Global Gaming Business, February 2023

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Acceptable Which app works best when attracting new customers and employees?

Bringing Them Home

Global Gaming Business Magazine GGB February 2023 • Vol. 22 • No. 2 • $10 21stCENTURY TABLE
How mobile and retail can work together to bring players to the casino Nothing Is Free The evolution of free play SPECIAL SECTION: SURVEILLANCE & SECURITY Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers

The Age of Social Media

Once not much more than a way to keep tabs on old classmates, social media has evolved into a critical marketing tool for any business, not the least of which is the modern casino. From slot and hospitality influencers to instant promotion on TikTok and elsewhere, social media in gaming has come of age.


14 Feeding Free Play

Free play, a true low-cost promotional tool, is now a vital part of the marketing mix, particularly for local and regional casinos.


Valuing Retail Sportsbooks

Traditional low margins of retail sportsbooks do not diminish the value of creating an in-person experience around the wagering.

Surveillance and Security SPOTLIGHT

Our annual World Game Protection report examines the evolving discipline of securing the games.

22 Vigilance in the Pit

Surveillance officials have new table game scams to watch out for, but age-old cheating methods like dice-sliding and marking cards still survive.

26 Scamming the ETG

Electronic table games have become the latest cheating target, made easier by fewer eyes on the games than with traditional tables.

30 The Gun Issue

44 Payment Evolution

The growth of online gaming and sportsbooks has fed an ongoing evolution in payments technology.

The prevalence of firearms in the modern U.S. will require casinos to exercise additional safeguards to protect customers.

Vol. 22 • No. 2 COLUMNS CONTENTS 10 AGA Keep It Going Bill Miller 12 Fantini’s Fi nance Three Picks for a Cautious Market Frank Fantini 4 The Agenda 6 By the Numbers 8 5 Questions 13 AGEM 38 Emerging Leaders With Quapaw Nation’s Joseph Byrd, OpenBet’s Susan Quach, and Galaxy Gaming’s Phylicia Middleton 40 New Game Review 48 Frankly Speaking 50 Cutting Edge 52 Goods & Services 57 People 58 Casino Communications With Brett Abarbanel, Executive Director, International Gaming Institute, University of Nevada, Las Vegas DEPARTMENTS
Magazine 18 COVER STORY f eb r u a r y
Global Gaming Business

Protecting the Asset

In the bad old days of the casinos—doesn’t matter where it was, Newport, Kentucky; Steubenville, Ohio; Biloxi, Mississippi; Long Beach, California; Reno, Nevada; or any town that lived on the wild side—security was a pretty simple operation. Patrons were “encouraged” to behave and follow the rules of the establishment—whether they were fair or not.

Surveillance consisted of floorwalkers, and in the swankier places, they had catwalks. To say things were calm might be an overstatement, but things were in control. But casinos were still targets, and security required constant attention to maintain that control.

Things aren’t much different today. Yes, patrons are safe from “kneecapping” and the strong-arm approach is a thing of the past, but the fact remains that casinos are still targets, and require the ultimate attention by security and surveillance.

In this issue, we present our annual section focusing on security and surveillance. We tie this section to the annual World Game Protection Conference produced by my friends Willy and Jo Allison. It’s one of my favorite conferences in the industry—alongside the International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking, scheduled for this May at ParkMGM in Las Vegas.

The WGPC reveals lots of the secrets of the gaming industry, from the scams that are attempted each year to eclectic speakers who emphasize why casinos sometimes attract the less-than-respectable elements of society. So the entire enterprise often rests on the professionalism of your security and surveillance departments. Attendance at WGPC should be mandatory for members of these departments—and above.

But as non-revenue-producing departments, security and surveillance often get the short shrift when it comes to the casino’s budget. As technology improves, requests to upgrade camera systems and servers often go unheeded.

I was shocked a few years ago when the cage at a major casino on the Las Vegas Strip was robbed by a motorcycle-helmet-wearing thief. I wasn’t shocked by the robbery, I was shocked by the video that was released—a scratchy and blurry analog clip that barely showed the shape of the robber. Today, most casinos have upgraded, but as we all know,

technology is moving ahead faster than we can keep up, so loosen up the purse springs for these most important departments.

But the rash of hacking has also made security an important asset for the IT department. Andrew Cardo told me last year that stopping hacking altogether is impossible unless we cut off ties to all outside systems—something that is of course impossible in this digital age.

So we need to upgrade our defenses at all times. Especially the sports betting operators. There were at least a dozen attacks on databanks of sports betting operators in the past year, making it imperative that we put up an effective wall against these criminals. If we can’t protect our players’ precious data, how can the integrity of the industry be trusted?

Al Zajic’s article in this issue also brings up another element—the spread of weapons in the U.S. and around the world. He points out the increasing need for casinos to screen for weapons as patrons enter the building. We saw that in Las Vegas in the awful weeks following the October 1 shooting several years ago. It certainly was a bit intrusive, but casino visitors at that time were grateful that they could be confident of their safety as they played.

Those of us who have been to Macau understand that players there are accustomed to checkpoints as they enter the casino. Similar systems are in place in Europe, as well, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out how to install them strategically and discreetly.

Willy Allison’s story on vulnerability of ETGs and Bill Zender’s piece on the updated table game scams both get down to the nitty gritty. Casinos will always be opportunities for people who want to make an easy buck. We have to be aware of these efforts and continue to train not only our security and surveillance personnel, but also our dealers and slot techs about these vulnerabilities.

So we are proud each year to highlight these important departments in the casino industry. While they might not be revenue producers, they are revenue protectors, and a simple risk assessment should convince any casino president or general manager about the efficacy of devoting time, talent and capital to them.

Vol. 22 • No. 2 • FEBRUARY 2023

Roger Gros, Publisher | twitter: @GlobalGamingBiz

Frank Legato, Editor | twitter: @FranklySpeakn

Jess Marquez, Managing Editor

Monica Cooley, Art Director

Terri Brady, Sales & Marketing Director

Becky Kingman-Gros, Chief Operating Officer

Lisa Johnson, Communications Advisor twitter: @LisaJohnsonPR


Frank Fantini | Bill Miller

Contributing Editors

Willy Allison | Dave Bontempo

Chris Irwin | Bill Sokolic | Al Zajic | Bill Zender


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. 1000 Nevada Way • Suite 204 • Boulder City, NV 89005 702-248-1565 • 702-248-1567 (fax)

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 2023 Global Gaming Business LLC. Boulder City, NV 89005

GLOBAL GAMING BUSINESS is published monthly by Casino Connection International, LLC. Printed in Nevada, USA.

Postmaster: Send Change of Address forms to: 1000 Nevada Way, Suite 204, Boulder City, NV 89005

Official Publication

Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023 GGB THE AGENDA
Good people. Giant possibilities. What do you get when two of the country’s best gaming-focused ad agencies join forces? A new firm dedicated to bringing true marketing innovation to gaming and resort properties from coast to coast. Say hello at Chicago | Mobile | Reno | Tulsa


In December, the American Gaming Association released a study conducted by The Innovation Group, “Sizing the Illegal and Unregulated Gaming Markets in the United States.” Because of the nature of illegal gambling, it has always been difficult estimate the size, but by incorporating the data that is known with educated guesses, the estimates of illegal gambling are as accurate as possible. Illegal gambling is often referred to as the “gray market” because there are loopholes that allow unregulated gaming machines to operate in bars, restaurants, convenience stores, fraternity clubs and other locations. The study includes those unregulated machines along with illegal offshore wagering sites to come up with the final revenue estimates. At right, the chart at the top shows the huge tax dollars that these operations dodge by operating illegally. The bottom chart breaks down the illegal revenue divided by illegal sports betting, illegal iGaming and unregulated machines. To obtain a copy of the report, visit

Working with Tools

In late 2021, three firms—Toluna, Harris Interactive, and Kurundata—combined to produce a study on attitudes towards responsible gaming from online gaming players from both the U.S. and the U.K. The most surprising result of the study was that 81 percent of U.S. players believe that responsible gambling tools are somewhat or very important in where they choose to gamble online. In addition, 24 percent of the players believe they gamble too much. But even with that recognition of RG tools, support for using them and awareness of them was limited. In the chart at right, players’ awareness of these RG tools didn’t indicate a substantial knowledge a) that the tool was offered and b) that they would use the tool. The largest response—almost 40 percent—was they were unaware that the tools were even available. Bottom line? Online gaming operators need to make responsible gaming a focal point of their sites, with clear indications about what tools are available and how to use them.

6 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
Awareness of Measures Helping People Gamble Responsibly Annual U.S. Gaming Revenue by Legal Status Scale of State Gaming Taxes Lost to Illegal and Unregulated Market
BYTHE NUMBERS ©2023 PlayAGS, Inc. All Rights Reserved. All ® notices signify marks registered in the United States. All ™ and ℠ notices signify unregistered trademarks. ALL HAIL THE KING Jokers step aside. Spectra UR43TM is the new king of portrait upright and the newest member of AGS’ royal family of cabinets.

Gaming in Ireland has been operating in a gray area since the early 2000s when British-style membership clubs began to be established. A new set of gaming regulations has been set up recently along with a new regulatory scheme. JJ Woods has been consulting on gaming projects around the world for more than 30 years, and is the unqualified expert on gaming in Ireland. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros from his office in Dublin in January. To see and hear a full version of this podcast, visit

“They Said It”

“As I say, nobody is going to get everything they want but I will try my very best to make sure we get that balance absolutely right to make sure that horse racing and the betting sector can thrive for many, many years to come.”

Paul Scully, the new U.K. minister in charge of gambling and racing, on the government’s goal of balancing competing interests

GGB: Why don’t you give us a little thumbnail of what gambling in Ireland looked like before the recent regulatory reforms were considered?

JJ Woods: Somewhere around the late ’90s or 2000, the law was circumvented when private members’ clubs started to open all over the country. This was the first time that live gaming was offered, largely blackjack and roulette. Prior to that was a large amount of slot machine arcades. And there’s a bit of a confusion there, because some of them were amusement arcades, which meant in the beginning they had to be almost like children’s games. But as things progressed, they amounted to having actual gaming. This dates back to the 1950s.

This was probably one of the biggest mistakes that hopefully the Irish government will now correct. Because for the last 60 years, we actually broke the first rule of any gaming legislation, which is to protect the young and the vulnerable.

Were these private member clubs similar to the to the private clubs in the U.K.?

Very much so. Some of them are awful. Some of them were actually quite beautiful. The ones I consulted on, they’re very much like gentlemen’s clubs with very good service, beautiful plush carpets, brass fixtures, lighting right over the pictures, that type of oak room style.

And how about the High Street bookmakers?

If we go back to the early 2000s, PaddyPower, which is now Flutter, basically became a monopoly. So they were allowed to proliferate. And it’s very important to remember as well, even though online sports betting dominates today, every single one of those companies in that space had a retail presence on the street.

What spurred the recent regulatory reforms?

Research into regulation started when they actually printed a research paper in July 2013. The truth of the matter is my first submission goes way back to Bertie O’Hearn, when he was the prime minister of this country. He requested that I do a submission on gambling to the government back in 2007.

But I can’t think of any one event that happened where they said, let’s get this done, except to say gambling grew exponentially during Covid, especially online gaming. So I think that’s probably one of the pushes that said we need to do something.

1 2 3 4 5

So what is possible under these new laws in terms of gambling expansion? Can they build an IR or a series of casinos?

The answer is, I’m really not sure. I’d love to be able to tell you but things are still up in the air. There are several issues that have to be worked out. There’s a strong belief still that the permission for a gaming club or casino should lie with local council. We have local councils all over the country. I’m against that myself for many, many reasons. That’s just one area that needs to be looked at.

They also need to know things like, will alcohol be allowed to be served in the casino? That has to be defined. Can you drink and gamble? That’s always been a law in this country. You could never drink and gamble. That’s a law that needs to be changed.

So when you ask me that question, where is the development; where’s the future, where are the improvements coming from? We’re going to need to know a lot more. We need to find out an awful lot more about how the government’s thinking about this.

February 7-9: ICE London, ExCeL, London, U.K. Produced by Clarion Gaming. For more information, visit

February 28-March 1: Casino & Esports Conference, Alexis Park Hotel, Las Vegas. Produced by Gameacon Events. For more information, visit

March 7-8: iGaming Next: New York, The Convene-Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Produced by iGaming Next. For more information, visit

March 15-16: IGSA 2023 Technology Summit, Italian American Club of Las Vegas. Produced by the International Gaming Standards Association. For more information, visit

March 27-30: Indian Gaming 2023, San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California. Produced by the Indian Gaming Association. For more information, visit

March 29-30: Prague Gaming & Tech Summit ’23, Vienna House Andel’s Prague, Prague, Czech Republic. Produced by Hipther. For more information, visit

April 19-20: SAGSE LATAM 2023, Buenos Aires Hilton, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Produced by Mongraphie. For more information, visit

May 9-11: SBC Summit North America, Meadowlands Exposition Center, East Rutherford, New Jersey. Produced by SBC. For more information, visit

May 15-17: Casino Marketing Boot Camp, General Managers Edition, Rolling Hills Casino Resort, Corning, California. Produced by J Carcamo & Associates. For more information, visit

May 24-25: CasinoBeats Summit (CBS), InterContinental in St. Julian’s, Malta. Produced by SBC. For more information, visit

May 25-27: Gambling Brasil, Frei Caneca Convention Center, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Produced by Afiliados Brasil. For more information, visit

8 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023

Keep It Going

The gaming industry’s hot streak is being threatened by illegal gambling, sports betting glitches and policymakers on Capitol Hill

Our industry is on a hot streak as we enter 2023. We’ve delivered two straight years of record revenue, seen the continued expansion of legal gaming nationwide, and been encouraged by the return of meetings and international travel. That said, there is considerable concern relating to the global and national economy that will continue to challenge our industry’s resilience.

As we look to the year ahead, I want to share how the AGA will advance core priorities in 2023 that will sustain our industry’s momentum and deliver opportunity for our members.

Combating Illegal Gambling

The illegal gambling market, in the form of unregulated gambling machines, bookies and offshore websites, is an existential threat to the legal gaming industry. According to new AGA research, the entirety of Americans’ illegal gambling activity costs legal operators an estimated $44.2 billion per year. The AGA will continue our coordinated advocacy campaign to educate the public on how illegal gambling harms consumers and communities, while taking the fight to illegal operators by working with policymakers, law enforcement and regulators to crack down on these bad actors. Visit to join our efforts.

Getting Sports Betting Right

This year marks five years since the Supreme Court invalidated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Today, 36 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized sports betting, finally giving millions of Americans the protections of regulated wagering options.

This expanded footprint also brings heightened scrutiny. To be frank, I welcome it. The legal industry is committed to creating and maintaining a responsible, sustainable market— and when we do have missteps, we course correct (which can’t be said for illegal operators).

As we celebrate five years post-PASPA, the AGA will deliver insights, bolster communications and dispel false narratives on the value of legal sports betting for consumers and communities.

educate key stakeholders on gaming’s positive impact in communities, the protections of legal marketplaces, and the importance of flexible regulation in a thriving gaming industry.

Advancing Responsibility

Our industry’s commitment to our customers, communities and employees starts with responsibility. The AGA will continue to tell this story in 2023 while deepening gaming’s commitments to responsible leadership.

We know that responsible gaming must continue to evolve with the industry. There’s certainly been good progress, but there’s always more we can do. Over next year, the AGA will meet with a wide range of stakeholders on how to modernize responsible gaming for today’s market by using technology to empower and protect customers and deepening stakeholder collaboration to advance a sustainable marketplace.

Fostering a Favorable Policy Environment

For more than 25 years, the AGA has promoted and protected gaming’s reputation on Capitol Hill. This will continue as we welcome 70 new members of Congress from gaming states in the 118th Congress. The AGA will push core issues like raising the slot tax threshold and eliminating the sports betting excise tax to strengthen gaming’s ability to compete. We will also continue to elevate our leadership on financial compliance and ensure our industry’s voice is heard as the federal government crafts regulation.

Policymakers that support gaming are also vital to achieving our priorities at the state level. As the industry pushes for legalization, payments modernization and an efficient regulatory environment, the AGA will continue to

We will expand our efforts to strengthen the industry’s already extensive environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts by publishing research, convening AGA membership, and leading the industry forward on priorities like diversity, equity and inclusion and anti-human trafficking.

Bringing Gaming Together

Looking at the year ahead, there are significant factors beyond our control, but I remain confident in our collective strength which is always on display when the industry comes together. We all feel this every October when the industry gathers in Las Vegas for four days of G2E innovation, networking and education. Our team is already focused on creating new and exciting opportunities for G2E 2023 that deliver value and experiences that can’t be found anywhere else.

