinos. Many tribes exceed required contributions with additional donations. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, owner of Hard Rock International, pays $1.5 million a year to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. The state Department of Mental Health has no problem gambling program. The 61 California tribes in 2016 paid the state Office of Problem Gaming (OPG) nearly $8.6 million, far more than the state lottery ($130,000) and card rooms ($153,000). The OPG contracts with the nonprofit state council for helpline, treatment and employee training services. Other programs are funded by state agencies and the taxation of commercial casinos, parimutuel racetracks, card rooms and lotteries. Public funding of problem gambling services in some 40 states with legal gambling increased 20 percent from 2013 to 2016, according to NCPG, but remained at a paltry $73 million or an average of 37 cents per capita.
Federal Focus? The Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, did not consent to an interview. But Jennifer Reeder, director of public affairs for IHS, said in an email that the agency “recognizes gambling addiction to be a significant need and provides treatment through mental health and addiction providers. “Counseling for gambling is a non-billable service, so it would be unusual to find a counselor with this sole focus in an IHS, tribal and urban Indian or any other mental health/substance use treatment facility,” she said. IHS counselors are schooled in problem gambling by NCPG chapters in California, New Mexico and elsewhere. Most IHS funding is channeled to reservation behavioral mental AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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The notion that an addicted gambler can be a casino’s most profitable customer has gone by the boards. While he or she may over a short period of time be a prolific gambler, they are often disruptive to other guests and problematic to employees. close to 30 years, as long as they’ve had gaming in the state of Florida,” says Jennifer Kruse, executive of the Florida council. “They have pioneered the responsible gaming program for the state of Florida. “They have grown and evolved as the industry has grown and evolved,” Kruse says of the Seminole’s seven gambling operations. “They continue to strengthen an already good responsible gaming program.”
Responsible Gambling Is Good Business
wood Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Holly
health programs, despite the fact nearly 70 percent of indigenous Americans live off the reservation. Meanwhile, the pipeline of professionals going into addiction counseling is small, particularly in a reservation community. The indigenous problem gambler may prefer cultural components as part of the treatment, whether it’s a sweat lodge, kiva, talking circle or some other traditional activity. “Do I want to go somewhere and be treated by people who know nothing about natives?” asks David Patterson Silver Wolf, associate professor at the Washington University Institute for Public Health in St. Louis, Missouri. “When you’re able to deal with things within your own community, with your own way of thinking, your own way of doing things and your own support system, you have better success, right?” “What about sweat lodges? What about talking circles? What about the traditional practices that have proven to be very effective?” Greeley asks. New Mexico tribal officials met before gambling was legalized in the state to discuss addiction. “Many of the tribal leaders realized that problem gambling could become an issue in their communities,” Beardsley says. “So they sat down and had a meeting and said, ‘How are we going address it on a statewide basis?’ “I’m really proud that the industry is taking up this effort. We take it very seriously. It’s not just a liability because we’re required to do it,” she says, with the tribal-state compact earmarking 0.13 percent of casino revenues to addiction programs. “We never want to impact somebody’s livelihood or their health or safety. Suicide rates among problem gamblers are very high,” Beardsley says. “We never want to contribute to that.” “When you see how it is affecting your own community, you obviously want to do something,” Greeley says of Washington tribes and problem gambling. “You want to make a difference. That came first.” “We’ve had a positive relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida 40
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
Coming to grips with gambling addiction was difficult as tribes and commercial casino industries spread throughout the United States in the late 1980s and ’90s. Anti-gambling advocates used gambling addiction as an argument in opposing the development of casinos. “Very often, the problem gambling issue becomes more about politics than people,” says a gambling industry consultant who requested anonymity, “way too often.” But the political threat problem gambling posed to the casino industry gradually dissipated as the Indian casino market matured, public acceptance of casinos grew and gambling in America became normalized. “Almost every state that’s going to have tribal gaming has it,” Whyte says. “Expansion issues are off the table. People are accustomed to gambling. They’re used to it. It’s been normalized. “So maybe the tribes feel a little freer. Rather than an existential threat to the industry, problem gambling is a health issue to be addressed.” The commercial and tribal casino industry has also come to regard responsible gambling programs as an essential part of corporate citizenship. “Responsible gambling is just good business,” says Connie Jones, director of responsible gaming for the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers. “It’s a consumer protection issue, and it’s being framed much more as a consumer protection issue, globally. And for the manufacturer that becomes a product safety issue.” “I think the more established and confident tribal casinos have become, having a responsible gaming program has simply become an extension of their business,” Harwell says. “I do think at the beginning there was a sense that, ‘We don’t want to run off business. We want to be customer-friendly.’ “It’s just good business practice to get these people the help they need,” Harwell says. “We don’t need their business.” The notion that an addicted gambler can be a casino’s most profitable customer has gone by the boards. While he or she may over a short period of time be a prolific gambler, they are often disruptive to other guests and problematic to employees. “Tribal casinos are stable businesses run by well-educated people,” Jacobson says. “The tribes themselves have gained a lot of experience. The majority of them have learned as an industry that problem gambling goes beyond a social obligation. It’s not prosperous for a property, long-term, to encourage it.
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California tribes under their tribalstate compacts are required to direct a percentage of their casino revenues to the state Office of Problem Gambling.
“If you compare somebody who comes into the property twice a month, spends an amount they can comfortably afford and continues that relationship for 20, 30, 40 years as opposed to somebody who loses everything they have over a course of 13 months and never comes back, we’ll make more money off the person we built that lifelong relationship with.” “Problem gamblers aren’t the people you want on your floor,” Kruse says of the Seminole casinos. “They aren’t good for business.” But many tribal casinos are small, marginal operations in rural, if not remote, locations. They often lack the operational skills to deal with gambling addiction in their communities. “The smaller the tribe, the less they do when it comes to problem gambling,” Harwell says. Jacobson says that’s not always the case in California. “The tribes with larger revenue streams are likely to contribute more fiSan Manuel Casino, California nancially,” he says. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t some smaller tribes that don’t make a commitment.” “I can’t say where the needle is for all the tribes. It’s across the board,” Greeley says of Washington tribes. “There are still some who say, ‘No, no, no. That’s our best customer. We don’t want to hurt that relationship.’ “But it’s absolutely, without a doubt, good customer service, understanding that the person with a problem is not going to be your best customer, longterm,” she says. “Nobody wants a person to be in a bad place. So what’s our responsibility—not only our responsibility to the individual, but our responsibility as a good corporate citizen? “Many tribes are coming to that awareness,” Greeley says.
