p. 1 jan:_cover, inside, back.qx 12/16/21 2:14 PM Page 1
GGB Global Gaming Business Magazine
January 2022 • Vol. 21 • No. 1 • $10
DOES SELF EXCLUSION WORK? RSI’S RICHARD SCHWARTZ RECRUITING STARS NEVADA FAILS RG
25 People Watch
to for 2022 20th Anniversary Edition Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen
Chicago Process How the Windy City is hoping to jump into gaming
Sports & Sports Betting How teams, stadiums and media are intersecting
Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers
p. 3 toc:_table & mast.qx 12/16/21 4:46 PM Page 3
Vol. 21 • No. 1
Global Gaming Business Magazine
18 COVER STORY People to Watch 2022
Our annual profiles of 25 People to Watch highlight the executives who will have the greatest influence on an industry that is bouncing back from an unprecedented crisis.
Getting it Right
By Dave Bontempo, Roger Gros, Frank Legato, Marjorie Preston, Patrick Roberts, Dave Ross, and Bill Sokolic
Gazing at the Crystal Ball
12 Fantini’s Finance Frank Fantini
54 Making My Point On the Cover: Jette Nygaard-Andersen, Chief Executive Officer, Entain
Become a Leper Roger Snow
54 Responsible Gaming Tarnished Gold Anthony Cabot
DEPARTMENTS 4 The Agenda
6 By the Numbers
14 Soaring Sportsbooks
8 5 Questions
Sports teams, leagues and other stakeholders are joining the soaring sports betting business, an industry sector that is still in its infancy.
13 AGEM 50 Emerging Leaders With BetConstruct’s Anna Shahbazyan and Caesars Entertainment’s Daniela Sulier
By Brendan D. Bussmann
44 Our Kind of Town As Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city officials weigh five proposals for a casino, analysts weigh whether or not the Windy City can make it as a resort destination. By Marjorie Preston
58 New Game Review
48 RG Bedrock Self-exclusion is the primary tool for problem gamblers to escape the temptation. But does it really work when it is applied unevenly across jurisdictions? Here’s what needs to happen.
62 Goods & Services
By Brianne Doura-Schawohl
66 Casino Communications
64 Frankly Speaking 65 People
52 The Recruitment Crisis Professionals in recruitment for the casino industry face new challenges in staff shortages following the “Great Resignation.”
With Richard Schwartz, CEO and Co-Founder, Rush Street Interactive
By Dave Bontempo JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 4 agenda:_table & mast.qx 12/16/21 4:51 PM Page 4
Foot in the Door
Vol. 21 • No. 1 • JANUARY 2022 Roger Gros, Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @GlobalGamingBiz Frank Legato, Editor | email@example.com twitter: @FranklySpeakn
By Roger Gros, Publisher
aming has always grown incrementally. For almost 40 years in the U.S., Nevada was the only gaming in town—or in the country. When New Jersey considered legalizing gaming, it was limited to Atlantic City. The hotels needed to be at least 500 rooms. Casinos were limited in size, and had to close for at least four hours a day. Native American tribes offered only bingo games early on, figuring if religious organizations were able to offer bingo, so should they. Some public officials disagreed, but most states let it go on. At Foxwoods, they offered a bingo game that stretched across a room bigger than a football field. Now when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988, all bets were off. Tribes could offer the same kind of gaming permitted elsewhere in the state, whether it was by charities, the lottery or private establishments. In Minnesota they only allowed video slot games for years for some reason. In Oklahoma, Class II bingo slot games were the limit. In Connecticut, only tables were permitted at the outset because the basis of legalizing gaming there were the Las Vegas Nights that some charities were permitted to hold where only table games could be offered. California has inched from bingo games to full-blown casinos on the strength of several statewide referendums. In the early 1990s, gaming was legalized on riverboats in the Midwest and South like the old days. In most cases, they actually had to cruise and players needed to make a reservation to board. The old Western towns of Deadwood, South Dakota and Cripple Creek, Black Hawk and Central City, Colorado, were permitted some limited gaming with strict limits. Horse racing realized that linking a casino to the tracks would help them save a dying sport. Again, strict limits were imposed so that casinos would not overshadow the racing. That didn’t last too long. All these forms of gaming have now evolved into the mature industry that provides jobs, tax revenues and economic development. The rise of iGaming in the U.S. has followed a similar path. It started in Delaware but New Jersey was the first state to introduce a full-blown industry, and to this date, the most successful. But then it stalled. Since then, only Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan have joined the fray. Sports betting, meanwhile, has been pedal to the
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
metal since day one when a New Jersey lawsuit overturned the PASPA law in 2018 that prevented the widespread growth of sports betting. As of early December, sports betting was up and running in 29 states plus the District of Columbia, with three states considering legislation. All that occurred in only three and one-half years, compared to five iGaming states in eight years. So what’s going to spur some of these sports betting states to consider legalizing iGaming? Several things. First, lawmakers were mesmerized with the numbers that sports betting proponents were discussing. Their eyes lit up when you talked about billions of dollars in bets. But when it comes right down to it, the tax revenues from sports betting are bound to be disappointing. On the other hand, iGaming presents a much more lucrative tax situation for states. You’re able to set a higher tax rate on iGaming because there’s no bricks-and-mortar overhead and you can still run a profitable iGaming site with a tax just south of 50 percent, even though the most successful iGaming states, New Jersey and Michigan, have a much lower tax rate. And if another pandemic comes down the road, your taxes from land-based and sports betting will dry up if those industries are again shut down. The locked down will continue to gamble online, and taxes will still flow through that portal at a time they’re needed most dearly. Sports betting has gotten people accustomed to betting on their mobile devices, which is an essential for iGaming. They now understand how to create accounts, deposit and withdraw funds, and get used to playing online for money. Social casinos have also helped them get over that hurdle. Land-based casino companies are getting more involved in creating connections between their bricks-and-mortar facilities and their online casino sites. Early on, they basically just turned over their online operations to a third party and considered that revenue to be icing on the cake. Now, that revenue is quickly being seen as part of the cake, with the ability to connect with their players in a 365degree omnichannel approach. Yes, believe it or not, sports betting was just a foot in the door, and legal online gaming is the golden goose.
Marjorie Preston, Managing Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Monica Cooley, Art Director email@example.com Terri Brady, Sales & Marketing Director firstname.lastname@example.org Becky Kingman-Gros, Chief Operating Officer email@example.com Lisa Johnson, Communications Advisor firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @LisaJohnsonPR Columnists Frank Fantini | Bill Miller | Roger Snow Contributing Editors Dave Bontempo twitter: @bontempomedia Brendan B. Bussmann | Julia Carcamo | Marie Casias Patrick Roberts | Richard Schuetz Bill Sokolic twitter: @downbeachfilm | Marek Suchar Michael Vanaskie | Keith Whyte | Brian Wyman __________________
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Rino Armeni, President, Armeni Enterprises
Mark A. Birtha, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Hard Rock International
Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, President, Lifescapes International
Nicholas Casiello Jr., Shareholder, Fox Rothschild
Jeffrey Compton, Publisher, CDC E-Reports twitter: @CDCNewswire
Dean Macomber, President, Macomber International, Inc.
Stephen Martino, Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer, MGM Resorts International, twitter: @stephenmartino
Jim Rafferty, President, Rafferty & Associates
Thomas Reilly, Vice President Systems Sales, Scientific Games
Michael Soll, President, The Innovation Group
Katherine Spilde, Executive Director, Sycuan Gaming Institute, San Diego State University, twitter: @kspilde
Ernie Stevens, Jr., Chairman, National Indian Gaming Association twitter: @NIGA1985
Roy Student, President, Applied Management Strategies
David D. Waddell, Partner Regulatory Management Counselors PC Casino Connection International LLC. 1000 Nevada Way • Suite 204 • Boulder City, NV 89005 702-248-1565 • 702-248-1567 (fax) www.ggbmagazine.com The views and opinions expressed by the writers and columnists of GLOBAL GAMING BUSINESS are not necessarily the views of the publisher or editor. Copyright 2022 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
p. 6 numbers:Layout 1 12/17/21 7:35 AM Page 6
THe Big FOUR i
n a new report issued by Fantini Research, the “National Sports Betting And iCasino Revenue Report,” every state that offers sports betting and online gaming is dissected to break down the revenues and market share of each participant in the market. In the chart at right, the New Jersey iCasino market, the most successful in the country, is revealed. In New Jersey, a company must partner with an existing casino or racetrack to participate in the market, and the iCasino revenue reported for that casino is split among the partners. To obtain a copy of the report, which is produced monthly, contact Ashley Diem at email@example.com or 302-730-3793.
Monthly Revenue New Jersey iCasino (in thousands)
ow many people are actually traveling to casinos as the pandemic winds down? Jefferies’ report on U.S. casino market foot traffic through November 2021 gives a good indication. The index level of national casino foot traffic in November was up 3.4 percent month over month. Compared to 2019 levels, volume was 23.8 percent lower during the month, which improved from October’s relative performance to 2019. While good news, the report warns
U.S. Casino Foot Traffic (rolling 7 day index to Jan ’20)
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
that there could be hurdles coming up. “While it may be too early to discern, the Omicron variant could pressure local governments to reinstate restrictions, which may impact foot traffic in the coming months. The first five days of December show that foot traffic was 35 percent lower compared to 2019 levels,” wrote analyst David Katz. The second chart describes how foot traffic for casino companies that own multiple properties across the country has progressed.
Casino Foot Traffic By Operators Since May
DISCOVER FOUNDATION MAXIMIZE PROFITS
THEY SCORE, YOU SCORE Introducing PayAction Sports Bonus TM
• Bonuses can be targeted to specific players or floor-wide. • Real-time game results, personal play, in-play sporting events – bonuses can be triggered by any event you choose. • Rewards can be sent in the midst of a losing streak to ensure long-term brand loyalty. • In-game promotions or add-ons can be sent to any display, mobile device, or sound system.
For a personal demonstration, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
p. 8 5questions:Layout 1 12/16/21 2:38 PM Page 8
Questions Cynthia Hallett President & CEO, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights
f you’ve been to G2E any of the last half-dozen years, you undoubtedly saw protests and demonstrations by Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, an organization dedicated to ridding the world of the evils of secondhand smoke. Cynthia Hallet has been involved in the organization for more than 20 years, and now serves as its CEO. She sat down with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at G2E in October to talk about how the pandemic has helped to spread the non-smoking message and why it’s now time to act.
GGB: Your organization has made a lot of progress recently. How much of that was helped by the pandemic? Cynthia Hallett: I think the Covid pandemic increased the awareness of the public, key stakeholders and
1 2 3 4 5
elected officials about public health laws and how they can help protect public health, as this is a respiratory-born virus. And I think the science has improved that perception as proven by the number of casinos, whether it’s by state law, tribal policy or voluntarily opening smoke-free. And we now have lessons learned, and the fear that they’d lose substantial revenue is not accurate. In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy said he was most concerned about citizens’ health, then allowed smoking to return to the Atlantic City casinos after the mask mandate was removed. Why did that happen?
Well, that’s an excellent question. I don’t know that I can answer that for the governor or for the state of New Jersey or even Nevada. But I do think that sometimes there’s pressure from other sources, and whether it’s one industry or another, whether it’s tobacco, or gaming or something else trying to say we need to get back to what the old norm was. But this pandemic has taught us that things are changing, and they need to change in order to protect health and safety. And if you look at Atlantic City, their revenues went up when compared the first quarter to 2019—they went up by 11 percent when it was temporarily smoke-free. So if people truly love gaming or the amenities that are in those buildings, they will show up anyway. Atlantic City seems to be the poster child now for the non-smoking movement. You’ve got an organization of employees there that is pushing for it. How is that effort going right now?
It’s amazing. As a grassroots organization, we are always looking for the individuals who want to speak up and speak out about this because they’re affected by it. So this group of casino workers organized themselves because they were so upset that on July 4, 2021 smoking was reintroduced into the casinos, and they had that sweet moment of being able to go to work, not having to breathe the smoke. So now they’re angry. And that’s the worst type of employee to have to deal with, because they had that good experience and now it’s gone. Their effort now is to address the state legislature and try to get them to pass a bill that would ban smoking. And to his credit, the governor has said he would sign it if it came to his desk. In the meantime, we’ve seen several tribal casinos that have reopened with a smoking ban. Have you spoken to any of those executives about what their experience has been?
We have. Over 160 tribal casinos, sovereign nations, have reopened smoke-free, which was phenomenal. Most of them have remained smoke-free, and we are hearing lots of positive remarks about it. The Navajo Nation recently passed legislation that made their casinos smoke-free. The tribes showed leadership early on in the pandemic and have paved the way for commercial casinos to follow suit. A Wisconsin casino, Ho Chunk Gaming Madison, went smoke-free way before the pandemic and is doing just fine. Tell us that story.
Their decision was courageous. It’s now going on six years being a smoke-free casino. They adapted and are more successful than when they permitted smoking. They had this conversation about worker health and safety, and also about parity and equity. When you have executives on higher-level floors in smokefree offices but everybody on the gaming floor is exposed to known carcinogens, that’s not equity. So it’s about worker health and safety, and then it is about the guest experience and their safety.
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
“We invest in geography, demography and economy, and Nevada is one of the most dynamic geographies, demography and economies in the country right now. And it’s only likely to get stronger.” —Ed Pitoniak, president, VICI Properties, on why the REIT is bullish on Nevada
CALENDAR February 1-3: ICE London, ExCeL Centre, London. Produced by Clarion Gaming. For more information, visit ICELondon.uk.com. February 2-5: iGB Affiliate London, ExCeL Centre, London. Produced by Clarion Gaming. For more information, visit london.igbaffiliate.com. February 15-17: World Game Protection Conference, Tropicana Las Vegas. Produced by World Game Protection. For more information, visit WorldGameProtection.com. March 1-4: SiGMA Africa 2022, Nairobi, Kenya. Produced by SiGMA. For more information, visit SiGMA.world/Africa. March 14-16: Casino Marketing Bootcamp, New Orleans, Louisiana. Produced by J Carcamo & Associates. For more information, visit CasinoMarketingBootcamp.com. March 21-22: iGaming Next New York City ’22, The Convene, 46th Street, New York City. Produced by iGaming Next. For more information, visit iGamingNext.com/NYC22. March 22-23: ASEAN Gaming Summit, Shangri La at the Fort, Manila, Philippines. Produced by Asian Gaming Brief. For more information, visit AseanGaming.com. March 23-25: SPiCE India (Strategic Platform for iGaming Conference & Exhibition), Goa Marriott Resort & Spa, Goa. Produced by Eventus International. For more information, visit sportsbettingevents.com. April 5: Prague Gaming Summit, Vienna House Andel’s, Prague. Produced by Hipther. For more information, visit hipther.com/events/ praguegamingsummit. April 19-22: Indian Gaming 2022, Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, California. Produced by the National Indian Gaming Association and Clarion Gaming. For more information, visit IndianGaming.org/events.
Project1:Layout 1 12/15/21 4:19 PM Page 1
p. 10 aga:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:40 PM Page 10
AMERICAN GAMING ASSOCIATION
Getting it Right Responsibility in sports betting advertising
hen the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018, an increase of sportsbook advertisements was inevitable as states began legalizing sports betting one-by-one across the country. Now, with 30 states and Washington, D.C. offering live, legal sports wagering markets, sportsbook commercials with big payouts and eye-catching promotions have become ubiquitous—whether you’re tuning into NFL Sunday, watching the World Series or catching up on your favorite sitcom. This advertising serves an important role: drawing customers from the predatory, illegal market. With a 25-year head start (no thanks to the federal government), customers are left confused about where to bet legally. Advertising— whether on TV, social media or out of home—serves as a means for player education. The massive investment in customer acquisition is also part of being a new industry. As the market matures, the spend will naturally level off. You only have to look to the Nevada airwaves to see the difference. However, the current saturation of advertisements and promotions is drawing increased scrutiny from consumers, legislators and the media. And regulators in states like New Jersey and Colorado are taking notice of these advertisements too, with a focus on responsible gaming concerns. We’ve already seen this game play out in Europe, and the results have not been kind to gaming companies across the pond. The pendulum has swung from a European sports betting and online gaming boom to backlash that has led to a regulatory crackdown. In Italy, gaming companies are under a total advertising ban, and in Spain, gaming companies can’t advertise on TV outside of the early hours of the morning. In the U.K., only 7 percent of Britons have a positive view of the gambling sector, which has heightened calls for a ban on gaming companies sponsoring sports teams—an
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
By Casey Clark
estimated $55 million annual revenue stream for the English Premier League and a massive advertising medium for the U.K. gaming industry. In response to public pressures, U.K. gaming companies have already self-imposed a whistle-to-whistle ban on TV advertising during competitions and committed 20 percent of advertising to education. We should view Europe as a cautionary tale for what could happen in the U.S. if we don’t take advantage of this window in time to get sports betting in America right. The American Gaming Association and our members have been on the front foot of this issue, establishing a Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering, which sets self-imposed restrictions on advertising mediums, content and target audiences. The AGA’s Have A Game Plan. Bet Responsibly campaign is also convening the industry around responsible gaming education, including sports leagues and media companies, who all play a role in determining the quantity of advertisements consumers see. Trends are also starting to point to a seasonality for sportsbook advertising saturation. Not a single sportsbook has been inside or near the top 10 advertisers since the third week of the NFL season. And gaming industry CEOs have publicly acknowledged that current levels of industry advertising are financially unsustainable. But our efforts must continue to evolve as the market expands and matures. The AGA and our members are working on solutions to this challenge by researching American and policymaker attitudes around sports betting advertising and convening the sports betting ecosystem to ensure we continue to build a sustainable market. Luckily, we have more than 30 years of robust responsible gaming experience to rely on. If the pandemic has taught us anything as an industry, it’s that when we are unified, we can solve any challenge. And that’s just what we’re doing. Casey Clark is senior vice president with the American Gaming Association.
Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Resort Glendale, Arizona
DESIGNING EXPERIENCES THAT ARE
T R A N S F O R M A T I V E
p. 12 fantini:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:40 PM Page 12
Gazing at the Crystal Ball What will 2022 bring to an industry that needs a comeback in the worst way?
By Frank Fantini
t is time to ask what the new year may bring. The answer to that question may be more questions. Assuming Covid fades and/or society learns to live with it, here are some key questions and answers for 2022: • Tepid 20s? Many have believed that the economy would come roaring out of Covid on the combination of pent-up demand and the significant savings and credit availability among consumers who cut spending during the pandemic. And there has been an impressive bounceback. But there now are signs of a more muted near-term future, perhaps because the initial pentup demand has been released, maybe because stimulus money has been spent, perhaps as millions of people have permanently dropped out of the workforce, and perhaps because year-over-year comparisons are now more difficult to beat. That doesn’t mean consumers will stop spending, but it may suggest 2022 will begin a Tepid 20s rather than a Roaring 20s. • Can operating spending remain restrained? The possibility of slowing revenue growth gives greater importance to this question. Casino operators surprised the investment world, and probably themselves, in the past year by combining major expense reductions with rising revenues to achieve EBITDA margins that in several cases rose past 40 percent. It would not be surprising to see margins shrink as casinos become more competitive in attracting players, whether through reopened amenities or higher promotional costs. And, of course, there is an emerging new favorite worry—wage inflation. Here are some thoughts: Select regional markets will be pressured by greater competition as new casinos open. Colorado will continue to benefit from more liberal gaming regulations. The Las Vegas Strip’s bounce-back will continue but be muted by convention attendance not fully recovering until 2023 or 2024. Las Vegas will continue its population boom, meaning good news for locals operators Red Rock Resorts, Golden Entertainment and Boyd Gaming.
Our biggest expectation—operating expenses will creep up, but the discipline to contain spending will remain and margins will be closer to those of 2021 than those of 2019. • Can online operators finally bring down marketing expenses? The crash in certain online gaming stocks like the vaunted DraftKings reflects the sobering up of investors who spent much of 2021 drunk on the promise of capturing gargantuan revenues three, four and five years out.
During inflationary “times, investors seek safety in dividends and hard assets that retain their value. The gaming REITs have both.
Now, many of those investors fear tying up money in companies for whom meaningful profits, or any profits at all, are years away, if ever, at a time when inflation is running 5 and 6 percent. The value of money held in these investments thus shrinks while no stock-supporting profits are coming in. It is interesting to note the relative strength of the stock of Rush Street Interactive, which focuses on more profitable iGaming than the sexier sports betting and whose business model is geared towards earning money with, the company says, new players turning profitable within six months of signing up. Two other online-related plays are worth attention: Caesars, where CEO Tom Reeg promises 50 percent margins on online revenue at maturity, and Penn National, which also has a profit-driven online model and whose stock has declined to the point where you buy the land-based business and basically get the online business for free. • REITs, a safe haven? The inflation that is helping to drive down the
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
prices of unprofitable story stocks and that threatens the sky-high margins of casino operators could turn investors to gaming REITs. During inflationary times, investors seek safety in dividends and hard assets that retain their value. The gaming REITs have both. Plus, they have the security of tenants who have proven to be rock solid even in times of crisis, like the Covid panic of 2020. Gaming and Leisure Properties and VICI Properties also have proven leadership and prudent growth strategies, and they have executed their plans superbly. • Macau. A kitten purring or a tiger pouncing? The coming year may prove profoundly important to the six casino companies as their concessions expire. It is possible concessions will be extended as the Macau government considers the future structure of gaming, but the public proposal and hearing process has gone smoothly enough to suggest the matter will be decided in 2022. There is considerable apprehension about the upcoming decisions with investors made nervous by some government proposals such as restricting dividends and planting government operatives in the C-suite. And, of course, it is possible, if unlikely, that new concessions will be put out to bid. There is also some trepidation knowing that the national Chinese Communist government abhors gambling and has put Macau and neighboring Hengqin into a new economic zone with a charge of developing into a technology innovation and data center. That, by definition, reduces the proportional size, thus importance, of gaming, though as a practical matter, Macau will depend financially on casinos for the foreseeable future. The casino operators have tried to reassure investors by talking about how prudent and fair the Macau government has been and continues to be. But until the new gaming regime is announced and enacted, apprehension is reasonable. Frank Fantini is the editor and publisher of Fantini’s Gaming Report. For a free 30-day trial subscription email email@example.com.
p. 13 AGEM:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:40 PM Page 13
AGEMupdate Silver Member Profile Company: Betson Web Address: www.betsonparts.com
Betson Imperial Parts & Service is a division of H. Betti Industries, Inc., with three major parts distribution centers located in the cen™ tral United States and on both coasts. It offers a full line of parts and service to the coin-operated amusement, vending, office coffee service, gaming and billiard industries.
Bronze Member Profile Company: Abbiati Casino Equipment SNC Web Address: www.abbiati.com
Abbiati Casino Equipment manufactures and supplies live gaming casino equipment including roulette wheels, tables, value chips, plaques and jetons and all styles of gaming layouts together with technical backup of full CAD design and technical services. Privately owned by the Abbiati family, the company is based in Turin, Italy and has been established for over 30 years.