10 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
Bill Miller is president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.
As the industry pushes for legalization, payments modernization and an efficient regulatory environment, the AGA will continue to educate key stakeholders on gaming’s positive impact in communities, the protections of legal marketplaces, and the importance of flexible regulation in a thriving gaming industry.

Three Picks for a Cautious Market

Even in a recession, opportunities exist, and winners still emerge

As this column is being written, we are still early in 2023 and waiting on the start of the fourth quarter earnings report season and the outlooks on the year that will accompany them.

As has been the case for a while now, there is a growing consensus among economic observers that the U.S. is headed towards a recession of some debated severity as the Fed continues to raise interest rates.

There also are signs that consumers are starting to cut spending, and, in many cases, undermining their future spending by running up credit cards and other debt.

That doesn’t bode well for consumer discretionary industries like gaming, although travel and experiential spending continues strong. Nonetheless, it can be expected that casino companies may grow cautious on capital spending in preparation for any downturn. That would not be bullish for games and gaming technology companies. However, a positive offset may be that new products such as cashless gaming can be sold as cost reducers.

And, of course, the proliferation of sports betting and online gaming continues to add new revenue, though by now investors have learned that profits do not necessarily follow as operators spend, in some cases wildly, to establish market share.

One result heading into earnings season is that some sell-side analysts have been paring earnings estimates and target prices. They may be correct. However, even in a recession, some companies grow and some stocks are undervalued. Below are three stocks that may be significantly higher a year from now even if the economy turns soft:

• Full House Resorts. We chose this small regional casino operator as our stock of the year in a report for digital subscribers to GlobalGaming Business and premium subscribers to Fantini’s Gaming Report.

The story is simple: Full House will open two transformational properties this year.

They are Chamonix, which is Cripple Creek, Colorado’s first resort-quality casino, and the aptly

named The Temporary in Waukegan, Illinois, which will precede the permanent casino, American Place, Chicagoland’s only casino designed exclusively for high-end customers.

The back-of-the-envelope math is that if these properties, combining for more than $600 million in investment, generate a 15 percent EBITDA return that more than triples today’s base of $40 million or more.

That forecast may be conservative given that American Place will be the lone casino in Lake County, an affluent suburb of underpenetrated Chicago. A 20 percent return on the $425 million property is more likely.

Ditto for Cripple Creek, where Chamonix will immediately become the king of Colorado Springs, the state’s fastest-growing metro with a population today around 800,000. The role model is Black Hawk near Denver, where resort-quality Ameristar and Monarch casinos enjoy resort-size business volumes.

Full House’s stock has been selling around $8 a share recently. A price of $20 to $25 after the new properties prove themselves is not unreasonable.

• Golden Entertainment has long been one of our favorites and has rewarded us with a quadrupling of value even at recently fallen share prices.

Those prices in the $30s give investors the opportunity to buy into a company that analysts see generating more than $5 a share in free cash flow.

The big news at Golden is the pending sale of its Maryland casino for $260 million. That will allow it to reduce already manageable debt and perhaps pay a special dividend or provide an acquisition war chest.

But the underlying story is steady, if unspectacular, growth in a company riding southern Nevada’s population and economic surge:

• Continuing to open new taverns that generate up to $500,000 a year each in EBITDA;

• Ambitious post-Covid concert schedule at the company’s 12,000-seat events center in Laughlin across the street from its casinos;

• Cost-free development with the opening of Atomic Golf at The Strat in Las Vegas;

• Converting more Strat hotel bookings directto-consumer from online travel agencies in what

amounts to a stealth rate increase;

• Continued transformation of the Strat from a low-budget operation into one whose business model is more akin to the typical Las Vegas Strip casino; and,

• Cross-marketing Golden’s big local casino and tavern customer base to its resort properties.

In summary, Golden is a low-valuation stock with steady growth and maybe an acquisition kicker.

• Inspired Entertainment is a small company with big opportunities.

That is not unique. What separates Inspired from other small companies with grand ambitions is that it basically owns a rapidly growing gaming niche of vast potential, and its leadership has been there, done that.

Inspired is by far the leader in virtual sports, games that play simulated sports contests and horse races.

In more mature sports betting markets in Europe, virtual sports betting provides more than 10 percent of revenues. Translate that into North America where sports betting is seen as a $30 billion-$50 billion market.

In addition, Executive Chairman Lorne Weil is doing with Inspired what he did in building Scientific Games with betting machines in the U.K. and entering the lottery business, including the potentially huge iLottery sector.

More importantly, Inspired makes money, and profits are growing.

You can hear and watch Weil describe his opportunities in the video interview I conducted with him at G2E on the Fantini Research YouTube channel.

These companies aren’t the only good stories in gaming. There are numerous others among casino operators and games providers, many of which we’ll discuss as the year progresses. But they make a good starting point heading into an uncertain economy.

investors and consultants with a focus on gaming.

12 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
Frank Fantini is principal at Fantini Advisors,


AGEM Member Profiles

Gold Member Profile

Ainsworth Game Technology

Ainsworth Game Technology is a global company with offices located around the world. Ainsworth is committed to a vision of delivering excellence in gaming solutions focusing on the design, development and manufacturing of gaming machines, software and related equipment and supplies.

Bronze Member Profile

Eclipse Gaming Systems

With a focus on the Native American gaming market, as well as select commercial and international gaming markets, Eclipse Gaming Systems develops top-performing games and innovative solutions that engage players and deliver measurable results for their casino partners.

Associate Member Profile

Carmanah Signs

Carmanah Signs offers a variety of products and services designed to optimize lottery retail and gaming experiences. Carmanah’s offerings include digital signage content management and distribution software, media player and display hardware, interactive touch tablets, jackpot and gaming signs, and a complete suite of digital sign services.

AGEM is an international trade association representing manufacturers of electronic gaming devices, systems, lotteries and components for the gaming industry. The association works to further the interests of gaming equipment manufacturers throughout the world. Through political action, trade show partnerships, information dissemination and good corporate citizenship, the members of AGEM work together to create benefits for every company within the organization. Together, AGEM and its member organizations have assisted regulatory commissions and participated in the legislative process to solve problems and create a positive business environment.

AGEM January 2023 Meeting Recap

• The January 2023 AGEM monthly meeting, which also served as the association’s 2023 Annual Meeting, kicked off with the election of AGEM officers for upcoming terms. The slate of officers, as recommended by the Board of Director’s voting members, was approved for new terms. Bob Parente (Light & Wonder) was elected president and will serve a two-year term, while the following officers were approved to serve one-year terms: Ryan Comstock (Ainsworth), treasurer; Tom Jingoli (Konami), secretary; Dave Lucchese (Everi), vice president; Elaine Hodgson (Incredible Technologies), vice president; Luke Orchard (IGT), vice president; and Tom O’Brien (Aristocrat), vice president. Outgoing president Dave Lucchese thanked his colleagues, noting how proud he was to lead AGEM for the past two years, and also recognized Hector Fernandez (Aristocrat) for his service as AGEM treasurer during his tenure.

• With ICE fast approaching, Clarion representatives Stuart Hunter and Alex Pratt presented an update to AGEM members about the show, including some registration and exhibitor statistics. Although a few weeks out from the show, and with registration activity expected to increase by two thirds, the current pace of registrations is indicating an actual attendance back to pre-pandemic levels for an international show with global attendees. New highlights for 2023 include My ICE Gateway, a new and improved lead generation tool; a Hosted Buyer Program; and the full opening of the Queen Elizabeth train service, providing new, fast accessibility to ExCeL directly from central London and also Heathrow Airport.

• Brian Sullivan of the Indian Gaming Association provided a brief update about the 2023 Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention, which is being held March 27-30 at the San Diego Convention Center in California. This location is the most popular choice for the event, and will be the site for future shows. Sullivan shared that this year’s event is growing with even more exhibitors and will also include a newly formatted golf event, being organized by former AGEM President Tom Neiman.

Forthcoming Events

• AGEM will have a booth at the ICE London expo, located in ExCeL’s North Halls at N1-241. Daron Dorsey and Tracy Cohen look forward to welcoming new and existing members to the show. Please feel welcome to come and say hello.

• AGEM will host a legislative reception on March 7 in Carson City, Nevada. The reception will be open to all legislators and elected officials in Carson City for the session, along with industry friends and colleagues. Final details will be communicated in February, and AGEM members are invited to attend the event.

AGEM index

The AGEM Index decreased by 66.85 points in December 2022 to 839.1, a 7.4 percent decline from the prior month. Compared to one year ago, the index was down 132.49 points, or 13.6 percent. During the latest month, 10 of the 12 AGEM Index companies reported stock price decreases, resulting in 10 negative contributions to the index and two positive contributions. The largest positive contribution to the monthly index was sourced to Agilysys (Nasdaq: AGYS), whose 19.2 percent increase in stock price led to an 8.69point gain to the index. The largest negative contribution to the index was sourced to Aristocrat Leisure Limited (ASX: ALL), whose 12.9 percent decrease in stock price resulted in a 39.68-point loss for the AGEM Index. Additionally, Light & Wonder Inc. (Nasdaq: LNW) observed a 9.5 percent decrease in stock price that led to an 11.95-point decrease to the index. All three major U.S. stock indices saw month-over-month decreases to close the year. The NASDAQ decreased by 8.7 percent from November, while the S&P 500 fell by 5.9 percent. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 4.2 percent over the month.

FEBRUARY 2023 13

Free Play Rules


It may seem like eons, but it was less than 20 years ago that casinos began to abandon the player reward system that had been in place since the late 1980s, when player tracking systems began to proliferate.

The system in which players earn points for all wagering through the machine spawned a variety of rewards, from themed special events to tournaments to a variety of gift giveaways. But eventually, the cost of providing those waffle irons, George Foreman grills and toasters did not, in itself, create a cost-effective player reward system.

Enter cashback. Each point earned would translate into a specific cash amount that was given back to the player, via those coin coupons practically all longtime casino enthusiasts remember. Many called them “bounce-back coupons,” because they required the club member to bounce back to the casino to redeem them for cash. Once back in the casino with the extra cash, operators reasoned, the player was likely to gamble again, theoretically giving that money, and more, back to the casino. As one famous slot-operator quote described the reasoning for the new cashback system, “You can’t put a toaster in a slot machine.”

But a funny thing happened to that plan. Spurned on by player-advocate newsletters like the Las Vegas Advisor—which had a special section on the best coin coupon deals called “Couponomy”—many of the most frequent and loyal casino customers would shop around for the best point-multiplier deals, earn coupons from several casinos, and go on periodic “coupon runs” to cash them all out, in most cases with the money simply walking out of the casino.

“Cashback was a particular vexing issue for casino managers,” says inter-

national casino consultant Andrew Klebanow, principal of Klebanow Consulting. “Casino managers suspected that a portion of the money they handed to customers at the casino cage was walking out the door. They wanted a system that at least gave them a shot at winning ‘their’ money back. That drove the development of modules on casino management systems that issued non-negotiable dollars, better known as free play. A customer would have to cycle through their free play at least once through the machine before they could cash out their money.”

The era of free play began, and unlike cashback, free play required more play.

The Takeoff

Perhaps the largest factor leading to the rise of free play was a change under most regulatory jurisdictions in how free play is recorded. Historically, cashback appeared as a marketing expense, the same as free-room or restaurant comps. Today, the cost of free play is usually deducted from the total slot win to arrive at a net slot hold.

This accounting change allowed free play to become the preferred slot-club reward, and the method took off from there. Not only did it improve the balance sheet; it cost the casinos a lot less than comps.

Klebanow notes that the typical casino buffet or coffee shop operates at a loss, since it drives visitation to the casino.

“Typically, casino three-meal rooms price their menu to cover prime cost (the cost of food plus labor). That means other costs, such as supplies, linen, utilities, etc., are not covered by the price of the meals. So,

14 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
Ever since casinos stopped sending coin coupons to club members, free play has been a primary player reward. But does it still make sense?

the three-meal room operates at a loss, probably at 110 percent to 120 percent of revenue.”

Buffets, he adds, offer an even better illustration of the comp conundrum. “Most buffets are priced so that they do not even cover their prime costs,” he says. “It is not unusual for a $20 buffet to have a prime cost of $28-$30. Add in the other expenses (linen, supplies, utilities, etc.) and each meal sold costs the casino substantially more than what they charge.”

Thus, he says, it costs the casino a lot less to award a customer $30 in free play than a $20 meal comp.

Happily for operators, in addition to benefiting the bottom line, free play has been embraced by the players.

“Whether it’s points or actual bonus free play, either way comes out to the same thing—free play is free play,” notes Cliff Paige, slot director at the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. “It’s very extensive at South Point; it’s probably the No. 1 thing that our customers ask for. And one of the things we try to do is make sure we give the customers what they want.

“I don’t want to give stuff that they’re not going to use like a keychain or a bucket of candy or something like that. Free play is what they want. Free play is what we give them.”

“In the U.S., free play is utilized throughout the industry as a strong business driver in the marketing toolbox,” says veteran casino marketing professional Mary Loftness, who headed up relationship marketing at Station Casinos before founding her current consultancy, Profitable Customers, in 2000.

“When players of locals casinos are surveyed for their favorite player benefit or promotion, the results are overwhelmingly free play. Slot technology has improved to support additional methods of delivering free play. In marketing, the goal is to lengthen the time on device today, and/or incent another trip. There is now technology to automatically deliver that free play, but marketing communications must support this with immediate messaging.

“Free play is simple to deliver to the player, simple for the player to utilize and simple to track.”

“Free play is more of a bounce-back program that holds particular appeal in local/regional markets,” says Klebanow. “No one living in Denver is going to hop on a plane and fly to Las Vegas or Reno because they have a $50 free play offer in hand, but they will hop in their car and drive up the hill to Black-

hawk to redeem that offer.”

Buddy Frank, owner of consultancy Slot Strategies and formerly a longtime executive who headed slot operations at several Reno casinos before moving to California—where he retired as slot operations VP at Pechanga—says that simple tracking of the free play expense is a key benefit to the operator.

“It has always ben difficult to measure the impact of various marketing incentives,” Frank says. “For example, did your entertainment offerings in your showroom result in more revenue, increased loyalty, more repeat visits, etc.? The same goes for comps and F&B offerings. Better than other options, free play offers the ability to accurately track both its utilization and its effectiveness.”

The Pitfalls

That’s not to say the method is without potential pitfalls.

“Free play is a wonderful and cost-effective casino marketing strategy,” says Frank, “but like many other programs, if your free play strategy is not applied with proper and consistent analytics, it can be abused, ineffective and costly. Weak marketers can get in trouble with free play, just as they can with comps, bus charters and earlier cashback programs. Better operators are using good analytical tools like QCI or GamingAnalytics.AI to accurately measure the effectiveness of their free play programs.

“Have you measured your return on free play offers? Is the ROI respectable? This is critical. While unheard of a few years ago, many operators now report slot machine hold percentages with and without free play, as part of their calculations. There are several other important metrics to consider: Did free play increase visitation rates above normal? What was the non-free play spend associated with each free play offer? Are your free play decisions reviewed frequently enough to prevent abuse?”

“Return on free play must always be measured,” says Loftness. “If the property is not getting 3X, 4X or 5X return on free play, depending on the competitiveness of the market, the free play is being offered to the wrong segments of players and/or in the wrong amounts.”

“The percent of gaming revenue rebated back to customers in the form of free play has ebbed and flowed over the years as casino marketers sought to compete with other properties or fought for increased market share,”

FEBRUARY 2023 15
“Return on free play must always be measured. If the property is not getting 3X, 4X or 5X return on free play, depending on the competitiveness of the market, the free play is being offered to the wrong segments of players and/or in the wrong amounts.”
—Mary Loftness, Profitable Customers

says Klebanow. “The problem is that free play has a direct impact on slot hold. When casino marketing starts issuing too much free play, it starts to drag slot hold down. To counteract that force, slot managers often have to increase their floor’s slot hold to maintain their floor PAR.

“In fact, when one asks a slot manager what their aggregate slot hold is, they will more often than not quote a slot hold net of free play. For a regular player who redeems all of their free play, they may be experiencing a slot machine experience that holds 6 percent while someone walking in off the street for the first time may experience a slot machine experience at an 8 percent hold. That can reduce their time on device by 25 percent. Not a good first impression.”

“At South Point, we’ve sort of found our sweet spot, but I think free play absolutely can be abused,” comments Paige. “It’s not a magic bullet. It’s not going to solve other problems that you may have, whether you’re not treating the customer right or it’s a service issue.

“I’ve seen it in the past where some casinos have overused it. You used to see the same thing with point multipliers. It used to be where you only saw point multipliers during certain holidays. Now everybody has a point multiplier and it’s almost every day, and it’s burned that method out. It’s kind of like a sale that never ends. I think you’re starting to see that with free play. So we’re very, very careful on how we deploy it.”