Taking The Extra Step It is not unusual for the San Manual Band of Mission Indians to pull a casino employee off the floor for two hours so they can walk somebody in crisis into a private office, hand them a telephone and sit with them while they call the problem gambling help line. “They’re the only casino I know that goes to that extent,” a gambling addiction counselor says of the San Manuel Mission Indians of San Bernardino County, California. California tribes under their tribal-state compacts are required to direct a percentage of their casino revenues to the state Office of Problem Gambling. A handful of tribes—San Manuel, Barona Band of Mission Indians, United 42
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
Auburn Indian Community and others—contribute additional funds to the state council. Jacob Coin, San Manuel’s executive director of public affairs, developed a concern about problem gambling while serving as executive director for the Arizona and later California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA). “The concern I and other people had was whether or not bringing gaming to the reservation would create another source of addiction too close to home,” he says. “I was glad to hear others in the industry say they were in it for the entertainment and didn’t want to see people lose their homes, their cars, their families. I was curious what sort of programs they were going to institute to keep people from falling victim to this problem.” Coin while with CNIGA worked with then-Senator John Burton in establishing the Office of Problem Gambling with $3 million of tribal funds. Coin later left the association for San Manuel. “San Manuel came to be very active, very quickly,” he said, lending its support and charitable giving to the NCPG at the state and national level. For 13 consecutive years as many as 90 percent of its casino workers were certified as being trained in responsible gambling programs. “San Manuel just makes a tremendous effort,” Jacobson says. The tribe’s philosophy falls in line with its charitable giving, which centers on local hospitals and educational facilities and includes a recent $25 million contribution to its long-term partner, Loma Linda University Medical Center. The tribe also has a partnership with the Red Cross. “The tribe has a real commitment to elevating the quality of life,” Coin says. “You’re dealing with human frailties. That’s got to be the driving force. Whether it’s a tribal citizen or a non-tribal citizen, you have the same level of responsibility and obligation to provide assistance where it is needed. “The tribe looks at this as more than a business. There’s a heavy investment in responsible gambling training,” Coin says. “Ninety percent of our casino employees are trained in courses offered by the California Council.” “They’re not doing it for glory,” Whyte says of San Manuel. “They’re not doing it because they want good PR. They’re doing it because they want to. “That for me is the biggest thing that distinguishes tribal responsible gambling efforts from commercial casinos. In the vast majority of the cases, tribes aren’t being compelled by regulations. It’s not necessarily in their compacts. “They’re doing it solely because they think it’s the right thing to do.”
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Roaring Twenties The NFL season stretching into 2020 has unleashed soaring expectations among sports-betting operators, vendors, bettors and regulators By Dave Bontempo
all it Season Two of the Golden Goose: with legal sports bets thriving in the post-PASPA world, economic forecasts practically dance across the balance sheet. A mere fraction of the states expected to legalize sports wagering have done so. The ninth, Arkansas, opened July 1, and the number of approved jurisdictions could double next year. Twice the parlays, twice the props and in-game wagering frenzy all look possible, and soon. Gamblers go deep—figuratively in the menu-option sense, and literally, with dollars spent. Rarely has an industry salivated like this. Although sportsbook numbers are a small part of gaming revenues, revenue figures dwarfed the forecast for the market in the U.S. And everybody noticed. Each new opening and every jurisdictional green light packs more than the emotional effect of a tape-measure home run or 100-yard kickoff return. This becomes a race to service the players.
Armchair Quarterbacks “Hands down, this is one of the most exciting things anyone has been involved with in our industry,” says Charles Cohen, vice president of PlayDigital, sports betting for IGT, of the legal sports-betting era. He considers the industry awash in opportunity. “Every day, it seems, another state is pushing forward legislation or passing it, trying to be live in time for the NFL season. We anticipate a pattern of a rush of states trying to be ready before that. “What’s interesting to me is that in the American market, people bet on the sports to make it more enjoyable. The passion people have for their teams is unbelievable. I thought it was a big deal in the U.K., but when I see the interest here, I know it’s going to be a huge market.” 44
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
IGT has the B2B solution, the back-end technology that processes bets and connects all the information on the betting channels (over the counter, mobile, kiosks, etc.). The company thus joins forces with outfits like DraftKings and FanDuel, which have the customer-facing services like odds-making. One of IGT’s contributions to this space is the Miosk, technology powering mobile kiosks that states are likely to adopt. Just as individual televisions help customers follow their favorite tracks at a book, Miosk (mobile kiosk) will give them the opportunity to bet right at their seats. It provides the technology of sports betting inside a device like an Android or tablet. The Miosk can be installed on the edges of an armchair, for instance. IGT mobile-kiosk technology enables cash betting on personal mobile devices within casino sportsbooks. Casinos can maximize their sports bet-
Getting your foot in the door is important, and many operators have made that initial jump. This coming year, I think we’ll see an explosion of new business.” —Keith O’Loughlin, Senior Vice President, Sportsbook, Scientific Games
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I thought sports betting “was a big deal in the U.K., but when I see the interest here, I know it’s going to be a huge market.”
—Charles Cohen, Vice President, PlayDigital, Sports Betting, IGT
ting revenues without big investments in self-service terminals. Miosk uses sports betting vouchers with the same or higher level of security, auditability and control as TITO does for slots, and single transaction bet slips do for self-service and over-the-counter sports betting. Miosk was slated for a field trial early in July in Mississippi and is a good bet for widespread deployment before the football season. Cohen believes it can address an overlooked aspect of the wagering menu. “In-play betting is significant, but not nearly as big as it should be,” Cohen notes. “It takes too long to place a bet, even if you have a self-service kiosk, because you still have to get up and go to the machine. “There are a lot of forecasts out there about how big the sports-betting impact will be. I’m not a forecaster, but every prediction I see has a lot of zeroes.” IGT continues its role as a prominent early force in the post-PASPA world. The company forged tech agreements with brands like FanDuel, Draft Kings, MGM and Boyd. It powered the first lottery to add sports betting in Rhode Island, has gained deployment in six regulated states and thrived with its PlayDigital omni-channel PlayShot sports betting platform, a market-ready solution for operators looking to enter the U.S. sports betting market. The “50-state solution” emerged in 2018 as the leading B2B sports betting platform, and is leveraged by commercial, tribal, lottery and racetrack operators. PlayShot’s design enables multi-state operators to create an integrated user experience that scales to meet customer and regulatory demands. Its geolocation technology can adjust to meet operator needs, and IGT supports an accelerated timeline so operators can quickly add sports betting to their offerings.
Bigger Steps Scientific Games also has a significant footprint in this area. And the shoe size, so to speak, is getting bigger. “Sports betting is clearly still on the rise in the U.S., and we’re seeing the web of technology and services that support it grow every day,” says Keith O’Loughlin, senior vice president, sportsbook for Scientific Games.