Associate Member Profile Company: ADLINK Technology Web Address: www.adlinktech.com
AGEM Board of Directors Actions for December 2021 • AGEM members had an in-person pre-show ICE presentation from Clarion Events Managing Director Alex Pratt, along with brand ambassadors Kate Chambers, Roy Student and Tom Nieman. They reassured members that although the situation has changed recently in the U.K., Clarion is closely monitoring events and putting procedures in place for a safe and secure show to take place in February. Clarion will be stepping up communications in the runup to the show to keep exhibitors and visitors informed of any changes. They were keen to state they will listen to the science as well as the market regarding keeping to the February dates. AGEM members expressed support for Clarion but insisted the utmost importance must be placed on keeping employees and visitors safe, as well as ensuring restrictions would not impact the considerable investment it takes to exhibit at a trade show. • AGEM’s unregulated gaming machine campaign has had some positive developments recently. Following a contact AGEM Executive Director Marcus Prater made at G2E in October, a Zoom meeting was held with the FBI’s new Integrity in Sport and Gaming Unit in Washington to raise awareness of unregulated gaming at the federal law enforcement level. AGEM was also able to take advantage of a public comment period on the Gambling Devices Act of 1962 announced by the Department of Justice, by providing a submission that calls for the DOJ to ensure companies that have been alleged in media reports to be manufacturing so-called “skill” games and other variants to file official registrations for their gambling devices as well. These latest developments with the FBI and DOJ signify a significant step forward along with pending bills in Missouri and Pennsylvania in the fight to address the spread of unregulated machines. • AGEM’s efforts that began in 2019 asking the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to review regulatory language that prevents certain popular game types from being approved in the commonwealth has finally resulted in a positive result. The AGEM Compliance Committee submitted specific language recommendations to PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole, and after some lengthy reviews, AGEM received a letter in early December that provides clarity to the situation and at the same time thanked AGEM for highlighting these issues and helping the Gaming Control Board to be more flexible as games and general technology evolve—a good result for all. • The ECA Diversity Scholarship sponsored by AGEM, Clarion, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas International Gaming Institute and the European Casino Association (ECA) recently announced the winners for this year’s awards. In its fourth year, the Diversity Scholarship is open to all ECA member employees from the land-based casino industry, and offers the chance to attend the renowned Executive Development Program (EDP). Due to the virtual format of the event, the ECA decided to award four candidates to take part in the program with each sponsor covering the cost of a winner. The winners are: Joanna Petit, Casino de Monte-Carlo, Monaco; Shalini Kolling, Casino Compel, Sweden; Jan Pecha, Olympic Casino Slovakia; and Darko Devic, Casino Mond, Slovenia. Well done to all! • SuperBook Sports, based at the Westgate in Las Vegas, was approved as an associate member at the December AGEM meeting. Established in 1993, SuperBook consistently provides a best-in-class experience for in-person and mobile app betting. This now brings the total membership to 171 companies across 22 countries worldwide.
Forthcoming Events • AGEM members approved to support the 4th EKG Slot Awards Show with a contribution of $2,500 that covers sponsorship of one of the awards. Organized by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming and held virtually last year, the 2022 event is back in-person and will be held at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on February 24.
AGEMindex Headquartered in Taiwan, ADLINK has operations in the United States, Europe and Asia. A technology-leading platform provider in the embedded computing industry, ADLINK products are currently available in over 40 countries across five continents, with worldwide distribution networks and more than 1,800 employees. 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.
In November 2021, the AGEM Index fell by 117.72 points to 960.19, marking a 10.9 percent decline from the prior month. Compared to one year ago, the index reported significant growth, gaining 328.47 points for an annual growth rate of 52 percent. In the latest period, all AGEM Index companies reported decreases in stock price. The recent decline in the overall index can be attributed to a number of factors, including rising concerns of the omicron variant which trigged stock sell-offs, poor quarterly earnings performances, instability in the U.S. dollar exchange rates and rising inflation. The largest decline to the index was attributed to Aristocrat Leisure Limited (ASX: ALL). Due to a 5.5 percent decline in overall stock price, Aristocrat Leisure Limited had a negative 48-point contribution to the AGEM Index. Scientific Games Corporation (NASDAQ: SGMS) saw a 20.1 percent decline in stock price, which resulted in a 27.11-point decline for the overall index. Meanwhile, Konami Corporation (TYO: 9766) reported a 10.1 percent decline in stock price, subtracting 13.91 points from the index. Despite the sharp decrease in November, the index remained among its highest levels in tracked history and has tripled in value since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Two of the three major U.S. stock indices saw decreases over the month, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 declining by 3.8 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. At the same time, the NASDAQ experienced a 0.1 percent increase.
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 14 sportsbetting:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:44 PM Page 14
! p U r e t Batter at Up! B How media, sports teams, venues and leagues intersect with legal sports betting By Brendan D. Bussmann
t has been a little over four years since the United States Supreme Court heard Christie v. NCAA (now known as Murphy v. NCAA). Over that time, sports betting has made evolutionary strides in how states look to legalize and regulate the market, as well as how stakeholders continue to evaluate their options and assert themselves into the market. It continues to be a fast and furious ride as over 30 jurisdictions now have legal sports betting operations. Looking toward the future, it is important to understand the evolution over the past three years in terms of additional stakeholders, various models for regulatory structures, and market access. All of these have evolved significantly over the course of the last three years that have brought an end to Nevada’s exclusivity in the sports betting market, bringing a series of “recordbreaking” months as jurisdictions continue to advance the legal marketplace and transition those gamers who have been participating in illegal books or are new to the market. From the early adopters in states like New Jersey and Indiana that set up solid regulatory structures and robust marketplaces, they have allowed competition and open markets in both land-based and mobile operations. This has been critical in maximizing revenue, offering multiple convenient options to consumers, and allowing a dynamic marketplace that advances technology and the user experience. In the same time period, the industry has seen some less than desirable regulatory setups that have not maximized the opportunity for consumers or operators. In 2021, states across the country have proposed various models that have in many instances ignored some of the strongest regulatory examples, due to other interests becoming involved and wanting other stakeholders to have access to sports betting. This has included professional teams that first started to see access to sports betting licenses in Illinois and Virginia but took a much heavier and more direct approach with the Arizona bill. Other states have taken the “Oprah” approach: Everybody gets a license! Too often, licensure has been granted to entitled groups aside from the known, suitable and experienced 14
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
At the Wynn Field Club at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, a nightclub atmosphere is created
operators that exist across the country, as has been the case in Maryland and most recently in Ohio. As one looks into 2022, many of these aspects can lend insights into what to expect going into the next round of legalization and reform opportunities as most legislatures go back into session. Other market players have also come into focus as sports betting has evolved so rapidly. This includes media and numerous professional and college teams and leagues that continue to have an interest in being a part of the action. Other states are even considering a further step toward the ability to offer a full
DraftKings has opened a fantasy sports bar at New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium
p. 14 sportsbetting:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:45 PM Page 15
Caesars has reached an agreement to operate a sportsbook at Chase Field in Phoenix for baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks
casino gaming experience online as a handful of states have done to complement their existing land-based gaming and sports betting products.
Merging Forms of Media Media has always played a significant role in sports, particularly in the way that fans engage with sports outside of the arena, stadium or other venue. Media rights interests have grown over the years in terms of market players having an interest in controlling as well as in the monetary value of these partnerships. This will only continue to accelerate as the sports betting market continues to mature. Some of the first activity came from ESPN when it selected its sports betting partner, Caesars Entertainment. Fox Sports has gone all in with FoxBet. The industry has seen Barstool take off not only as a medium but also as a brand that brings its community along for the action. Other brands like theScore, which was acquired at the end of 2021 by Penn National Gaming, bring the community of gamers and other fans into the media experience. The industry has also seen strides with the Bally’s partnership with Sinclair and the former Fox Regional Networks to bring their brand into the sports experience. This is in addition to FuboTV, which is incorporating sports betting into its live streaming experience. As 2022 comes into focus, the rights that each league holds will become more important as they have signaled their partnerships with data providers such as Sportradar and Genius Sports. The widescale effort to “cut the cord” continues as consumers look more toward streaming, and it will be not just a matter of who has rights to content in what will likely end up being a new category of media, but also how efficiently live streams and data feeds can be delivered to the consumer.
Companies like Streaming Global have developed cost-effective platforms to deliver content while addressing the latency factor. This allows fans a nearly in-venue experience and enables a lean-in vision of sportsbooks and media companies in a content consumption and betting experience. Market players, including Amazon and Apple that are outside of the traditional networks, will also likely look to make a foray into sports content that may in turn lead to their interest in sports betting. However, one of the biggest trends to watch in 2022 is the movement of the Mouse. Disney already has a foot in the door with its ownership in ESPN. It was reported in 2021 that they wanted to have a piece of the pie. Gaming has always been held in a delicate balance for Disney and the family-friendly image it has portrayed over the years. Some believe that sports betting may sway that, but with it becoming as mainstream as it is, this may not be the case.
First and 10 As teams and leagues continue to play a more active role in the sports betting process, one must remember two key aspects of how their relationship and now acceptance into the gaming world have evolved over time. First and foremost, whether it was the professional leagues or the NCAA that got us to this point, they were the ones on the other side of New Jersey in the original court case to argue that sports betting was a harm to all sports.
The sportsbook at Washington, D.C.’s Capital One Arena debuted in May 2021
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 14 sportsbetting:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:45 PM Page 16
Caesars Sportsbook is now on the jerseys of the NHL’s Washington Capitals
Now, some three years later, it has almost become a rewrite of history or a selective memory issue that this was the first shoe to fall before sports betting could reach its current status in the U.S. Even before the Supreme Court had ruled, states began to hold debates on how sports betting may look for some of the earliest adopters. This was also when the leagues were advocating for an “integrity fee” that would have taken as much as 1 percent off of sports betting handle. The feeling was that this fee would help “protect” the leagues from integrity issues as well as compensate them for their product. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association even paid for a study that portrayed integrity fees as a positive aspect for sports betting. The report stated: “A royalty fee to the leagues could create a partnership among leagues, operators and states that could accelerate the passage of legislation and create a larger regulated sports betting market and therefore more revenue for all parties.” While the leagues have learned how sports betting works and the difference between revenue and handle, they have moved on to other opportunities for revenue including data feeds. This has now morphed into outright licenses for sporting venues. This was first done in the District of Columbia that utilized Capitol One Arena as a venue, which is really the only revenue model that works in the district from a land-based perspective. Illinois was the next to legislate stadiums and arenas as opportunities for teams to cash in on the action. This then went to full-on licenses, as was seen with Arizona earlier this year as tribes gave up some of their sovereignty in exchange for sports betting outside of the tribal communities. While other states have looked down this avenue, including Virginia and Maryland that are in the process, it is a completely different take on the side of the leagues and teams from their initial stance on sports betting. As the industry heads into 2022, look for more evolution through the teams. The word has spread among all of the leagues and teams to look at how wagers are conducted throughout the state and allow opportunities for in-game wagering to full-on retail sportsbooks that enhance the experience for the fans at specific venues. The likes of Wynn Field Club at Allegiant Stadium or the new book in development at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, will likely become the norm and not the exception. As seen with Capital One Arena in D.C., these can present significant opportunity not only during contests but also other events held in these venues, or even serving as year-round sports bars to wager and enjoy a good in-game experience to complement the venue’s home team experience on off days. Strong professional sports states like Minnesota, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and others will likely make a push not only to get sports betting venues inhouse but also to have official licenses held by the teams. The question becomes, for those states that have legalized, whether they will go back to allow these venues to be included with additional partnerships or licenses. There are plenty of teams across plenty of states where one or more of these stakeholders will likely advocate for these additional opportunities to enhance the fan experience. 16
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
Legalization and Reform The coming year also presents the opportunity for several states to take sports betting to the voters in a major election year. States like Alabama and Georgia will likely face that issue in the months ahead as their legislatures meet to see if the voters will have their say in the matter. Both states have polling that show a plurality of voters supporting sports betting. Other states have been debating this for years, such as Massachusetts, Kansas and Missouri, that have yet to work through a legislative compromise between houses. However, there will be new states that will finally make a strong push for legalization. One thing that has started to be debated in jurisdictions is whether or not there is too much advertising of sports betting platforms, with each operator taking a different approach to marketing and player acquisition. Some pushback has been developing with the volume of advertisements and promotions surrounding sports betting. The cautionary tale that exists today in the United Kingdom should be further warning as to what may happen if the envelope is pushed too much and too far. The backlash is typically worse than the initial action. Legislators may start to take exception to this either by limiting the number of promotional deductions or limiting levels of spend on advertising. However, the industry is in growth mode, and it is competing against an illegal market that has operated for many years with sophisticated platforms that do not generate tax revenue for states. A certain level of spend is needed to convert those customers to the legal market while introducing new players as well. However, the U.K. may offer insight into how much is too much and what could cause that backlash to occur. The next real opportunity that exists is in iGaming, and this push is just beginning. Offering a complete gaming experience on one device provides further opportunity for the industry and opens up to a new set of customers. Data continues to show little to no cannibalization of land-based operations after iGaming has been introduced. New Jersey has led the way, with newer states like Michigan now offering an example of how quickly a market may ramp up with a wide scope of diverse operators. These provide strong examples for a host of states that may start down the iGaming path to complement their casino, sportsbook and other gaming offerings. With just over three and a half years since the launch of sports betting outside of Nevada, the market has moved fast and furious, but it is still in its infancy. Very few would have predicted such a fast approach while bringing media and teams into the sector. Merger and acquisition activity continues to move the market and will likely start to blur more as operators, media and others take their share of this expansion opportunity. All of these will play a factor in 2022 and beyond, and the game has only just begun. Brendan D. Bussmann is a partner and director of government affairs with Global Market Advisors (GMA).
Project5:Layout 1 10/12/21 9:55 AM Page 1
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 8:37 PM Page 18
Demand Diversity and Excellence GGB’s 25 People to Watch for 2022 focuses on opportunity and advancement
n a year where gaming companies, programs and institutions have come under fire for not recognizing the contributions of women and minorities, the Editorial Advisory Board of GGB Magazine has chosen a remarkable group of individuals to honor as the 25 People to Watch for 2022 with a diversity that demonstrates the potential and realities in today’s gaming industry. It’s our 20th anniversary edition of this honor— 20 years of the people who have dedicated their lives to our great industry. Visit our website, ggbmagazine.com, with a link to this story to see the complete list of the 500 individuals who have truly made a difference to our industry. To be sure, this isn’t diversity for diversity’s sake. The individuals identified by the board have truly accomplished much in their careers, and all have great futures ahead of them. Take the blinders off and recognize what women and minorities are doing for your business. This doesn’t mean you don’t recognize all your employees and executives; it just means
that there’s a wider spectrum of amazing people in your business. We have no quotas. We have no definition of diversity. We only have an understanding that every member of our 2022 People to Watch is dedicated to excellence. The GGB Editorial Advisory Board was insistent upon recognizing that every person on this list is there for a reason: their accomplishments and their vision for the future. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, red, yellow, green, man or woman. You have demonstrated a leadership potential that inspires the entire industry. The year 2022 will be full of challenges and opportunities. From the recovery from the pandemic to the spread of iGaming and sports betting, to the evolving situation in Asian gaming and many more issues that face the industry this year, the individuals recognized in this feature will play a role in clearly defining the future of the industry. Congratulations to all! —Roger Gros
GGB’s 25 People to Watch for 2022 Johnny Aitken • Chief Executive Officer U.S., PointsBet
Cheryl Moss • Retired Judge State of Nevada District Court and Gambling Treatment Diversion Court
Julie Brinkerhoff • President, Lifescapes International
Jette Nygaard-Andersen • Chief Executive Officer, Entain
Mary Cheeks • President & General Manager, Jamul Casino
Arthur Paikowsky • President, ICRG
Rob Cinelli • General Manager, Sycuan Casino Resort
Ray Pineault • Chief Executive Officer, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment
Jason Ader • Managing Partner, SpringOwl Asset Management LLC
Alex Dixon • Chief Executive Officer, Q Casino Brianne Doura-Schawohl • Vice President of U.S. Policy & Strategic Development, EPIC Risk Management
Marek Suchar • Esports Betting Services; MD Partnerships, Oddin.gg
Susan Hensel • Partner, Hensel Grad
Dan Real • Regional President, Caesars Entertainment
Jenny Holaday • President, Encore Boston
Brian Reynolds • Senior Vice President of Operations, Resorts World New York
Jan Jones Blackhurst • Board Member, Caesars Entertainment Marie Jones • Partner, Fox Rothschild Brenda Lavell • Chairwoman, Table Mountain Rancheria Laura Lee • Chief Human Resources Officer, MGM Resorts Kate Lowenhar-Fisher • Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer - General Counsel, Everi Holdings Inc.
Keith Sheldon • President of Entertainment, Hard Rock International
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
Gil Rotem • iGaming President, IGT Dermot Smurfit • Chief Executive Officer, GAN Jennifer Togliatti • Chairwoman, Nevada Gaming Commission
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:46 PM Page 19
Empathy at Entain Jette Nygaard-Andersen • Chief Executive Officer, Entain By Roger Gros n her short time as CEO of Entain, Jette Nygaard-Andersen has changed the face of the company. Already one of the major gaming companies in Europe, GVC Holdings, as it was called then, plucked Nygaard-Andersen from the board of directors to bring some stability to the company after the two previous CEOs had departed in the space of a year. During her time on the board, Nygaard-Andersen had guided the company’s growth strategies, positioning the business for sustainable growth by leading in innovation, safety and responsibility. The company has long been a leader in European iGaming, sports betting and bingo, mostly online, but also with land-based betting shops in several countries. Some of the Entain brands include bwin, Ladbrokes, Coral, Sportingbet, and others in the sports betting market, and partypoker, partycasino, Gala Casino and Bingo, and many others on the games side. In the U.S., Entain has a 50-50 partnership with MGM Resorts on the BetMGM sports betting platform and the Borgata online casino. And to strengthen those brands, the company changed its name from the rather generic GVC to Entain while Nygaard-Andersen was on the board, to demonstrate that the company was committed to achieving 100 percent of its revenue from legal gaming sources. Nygaard-Andersen says the strength of the individual brands is what makes them successful, while at the same time adhering to the principles asserted by Entain. “With over 30 brands offering different products in almost as many markets across the world, there are obviously differences locally,” she says. “But the Entain values are really shared across all brands.” She points to one brand that has become the leader in sports betting in Europe. “Bwin is the leading sports brand in Europe,” she says, “They’re very much the house of football, and they have just entered into a partnership with the UEFA to strengthen the association with football to the fans here. So, that’s really where they are focused. Our partycasino and partypoker brands have created a partnership with the McLaren team for Formula 1 racing, of course, addressing a different customer segment. But all brands share the same values. “But it’s really important for us to operate locally as well. So you will also see in some markets, we have a local brand, that we might have acquired, but at the same time, we then bring bwin into the markets. That’s true, for example, for Brazil and for the Baltics. While we have acquired local brands, which is really important—it gives us that local understanding of the markets—then we also try to bring in one of our global brands. And they attract different audiences.”
U.S. Facing While the deal with MGM Resorts was struck prior to Nygaard-Andersen’s time with Entain, she says the relationship is strong and growing. “I’m really pleased, with the relationship but also what we’ve been doing together in building BetMGM,” she explains. “Remember, we built BetMGM from scratch after PASPA was repealed. So we got together and we saw an opportunity where both parents brought something different to the table. From
“It’s all about trust here. It’s important that players and our customers know that they can trust us, that we are a safe entertainment platform.” —Jette Nygaard-Andersen, Chief Executive Officer, Entain
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:46 PM Page 20
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Entain, we basically bring everything that makes BetMGM work. We bring the technology, we bring the product, we bring the CRM. More than 400 people from Entain are part of the BetMGM team, which is almost one third of everyone that works within BetMGM. “MGM, of course, brings the brand. Everyone knows MGM for being a casino operator in the U.S., as well as the loyalty database from Mlife. So as parents, we bring something different to the table, but we are fully aligned and agree on the strategy for BetMGM. In just two years, we built a company that had an overall market share of 22 percent. We share a vision, we agree on the strategy. And then both of us basically do everything we can to support BetMGM, and make sure it becomes as successful as it can be. So, it’s a very operational partnership, and we speak to each other frequently and discuss big and small things around our partnership and BetMGM.” In October, DraftKings made overtures to buy Entain for a $20 billion-plus price tag. That offer was soon withdrawn, but it was clear the Entain-MGM partnership was an impediment. Nygaard-Andersen says she was open to the deal, and remains ready to consider any offer that helps the valuation. “When I get up in the morning, the first thing I think about is how to deliver value for our shareholders,” she says. “And I do that together with my 24,000 fantastic colleagues, and I’m fully devoted to that. And part of the proposal that we got from DraftKings, the board also made it very clear that they strongly believe in the future of Entain, really underpinned by our market-leading position and our technology and the platform in general. So, when I get up in the morning, I’m fully focused on making sure that together with my colleagues, I grow Entain and I focus on how we can deliver shareholder value.” Nygaard-Andersen wouldn’t talk about the recent offer for Olympic Entertainment, which operates casinos in the Baltics as well as online gaming and betting shops in several countries. But she did say Entain is always looking for deals that would add value to the company. Even if it means considering more landbased development. “We are a digital-first company,” she says. “We’ve been very successful with our omnichannel strategy. So, the way that we view retail—or, you could say land-based betting shops—is really as part of our overall strategy. And we see the strength of omnichannel in the U.K., for example, with our Ladbrokes and Coral shops there, where we are able to really leverage our shops, also with digital products. So, retail is part of the customer experience. When we look at acquiring new companies or building out our existing bases, we always look at the full customer experience. In some markets, retail makes sense as a part of the overall customer experience. In some markets, it’s purely digital-driven. So, I’d say we’re not specifically looking to acquire retail. But where it makes sense as part of the overall customer offering, we’re happy to own retail.”
Opportunity Knocks Esports is an area where Nygaard-Andersen believes there is much potential. The company recently completed the purchase of Unikrn, a U.S.-based esports betting company, as the cornerstone for the Entain strategy. But Nygaard-Andersen says the goal isn’t all about betting. “Because I come from media and entertainment, and digital entertainment businesses, I bring a new perspective to our industry,” she says. “And as technology is changing, so is consumer behavior, and that means that technology and 20
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
media are really converging, also with our industry. And therefore, the way we look at it, we look at how can we actually bring more to the customer experience, and how can we engage more customers, and how can we engage new customers? “So, betting and iGaming will always be the core of our business, but we think about how we can actually bring something new to the customer experience. And there are some customers who want a richer, more engaging experience, more content, more social. So when we think about our industry and how it is evolving and how technology is changing that, we also see that esports, and especially esports fans, are becoming very engaged. There are half a billion grown-up, adult esports fans in the world. “There are many legacy players in the industry—a few tournaments here and there. And then you have some native businesses in esports that have started to build new and innovative services, but no one has actually taken upon themselves to build a global platform that is also fully compliant. And that’s an important point for me to make that when we envision building this global platform, we think about taking all the different capabilities that we have as Entain, and bringing them on to esports. “So, of course the transparency, the integrity, the compliance, the licenses regimes, and so forth. We met with many companies, and Unikrn just stood out for us, especially because of their products and the way that they have developed new innovative products. We’re really focusing on building those platforms and products, and then you will see us launch into our first markets sometime next year.”