While free play is loved by players and operators in locals casinos and regional markets, executives in many of the big tourist-centric casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have come to view the method as a burdensome cost.

While several Strip operators declined to comment for this article, past comments have questioned the wisdom of giving away free play to transient customers who may visit once or twice a year. Many have

commented that slot hold percentages have been kept high as a way to counter the expense of free play.

“(For tourist casinos), I think free play probably would be a waste,” says Paige. “That’s a destination customer, very time-constrained—a lot of other things pull the customer’s attention away. So I think free play would actually hurt them.”

Paige says that for this reason, free play is bound to decline in destination markets. “I wouldn’t see it growing on the Strip,” he says. “In fact, I’d see it definitely going the other way—whoever is using it on the Strip is going to come to the same conclusion. It’s not worth it in a destination market.”

As far as local and regional markets, though, free play is likely here to stay. “As long as it doesn’t become overused like point multipliers—if it is applied properly—I think it will scale and grow,” Paige says.

“Free play remains cheaper than food, so it will always be used as part of Strip vacation packages,” says Klebanow. “It is not going anywhere, particularly in the regional markets.”

“Free play could become even more important in the future as we drill deeper into the data,” adds Frank, “to provide even more meaningful ways to distribute it. Can we give it only to those who’ve been losing? How about on user-specific events—birthdays, favorite teams’ touchdowns, anniversaries, repeat visits?”

“We’re in the gambling business,” says Paige. “If a customer wants to gamble, what better tool can you find that entices them to say, ‘This is really a great game; I’m going to use my free play?’ It’s what players love.”

“Free play will continue to be a dominant driver in the marketer’s toolbox for as long as we want to reward additional play time to valued players,” says Loftness, who adds, “That means forever!”

16 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
“Weak marketers can get in trouble with free play, just as they can with comps, bus charters and earlier cashback programs. Better operators are using good analytical tools like QCI or GamingAnalytics.AI to accurately measure the effectiveness of their free play programs.”
—Buddy Frank, Slot Strategies
While free play is loved by players and operators in locals casinos and regional markets, executives in many of the big tourist-centric casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have come to view the method as a burdensome cost.

Always Bet on Engagement

Social media strategies for gaming in 2023 and beyond

When the predominant social media platforms of today began their rise to prominence 10, 15, or in some cases 20 years ago, they were fashioned with the purpose of connecting people from around the world on a personal level and sharing information in a timely, creative and purposeful fashion.

Though that ethos has largely remained the same, everything else from the content itself tothe way users interact has evolved innumerable times, to the extent that the platforms have become the primary drivers of pop culture. What used to be headlines are now hashtags; conversations that used to take place at water coolers and gatherings have become keystrokes and notifications, and even the most passionate detractors have turned into active participants.

As such, it’s no surprise that the adoption and utilization of social media has become a critical component of marketing and communications for all industries, with gaming certainly among them.

Casino operators, suppliers, bookmakers and everyone in between can present relevant and engaging content that customers and players can access anytime and anywhere—the challenge now is to decide where to start and how to grow a consistent brand that aligns with company values and goals.

Social media in many ways is like the economy—it’s difficult to paint under a single definition, but the collective public agrees that it’s important, and that it should be followed closely. Moving forward, it’s impossible to tell whether the existing platforms and the names behind them will remain in vogue. However, by now it feels safe to say that our appetite for content will remain consistent, meaning there will be endless opportunities for gaming companies to post, re-post, pin, poke, like, comment and subscribe their way to the top.

From Tongue-in-Cheek to Suit and Tie

Early iterations of social media were nostalgic and organic. Much like a middle school dance, nobody really knew what to do or where to step, and the content that did become successful was often random with a hint of innocence, like when Charlie bit his brother’s finger (and it really hurt).

As platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and TikTok enter their second and third decades, however, the age of innocence is long gone. Data analysis and similar processes have largely cracked the code on what people think is entertaining and engaging, which means

that the days of nephews and interns doing social media to fill time are long gone, replaced by professional teams of content creators and storytellers.

“Social media is a must in 2023,” says Rich Sullivan, CEO of Good Giant, a gaming-focused creative agency. “The great thing about casinos is that there is always something fun and exciting happening. This provides an abundance of raw material for clients to post, but it’s also a bit of a doubleedged sword.

“With so much day-to-day content available and every department wanting visibility, we find that most properties need a clear social strategy that defines their goals, how they are going to measure success and how to prioritize all the competing interests to ensure their audience gets the most impactful content.”

Now that the range of content and platforms is at its widest point, it’s impossible for operators and suppliers to build a successful social media presence by trying to do everything. Instead, the goal is to come up with a

& 18 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
“There’s enough negativity in the world to go around, and people love and engage with the content where real people are having fun with technology or on property winning jackpots, exploring food and beverage options, and making the most of what a company may offer.”
—Jess Scott, Account Director, The Firm Public Relations and Marketing

strategy that puts targeted content on the right platforms, for it to find the right audience.

Sullivan explains that over the years, he and his team have learned that “in practice, each and every client has their own sweet spot in terms of post timing, frequency and media type,” which means it’s best to let the pros decipher the performance data and make adjustments as necessary.

Jess Scott, an account director for the Las Vegas-based agency The Firm Public Relations and Marketing, has seen operators gradually understand that they can dictate their own brand effectively on their own, irrespective of outside trends.

“People are realizing the various options that are out there,” Scott says. “So it’s not necessarily everyone having the need to flock to a singular platform or be more open to a specific platform; it’s just a broader realization of, ‘Hey, there are numerous platforms that we can explore and be strategic and mindful and figure out what works for us.’ That is the general mindset for social media in gaming and beyond that we’ve certainly noticed.”

Despite their monetization, social platforms are still extremely personal, and Scott notes that the best content for operators almost always “showcases human or business elements that may otherwise not be fully grasped on the casino floor or through other channels.”

Users want to be taken behind the curtain, but that brings a sense of vulnerability, and we all know how dangerous that can be in a digital world. According to Scott, this also highlights the importance of social savants who can “provide feedback on various aspects of the business” and “be timely and strategic” when it’s time to take action.

Keep the Cameras Rolling

By and large, social media follows the same principles as any other business. Competition is the name of the game—if a certain type of content shows itself to be successful, it gets replicated and parodied until proven otherwise.

As the director of marketing and communications for Konami Gaming, Tashina Lazcano has followed these trends for years, and in 2023, she says that regardless of which platform operators prefer to use, video content is king.

“Now we have video content on all the different platforms that we participate in, be it LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook,” Lazcano says. “They all host video content, and they all have different video content needs. In addition, audiences will look for different types of video content based on which

platform they’re engaging with.

“So there’s been a greater diversification on the types of video content needs that we have across our different social media channels. On YouTube, we’ll still have a lot of game demos and tutorials, as a kind of longer-format video. Whereas on Twitter or Instagram, it’s more of a short format.”

That said, video is also the most difficult medium to learn how to produce, and not every company may have the resources or the knowledge to consistently promote their games and products effectively.

One strategy that Konami has adopted to help market their products is to create their own content that they then give to customers for them to use in conjunction with product launches, which Lazcano refers to as “B2B2C marketing,” or “business-to-business-to-consumer.” She says that in the case of Konami, that “package of assets includes social media materials like product images, video content, GIFs, and ad mats, which can also be formatted to social media.”

Of course, part of the video revolution involves the actual platforms themselves. As Lazcano says, they all are capable of hosting video, but one above all is optimized specifically for it: TikTok.

Though the platform has drawn scrutiny in recent years for its privacy policies and ties to Chinese parent company ByteDance, it’s clear to see that its short looping videos, silly dance moves and simple audio blurbs are striking a chord in pop culture, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Other apps have since raced to create similar interfaces, such as Instagram’s REELS feature and YouTube’s Shorts spin-off.

FEBRUARY 2023 19
One strategy that Konami has adopted to help market their products is to create their own content that they then give to customers for them to use in conjunction with product launches YouTube remains a staple in offering video content

Back in September 2021, the app announced that it had eclipsed 1 billion active monthly users worldwide, vaulting it into the upper stratosphere of social sites. Legacy platforms like Facebook and YouTube still tout more, but the key factor behind TikTok’s influence is its popularity with younger demographics: according to data from App Ape, a whopping 53 percent of TikTok users are between the ages of 20 and 39, which is prime territory for gaming companies as they try to entice the next generation of players.

“TikTok is certainly a force,” says Scott. “And from what we’re watching in 2023, I think TikTok is certainly something we should all keep an eye on as it gains popularity, as there are certain regulations and international news headlines impacting that platform. It’s something that has clearly gained popularity, but it’s also something we really need to keep an eye on.”

If the customer is always right, as Sullivan notes, then “casinos really do need to have a TikTok strategy in 2023.” And if more suppliers follow the likes of Konami and start producing their own content, this proposition can become a lot less intimidating. To highlight the potential of the app, Lazcano gives a recent example of a post used to promote one of Konami’s latest games, “America’s Rich Life.”

“America’s Rich Life has an eagle hero character who does a lot of dance moves to the tune of the song ‘Living in America’ by James Brown,” she says. “So in these TikTok videos, we’re showing the eagle character doing his dance moves on different American landmarks like on top of a skyscraper in New York City or on top of a cable car in San Francisco… These are the types of digital assets that we package together for a lot of our high-profile game releases.”

Under the Influence

Third-party endorsements have been a marketing staple for decades, if not centuries, and so it should come as no surprise that another rising trend in gaming social media is the use of influencers.

In simplest terms, influencers are online celebrities, or users who have cultivated a following related to a certain field of interest. Merriam-Webster describes them as people who are “able to generate interest in something (such as a consumer product) by posting about it on social media.”

They serve as a way to diversify audiences and connect different groups who share similar interests, and anyone who thinks that it’s impossible to make a career out of gambling on the internet is, well, wrong.

Of all the online gaming celebrities, none have proved more potent than one Brian Christopher. Originally from Toronto, the former actor has risen to fame in the gaming space by posting frequent live streams of himself playing a wide variety of slots in casinos all over the country, with YouTube being his platform of choice given its ability to handle longer videos. As it turns out, people love to follow the excitement of the game without having to deal with the stress associated with losses. This phenomenon extends to esports as well, which is also increasingly carving out its own space within the industry.

As of this writing, Christopher boasts 566,000 followers on his Brian Christopher Slots YouTube channel and 156,000 followers on TikTok, which has led to a bevy of promotional deals. This includes his own slot game, Brian Christopher’s Pop’N Pays More,

which was released in collaboration with Gaming Arts in August 2022, as well as the dedicated BCSlots section of the casino floor at the Plaza in Downtown Las Vegas.

“In terms of a particular style of post that is appealing at the moment, influencers continue to be a force,” Scott says. “Regardless of what type of casino entity you are, it’s one thing to have a static photo of a new machine or an attraction or technology, and it’s another thing to have a face that’s familiar with your audience, engaging with your company firsthand.

“There’s enough negativity in the world to go around, and people love and engage with the content where real people are having fun with technology or on property winning jackpots, exploring food and beverage options, and making the most of what a company may offer. It’s a valuable third-party endorsement in many ways that so many different gaming companies can use to their advantage.”

With regards to gaming specifically, influencers can also bleed into pop culture, given the fact that the industry hasn’t had many homegrown figures. As Sullivan notes, previous campaigns “were limited to gaming-specific influencers for events and activations,” but now companies are “working with lifestyle influencers to reach audiences that match our clients’ target audiences,” allowing them to effectively expand their brand.

In a December 2022 interview with GGB, Erica Kosemund, senior director of gaming brand and partnerships for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, said that the number of various influencers she works with is “well over 75.” Lisa Melmed, marketing manager for the Plaza, said that she deals with 20 to 30 such folks, in addition to the aforementioned Christopher partnership.

Sportsbook operators have especially embodied this tactic as well, as more partnerships are being forged with players, leagues and media members than ever before. Almost all of these deals primarily revolve around social media promotion.

For example, Caesars Sportsbook has enlisted comedian J.B. Smoove and actor Vince Vaughn to be the front-facing spokesmen for its content, both online and in its traditional advertising. FanDuel sponsors Bill Simmons, the leading sports podcaster in the U.S., whose deal includes weekly promotional parlay picks that are posted to Twitter and boosted with better odds than they would feature otherwise. Before it shut down in November of last year, MaximBet was especially experimental in this niche, signing deals with MLB outfielder Charlie Blackmon and rapper Nicki Minaj.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from these developments is that there’s no right answer when it comes to building social presence, especially in gaming. Given that posts are free and timelines refresh automatically, there’s never been more freedom to tell the stories that are unique to each operator, supplier or bookmaker.

Make no mistake, creativity and innovation are rewarded, but high-quality content comes in many forms and evolves at the speed of light, and as more users come online, the odds of achieving active engagement are higher than ever before. This is especially true as gaming expands into new markets and more people are exposed to the numerous local and national brands across the industry.

“I think the beautiful thing about social media and many communication mechanisms is that there’s so many different stories to tell,” Scott says. “So if you are a business entity, digging deep into the technology or even your people, which are such a valuable asset to so many different companies, can be incredibly appealing if executed in the correct way. Certainly with casino properties, the properties are so multifaceted and there are so many different engaging visuals and stories that you can tell on a property and beyond a property itself.”

20 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023

Old Scams, New Twists

Can casino operators stay one step ahead of the cheaters who use technology and ignorance of previous scams to become successful?

Many traditional table game scams have been eliminated due to advancement in technology. Where once the dealer held the blackjack deck in his hands, now almost all games are dealt from a dealing shoe. Unless modified in an unusual and obvious manner, the plastic shoe prevents a number of sleight-of-hand techniques once employed to steal money from the casino, as well as allow unsavory casinos to extract excessive money from the players.

In addition, shuffling machines and hole-card peeking devices have reduced other forms of cheating and advantage play that had plagued casinos in the past.

At one time, the only oversight on a gaming table was that of the consistent watch of the casino floor supervisor. Today, table games activity images are recorded using ample numbers of high-definition video cameras scattered across the casino ceiling. Surveillance expert George Lewis Jr. once called surveillance cameras “the eye that doesn’t blink.” They are the backbone of a system that oversees the operation and honesty of all casino games.

Training is another leap forward in table game protection. In years past, the mantra of many casino executives was to limit their staff to nothing more than the game protection basics. Their fear was that if you teach your subordinates what you know, then someday they might take your job.

A second fear existed in that, if you taught them about table game scams, what would prevent the employees from using that information against the house? Are you training for protection or opening a door to theft?

With information at everybody’s keyboard fingertips, failure to utilize game protection equipment and procedures, not placing more emphasis on

video coverage and capabilities, and not training your floor and surveillance staff on methods for beating table games is a license for disaster.

By not taking these necessary steps, the casino executive enters the realm of “gambling” with the financial health of the casino.

Scams from the Past That Are Making a Comeback: Craps

Switching “gaffed” or altered dice into a modern casino crap game is considered a rarity of the past. The increase in the surveillance camera’s ability to record greater frames per second, table game training and procedures, and the fact that grabbing up “bad” dice from the cheaters is considered strong evidence, the switching of good dice for bad dice is all but unheard of.

Presenting physical evidence such as altered dice to a jury is considered a “slam-dunk” in obtaining a conviction in a court of law. The author has not known of altered dice being illegally used on a regulated crap game in North America since the turn of the millennium. In many of the author’s game protection seminars on craps, the topic of bad dice is not even discussed.

Switching dice in craps has been replaced by the “dice slide” or scoot. This is the act of controlling the outcome of one or both dice, by sliding the die down the layout in a manner where it will not turn over, maintaining a selected number. Although somewhat popular with unscrupulous dice shooters, sliding the dice in some jurisdictions is not considered cheating, and even when it is, it is very difficult to convince people on a jury that the required act of “throwing” the dice can be interpreted as illegal.

In recent years, even prior to Covid, casino executives have been looking for ways to reduce table game staffing. It began with the removal of a box person from the crap table. The box person was assigned the task of sitting on the game, protecting the physical bankroll of chips,

& 2023 Special RepoRT: 22 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
—George Santayana

dropping all received currency, watching for dealer mistakes or any cheating, and controlling the pace of the game.

To save payroll at several casinos, the box person has been pulled off the table, placed into a quasi-floor supervisor role, and usually given the responsibility of watching (and handling issues) on several table games in his or her casino floor area.

In addition, an old Northern Nevada procedure is resurging throughout North America, and that is the practice of removing one of the dealer positions from the revolving four-man crewed game. Today, it is not uncommon to see a craps table working with one less base dealer or without a stick dealer position.

This is known as “inside stick.” One of the base dealers uses the stick to move and call the dice. In some situations, casino management has functionally reduced the crap team on a table from three dealers and a box person to only two dealers with limited supervision. Is this payroll-based reduction ripe for problems such as dice switching and collusion with the customers?