“We think year two will mark continued expansion into new geographies, as many would predict, but also into new entertainment ecosystems. Everything is connected in our tech-savvy era, and sports betting stakeholders are starting to fuel that idea with some really cool innovations.” O’Loughlin believes the first post-PASPA year tested the waters. Competition and quality of product offerings are poised for an uptick. “We launched a handful of new partners, and they’re seeing great success in early-adopter states like New Jersey or Mississippi,” he says. “Getting your foot in the door is important, and many operators have made that initial jump. This coming year, I think we’ll see an explosion of new business, new revenue streams and creative ways of offering sports betting to the end user.” Company research indicates that customers prefer in-game betting, prop bets and other offers that create a specific betting environment. “It’s an exciting challenge to tackle, and we’re hitting it full-force with our teams, particularly OpenTrade, our Don Best-managed trading service, which offers expertise in the North American trading and pricing arena.” O’Loughlin says Scientific Games redesigned its product suite to better serve the American market. OpenSports encompasses the best of the product portfolio and breaks it out into elements that customers can mix and match, he asserts. “The core technology remains, but the ability to pick and choose what you need—or, just as importantly, what you don’t need—is a huge boost for partners. It removes a heavy tech lift and makes it easier to get a sportsbook up and running,” O’Loughlin says. “Looking further down the line, we’re working on some new display functions that will reimagine how stats and scores are presented to bettors. Sports betting is overflowing with information, and the ability to condense it, package it and feed it back to punters in an easily understood format is the opportunity. “Later this year we expect to release a full-fledged feature that reinvigorates this particular space in the sportsbook industry, and we think everyone—bettors and operators alike—will really enjoy it.” AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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The new age of legalized sports wagers is a world of angles, wrinkles and sudden opportunity. Sports-betting props resemble the wild-card element of table games and the bonusing component of slots.
London-based Kambi has figuratively broken the erators to create a unique product for their Mobile is changing the huddle to announce new plays for the 2019-20 customers. They don’t want a one-sizeway bettors behave and NFL season. The innovations are being finalized fits-all sportsbook, and major companies the markets they and should be announced over the next few such as DraftKings, Rush Street Interacwager on.” weeks. tive, Parx Casino and Mohegan Sun have As that process unfolds, the company is a strong desire to control elements of the —Max Bichsel, U.S. Director, Kambi building on its 2019 success, which was based sportsbook and offer a product that speaks on early market positioning. to their brand and values.” Kambi is a leading supplier of online and Bichsel says Kambi offers operators the land-based sportsbooks to the regulated sports tools and levers to develop a differentiated gaming industry. sportsbook experience. He says the bonusMax Bichsel, the company’s U.S. director, ing toolbox, which allows operators to probelieves Kambi has collected an unrivaled duce unique marketing campaigns, as well amount of data on wagering patterns and onas its price differentiation tool, which emline betting behaviors that can be parlayed into powers operators to control how aggressive new products. or passive they want to be in terms of the “We’re working on some exciting projects odds offered to their players, have been that we hope to conclude shortly, certainly for beneficial to them. the new NFL and NBA seasons in the months to come,” Bichsel says. “Early consumer testing Building the Brand has proven positive, so we can’t wait for everyBetgenius adds another dimension to the one to try them.” American market. The company has proIt’s not easy to spot this season’s breakout vided sports data and betting technology to performer, but one star aspect from last year will likely be enhanced. Molicensed operators in regulated markets around the world. Now the Lonbile went deep in 2018, dwarfing brick-and-mortar establishment perdon-based company prepares for a new wrinkle, according to Andrew formance in many locations. It made prop betting astronomically popular Patterson, the company’s vice president of business development in the and easy, because the player essentially holds a sportsbook in his fingertips. U.S. “This is one of the reasons we’ve been putting a lot of resources into “Same-game-parlay type products weren’t a part of the typical prebuilding out our prop offering; in general, mobile is changing the way betgame experience in the first football season post-PASPA, but we expect tors behave and the markets they wager on,” Bichsel says. them to become industry standard in retail, on-site and via “Mobile is driving in-game engagement as bettors double-screen— apps in the seasons to come,” Patterson says. “Parlays are the preferred they like to watch the game on their TV while placing bets on their moform of betting in many new U.S. jurisdictions, and this style of product bile. Last season, we saw some great traction with some of our in-game enables bettors to get their accumulator action on a single game, rather prop markets, including result of current drive in the NFL, total player than across four of five.” points in the NBA, and next batter in the MLB. The volume on such The same-game-parlay product itself isn’t new, but the upcoming prop markets will only grow during the coming season.” season figures to see its largest deployment in the United States. Bichsel touts Kambi’s ability to give operators a “blank canvas” upon BetBuilder, the company’s end-to-end solution, can be integrated which to extend their brand and tailor their products to players. into a book’s pre-existing match structure. This past year, the industry “With sports betting being largely unregulated in the United States, offered BetBuilder products on the NBA and major soccer competitions, Europe was an obvious early point of call for U.S.-based operators looking Patterson says. But NFL, NHL and MLB versions will be launched in to launch a sports betting product,” he says. “One of the reasons Kambi the near future. The market types on its football roadmap are wide-ranghas enjoyed early success in the U.S. is the empowerment we give our oping, from the moneyline to the first-half winner to what team will score 46
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
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the first touchdown. Patterson says BetBuilder adds an extra dimension to the pregame betting experience by allowing bettors to seamlessly create unique storylines which in effect play out as they watch the game. “Football bettors are already doing this with moneylines, spreads and totals across a number of games, but with BetBuilder, they’ll be able to get that buzz on a single game and with more market types,” he says. “Generally, bettors can’t bet the moneyline with related markets like the first half line, but with BetBuilder they’ll be able to do so.” For sportsbooks, BetBuilder is a differentiator in the market while delivering a profit. Bettors generally pick long-odds bets with at least three or four selections, and across each of those selections, the hold accumulates. It also maintains engagement among casual parlay bettors as the season progresses and games are scarcer, as in the postseason. Patterson says another big trend in football is player props. Even with the NFL season roughly a month away, licensed operators have released hundreds of player-related futures markets, like Aaron Rogers’ season-total passing yards. Patterson adds that bettors most often incorporate recent history against the spread and historical points totals into their wagers, but the shrewdest among them seek an edge with factors like team news and injuries, along with their own ratings systems. The new age of legalized sports wagers is a world of angles, wrinkles and sudden opportunity. Sports-betting props resemble the wildcard element of table games and the bonusing component of slots. In this big party, the more, the “moneyer.”