Entain ESG Nygaard-Andersen brought with her a commitment to changing the culture of not only her company, but the industry as a whole. She’s dedicated to making responsible gaming a cornerstone of Entain’s corporate social responsibility. “My personal ambition for Entain is really to be the leader on all the critical areas of ESG (environmental, social, and governance), and that is sustainability, diversity and responsibility. And when it comes to our commitment to safer gambling or responsible gaming, it’s really important. Listen, it’s all about trust here. It’s important that players and our customers know that they can trust us, that we are a safe entertainment platform.” For safer gaming, Nygaard-Andersen says there are two elements to the Entain strategy. “We’re using our industry-leading technology to pioneer a fully new approach to player protection,” she says. “It’s something that we call ARC, and it stands for Advanced Responsibility and Care. This will achieve a step change in player protection, taking it from a reactive approach, which it is today, to a proactive approach. And that really means that we can prevent potential problematic behaviors before they arise. We’ve been trialing this now for a while, on our brands in the U.K., and we can see that it works. For example, customers that identify as potentially having a risk of problem play, we know that we can reduce that with interventions. At least 75 percent have moderated their behaviors, and almost all have then returned to betting and playing at a safe level. That is just unheard-of results. “Now, the second thing we are doing is we are building our partnerships across all parts of the world in which we operate. And that is very focused on education—educating people about the risk of problem gambling, as well as providing support to the small minority that gets into difficulty. For example, we’ve done a number of partnerships in the U.S., and also in the gaming and
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 4:42 PM Page 21
25 esports area, so we are very early there in building partnerships.” Through the Entain Foundation U.S., the company has committed to funding the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for a pioneering betting and gaming research initiative which, for the first time in the U.S., would combine scientific research with operational expertise to apply best practice in responsible gambling, policy and health. “What we’ve done with the Entain Foundation is that we have pledged to spend ₤100 million over five years,” explains Nygaard-Andersen. “And the foundation then decides how to, you could say, allocate those moneys, and where to partner across the world. And then there is also a U.S. arm of that, and they have a separate board that decides on partnerships in the U.S.” And as a further commitment, Entain has developed a program called Entrain that will focus on technology, education and diversity. “It hits upon some of the things where today you see that underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM education. So, we’re trying to bridge both the technology angle, which is where we come from, and the education angle and diversity. And our goal is to positively impact the life of 1 million people around the world, directly or through their families, by 2030. With everything we’ve done this year, we’ve already made a substantial impact, and therefore we believe that if we now increase those efforts and target even more partnerships and more people around the world, then we’re able to really have a positive impact upon the lives of people across the world. “The initiatives are focused on four areas. One is the academy, which is about supplying transformative technology training for the next generation. Then we have a scholarship area, we have apprenticeships, and then we have the partnerships. And this is really something that I’m really passionate about. I believe that we have a vital role to play in inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in technology, but also to help them to get access. So, this is our approach to trying to do something with a global initiative, and hitting upon these three pillars around technology and education and diversity.” With their business strategy and ESG efforts, Nygaard-Andersen hopes that Entain will become a world leader in gaming and entertainment. “I would love to see us being widely recognized across the globe as a pioneer, whose technology and vision have helped reshape the future of interactive entertainment,” she says. “I truly believe that at Entain we can reshape our industry, and that’s why we think about the customer experience. And I also want to make sure that we are seen as a global leader in entertainment, not only in betting and iGaming, because we are an entertainment company. And then, of course, I would like Entain to be acknowledged as a leading global operator, that’s providing customers with the best, most fulfilling, thrilling and trusted experiences that they can’t get anywhere else.”
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Thunder From Down Under Johnny Aitken • Chief Executive Officer, PointsBet USA ohnny Aitken leads PointsBet’s move to stand out in a crowded sportsbetting space. The Australia-based company has invaded the United States with a flourish, with a different approach to sports betting. “We understood U.S. sports,” he says. “We’re very familiar with it and it’s a big part of our Australian operations. We didn’t have to learn all the nuances.” PointsBet has successfully launched its premium product in the burgeoning sports betting markets of Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia, while also securing market access agreements subject to enabling legislation and/or regulatory approvals in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wyoming. Aitken has also helped PointsBet strike partnerships with leading sports organizations, teams and franchises to provide both PointsBet employees and customers with a unique sporting experience. As the official, exclusive sports betting partner of NBC Sports, for example, PointsBet utilizes the media giant’s premium television and digital assets to promote the growing brand. Along the way, the company gained instant notoriety with its PointsBetting concept, one part of its overall portfolio. It’s sports betting on steroids, rewarding high margins of victory with exponentially large payouts and large margins of defeat with bigger losses. “In a normal sports bet, you bet whether the team is going to win or lose,” he explains. “With PointsBetting, the more you’re right, the more you win. For example, if you bet the New York Knicks at plus-10, and they win by five, you win 15 times your bet. If they lose by five, you’ve beaten the spread by five points so you win five times the amount of your bet. It’s higher risk, higher reward.” Gamblers embrace the concept in which a running back’s over-under can be 40 yards, for example, with an additional payout for every yard over that total. Aitken has led PointsBet’s U.S. operation as CEO since 2019, spearheading the company’s impressive expansion and steadfast commitment to providing users the quickest and most userfriendly app (iOS and Android) while also providing the best content and experience for sports bettors. Aitken has challenged PointsBet, one of the fastest growing online gaming operators in the country, to remain at the forefront of introducing unique product features and bettor-first initiatives, as well as to continuously offer the most bet types in the world across all major sports. Because PointsBet uses its own technology, Aitken says they have an edge. “It was a big focus by the founders,” he says. “We wanted to create our own technology from back to front so we could control our own destiny. If we come up with a great idea, we can immediately put it in front of our clients. Our competitors have to send it offshore to a third party and request that the change be made. It gives us a big advantage.” Aitken cut his teeth in the sports gambling world at Tom Waterhouse, an Australian bookmaker, where he handled multimillion-dollar bets and learned to differentiate between sharp and recreational action. When global gaming entity William Hill eventually purchased Tom Waterhouse, Aitken oversaw the company’s integrated advertising during televised sporting events in Australia while also rising up the ranks to lead the company’s risk unit, overseeing the P&L. As head of risk, Aitken learned the importance of technology in bookmaking, ultimately shaping the vision for what would become PointsBet’s strong in-house tech foundation. Aitken later became William Hill’s trading and operations director, overseeing hundreds of employees in the quantitative analytics, customer service, content and accounting departments. While in this role, he drove the NBA to be the largest volume sport for the business by investing in product, promotions and pricing initiatives. A native of Melbourne, Australia, Aitken received a bachelor of commerce in business from Deakin University. He and his family now reside in Denver, Colorado, where he helped establish PointsBet’s new U.S. headquarters. —Dave Bontempo
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 8:39 PM Page 22
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Shake Your Moneymaker Jason Ader • President and Co-Founder, SpringOwl Asset Management very investor in the gaming industry knows the name Jason Ader. As a gaming analyst for Bear Stearns in the 1990s, he was front and center in advising where and when to invest your money. And in the 2000s, his reputation as an activist investor has led to several sales, buyouts and mergers. He credits his first boss in the financial field for his gaming exposure. “I worked for a money manager in the ’80s, and he was focused on growth industries,” Ader says. “There were two industries that he was really looking at—gaming and the cellular telephone industry. Excalibur was about to open, ushering in the new resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, and the Mashantucket Pequot tribe had just received the OK to open a casino, so there was this potential for massive growth in the tribal area. “And the first riverboat casinos were approved in the Midwest. This money manager saw the potential for gaming to move well beyond the two locations where it already existed. Both industries have done pretty well since then.”
It’s a Bear Moving to Bear Stearns was also a pivot point in his life. The company, which is now owned by JP Morgan Chase, was a seminal incubator for the gaming industry. “I learned a lot at Bear Stearns,” says Ader. “(Then CEO) Ace Greenberg taught me a lot. He provided a lot of the capital to the Atlantic City casino companies in the ’80s.” As his notoriety grew as the leading gaming analyst on Wall Street, Ader knew he wanted more. “I wanted to move from being the gaming expert to becoming a principal investor, and Bear Stearns allowed me to transition within the firm, so it was a great situation,” he says. After working as an investment principal for several firms, Ader formed SpringOwl Asset Management to take advantage of opportunities in the online gaming space. In his role with SpringOwl, Ader has been described as an “activist investor,” a description he disputes. “The press has labeled me that, but I think that’s a mischaracterization,” he says. “Maybe outspoken is a better word.” He says he’s helped many companies increase valuation by working with them, not against them. “I had a great eight-year relationship with Las Vegas Sands, getting involved with the company very early on,” he explains. “We were involved with the amazing business turnaround after the financial crisis, and ultimately Las Vegas Sands became the biggest hospitality company in the world. “I love working with management teams constructively and helping them build shareholder value, but there is potentially a moment when shareholders can question whether management has the shareholders’ best interest in mind. In that context, I’ve never been afraid to express my views.”
Playing by the Rules One of the first investments made with SpringOwl was with Amaya, the owners of PokerStars and later known as the Stars Group. This is where Ader met Rafi Ashkenazi. 22
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
“He is an amazing leader, and did a great job transforming the Stars Group,” says Ader. After the Stars Group was sold to Flutter, Ashkenazi became COO of Playtech, and SpringOwl took a position with that company. Ader says he was impressed with Playtech’s technological abilities. “Playtech stood out to me as being one of the most misunderstood and undervalued gaming companies with amazing B2B technology,” he says. “That technology processes 1 billion bets every day with a perfectly stable architecture with superior payment systems.” Playtech, however, had previously done business with gray-market gaming, and has had trouble getting licensed in highly regulated jurisdictions. Ader was able to help the company clean up, and today Playtech is the subject of a bidding war between Australian slot supplier Aristocrat Leisure Limited and a group that includes ex-Formula 1 chief Eddie Jordan and industry veteran Keith O’Loughlin. Ader says he doesn’t play favorites. “The highest offer is always the best,” he says, “but I don’t mind taking shares in the acquiring company as well. We loved when we were involved in the bwin-party acquisition by GVC, which is now Entain, and we’ve done very well there. I’d say the same for the Stars Group when it was acquired by Flutter where the stock price doubled in the first year.”
Online Outlook Ader is a little cautious about the online gaming market, particularly the sports betting component. “My yellow flag is that there’s been a lot of price inflation,” he says. “There are so many companies in the marketplace and an exceptional amount of marketing spend. It’s really not a profitable business right now in the context of the U.S. sports betting industry. There are a few standouts including Flutter and bwin in terms of how much cash flow they generate, but it’s still very early days in the U.S. and the potential is extraordinary. I expect a continued correction downward in the short term. “I much prefer right now the traditional gaming business—the land-based casinos. We’re starting to see the end of the pandemic, and I can see a major travel recovery.” And that includes the Asian gaming market, where Ader is now leading his first effort with a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) in an IPO of the Okada integrated resort in Manila. “As soon as the Asian markets open up and we get through 2022, and ’23, we’re likely to see record numbers similar to what we’re seeing today in the U.S. market,” he says. —Roger Gros
Technology and Expertise to Drive Your Sportsbook Success IGT’s PlaySports solution is playing a pivotal role in shaping the U.S. sports betting market. Its capacity to support a wide range of operators and move the player experience forward are driving growth for customers. Our next-generation betting engine and highperforming omnichannel platform are quickly becoming the industry’s preferred technology stack, processing the largest share of legal U.S. sports wagers placed in 2021. Backed by scalable technology, turnkey services, and dedicated experts, operators get the inside edge with IGT’s comprehensive market-ready solutions, designed to increase ROI and enhance customer success.
Leading U.S. B2B sports betting provider. GLI-approved solutions deployed in 50+ locations in 22 U.S. states.
Contact your IGT representative today. www.IGT.com/PlaySports
© 2022 IGT Global Solutions Corporation. The trademarks used herein are owned by IGT or its affiliates, may not be used without permission, and where indicated with a ®, are registered in the U.S. IGT is committed to socially responsible gaming. Our business solutions empower customers to choose parameters and practices that become the foundation of their Responsible Gaming programs.
12/13/21 4:53 PM
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:46 PM Page 24
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Responsible Recognition Brianne Doura-Schawohl • Vice President of U.S. Policy & Strategic Development, EPIC Risk Management rianne Doura-Schawohl has a passion for solving the problems of gambling addiction through research and treatment. She addresses the issue as if she’s been studying it for her entire career. However, Doura-Schawohl, vice president of U.S. policy & strategic development for responsible gambling consultancy EPIC Risk Management, has developed the passion for what she does in the last eight years. Her original passion was government. After earning a degree in political science and government from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, she worked with political action committees and a national lobbying group for three years, until landing a position that would take her back to her native Massachusetts in 2013. That position was as director of policy and communications for the nonprofit Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, and it was where her political expertise would join with the most important educational experience in her career, as she began learning about problem gambling, gambling addiction, and what is—and is not—available to address the issue. “When I was in Massachusetts, not only did I carry a portfolio for Massachusetts at the time, but we actually served the Connecticut council as well,” Doura-Schawohl recalls. “So I was doing lobbying and government relations in the two states, and that really helped set the stage for me to have an understanding and appreciation of the challenges of the infrastructure around gambling addiction within the U.S. system.” Those challenges normally related to a lack of the infrastructure to identify and treat gambling addiction in the U.S. at large, she says. It’s a concern she took to Washington, D.C. in 2018, when she became legislative director for the National Council on Problem Gambling, and when she joined EPIC Risk Management in September 2020. “Going over to the national council, representing all 50 states and jurisdictions, I saw just how fractured of an issue this is,” she says. EPIC is a unique consultancy for problem gambling research, in that its founder and CEO, Paul Buck, formed the company eight years ago after he was released from prison for crimes connected to his own gambling addiction. There are many other consultants with what the company calls “lived experi-
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
ence” who join experts like Doura-Schawohl and others to work with governments in 24 countries to help craft responsible gaming and gambling addiction policy. Doura-Schawohl joined the company just as the Covid-19 crisis was accelerating the growth of online gaming and mobile sports betting. “When there’s greater access (to gambling), as we’ve seen, there’s also an increase of of problems,” she says, “and something that we’ve always faced within the problem gambling sector is that we’re often the very last to get funded and the very first to get cut when it comes to programs. “And when states were facing increased budget pressures, problem gambling services were experiencing exorbitant cuts to the already underfunded programs.”
At the top of Doura-Schawohl’s priorities for the coming year—a year in which she says she will form her own separate consultancy—is addressing the disparity in the U.S. of programs to identify and treat gambling addiction. “The federal government actually doesn’t recognize gambling addiction,” she notes. “It’s one of the few addictions that it doesn’t address in any substantive way. And I think for the first time ever, the (gaming) industry is really feeling the impact and effects of that.” It’s one of the reasons there is no national problem gambling helpline, and it’s why officials in different states are not on the same page in addressing gambling addiction. One way to change the situation is through education, as EPIC did at a November 30 symposium on problem gambling that brought together lobbyists like American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller, problem gambling professionals and more than 100 C-suite executives from gaming companies and other stakeholders such as sports organizations, “with the objective of having an honest, raw and scripted conversation about what more we need to be doing collectively,” Doura-Schawohl says. “It brought together all the important stakeholders within this ecosystem.” She says conferences such as this, along with the university research being done in Australia, Canada and elsewhere, are essential in the effort to have government in the U.S. address the problem of gambling addiction. “My most important goal is that the federal government finally recognizes gambling addiction for what it is—a true addiction that deserves the full weight and support of the government,” she says. “But my priorities also include ensuring that all of the emerging and new markets, as they consider (gambling) legalization and regulation, are making substantive commitments to problem and responsible gambling within their states—that markets that have been already experiencing this expansion may examine what they’ve done right and wrong, and we can work together to address some of those struggles and issues. “It’s about being that thought leader in this space and bringing those that really haven’t given good consideration to this topic to the table, to show the value that we can have if we work together to address this.” —Frank Legato
Project2:Layout 1 12/16/21 11:57 AM Page 1
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:47 PM Page 26
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Ready or Not, Esports is Coming Marek Suchar • Esports Betting Services; MD Partnerships, Oddin.gg asino gaming has struggled for years to find the secret of how to incorporate esports into its attractions. The industry has tried lots of strategies—setting up esports lounges, building esports arenas, hosting esports tournaments, and yes, even betting on esports events. Results have been uneven, but Marek Suchar, the leader of esports betting firm Oddin.gg, thinks there’s a general misconception of what esports is. “When people refer to esports they’re really just thinking about (video) gaming in general,” he says. “Yes, in gaming there are all demographics playing it, including children. That is not necessarily the case for esports. The esports players are older and more sophisticated. It’s more of a cultural thing. When you think of esports, you think of Counter Strike, DOTA and League of Legends where the participants are generally older because these games came out 10 or 15 years ago and the people playing them grew up on the games. Now, they’re at least 18 years of age and older.” Suchar also warns that esports largely exists online, and to make it an in-person event, there needs to be a solid plan. “Esports is mainly an online thing,” he says. “People play the game and watch the game online. At the same time, esports is a social gathering and betting can be part of it. So casinos can actually position themselves that they can offer esports as entertainment. Most casinos, especially in Las Vegas, are all about entertainment. It’s a time to watch and play and possibly transmit it globally, and also be able to bet on it. This way the casinos can become attractive to the younger generation and capture the imagination of the younger generation. “Casinos need to have a consistent and longterm strategy.” To attract young adults to their properties, Suchar says casinos should think local. “An esports program must be much more concentrated on a local presence, with local content,” he says. Oddin can help casinos develop that strategy, says Suchar. “Oddin is a B2B esports betting provider,” he says. “Almost 90 percent of the betting volume
comes online. We provide the odds for the contests by capturing the data from millions of games. We explain how you can monetize and engage the players. Events that happen globally—CS-Go, League of Legends and the professional leagues—can become a profit center for a casino by engaging the bettors and keeping them interested in the games. We can help build the brand, CRM and set the lines. We have clients in Australia and Spain, and recently applied for a license in New Jersey. Suchar says his company is unique because it has no player exposure; its only task is to bring esports betting to its gaming customers. He says that Unikrn, an esports betting company that was recently acquired by Entain, is unlike Oddin because it’s a B2C operator, not a platform provider. “It would be an example of a client, not a competitor,” he says. Casinos are also concerned that esports has a vulnerability to match fixing because of the nature of its electronic game play. Suchar says there are protections in place to prevent that. “Oddin is a member of ESIC, the Esports Integrity Commission,” he says. “That organization focuses on the integrity of esports by monitoring everything that is happening in the industry. Oddin is there to ensure that all games are fair and transparent.” No matter what you feel about esports, says Suchar, you need to be prepared for it. “Esports betting is happening whether you like it or not,” he explains. “Our vision for the next couple of years is to make the betting safe. By bringing the betting from the offshore sites to legal sites, we can make that happen. We can prevent underage gambling, encourage safer gaming, and bring integrity to the process. In that way, esports is not that much different than regular sports betting. Regulators should not be reluctant to support it because it can bring clarity and integrity to the process by making it mainstream. —Patrick Roberts
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
The Front 9 Brenda Lavell • Chairwoman, Table Mountain Rancheria Band of Indians f there’s one thing Brenda Lavell has a lot of, it’s passion. For life, for family, for her job, for her tribe. Her effervescence spills over. So does her determination. Lavell grew up outside of Fresno in central California. Her post-high school studies began at the Institute of American Indian Arts, thanks to efforts from her high school art teacher. A severe knee injury while playing softball required surgery and Lavell transferred to Fresno City College. Once healed, she worked three jobs to pay for college, including McDonald’s. With an associate degree in business administration and management, Lavell continued her education at Fresno State. She graduated with a bachelor of science degree in business and human resources and got a job at the local Table Mountain Casino, owned and run by her tribe, Table Mountain Rancheria Band of Indians. Lavell credits McDonald’s for her success in the hospitality industry. At McDonald’s she had to work fast and work efficiently while pleasing guests, same as in the casino hotel business, she says. She rose to vice chair of the Tribal Council. The council asked Lavell and her uncle John Burrough to
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:47 PM Page 27
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Let Me Entertain You Keith Sheldon • President of Entertainment, Hard Rock International work on acquiring a local golf course. “We took the challenge, researched, traveled, negotiated and presented our recommendations for a proposed purchase that would complement the growth of the tribe,” Lavell says. Since 2008, Lavell has run Eagle Springs Golf and Country Club as executive director. The tribe appointed her to the Economic Development Committee in 2012. The tribe has since invested in a new education center, police department, government offices, a medical center, a tribal museum and housing. All of which means jobs, she says. Amid this, the tribe, like the rest of the world, had to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Lavell expects the aftermath to linger. “I believe all tribal nations and surrounding communities will see the repercussions for years to come,” she says. “Like many tribes, we have opened our health care clinic to members of our staff, their families and members of our communities for vaccines and booster shots.” Nothing should be a problem when you have a strong team to work with the mentality of “let’s make it happen,” says Lavell, who credits the casino management team and executive team for brainstorming with the Tribal Council and casino’s board of directors on dealing with the pandemic and the ongoing battle of employment. For Lavell, anything is possible if you have the passion and compassion to find solutions to any obstacle. “It’s about finding the positive in everything.” Her family has provided a support mechanism: from her late father, Bertram James Lavell, to Marian Burrough, the grandmother who raised her and provided guidance and discipline, to her grandfather Lester Burrough who famously told her “Get up, daylight’s burning, you have things to do and people to meet; you’ll have time to sleep when you’re six feet under.” Lavell has these words of advice to her younger self: “Learn your lessons from mistakes; you are going to make them. Recognize it, fix it and move on.” Meanwhile, Lavell is working on fine-tuning her golf game. “If anyone would like to join me, I know an awesome course.” —Bill Sokolic
hen he graduated from Brooklyn Law School, Keith Sheldon knew his heart belonged in the entertainment field more than the law. He had interned at AEG, one of the largest concert promoters in the country. “I pivoted to what I was most passionate about,” says Sheldon. “I have no regrets.” He got a paying gig with AEG. During his five-year stay, he headed up entertainment at the XL Center in Hartford and the KFC You! Center in Louisville. He shifted to BSE Global as vice president of programming for the parent company of the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets, and its NBA G League team, the Long Island Nets. Seeing a candidate primed with experience in venues along the East Coast, Jim Allen, Hard Rock International chairman and CEO, hired Sheldon as president of entertainment for Hard Rock International. In that capacity, he would oversee the entire entertainment portfolio for the company from Sacramento to Atlantic City. His task was to bring the best product on stage. “There’s no revenue when there’s nothing on stage,” Sheldon says. Unlike his time with AEG and BSE, at Hard Rock, Sheldon had the entire casino world to deal with—to worry about—a world in which entertainment was a cog in a much larger wheel, not just the wheel. “Casino entertainment was as much about attracting customers in a broader ecosystem, one that operates 24/7/365,” Sheldon says. Entertainment is part of a machine. In the arena world, entertainment is the machine. “You need a hook to bring folks in to play and stay,” he says. “Perhaps that hook is Guns N’ Roses.” But in the Hard Rock world, it’s also hotels, cafes and touch points, retail collections, music memorabilia. The flagship Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida leads with big events, be it Miss Universe or the Rolling Stones. “It’s about attracting new customers all the time through entertainment,” Sheldon says. That means the entertainment needs to attract enough of the kinds of customers who will do more than attend a concert and leave. There are exceptions. The Jonas Brothers, for example, have the kind of mass appeal that crosses generational lines.