If the electronic-based crap game Roll to Win Craps from Aruze is any indication, a peek into the crystal ball tells the curious executive that bad dice could be making a comeback. Roll to Win is a great game and serves as a wonderful segue to live craps. However, the people that design electronic simulation games fail to take into consideration several live game problems. Since its inception, the Roll to Win Craps game has been subject to several cheating and advantage play techniques:

• Dice sliding.

• Dice being purposely called wrong and input into the keypad incorrectly.

• Dealer distraction that results in an incorrect dice total being input into the keypad.

Why have these problems plagued this game? First, the game is dealt with only one dealer. The electronic table handles all the bets and bet payments like a slot machine, requiring a live dealer to only handle the stick, move the dice, call the dice, and input the outcome into a monitor/keypad. Sounds safe and easy, right?

The primary problem revolves around the lack of oversight on the game— one dealer and usually no supervisor. The game is still under surveillance, but not the same intense coverage as seen over its live-game equal.

In addition, some casinos do not assign someone with dice dealing experience to work the Roll to Win table. The author has witnessed several situations where management has placed a blackjack dealer with no dice experience on the game. Why not? The dealer does not have to make payoffs and handle chips. All they need to do is call the dice and input the number into a keypad. How can you tell a dealer has no dice experience? Just watch them use the stick to attempt to move the dice. For an experienced dice dealer, it is somewhat uncomfortable to watch. If this game with a limited-experience dealer and no floor supervision is not open for switching bad dice, what game is?

Using Old Scams to Attack Alternative Games: Card Switching and Card Marking

A cheater may not be able to pick up and handle cards in face-up dealt blackjack games, but what about other card-based games your casino offers? Any time players are allowed to touch and handle the playing cards, a few old-time scams are still possible. Are alternative games open to different forms of card switching and marking just like blackjack pitch games from years gone by?

Elbow-to-elbow switch in variations of Three Card or Four Card Poker

Do not think for a moment that card switching does not happen in alternative card games. The most common technique for specific card swapping is the “elbow-to-elbow” switch move. Two cheaters sit next to each other in the “later” wagering positions of the table. One cheater will wager near table minimum while the other cheater wagers close to or at table maximum. The object is for the lower-wagering player to provide the best possible card in his hand for the high-wagering cheater to use in their hand.

The alternative games that are most attractive are simple-format games where the players handle three or more cards and are structured with only one betting/folding cycle. The more cards the cheaters hold in their hands, the more possibilities they have for improving the high-wagering hand.

This one-card swap takes place almost immediately after the cheaters peek their hands, and takes from 6 to 10 seconds to complete. The scam usually takes a team of four cheaters: two cheaters to swap cards, one cheater to stand behind them at the table to block any possible view of the switch from behind them on the outside of the game, and a fourth cheater acting as a “distractor” sitting in one of the first seats on the table. The distractor’s function is very important since it is his job to keep the dealer occupied during the card-swapping process. Even though the card switch itself is not visible, the cheaters still do not want the dealer focusing on the actions of those two cheaters during the switching process.

FEBRUARY 2023 23
Any time players are allowed to touch and handle the playing cards, a few old-time scams are still possible. Are alternative games open to different forms of card switching and marking just like blackjack pitch games from years gone by?

From experience, the author has noted that cheaters tend to stay away from games where the players only receive two cards, and the game is subject to multiple betting rounds. The two-card games limit the cheaters on cardswapping options and the multiple betting rounds are due to additional card information being revealed which will change the individual hand possibilities during the game. Also, switching cards in the later betting rounds offers more situations where the swap move can be detected, since the bet/fold/check decision process provides less time to complete the switch.

Marking cards: Determining dealer hole-card information, community cards, including first card value

Card marking is always a possibility in games where the customers handle the cards. In an alternative game, the focus of marking cards is to provide the cheater with card information on the dealer’s hand and/or future information to be revealed on the community cards. This information is generally used when the cheater makes their bet/check/fold decision during the first betting round.

Under normal circumstances, a player only possesses information about cards in their hand. If the deck has been marked, information regarding yetto-be-exposed “key cards” will be known to the cheater, who will use this information to make more “educated” hand decisions. In many instances of card marking, the knowledgeable game protection professional will spot the marked card attack during the decision-making process of the cheaters during the decision round. Of course, this requires the casino personnel watching the game to have knowledge of the game’s basic or common strategy. Unfortunately, this is a floor supervisor and surveillance skill set that is lacking in too many situations.

Another form of marked card attack allows the cheater to gain information on the first hand dealt to the players, from the shuffling machine prior to hand delivery. If the first hand to be delivered from the shuffling machine is delivered to the first position on the table, cheaters could mark specific valuable cards, and when one of those cards is to be delivered to that first hand, the cheater receiving that hand will wager more money. Detection of this form of marked card cheating usually involves spotting a correlation between the increase in wager and the possession of a key card in the player’s hand.

The Forgotten Scam in Blackjack: Hole-Card Information

Prior to the 1980s, the most common practice for the dealer to peek their hole card in blackjack was by lifting the end of the up-card and hole card slightly up off the table and looking at the hole card’s value. This process had been used for decades. It was quick and simple, and provided the dealer with information on whether he or she held a hand-ending “two-card blackjack.” It also provided the dealer with information on all other two-card totals in his or her hand. This information could sometimes be gleaned by the knowledgeable player by interpreting the dealer’s unconscious body language or in some cases, information passed along by a dishonest dealer to an accomplice playing at the table.

Starting in the late ’80s, many casinos suspended this practice and simply opted to not look at the hole card. This eliminated any possible issues of giv-

ing out hole-card information, but at the same time reduced numbers of rounds dealt an hour due to completing hands that had basically already been decided. By the 1990s, several different forms of hole-card reading devices had been developed, and the industry gravitated towards their use, of course for a small monthly fee.

The importance of the hole-card readers was twofold—they regained the lost hands per hour from not peeking the hole card and removed the threat of the dealer communicating hole-card information either unconsciously or intentionally. Note: Hole-card readers were also intended to eliminate the problem from unintentionally “marked” cards that occurred during the older peeking process known as “dealer bends.”

Exploiting the hole-card reader when having a low-value up-card

While the dealer still receives information about the value of the hole card and hand total using a reader, its use narrows this type of information. For example, if the dealer has a “10” value up-card, the dealer brings the up-card and hole card straight back and places the cards into the device. The device visually informs the dealer if the hole card is an Ace, giving the dealer a hand-ending blackjack. If the up-card is an Ace, the dealer turns the two cards 45 degrees and proceeds to use the device to see is the hole card is a 10. In both instances, the device does not give the dealer any other card value information.

Several years ago, there was a dealer who was using the hole-card reading device to provide hole-card information so she could elicit more tip money from the players. Standard procedure for using the device occurs when the dealer has either a 10-value card or an Ace as an up-card. What this dealer was eventually caught doing was to also use the device when she had a 4, 5 or 6 as her up-card. With a small up-card, the dealer would peek as if the up-card was an Ace. This action would provide her with information; the hole card and up-card positioned her a “stiff” hand and a high busting percentage situation.

Once the dealer was observed violating procedure by peeking under small up-cards, a video review exposed her doing the same thing several dozen times during her past several shifts on blackjack. She was noted identifying situations where she possessed a strong busting hand of 14, 15 or 16, and advising customers who were tipping to double down and split their hands. It appears that the device used to prevent this situation from happening could still be abused if the dealer is allowed to violate procedures.

There are only so many ways the different casino games can be attacked that will provide the knowledgeable player or coldblooded cheater an advantage over the game’s predetermined mathematical edge. Even with changes in technology to help safeguard the casino’s fragile edge, the wise casino executive needs to continue to look at these common but obsolete avenues of attack and analyze whether certain seemingly innocent changes to game procedures and equipment swing open a new door to unanticipated consequences.

A former Nevada Gaming Control agent, casino operator, professional card counter and casino consultant, Bill Zender has been involved in various areas of gaming and hospitality since 1976. In the past, Zender has instructed courses on game protection, card counting, advantage play and gaming operations at various colleges and institutions throughout the country. As a gaming author Zender has penned seven nonfiction books on gaming, including Card Counting for the Casino Executive, and the Casino-ology series, available on For more information, visit

24 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023

Shiny New Objects

Why are electronic table games the hottest target for cheats?

In the U.S. in 2022, more money was cheated from electronic table games than traditional table games

Electronic table games (ETGs) have been out for a while, but in recent years they’ve really taken off. Arguably the catalyst for this surge in sales was the Covid-19 pandemic. Regulators saw the social distancing benefits of ETGs as they reduced the need for human interaction. Casinos saw the benefits from a money-making perspective. Gaming equipment manufacturers reaped the rewards.

The introduction of electronic table games on the gaming floor makes sense for casino operators. They reduce labor costs and associated issues. They’re a plug-and-play solution. They create trainer-wheel games for shy new players. They allow casinos to keep up with the Joneses while adding an enticing shiny new object on a casino floor that hasn’t changed since… well, forever.

ETGs make sense to me, and for the record I’m a big fan, for reasons I’ll divulge a little later, but I’ve heard mixed reactions regarding their financial performance. Reactions have ranged from failed trials that have led them to being “voted off the island” by the casino manager to customers loving them and the casino making a matzo.

I’ve also heard numerous reports of cheating on electronic table games. In fact, it’s the security vulnerability of many of these games that has led to uncertainty and ultimately the withdrawal of some of these games from casinos in the U.S.

Many of the game protection issues have arisen from a competitive rush to market of new games that haven’t been adequately scrutinized or

& 2023 Special RepoRt: 26 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023

assessed by seasoned game protection consultants and authorities.

The shadow that exists behind these shiny new objects is getting longer, and should be concerning for gaming equipment manufacturers. In some cases, the withdrawal of these new games has been because they’ve fallen victim to cheating. In other cases they’ve been outed because they are underperforming.

Casino managers may not always have evidence of foul play on the games, but they may have spies in the casino world who have informed them of cheating incidents. This along with the industry intel and online reports are enough for an executive to pull the plug, search for an alternative product or boycott ETGs from the casino floor altogether.

Apart from the benefits mentioned, I feel ETGs represent the first step to digitizing the casino wagering process, thus making the casino industry legitimately more accountable and transparent.

I want ETGs to work, so in the rest of this article I’ll raise some of the general game protection issues we’ve seen over the last year or two and offer some suggestions for best game protection practices. Names of products and companies will be left out. The intent of this article is to not to bag the vendors but to discuss what casinos have learned so far in their development and to work together to establish best practices for electronic table game protection.

To put this topic in context, we must first view ETGs as new games that casino operators know little about. Unlike traditional games, there are no recognized ETG game protection experts out there who offer training. There are no protection books or videos on these games. To add an extra challenge to knowing and being prepared to protect the games from cheats, manufacturers are gen-

erally tight-lipped about their products. This means as game protection professionals, we are going to have to write our own manual. Let’s get started.

Tilting the Machine… and the Dealer

Some people might say an ETG is just a table game with electronic stuff. However, there are two big problems that make these games more vulnerable to cheating than their traditional counterparts: the electronic stuff and the absence of human supervision, a staple element of game protection since casinos first began.

Tiago Aguiar is an ETG cheat currently wanted in various states across the country for being the mastermind of the “electronic roulette reset scam.” Aguiar is a former employee of a Florida casino organization who obtained inside information about a software glitch in a well-known electronic roulette game. He’s become the poster child for electronic table game cheats in surveillance monitor rooms across the country.

The electronic roulette game in question does not require a dealer and players wager through kiosks surrounding an actual roulette wheel. Players wager electronically and the ball is spun automatically using an ejection mechanism. When the ball drops, the result is indicated and winners and losers are decided.

Aguiar has worked out how to manipulate the electronics on the game so he wins big and never loses.

T he S ca m: Aguiar possesses a master reset key (apparently they’re easily obtained). He and various associates place maximum bets on Red or Black. If they win they collect the winnings. If they lose they physically lift the top of the machine until it places the game into a tilt. The group then slams the machine closed and inserts the key which disables any sort of notification to the slots/surveillance team, and resets the machine, refunding any losing wagers. Imagine betting the maximum on every spin and never losing.

At the time of this writing, Aguiar and his buddies are believed to have cheated casinos out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in at least four states and Puerto Rico over the last year. The physical security weakness and soft-

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There are two big problems that make these games more vulnerable to cheating than their traditional counterparts: the electronic stuff and the absence of human supervision, a staple element of game protection since casinos first began.

ware glitch has been brought to the attention of the manufacturer, but it is not known if the problems have been rectified.

Cheating ETGs is not confined to hitting dealerless roulette machines. Hybrid electronic craps games (ETGs that require a dealer) have become a popular target for various craps cheating teams.

Using various successful methods, the teams are taking advantage of a physically large table game traditionally operated by four trained staff that is now being managed and controlled by a single dealer.

The dealer is primarily responsible for the integrity of the roll, entering the correct result into the game computer, calling the game, controlling the speed of the game and assisting customers. All wagers are placed electronically via individual kiosks for each player.

It doesn’t take a seasoned gaming veteran to recognize the game is particularly vulnerable to dealer manipulation. Distraction teams have been known to draw the single dealer’s attention away while one of the conspirators leans over and enters favorable results on the game computer. Controlled dice shots are made easier through shorter rolls from players opposite the dealer (where a stick person used to stand) that only require a 5-6-foot roll to be valid.

Distracting an unsupervised, often inexperienced craps dealer is very easy, but the big money is in collusion between the dealer and players. The modus operandi of choice for electronic craps collusion teams is for the crooked dealer to enter favorable results for accomplices at the table. It’s not hard when there are no other staff or supervisors around to monitor and oversee the game. Hybrid games are controlled by dealers who have the power to manipulate the game, not by sleight of hand or a subtle breach of procedures, but by simply pushing a button on the game computer.

Technology is a Useful Servant But a Dangerous Master

The good news is the introduction of technology to traditional table games has resulted in increased game efficiency and eliminated a number of common threats like past posting, overpayments and fraudulently leaving losing bets to ride.

The bad news is the replacement of the dice crew. The solo dealer, essentially an unsupervised data entry operator with no required dealing skills, has added new opportunities for cheating and dealer collusion with players. There are a number of variations of electronic craps scams that developed over the last year, that I won’t divulge in this article, but there is a general pattern that can be abstracted—manipulate the dealer and you can control the game.

The reliance on computers and electronics to be used to determine and enter the outcomes of table games means the traditional means of monitoring and protecting the integrity of ETGs will need to innovate and adapt.

To ensure a successful future for ETGs there will need to be a collaborative effort from gaming equipment manufacturers and casino operators. Like putting new cars on the road, it’s in the best interest of manufacturers, consumers and regulators to test drive and review for performance and safety.

Here’s what I think needs to happen to restore confidence in the industry and advance the growth of ETGs:

The first step is for casinos to internally conduct new game risk assessments. This should be completed by the surveillance director during the initial trial period of a new electronic game. Why the surveillance director? The surveillance director’s primary role is monitoring, investigating and reporting possible threats and risk to the operation. They are independent of operations and can make an objective risk assessment using their expertise, experience

and contacts in game protection.

I recommend casinos should not entirely rely on information provided by other casinos that have trialed the game in the past. Often the game design has been changed, ironically to address security vulnerabilities and weaknesses discovered by previous trialists of the game. Unfortunately, there seems to be a culture adopted by a number of gaming equipment manufacturers in recent times of rushing new products to market with the attitude of letting the casinos find out if there are any flaws, because they’re the experts. Not really a responsible attitude, but admittedly, they’re right.

The risk assessment should be conducted with the full cooperation of the manufacturer. Access to product information including reports of cheating methods discovered by clients should be forthcoming. The surveillance director should be involved in the installation process to enable questions for the manufacturer to gain a better understanding of the game design and electronics.

Product manuals and suggested operational procedures should be reviewed and if necessary amended to meet game protection best standard practices. As a general guide, there are five principles of casino game protection that should be met.

The Five Principles of Casino Game Protection

The five principles apply to all casino games, traditional and electronic. Once assurance has been established that all five principles can be maintained effectively within the operation, it’s time to train your staff and develop a marketing plan for the new game.

The second step is to set up surveillance of the game. Cameras should be installed and positioned above and on the table to achieve the live monitoring and

1. A random result 2. Execution of the correct outcome 3. Correct payments and forfeiture 4. Checks and balances 5. Competent staff
28 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023

review of the five principles of casino game protection as well as player activity on and around the game.

The third step is to set up the ETG monitoring interface in the surveillance monitor room. This will allow surveillance officers to monitor the game and wagering activity of all the players via a direct real-time interface to the game. The interface can provide security alerts of illegal and legal access to the machine along with other relevant real-time security information. It can also provide archived data for review and analysis.