For more information or to subscribe to the database or monthly report contact Ashley Diem at ADiem@FantiniResearch.com or call +1-302-730-3793 - www.FantiniResearch.com AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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NEW GAME REVIEW by Frank Legato
his is the latest release on Aristocrat’s Edge X cabinet, which features two 43-inch LCD monitors stacked in a landscape configuration that the company calls “personalized space” to create a “mini-jumbo feel” within a standard slot footprint. FarmVille is based on the famous internet farm-building game franchise produced by Zynga. Players will find all of their favorite characters, farm animals, livestock and other icons of the internet game. The base game is a five-reel, three-row 243-ways-to-win scatter-pay setup in the Reel Power series, in a highly volatile program. There are two main bonus features. In the “Power of Mighty Cash Unlimited” feature, the player plays one of three levels of the Mighty Cash hold-and-spin game, in which the player spins attempting to land Mighty Cash symbols bearing bonus credit amounts, the goal being to fill up the entire reel array with the symbols, called a “blackout.” This version of the bonus is differentiated by the “all positions filled” bonus award (2X, 3X or 4X all prizes). If the
player has remaining spins after a blackout, then a new matrix is presented with higher bonus awards, and the round continues. The Mighty Cash level also determines the number of Mighty Cash spins awarded. The other bonus is a Wheel Bonus, in which a spin of a prize wheel yields bonus credits, free games or a picking bonus with the object of revealing three matching icons corresponding to one of five single-site progressive jackpots, the top jackpot resetting at either $2,500 or $5,000. The free-game bonus features unlimited retriggers through the bonus wheel. Manufacturer: Aristocrat Technologies Platform: Edge X Format: Five-reel, 243-ways-to-win video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10 Max Bet: 250, 500 Top Award: Progressive; $2,500 or $5,000 reset Hit Frequency: Approximately 50% Theoretical Hold: 9.9%-12.69%
Fireworks Festival Incredible Technologies
his new video slot on Novomatic’s Infinity V55 cabinet carries an Asian theme of celebration, in Chinese symbols on the giant reels depicted on the 55-inch portrait monitor, and in bonus events and a primary-game mystery bonus. In the base 50-line game, the “Stack 2 Stack” feature occurs when stacked firecracker symbols land on adjacent reels. When the stacked symbols touch, they pop and fizzle like firecrackers to reveal instant credit awards. Three or more red envelopes on the reels trigger a “True Pick” feature. The player is prompted to choose their mystery credit awards, selecting all but the last envelope. Up to five envelope scatters may land on the reels, awarding players four picks for credit amounts. Free spins are initiated when three or more Free Spins symbols land on the reels. Players can trigger up to 20 free spins.
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
Manufacturer: Incredible Technologies Platform: Infinity V55 Format: Five-reel, 50-line video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10, .25 Max Bet: 250 Top Award: 11,120 credits times line bet Hit Frequency: Approximately 50% Theoretical Hold: 5.72%-14.86%
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International Game Technology
his new Asian-themed game is available on IGT’s CrystalDual 27 or CrystalSlant dual-screen cabinet. The base game is a five-reel, 243-waysto-win video slot. The scatter-pay format uses no paylines, but pays for adjacent like symbols, with 243 possible ways to win on each spin. The game features stacked symbols and a frequently occurring Fortune Charm bonus feature. Triggered when one or more charm symbols land on the reels, the feature awards either bonus credits, a free-game round, or a progressive picking bonus in which the player picks icons to reveal one of four near-area progressive jackpots. The jackpots reset at 500 credits
times the denomination (Mini), 1,000 times the denomination (Minor), 2,500 times the denomination (Major) and 10,000 times the denomination (Maxi). During the progressive picking bonus, the player can increase all the progressive values by revealing a “Boost,” “Super Boost” or “Mega Boost” symbol. The three-by-five core game features a 60-credit cost-to-cover. It is available in a choice of 26 denominations ranging from a penny through $5,000. Manufacturer: IGT Platform: CrystalDual 27, CrystalSlant Format: Five-reel, 243-ways-to-win video slot Denomination: .01 to 5,000.00 Max Bet: 1,500 Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset Hit Frequency: Approximately 50% Theoretical Hold: 4%-15%
Thunder Cash Novomatic Americas
his linked progressive product on Novomatic’s Panthera Curve cabinet has been a hit wherever the supplier has introduced it in North America. There are three base games in the linked series—Emperor’s China, Empress of the Pyramids and The Great Conqueror. The product is available to casinos in a package including jackpot controller, monitors, themed signage and end-of-bank displays. There is a four-level progressive jackpot, with the top linked prize resetting at 1 million credits times the denomination ($10,000 in the penny version). The base game is a five-reel video slot in 25line or 50-line configuration. There are two separate bonus events. Six or more scattered coin symbols trigger the “Coin Respin” feature. The coins triggering the feature are held in position and all other positions turn into individual spinning reels for three free spins. If one or more additional coins land, those coins are held and the free spins remaining are reset to three.
All prizes appearing on the coins are awarded at the end of the feature, which occurs when either no free spins remain or the entire reel array is filled with coins, which triggers the Grand Jackpot. In the other feature, three or more scattered bonus symbols trigger 10 free games. During the free spins, hidden symbols appear on all the reels, for additional winning combinations involving the Emperor, Lion, Turtle, Toad, Koi, A, K, Q, J, 10 or Coin symbols. Three or more bonus symbols retrigger the feature for an additional 10 free spins. Manufacturer: Novomatic Americas Platform: Panthera Curve 1.42 Format: Five-reel, 25-line or 50-line video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10 Max Bet: 500 Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset Hit Frequency: 35% Theoretical Hold: 5%-15%
AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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FRANKLY SPEAKING by Frank Legato
Pigeons, Raptors and Sportsbooks
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
ing raptors as various species of birds that have hooked beaks, strong feet with sharp talons, keen eyesight, and a voracious appetite for the meat of other birds. Apparently, pigeons are among raptor delicacies. Don’t worry, though. According to the report, the mere presence of raptors is enough to discourage pigeons from even coming close—or, as the TV reporter predictably said, of “running afowl.” (Har!) Thank goodness. My first thought was of watching a raptor tear a pigeon apart while I was sitting outside eating squab. While that would certainly make for good dinner theater, it wouldn’t make for a pleasant dining experience. But certainly, Bally’s could let loose some trained raptors to take care of the Dennis Tower’s poop problem. Unless, of course, the seagulls would go after the raptors. Or vice versa. Then they’d have to bring in buzzards to clean up the mess. Needless to say, that wouldn’t do much at all for the view from my room at the Dennis. But it could be used by the casino’s marketing department: “Raptors! Seagulls! Buzzards! View the death match right from your room!” And of course, bird wagers would be accepted at the sportsbook as well. Hey, I’m always thinking. In other news, a man was arrested at Florida’s Immokalee Casino for punching a Quick Hit slot machine. The Bally slot title is a multiple progressive game that evidently was not paying out enough, so the guy laid a left hook on the screen (it may have been a jab; details are hazy) and literally knocked the machine out. Police rejected the man’s argument that he saw the “Quick Hit” title and was simply following instructions. (“I hit it very quickly,” he pleaded.) But the knockout punch was remarkable in itself. Call the marketing department. “Man vs. Machine: Quick Hit Knockout! Bets now being accepted at the sportsbook!” Like I said, I’m always thinking... VIC TOR RINAL DO