“They are an incredible fit into what we’re doing. Those acts have cultural relevancy in the future,” Sheldon says. Corporate Hard Rock—Sheldon and his staff— works with individual Hard Rock properties on their plans. “Entertainment is part of the DNA of everything we do,” he says. Take Atlantic City. The Hard Rock resort is in a competitive environment, competing with Philadelphia and New York venues. The property relies on the big room, the Etess Arena, which holds 6,500 people. On the other side of the country, Hard Rock in Sacramento will be getting its first entertainment vehicle in the spring. “We’re excited about that space. It only holds 2,500. So, their programs will differ from the Etess,” Sheldon says. His department works with his old bosses at AEG, but also with Live Nation, artists themselves, and other content providers. The company seeks the best opportunities for the mix of cash and casino customers who visit the properties. Sheldon arrived at Hard Rock in the middle of the Covid-19 casino closures. “From a macro perspective there has never been anything like Covid. It was devastating to the entertainment industry,” he says. Entertainment is back in a major way post-pandemic. “I’m optimistic we’ll become stronger than ever,” Sheldon says. He credits the Hard Rock “Safe and Sound” program for easing the way. “People felt comfortable,” says Sheldon. Hard Rock requires masks for all staff and backof-the-house workers. “We do what it takes to make artists feel comfortable,” Sheldon says. Jim Allen is among Sheldon’s biggest boosters. “Coming from the entertainment industry, Jim is one of the folks I’ve had to lean on. He educates me on all things I am trying to do.” —Bill Sokolic
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/17/21 7:34 AM Page 28
25 PeoPle to Watch 2022 Jersey Girl Makes Good Marie Jiacopello Jones •
Counting Blessings Brian Reynolds • Senior Vice President of Operations, Resorts World New York City
Partner, Fox Rothschild arie Jiacopello Jones may not make the announcement of a property expansion or groundbreaking industry deal. But she will ensure its completion. The gaming lawyer and partner at Fox Rothschild in Atlantic City enables lucrative deals to leap hurdles and manage speed bumps to reach the finish line. Ranked internationally in Chambers Global and named among the nation’s leading gaming attorneys by Chambers USA, Jones represents and counsels clients in all aspects of gaming law and regulation, licensing and compliance. For about three decades, the Absecon, New Jersey native has helped many companies, including Hard Rock, complete their due-diligence obligations with regulatory bodies. Some of the bigger projects have emerged in recent years. Jones is involved with the deal announced last September in which Endeavor Group, the owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, will acquire sports betting business OpenBet from Scientific Games for $1.2 billion in cash and stock. Last year, she teamed with fellow Fox attorney Nicholas Casiello Jr. to serve as regulatory counsel to Hard Rock International in the opening of its new $300 million Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary. The Fox team advised on a range of regulatory matters, including obtaining Indiana Gaming Commission licensing and approvals for Hard Rock and its principals. The star-studded grand opening of the casino and entertainment destination took place on May 14, revealing a 200,000-square-foot entertainment complex, including a 150,000-square-foot space dedicated to gaming, five food venues, an on-site sportsbook, retail shop and a 1,954seat Hard Rock Live performance venue. One of her biggest earlier projects came in helping to facilitate the $4.9 billion deal between Amaya and PokerStars in 2014. “I enjoy working with the people,” she says. “It is always dynamic. There is a different type of law that gaming encompasses. “It’s the licenses, the investing, the agreements, the transactions, special investigations. It brings a number of areas of the law into play. This process is interesting, never stagnant. “People are thinking to the future, the next project, what they can do to expand their business. It keeps you on your toes.” Jones’ star is ascending with her own company too. She has taken a higher leadership role in the company with the semi-retirement of Casiello. She also serves as co-chair of the firm’s Gaming Practice Group. Jones anticipates a brisk 2022 for the gaming industry, considering this probably the biggest growth era she has witnessed in it for a long time. “There is a lot of acquisition of various sizes and types in the gaming industry,” she says. “It’s going to be an interesting and exciting time.” Jones will be one of its guiding forces. —Dave Bontempo
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
rian Reynolds has the perfect savingspending perspective. A unique understanding of accounting and investment principles guides the senior vice president of operations for Resorts World New York City, which has boldly upgraded its gaming-hospitality footprint, and continues to be the biggest revenue producer in American commercial gaming. Reynolds’ company has a large casino, a brand-new Hyatt Regency hotel and a live horse-racing facility, Aqueduct Race Track, on its premises. It has a premier location just 2.5 miles from JFK Airport and has become a gaming and lodging destination outside of downtown New York City. Reynolds’ bean-counting background helps Resorts World branch out smartly. From 2004 to 2018 he was on the accounting side, as the director of operational accounting and vice president of finance and administration. That helped him understand the big picture as Resorts World now invests to capture market share in a rapidly changing landscape. There is a race to obtain positioning in the New York market, which just awarded mobile licenses and may grant three permanent licenses in or near New York City in 2023, and one of them could be Resort World NYC, which will mean more investment into the property. Reynolds’ knowledge of saving and spending money is important now. “I am happy to have spent the first half of my career in finance and then to transition into operations,” says the 43-year-old Niagara Falls native. “Making the leap from finance to operations has provided a good balance in going from a money stickler to a money operator. “The way the industry is evolving, there is more focus on cost savings and being the lean, green machine,” he adds. “But when you come over from accounting, you see that you can’t be penny-pinching the business into bankruptcy. “On the finance side, you think of the business as ‘this is how it is, it’s black and white.’ On the operations side, the feeling is that every day is a different story and there are so many decisions you have to make on the fly.” Reynolds’ blueprint for 2022 is clear. “The population density is an advantage to us,” he asserts. “There are 8 million-10 million people within a 10-15-mile radius of our property. We are the feeder market for the Northeast. “We feel that we are preparing ourselves to take this to the next level,” he says. “We have to get through the bulk of the pandemic and then we believe will have 90-95 percent occupancy in the hotel. We are primed to intercept as much of the international travel market as possible.” Before joining Resorts World NYC, Reynolds served as the casino controller at Valley Forge Resort and Casino, where he led the finance operations, gaming compliance, and opening the first Category 3 casino in the state of Pennsylvania. Previously, Reynolds spent six years as director of operational accounting at Mohegan Sun Pocono. He joined Mohegan Sun in 2004 when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board awarded the license for the property—the first casino to open in Pennsylvania—and led the finance operations and gaming compliance divisions for the $500 million property. Reynolds started his career with Seneca Gaming Corporation at Seneca Niagara Casino in 2002 as a revenue auditor. —Dave Bontempo
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 8:43 PM Page 30
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Rolling on the River Alex Dixon • CEO, Q Casino rowing up in Las Vegas, it’s safe to say Alex Dixon never expected to end up in Dubuque, Iowa. However, as the new CEO of Dubuque’s Q Casino settles into his role, he is ready to tackle an opportunity few are better suited to seize. The casino business is in Dixon’s blood. Born and raised in Las Vegas, he is a third-generation casino employee, his family having moved from Louisiana to Las Vegas in the 1950s. Dixon, 40, recalls watching with wonder as a child when The Mirage was being built. “When The Mirage began to emerge with the shiny lights and erupting volcano, it ignited an imagination in me that has been burning ever since,” he says. Dixon now brings that fire to bear at the Q, a unique property on an island in the Mississippi River in Dubuque that opened as the Dubuque Greyhound Park in 1985. The property is owned by the city of Dubuque. Its license-holder is the nonprofit Dubuque Racing Association, which also holds the license for the property’s only local competition, Boyd Gaming’s Diamond Jo Casino across town. The Q is facing big changes as it ends greyhound racing—the final meet is in the spring, after which the track, grandstands and the rest of Chaplain Schmitt Island will become a canvas on which the Q will create new resort amenities. Dixon’s entire career has provided an education that places him in a prime spot to transform the Q into a destination resort. He actually began in finance, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Howard University in 2002, after which he spent three years as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs in London. By 2008, he would be back in his family’s business, as director of planning & analysis for Harrah’s Las Vegas. He would advance to vice president for Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas before the operator would place him in his first role leading a casino, as vice president and assistant general manager at Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. From there, it was to MGM Resorts as GM of the MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, and finally as president and COO of Circus Circus in Las Vegas. He was a regional presi-
Out of the Ordinary Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs • President, Lifescapes International
don’t do normal. I like to do special,” says Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, president of Lifescapes International. She attributes the success of her company to its four executive principals—herself (president), Dan Trust (COO), Roger Voettiner (planting design/horticulture) and Andrew Kreft (director of design). “I do not lead alone,” she says. “We are the leadership team.” Her father, Don Brinkerhoff, founded Lifescapes, which gained fame for the spectacular Mirage volcano, the “mountain” at Wynn and the lush tropical median on the Las Vegas Strip. He died last year at 90. “My parents worked at home long before they had an office,” she recalls. “He had my brother and I doing hand drawings, taught us to color and stay inside the lines as kids. If someone had told me it would lead to me being in his firm, I would have laughed!” At Disneyland, “he took us to job sites and showed us what was coming. All we cared about was Disneyland, but he was giving me an education. “My parents insisted on creating very beautiful gardens long before we did casinos. Beauty is good business. That is our company’s underlying theme. Immersing people in something special.” Their first casino project wasn’t until the 1980s, when Sol Kerzner so sang their praises that Steve Wynn used them for his first project on the Strip, The Mirage. “Steve was really our first significant client in Las Vegas,” recalls Brinkerhoff-Jacobs. “It took three years before anyone took us seriously. It started with 30
Steve’s passion for beautiful gardens.” The Mirage is a tropical desert paradise, she says. “Our job was to find plant material that could survive Las Vegas heat in the summer and winter cold. That took a lot of trial and error. That was a very important element to our success.” Their relationship with Wynn “got our ticket punched in the world of hospitality and entertainment.” It continued to the most recent Wynn design, the Encore Boston Harbor. She adds, “It’s a very thorough design ability and understanding of proper plants capable of surviving in any location. We are very thorough. That’s one reason Steve hired us. Our plans are unique.” It’s not just the design, “but the tools you deliver to the landscape contractor so everyone understands what’s expected of them.” Today’s trends are toward drought-tolerant, like Lifescapes’ Red Rock casino project, which used drought-tolerant desert materials. “Red Rock, which won best landscaped design of the year, was full of drought-tolerant elements, very different from the Strip,” she says. “It is created to be very comfortable. It feels verdant but respects the jurisdiction of Summerlin.” She says what makes her job fun is collaborating with the owners. “The nice part of working with great clients is that once they feel comfortable with you, they don’t have to hire landscape architects,” she explains. “We’ve worked all over the world. We always assume ignorance until we make ourselves knowledgeable about that part of the world. “We’ve been around for 60 years. We’ve had an incredible career. We do very thorough plans—we meet with the client, to find out what the client wants.” —Dave Ross
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:47 PM Page 31
25 dent for casino vendor PureStar when tapped for the top job at the Q. Meanwhile, Dixon continued learning the business. Still in his 30s at Horseshoe, he took it upon himself to learn every position in the casino—from table and slot operations to housekeeping to actually putting on a valet’s uniform and parking cars. “Our job as leaders is to put our front-line team members in the best position to be successful,” Dixon says, “and to do that, you’ve got to really understand what the challenges are on a day-to-day basis. We need to perform those roles out there on the front line to really understand what it’s like, because as we allocate capital as leaders and prioritize operating expenses— the number of people needed, the time the shift starts—you can’t do that from a conference room. You’ve got to do that out on the floor.” Dixon says he looks forward to instilling that same kind of culture at the Q. “We have a very, very good front-line team,” he says. “We are ‘Midwest nice,’ as they like to say here in Iowa. So, we’ve got to make sure that our physical assets complement the phenomenal team we already have in place.” It is the development of those physical assets that will occupy Dixon in 2022. “We need to reinvest back in our business,” he says. “The first priority is buying new slot machines—we need to reinvest in our core casino floor, and we need to reinvest in our customers.” Beyond the casino floor, Dixon says his team will carefully consider the best amenities to add to Chaplain Schmitt Island. “As I think about our priorities going into the next year, it is really to unlock the potential of not only in Dubuque, Iowa, but really the Mississippi River,” Dixon says. “We are uniquely positioned on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River at the nexus of Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, and we have an opportunity to really introduce this region to this great natural resource. So, I’m excited, in the next phase of our development, to unlock that potential and get people to the river.” As far as the specific plans for expansion of the Q, Dixon says that should become clear in the coming months. “We’re undergoing extensive research to understand what our customers’ wants and needs are, to really understand what the community would like,” he says. “Then, we’re going to be infusing some of my vision, and that of others within the industry who’ve had expertise in developing large regional destination resorts. “We’re at the early stages of planning, listening to our not only team members, but to the various people on the island, as well as within the region. I’m excited as that begins to take shape and we begin to outline some of our future plans.” —Frank Legato
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Rolling with the Punches Jenny Holaday • President, Encore Boston Harbor or Jenny Holaday, 2021 was the best of times and the worst of times. In the “best” column, she was named president of Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbor—the first woman casino president in Massachusetts, and one of a select few in the industry. In the “worst” column, she took the reins during Covid-19, which had already caused a months-long shutdown of the property, followed by a grand reopening, then a viral surge that caused a return to part-time operations—all at a multibillion-dollar resort that had only been open since mid-2019. In the darkest days, Holaday recalls, “Our only goal was to break even.” For all its challenges, the turmoil left Holaday and her team battle-tested. Late last year, when the omicron variant was identified—again, just as Encore was reaching peak occupancy and revenues—Holaday was unfazed. “I was definitely holding my breath, because we were at the third or fourth chapter of this book, but I told myself, ‘OK, Jenny, we know how to pivot, we’ve learned how to be nimble. If something happens, in many ways we’ve already got the blueprint” for survival. Holaday is used to rolling with the punches, thanks to her mother, Sue Ewald. A single parent with scant work experience, Ewald found her first job in the gaming industry, making $1.15 an hour as a cashier at Harrah’s Reno’s famous Headliner Room. She followed her star from Reno to Las Vegas to Atlantic City and back, and the family tagged along. “We moved around a lot,” says Holaday. “I went to five high schools in four years.” Like Eloise in the famous children’s book series, she also had the extraordinary experience of living at the Sahara Las Vegas, for three full months. She remembers standing on the balcony, eating Monte Cristo sandwiches and marveling at the lights of the city. (By the way, her mom ended up as executive vice president of Harvey’s Lake Tahoe.) In her own career, Holaday was similarly nomadic, living and working in eight gaming markets and working in many departments: loyalty marketing, retail marketing, and seniorlevel property management, among others. So, should aspiring executives be specialists or generalists? Holaday says, “Both. You have to have a core competency in something—if you come up through finance, you’d better be the best in the building at balancing the books. But I’ve always attributed my success to the fact that I bounced around disciplines a lot. Don’t go too vertical in this business. The more you learn, the better.” She also advises up-and-comers to find an executive champion. “Get noticed by the people who have influence, so when they’re sitting around the table talking about the next class of leaders, your name is in that hat.” And yes, she adds, approach that person, and make the ask. “It’s especially important in larger organizations, where it’s easy to become invisible. Take initiative. Be bold.” Asked for her best career advice, Holaday offers this: “Time is your most valuable currency, and everybody will notice how you spend it; it will telegraph to people what you value. So when I spend time at town halls with frontline staff, I’m letting everybody know that those people are important to me. If I eat lunch at the employee cafeteria, as opposed to in one of our restaurants, that’s showing that I’m accessible and part of the team. How you spend your time says everything about you. I’m trying to live that.” Last November, when Holaday spoke to GGB for this profile, Encore was celebrating record revenues for October and its best month for convention sales. Whatever comes next, Holaday says she and her team can handle it. “At times with Covid, it was devastating,” she says. “But I’m not as anxious as I used to be on Monday mornings. Our experience in changing landscapes and operational requirements has grown pretty deep. So bring it on.” —Marjorie Preston
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:47 PM Page 32
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Court of Second Chances
Compassion And Humility
Honorable Judge Cheryl Moss • Retired
Rob Cinneli • President and General Manager, Sycuan Casino and Resort and Singing Hills Golf Resort at Sycuan
residing over the nation’s first Gambling Diversion Treatment Court, Nevada Judge Cheryl Moss was a pioneer in the enlightened management of problem gambling. But she didn’t chart the course alone. Her mother, Dr. Rena M. Nora, onetime chief of psychiatry at the Las Vegas Veterans Administration Medical Center, recognized the problem in the veteran community. Nora, in turn, was informed by the work of Dr. Robert L. Custer, who established the nation’s first clinic for the treatment of problem gambling, in 1974. Collectively, these trailblazers advanced the concept of problem gambling not as a moral or ethical failing but as a behavioral disorder—one that is treatable. Problem gambling can have ruinous consequences for the gambler’s career, finances and personal relationships. “But until 1980, nobody thought it was an addiction,” says Moss. “People committed crimes to support their gambling addiction. In this case, the money was the needle.” As a family court judge, Moss detected the connection between problem gambling and issues raised in divorce and custody cases, like child neglect and the squandering of assets. In 2001, her first year on the bench, she helped developed an assessment tool to determine if problem gambling contributed to those problems. The seed was planted for the Gambling Diversion Treatment Court, finally established in 2018. The court allows defendants to accept treatment in lieu of incarceration. It isn’t easy, and it’s certainly not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Defendants must first plead guilty to a crime—usually theft or embezzlement—and acknowledge that the crime was the result of problem gambling. A mental health professional must sign off on the diagnosis. Defendants must then commit to a rigorous treatment program that includes therapy, random drug tests and GPS tracking, and pay some of the costs. Restitution is also part of the deal. Some gamblers may not be able to pay off their debts in a lifetime. But they must write that check, every single month. It’s an intensive three-year program, with a light at the end of the tunnel. “The benefit at the very end is a complete dismissal of your conviction,” says Moss. “Your record is erased, you get a clean slate.” At first, the court was considered a radical notion. “I remember speaking in front of a room of about 300 attorneys, and the school of thought was, ‘(Gamblers) did it to themselves, they stole money, they should go to jail,’” says Moss. “It’s not really true, but that stigma is still out there.” The judge, now retired, describes her approach as tough love. “When I was a judge, I’d say, ‘I’m not your babysitter, I’m not going to hold your hand. It’s up to you to make changes in your life. If you make those changes, you’re on a good path to recovery. If you’re resistant to the changes, you’re likely going to end up in prison.’” As gambling continues to expand across states, countries and online, Moss sees a greater need for such treatment, and is working to see her model expand. “I’m forward-thinking,” she says. “Nevada is done, so let’s try and get this in New Jersey, in Pennsylvania, in the U.K. OK, we got one thing done. Let’s move on to the next project.” —Marjorie Preston
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
ob Cinneli, general manager of Sycuan Casino and Resort and Singing Hills Golf Resort at Sycuan in Southern California, took over in December 2019, nine months after Sycuan completed its expansion project that included expanded casino space, a new hotel tower, a pool and spa and a food court. Before joining Sycuan he worked for Las Vegas Sands Corp. for eight years. He started as executive director of global slots, overseeing slot operations for LVS globally, including at their Macau and Singapore properties. Previously, he worked for WMS Gaming at the height of its growth— spending 10 years in various positions. “I was brought in to Sands in 2011, after I had been 10 years at WMS,” he recalls. “The gentlemen I was selling to at Sands really wanted to bring in someone who knew the manufacturing side of the business—someone with the experience to make sure we were getting fair pricing.” With LVS, he spent a lot of time in Macau and lived in Singapore for a year working at Marina Bay Sands. He ended his time there as senior vice president of gaming operations and casino marketing, overseeing slot operations, table games operations, casino marketing, database marketing and the loyalty club. “I’m one of the few who has joined from the vendor side and gone to the operations side,” Cinneli observes. “Usually, it’s the other way around. It’s been a great experience.” At Sycuan, “it’s a whole new world,” says Cinneli. “I’m not just focused on the casino, but spend more of my time on the rest of the operation, since they take more time. I have a good team at Sands that followed me to Sycuan who work for me. So that’s been great for all of us.” Cinneli thinks the reason he got the job is, “I manage with compassion and humility. I’m the guy on the floor picking up bottles from the floor and making sure those on the floor get what they need. For me, being humble in my role and being compassionate is huge. We have to understand that people have things going on in their lives other than work. I get a little Pollyanna-ish sometimes, because we can’t always make everything work out. But what got me this job is that Sycuan is just a large family business. It’s their business. I’m here to run it and manage it, but I’m going to go with their guidance. The most important thing for them was treating the team members well.” Recently the casino held a “10-year-plus” party for the more than 700 employees who had been there longer than 10 years. “That’s half your work force,” says Cinneli. “You have 100 people who have been here 25 years. When Sycuan brought me in, they wanted that family feel. It’s been a perfect fit. I get asked why I left the biggest gaming company in the world. The answer is, 1) we are not little; but 2) at some point it’s time to move on. It was another leap of faith that worked out really well.” —Dave Ross
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 8:40 PM Page 34
PeoPle to Watch 2022
The People’s Champion Jan Jones Blackhurst • Board Member, Caesars Entertainment; Chief Executive in Residence, International Gaming Institute, UNLV o understand the astonishing career of Jan Jones Blackhurst, it helps to know what her father told her as a young girl. “You can be a sheep or you can be a goat,” businessman Roger Laverty admonished his daughter. “The sheep follow each other around. The goats go in another direction.” Over a lifetime in business, gaming, public service and education, Blackhurst has been the goat: toppling boundaries, shattering glass ceilings and challenging the status quo—for herself and others. Karlos LaSane, regional VP of government relations for Caesars Entertainment, once called her “the people’s champion,” who took a stand for women, minorities and the LGBTQ community at a time when there was no army behind her. So she helped build the army, then led the troops. Blackhurst grew up in Southern California, “at a time when women weren’t encouraged to do anything.” Her father didn’t subscribe to that limiting view. “I was about 11 years old, playing football in the back yard with my brothers, when I got hit in the solar plexus and got the wind knocked out of me,” Blackhurst recalls. “My dad came running over, and I thought he was going to say, ‘Oh honey, are you OK?’ Instead, he picked me up by the back of my shirt, dragged me to the side of the field and said, ‘When you’re feeling better, get up and get back in the game.’” She’s been in it ever since, to everyone’s benefit. A list of her accomplishments would stretch the length of the Vegas Strip and back; the effects have been felt across the industry. Best known as the first woman mayor of Las Vegas, and one of the most effective, Blackhurst became a standard-bearer for social justice, and saw that it was codified in the city’s dominant industry. In 1999, Caesars Entertainment CEO Phil Satre asked her to become the company’s first executive vice president of government relations and corporate responsibility. Blackhurst agreed that parity and equal representation in the workplace is more than good policy. It’s good business. “If you advocate for people, it means all people,” she says. “If you treat your employees well, if you’re responsible in your community and to your customers, you’re going to have a much better business.” At Caesars, she created the first responsible
gaming program, which met with instant pushback from lawyers. “They tried to kill it. They said, ‘You can’t set this kind of standard.’ The rest of the industry wasn’t happy either. But there was no question responsible gaming had to be the major driver of the code. Thankfully, I had the support of the CEOs, starting with Phil and then Gary (Loveman), who agreed this was the right thing to do.” Other companies saw the handwriting on the wall, and adopted similar standards, which are business as usual in most industries today. In 2019, after Caesars merged with Eldorado Resorts, Blackhurst left her executive role and joined the board of directors. She then became chief executive in residence at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas International Gaming Institute, spearheading an initiative that promotes diversity and inclusion in hospitality, gaming and tourism. Today, she’s putting the finishing touches on a jobs platform that will match women and women of color to employment in those industries. “It’s like the eHarmony of hiring programs,” says Blackhurst with a laugh. “It will look at your resume, assess it for veracity and background, search it for skills, leadership and aptitude, then, given all your life experience, say, ‘Here are all the jobs you’re qualified for,’ or ‘Here’s where you could go if you upskilled in these areas.’” The program, which she expects to launch early this year, will include online mentorship and also match candidates and companies based on culture. It’s an answer to the oft-heard refrain: “I would love to hire more women, but I just can’t find them.” At a time when some executives would be content to rest on their laurels, Blackhurst is powering forward. For her, it brings to mind one of her first and most public victories. “The night I was elected mayor of Las Vegas, to everyone’s shock my dad was standing behind me, and I could hear him saying, ‘I raise goats. I raise goats.’” —Marjorie Preston
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