Traditional camera coverage is often obstructed from viewing player activity on ETG betting kiosks. This makes the surveillance interface to the ETG crucial. As ETGs are not supervised on the floor and the betting is carried out on multiple betting stations instead of a traditional game layout, it really is the only way to effectively monitor the entire game.

The fourth and final step is for casino operators is to share security information and analysis with other casinos. Whenever there is a cheating incident on an ETG—spread the word! Detail the cheating method and the significant findings of your investigation. Pass that information on to your manufacturer and request remedial action.

Involving all interested parties in the process with the spirit of continuous improvement and helping each other prosper will build trust and create a better relationship between vendors and operators—one that will hopefully lead to the development of great games that customers will be lining up to play and casinos will keep on their gaming floor forever.

Don’t Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

ETGs are the talk of the gaming floor right now. Not for all good reasons. Since their flaws and vulnerabilities became more exposed in 2022, a cloud of doubt has been cast over the integrity and ability for these shiny new objects to be protected from scammers. At the same time, a number of smart progressive casino managers see the unlimited potential moving forward. Casinos need new products.

Most casino veterans know that new games, like new casinos, are going to get scammed. When they do, they don’t shut it down. They gather all responsible parties around the table and review their execution of the five principles of casino game protection. They make an honest assessment of their policies, processes, practices and systems and collectively put together a plan of action to improve.

Instead of manufacturers and casino operators retreating into a cone of silence when there’s a problem with a product, if they got together in a “war room” and drew up a game plan to combat the bad guys, these problems could be solved more quickly. If they want to prevent battles from happening in the first place, they would get in the war room with their allies before stepping foot on the battlefield.

We are in this together.

Willy Allison is the founder and managing director of the World Game Protection Conference in Las Vegas. He started in the casino business in 1987 and has worked in surveillance management, consulted for major casino organizations and conducted game protection training seminars around the world

FEBRUARY 2023 29

Gun crazy

Personal gun ownership in the U.S. has become so common that it’s more likely than not that the person next to you has a loaded weapon on them, regardless of where you are—including inside of a casino. This phenomenon is unique to the United States based on its history, the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the political climate, and our perceived fundamental right to bear arms.

There is no real way to know how many guns are in the U.S. or who has bought one legally, illegally, or been given one by a relative or friend. Estimates indicate that in 2020 alone, during particularly unusual Covid conditions, nearly 22 million guns were legally sold in the U.S., which was a record. Considering that there are just over 331 million people in the U.S., according to the 2020 Census, with 22 percent under the age of 18, the chance that the person standing next to you is armed with a gun is quite high.

Increasing threats involving firearms made by patrons, employees, vendors and contractors in casino environments are also occurring and of concern. Mitigation strategies are being implemented to reduce the risk of a shooting incident.

Weapons Screening in Gaming Properties

The process of electronically screening for guns in casinos is here, and is slowly being implemented across the U.S. Passive weapons screening has been used in educational facilities, hospitals, and many different environments including casinos, and appears to be increasing as a mitigation strategy for reducing gun violence and to demonstrate a reasonable attempt to make a property safe.

Larger casino resort properties are using these systems in entertainment venues where thousands of people enter to watch a concert, and are already being used in sports arenas and stadiums during major sporting events.

Gaming properties have started to take steps to perform weapons screenings out of concern that someone will come into the casino, pull out a gun and start shooting patrons and employees for some inexplicable reason. Although the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and take that right seriously, that small percentage that are not, are appearing daily in

public places including casinos and wreaking havoc, chaos, death and destruction with some form of gun.

Although when I started in casino security in 1977, I did not think that there would ever be a point in my lifetime where casinos would be required to screen for weapons, the time has come when it is becoming a reality. Although some properties have conducted random screening with the use of handheld metal detectors for years, casino properties in various markets are implementing both obvious and not-so-obvious (passive) weapon screening of all persons entering their properties.

Manufacturers of weapons screening systems have been busy developing technology that will detect certain weapons without the need for an obvious walk-through magnetometer found at airport ingress points and the large number of security personnel to manage that screening process.

Even as secure as airports appear, TSA recently reported it has recovered 6,301 firearms from airport security checkpoints as of mid-December 2022, more than 88 percent of which were loaded. Even when it is obvious

& 30 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
With liberalized gun laws in the U.S., casinos need to be more diligent when it comes to detecting weapons inside the gaming space
2023 Special RepoRt:
Gaming properties have started to take steps to perform weapons screenings

that you will be checked, people are so used to carrying a gun they forget they have one on their hip, in a purse or in a carry-on bag. The new fine for having a weapon at an airport in 2023 will be $14,950. Most casino properties are not in favor of the airport appearance of magnetometer archways and multiple security officers at casino entrances armed with handheld wands conducting intrusive searches of patrons.

As several companies rolled out their weapons screening technology over the last few years, it became a tool for serious consideration for gaming properties to mitigate the rising number of shooting incidents including active shooters,to protect their patrons and team members and provide some form of reasonable mitigation strategy to help defend litigation that always follows gun-related incidents. It seems that every few days, another mass shooting occurs somewhere in the U.S., which is consistently followed by lawsuits.

Litigation has increased against casino properties during the pandemic as well. This is evidenced by the increase of new casino security experts hired to either assist in the defense of a casino or on behalf of a plaintiff suing a casino. Gun-related incidents and shootings are increasing as well in gaming environments.

Interestingly, it is not just a person who is directly injured in a shooting, it is more common that a bystander will sue alleging they were trampled, knocked over during the chaos, or otherwise injured in some manner and the property failed to prevent it from occurring or did not make reasonable efforts to mitigate an obvious increasing threat.

And casino regulators appear to be taking notice as it relates to casinos and weapon screening. Moving through the process, Illinois Gaming Proposed Casino Rule 3000.560 regarding weapon screening and magnetometer requirements for casinos is working its way into the process to be required in casinos there.

Pre-Existing Identification Screening

For various reasons, many casinos have implemented screening processes over the years to determine if persons entering are of legal age to gamble or drink alcohol if served. Various state liquor liability laws (dram shop) as well as gaming regulators levying large fines on casino operators for allowing underage persons to gamble or drink alcohol, drive these protocols. Many

tribal, riverboat and land-based casinos have already posted security personnel at entrances and already screen patrons for various reasons. That screening can include the use of an ID scanner that alerts to a false or altered identification, a bag check to look inside of backpacks, large purses or luggage, and even some with actual magnetometers in the traditional archway design.

The larger markets such as Las Vegas still do not have ingress controls for patrons or security personnel posted at entrances as they enter the large, sprawling properties from numerous open entrances. Other than during the pandemic with state-mandated Covid screenings, ingress controls are still avoided in an attempt to make the property as inviting and accessible as possible, and to not intimidate patrons in that highly competitive market. Times are changing, and it appears this too will change.

Many casinos already have the basic ingress control setup as a result of this evolved process, and adding a passive weapon screening system is not difficult. To those properties with full open access from multiple points, the process can still be implemented and a system can be installed without slowing down ingress of patrons, and reducing the risk of a shooting event.

Passive Weapon Screening

A common theme when I receive inquiries from clients is that casino executives want some forms of screening yet do not want an intrusive weapons screening process that may offend patrons or create an impression that their casino is unsafe. Manufacturers are listening to this concern, and have come up with products that can detect a weapon at up to 30 feet as a person passes through a detection system that is not so obvious to the average patron as they pass.

Casinos are starting to install these systems at main ingress/egress locations that will detect a weapon, based on changeable settings as a person walks past the systems, bollard-like devices or detection walls on either side. What is also obvious is the various support services that are offered when installing these systems.

In fact, most casinos are not keeping the installation of a weapons detection system a secret from their customers, and are having their public

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Estimates indicate that in 2020 alone, during particularly unusual Covid conditions, nearly 22 million guns were legally sold in the U.S., which was a record. Considering that there are just over 331 million people in the U.S., according to the 2020 Census, with 22 percent under the age of 18, the chance that the person standing next to you is armed with a gun is quite high.

relations and marketing departments push out news articles that boast the system is in place in an attempt to let customers know they are concerned and are doing something to mitigate guns in public places and the problem of shooting incidents. I am aware of four casinos that are in the process of testing weapons screening systems at the moment.

A simple Google search will find that the Four Winds Casino in South Bend, Indiana installed the Evolv system in July 2021, followed by the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Saracen Casino in Pine Bluff, Arkansas after a security officer was shot there, according to news media reports.

Tachi Palace in California also installed a weapons detection system in 2022 called Patriot One. That multi-sensor system will trigger a camera to capture the person detected and alert security personnel if the person potentially is carrying a concealed weapon.

Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania also installed a weapons screening system, the fourth one to do so in Pennsylvania. Rivers Philadelphia, Rivers Pittsburgh and Live! Philadelphia all had weapon screening systems installed prior, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma installed ZeroEyes technology, which is yet another system being installed in casinos. Other manufacturers include Nemesis, Athena and more.

Different Features and Applications

Once a property has made the decision to look at these weapons detection systems, much analysis needs to be completed to determine how the security staff is to be notified and what the process should be. Understanding that an off-duty police officer may carry a concealed gun, the manner of approach of a detected weapon and resolution should also be carefully planned and considered.

Each system has its own unique response protocols that need to be evaluated and a determination made of the best solution for the property. Some systems detect, capture an image or video of the person and transmit to a security officer’s smart device. Others communicate to the security or surveillance department, which starts the process and monitors the person until it has been investigated. And yet others will actually manage the process with manned remote monitoring and assist in detections and follow-up. Regardless, contact and confirmation should be planned.

What is clear is that where these systems have been installed, weapons are in fact being detected that are concealed and potentially a risk to casino patrons. It has also been reported that people who are carrying a weapon concealed will avoid the casino or not carry it when patronizing and gambling. Either way, it appears the installations are, in fact, reducing exposure to the risk of allowing a person into your casino who could start an active shooter event.

Combined Technology for Overall Customer Screening

Regulators are again examining the overall screening processes to include checking identification for all patrons and not just those who look under 30 years old. Many ID scanners have solved violent crimes such as home robberies, aggravated assaults, and homicides based on a scanned ID when compared to surveillance videos.

Manufacturers are also combining these systems or are integrating them to work with each other to provide a comprehensive screening process for people entering their casino property.

It is very possible to monitor who has entered your casino, when they have left, what they did while inside, detect if they have a weapon, and have the systems talk to each other to detect if a person has been banned by the casino, been self-banned for a gambling or drinking problem, is wanted by law enforcement or who is not old enough to gamble or drink. License Plate Recognition (LPR) camera technology can also be included. The technology is there if you thoroughly investigate it and intelligently plan and use it.

Customers have mixed reviews but overall appear to be positive that the casino is doing something to help make them safe. Care should be made not to use the database of information from IDs and the technology for marketing purposes other than to monitor customer counts and peak business volumes. Many surveillance cameras already have the technology to count customers as they enter and exit for business purposes, and even recognize the sounds of gunshots. Customers still want a certain amount of privacy when they enter a casino, and database knowledge should not be abused.

Monitoring the Standard of Care

With most of my work as a casino security or surveillance expert in litigation, it is important to understand that the legal standard of care as it relates to weapons screening is far from being so commonplace that the majority of casinos have it in place. As the technology becomes more user-friendly, more affordable, and actionable, more casinos will install and use weapons screening technology.

Once more casinos have some form of weapons screening in place, and in your particular market, those that do not and experience a shooting event, will most likely have an uphill battle during a litigation to establish that your casino did everything reasonable to mitigate potential gun violence when your competitors did.

Notwithstanding that almost every security executive I speak with is 1015 percent down from approved personnel staffing levels, effectively using technology to enhance protective measures for patrons and team members makes sense—including electronic weapons screening.

—AlanW. Zajic, CPP, CSP, is an independent security consultant specializing in gaming environments.

32 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
Tachi Palace in California installed a weapons detection system in 2022 called Patriot One

The Power of In-Person

This past October, two surprises resulted in record attendance at the sportsbook in Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia. The Phillies made it to the World Series, despite scribes and fans alike convinced the team would falter at the end of the season and continue its long march in a playoff desert, unrequited.

The second surprise: The NFL Eagles carried the only undefeated record on what scribes and fans alike expect to be a Super Bowl run, with Jalen Hurts as the starting quarterback.

“Our sportsbook saw record-breaking numbers,” says Brian Uran, vice president of marketing at Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia “We expected to carry that momentum forward as the Eagles advanced in the NFL playoffs and with March Madness just around the corner.”

Not to be forgotten, the NBA Sixers appear to be playoff-bound, but how deep they go, well you can hope for a Phillies-like late season resurgence rather than a one and done.

34 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
Retail sportsbooks often lose money or have very narrow profit margins, and since players wager on their phones the vast majority of the time, why even have them?
Live! Casino Philadelphia has a unique sports betting experience with its Sports & Social restaurant adjacent to its FanDuel sportsbook

It should be noted that Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia occupies a unique location—within the heart of the stadium/arena complex known as the Stadium District in South Philadelphia. Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles, Citizens Bank Ballpark, where the Phillies play, and the Wells Fargo Center, home for the Sixers and the NHL Flyers, are just outside the door, a leisurely stroll away. Fans attending games have a convenient locale to gather prior to the game, and place wagers.

Fans unable to attend games—when the team is on the road, for example—can gather in the same convenient locale and place in-play bets inside a sportsbook that prides itself as being more than a place to consummate wagers.

Still… Without the aura of arenas and stadiums in their midst, would bettors chuck the sportsbook and casino, cozy up on the sofa, whip out their phones and place a bet rather than fight traffic to sit in a bar watching and wagering on games? Judging from the fact that as many as 90 percent of bets come via the phone, not kiosks, not tellers, the answer is obvious. Or is it?

Up Close and Personal

Arena aura or not, the physical experience of being on-site at a retail sportsbook cannot be reproduced online.

“We know our guests crave an experiential, in-person interaction when they’re betting, and we’re well-poised to give that to them,” Uran says. “At Live! Philadelphia, the FanDuel Sportsbook & Lounge is connected to our sports bar, Sports & Social. It’s a recipe for success and one that we replicate

at our other Cordish casino properties.”

Think suburban Baltimore and Pittsburgh, where two Live! casinos are located.

“Sports & Social is an incredible venue to gather, watch sports and socialize with friends over great food, drink and social games, such as Skee-Ball. The sheer convenience of the retail sportsbook can’t be beat, and it truly rounds out the overall sports-watching/sports betting experience.”

The SuperBook in the Westgate Las Vegas Resort Casino and its handful of sister properties around the country present a similar approach, except SuperBook equates with FanDuel.

“The venues are fantastic and offer an experience you wouldn’t be able to get at home,” says Jay Kornegay, vice president of race & sportsbook operations, the

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“Most patrons that wager usually have an interest in multiple games that are simultaneously taking place. Most can’t experience all those games at home like you can in a well-run/ designed sportsbook. The atmosphere and camaraderie are unique.”
—Jay Kornegay, Vice President of Race & Sports Book Operations, SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort Casino
The Superbook at the Westgate in Las Vegas is an all-inclusive betting atmosphere

SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort Casino.

Kornegay oversees one of the more popular—and shall we say it, historic—sportsbooks at the Westgate, one dating back more than 30 years, long before the 2018 Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for sports betting throughout the U.S.

Here’s the darndest thing. Bettors… let Kornegay explain it:

“Even at a sportsbook with self-service kiosks and teller windows, a lot of patrons still place their bets on a mobile phone, the new-fashioned way.”


“Patrons prefer to experience the ‘sportsbook atmosphere’ at the same time,” he says.

Here’s another thing, Kornegay says:

Home team popularity aside, “most patrons that wager usually have an interest in multiple games that are simultaneously taking place,” he says. “Most can’t experience all those games at home like you can in a well-run/designed sportsbook. The atmosphere and camaraderie are unique.”

The SuperBook offers what Kornegay calls the “360-degree experience. We want the patrons to feel comfortable and have all the amenities that a typical sports fan would want. This includes showing all the games, first-class service, and incredible food and beverage.”

It’s more about what customers want from an event as opposed to making wagers for convenience. “Other than being at the sporting venue, nothing can take away from the experience at a book during a game,” says Brendan D. Bussmann, managing partner, B Global. “Sports betting is an amenity to gaming and has a purpose and role as part of the gaming floor. It brings a different energy than you get off of tables or slots.”

Casino Combination

Sometimes that means bringing a little of the casino into the sportsbook. Sportsbooks come in different sizes, and those sizes influence what you can stock it with, Bussmann says. Some include table games and slots, so customers can wager on a game of blackjack and wager on the Eagles in the same room and time frame. Many casinos, like Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, are adding more gaming to the sports environment. Ocean replaced its William Hill sportsbook with the “Gallery,” a sportsbook and lounge with a few betting windows and table game enhancements.