ecently, I was impressed with the customer service at Bally’s Atlantic City when they agreed to move me from a room in the Dennis Tower to the main Bally’s Tower. My wife and I had advised them we could not stomach the Dennis room, even though were getting it for free. We rarely reject a comped hotel room upon arrival. I once stayed free at the old Atlantic City Hilton in a room with exposed wires hanging from the ceiling. (Apparently, a rodent had hanged himself. But hey, the price was right.) But that room at the Dennis was not designed for 21st century habitation. It was too small even for a desk to be fit in, and the configuration of the room was such that one could not see the television monitor from the bed. Normally, none of that would be a deal-breaker. But the last straw on this particular day? Pigeons. You see, the Dennis has these ornate windows with wide ledges. The window ledge on this particular room had obviously served as a pigeon restroom. Our view consisted of mountains of droppings, which formed a series of poop sculptures. I swear, I thought saw a pigeon sitting there with a magazine. Now, I can’t blame Bally’s, or parent Caesars Entertainment (“An Eldorado Company”), for the basic design of the Dennis Tower. The Dennis, after all, was a former hotel my grandparents used to frequent— first built in 1867, its heyday as a resort was in the 1920s. It was supposed to be a temporary tower when Bally’s opened in 1979, but it remained as supplemental room inventory after the new Bally’s tower went up several years later. (They even did the Dennis up in a silly, gaudy Old West theme when the Wild Wild West casino was added in 1997. I believe the design motif was called “saloon/brothel.”) In any event, the place was not built for the internet generation. Or, arguably, the electricity-and-running-water generation. A lot of people stay in the Dennis Tower for nostalgia. The slot club counter is the preserved original hotel registration area. The courtyard view behind that counter is pretty much as it was in the ’20s, Bally’s having knocked down the row of cheesy souvenir shops that once blocked it. But nostalgia or not, no one likes a room with a view that’s literally a pile of crap. Luckily, there’s a solution, and it comes from Wynn Las Vegas. According to a report on KSNV-12 TV, Wynn is using trained raptors—as in birds of prey, not dinosaurs (although that would be really cool), or basketball players from Toronto (equally cool)—to keep the pigeons away from the resort’s pool and dining areas. The story cited the federal Bureau of Land Management in describ-
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CUTTING EDGE by Frank Legato
Mobile Ordering, Any Device Product: rGuest Buy OnDemand Manufacturer: Agilysys
martphone ordering technology has steadily risen in the last five years. Driven largely by guest demand, it is now entering its prime—serving a population of guests who want to be empowered with self-service convenience. With rGuest Buy OnDemand, guests place and pay for orders using their own device—phone, tablet, laptop. The result is dramatically increased guest engagement that drives increased revenue opportunities. On the casino floor, at the sports book, lounge or poolside, it’s as easy as scanning a QR code and choosing menu or retail items from select venues. Whether food, drinks, room service, or a forgotten personal item from home, the convenience of rGuest Buy OnDemand gives guests greater control.
Features include: • No App Download • Reach More Guests • Customize by Guest Location • Boost Item Sales • Keep Guests Engaged It’s been proven that orders placed via self-serve channels are generating higher check averages compared to traditional methods. Today, guests are content to explore their options and spend a little extra given the freedom to choose in their own time. Smartphone orders placed with rGuest Buy OnDemand offer the latest in technology and convenience for everyone. For more information, visit agilysys.com or call 877-369-6208.
Smart Shoe Product: BEE-TEK Shoe Manufacturer: United States Playing Card Company
ith the small house edge and large bets that come with baccarat, the cost of a player dispute can be high. For less than the cost of one of these disputes, the BEE-TEK shoe can dramatically reduce customer disputes in the baccarat pit. This dealer-friendly shoe prevents overdraw disputes by enforcing the rules of baccarat. A proprietary code structure and reading technology verify the value of every card drawn, and physically prevent additional cards from being drawn at the completion of a hand. The BEE-TEK shoe is extremely reliable. Thousands of units have been deployed around the world, and over 3 billion hands of baccarat have been played without reading a card value incorrectly. Additionally, the BEE-TEK shoe authenticates every card to the casino, preventing a foreign card from entering the game. The shoe works with all major trend boards including the Cammegh Billboard available directly from USPC. For more information, visit usplayingcard.com.
AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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GOODS&SERVICES PERELMAN UPS STAKE IN SCI GAMES
onald Perelman, the 76-yearold chairman of Scientific Games Corporation, has inScientific Games creased his stake in the comCorporation pany, spending $2.17 million to Chairman Ronald Perelman buy 110,000 shares at $19.73 per share. The following week, the billionaire chairman of the supplier spent more than $1.5 million on 75,000 SG shares at $20.21 per share. Perelman now controls 36.4 million shares of SGMS through his New York-based investment arm McAndrews & Forbes, constituting nearly 40 percent of the company. Wall Street acted favorably to the news, with SGMS shares rising 5.16 percent to close at $20.78. This reversed a 4.45 percent dip following news the company is suing its third-largest shareholder, which may result in a forced redemption of 8.6 million shares owned by Hong Kong-based Sylebra. In that case, Scientific Games has filed suit in Las Vegas to force disclosure of information from Sylebra Holdings. The suit comes after repeated requests for information and disclosure documents from Sylebra, which owns a 9.34 percent stake in the supplier, to confirm the Hong Kong company’s suitability for licensing in the U.S. The lawsuit claims Sylebra owns a large stake in a Russian company with alleged ties to illegal gambling, money laundering and support for terrorist organizations. The company says it has repeatedly asked the company for information “consistent with its ongoing obligation to inform regulators about matters relevant to suitability.” Under Scientific Games’ corporate bylaws, the failure of Sylebra to comply with these requests could lead the company to declare it a “disqualified holder,” forcing redemption or sale of Sylebra’s 8.6 million shares in the company. “Sylebra has manipulated the regulatory system by strategically timing the disclosure of information that it is willing to part with while utilizing procedural mechanisms to prevent any order requiring it to turn over the information that actually matters,” Scientific Games wrote in the lawsuit. “This sustained pattern of obfuscation, procedural maneuvering and outright stonewalling— 52
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
both in response to requests and the reasonable requests of governing regulators—raises serious questions about just what Sylebra might be trying to hide. These concerns have only increased given recent changes in ownership and management with respect to Sylebra.” SunTrust Bank gaming analyst Barry Jonas tied the purchase to the Sylebra case. “Mr. Perelman has consistently added to his Scientific Games equity position when there’s been some sort of dislocation in the stock price— including (the) recent noise around Sylebra,” Jonas said. “We think this points to Mr. Perelman’s current view on valuation and his longerterm conviction in the business.”