Digital Play Gil Rotem • President, Digital & Betting, iGaming, IGT PlayDigital or any major slot manufacturer these days, designing and building physical slot machines—regardless of how groundbreaking or amazing the newest hardware may be—is no longer enough to compete. That is, of course, because of the meteoric rise of online gaming, including mobile sports betting, even before the boost it invariably received from shutdowns early in the current pandemic. The largest and most successful slot manufacturers are currently focusing on boosting their digital business in the growing iGaming market. That’s why, in September, International Game Technology PLC broke off its iGaming business from the Global Gaming division to create a new digital and betting division, IGT PlayDigital, appointing Enrico Drago as CEO of digital & betting. It’s also why Drago moved quickly to bring experienced talent into the new division. In November, Drago named Gil Rotem, a 20-year veteran of the European internet gaming business at 888 and bet365, as president of iGaming within IGT PlayDigital. After five years heading technology and other operational roles for 888, Rotem spent 10 years running iGaming business for bet365, leaving as group director of gaming strategy before spending the last four years as an independent consultant for the U.K.-based iGaming and sports betting giant, as well as others—including IGT. Rotem says the key to success in the growing iGaming market is simple: put out good games. “Content is king, as they say,” Rotem says. “My
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:47 PM Page 35
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Hire Power focus is to build the best environment for players to play, and it comes from the quality of the games. The key is to have games the players like, and brands with which they are familiar.” But it’s more than that, he adds—producers of iGaming content must pay attention to the entire experience of players choosing that content. “What is the experience you want to give to the players when they play?” he says. “How is the engagement, the frequency of the bonuses?” At bet365, he says, he concentrated on the “proprietary concept for bet365.” That, he says, means the entire experience. “What I bring to the table is really the knowhow in how to engage with the player, how to create content that players really like—and this is on top of the well-known, good-working content IGT is developing, and which has been proven on the land-based side.” Under this product philosophy, the next step is to continue to expand IGT’s digital footprint. “Our plan is to utilize the land-based content we know has been working quite well in every jurisdiction—all the European jurisdictions, plus the U.S. and Canada,” Rotem says. “Cleopatra and brands like Wheel of Fortune are very well-known for the player’s engagement, but the other thing we’re going to do is to increase our in-house ability to develop proprietary content. “We currently have very good relationships with the big operators in Europe, and we’re going to extend it and expand it by adding more and more content... We are planning to accelerate the performance and delivery of the games. One thing we’re not going to do is compromise our quality. This is our strength.” Over the coming year, expect that delivery to accelerate. “We’ve increased the cadence of releasing new games,” says Rotem, “and we’re enhancing our platform, to allow that quality to develop. What we are going to focus on is the quality of the games, because we feel this is what distinguishes us from our competitors.” Rotem says the opportunity to work with Drago is one of the reasons he left his independent consultancy to join IGT full-time. “Enrico is one of the reasons I joined, because I had been consulting for Enrico for quite a few months,” he says. “We really see eye-to-eye; we have the same vision on what we plan to do and what we want to do with IGT content and IGT operations.” For 2022, Rotem says the goals are simple—retain IGT’s leading position in all iGaming jurisdictions, and to be first in every new jurisdiction. Rotem’s hiring in November coincided with an announcement during an investor day of a realignment of the digital division, even with the possibility of a spinoff and listing of IGT PlayDigital as a separate entity. Rotem says that even though the potential changes were part of the reason he was brought on, his focus remains the same. “Right now,” he says, “we’re focusing on continuing our growth, and continuing our good performance and quality.” —Frank Legato
Laura Lee • Chief Human Resources Officer, MGM Resorts International he late General Electric honcho Jack Welch once called human resources “every company’s ‘killer app.’ What could possibly be more important than who gets hired, developed, promoted or moved out the door?” It’s HR’s job not only to recruit and hire great people but put them together to create great teams. For Laura Lee, chief human resources officer at MGM Resorts International, that task is magnified manyfold. Her 250-member department oversees approximately 60,000 employees across 18 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Lee began her career at MGM in 1989, behind the front desk at The Mirage in Las Vegas; she rose through the ranks at Treasure Island, Circus Circus, Bellagio and Mandalay Bay. The Las Vegas native says she enjoyed hospitality, but “always had a calling for human resources, the people side of the business. Knowing how hardcore and fast-paced this industry can be, it’s important to have a human-centered leadership style.” That approach has been critical in the last two years, when casino workers endured a tense carousel of shutdowns, furloughs, reopenings, reduced capacities and all-new ways of doing business. “The true colors of organizations really come out during difficult times,” Lee says. “During the pandemic, when we were offboarding a large number of employees, we knew they were watching what we did as leaders.” To ease the trauma of enforced separations—at MGM, some 18,000 people were laid off in the U.S.—the company offered extended health care benefits, helped workers navigate the maze of unemployment benefit programs, and posted job openings outside MGM on its employee portal. When business resumed, she says, MGM welcomed back a lot of “boomerang employees”—those who left, pursued other opportunities, then came back. They’re attracted in part by many opportunities to advance. MGM offers workforce development programs such as Jumpstart, which helps hourly employees ascend to the supervisory ranks; Essentials of Leadership, which supports managers in their professional advancement; and the Accelerated Leadership Program, which grooms people for executive-level jobs through a year-long virtual development program. Lee also helped establish MGM’s College Opportunity Program, an online certificate and degree program available at no cost to employees. MGM is also deeply invested in workplace diversity. In 2018, prior to the opening of MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, Lee took a broad-based and nontraditional approach to hiring that included “pre-apprentice training,” job readiness workshops, and special outreach to women, veterans and the underserved and underemployed, including people on public assistance. The extraordinary effort paid off for the company and the community. When the resort opened, according to Lee, “it had met all its hiring goals for local city residents, minorities and veterans.” That’s not all. A new sabbatical program allows employees with at least five years’ tenure to take up to six weeks off to travel, to be with family, or just to “reset.” If Lee were hiring somebody for her own job, what skills would that person need? “Agility,” she says immediately. “Flexibility. Things change on a daily basis in this business, and we need to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the future of our employees and their development.” Gaming is well-known as a meritocracy, where people can start at ground level and work their way to the top. It’s true of Lee, who began at the front desk and now occupies the Csuite; it’s also true of MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle, who started his career working banquets at the company he now commands. “There are so many leadership opportunities for you to move up within the organization,” says Lee. “Hospitality is the key to the middle class.” —Marjorie Preston
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:47 PM Page 36
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Well-Timed Susan Hensel • Former Director of Licensing, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, Co-Founder, Hensel Grad Gaming Counsel alk about good timing. In 2004, Susan Hensel was a young attorney for the Pennsylvania governor’s office when the state launched its all-new gaming industry. Though she knew little about casinos, Hensel became the first full-time employee of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). There, brick by brick, she helped lay the foundation for a whole new industry. “I was at the right place at the right time,” says Hensel, who later became the PGCB’s director of licensing. “I was very lucky to have been at the table, crafting policy and regulations as we went from a slots-only jurisdiction to adding table games to offering the full range of gambling products, including online gaming and sports wagering. “I didn’t know enough to be intimidated, and thankfully, regulators in other states were very generous with their time and words of wisdom.” Since then, Pennsylvania has grown to be one of the richest gaming jurisdictions in the United States, with more than a dozen full-scale casinos and mini-casinos, with more to come. This year, the Keystone State is poised to generate $5 billion in revenues, second only to Nevada. In another stroke of good timing, last March Hensel stepped down from the PGCB to launch Hensel Grad Gaming Counsel. The boutique advisory practice is focused on the industry’s biggest growth segments: iGaming, sports wagering and emerging technologies. She and partner Joe Grad, also a gaming attorney, serve foreign and domestic companies aspiring to join the burgeoning U.S. market, and help them navigate very complex regulatory waters. Together, says Hensel, they have the knowledge and experience to help clients reach their goals. They also have the access. “I’ve worked throughout my career to build a global presence and to form professional relationships and friendships with stakeholders around the world,” says Hensel, a two-term former president of the International Association of Gaming Regulators. Hensel expects an eventful 2022, both for the industry and for Hensel Grad. “We’re certainly going to see more jurisdictions authorizing and implementing sports wagering—all eyes are on some of the bigger states, Florida and California— and I’m working with some startup companies that are working to bring new technologies to the gambling space. “There are some other exciting things happening in the industry. What role will crypto play? What role will artificial intelligence play as we go forward? In the United States, we’re also going to see what approach regulators take to advertising. People are asking if the U.S. will learn from the experience of the U.K., where we’ve seen a lot of backlash as a result of advertising, or if it will repeat that history.” For those who would follow in her path, she has her own words of wisdom. “There are several skills a person, and women in particular, need to achieve success. These include trusting yourself, being willing to take a chance on yourself, and being assertive. I don’t think these skills always come easy, but they are in my opinion critical to furthering one’s career. “No one else is going to do a better job of advocating for you than you’re able to do for yourself. Take steps to create your own opportunities. And when they arise, be willing to jump.” —Marjorie Preston
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
Big Easy, Big South Dan Real • Regional President-South, Caesars Entertainment an Real has been an executive with Caesars Entertainment for 26 years, and has served as Southern Region president for the past 10 years. But if you ask him, there never has been a more exciting time to be in his job than right now. Part of that excitement stems from what is perhaps the largest project with which he has ever been involved, the transformation of Harrah’s New Orleans—his headquarters for years and where he served as general manager just before taking on the regional position—into Caesars New Orleans, a massive construction and rebranding project that will be unveiled in a few years. But the other source of his excitement is the corporate culture instilled by the new owners of Caesars Entertainment, headed by the Carano family that built the former Eldorado Resorts to the point where they acquired the famous industry giant. Real says the biggest change is a new culture of empowerment through the ranks, with Real’s function overseen by Anthony Carano, the Caesars Entertainment president and COO. “He’s one call away every day,” Real says of Carano, “but what they’ve done is they’ve brought the decisionmaking rights back to the property level, and that’s really exciting for me as an operator. Operating silos have been blown up, and really now it’s all about working together. “I absolutely love the current operating structure,” he says. “We operate in an environment where decision rights have been given to the local jurisdictions.” Real’s local jurisdiction happens to be Caesars’ South region, which includes five properties across Louisiana and Mississippi. All the South region casinos are initiating new programs, construction, and the addition of sportsbooks and other new amenities. The Caesars Sportsbook is live at Harrah’s New Orleans and Horseshoe Bossier City, which opened Louisiana’s first retail sportsbooks in October. Much of Real’s attention these days, though, is focused on the massive project to transform Harrah’s into Caesars New Orleans, and a separate project that will create Horseshoe Lake Charles. The unveiling of Caesars New Orleans is pegged for early 2024. The $325 million project will add a second guest-room tower on top of the
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:47 PM Page 37
25 casino space, and will involve a refurbishment of the entire property, including its 47,000 square feet of meeting space. “We have a hotel already across the street, but it’s not connected to the casino,” says Real. “We’re going to build a Caesars hotel on top of the casino, so you won’t need to leave the building. And it will be right across the street from the Four Seasons hotel, which just opened up. “We really believe that the foot of Canal Street in new Orleans is going to be where all the action is in the future. And inside that hotel, we’re going to have two floors of Nobu hotel rooms. We’re also partnering with Nobu to create a Nobu restaurant. “Caesars New Orleans is going to be the Jewel of the South.” Real says he remains “very involved” in the New Orleans project. “It has really become the most important project to me over my 26 years (at Caesars), because of how difficult it was to get to this day.” He recalls battles early on in New Orleans to extend what was initially a limited time before a relicensing process. “We were lucky enough to get the approval for a 30-year extension,” he says. “And what that essentially has done is it has allowed us to now move forward and be on offense, and create what is considered our best brand name in the portfolio and bring it to New Orleans.” That “going on offense” extends to other properties under Real’s jurisdiction, such as Harrah’s Gulf Coast in Biloxi, which stands to benefit from a new charter service Caesars has set up with Sun Country Airlines out of Gulfport and Laughlin. When the charter service launches in 2022, it will exponentially increase
PeoPle to Watch 2022
traffic to the Biloxi property. “The Sun Country charter program is one of the main marketing tools we use for Harrah’s Gulf Coast in Biloxi,” Real says. “We have gone from running 40 flights a year a few years ago to now expecting to fly 223 flights in 2022. For many of these guests, it is their first visit to Harrah’s Gulf Coast, and what we hear from them time after time is that the property is a hidden gem.” Another gem is on tap in Lake Charles, where the Isle of Capri riverboat casino, shuttered since the Covid-19 crisis began, will be brought ashore and replaced by a 100,000-square-foot structure including a 60,000square-foot casino, bars and restaurants, a Caesars Sportsbook and a redesigned 253-room hotel tower. The new property will be Horseshoe Lake Charles. Real’s priorities for 2022 center around both of the transformational projects in Louisiana. “I love watching it,” he says of the ongoing construction in New Orleans. “We have a camera across the street so we can get the real-time capture of how far we’ve come.” Real says he’s excited to “be a part of building the master plan” for Caesars in the region. “What I’m most excited about is building for the future,” he says. “Gaming continues to change and we need to be on offense, and Caesars has given me every single opportunity within the region. I’m very lucky, because when all is said and done, I’m going to have two Harrah’s properties, a Horseshoe property, and a Caesars property. I love all three brands. We all mean something different and we work really hard every day to make sure that we’re delivering on those promises.” —Frank Legato
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:47 PM Page 38
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Her Word Is Law Kate Lowenhar-Fisher • Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, Everi Holdings hen it comes to gaming law, Kate Lowenhar-Fisher wrote the book, literally. As co-author of Gaming Law & Practice (2016-2020 editions), she helped demystify U.S. gaming from a legal perspective at a time of unprecedented growth. For Lowenhar-Fisher, it’s all in the family. As the daughter of gaming industry veteran and poker enthusiast Jeffrey Lowenhar, president of Gaming Research, she “grew up going to the racetrack and casinos in Atlantic City,” and learned math by handicapping horses. Even as a youngster, she “found the industry to be exciting and dynamic, and saw what it could generate for local communities.” Her previous role was as chair of the gaming and hospitality practice at the law firm Dickinson Wright. There Lowenhar-Fisher counseled the world’s leading gaming companies on regulatory issues in connection with M&A, corporate restructuring, reorganizations and financings. Last March, she joined Everi Holdings, assuming the multipronged title of executive vice president, chief legal officer, general counsel and corporate secretary. Lowenhar-Fisher says the company stands at “a real pivot point.” “A business that started more or less in the ATM manufacturing business is now a serious player in slot machines, gaming devices and the digital space, and is really growing by leaps and bounds. And we all know Everi as a player in fintech.” Lowenhar-Fisher’s team is active in hundreds of jurisdictions, overseeing license applications, license renewals, major transactions and governance. “It’s incredibly exciting to be part of this company,” she says. “You’re always encountering excitement, innovation and new ideas. No one is afraid to raise their hand. Sometimes our innovators race ahead of the lawyers, but I expect that. It’s a public company with the heart of a startup.” Everi’s multifaceted, interlocking business model reflects where the industry is going right now. “The distinction between the games, the digital side and the fintech side is rapidly disappearing,” observes Lowenhar-Fisher. “Increasingly we’re creating that ‘digital neighborhood,’ a world where all our products work together in the casino environment. Patrons are demanding contactless and cashless solutions, loyalty product, client and gaming device product, and physical and digital. To see how they all work together is fascinating.” How does she keep up with it all—the rapid-fire growth and change, and the chapter and verse of so many regulations? Lowenhar-Fisher says she’s always learning. “I’ve always been comfortable with the transactional and regulatory sides. However, a big share of our business is in the financial technology side, which has a completely different regulatory regime. Some of my colleagues laugh to look at my desk, with basic, beginner books on financial technology, and Corporate Finance for Dummies. “Let’s look at it this way—nobody can be an expert at anything. Yes, I have to be current on what makes this business hum; otherwise I wouldn’t be effective. But I rely on the experts and consultants for advice.” How would she counsel those who would follow in her footsteps—especially young women? “Don’t focus on the obstacles,” she says. “Some people are so focused on what they perceive as holding them back. If you have to work harder or work differently, or if someone is trying to hold you back, find your way around the obstacle. And find your mentors, inside and outside your business.” Lowenhar-Fisher thinks 2022 will be a strong year for gaming and for Everi. “We’ve weathered Covid-19 incredibly well. Customers have come back to the casinos. And despite the seemingly endless pandemic and variants, I think the outlook is outstanding.” Of her career overall, she says, “I’m a happy lawyer, and I don’t know many happy lawyers. I landed where the grass was green on my first try.” —Marjorie Preston
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
Boardwalk to Reservation Mary Cheeks • President and General Manager, Jamul Casino hen you grow up in Atlantic City, where casino resorts are the key industry, you might want to live and work somewhere else. Mary Cheeks did just that. She earned a bachelor of science in accounting at the College of New Jersey in Trenton. She interned and then worked as a field auditor revenue agent for the IRS in Newark and Trenton. But she wanted a bigger challenge. “I have always worked at a faster pace than most, and I needed a change,” Cheeks says. She pondered her next move. Cheeks’ mom put in her recommendation. “My mother really wanted me to move back home and often talked about the casinos in Atlantic City,” she says. These talks failed to impress. Cheeks had little understanding on what the casino business entailed. It wasn’t just her. A lot of execs from other industries frowned at the idea of working in a casino hotel. Cheeks hemmed and hawed and hesitated. Then she gave in and took a job as a supervisor in internal audit at Resorts International Casino. “I fell in love with the industry,” Cheeks says. “What fascinated me was a business with so many different operations—so much to learn and master.” And she did. She went from Resorts to Caesars Entertainment where she served as regional chief financial officer of Harrah’s Atlantic City and Showboat Casino. She had a pivotal role in transforming these properties into a couple of the most profitable gaming establishments in Atlantic City. Almost 10 years passed, and Cheeks was ready for a new challenge. She moved on but she did so with a lot more knowledge.
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:47 PM Page 39
25 “My experience in Atlantic City taught me how to compete in an ultra-competitive market with 12 casinos (now nine) all within walking distance of my home,” Cheeks says. “Also, I learned how to operate in hard times versus great times once regional casinos began operating in neighboring states to New Jersey. Most important to my career, I learned every operation within the casino that prepared me for where I am today.” In July 2010, Cheeks left Atlantic City to become CFO and senior vice president of Rush Street Gaming’s Pennsylvania operations. For five years she oversaw Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and SugarHouse Casino Philadelphia. She got a promotion to general manager of Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, New York. After some two-and-a-half years Cheeks welcomed another promotion in 2018 to Jamul Casino outside of San Diego, the newest casino in Southern California, as president and general manager. Cheeks was initially tasked with helping lead the team through an ownership transition and rebranding. In a few short months, she had recruited a world-class management team, optimized the skills of existing team members and supplemented with additional talent. That wasn’t all. Cheeks guided Jamul through the Covid19 pandemic. “Covid has touched everyone personally or through family and friends,” she says. “It put the executive team and me in a place where personal and business decisions had to be made during an uncertain and unprecedented time. The onset of Covid made it difficult for me to stay connected with my loved ones (coming from the East Coast), not being able to travel for close to a year, in addition to closing the casino for two months.” Covid qualifies as an obstacle to be overcome in any business. But not the only obstacle Cheeks has to deal with in the future. “I was raised by parents who taught me at an early age that obstacles are opportunities, and to never let them get in the way. As a result, I took on each challenge as a goal to conquer—and I did so most of the time.” Cheeks has worked with some great leaders who kept her on her A game. “My current boss, Erica Pinto, chairwoman of Jamul Indian Village, and the tribal council, entrust me to run their casino. As a group with a great executive team, we have made extraordinary accomplishments,” she says. In all these years, the key change since she began her climb in the casino business has been technology. “We operate so much smarter and more efficiently in today’s gaming and non-gaming space.” In her long career, Cheeks has learned a lot. If she could talk with younger Mary Cheeks and give her some advice it would be: “Don’t work so hard. Enjoy life; it is often too short,” she says. “Also find balance in life. Don’t let important occasions pass by that you later regret.” —Bill Sokolic
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Socially Cool Dermot Smurfit • Chief Executive Officer, GAN ermot Smurfit leads a company on a mission. Smurfit’s GAN has become a significant player in the U.S. online gambling circuit and, according to Smurfit, has just scratched the surface. The company with a history of innovation gets set to launch the next one, GAN Sports, in 2022. GAN Sports is a result of the purchase of the innovative European sports betting provider Coolbet. “The superiority of the Coolbet.com experience folded into GAN Sports is already extremely exciting to our existing B2B clients in the U.S., but the visceral truth is that if you bet on Coolbet.com, it’s so much better an experience that you recommend it to your friends,” he says. “That’s reflected ultimately in the incredible financial profile of the Coolbet B2C operating division, where you can see that their marketing spend is way smaller than all the other B2C operators, because Coolbet, and what is ultimately GAN Sports, is just a better experience.” Key features of GAN Sports include an award-winning, tailor-made user experience to maximize player engagement and conversion, along with a sportsbook platform built for speed and flexibility. Dynamic event creation includes odds boosts, hot events and exclusive wagers, along with a fully customized user interface with regional/local content management. Smurfit joined GAN as a director in 2003 and became chief executive officer in 2010. The 46-year-old native of Ireland previously worked in the European investment banking team of SoundView Technology Group. He has operational and management experience in online gaming through his experience with GAN, together with M&A, strategic advisory, and private equity financing experience in the gaming technology industry. Smurfit is a qualified (non-practicing) U.K. lawyer specializing in corporate finance. His education encompasses an LLB in Law from Exeter University, the Legal Practice Course from the College of Law (U.K.), and the Investment & Corporate Finance advisory qualification from the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority. His vision started when iGaming and sports betting weren’t even considered a possibility in the U.S. “In 2006, GAN really began to pivot the business into games of chance rather than games of skill,” he recalls. “We launched our first roulette table game in April 2007, and I nearly cried tears of joy when I saw how much money people would generate playing roulette versus a simple skill-based game. You’d make a dollar a day from skill-based gaming; from a roulette game, you’d make roughly $70 a day.” In 2010, Smurfit realized the company needed a platform. “The only sustainable role is not skilled games content and generic table games (roulette, blackjack, etc.); you have to be the platform,” he says. “You get a share of every product’s revenue; you get a cut of sports betting revenue, casino revenue, skilled games revenue, poker revenue, everything.” Four years later, GAN launched simulated gaming with Foxwoods (its first simulated gaming client), and the results were astounding. “Despite much criticism about the ‘freemium’ model and the fear that nobody would pay for virtual credits, they peaked at about $400,000 per month in gross purchases,” he says. “Simulated gaming was absolutely the right thing at the right time, and since then, it’s proliferated. We’ve got a very vibrant simulated gaming business that allowed us to develop relationships with casinos in various states before regulation came.” And since it did, the company continues to blossom. —Dave Bontempo
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/16/21 8:41 PM Page 40
PeoPle to Watch 2022
The Son Also Rises Ray Pineault • President & CEO, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment hen Ray Pineault was elevated to president and CEO of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment in May of last year, he took on a company that is hip deep in development and operations. As chief operating officer prior to his promotion, he was well aware of the scope of the MGE universe, but becoming the top leader allows him time to reflect on his career. “I’ve been with the organization for almost 21 years,” he says. “I’m very, very fortunate to work with a group of executives who are highly experienced, extremely knowledgeable in gaming operations, professionals in their fields and tremendous leaders. So when you have a group of people like that, the transition becomes easier. I’ve already had the built-in relationship with them all because obviously as COO, I had built relationships with them beforehand. “The CEO job is a bit different, though. We’ve brought on a COO to handle the operations side of it. As CEO, I’m now focused more on the strategic direction and where the company’s going. The tribal leaders like to talk about 13 generations to come, and I need to make sure that I’m setting up the organization for long-term success.” As a member of the Mohegan Tribe, Pineault says he has a great relationship with the tribal council and the board of MGE. “They are very helpful and insightful, and we’ll strengthen that relationship as we move forward in a partnership together to make sure that I’m leading the organization in the direction that they want to see it move forward,” he says. “You know, it’s a family business with the tribal ownership here, and they have a responsibility to a broader community of the entire tribal membership. And I feel that responsibility to make sure that I deliver on their behalf.”