“It is about adding other elements into the experience, whether unique food and beverage, the ultimate sports bar, or adding gaming elements in addition to what’s happening on the screens,” Bussmann says.

But is it all profitable? You hear the stories about DraftKings spending so much to promote themselves to acquire customers that they end up losing money, and have yet to declare a profit.

Yes, Kornegay says. The SuperBook turns a profit.

“Operating a sportsbook in the American market, we know what our patrons need and want,” he says. “When we build a retail outlet, we focus on those desired amenities to be successful and most of all make our guests comfortable.”

SuperBook is the equivalent of DraftKings or FanDuel, with locations in seven states, from the Meadowlands in New Jersey to The Lodge in Blackhawk, Colorado to Taft’s Ale House in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“So far, we have teamed up with two partners and run retail outlets on their properties,” Kornegay says. “We have over 100 years of American bookmaking experience in our ranks. This experience oversees these other jurisdictions.”

These various third-party vendors assist in various aspects of the business, promotions and other interactions.

“The business is growing so fast it’s vital we have these relationships to provide the service levels that the SuperBook is known for.”

Bussmann says, “This is about driving revenue across all aspects of gaming, and strong operators are continually using their database to better understand player habits to offer them the complete experience.”

Powerful Partnerships

Regardless of whether the casino runs both gaming and sports betting or an outside operator like FanDuel runs the sportsbook, this is about creating a partnership that increases gaming revenue from sports bettors and offers an amenity to gamers while they are on property. “Creating a dynamic will allow you to drive revenue on both sides of the equation,” Bussmann says.

Some of the most innovative sportsbooks today are not in casinos but in stadiums and other sports venues around the country. Capital One Arena in Washington. Nationals Park, also in D.C. In the future, the venerable Wrigley Field will sport a book. BetMGM Sportsbook at State Farm Stadium is the first in the NFL, and host to the Arizona Cardinals. It’s open year-round whether the Cardinals have a game or not. Oh yeah, it’s also the site of the Super Bowl in February.

Don’t be surprised if the Linc, the Bank or Wells Fargo sport a sportsbook in the future. Maybe all three.

“Operators that have worked with teams on these efforts can take this experience to bring the game into the casino venue,” Bussmann says. “While mobile may be the main driver, some of that revenue on mobile can and should come from within the facility if you have the right experience. Quality operators should never see any gaming element as a loss leader. The days of loss leaders hopefully died with the pandemic shutdowns.”

36 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
The Gallery sportsbook in Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City now incorporates table games with a few betting windows


You Are What You Buy

For some, entry into the sprawling world of gaming comes quite by chance. Take Aussie Susan Quach. She graduated from the University of Technology Sydney in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and IT. She worked as an accountant for a few years, but in 2011, Quach did what so many young Australians do. She took time off and backpacked through Europe.

“I quickly found out the Australian dollar did not stretch that far during that time, so I started job hunting,” she says.

She interviewed at OpenBet as a business analyst.

“I was offered the job the same day and have not looked back since,” she explains. “It helped that I was a consumer of sports betting in Australia.”

After 11 years, Quach is still committed to OpenBet, a B2B firm serving the sports betting industry. Working in London, Singapore and now Chicago offered her an opportunity to see how different jurisdictions deal with sports betting, how culture impacts the dynamics. It also meant a sole focus on the IT side of her degree, working on software development and delivery.

Will Ellis, director of engineering who hired her at OpenBet, has been a helpful mentor to Quach.

“He instilled the drive in me to continuously improve processes as things evolve, whether it be the company or product, and always see the opportunity in change,” she says.

Quach has seen her role evolve quite a bit in her time with OpenBet. She started off working on major projects, rolling out sports betting software solutions to major U.K. customers.

“I pivoted to the commercial side after seven years, and worked in the presales team where I provided technical and product sales support to business development to close new deals. My responsibilities included responding to RFPs, pitches (in-person and remote) and lead creation,” she says.

She moved to Chicago with a focus on growth in the still-young U.S. market in the wake of the repeal of the federal sports betting ban. Quach built a team to include local talent support for customer rollouts.

“As senior director, customer experience at OpenBet, I lead the global presales and customer success functions,” says Quach, who enjoys squash, hiking and snowboarding in the winter.

The Covid-19 pandemic shook up the industry. Before Covid, no one would expect all major sports to be put on hold, forcing suppliers to get creative with content during those months. Content continues to be a focus today, Quach says.

In five years, Quach hopes to have an established customer success function in OpenBet to deliver creative and engaging sports betting solutions around the world.

“The industry is too exciting to leave with new markets opening up, regulations changing,” she says. “It keeps you on your feet. I would highly recommend it to those interested in a fast-paced and complex working environment. It helps to be a consumer of the product, because there is a steep learning curve to get up to speed on all things sports betting.”

Coming Full Circle



Chairman, Quapaw Nation

In 1988, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) set the stage for tribally owned governments to operate legal gaming facilities. This began to create a level of economic and financial independence for tribes that had not been realized to that point.

In fact, about 20 years later, Joseph Byrd is a proud beneficiary of his tribe’s highly successful gaming operations. Revenue generated from Quapaw Nation’s gaming properties ultimately provided the funds for his education, and that in turn has allowed him to lead the tribe as its chairman some 15 years later.

Though he has earned the title of chairman, his rise to that position was not always the dream. Early on, he was simply Joseph, a Quapaw, Cherokee, and Osage tribal member with a draw to help fellow tribes by working in tribal law. He understood that was going to be no small endeavor, but it was a calling for him.

Fresh out of undergrad, Byrd began his professional career not by going to law school, but by joining the Quapaw Nation’s Downstream Casino Resort. After a few years, he left to pursue his calling to help tribes by working in tribal law. However, it did not go as planned. Unable to get into law school, Byrd was dejected and down, but not out. Instead, he doubled down and made it his primary mission, which ultimately led him to the position he is in today.

After graduating from law school, Byrd was approached by a number of tribal elders to run for chairman of the tribe. Not only was this unexpected, but it was also going to be an incredibly tough undertaking, as his opponent was a 20-year incumbent and still had lots of support. Additionally, and to make matters worse, the election was to be held during the height of the recent Covid-

38 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023

19 pandemic. Against all odds, Byrd pulled out a victory and immediately went to work changing the culture of his tribe and the organizations that exist under it.

His first and possibly most difficult task was to create a new culture that allows leaders to lead. When things have been done one way for so long, it is very difficult to have any impact, but Byrd understood that if the Quapaw Nation was to progress and move forward, it was vital to create a space that allowed leaders to better focus on their responsibilities and duties.

“By eliminating micro-management on the part of executive leadership, it in turn allows leadership to focus on long-term strategic decisions,” Byrd says.

Even during his short time as chairman, the Quapaw Nation was the first to implement a modern cashless system at their casinos, and played a vital role in the current Oklahoma sports betting environment that has worked tirelessly to maintain independence and keep the big-box operators out of the state. Neither of these accomplishments would have occurred without understanding the task at hand.

Byrd is a self-proclaimed lifelong learner, and believes that “education is the great equalizer.” He has made this the mission for his tribal members, not only by passing legislation creating a monetary graduation incentive program, but by using himself as a great example of what gaming funds can do for tribal members.

In a way, everything has come full circle. Casinos created the funds to help with his education, his education allowed him to lead the Quapaw Nation, and as leader of the nation, he is able to effectively implement measures to hopefully impact the lives of other young tribal members as was done for him years ago.

—Chris Irwin is senior vice president, Native American services for The Innovation Group.

Home is Nevada

Phylicia Middleton

Director of Marketing, Galaxy Gaming

Phylicia Middleton has carved out a career in the marketing world in Las Vegas. And she couldn’t be happier being in one place, particularly since she spent her childhood traveling the world as her father served in the U.S. Air Force.

“I’ve lived in Las Vegas now for over 18 years, so it’s home to me,” Middleton says.

While a student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Middleton majored in marketing. “I find it’s the perfect blend of creativity and problem-solving,” she says.

Middleton doesn’t mind being a small cog in a larger powerhouse machine, either. That machine was MGM Grand in 2009 while she was still a student.

“I’ve been in the hospitality and gaming industry for much of my career, and I’m consistently inspired by this ever-changing business,” Middleton says.

She worked in various marketing capacities and locations for the MGM empire in Las Vegas. From advertising for MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, she moved to marketing manager and senior marketing manager for leisure sales and marketing for MGM Resorts International. MGM promoted Middleton to senior marketing manager. Then, in 2016, she served as director of brand activation at Park MGM and NoMad.

In July 2019, Middleton joined Grand Canyon Resort Corporation as director of marketing. Located in the Western rim just outside Las Vegas, the resort features the famous skywalk bridge partially extending over the canyon.

“I learned a lot from that experience and loved working with the Hualapai Tribe and marketing a true wonder, but found that I missed the hospitality and gaming industry, so I joined the wonderful Galaxy Gaming team to lead their marketing efforts,” she says.

That was in September 2020.

“At Galaxy Gaming, my team and I manage the marketing, public relations, and event activations for the brand. This encompasses everything from building new brands for game and technology launches to planning ICE London and G2E, to building assets to support our iGaming and land-based sales teams,” says Middleton, who enjoys hiking and spending time with her husband and dog.

She joined Galaxy while the pandemic was just easing up enough for properties to reopen with changes to minimize the chance of infection.

“Covid-19 was a challenging time for all of us,” she says, “but I was thrilled to see how adaptable people and our industry could be.”

In November, Middleton attended the Executive Development Program-Strategic Leadership in the Gaming Industry, a symposium hosted by UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno. “It’s a remarkable learning experience. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a personal and professional growth experience,” she says.

Which brings up Middleton’s words of wisdom for others mulling over a career in the casino world. “My advice is to find ways to stay inspired and maintain an ‘always learning’ attitude,” she says. —Bill Sokolic

JANUARY 2023 39
“By eliminating micro-management on the part of executive leadership, it in turn allows leadership to focus on long-term strategic decisions.”
“I’ve been in the hospitality and gaming industry for much of my career, and I’m consistently inspired by this ever-changing business,”


America’s Rich Life Konami Gaming

This latest title, available on Konami’s tall Dimension 49J cabinet or oversized Dimension 75C setup, features a patriotic theme and frequent spins of a bonus wheel that can lead to one of four jackpots, the top Grand a linked progressive resetting at $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000, depending on the version of the game selected. There are two base titles, Luxury Nights and Seaside Riches.

The base game is a five-reel, 50-line video slot. During reel-spinning, the background music is James Brown’s 1987 Grammy Award-winning song “Living in America.”

When six or more wheel symbols are collected, the wheel feature is triggered, and the game’s prize wheel animates front and center. Three spins are awarded at the start of the feature, with increasing prize amounts as the feature progresses.

Cash Quest Gaming Arts

This new game series on Gaming Arts’ S104 Hybrid cabinet, with inaugural titles The Adventurers and The Protectors, works a video game-like story into the slot game. The base game is a five-line, 243-ways-to-win video slot. At the outset, the player selects one of three Adventurers or Protectors to serve as his or her avatar during the game.

During reel-spinning, sword or wand symbols appear on the reels to award up to three swords or keys. The swords and keys are collected until they are needed to “defeat an enemy.”

At any time during primary-game or free spins, enemies will appear and stay on the screen for a random number of spins. This is where the swords and keys come in, via a colorful animated battle sequence created by Gaming Arts’ proprietary 3D engine.

If the Adventurer or Protector has enough keys or swords collected, the enemy will be defeated to award credits or wild symbols, with payoffs ranging rom two to 20 times the total bet. Up to seven wilds can be

Manufacturer: Konami Gaming

Platform: Dimension 49J, Dimension 75C

Format: Five-reel, 50-line video slot

Max Bet: 500

Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10 (multi-denom available)

Top Award: Progressive; $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000 reset

Hit Frequency: 34.38%

Theoretical Hold: 8.05%-11.95%

On about half of all spins, the game’s eagle character can nudge the wheel to award a “+1 Spin.”

Three, four or five bridge symbols trigger eight, 12 or 15 free spins, respectively. It is easier to trigger the wheel bonus during the free spins, thanks to a feature that multiplies the wheel symbols on the grid. If the wheel symbol lands, the wheel “nudges” until all symbols on the reel are wheel symbols. This makes it much easier to collect the six wheels and trigger the bonus.

Manufacturer: Gaming Arts

Platform: S104 Hybrid

Format: Five-reel, 243-ways-to-win video slot

Max Bet: 25, 50, 100, 150, 300, 450, 600, 900

Denomination: .01 to 50.00

Top Award: Progressive; reset at 100,000 times denomination

Hit Frequency: Approximately 40%

Theoretical Hold: 4%-15%

awarded on a single spin.

Bonus symbols on the first, third and fifth reels trigger eight free games. Each free spin is guaranteed to include from one to seven wild symbols. The free-spin round can be retriggered.

The game is available with five operator-selectable bet ranges, with minimum bets from 5 credits to 90 credits and maximums from 50 credits to 900 credits.

Operators can add the “Rocket Rollup” feature to the game, a two-level or three-level mystery “must-hit-by” progressive jackpot, the top resetting at 100,000 credits— $1,000 on the penny version of the game.

40 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023

Money Mania

This new progressive series from IGT, available in stand-alone and wide-area versions, is being launched with inaugural titles Mistress of Giza and Sphinx Fire. It is featured on the PeakSlant32 cabinet.

Manufacturer: IGT

Platform: PeakSlant32

Format: Five-reel, 30-line video slot

Max Bet: 600

Denomination: .01

Top Award: Progressive; $100,000 reset

Hit Frequency: Approximately 40%

Theoretical Hold: 5%-13% (stand-alone) 9%-13% (wide-area progressive)

The base game is a five-reel, 30-line video slot. The Money Mania wide-area progressive has two jackpot levels, the top Money Jackpot resetting at $100,000 and the secondary Mania Jackpot, resetting at $4,000—and according to the manufacturer, the secondary is a very frequent jackpot. There also are six static jackpots, ranging from a $10 Mini to a $500 Grand.

There are unique primary-game bonuses in each inaugural title. Mistress of Giza features random wilds; it can instantly can award up to 15 wilds on a given spin. Sphinx Fire showcases igniting wilds that can turn adjacent symbols into more wilds.

The main bonus is a horizontal wheel. Triggered when three bonus symbols appear on any reel, the wheel extends across the entire bank of

machines allowing frequent spins that award multipliers, the jackpot bonus, or one of the two progressives.

The “Lock and Respin” jackpot bonus features a ladder mechanic that unlocks the next level when an “up arrow” symbol lands. If all five reels lock in an active row, the corresponding prize for the row is awarded.

Royal Legacy Ainsworth Game Technology

This new game on the A-STAR Dual or A-STAR Slant cabinet displays what Ainsworth does best, the traditional high-denomination three-reel game. Royal Legacy—and sister game Grand Legacy—is a three-reel, nine-line game that features five progressive jackpots.

The reel symbols are traditional bars, four different “7” combinations, and three jackpot symbols, with progressives for mixed, green, red and purple jackpot combinations. Three of the top jackpot symbols return a progressive resetting at $10,000 on paylines 1-4, or the top $30,000 when it lands on paylines 5-9—five shots at the top prize instead of the typical one.

Manufacturer: Ainsworth Game Technology

Platform: A-STAR

Format: Three-reel, nine-line video slot

Max Bet: 45

Denomination: 1.00, 5.00, 10.00 (multi-denom available)

Top Award: Progressive; $30,000 reset

Hit Frequency: Approximately 20%

Theoretical Hold: 4%-13%

Any of the non-jackpot symbols can be marked with multipliers ranging from 2X to 5X. The multipliers can be displayed on any bar or 7 symbol. For instance, the pay for three triple red 7s, $50 on the dollar version of the game, can be multiplied up to 15X for $750.

The game includes a “Jackpot Wild” symbol that substitutes for any of the jackpot symbols. If Jackpot Wilds stack on all three spots of the middle reel, up to three of the lower-level jackpots can be won on a single spin.

The game is available in $1, $5 or $10 denominations.

Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023


Put a pin in your calendar and join us for the 24th Annual AGEM & AGA Golf Classic Presented by JCM Global! Proceeds benefit the International Center for Responsible Gaming and their impactful research. As gaming expands, so does the need for RG research, making this annual fundraiser more important than ever. Interested in participation or sponsorship opportunities? Visit or contact JCM Marketing at 702.651.0000 or Join the cause for advancing research, education, and awareness for responsible gaming at At the 24th Annual AGEM & AGA Golf Classic Presented by JCM Global WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 2023 Global Gaming Business BENEFITING

Paying it Forward

Gaming fashions a unique perception of pay to play.

This one does not concern influence peddling. It entails mastering payments infrastructure to accommodate massive play. Every new gaming launch underscores this dynamic, and Ohio became the latest example with its January 1 dive into the online gaming market.