KONAMI LAUNCHES OPUS IN SLOVENIA, CARIBBEAN
onami Gaming has announced the European debut of Concerto Opus, its large-format cabinet housing a 65-inch, 4K Ultra HD display, launched at Slovenia’s Casinò Fortuna, and in the Caribbean gaming market with a placement of six units at Casino Atlántico Manatí in Puerto Rico. The Concerto Opus cabinet is making its European debut with two integrated progressive games, both based on popular Konami classics: Solstice Celebration and Riches with Daikoku. Opus game launch titles Solstice Celebration Triple Sparkle and Riches with Daikoku Triple Sparkle can be configured as stand-alone or linked progressives. The series has a symbol-driven progressive mechanic that incentivizes players to bet max in order to activate sparkle transformations into instant jackpots. Whenever framed Action Stacked Symbols undergo a third sparkle transformation, players can win a Mini bonus, Major bonus, Mega progressive, or large Maxi progressive starting at €10,000. Working with exclusive regional distributor Intergames, Casinò Fortuna added a bank of three Opus machines to its luxury 200-machine slot floor. All the new Triple Sparkle games include multi-denom options, with scaling bonus awards. This spring, Casino Atlántico Manatí added
six Concerto Opus machines. In addition, the entire back-to-back bank is connected by Konami’s Treasure Ball progressive link. Each of Casino Atlántico’s six Opus machines features a proven base game title, in addition to the $10,000-plus linked jackpot bonus game. Featured games include Lion’s Carnival, Chili Chili Fire, Great Guardians and Sparkling Roses, showcased on the big screen with a progressive jackpot chance that increases as players increase their extra bet contribution. When the Treasure Ball progressive feature is randomly triggered, the game’s dragon character ignites the digital prize ball machine’s drop chute in a spinning whirl of flames. If it lands on a number, that number of random prize balls is awarded. The corresponding number of prize balls fly out of the machine and pop open to reveal instant credit and instant progressive prizes.
REPORT: DRAFTKINGS TO ACQUIRE SBTECH
raftKings is reportedly about to acquire online gaming and sports-betting company SBTech. The deal would give the company its own in-house sports betting platform, according to Legal Sports Report. DraftKings did not confirm the acquisition to the website, but issued a statement saying, “It is our general policy not to discuss the specifics of any of those discussions.”
Legal Sports Report estimates the deal would likely be worth from $300 million to $500 million. SBTech is an international company that provides both an omnichannel sports-betting platform and an online gaming platform. It is currently the platform provider for the Oregon Lottery. DraftKings is a major online sportsbook in New Jersey and is hoping to expand soon to West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It has a multi-year deal in place with Kambi, which provides the site with its New Jersey sports betting platform.
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Philanthropic Initiative is the latest illustration of that commitment.” “The College of Engineering is committed to building the infrastructure needed to educate the engineers of tomorrow, and creating research space that will enable the forward-thinking progress of corporate partners such as AGEM and GLI,” said Rama Venkat, dean of the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering.
INTERBLOCK INCREASES NEW YORK FOOTPRINT AGEM Executive Director Marcus Prater and GLI President/CEO James Maida present gift to Dean Rama Venkat of the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering
AGEM, GLI CREATE PHILANTHROPIC INITIATIVE
he Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers and Gaming Laboratories International announced the creation of their new “Lasting Impact Philanthropic Initiative,” a multiyear effort aimed at identifying worthy causes that will utilize direct contributions to flourish over the long term and provide a variety of assistance to multiple beneficiaries. The first gift from the newly formed initiative is a $500,000 contribution to the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering building fund at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which is developing a 51,000-square foot, three-floor building on campus to accommodate the approximately 260 B.S., 50 M.S. and 20 Ph.D. engineering graduates each year and projected future growth. The initiative’s $500,000 gift is a direct investment in the importance of education in Nevada, the city of Las Vegas, university students and faculty and the future pipeline of skilled engineers for gaming and many other industries. “AGEM is proud to be working with GLI on this unique giving program that will benefit many different audiences and will be true to the idea of making a ‘lasting impact’ through a strong ripple effect inside the gaming industry and beyond,” AGEM Executive Director Marcus Prater said. “We value GLI’s commitment in joining us to make a positive difference in everything we do, and we look forward to seeing the UNLV College of Engineering break ground on its new building.” “Since opening our doors 30 years ago, GLI has been dedicated to giving back to the communities where we do business around the world,” said GLI President and CEO James Maida. “We are committed to creating big ideas making a big difference in the global gaming industry, and partnering with AGEM to create the Lasting Impact
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
lectronic table game (ETG) market leader Interblock announced an expansion of its ETG footprint at Genting’s Resorts World Casino New York City (RWNY), which already held North America’s largest ETG footprint within one casino. The expansion takes the product portfolio of Interblock to nearly 1,000 seats at the property. “The recent addition at Resorts World New York has allowed us to provide an unparalleled experience while creating a gaming environment that doubles as a centerpiece for the property,” said John Connelly, CEO of Interblock. “We truly value our partnership with Genting and look forward to continued success with the installation of a Pulse Arena being added to the property this summer.”
GRUPO COMAR NAMES JCM GLOBAL AS PREFERRED SUPPLIER
panish and Latin America gaming powerhouse Grupo Comar has named JCM Global its preferred supplier for bill validators and printers. The new agreement expands the relationship between Grupo Comar and JCM. Under the agreement, JCM will provide its award-winning iVIZION bill validator and GEN5 thermal printer to Grupo Comar casinos throughout Spain and Latin America. iVIZION’s CIS Contact Image Sensing technology leads the gaming industry in security and protection. iVIZION reads more than 9.5 million data points, twice that of the nearest competitive product, and scans the entire note or ticket, front and back, capturing an image clear enough to read a serial number. The GEN5 allows operators to deepen customer connections with its faster print speed and larger memory, providing a means of communicating a wide range of messages to customers, from simple ticket printing to more advanced couponing messages.
ARISTOCRAT LAUNCHES PHILIPPINES’ LARGEST JACKPOT LINK
A Resorts World Casino New York City
The imminent addition includes adding 43 play stations to RWNY’s Diamond Stadium, taking the number of seats within the stadium alone to 52 play stations. The stadium is part of a new gaming area on the casino floor, The Podium. This area also adds Interblock’s new Big Six Super Spin and Diamond Video Blackjack for an additional 38 play stations. Scott Molina, president of Resorts World Casino New York City, commented, “Resorts World Casino New York City places our customers’ experience first and strives to provide them with best-in-class products bringing our customers true casino gaming experiences. To this end, we’ve worked with Interblock and led our jurisdiction in bringing these products to our property and to the state. Interblock continues to innovate our product requirements and we’re happy to enhance our customers’ experiences with these innovations.”
ustralian slot supplier Aristocrat Leisure Ltd. announced that it has unveiled the largest linked jackpot in the Philippines in Mighty Cash Link, with a Grand Jackpot startup value of PHP100 million, or US$1.9 million. Mighty Cash Link went live at City of Dreams Manila on June 7, featuring high-denomination play supported by 64-bit game technology coupled with the latest vertex controller. The link is displayed in the company’s Helix+ cabinet, with an option for a physical button deck or a virtual button deck with bash button. City of Dreams Manila COO Kevin Benning said, “We continually strive to create fun, new experiences for our customers in pioneering ways that differentiate us in the market. Working with Aristocrat and capitalizing on their latest games and technology has allowed us to make history, creating the biggest jackpot in the Philippines gaming industry.”