Itching for Incheon The most important thing on Pineault’s plate is the project in Incheon, South Korea, Inspire. Just last month, the company completed the $1.5 billion in financing needed to complete the project, which had been stalled during the pandemic. Pineault says the project is back on track. “We’re re-mobilizing all of the construction crews and they are all back onsite,” he says. “There’s already steel on the ground there, and they’re continuing to erect the facilities. We’ve set a timeline of 2023 for the opening of the facility. So things are moving along well there and we look forward to that project really materializing. “I anticipate I’m going to have to travel to Korea a few times this year to make sure we’re moving forward, making sure we have the right relationships and that we’re building that organization for success. Two years will go by very quickly.” One of the things that isn’t on Pineault’s agenda is a planned development in Greece. Mohegan and Greek construction business GEK Terna had won a license for Inspire Athens in 2020, but Pineault says they had second thoughts. “When I came into the job, we had to look at everything that we had on our plate, and all of the commitments that we had,” he says. “And when you looked at where the Covid situation stood and international travel, it didn’t make sense. We already had other commitments. And at this time it just wasn’t the right project for us. We wish the Greek government and our partners the greatest of success. They have a tremendous project there, but it wasn’t the right time for us to invest in that project.” MGE has properties in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ontario, Washington 40
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
state, and now Las Vegas, where MGE operates the casino at the new Virgin Las Vegas. Pineault says it’s been a little difficult to operate there because of the pandemic, but expects it to be a big success eventually. “Las Vegas, as you know, has been a bit of a hot spot for Covid,” he points out. “We opened in the middle of the pandemic itself. Las Vegas is the Mecca of gaming, and we felt we needed to be there. I think Boz Bosworth is a tremendous partner, and we have a great relationship. We’re working together to make that a dynamic, fun and entertaining resort, and I think long-term, that’s going to be a great success for all of us. I’m confident in the ability of that property to perform and be a great asset for us.” In the East, Mohegan recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Connecticut flagship and the 15th of Mohegan Sun Pocono, the first commercial casino to be owned by a tribe.
Online Aspirations Both those properties now feature sportsbooks, and Pineault says the company is now heavily invested in interactive gaming as a result. He thinks their online gaming experience in New Jersey, where MGE runs Resorts Atlantic City, will help. “It gave us the advantage of knowing people who were there from the ground up,” he says, “and understanding how to build this organization and make sure you have an organization that’s focused on the digital. But we’re making sure that digital is working symbiotically with the bricks and mortar to make sure that we’re capturing that guest on both channels. “The digital world is a space that many people are entering,” he continues. “I think it’s complementary to our bricks-and-mortar business. It’s an opportunity to interact with our current guests in a 360-degree fashion and to have a multi-platform approach to them, an omnichannel approach. But we’re also introducing new guests to Mohegan Sun—some that perhaps have never been here before, but they want to do sports betting or they want to do iGaming. We can use our digital platform to introduce people to Mohegan Gaming, and bring them to our bricks and mortar so we can capture them in an omnichannel approach and be able to communicate with them via multiple media.” —Roger Gros
12/10/21 9:08 PM
p. 18 PTW22:Layout 1 12/17/21 7:33 AM Page 42
PeoPle to Watch 2022
Here Comes the Judge Jennifer Togliatti • Chairwoman, Nevada Gaming Commission fter 25 years as a deputy district attorney and a judge in the Nevada District Court, Jennifer Togliatti has a new challenge. She was appointed in October as the first woman to chair the Nevada Gaming Commission. Togliatti believes her judicial experience will help her in her new position. “I have over 20 years of experience assimilating a significant amount of information and trying to drill down into the issues that that need to be addressed,” she explains. “I’m used to making hard decisions. I’m used to knowing that not everybody’s going to leave happy all the time, at least in a courtroom. I used to call it a good day if 50 percent of the people are unhappy, and a typical day if everybody’s unhappy. “So you develop an ability to set aside the white noise and focus on the issues at hand and make the best decision you can, having reviewed all the information. And so that’s something I’ve been doing for well more than 20 years.” In Nevada, the Gaming Commission has the final say on licensing and regulatory changes, but the state Gaming Control Board does the investigations and makes recommendations. She says she understands there needs to be a good working relationship between the two agencies. “I’ve had the opportunity to observe the investigative work of their agency and to watch their meetings,” she says. “I think it’s interesting that a lot of times they ask questions that I’m wondering about, so that’s helpful. So far, my experience has been very positive.” A recent proposal to allow remote registration to permit cashless transactions is now before Nevada regulators. Since most gaming states permit this, she understands it’s going to be a pressing issue. “I was part of the working group that was put together for this issue,” she says. “There’s a history there that I’m going to have to become more familiar with as this issue comes before the commission. My guess is that there are concerns about the integrity and controls, and precedent. But I am mindful that’s a concern for them going forward, and I have no doubt I’ll be fully informed.” Like many matters that come before the state regulators, technology, sometimes quite complicated, is part of the issue. Togliatti says she’s going to be ready. “I’m going to rely on Jim Barbee, who’s the chief of the technology division, and who makes sure that the members of the board and the members of the commission understand the technology,” she says. “I’ve had an opportunity already to meet with him and get a presentation of what his division does. As with any state agency, they do as much as they can with the resources they have. So far, though, he’s been very responsive and has indicated to me that any questions I have at any time he’ll attempt to answer.” Togliatti is the first woman to chair the Gaming Commission, although there have already been two female chairs of the Gaming Control Board. She takes this very seriously. “It’s one of the great honors of my life,” she says. “I think it’s crucial that I do everything I can do to show that it doesn’t matter—women or men, it doesn’t matter. It’s the work, it’s the commitment, it’s the integrity that I bring to the job.” —Roger Gros
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
Spreading the Word Arthur Paikowsky • President, International Center for Responsible Gaming hen the National Center for Responsible Gaming was formed in 1994, not much was known about problem gambling. There had been a few sloppy studies done, but nothing was peer-reviewed or checked beyond the original researchers. Frank Fahrenkopf, the former CEO of the American Gaming Association, calls it the best thing he did during his 17-year term, setting up an organization to study problem gambling. But it was a risk, Fahrenkopf says. “We didn’t know what the research would find, but we knew we needed some answers.” Over the years, the now International Center for Responsible Gaming has produced groundbreaking research, first identifying how many people are afflicted by pathological (less than 1 percent) or problem gambling (less than 2 percent), as well as the physiological and mental causes, and suggestion of how it can be treated. The good work of the ICRG is well recognized in gaming circles, but now that sports betting and iGaming are spreading across many non-gaming companies, there needs to be more attention paid to the important work done by the center. That’s where Arthur Paikowsky comes in, recently appointed the president of the ICRG. He has worked for over 40 years in not-for-profit organizations, mostly charities. “I’m a cause-oriented person,” he says. “I have some different experiences with a combination of addiction and Las Vegas, so when the opportunity presented itself, it was the right thing for me.” Paikowsky says his understanding of the shape and goals of the ICRG convinced him that more needs to be done. “The space is ripe for advancement,” he insists. “We’re not raising nearly enough money for the great work we’re doing. When I look at what the research has taught the industry over the past 25 years, we now want to look ahead to the new challenges—sports betting, online gambling and things like that—we’re just scratching the surface of what needs to be done.” To accomplish those goals, Paikowsky has several items on his agenda. “We need to spread the word about what this organization has meant to the industry over the past 25 years,” he explains. “We also need to get into the head space of our board. We have really talented board members and they want to do more. So I want to get an understanding of who they are and how they fit into the industry. “I’m working on how the fundraising has been done in the past and making a plan for the future. I want to launch a very intense 2022 fundraising campaign by getting lots of people involved.” In the beginning, the NCRG was organized under the auspices of the AGA. That changed years ago, and today the ICRG is fully independent, but associated with the Division of Addictions at Harvard Medical School. “I had a meeting with the AGA recently and we talked a lot about collaboration and ways we could work more closely together,” Paikowsky says. “I think it would be a good thing to have someone from the AGA represented on our board, which hasn’t been the case in a while.” Paikowsky doesn’t want to change the basics, however. “Our organization is all about education and prevention,” he says. “Let’s get the information out before we have to deal with someone who has a gambling disorder. So a lot of our research is going to examine how to do that.” —Roger Gros
RAISE YOUR CASINO MARKETING
TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Our unique agenda created to give casino marketers the tools YOU need to make a difference. Hot t op ic s a nd trend s keynotes ea c h d a y P l u s , u n iq u e intera c ti ve a nd i m m ersi ve sessi ons: Fa nta sy Loya lty Cl ub C reati ng Eng a g i ng Content W heel of Prom oti ons Ca rd S ha r k Ta nk
CASINO MARKETING BOOT CAMP MARCH 14-16, 2022 w w w. c a s i n oma r ket i n gb oot c a m p . c om
Thinking of sending a group? 15% off groups of 3 or more if registered by 1/31/2022
p. 44 chicago:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:49 PM Page 44
The Case for Chicago It’s decision time for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, now weighing five proposals for a casino complex in the city By Marjorie Preston
oet Carl Sandburg famously described Chicago as a “hog butcher for the world, tool maker, stacker of wheat, player with railroads, the nation’s freight handler”—a city of big shoulders and brawny
workers. But workers eventually retire, and in Chicago, nearly half of city employees cash out before age 60. And why not? According to the Illinois Policy Institute, the average pension for recently retired Chicago city workers is $65,000 a year, and some lucky government workers reap more than $2 million over the course of their retirement (hence the term “golden years”). A 2020 report puts Chicago almost $33 billion in hock to unfunded pensions for cops, firefighters, municipal employees and laborers, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called it “the biggest problem” facing the city’s finances. She’s counting on a casino to help top up that fund. In April, Lightfoot threw out the welcome mat with a request for proposals, saying, “We’ve attracted the interest of very serious and accomplished gaming interests from Las Vegas.” But an effective tax rate of 40 percent—carved down from a mind-blowing 72 percent—kept the Vegas names away. Wynn Resorts looked at the market, and walked on by. Las Vegas Sands was a no-show. MGM CEO Bill 44
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
Hornbuckle said, “It’s a struggle how it all adds up.” And Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said simply, “I’ve got no interest in Chicago.” Beyond the tax rate, a Chicago casino will face lots of competition. Last summer, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a massive gambling expansion bill authorizing six new casinos in the state. But asked about market saturation, Lightfoot professed to be unconcerned. She said, “There’s no place else in the Midwest that offers what we do.”
In the Plus Column The Windy City is the third most populous in the U.S., with 9.5 million residents. The continental gateway was visited by more than 57 million tourists in 2018, and has been Condé Nast’s Best Big City in the U.S. for five years now. About 53 percent of adults polled said they would visit a Chicago casino at least several times a year. Clearly, says Lightfoot, this is a rich market for the right operator. Moreover, a 2019 report puts Illinois at 21st among U.S. states for gambling spend, with people spending an average of $246 per year on the activity ($143 on casinos, $103 on lottery). As Lightfoot has pointed out, most of the cars at Illinois casinos have Illinois license plates.
p. 44 chicago:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:49 PM Page 45
Rush Street’s proposed casino at the Lakeside Center Bally’s proposed casino at the River West publishing plant Hard Rock’s proposed casino near McCormick Place
“We expect casino revenues to provide a much-needed boost on our path to a structurally balanced budget.” —Samir Mayekar, Chicago Deputy Mayor
Chicago Chief Financial Officer Jennie Bennett said earlier this year, “There aren’t other opportunities this large where gaming was previously prohibited but now has been authorized. We know there’s untapped demand.” And Grant Govertsen, Union Gaming principal and author of a 2020 white paper on the Chicago casino project, called the city’s single license “among the best casino-resort development opportunities right now… The combination of available capital and attractive market metrics make the opportunity prime for a Las Vegas-style integrated resort.” Frank Fantini begs to differ. The head of Fantini Research and publisher of Fantini’s Gaming Report says a Chicago casino cannot, by definition, be a destination. In a November interview, he told GGB News, “Las Vegas is a destination. Atlantic City is a destination, at least in the summer. You can say the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a destination. But Chicago is not a destination, because it’s surrounded by other casinos.” At last count, there were 10 casinos inside Illinois and five more in the pipeline, not to mention four more in northwest Indiana. That’s on top of more than 40,000 slot machines in bars, restaurants and other establishments across the Prairie State. It’s a crowded landscape, but city officials insist there’s room to “grow the pie” with “a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a casino operator in the heart of a major American city.” On paper, it’s been estimated that a Chicago casino could bring in $200 million in annual tax revenues to the city. Is that feasible, and if so, is it enough to top off the pension fund? “We have confidence in the methodology” of the Union Gaming report, says Samir Mayekar, deputy mayor for business economics and neighborhood development. “They estimated that a casino in a steady state of operations will generate approximately $200 million in annual revenues.
“Casino revenue alone is not enough to shore up the unfunded pension funds, which the revenues are dedicated to in state statute,” he continues. “We do expect casino revenues to… provide a much-needed boost on our path to a structurally balanced budget and proper funding of pensions.”
The Bidders Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, co-owner with Churchill Downs of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, submitted two proposals: one at Lakeside Center and one in the neighborhood known as The 78. Rush Street President and CEO Neil Bluhm has the home field advantage, as well as a chummy relationship with the mayor. One developer told the Chicago Sun-Times, “Everybody sees this as Neil Bluhm’s game to lose. Lakeside Center is probably the city’s lowest-risk choice.” The same source said Bluhm’s partner at The 78, developer Related Midwest, “has a lot of power in this market,” and Chairman Stephen Ross “has been working the phones here.” Rush Street certainly has the track record. Just 17 miles from downtown Chicago is Rivers Des Plaines, which has been called the most profitable casino in the country on a per-square-foot and per-device basis. It’s currently adding 78,000 square feet including a poker room, additional gaming areas, a ballroom and a new restaurant. When the expansion opens in 2022, Des Plaines will be the first casino in Illinois to reach the state’s maximum 2,000 gaming positions. Hard Rock International also submitted a bid. Its proposal near the McCormick Place convention district would link to the huge, proposed ONE Central project next door. If Hard Rock snags the license, it will be all over the region. In December, the gaming entity owned by Florida’s Seminole Tribe opened a temporary casino in Rockford, Illinois, with the permaJANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 44 chicago:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:49 PM Page 46
Second City Dreams Christopher Jewett Director of Corporate Development Bally’s Corp.
GGB: The big Vegas companies didn’t show up for Chicago, possibly because of the higher tax rate, possibly because of the competition. Why did Bally’s decide to throw its hat in? Christopher Jewett: The 70 percent tax rate was out of the question, so we put this to
“We know there’s untapped demand.” —Jennie Huang Bennett, City of Chicago Chief Financial Officer
nent venue to open by late 2023 or early 2024. And in May, Hard Rock opened the $300 million Hard Rock Northern Indiana in Gary, one of three casinos in Northwest Indiana that will compete with the eventual Chicago venue. In a statement to GGB, Jon Lucas, chief operating officer for Hard Rock International, said the global brand “has had a longstanding presence in the city of Chicago going back over 35 years.” Its Hard Rock Café, fronted by the iconic giant guitar, has been a fixture of the River North district since 1986. “We can tell you that our plan is to build a world-class destination that the people of Chicago will be proud of.” Bally’s Corp. offered two proposals, and one site has already met with some pushback: the 28-acre trucking yard south of McCormick Place. Alderwoman Sophia King said last fall that the plan “should be immediately eliminated” from consideration. “Since the beginning of this process, the community has been clear in their desire not to see a casino built at the site,” she said. Bally’s proposed location at the River West publishing plant has gotten a better reception. Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. said, “It would be an ideal spot, tourist-wise. It’s right off the expressway. The L station on Grand Avenue brings a lot of tourists into the area on their way to Navy Pier.” Bally’s Director of Corporate Development Chris Jewett called both sites “economic sleeping giants.” A Bally’s casino would also include a Chicago sports museum, he added. Minority investors would account for 25 percent of the ownership group, including philanthropists, business owners and “a couple of sports stars.” But ask industry observers, and sentiment seems to go to Rush Street. As Nicholaus Garcia of PlayUSA wrote, “This is a one-horse race. There is no way Rush Street Gaming lets another developer set up shop in their backyard.” We’ll find out soon. According to the city, the licensee is set to be announced in “early 2022.”
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
the wayside until they passed legislation to lower it. That brought it back on our radar. The Vegas operators weren’t able to get it to pencil just based on the size and footprint they’re used to. This will be a resort, but it’s not going to be the size of Resorts World, with 3,000 rooms and massive retail hubs. It doesn’t make sense to come in and build a $3 billion or $4 billion project because of the known competition, with Rockford and Waukegan and the south suburbs. As for the tax rate, we’re used to operating in a high-tax environment (Bally’s home base of Rhode Island), and we understand the need to right-size the project based on the market. What value does Bally’s see in Chicago?
This would be a massive opportunity to essentially start from scratch and build what we want. A lot of our properties have been acquired over time; we’ve inherited something that somebody else envisioned. This is the chance to do it our way. And Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the U.S. From a tourism standpoint, it’s Top 5. How do you make it work, given the tax rate? Bally’s Chairman Soohyung Kim has said a Chicago casino would be your “flagship.”
Again, it’s right-sizing the project and being diligent from a capital investment standpoint. Your proposal says the Bally’s customer database would come into play. How so?
In rough numbers, we have about 20 million customers in our database, and approximately 15 million of those are domestic. That gives us a leg up, allows us to utilize this as a destination market for Bally’s customers. One thing we bring to the table that nobody else does is a broad outreach through our partnership with Sinclair Broadcasting and Bally’s Sports networks. That will be immeasurably valuable because of the billions of impressions we get a year across the country. Neighbors at the truck marshaling yard say they don’t want a casino resort there. Why is it viable?
The best example in our portfolio is in Lincoln, Rhode Island (Twin River Casino), where property values have increased significantly around the development, with other developers now coming in and wanting to develop around it too. So we think it’s a plus. If you actually look at the actual site, it’s partitioned or carved out from the neighborhood, blocks away from any sort of residential area. Of course, we’re here to listen, and want to work with the neighborhood to ease their concerns. Why would you say Bally’s is the right fit for Chicago?
We’re a true regional gaming company that’s growing into a larger gaming company. We recognize the need for this to be a partnership with the city and with the community we operate in. It’s not us coming in and telling the city what they need. Our approach is to be in touch with the best advisers and the best consultants, plus city leaders and Chicagoans or Chicagoland natives, and all work together.
Project2:Layout 1 10/13/21 2:43 PM Page 1
p. 48 responsible:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:52 PM Page 48
The Foundation of Responsible Gaming The industry needs to do more to present a program that really works for people with gambling problems By Brianne Doura-Schawohl
dear friend of mine recently told me, “There is no such thing as responsible gambling for me. The only responsible type of gambling that I can do, is no gambling at all.” Insert voluntary self-exclusion program here. Self-exclusion programs serve as an important tool of assistance for individuals seeking to abstain from gambling in the United States and around the globe. A system that has unfortunately not been universally applied across jurisdictions, it provides a vital safety net, and yet the current infrastructure leaves much to be desired. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) states “2 million U.S. adults (1 percent) are estimated to meet the criteria for severe gambling problems in a given year. Another 4 million to 6 million (2 percent to 3 percent) would be considered to have mild or moderate problems with their gambling.” And those estimates might be conservative. In reality, the U.S. federal government and many states have never made a significant investment researching the prevalence of gambling addiction. More worrisome, research suggests that with the massive expansion of sports wagering and online gaming happening, prevalence rates are potentially increasing. Honestly, the number of persons struggling is irrelevant to this discussion, as we know people have and do struggle, and there must be supports in place to assist. Self-exclusion is one of those vital instruments.
Inconsistent Application This is not a new concept to anyone in the gambling ecosystem, as self-exclusion programs have been around for decades. They have and continue to vary in their presentation. In the past five years or so, we have increasingly seen the gaming industry challenged on its commitment to foster these conversations and advancement of programs. One of the initial questions that remains a part of the conversation surrounding self-exclusion, is this truly a “tool” needed in the industry’s proverbial responsible gambling toolbox? Secondarily, does self-exclusion work as an effective means to an end in addressing gambling addiction? Thirdly, what role does this industry need to play in managing these programs? First and arguably most importantly, we need to make a seismic shift in the language that we use. We need to begin by removing the term “responsible gambling/gaming” from anything related to voluntary self-exclusion 48
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
(VSE). Someone looking to utilize voluntary self-exclusion is way beyond any responsible gambling tool or program. We need to separate and foster an appreciation and understanding about the difference between “responsible gambling” and “problem gambling.” It is an all-too-common theme recently that the industry substitutes one term for the other. Someone looking to utilize voluntary self-exclusion has likely suffered a tremendous amount of harm from gambling and needs to abstain from it. Self-exclusion is an important program for an individual who is struggling with a gambling addiction or has the potential for their gambling to become problematic. Back to the premise at the start of this article, the only responsible thing the person seeking VSE needs to be doing, is not gamble. It’s now become a hardship for them, and this program needs to help them achieve just that. Individuals seeking to be placed on a self-exclusion list are likely, not always, suffering from an extreme problem or addiction. Self-exclusion works when designed and deployed correctly, because it holds both the customer and the operator accountable, and with the regulator playing a vital role in the process. The regulator can and should increasingly play a more expansive role with the use of technology and across platforms to link operators within a market, while simultaneously providing the safety net for the customer to be protected across multiple operators.
Common Theme Shockingly or maybe not shockingly so, like gambling regulation in the United States, each state gets to decide how to address this topic of self-exclusion. In some jurisdictions, the attention to self-exclusion is limited in scope at best, and in some non-existent. The question should not be “Does it work?” or “Should we do this?” The question must evolve to, “We know this works,” when it is done appropriately, so how do we achieve just that? Hundreds of thousands of Americans are currently utilizing self-exclusion programs across the United States, yet, they remain vulnerable. With so many variances, it’s impossible for patrons to know where they are and are not excluded. Some operators chose to have exclusion pertain to their business in all their operating jurisdictions, other operators will allow for patrons to be excluded in one state and not another—and this doesn’t account for people
p. 48 responsible:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:53 PM Page 49
There have been too many stories to count from individuals trying to do the necessary and right thing by getting themselves on a list, only to be met with hostility, placed in a room to be interrogated and ostracized by a security guard while trying to understand the implications of what it means to “self-exclude.”
who exclude with one state-operated list but then can cross into another state and gamble without issue. The list of variances and nuisances goes on and on and on. In many states, the program unintentionally is acting as a barrier and hinderance to entry in its current iteration. The programs can be overly complicated and cumbersome, filled with hard-to-understand “legalese.” The state of Michigan, for example, was only offering until recently a self-exclusion program with a single option—a lifetime ban. Imagine this scenario: Someone is at a breaking point in their life, being valiant in admitting that they’re in need of help. Simply forecasting to the next day can seem daunting, let alone being asked to commit to something for a “lifetime.” An absolute thing like a lifetime ban is a sure way to not have patrons invested in the program. Another state holds four different self-exclusion lists, one for each type of gambling, and requires someone to complete forms, interviews, and other items to get on each separate list. There is no coordination or sharing between these lists. Another U.S. jurisdiction has no state-run list; lists are not mandated and are maintained by each operator at their discretion, requiring a person to enter every single establishment to ban themselves. Besides being potentially triggering for individuals, this further complicates the process, as no operator shares their list with any of the other operators in that market. Some states even go as far as to require an individual to declare themselves mentally ill and an “addict” with no control to get on a VSE list. There have been too many stories to count from individuals trying to do the necessary and right thing by getting themselves on a list, only to be met with hostility, placed in a room to be interrogated and ostracized by a security guard while trying to understand the implications of what it means to “self-exclude.” Treating vulnerable persons like criminals or degenerates when they have made such a profound and noble statement of bravery in admitting that they need help is certainly no way to treat another human being. There remain a great number of outdated beliefs and misconceptions around who needs a selfexclusion program and how to best deliver the program.