Another new revenue stream beckons. So does a reminder that payment processing, both in iGaming and traditional casino circles, must be stellar.

Wherever gamblers launch wagers—from phones, tablets, computers or in brick-and-mortar establishments—three elements are paramount: speed, access and security. Companies which service the soaring new business either introduce or enhance products to grow or retain market share.

Stakes are high, but rewards are enormous.

Product Arsenal

Victor Newsom, senior vice president of payments for Everi Holdings, sees a dynamic big picture in which iGaming payments fit.

“No single supplier in the gaming industry processes more financial access transactions than Everi—over $37 billion from more than 125 million transactions in 2021 alone, and we expect that number to be over $40 billion in 2022,” Newsom asserts.

“We strongly believe in giving customers the ability for convenience and choice in how they access funds, whether from a digital wallet or a kiosk on the casino floor.”

Newsom says Everi has several top products in this sector, covering various aspects of it. E-wallets are a major component, but not the only one.

“We offer an integrated series of products that all work together seamlessly,” he says. “I know wallets are the darling of this conversation, but the reality is many Everi products—such as Everi’s QuikTicket, which allows the purchase of a TITO ticket from a PIN debit transaction—fit in with the cashless narrative.

“QuikTicket doesn’t require a mobile account or wallet to use, and our unique infrastructure and technology allows patrons to send those TITO tickets back to their banks using a Visa debit card and without having to sign up for an account that requires the patron to go through KYC. This is a full cashless cycle that is self-service and can be deployed across our entire customer base without needing patron enrollment.”

The cashless operation requires even a deeper dive of analysis, he says.

The area has several parts to it.

“I think this goes beyond cashless in payments terms,” he says. “When we talk about a cashless operation, we must think about full operational implications—first, the importance of having our ATMs, which are wallet- and check-enabled, or our ticket redemption units, which are also wallet- and check-enabled.

“When you look at operations with casino staff, our Jackpot Xpress product, for example, allows for an efficient face-to-face payment of a jackpot with the patron, where they can also open a wallet for the patron. Operators already have the data, so it’s a unique opportunity for face-to-face engagement, opening a digital wallet, and moving funds to it.”

44 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
“The complexity of payments and money movement shouldn’t be placed on the player, but should be placed on the organizations providing the solution. If we want adoption, we must, as an industry, remove friction.”
—Victor Newsom, Senior Vice President of Payments, Everi

The concierge product family takes the cage mobile for credit, debit, wallet and check. It enables purchase of chips at the table, and supports TITO redemption and printing at the table or pit. Together, these can extend convenience of cashless beyond self-service use cases to where patrons need them—without high-friction enrollment or existing behavior changes, according to Newsom.

Everi also has established itself as a leader in the fintech space and created a leading cashless solution across the land-based casino industry, Newsom says. The product was designed to serve the growing focus on building an omnichannel solution.

Everi has several money transmitter licenses. Money can move just as cash would and can move across state lines. A single wallet account can be used at multiple physical locations in addition to extending to digital channels like iGaming.

Branching out to new markets, Newsom says regulations between traditional land-based casinos and iGaming are different.

One specifically unique area is verification of the player. In a land-based environment, staff can easily and quickly review ID and various tools ensure the authenticity of documents they may provide.

According to Newsom, every jurisdiction is different, but in the landbased space, there is still an abundance of regulatory language that requires in-person ID verification (even when a player is looking to move to a cashless solution), he notes.

The digital channel creates a different experience.

“There are several players in the IDV (ID verification) space,” he says. “It’s a common experience across the financial industry to have a solution that requires an ID with an image and scanning the document (front/back typically) as well as a liveness check that matches biometrics to the ID. These tools have grown in sophistication and provide a great layer of security. Additionally, there may be a need for a player to provide additional information such as an SSN for added layers of security.”

Newsom says one of the industry quandaries is the fragmented and often poor user experience that comes from separate accounts in the brick-and-mortar and online gaming worlds.

“A player who likes to play in traditional casinos as well as digitally (whether it be iGaming or even sports betting) may find himself or herself having to have three apps, with three balances—each balance designated for specific use in that designated channel,” he indicates.

“The complexity of payments and money movement shouldn’t be placed on the player, but should be placed on the organizations providing the solution. Our goal is to create a single view of funds that can easily be seen across all endpoints. This removes the confusion of a player who may have a balance for iGaming of $100 and $500 in their land-based wallet, but they want to use more than $100 in the iGaming channel but can’t easily access the $500 that’s in a different wallet. If we want adoption, we must, as an industry, remove friction.”

Preferred Vision

Christopher Justice, president of Global Payments Gaming Solutions, hails perhaps the most important spoke in the iGaming wheel.

“While it may not seem like it, the payments process is among the most important aspects of the entire experience,” he indicates. “The winners in the iGaming market will be the gaming institutions that pay close attention to every detail of the overall patron journey.”

Ultimately, vertical integration is the ideal solution for gaming institutions to offer highly advanced technology with top-of-the-line security, he adds. By implementing vertical integration, casinos can specifically design every step of the patron journey. They can control every aspect, from customer awareness to acquisition, to ongoing utilization.

Justice touts VIP Preferred, the company’s signature product in this sector, as a major difference-maker.

VIP Preferred links the patron’s checking account directly to the gaming institution, creating a payments experience that is unrivaled in convenience and efficiency, Justice says. The product also interacts with the company’s other payments solutions like VIP Mobility and VIP Financial Center, which integrate the usability of digital payments with the casino gaming experience.

VIP Preferred has been a fixture of the company’s product line for years, and is the core product that unites its suite of solutions. Three million patrons across the country use it to quickly and easily fund their play, according to Justice. The VIP Mobility app, which utilizes the VIP Preferred network, has a five-star rating in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, reflecting its convenience and usability.

Justice says VIP Preferred is for bridging traditional and online gaming payments. “Using one system is generally the easiest way to bridge the traditional and iGaming or online sports betting divide,” he asserts. “This makes it easier for the gaming institution to process both kinds of payments and for patrons to enjoy both modes of wagering. The real trick for payments providers is to deliver different ways for the patron to interface with the shared payments program depending on how the patron is playing.”

Justice adds that after just one signup, VIP Preferred users can instantly connect to both online and brick-and-mortar gaming institutions with the same account. VIP Preferred patrons enjoy the same user interface and expe-

rience across online and in-person gaming, which leads to higher adoption rates.

According to Justice, VIP Preferred is the company’s industry-standard ACH e-check network that bridges the online and in-person payments with one solution. It has implemented online banking integration at Circa Colorado and Action 24/7, with more expected to utilize the updated solution in 2023.

Online banking integration allows patrons to sign up for VIP Preferred digitally using online banking credentials, eliminating the need to sign up in person. VIP Preferred also uses Global Payments’ delayed settlement e-check offering, Choice4. Clients can extend e-check settlement by seven, 14, 21 or 28 days at all participating gaming institutions, according to Justice.

“Our VIP Preferred links the patron’s checking account directly to the gaming institution, creating a payments experience that is unrivaled in convenience and efficiency,” Justice says.

“As the largest vertically integrated payments provider in the gaming industry, VIP Preferred users enjoy lower fees, higher limits, one-time enrollment and the ability to use a single account across both land-based casinos and our network of iGaming and online sports betting operators.”

Winning from End to End

Leighton Webb, vice president and general manager of iGaming and sports betting for PayNearMe, says 2022 fashioned incredible growth for online gaming. Scalability is key during this rapid growth period, he says, as operators need to select platforms getting them to market quickly within new territories, with all major tender types.

“Casino operators are beginning to focus more heavily on the iGaming and online casino side of their operations, as those customers come with higher margins and lead to greater profitability,” he says. “Smaller operators will have to innovate to capture this market. These operators will be on the hunt for all-in-one platforms that will improve the overall payment experience—increasing customer conversion rates—while allowing them to optimize their business operations, driving costs down.”

Webb says PayNearMe is well-suited to be a major player in this sector.

“We want to spread the word that we are the only payments platform to offer an end-to-end solution, built from the ground up, specifically to meet the needs of the online betting industry,” Webb says. “While PayNearMe has a long history of providing a great experience in cash deposits for digital companies, we want our customers to know that we do so much more in the iGaming and sports betting payments space. We’re excited to have expanded to electronic payments with our MoneyLine platform, giving our operators access to the most requested digital payment types such as ACH, PayPal, Venmo and ApplePay.”

Webb says his company’s single payments platform allows iGaming players to deposit and withdraw with ease, enhancing player satisfaction and retention.

“According to our 2022 research, when players have the payment methods they’re comfortable and familiar with baked into a seamless payment experience, they’re more likely to bet more frequently and at higher amounts,” he asserts. “In addition, our single-platform approach streamlines business

46 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
VIP Preferred users can instantly connect to both online and brick-and-mortar gaming institutions with the same account.

operations for our customers, giving them a single contact for all payment types across all legal states.”

Webb says PayNearMe is on the cusp of announcing several platform updates in 2023. While that period approaches, the company likes the response it has received to a 2022 rollout.

“One exciting product we launched in 2022 that’s completely unique to PayNearMe is our Cardless Cash at ATM withdrawal feature,” he indicates. “It gives players the satisfaction of near-instant payouts, mimicking the experience of gaming at a brick-and-mortar casino and cashing out the same day. This will help bridge the gap between the traditional and digital gaming experience, where we know the gap is typically caused by lagging payouts.”

Online customers can choose to get same-day payouts in cash at any one of over 18,000 participating local ATMs. These transactions do not require a physical card, just a user-selected PIN and a code provided by the PayNearMe platform via text message. It’s simple, straightforward, and fast, according to Webb.

The benefits can boil down to one concept.

“Lightning-fast payouts,” he asserts. “We know this is what players want—and we know they aren’t getting it nearly enough, based on our research. Rather than waiting more than 24 hours for payouts, sometimes as long as a week, they’re getting their money same-day. That’s a necessity, not a perk. Online gaming should mimic in-person gaming as closely as possible if operators don’t want to lose customers.”

The company also supplies the MoneyLine platform, which offers the complete suite of deposit and withdrawal options players want. MoneyLine itself debuted in 2021 as an all-in-one platform specifically built to simplify the payment experience for iGaming and online sports betting operators. It gives operators access to the most in-demand deposit and withdrawal options, all from a single platform and a single integration. It looks forward to optimizing its product to fit the changing needs of the online betting industry as it progresses.

Across the industry, the ability to anticipate— and service—change will determine winners and losers as gaming celebrates its new revenue niche.

Ohio is the next test case. Massachusetts should be right on its heels. And the race is on for companies to link players with their funds.

FEBRUARY 2023 47

Nugget is Risen

If you happened to be walking down North Virginia Street in downtown Reno on January 12, you may have been drawn to something just a bit creepy.

The Nugget Casino, known as the “Little Nugget”—to distinguish it from the larger Nugget down the road in Sparks, which is the former John Ascuaga’s Nugget, as well as the Carson City Nugget, the Nugget Tattoo Parlor and many other assorted Nuggets in Northern Nevada—had a little sign by a makeshift door that invited people to “come on in.”

The reason it’s creepy is that this particular Nugget is a preserved carcass. The Little Nugget closed for good in July 2020, a victim of Covid. Its previously open front—a hallmark of those classic North Virginia Street casinos—has been shuttered for two and a half years. However, when the Nugget closed, its owner, Rick Heaney, got permission to keep his gaming license under a Nevada Gaming Control Board rule that lets an owner retain a casino license as long as the property is open for a minimum of eight hours per quarter.

Those eight hours this year were on January 12. A panel on the shuttered front was fashioned into a door, and a paper sign was placed next to it on which a handwritten message invited passersby into the dark space within. It looked like a trap. Someone had to figure there was some kind of group of gangsters inside ready to jump them, and abduct them into servitude on some other continent. (It’s what I thought, anyway.)

Inside the door was a dark space illuminated by 16 slot machines. I haven’t heard what the slot drop was for the day, but a few former Nugget fans evidently popped in to visit their deceased casino.

There were several media stories published about the one-day revival of the Nugget, and the lead paragraph in every single one of them emphasized that the Little Nugget was open for a shift, but “without the Awful Awful Burger.”

The heart of the Little Nugget was the Nugget Diner, and the heart of the diner was the Awful Awful Burger. So named because it was “awful big and awful good,” the half-pound meatfest, with traditional trimmings and house sauce—sitting, of course, on top of a pound of fries—was legendary in

these parts. It was a monumental chowdown for $3.50.

The burger even led the stories in 2020 about the Little Nugget closing down. I looked. The prominent lead paragraph in every single story was, in essence, “no more Awful Awful Burger, because the Nugget’s closing down.” The burger was what defined the place as a local attraction. It was beloved.

So, you couldn’t turn on the lights in the diner, whip up a batch of Awful Awful Burgers and serve them for the eight hours the Little Nugget was open? Come on. I’m sure the former Nugget Diner folks would have done it, don’t you think?

The Reno City Council approved the business license letting the Little Nugget open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. One council member criticized the practice as hurting Reno’s downtown area by maintaining a vacant building. Personally, I hope the guy keeps the license long enough to reopen the Little Nugget, and the Nugget Diner.

I miss places like that. Reno was the first place I ever went to a casino, in 1985. I did a feature on a North Virginia Street legend, Harold’s Club, which had just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Harold’s Club started as a sawdust joint in 1935, and even when I visited 50 years later, it still had that old open-front cowboy casino feel.

One of the things Harold’s was famous for was the promotional campaign in the 1940s and 1950s cooked up by “Pappy” Smith, the father of owner Harold Smith, in which more than 2,000 billboards were placed on highways across the U.S., and eventually around the world, each with an arrow marking the direction and the number of miles to Harold’s Club. There was even one on the North Pole.

When I did the story, they gave me a ride around town in this promotional limousine with longhorns on the front and silver dollars embedded across the exterior. They had a cowboy driving me around. I still have a picture.

Places like that on North Virginia Street had character. Just like the Nugget Diner and its Awful Awful Burger. Maybe it will open back up. I know I’m up for a famous chowdown. I’ll keep the antacids handy.

48 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023
Register now:


Power of Data

PRODUCT: SODA (Slot Optimization and Data Analytics)

MANUFACTURER: Tangam Systems

Tangam Systems, a leader in next-generation gaming optimization software, is revolutionizing the way casinos are managed by utilizing data to guide decisions about everything from slot placement and programming to revenue and a positive customer experience.

The company’s newest software, SODA (Slot Optimization and Data Analytics), provides deeper, data-driven insights into slot machine performance and player preference. It does so in four key ways: recommendations for game mix and location; change detection with incremental lift analysis; floor layout; and asset performance.

In a matter of seconds, SODA compares and analyzes several factors, including operational, financial, and patron loyalty KPIs, using casino performance and customer session data. The intelligent recommendations and floor heat maps make it easy for slot operators to evaluate the risk before making any adjustments. SODA also automatically recognizes changes for every machine that is added, moved or converted, and offers a thorough comparison of the results before and after. With this, the casino has tangible evidence for any changes made to the floor and how it impacts the player behavior and financial performance.

Tangam’s dedicated Customer Success team—all of whom have prior ex-

Facing Age Verification



Many operators are still checking every ID card to ensure visitors are old enough to enter their casino. Cognitec is providing an easier way.

Cognitec’s FaceVACS video scan product, used by various major casinos and restaurants across the globe, analyzes faces to perform an initial age check. The software also computes anonymous data about people count, gender, and people movement in time and space.

Entry and exit cameras can record all visitor appearances, which can be used to calculate the time patrons spent on your premises and to advise people who have exhausted their time in gaming areas. Casinos worldwide are using the technology to allow problem gamblers to enroll themselves into self-exclusion programs.

In addition, clubs and pubs can use the technology to perform real-time matches against facial image databases, and instantly spot barred persons or known violent offenders.

perience in casino operations—and analytics support teams make it their mission to make sure operators create a solid action plan and drive tangible results for their business.

The power of TYM (Table Games Yield Management) and SODA have been combined in Tangam’s newest product innovation, which offers a profitability analysis of all gaming assets including tables, slots and ETGs. Operators can visualize and assess asset performance benchmarks for the entire floor in one comprehensive view to decide on the optimal mix and floor space utilization.

“Reporting alone doesn’t provide answers,” says Jim Hamilton, president and general manager of Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun. “We chose SODA for its highly differentiated offering that provides a clear set of actionable recommendations, which maximize gaming performance and the guest experience.”

For more information, visit

In short, Cognitec’s facial recognition system combines the multi-faceted aims of security and business insight in one comprehensive solution.

But the software alone won’t produce optimal results. Choosing camera models, their positioning and tuning, optimal server choice, VMS integration; configuration, training, deploying and supporting the system—all these components play an important part.