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MAKING MY POINT
Throwing the Counterpunch Sometimes the truth hurts
n the fight of his life, Sugar Ray Leonard wasn’t saved by the bell. Or the referee. Or the crowd. Or the judges. But by the truth. Between the 12th and 13th rounds of his welterweight championship bout against Tommy Hearns in 1981, Leonard sat on his stool, dejected, defeated, dehydrated, his left eye so swollen he could only see what was directly in front of him. Which, for the previous 36 minutes, had been BAM!—and a relentless WHAM!—a punishing assault of SLAM!—jabs from a dude so devastating he needed two nicknames: The Hit Man and the Motor City Cobra. Now, back in the early ’80s, whatever Tommy Hearns hit, he destroyed. He was Ivan Drago before Ivan Drago was Ivan Drago. And Hearns was no figment of Hollywood’s imagination. He was the real deal. Just ask the 30 guys he had KO’d leading up to this showdown with Sugar Ray. Just ask Roberto Duran, the seemingly indestructible Panamanian legend that—albeit a few years later—was churned into 154 pounds of buttermilk, splattering across the canvas, courtesy of a whip-crack right hand from the Hit Man. Just ask Leonard, for that matter. When reflecting on his career, Leonard said this night, this battle, this opponent, nearly killed him. “Muhammad Ali told me when he fought Joe Frazier (the “Thrilla in Manila” in 1975), it was the closest thing to death,” Leonard said. “And at the time, I couldn’t quite understand that. But after my fight with Tommy Hearns, I understood completely. For me, that was the closest thing to death.” Dying in the ring that night? Very doubtful. Losing in the ring that night? Signs point to yes. Hearns was the bigger man. He was the stronger man. He was way ahead on the scorecards. Unless—speaking of “The Greatest”—Ali himself would lace up gloves and climb into the ring for the final three rounds, it seemed a done deal Leonard was done. True enough, Hearns had momentum in his
By Roger Snow
corner, but Leonard had Angelo Dundee. And Dundee, who had seen his share of fights—he was also Ali’s corner man—over the years, didn’t sugarcoat the situation. He didn’t tell Leonard what he wanted to hear. He didn’t, to use the parlance of the pugilist, pull any punches. He told his fighter the truth. “You’re blowing it now, son. YOU’RE BLOWING IT!” Dundee yelled. He told Leonard the game plan wasn’t working. He told Leonard he was losing. He told Leonard—a stick-and-move virtuoso since his days as an Olympic gold medalist—that he had to go for the knockout. So he did. And he did. Midway though the next round, Leonard unleashed an umpteen-punch combination of looping lefts and roundhouse rights—imagine an octopus shooing away a swarm of bees—that sent Hearns through the ropes and onto his backside, the “Hit Man” suddenly becoming the “Sit Man.” When the bell for the 14th round started, Leonard sprinted across the ring and pummeled Hearns before he could get out of his own corner. Ninety seconds (and almost as many punches) later, Hearns couldn’t defend himself and the referee had to stop the fight. Chalk one up to straight talk. Years later, Leonard said it was indeed Dundee’s no-holdsbarred berating that changed everything. “He kept saying, ‘You’re blowing it, you’re blowing it.’ And that little pep talk, that little sound bite made a huge difference in the outcome of that fight.” So, who’s the Angelo in your company? Who’s that one person willing to say what everyone else wants to say, but is afraid of the confrontation? Take a look back over your own career. Think of those poor souls you’ve watched selfdestruct and self-immolate. Could be they developed a toxic attitude. Could be they resisted the inevitability of change. Could be they started slacking off. Could be they never
stopped slacking off. No matter the prelude, what got them there got them here: flushing their careers and their livelihoods down the toilet. But what if there had been an Angelo? What if someone, anyone—perhaps you yourself—had told them the truth, that they were indeed “blowing it?” Would they have changed tacks, like Leonard did, and turned the agony of certain defeat into the thrill of victory? At least that would have given them a fighting chance. Getting fired for some is like a sucker-punch; they never see it coming. They simply lack the self-awareness to know if they are cruising to an easy victory or are indeed blowing it. And if they’re not blowing it, maybe they’re about to. They’ve filled their cheeks full of air and puckered their lips into a balloon knot. That’s human nature for you. As Shakespeare wrote centuries ago, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” The same can be said for the course of your career. There will be ups. There will be downs. There will be leaps forward and stumbles backwards. And there will occasionally be—not literally, as was the case with Sugar Ray—blood. We all need an Angelo in our corner. And when that criticism rains down upon us, we need to take it like Leonard did: not as a dressing down, but as heads up, as a rallying cry. Something else: we also need to drape that white towel over our shoulder and get into the face of someone who’s not getting the job done. Sure, it’s uncomfortable. Sure, it’s awkward. Sure, it may take a drink or two (or three) afterwards to calm those nerves. But it’s incumbent upon us, as stewards of our company, as comrades to our colleagues, to let people know when they are indeed blowing it. They’ll hate you now, but love you—and thank you—later. Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Scientific Games. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Scientific Games Corporation or its affiliates.
AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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PEOPLE ARISTOCRAT, SCIENTIFIC GAMES SHUFFLE LEADERSHIP
eadership positions at two major slot manufacturers changed last month, and the Mitchell Bowen changes were related. Australian slot giant Aristocrat Leisure Ltd. announced major changes in its leadership with respect to products for all its landbased global markets, creating a new global CEO, land based position and new Matt Wilson leadership in the Americas. Mitchell Bowen has been appointed to the newly created position of global CEO, land based, responsible for all of Aristocrat’s regulated gaming businesses worldwide, while Hector Fernandez, CFO, Americas, has been promoted to president, Aristocrat Americas, reporting directly to Bowen. Fernandez assumes the role vacated by former Managing Director-Americas Matt Wilson. The appointments are effective immediately, subject to any necessary regulatory approvals. Aristocrat Group Ltd. CEO & President Trevor Croker says the changes were institutional. “The creation of a single global land-based business is the right step to take at this time,” said Croker. “It will facilitate thorough and coordinated delivery of transformation and growth projects across our regional teams, along with more integrated product and technology strategy and seamless execution. Bringing together our landbased operations also positions us to more effectively serve an increasing number of global customers and sets the business up for its next phase of growth.” In a related move, Matt Wilson, who left his position at Aristocrat, will join rival Scientific Games Corp. next year as group chief executive of the Gaming Division. Wilson will report directly to Scientific Games CEO Barry Cottle, who commented in a statement that the company is thrilled to welcome the former Aristocrat exec. Wilson drove the growth of Aristocrat’s product line over the past few years, including directing the consolidation of the supplier’s Las Vegas headquarters in a new 18,000-square-foot headquarters facility in the Summerlin suburb. Wilson will replace longtime Scientific Games
executive Derik Mooberry as head of the company’s Gaming Division. Mooberry will stay on as group CEO of the division until Wilson’s arrival, after which he will transition into a “senior advisory role” with the Gaming Division. Wilson brings with him Siobhan Lane, who had been Aristocrat’s senior vice president of marketing and gaming operations. In May, SG hired Jamie Odell, former CEO of Aristocrat Leisure Ltd., as a special adviser to Cottle and company Chairman Ronald Perelman.