Ideal Solution In a dream scenario, the customer and the operator can overcome the challenges, stigmas and perceptions of a self-exclusion program. The fantasy scenario looks like a universal self-exclusion program, communicating across multiple jurisdictions. In this scenario, a single program would be held and run by an educated and objective third-party entity. This group would have trained professionals that can assist someone in need understand the implications of a self-exclusion program, what it means both in the short and long term, and how to get on and off the list. Better yet, while learning about the list and how to get on it, those trained individuals would be able to provide the patrons information and resources for support for the continuation of care as they begin their journey to abstention from gambling. While dreams are great, and vitally important for innovation, the industry lives here and now in a world that will not see a centralized system anytime soon. This is due in part to a pragmatic approach to how a national-level program would operate from a host of logistical, legal and political challenges standing in the way. It’s also due in large part on how the federal government chooses not to address gambling addiction in general. A VSE program can and should exist well
within the current state-by-state regulated infrastructure. However, the grander opportunity requires coordination between regulatory agencies to even come close to achieving the fantasy. The likelihood of states sharing information and data between lists is highly unlikely. In some cases as noted, it is a challenge to get states to have operators share lists within their borders. An ideal structure should be where each state controls the list, where individuals who look to get on the list are able to access it the same way that they are gambling. This means that if one gambles online via their phone, they should be able to apply for self-exclusion in the same manner. While not all states have embraced mobile as a form or registration, payment or play, technology can greatly advance the VSE cause by adding a level of support, verifying identity, but also offering the privacy to exclude on one’s own terms. This would offer individuals seeking to get their name on the list an easier avenue and terms of the agreement that are easy to understand. Persons looking to access this resource should not be treated like criminals, and instead with respect and empathy. No one should have to declare to the government or private entity that they have a mental impairment, addiction or illness to get on the list. It should be more than sufficient to request admission while only being questioned if they understand what getting on the list means, whether they understand what happens if they break the agreement, if this is really what is best for them, and if they are doing it of their own free will and committed to it. For so many, VSE is the first step to health and happiness in what has likely been an insalubrious and extensive journey filled with harm from gambling. To take it one step further, it is not enough to merely ensure people can enter onto a list easily and with dignity and respect. They should also be presented with a plethora of options to getting additional support for their struggles thereafter, should they so choose to pursue them. While support continues to be a real challenge for many jurisdictions, that is a conversation for another day. What we can do today is create and set a robust baseline of standards and best practices for self-exclusion and the essential supports. Self-exclusion could certainly become one of the most powerful and impactful tools that we have to start substantially addressing this issue of gambling addiction. This is not a matter of “if” it works. It is a matter of how to make it work better so more individuals will have access to it. The industry—from regulators to operators to customers—is not doing enough. Not even close to it. We have a collective responsibility to address this very important problem. All of us, collectively. We aren’t utilizing technology nearly enough, we aren’t thinking about the person struggling to ease the burden and better support them, we aren’t doing enough information sharing across jurisdictions. We can all agree, the type of customer the industry should seek to retain is an individual that enjoys gambling as the form of “entertainment” it was designed and intended to be. Let us all ensure that folks who need help are able to access it with ease, respect, and empathy. It takes a village to do so many things. The village of all the stakeholders in the industry needs to bear the responsibility to ensure selfexclusion is available for all those that seek it. Brianne Doura-Schawohl is the founder of Doura-Schawohl Consulting, a boutique government affairs and responsible gambling firm based in Washington, D.C. JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 50 emerging:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:53 PM Page 50
EMERGING LEADERS Paid to Play Daniela Sulier Director of Slots, Arcade and Retail Operations, Caesars Entertainment— Harrah’s & Harvey’s Lake Tahoe
Starting Small Anna Shahbazyan Regional Director, Latin America, BetConstruct t all began with tennis. Anna Shahbazyan, a lifelong fan of the sport, played as a child right through Yerevan State University in her hometown in Armenia. Upon graduation, she learned that a local company which
focused on sports betting was hiring. “I thought it would be an interesting way to get paid and watch Rafael Nidal!” Shahbazyan says. “Never did I think it would lead to a life-changing career that would send me around the world.” The local company, BetConstruct, was a startup business at the time. Shahbazyan was one of just 10 employees. “I saw potential and a future for growth.” She began by researching horse racing, then migrated to trading and odds setting. “This gave me a thorough understanding of the basics of our business. I understood early on that BetConstruct had a unique and innovative suite of products,” Shahbazyan says. She also desired to utilize her knowledge of the Spanish language. “I asked if I could head up our expansion into Latin America,” she says. Shahbazyan is now regional director for Latin America, overseeing offices in Montevideo and Lima from the firm’s Los Angeles office. “Additionally, I am actively involved in directing the development and expansion of the North American market.” As a company, BetConstruct has grown to over 3,500 employees. From one office in Armenia, the company has opened 17 offices globally. “In the span of my career I have seen the global increase in sports betting, online casino, esports, virtual sports, and live casino studios. As the industry grew and matured, so did BetConstruct,” Shahbazyan says. Then came Covid-19. Shahbazyan worked harder and for more hours during the first stage of the pandemic. “Because we are first and foremost a software and technology company, my colleagues and I were able to work very efficiently remotely,” she explains. “Perhaps the biggest silver lining was showing brick-and-mortar operators and government regulators the need to establish online gaming revenue streams.” As her response to the pandemic illustrates, Shahbazyan confronts obstacles head on. “I don’t avoid or ‘wish away’ challenges,” she says. “I look at them and logically conclude what will be beneficial to all parties involved.” As for mentors, without a doubt Shahbazyan names Vigen Badalyan, CEO and founder of BetConstruct. “You have to be a forward-thinking visionary to take a small company and grow it into a global leader in gaming in less than two decades,” she says. “Vigen, through his hard work, has changed the lives of literally thousands. He has allowed me to fulfill my potential, and the best is yet to come.” Her advice to younger employees entering the gaming industry? “Take time to enjoy the moment and have an attitude of gratitude.” —Bill Sokolic
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
aniela Sulier didn’t stray far from her central California home for higher education. She obtained a bachelor of science in marketing and an MBA in business administration and management from Sacramento State College. After earning the MBA in 2010, Sulier experienced a different slice of life, first in Costa Rica where she ran a nightclub and a restaurant. She spent a few months in Nicaragua to learn Spanish. Then off to Lake Tahoe, where she bartended and waited tables. Lake Tahoe is a paradise for Sulier. “I absolutely love living in a community of likeminded outdoor enthusiasts,” she says. “We get to enjoy all four beautiful seasons in our little mountain lake town. Our family enjoys spending free time camping, enjoying the pristine lake, hiking, and mountain biking.” She was ready for a career. The casinos were the tallest buildings in town, and to Sulier, they represented energy, excitement, entertainment and fun. “I wanted to be a part of that world.” There was an opening at Caesars, a company she knew little about. She began her career as a slot supervisor. “What has kept me here is the culture of Caesars Entertainment. Inspiring grownups to play is right up my alley,” Sulier says. Learning slots as a supervisor required a whirlwind of information. Player tracking systems, machine functionality, understanding pay tables, and of course most importantly, customer service. Currently, Sulier serves as director of slots, arcade and retail operations, Caesars Entertainment—Harrah’s & Harvey’s Lake Tahoe. The position includes slot performance, leasing, retail and yes, that kind of arcade. ”It’s a busy daily routine, switching hats throughout the day to different departments as needed,” she says. “From managing the ever-changing slot floor layout, to keeping staff motivated to stocking arcade storerooms and counters with plush stuffed animals and analyzing crane profitability.” Since joining Caesars, electronic table games debuted. Slot machines are taller, brighter and more attractive. “As for Caesars, we’ve been through a bankruptcy
p. 50 emerging:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:53 PM Page 51
“Learn to not sweat what’s out of our control, roll with it, and support your teams through challenges alongside them. With great people you can overcome anything.” that brought its uncertainties, but the company stood by its employees, and we got through it,” Sulier says. Of course, there was Covid-19, and a buyout of Caesars. “In Lake Tahoe, we recently shut down again for the Caldor fire. We always seem to come out united, and stronger than ever,” Sulier says. Living in a mountain town brings its own challenges beyond wildfires—tough weather, power outages, and basic seasonal highs and lows. “Learn to not sweat what’s out of our control, roll with it, and support your teams through challenges alongside them. With great people you can overcome anything,” says Sulier, who doesn’t get quite enough time to
enjoy all that Lake Tahoe offers with three young children to raise. Still, Sulier considers herself very fortunate to have a pair of female leaders she respects and admires. “I have worked for Xenia Wunderlich, vice president of casino operations and marketing,” says Sulier. “She has a wealth of knowledge in gaming, and so much experience in this industry. Also, our new senior vice president and general manager, Karie Hall, brings a passion and excitement to our property that is inspiring. Both amazing women promote a work-life balance that allows us to really enjoy our families and the beautiful town we get to live in, and energizes us at work to focus on customer service and operating at our best.” —Bill Sokolic
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 52 recruitment:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:54 PM Page 52
Recruitment Following the Great Resignation Now that employees are having second thoughts about where they work, how can you attract the best candidates? By Dave Bontempo
asino recruiters eye a stark transition phase. Operators shaking pandemic fears slowly break the financial shackles stunting business over the last two years. Some consider revamping their lineups by obtaining top executives for varied positions, including general manager or chief operations officer. Operators in the post-pandemic age may have to sweeten the compensation pot for them. It won’t be easy to lure potential leaders from a Covid-induced comfort zone. Especially leaders who must embrace a new work environment.
An Emerging Change Gaming leaders are entering unchartered territory. Casinos are a microcosm of big-picture unrest jolting labor-management markets. The simmering kindling of stagnant wages, excessive stimulus checks and worker malaise has erupted. They have produced supply-chain disruptions, labor shortages, striking workers and companies planning to replace them. Employees have left jobs in record numbers since 2020. The fact that only 4.16 million people quit in October, versus 4.36 million one month earlier according to U.S. Labor Department data, is considered a ray of sunshine. The pandemic was so crippling that it produced an unfortunate new terminology dubbed the “Great Resignation.” Technology was a major contributor, literally “Zoom-ing” in on the world of meetings. The comfort of conducting them from home made workers re-think the aggravation of fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic to reach an office. It’s hard to be late for a meeting if one merely needs to visit the next room. And though some executives may prefer live, face-to-face contact, others feel more productive either from home, at a coffee shop or wherever remote access begins.
“Clients are coming to us. They are very hungry and asking ‘Where are the candidates?’” —Ben Farber, Bristol Associates
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
The Importance of Headhunters Operators and executives look to a valued liaison, the headhunters, to digest this new world and find people to thrive in it. The role of recruiters benefits both the operator, known as the “client,” and the job-seeker, called the “candidate.” The headhunter option enables an operator to discreetly fill positions, preventing rumors that could disrupt company chemistry. Conversely, recruiters can help an executive on the East Coast discover a lucrative job opening on the West Coast, or even another country, if compensation justifies it. That can also be done discreetly, a water-testing process that won’t be known to his/her employers. Headhunters also remove the posturing of negotiations by handling them all. This lets both sides avoid the cat-and-mouse role of deal-making. Over time, headhunters have seen some markets benefit the client and others the candidate, just as real-estate trends benefit buyers and then sellers at different periods. There’s widespread agreement on the current gaming market: advantage, candidates. “The market shift is an ever-swinging pendulum as far as we can see,” says Ben Farber, president of Bristol Associates in Manhattan Beach, California. “It is better to be in the candidate-driven market, ultimately. “Back in 2008, things slowed down so much that business was not doing well and the opportunities were not there,” he adds. “For many months we had to tell candidates, ‘I am sorry, we just don’t have anything for you.’ And then it moved back the other way. Clients are coming to us. They are very hungry and asking, ‘Where are the candidates?’”
Need to Think Outside the Box Bill Werksman, managing partner of Resource Partners in Las Vegas, notes the different compensation possibilities broached by the new market. That might include stock options, education reimbursement, added vacation time and flexibility regarding how to implement team-building functions. In turn, the leaders may want to consider novel ways to incorporate the Zoom world into the real one. Some workplace conditions that have never been tried will be now in order to spur loyalty and productivity. “It is a very tight candidate market right now that benefits job seekers most of the time,” Werksman asserts. “The searches we are conducting take time and effort from both sides. “There are ebbs and flows that generally follow the traditional job market conditions for mid-level searches, but for the most part, candidates with spe-
p. 52 recruitment:Layout 1 12/16/21 2:55 PM Page 53
“Candidates with specific talents and experiences have strong market value in good times and bad times.” —Bill Werksman, Managing Partner, Resource Partners cific talents and experiences have strong market value in good times and bad times.” Marc Weiswasser, head of CasinoRecruiter.com in Carlsbad, California, believes candidates willing to travel have additional clout. For many employees and executives who have adjusted during the pandemic there is, literally, no place like home. “Now more than ever, the candidates (executives) are being more particular about the location where they want to go,” he says. “A lot of that is due to Covid; that’s kind of the mindset of the nation with the work-life balance. “There might be a nice job opening, but it’s not where the candidate wants to go. It is tricky to get candidates to relocate.” Werksman says the biggest challenge for candidates is overcoming perceptions gleaned from what they’ve heard about particular companies. Successful candidates should be open to initial discussions that may sometimes prove fruitful and other times may not, he adds. They must keep an open mind to new opportunities, he indicates.
Pandemic Problems The new opportunities may involve flexibility about how to conduct meetings, especially with team members. “Covid has impacted our searches to the extent that many people simply do not want to go back into the office,” Werksman says. “That is a challenge for clients when you talk about team building and chemistry. It’s hard to establish the same level of chemistry with someone over Zoom as you do in person.” Farber sees a subtle shift on the horizon. Gaming, like other industries, will ultimately find a midpoint between remote and on-site employment. Some layers of nuance impact this equation. Some employees work effectively from home, some don’t. Some employee skills will diminish without on-site interaction. Many industries field complaints about home workers becoming complacent. Once the pandemic eases far enough, companies may want to emphasize their physical location for team building. “I see a slow, gradual climb back to normal,” Farber indicates. “With the vaccines out and mandates loosening, we believe people will start opening their doors.” It will be interesting to see what conditions develop. Candidates used to the comfort of Zoom meetings may wish to conduct a larger share of business away from the office. Whether companies grant that may depend upon the department. “In some areas, like finance, compliance and HR, you don’t necessarily have to be on the property all the time to get your job done,” Farber says. “The exchange of information can be just as effective on a remote call. Someone can offer to go in a couple of times a week or even a month to show face.” It’s also tricky to get people to work, period. Whether the issue was job dissatisfaction, child-care or health issues, record numbers have adapted the Johnny Paycheck option to “Take This Job and Shove It.” “Some of that could be that people just don’t want to get the vaccine shot, but much of it also is the sentiment that ‘I am just going to quit. I don’t like my job; I am going to retire,’” Weiswasser says. “That’s why base salaries are going
up. Somebody emailed me about McDonald’s advertising for help, saying they would pay employees $19 an hour.”
Resource Partners has an extensive file of job openings and candidates, which both sides can view on its website before approaching one another. And then the negotiation dance begins. “It starts with the client company (casino operator/manufacturer) reaching out to us directly,” Werksman says. “Once we have an initial discussion about the specific parameters of the role (job description, compensation package details, location, etc.) we will then begin the search with an internal review to discuss the profile and any ‘qualified suspects’ we may be able to attract for initial discussion of the role.” Negotiations progress from there, and a certain number reach the finish line. Werksman actually stumbled upon involvement in this role. “I’ve been doing this for 31 years,” he says. “I fell into it by walking into a recruiter’s office many years ago. We hit it off personally and he asked me to try it for two weeks. I did and fell in love with the interaction I had with both clients and candidates and making that successful match. “The most value we have is connecting people that never knew of each other,” he indicates. “It’s a lot like setting people up on a blind date after each side says they need help finding that special ‘someone.’ It is a very rewarding profession if you do it precisely, quietly and without fanfare.” The profile of an ideal candidate hasn’t changed, even in a candidate-driven market, Farber says. Stability and gradual mobility reign supreme. “Some recruiters may fall into the trap thinking that it is so tough to find people that perhaps the client will bend and loosen the standards, but that’s not so,” he says. Farber’s company has been licensed or approved as vendors to conduct business with corporate casinos, tribal organizations, suppliers and online gaming companies throughout the United States, Mexico, South America, Africa and Asia. Farber enjoys the facilitating role the company plays with candidates and clients. “For us, this is about longstanding relationships,” he says. “We treat the process with care. If you are in it for the right reasons, it comes back to you in the long run. There is no need to make (one transaction) seem like a bank robbery. “We keep coming back to the idea that we are vital in the process of telling somebody about an opportunity that can change their life for the better. It can be a better path, a more desirable location, a chance to get back to family. We are the little bridge to doing that.” Weiswasser advises candidates to understand the big picture. Salaries were substantial when executives first had to relocate to Macau, for instance, given the change of lifestyle and the high demand for quality executives. But if those candidates return to the United States, the compensation package may not match up. Regardless of the twists and turns, Weiswasser reflects an industry-wide headhunters’ intent of bringing people together. It matches the satisfaction a real-estate agent has in finding someone the perfect home. “What gets me the most excited is when I can set a company up with a candidate and then see that person advance through, get to the second interview and then past that,” Weiswasser says. “The satisfaction for me is knowing that I supplied a good candidate for that company. I don’t know if you call it being a talent scout or a Jerry McGuire,” he added in reference to the Tom Cruise character in a movie about sports agents, “but it makes me proud of what we do.” JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 54 mypoint:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:56 PM Page 54
MAKING MY POINT
Become a Leper Don’t react to every little thing, keep your powder dry, and become unstoppable
eems the only selling point to becoming a leper—besides the whole gettingyour-own-island thing—is the whole being-impervious-to-pain thing. No, not in the superhero sense; rather, in the sense that your neurons are frayed and decayed to the point they can no longer signal the brain there’s been some sort of physical breach by heat or cold or trauma. Uh… maybe that’s not such a bonus after all. In actual fact and in all seriousness, this is indeed the most debilitating condition of leprosy, as absence of pain does not equal absence of injury. You may be bruised, burned or battered, but you just don’t know it, and it’s this inability to feel and react and adjust that makes it the curse that keeps on vexing. Same goes for your career. Because if you can’t—whatever the workplace equivalent is to resting your bare hand on a hot stove—modify your actions or attitudes based on external stimuli, you are doomed to fail. Or at least doomed to fail to reach your potential. And that’s a pain, a lost opportunity that you’ll not only feel right where it hurts, but that you’ll carry around with you the rest of your life. “For all sad words of tongue or pen,” a poet once wrote, “the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’” And the saddest part of the saddest part is that it’s so un-f’ing unnecessary. Come on, bruh. The world abounds in feedback, explicit and implied. Friends, family, bosses, employees, weirdos in the supermarket. It’s here, there and everywhere. Like the Holy Spirit… or the Electric Slide. Boogie, woogie, woogie. All you need to do it is tune yourself into the feedback frequency. Here’s how:
Ask And Ye Shall Receive Most people are polite… well, at least to your face. So even if they think you’re an idiot or a
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
By Roger Snow
goofball or a brownnoser or a knucklehead or a jerk or an egomaniac or—well, you get the point—they’re not going to say it to your face. Especially if you’re the boss. For the most part, employees tell them only what they want to hear because constantly complaining may get you labeled a whiner or a winger or a grump or a moaner or—well, you get the point—and perhaps you’ll fall out of grace with your superior. Attention all big cheeses and even medium cheeses out there. You need to foster the type of relationships with employees so they feel com-
But at least there’s a way, a quantitative way to discern how others feel about that Halloween picture of your 10-year-old dressed like a guard from the Squid Game, or your 840-word column, uh, comparing your career to leprosy. It’s the “like” button. People either like a post or they abstain. Simple. But let’s be honest: people are liberal with their likes to a fault, so abstention means they actually didn’t like it, or they found it so uninteresting they scrolled right past it. Track your likes and views to get a sense of what’s resonating and what’s falling flat. Then do more of the former and less—or zero—of the latter.
says “ Iftheeveryone same thing
50 Million Elvis Fans
about you, whether positive or negative, it’s probably true. And even if it’s not true, with perception being reality and whatnot, it’s still true.
fortable to approach you with some bad news. Ask open-ended questions on what needs improvement. If you think about it, a big chunk of what managers and executives do is extinguish fires before they blaze out of control. Makes sense you’d want to know when and where they’re about to ignite. All you have to do it engage, ask, and listen.
Social Dilemma Think about your social media circle. If yours is anything like everyone else’s, there are a couple of Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections that don’t know how to discriminate between the interesting and the banal. They think everything they do is post-worthy. News flash: It ain’t.
Can’t be wrong. So, if everyone says the same thing about you, whether positive or negative, it’s probably true. And even if it’s not true, with perception being reality and whatnot, it’s still true. Don’t fight the wisdom of crowds. That’s why so many people—and you’ve known scores of them over the years—that even when confronted with the unanimous opinion that something needs to change in their job performance or management style or overall personality, they listen intently and… Stay exactly the same. And then they bounce out of your company and onto the next, and onto the next and onto the next. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Don’t do that. Life is all about adjustments. Absorb all the clues and cues out there and use them to get better. Constant improvement is the key to success. Well, one of them, anyway. Meh, OK, it’s probably in the top five. And just imagine how much more valuable you would be to your organization a month from now or a year from now if you just eked out a smidgeon of development every day. You’d become unstoppable. Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Scientific Games. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Scientific Games Corporation or its affiliates.