Making them work together needs a face recognition company with a proven track record in the gaming and entertainment industry. Cognitec does it all—from system design to hardware and software setup, with an annual subscription covering licensing and services.

Casinos, meanwhile, can provide a safe environment for customers and staff, a profitable business, and support from the community.

For more information, visit

50 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023



Exacta’s acquisition by CDI completes the variety of games the operator is able to offer in Kentucky, where Churchill offers thousands of HHR units at its tracks.

The platform developed by Ainsworth and CDI perfected the presentation of that historical information as slot game results. HHR machines carrying popular slot themes have allowed tracks to raise purses and attract the quality of races that already were benefiting tracks in neighboring states where they were permitted to add Class III slots.

Gaming Corporation.


Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) and Exacta Systems, one of the top companies producing a platform for porting slot games over to the historical horse racing (HHR) format, announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which CDI will acquire all outstanding equity interests of Exacta Systems for a total consideration of $250 million in cash.

Subject to certain working capital and other purchase price adjustments, the transaction is set to provide CDI the opportunity to realize synergies related to the company’s recent acquisition of the Colonial Downs Racetrack and Rosie’s Gaming Emporium HHR facilities in Virginia.

Exacta’s HHR platform has for years competed with the platform created by Ainsworth Game Technology in partnership with CDI. Most of the top slot manufacturers utilized the Ainsworth platform to release their games in HHR versions. Ainsworth has been at the center of HHR expansion in Kentucky, where more than 2,000 Ainsworth games—on Ainsworth cabinets—are operating across seven venues.

Ainsworth’s technology to present historical racing data as slot machine results in popular themes led Ainsworth’s competitors to fast-track their own entries into the burgeoning HHR market by partnering with Ainsworth to port their games to HHR on Ainsworth’s platform. Today, companies including IGT, Aristocrat, Light & Wonder and Konami are introducing HHR versions of their most popular slot titles via the Ainsworth technology.

Some other slot suppliers have opted for the Exacta platform to introduce its games to the HHR market. The Exacta Connect platform is used by AGS, Aurify, Bluberi, Everi, Gaming Arts, IGT, Incredible Technologies, Konami, Light & Wonder and Sega Sammy, with many of those slot suppliers opting to partner both with Ainsworth and Exacta.


Maverick Gaming, which already operated 10 card rooms in Washington, added four with the addition of Evergreen. Maverick assumed operational control of Evergreen on December 21. Under terms of the transaction, Maverick Gaming paid $80.47 million in cash for all of Evergreen Gaming’s shares and assets.

Evergreen Gaming consists of four card rooms in Washington state: Chips Casino in Lakewood, Goldies Casino in Shoreline, Palace Casino in Lakewood and Riverside Casino in Tukwila.

“Strategically, this acquisition is crucial to Maverick’s continued dominance in Washington state,” said Eric Persson, CEO of Maverick Gaming. “We expect there to be enormous consolidation as well as operational and marketing benefits to our company as a result of this transaction.

Kambi Group PLC has signed a multi-year agreement to provide its on-property sportsbook technology to Miami Valley Gaming and Racing, a joint venture between Churchill Downs Incorporated and Delaware North.

The agreement will see Miami Valley Gaming leverage Kambi’s technology and services to power the launch of the racino’s new retail sportsbook. Miami Valley Gaming is positioned between Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio.

Kambi’s high-performance sportsbook will complement Miami Valley Gaming’s existing gaming floor with a solution that includes state-of-theart betting kiosks and Kambi’s unique Bet Builder technology.

The partnership comes as Ohio, the seventh largest state in the U.S., has just launched regulated sports betting for the first time in January.

Craig Robinson, president and general manager of Miami Valley Gaming, said, “We have been working tirelessly to create a sports wagering offering that is convenient and easy to use; we are excited to soon launch our new sportsbook in the market by leveraging Kambi’s award-winning technology.”


Washington state card room operator Maverick Gaming received regulatory approval just before Christmas from the Washington State Gambling Commission for its acquisition of Evergreen

“Maverick will move swiftly to integrate these two companies in all aspects, and we expect to see benefits from this purchase by January.”


As planning for the fifth annual Casino Marketing Boot Camp continues, founder Julia Carcamo, president of New Orleans-based casino marketing agency J Carcamo & Associates, announced a new addition to the portfolio—Executive Casino Marketing Boot Camp.

Designed with the general manager in mind, the event will take place May 15-17 at Rolling Hills Casino Resort in Corning, California.

“The idea was originally brought to my attention after the first gathering of casino marketers,” said Carcamo. “After expanding into regional markets with the Boot Camp concept and hearing the request come this time from general managers, I knew the time was right to create a way for general managers who perhaps may not have a marketing background to better understand the sometimes-elusive marketing tools and to form stronger bonds with their marketing teams.”

This two-day gathering is designed with the general manager in mind but is perfect for building skills alongside marketing leaders and finance stewards. The interactive-style sessions will tackle the most relevant and useful marketing to make a difference in a casino operation.

52 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2022



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Slot supplier Bluberi Gaming announced it has been approved for a gaming license by the state of Minnesota.

The original tribal gaming state in the U.S., Minnesota represents a great growth opportunity for the company and a chance to bring Bluberi’s content to the patrons of Minnesota tribal casinos.

“Bluberi is excited to enter the Minnesota casino and gambling market that is home to 19 casinos and more than 21,000 slot machines,” said Casey Whalen, Bluberi’s chief commercial officer.

Minnesota’s 19 casinos include the first-ever tribal casino in the U.S., established in 1988, and the state continues to be among the leaders in Class III gaming. “Bluberi is excited to bring top-performing content, including themes such as Devil’s Lock, Treasure Hunter, Fu Bamboo, and the upcoming Xing Fu 888 to Minnesota casinos in early 2023,” said Whalen.


The Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee completed installation of Florida’s first “Lightning Link Lounge,” a dedicated area featuring 50 of Aristocrat Gaming’s popular Lightning Link and Dragon Link slot machines.

The lounge is a continuation of a longstanding relationship between Seminole Gaming and Aristocrat Gaming.

“We are always exploring ways to enhance the player experience at Seminole Casino Hotel,” said Tony Alves, the casino’s general manager. “This new Link Lounge concentrates 50 of the most

popular games in the industry in one place, allowing players to more easily access these two top favorites.”


The International Association of Gaming Advisors (IAGA) has announced it will hold its 40th International Gaming Summit in Belfast, Northern Ireland June 20-22.

The event aims to bring together leaders from all global gaming sectors, providing operators, suppliers, attorneys, investors, bankers, regulators and other delegates with an opportunity to meet and discuss the most important issues facing the industry.

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Tribal Government Gaming is a highly visible publication with a circulation of 20,000, including bonus distribution at NIGA in March 2023, OIGA in August 2023, G2E in October 2023 and other appropriate trade shows and conferences.

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Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo has appointed Las Vegas-based attorney Kirk Hendrick as the new chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB), with a four-year term.

The 58-year-old legal veteran has experience with Nevada government as well as sports-related litigation, having spent time at the attorney general’s gaming division as well as a long stint as chief legal officer for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Having joined the gaming division in 1996, he was eventually named senior deputy for the Las Vegas region in 1998 and chief deputy for the state the following year. He also assumed the role of chief legal counsel for the Nevada Athletic Commission in 1998.

After returning to private practice in 2001, Hendrick then joined Zuffa, UFC’s parent company, in 2002, where he stayed until the company was sold in 2016. He was working as an independent consultant before the recent appointment.

Hendrick will supersede Brittnie Watkins, who had been serving as interim chair since late November, when former chairman Brin Gibson stepped down to pursue other opportunities. Watkins has two years remaining in her current term.


George Goldhoff has been named president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. Goldhoff reports directly to Jim Allen, chairman and CEO of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming.

Mike Sampson, who has been serving as interim general manager of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, has been promoted to general manager. He will report to Goldhoff.

Goldhoff replaces Joe Lupo, who moved from president of Hard Rock AC to assume the role of president of The Mirage, which will soon be the Hard Rock Las Vegas. Sampson had served as interim GM since the November departure of Anthony Faranca.

In his new role of president, Goldhoff will focus on financial performance, market share growth,

team member engagement and development, guest experience and support of the greater Atlantic City community.

Goldhoff comes to Atlantic City from Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati, where he was president for the past three years and worked to rebrand the casino as a Hard Rock. The casino is currently the market share leader in southwest Ohio. Before his work in Cincinnati, Goldhoff oversaw four properties as president and CEO of PURE Canadian Gaming in Western Canada. He also assisted in opening Bellagio Las Vegas and was general manager of Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica, Mississippi.



Australian operator Star Entertainment announced that interim Chief Financial Officer Christina Katsibouba has been promoted to permanent status as of January 1, after first taking on the position back in May.

Before taking on her current duties, Katsibouba had served as the company’s group executive of gaming.

The announcement is a positive development for Star, as Katsibouba appears to be filling in nicely after stepping into a firestorm of sorts—when she originally accepted the interim CFO role, numerous Star executives had resigned amid anti-money laundering violations and other failings, including her predecessor Harry Theodore.

In the months since, Theodore as well as former CEO Matt Bekier, former chief legal officer Paula Martin and former chief NSW casino officer Greg Hawkins have come under legal scrutiny, specifically regarding the use of China UnionPay cards to transfer gambling funds and the company’s relationship with junkets such as Suncity Group.


Fontainebleau Development has announced the appointment of Brett Mufson as president and chief executive officer of Fontainebleau Las Vegas. The property is currently under construction and will debut in the fourth quarter of 2023. Mufson remains president of Fontainebleau Development.

Fontainebleau Development Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Soffer remarked, “Brett and I have spent years together as partners, and he is a brilliant leader whose expertise provides us an extraordinary amount of confidence

to build our brand with unparalleled consistency and focus. After years of critical contribution to the overall Fontainebleau Development brand and the building in Las Vegas, we are now poised to successfully run our entry into the Las Vegas market and establish our legacy on the Strip.”

In 2021, Mufson’s leadership helped steer the company’s re-acquisition of the property along with the rekindling of its original strategic vision for Fontainebleau Las Vegas.

As president and CEO, Mufson will be responsible for leading the development of one of the largest construction projects in the United States, overseeing everything from design to operations and guest experience.

In addition, the company announced the following appointments:

• Colleen Birch, chief operating officer;

• Stephen Singer, chief financial officer;

• Marc Guarina, chief technology officer;

• Daniel Espino, chief people officer; and,

• Stacie Michaels, general counsel.

FEBRUARY 2023 57
February 2023 Index of Advertisers AGEM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56 AGEM & AGA Annual Golf Classic . . . . . . . . . .43 AGS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Aristocrat Gaming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60 Aruze Gaming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45 Clarion Gaming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49 Cognitec Systems Corp. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 Everi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Fantini Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47 Global Gaming Business . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55 Good Giant (Red Square Agency) . . . . . . . . . . . .5 IGSA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54 J Carcamo & Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53 Reed Expo(RX) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51 SoftConstruct Limited CreedRoomz . . . . . . . . . .9 SoftConstruct Limited Pascal . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 SoftConstruct Feedconstruct . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 SoftConstruct Limited Fastex . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 SoftConstruct Limited Bet Construct . . . . . . . .41 SoftConstruct Limited Popok . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59 SuzoHapp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47 World Game Protection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33 Zitro International SARL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
Kirk Hendrick George Goldhoff Christina Katsibouba
Brett Mufson

A Q & Brett Abarbanel

Executive Director, International Gaming Institute, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

The International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is the centerpiece of UNLV’s gaming programs in which students are immersed in gaming curriculum. The IGI takes that to another level with high-level research, classes for regulators, and focus on several different disciplines in gaming. Last year, Executive Director Bo Bernhard was promoted the vice president of economic development and Brett Abarbanel, a brilliant researcher, was named to succeed him. As director of research since 2016, she is familiar with the inner workings of the IGI. She spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros from a conference room at the IGI in January. For a full audio and video podcast of this interview, visit

GGB: As director of research, you really were involved in everything the IGI does, so do you feel prepared to take on this position?

Brett Abarbanel: Yes. I’m so excited. Every time I go out into the world, doing the sales pitch for IGI is a breeze because there are so many incredible things that go on at this institute. For such a long time I’ve been singing our praises, so it’s an honor to take the reins and continue all those programs, all those initiatives, and championing them.

How tough was it for Bo Bernhard, another legend at UNLV, to give this up? This was his baby for so many years.

It is, and I would like to say, very selfishly, that it was very easy for him because he knows it will be in good hands. But at the same time, Bo hasn’t disappeared. He has a fantastic new job as the vice president of economic development for UNLV. And he is spectacular at this job. He’s also continuing as an adviser to me.

When you were an undergrad, you did a final thesis by developing a horse racing handicap sys-

tem. Later on you became a fairly good poker player, and of course you love to play esports. Does this actual involvement in the gambling side of the industry keep you more in touch with the customers?

I like to think so. One of the ways that I have always approached research is to make sure that we’re always thinking about every single person that is affected by what we do. So one, we study the industry. We’re in the middle of the world’s biggest laboratory—Las Vegas, and everything else that goes into it. And a huge part of that is gamblers themselves. If you’re talking about problem gambling, if you’re talking about professional gamblers, everybody has different wants and needs that go into the gambling activity. And we would be remiss if we didn’t take everybody’s thoughts into account.

How about responsible gaming? The IGI has been involved in that for almost 20 years. Right now with responsible gambling, Bo is still contributing to it. That’s a big pet interest of his as well as Alan Feldman, who has been working for IGI for three and a half years since retiring from MGM. Alan is leading our responsible gambling initiatives right now. Going back a few years, we had a five-year project with MGM looking at the GameSense program. We have ongoing responsible gambling ambassador training that we’ve done, for example, with Sands for over a decade now. San Manuel gave us a nice donation to get into that a little deeper.

You’ve been heavily involved in esports. It’s been widely discussed in the industry for a few years now, but nothing has really come of it. Will you continue those efforts?

You’re right. There’s really been a struggle with trying to figure out how to incorporate esports into not just a casino setting but more broadly into a general kind of gambling offering. We’ve seen a few different sportsbooks just add an

esports vertical within their book. And then more broadly, we’re also seeing a variety of different gambling elements in video games. Some of those are indeed monetary gambling, and others are more sort of chance mechanisms that are being treated as gambling, depending on where you look.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board met in early January and voted on the recommendations from the Esports Technical Advisory Committee that would put esports underneath Regulation 22, which is the reg that we have under which pretty much all race and sports operate. So it really streamlines how esports can exist within a book in Nevada. And hopefully it will set a standard for other states thinking about how this might be set up, such that it starts to grow esports into a better understood and more legitimized space for betting.

The IGI has been heavily involved, along with the University of Nevada, Reno, with two events over the years, the Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking and the Executive Development Program, both developed by the late Bill Eadington, who really founded the academic study of gaming. What’s the future of those events?

The 18th International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking will take place May 23-25 at ParkMGM in Las Vegas this year. We hold this once every three years, and we do that on purpose. We want to make sure that everyone’s bringing their best, most developed and interesting work. At our last conference in 2019, we had 34 different countries represented.

The Executive Development Program is held every year in Lake Tahoe, and there is a very limited amount of people admitted to that. It’s such a spectacular program. Bill Eadington was a great boss, just a brilliant guy who looked for what the industry needed, who looked for what regulators needed. He was so aware of all the different stakeholders, and the Executive Development Program is the culmination of that. It’s been held now for over 30 years.

58 Global Gaming Business FEBRUARY 2023

Articles inside

A Q & Brett Abarbanel

page 58


pages 53-55, 57


page 52

Facing Age Verification

pages 50, 52

Power of Data

page 50

Nugget is Risen

page 48

Paying it Forward

pages 44-47

Money Mania

pages 42-43

Cash Quest Gaming Arts

page 40

America’s Rich Life Konami Gaming

page 40


pages 38-39

The Power of In-Person

pages 34-36

Gun crazy

pages 30-32

Shiny New Objects

pages 26-29

Old Scams, New Twists

pages 22-25

Always Bet on Engagement

pages 18-20

Free Play Rules FREE FREE

pages 14-16

AGEM index

page 13

AGEM UPDATE AGEM Member Profiles

page 13

Three Picks for a Cautious Market

page 12

Keep It Going

pages 10-11

“They Said It”

page 8


pages 6-8

Protecting the Asset

page 4

The Age of Social Media

pages 3-4


page 52

Power of Data

page 50

New Game Review

page 40


pages 38-39

The Power of In-Person

pages 34-36

Surveillance & Security

pages 30-32

Surveillance & Security

pages 26-29

Surveillance & Security

pages 22-25

Always Bet on Engagement

pages 18-20


pages 14-16

Fantini's Finance

page 12

American Gaming Association

pages 10-11

5 Questions

page 8

Protecting the Asset

page 4
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