SIMERMEYER NOMINATED FOR NIGC CHAIRMAN
. Sequoyah Simermeyer, a member of the Coharie Tribe of North Carolina, has E. Sequoyah been nominated to the posiSimermeyer tion of chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission. Currently, Simermeyer serves as an NIGC associate commissioner and director of selfregulation. If confirmed, Simermeyer would serve a three-year term. He would replace Jonodev Osceolo Chaudhuri, who retired May 15. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt stated, “Sequoyah Simermeyer has a wealth of experience on tribal issues working in different executive and legislative branch capacities. He is the ideal candidate for this position, and I urge Congress to confirm him quickly.”
KONAMI APPOINTS GREG COLELLA PRODUCT MANAGEMENT VP
GUIDRY NAMED HARD ROCK HOLLYWOOD PRESIDENT
o Guidry has been Bo Guidry named president at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, where a $1.5 billion expansion, set to debut October 24, will include a guitar-shaped hotel tower. In his new position, Guidry will be responsible for all operations and management of the casino resort. He replaces Auggie Cipollini, who has been promoted to president of Seminole Hard Rock Support Services. For the past 10 years, Guidry served as senior vice president and general manager at Horseshoe Council Bluffs and Harrah’s Council Bluffs Hotel & Casino, both located in Council Bluffs, Iowa and owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp. He also managed Mid-America Center, an arena and convention center in the city of Council Bluffs.
AGS NAMES ABRAHAMSON SVP, INTERACTIVE
aming supplier AGS announced the appointment of Anthony Abrahamson as senior vice president, interactive, to lead the company’s online social and real-money B2B and B2C gaming business.
August 2019 Index of Advertisers
AGA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 AGEM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
onami Gaming, Inc. has announced the appointment of industry veteran Greg Colella to the role of vice president, product management. Colella has more than 20 years of gaming industry experience with a Greg Colella proven track record in product lifecycle planning, strategy and marketing. Colella most recently was vice president of product marketing at Konami rival Scientific Games. In his role as vice president, product management for Konami, Colella is responsible for market research, product strategy, and new product introduction for Konami game products.
AGS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . IFC Aristocrat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Everi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Fabicash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Fantini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Fifth Third Bank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Fox Rothschild . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 G2E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 IGT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Incredible Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Konami . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Back Cover RPM Advertising . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 SBC Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Scientific Games . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11, 31 UNLV Foundation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 UNLVGS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
AUGUST 2019 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Winnie Wong Chief Responsible Gaming Officer/Vice President of Special Gaming Projects, Sands China Ltd.
innie Wong has been with Sands China for almost six years. Prior to that, she was CEO of the Guandong Group, a junket operator in Macau. At Sands China, she has been the vice president of corporate communications and vice president of operations for Sands Cotai Central. In her most recent role as chief responsible gaming officer, Wong oversees an aspect of supreme importance to the company and the government of Macau. Wong spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the Gambling and Risk Taking Conference (the “Eadington Conference”) in May. To hear a full podcast of this interview, visit GGBMagazine.com. GGB: You were recently appointed to a new role at Sands China, as head of the responsible gaming efforts there. Why is that such an important issue for your company and the officials in Macau?
Winnie Wong: Macau sees responsible gaming as very important. The Macau government has a committee that is made up of scholars, researchers, public officials—not only regulators, but also the social welfare bureau. They have regular meetings and give the casino operators guidelines and regulations to follow. They really see responsible gaming as all stakeholders’ responsibility—not just the government, not just the patrons themselves, but everyone who has a part to play in the industry. Are these regulators and public officials educated about responsible gaming?
Yes, they do a lot of research, primary data collection, which is done by the local government for policy design purposes. At the same time, I do see them attending international conferences from time to time. Las Vegas Sands has always had a very robust responsible gaming program. What kind of expertise did they bring to Macau?
Global Gaming Business AUGUST 2019
In 2004, when my company opened its first casino—Sands Macau—we already had our own self-exclusion program. The Macau government’s self-exclusion program didn’t start until 2012, so our exclusion program was well before that. Today, the government requires casinos to train their front-tier staff for responsible gaming-related issues, but we go beyond that. We train 100 percent of our staff, be they casino-related, non-gaming related, admin staff or operation staff. We train every one of them. Las Vegas Sands also has developed a global training program. We call it the Responsible Gaming Ambassador’s Training Program. Every year, we rotate and train about 100 staff members in each region. And this goes beyond the training that I mentioned, which is included as part of orientation training. It is eight hours of intensive university-level training, developed by University of Nevada, Las Vegas Professor Bo Bernhard. These team members are on the floor 24 hours a day, and they are there to see if any patrons may have a gaming disorder problem. If they see that, they will help and refer these customers to seek professional help. We don’t replace the government. We are not treatment centers. We are not counseling experts. But we are there to help, and to provide help when customers need it. Is there a cultural difference between what is considered problem gambling between Asian gamblers and American gamblers?
From a practitioner’s perspective, I would say people in the Asian culture don’t normally reach out for help. They are quite laid-back. So we’ve used a lot of community support. And the reason why we see training as so important is because Macau has about 600,000 population, with a working population of roughly 380,000. Of that, about 110,000 work in the gaming and hotel industry. So, 30 percent of the working population works in the gamingrelated industry. If we train our staff to have
high awareness of problem gaming behavior, they can reach out to people, and those people could be their family, their friends or someone they believe needs help. Part of responsible gaming education is informing players about the odds of winning— that every game has a house edge. Do Asian gamblers understand that?
We as an operator design a lot of training programs for our staff where we mention about what is a game of chance. What is probability? What is the house advantage? So we help teach people to play with a sense of having fun. It is entertainment, instead of a tool to make money. In short, we help people make informed choices. How much research is being done in Macau to understand problem gambling in the SAR?
My job requires me to do research regularly, to keep myself abreast of responsible gaming trends. And I must admit that I find much more information on Australia and Canada and the U.K. There aren’t too many studies that focus specifically on Asian people. There are scholars from universities in Macau who are now doing lot of research which is Macau-specific. But I do see opportunities to do more. Do you think Macau is doing a good job at making sure that people gamble responsibly?
I think we are. There is always more that can be done, but Macau has been doing a lot. And I think the government cares, and the operators care, so that makes up a very good ecosystem. Last year, the government did research to understand people’s awareness on what is meant by responsible gaming. The percentage has increased dramatically since just a few years ago. Over the last five, six years, it went up from single-digit awareness to last year, more than 60 percent of people are aware what is meant by responsible gaming. So yes, I would say Macau is keeping up.
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