Project1:Layout 1 10/20/21 10:54 AM Page 1
p. 56 legal:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:56 PM Page 56
Tarnished Gold Nevada regulation is not the gold standard for responsible or problem gambling, and this should change
evada has an opportunity to rethink its approach to responsible and problem gambling. In the process, it can forge a new path for gaming regulation that has lacked innovation for decades. Problem and pathological gambling are communal issues. Problem gamblers report higher rates of divorce, bankruptcy, suicide and criminal activity. Ideally, casinos would have responsible gambling programs that reduce the number of persons who develop problems. Treatment programs would be accessible that lessen the impacts of those who do experience a disorder. Responsible gaming programs attempt to create a gambling environment that avoids problem gaming-related harm by encouraging players to make informed choices that maintain gambling as a recreational activity consistent with their finances, time and other responsibilities. Nevada is not the “gold standard” for addressing responsible or problem gambling. Nevada gaming regulation on responsible gambling has not progressed much since gambling was legalized in 1931. Minimal Nevada requirements generally require casino operators to post signage in the casino, have responsible gambling options for creating wagering accounts, and provide online players options regarding bet, loss, and deposit limits. This position was understandable. Nevada was once a sparsely populated state. Predominantly out-of-state visitors exported problem gambling issues when they left. This changed, as Las Vegas and Reno combined have almost 3 million residents. More frequently, the social problems end up with our family, colleagues, friends and neighbors. How prevalent is this problem in Nevada? We really don’t know, because the state has not conducted or funded a prevalence study for 20 years. Moreover, Nevada continues to woefully underfund treatment. A 2021 University of Nevada, Las Vegas study found that 97 percent of clients eliminated or reduced their gambling activity one year after treatment, and 56 percent of participants reported not gambling since enrolling in treatment. Despite the effectiveness of treatment, in 2021, the state allo-
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
By Anthony Cabot
cated only $1,167,087 for prevention, research, workforce development, treatment, information management, and administration. This meager funding is unacceptable for a state that generated over $11 billion in gaming revenues in the last 12 months. Nevada does not do much better in addressing responsible gambling. Current gaming regulation focuses on a one-size-fits-all approach to regulating over 200 casinos and 2,000 smaller locations such as bars and convenience stores with slots. In sum, the Gaming Commission sets out rules for these locations, and if the operators fail to comply, the Gaming Control Board can bring disciplinary action. This command-and-control approach generally works with technical requirements like the type and placement of surveillance cameras or the steps for issuing player credit, but it is challenging to use for responsible gambling. First, regulators do not have a repository of best practices to choose from. While an admirable amount of research on identifying and treating problem gambling exists, evidence-based research on the effectiveness of mandated responsible gambling measures is deficient. Second, where research exists, it is even rarer that the studies analyze the effectiveness of the mandates in promoting responsible gambling with implementation difficulties and costs that may have a significant economic impact. Third, absent evidence-based research, mandates often derive from what regulators reason will be effective. Yet, these “common sense” approaches often are ineffective or counterproductive. Fourth, once regulators have established broad minimum standards, the regulated have little motivation to exceed the standards or innovate to achieve better results. Nevada has a unique opportunity to approach responsible gambling from a new perspective—to allow the industry to focus on innovative solutions that demonstrate tangible positive outcomes. Some companies, like MGM Grand, have developed responsible gaming programs. Yet, as a community, we cannot rely on the benevolence of a few and require a meaningful industry-wide response. Because Nevada has few regulations regarding responsible gambling, changing how the regulators
approach responsible gambling does not risk that the new system will underperform the baseline. The new approach should be reward-based. Casino companies could create responsible gaming programs, test these systems for effectiveness and submit the methods and results to the regulators. Why would companies be motivated to innovate responsible gaming programs? Companies that achieve various levels of success based on outcome could be multiple levels of certification. A casino may strive to achieve a “platinum level responsible gaming” award for many reasons. Government certification allows patrons to make choices based on their values and supply the rewards in the market for desired behavior, like those who buy “Green” or “Responsibly Sourced” products or prefer LEED-certified construction. Certified casino companies also may have an advantage in bidding for new global casino projects that consider social responsibility as a factor. The Nevada regulators also need to create a position for a responsible gambling liaison. This professional could, among other things, actively work with the casinos to strengthen programmatic, regulatory and enforcement components of responsible gambling programs, and translate academic studies on responsible gambling and best regulatory practices into easily consumable information. Nevada also should help fund and encourage innovation through a grant program. The regulatory liaison could assist in seeking grant money from the federal and state governments and make recommendations for awarding such program funding. If this regulatory experiment proves successful, Nevada may even consider changing the dynamics of other regulatory areas to recognize that casino regulatory innovation may benefit from having the brightest minds in the casino industry concentrate on results instead of minimum standards. Anthony Cabot is the Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law at the UNLV Boyd School of Law, where he directs the gaming law program. Before joining the faculty in March 2018, he practiced gaming law for 37 years and was the chair of the gaming law practice and executive committee member at Lewis & Roca.
Strength in Numbers
More than 160 member companies from 22 countries Nearly $21 billion in direct revenue • 61,700 employees 13 publicly traded companies • ONE POWERFUL VOICE Address worldwide industry expansion, regulatory and legislative issues • Discounts on major trade show booth space Promote responsible gaming initiatives • Updates from influential global industry leaders Advertising discounts in leading industry publications • Educational partnerships benefiting students and members Visibility in AGEM’s print advertisements • Exposure for publicly traded companies in the monthly AGEM Index Join AGEM today and work together with the world’s leading gaming suppliers. Marcus Prater, Executive Director +1 702 812 6932 • firstname.lastname@example.org Tracy Cohen, Director of Europe + 44 (0) 7970 833 543 • email@example.com Connie Jones, Director of Responsible Gaming +1 702 528 4374 • firstname.lastname@example.org Design & photo-illustration by Jeff Farrell.com • AGEM and charter ESP member since 2007.
©2022 Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM). Membership list current as of December 2021.
p. 58 ngr:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:57 PM Page 58
NEW GAME REVIEW by Frank Legato
Hai Long AGS
his is one of the two launch titles in the AGS “Bubble Mania” game family, designed for the Orion Portrait and Orion Curve cabinets. (The other title is a sister game, the witch-themed Potion Pays.) The base game is a five-reel, 50-line video slot in an operator-selectable denomination. It is available with stand-alone or linked progressives. The dragon-themed Hai Long includes a persistent-state feature in which bubbles with cash-on-reels values appear from the bottom of the reel array and float upward with each spin. Randomly, the game’s subaquatic dragon swoops through while bubbles appear with credits or jackpots, moving up one reel position for each game played. Oversized bubbles may be awarded in multiple positions. In addition to credits, the bubbles can award one of two progressive jackpots. If they land on a pearl trigger symbol, they pay the indicated credit amount. The bubbles can randomly grow to cover more reel spots—even the entire reel array, virtually guaranteeing a payoff. But the bonus features are the center of the game. In the primary game, randomly, bubbles appear over reel symbols to award a credit amount or one of the progressives. In the free-spin round, the reels expand up to seven rows—meaning the bubbles have much more real estate on which to rise upward across the
Pinwheel Prizes Incredible Technologies
his is one of the first games on IT’s groundbreaking Prizm VXP cabinet. The VXP stands for “vertical expansion.” The cabinet presents three screens to the player—the main 27-inch 4K touchscreen landscape monitor is augmented by the 18.5-inch button deck, the largest in the business, which doubles as an extra touchscreen monitor for use in various bonuses and game play. But sitting behind the main game screen is a giant 55-inch flat-screen 4K monitor. The 55-inch monitor physically rises, using a commercial-grade motor to smoothly move into position for game mechanics on the entire grand display. The Pinwheel Prizes series features two inaugural games, Pinwheel Prizes Cat & Tiger and Pinwheel Prizes Majestic Oasis. Both are 40-line games with five pinwheels on the top monitor displaying credit prizes. 58
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
reel array, and more chances at awards. Then, there is a fun feature called the Bubble Pick Bonus. This is an interactive touch-screen event in which a fast-paced succession of bubbles—large and small, bearing credit amounts and the occasional jackpot—fly up the screen, and the player touches as many as possible to accumulate awards. Free games, triggered with three or more scattered dragon head symbols, initiate with 10 spins, and the reel array expands to eight rows. Free games can be retriggered.
Manufacturer: AGS Platform: Orion Format: Five-reel, 50-line video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10, .25, .50, 1.00, 2.00, 5.00, 10.00 (operator-selectable) Max Bet: 750 Top Award: Progressive; Reset at 500,000 times denomination Hit Frequency: 28.63% Theoretical Hold: 4.38%-14.8%
Manufacturer: Incredible Technologies Platform: Prism Format: Five-reel, 40-line video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10 Max Bet: 300 Top Award: 20,000 times bet Hit Frequency: Approximately 40% Theoretical Hold: 5.84%-14.85%
Scatters increase the value of the pinwheel wedges, which remain until three scatter symbols trigger a spin. The free-spin round in each game triggers the VXP feature. The 55-inch monitor rises as the reels expand into a double set with 40 additional pay lines, for eight free spins. In Majestic Oasis, the free-spin round features a lock-and-spin mechanic on the top reel set. Pinwheel scatters lock in place and stay until three fill a reel to trigger a spin of the corresponding pinwheel. Five pinwheels feature wedges of credit awards and free spins. Free spins can be awarded by the scatters or by landing on a Gold wedge during a Pinwheel spin. Eight free spins take place on the dual set of reels, with 40 paylines each.
WITH US! dubuQue’s hottest casino is where you’ll experience the thrill of winning the moment you step on the floor.
QCasinoAndHotel.com • Dubuque, Iowa Management reserves all rights. Must be 21. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-BETS-OFF.
p. 58 ngr:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:57 PM Page 60
Rising Diamond Konami Gaming, Inc.
his new game on Konami’s tall Dimension 49 cabinet takes the standard expanding-reels bonus and applies it to the entire primary
game. The array starts out as a five-by-three array—five reels, three rows each, offering 243 ways to win on each spin. Any one, two or three wild symbols landing on the reels expands the array by one, two or three rows, respectively. The expanded array and increased ways to win remain in place until no wilds appear for three games in a row, after which the screen reverts to the original five-by-three setup. Reaching the top level results in a free-spin round on a 10-row array of reels that yields 100,000 ways to win on every spin. There is an added bonus for when certain height thresholds are reached in the expanding-reel feature. If one wild lands when the reels are seven rows high, or when two wilds land at six rows high or three at five rows high, the “Rising Diamond Bonus” feature is triggered. During this feature, the player selects icons to reveal multipliers, extra free spins, rising reels or extra picks. When the reels extend to the top, a free spin
Manufacturer: Konami Gaming, Inc. Platform: KXP Format: Five-reel, 243-ways-to-win video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10, .25, .50, 1.00 Max Bet: 800 Top Award: Progressive; Reset at 500,000 times denomination Hit Frequency: 30.57% Theoretical Hold: 5.94%-12.91%
bonus is triggered, in which the spins begin at five, and the total resets to five every time a Rising Diamond symbol appears on a free spin. There is a three-level progressive, triggered by matching jackpot symbols on reels one and five—the Minor, resetting at $40 in the penny version, the Major, resetting at $200, or the Grand, resetting at $5,000—500,000 credits in denominations available as high as $1. The game is available in two versions, Rising Diamond Pink Edition or Rising Diamond Blue Edition. The color of the theme graphics is the only difference.
Ainsworth Game Technology
his new title on Ainsworth’s A-STAR Curve cabinet Manufacturer: Ainsworth Game Technology features a constant persistent feature that results in Platform: A-STAR Curve wild reels on the four-by-five format and in wilds with Format: Five-reel, 40-line video slot multipliers. Denomination: .01 through 100.00 The base game is a 40-line video slot, but the persistent feaMax Bet: 500 ture is always active. In the base game, whenever a framed pearl Top Award: 36,000 Credits lands, the frame remains until the game’s main character—the Hit Frequency: 41.22% tiger, or in an identical sister game, the Panther in Panther’s Theoretical Hold: 5%-15% Throne. When the tiger or panther roars, all framed positions turn into Wild, 2X Wild or 3X Wild symbols. Frequently during the base game, the tiger or panther will land in a framed position, which turns the entire reel wild. additional three-spin rounds, This injects a lot of volatility into the game. The period in which the any wild symbol that lands on player is collecting framed positions can extend a good while, until several the screen sticks for the remainreels are all but covered with framed symbols. When what is called the der of the feature. If the tiger or Roar Bonus hits when the screen is filled with frames, the payoff is huge— panther roars at this point, the typically hundreds of dollars on a penny game. wilds can be transformed into The free-games feature takes the wild sequence farther. When it is trig2X or 3X wilds. gered with three scatter symbols, the screen expands to double the height— eight rows and 80 paylines. For 10 free spins with a chance to retrigger for 60
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
CPPNNEFullpage.qxp_Layout 1 9/14/21 1:56 PM Page 40
New apps, new e-newsletters and new marketing opportunities
All over America, players are escaping to the best casino resorts in the comfort of their own homes! FINDING A LUCKY MACHINE ■ MASTERING BLACKJACK BASIC STRATEGY
For more than 30 years, Casino Player Publishing has thrived as publishers of America’s most popular gaming lifestyle magaTHE zines—Casino Player and Strictly Slots. Over the decades, millions of gamblers have enjoyed and benefited from the expert tips and gaming strategies, as well as the insider information not OF GAMING 2021 Our 26th Annual Awards found anywhere else. Whether they are improving their video for Gaming’s Elite poker skills, searching for the latest slot to hit the floor, learning to navigate through a sportsbook or checking out the most luxurious new gaming resorts to open, CPP delivers the information, in a highly enjoyable format, directly to their door. Connect with thousands of gaming enthusiasts with Casino Player and Strictly Slots and discover how your marketing dollars will work for you.
BACK-TO-BACK JACKPOT TALES n NEW CARDS, NEW REWARDS
BEST AMERICA’S GAMING LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE
THE MAGAZINE FOR SLOTS & VIDEO POKER PLAYERS
Jade Wins Deluxe, Golden Wins Deluxe deliver classic gameplay evolved; exciting new games offer rewarding dual-wheel bonuses in theater-like experience ®
GOING FOR THE BIG PAYDAY
THE BEST Casinos • Hotels • Rooms • Suites • Comps • Promotions Service • Slots • Video Poker • Table Games • Players Clubs • Dealers Sportsbooks • Spas • Golf Courses • Casino Where You Feel Luckiest Casino Resort to Vacation At & Much, Much More!
Holding the low-card kicker in Double Double Bonus Poker
PLUS SLOT PLAY SNIPPETS New York casinos, historical horse-racing games, casino thieves and much more
Your Partner With The Gaming Consumer More info: email@example.com • 800-229-8516 • www.casinocenter.com
Loosest Slots Certification Program • “Best Of” Campaigns • Product Reviews • Property Spotlights Digital platforms including e-newsletters, web and mobile delivered to highly targeted demographics
p. 62 goods:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:34 PM Page 62
Sibella to Keynote at ICE VOX
C SIGHTLINE, IGT EXPAND PARTNERSHIP TO INCLUDE JOINGO
ightline last month announced that IGT will use its proprietary mobile loyalty platform, Joingo, as the preferred mobile app solution for casino operators leveraging IGT casino management technology. This collaboration builds on the existing delivery of cashless gaming solutions using Sightline’s award-winning digital commerce platform Play+ and IGT’s suite of products including the IGT Advantage casino management system, the Resort Wallet and IGTPay cashless solutions and the PlaySports platform. Sightline’s mobile loyalty platform Joingo enables casino brands to create their own unique mobile apps which nearly 100 casinos have utilized nationwide. Joingo’s cloud-based system allows operators to send targeted messages, create geofences, and view advanced analytics through personalized and interactive mobile campaigns that drive increased reach, loyalty and revenue. IGT’s suite of casino management products works compatibly with Sightline’s mobile loyalty platform to provide operators a best-in-class technology offering. In October, IGT and Sightline announced Play+ as a funding method for IGT’s land-based cashless wagering solutions, Resort Wallet and IGTPay. By adding Play+ into IGTPay, players can fund their Resort Wallet accounts via Play+ and then use those funds for gaming and entertainment at casino properties. Sightline’s mobile loyalty platform further empowers IGT customers with more resources to facilitate a modern gaming experience.
MAXIMBET SELECTS GLOBAL PAYMENTS
n response to the rapid growth of online sports betting, MaximBet, owned by privately held licensed sports betting and casino operator Carousel Group, has selected Global Payments Gaming Solutions’ iGaming solutions to provide a seamless funding experience to patrons via their
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
larion Gaming announced that Scott Sibella, president of Resorts World Las Vegas, will open its ICE VOX International Casino Conference in London with a keynote address January 31, 2022, the day before the opening of the ICE London trade show and conference. The first property to open on the Las Vegas Strip in 11 years, Resorts World Las Vegas launched on a platform of industry-leading technology that connects gaming, entertainment, leisure and dining options. Sibella, a casino veteran who has managed properties such as The Mirage and MGM Scott Sibella Grand, will discuss the work undertaken to bring the highly anticipated project to fruition in a keynote address to VOX attendees. “ICE VOX is an integral part of the ICE London experience and delivers a unique opportunity to listen to the industry’s preeminent thought leaders,” said Stuart Hunter, managing director of Clarion Gaming, “as well as meeting with the people responsible for the gamechanging iconic products and innovations found on the ICE show floor. “Visitors are traveling to ICE London to see the very best that the international industry can offer, and I am delighted that a figure of Scott Sibella’s caliber has agreed to join us and contribute to what it is that makes ICE London so special. The 2022 edition of ICE London/ICE VOX will be the first for two years, and I can assure attendees that it will be a celebration of everything that makes the industry so vibrant and so exciting.”
smart devices. The partnership will provide users a simple, secure method to fund their online gaming accounts and access winnings in real time. Launched in September, MaximBet is quickly expanding its reach in markets across the U.S. and Canada after debuting in Colorado. MaximBet, through its partnership with media giant and men’s lifestyle leader Maxim, is able to provide its users with advantages other brands do not, including exclusive real-world experiences and events to access to celebrity personalities and athletes. Founded in 2017, Carousel Group leverages proprietary technology to build a personalized betting experience for patrons. With Global Payments Gaming Solutions, Carousel Group can access ACH guaranteed services to enable players to fund their bets and get real-time access to their winnings electronically using their regular checking accounts. Global Payments’ VIP Preferred e-check network powers funding and withdrawals for online sports betting users, enabling them to effortlessly access funds from their on-file checking accounts. With Global Payments’ VIP Preferred echeck network, patrons can wager at more than 500 land-based and online gaming establishments without having to re-register their account. The blending of digital and physical gaming can drive higher guest satisfaction and put more dollars in play with lower risk.
TCSJOHNHUXLEY TO BUY MIDWEST GAME SUPPLY INC.
.K.-based TCSJohnHuxley has agreed to acquire all the shares of Midwest Game Supply Inc. (MWGS). The Missouri-based company is an international leader in dice manufacture. The acquisition is expected to close by the first quarter of next year.
The two companies have enjoyed a long relationship, and when MWGS owners Linda and Charles Sohm decided to retire, TCSJohnHuxley stepped in with the commitment to grow the business and become a premier supplier of live table games in North America. The MWGS facility in Kearney, Missouri will continue to operate as before. TCS Executive Chairman Tristan Sjöberg said in a statement, “My brother Michael and myself are delighted with this deal to acquire Midwest Game Supply. Linda and Charles have established a strong company that is committed to excellence and admired by many. As a familyrun business ourselves, we understand the importance of these values and therefore fully intend to uphold their legacy by continuing to run the business in the same spirit that they are well-known for.”
p. 62 goods:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:34 PM Page 63
KONAMI, REELMETRICS EXTEND DATA AGREEMENT
lot supplier Konami Gaming, Inc. and data science firm ReelMetrics B.V. announced jointly that the companies have renewed their data service subscription agreement, marking the third major transaction between the companies and the second such renewal since the firms began collaborating in 2018. The companies also announced a deepening of cooperation regarding a number of sales, marketing and product development initiatives. Under the terms of the agreement, Konami will become the inaugural supply-side participant in the ReelMetrics “Cupid Initiative,” which features the utilization of billions of meticulously detailed, de-identified gaming sessions to provide seminal insights into player behavior and product resonance. “Over the past several years, Konami has benefited significantly from the ReelMetrics platform,” said Steve Sutherland, president & CEO of Konami Gaming, Inc. “With Konami’s commitment to performance-driven design, it’s imperative that our data sources are broad, deep, actionable, and trustworthy. ReelMetrics has proven its ability to supply such data consistently and reliably, and is an organization focused on fostering revolutionary insights into player behavior and its relationship to slot product consumption.”
market as the government enforces new laws on brick-and-mortar casinos. R. Franco, founded in 1965, is the country’s largest manufacturer of fruit machines. Grupo Orenes has been its competitor since 1968. It manufactures components for land-based casinos and systems. R. Franco founder and President Jesus Franco Munoz said in a statement, “Both companies are united by very strong personal ties and a long history of success. This merger strengthens us in the face of the challenges we want to tackle and assures us of a promising future.” Eliseo Orenes, president of Grupo Orenes, added, “This union reinforces us and guarantees our future positioning as one of the main global operators in the sector. We are going to continue working to improve our customers’ experiences and generate value for society as a whole.” The merged company plans to launch an international strategy aimed at Latin American jurisdictions. Orenes operates casinos in three states in Mexico. They also plan to create new digital offerings and the Orenes Versus sportsbook brand.
Custom-made seating to Johnny Mac’s Sports Bar
GARY PLATT PROVIDES CHAIRS FOR HENDERSON CASINOS
ary Platt Manufacturing is doing its part in revitalizing downtown Henderson, Nevada. The company just installed casino seating at the Rainbow Club and at Emerald Island, a testament to a longstanding relationship between the company and casino owner Tim Brooks. Gary Platt installed 300 new units of its Monaco chair at the Rainbow Club and 300 GX2 chairs at Emerald Island. Also in Henderson, the company announced that it has delivered custom-made seating to Johnny Mac’s Sports Bar and Grill extending its Irish theme. Gary Platt installed its patented Monaco chairs in the bar and in the dining room.
SPANISH GAMING GIANTS TO MERGE
he Spanish gaming manufacturers Grupo Orenes and R. Franco have agreed to a merger. Together they will form Spain’s largest gaming machine manufacturer and distributor of games for casinos, arcades and cafes. The merger is seen as a defensive measure to help them cope with changes in the country’s
Eliseo Orenes of Grupo Orenes and Jesus Franco Munoz of R. Franco sign the merger documents
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 64 frank:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:32 PM Page 64
FRANKLY SPEAKING by Frank Legato
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
booze is even more expensive than Grey Goose. It’s made with Charles Heidsieck Champagne Charlie 1981 and Louis XIII de Remy Martin Black Pearl cognac. Plus, a pair of silver cufflinks and an 18-karat white-gold chain. Are you sensing a pattern here? The Ono Cocktail costs about $1,000 a sip. Even more if you add Ono sideboards and spinal crackers. But maybe they weren’t referencing Yoko Ono at all with that drink. Maybe they meant you look at the bill and go, “Oh, no!” In either case, what you’ve got here is a nice high-end drink with jewelry in it. Doesn’t that affect the taste? Isn’t there a danger you’ll swallow a silver cufflink? The other casino to make the Top 5 on the Payday Loans List of Ridiculously Expensive Cocktails was Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut, where you can pony up to the bar in the new Mezz Ultra Lounge and order a Sapphire Martini, No. 4 on the most-pricey-drink list. Served in a traditional martini glass, the Sapphire Martini is made with Blue Curacao, Bombay Sapphire Gin and a splash of dry vermouth, and is coated with blue sugar on the rim. “But,” as the Danbury, Connecticut News-Times reports, “it’s the accompanying pair of custom-made blue sapphire and diamond earrings, set in a sterling silver pick, that makes the cocktail sweet.” Well, at least it’s on the side instead of in the drink. If the first young clubber who ordered the drink was handed the bar tab while taking a sip, I’m guessing he did a Danny Thomas-style “spit-take.” Not really. Evidently, this is the next big thing for the clubber generation. “I think people are willing to spend more to have a premium experience, so they’re buying less but they’re buying higher quality,” said Brett Anderson, senior vice president and editorial director for luxury lifestyle magazine The Robb Report, in remarks to the News-Times. Anderson called uber-expensive drinks “a Louis Vuitton bag for the bar crowd.” Sooo... how about some Pappy Van Winkle bourbon in a Louis Vuitton bag? On my budget, it’s going to be Jim Beam and a Timex watch. At least the watch will keep on ticking. VICT OR R INALDO
here’s good news for connoisseurs of high-end cocktails at Las Vegas casinos. Or Las Vegas resort guests who want to pay outrageous prices for drinks simply because they can afford it and want all of us hoi-polloi to know it. Two Las Vegas resorts made the Top 5 in the Payday Loans Net list of the most expensive cocktails in the world. Yes, those are the people who will front you a loan until payday up to the amount of whatever collateral you have, such as a deed to a car, or a kidney. Naturally, the people who give out payday loans are the best to appreciate the nuances of the world’s finest cocktails. I’m sure they deal with cocktail snobs all the time. “Do you think my pickup is worth enough for a rare Remy Martin cognac? I just changed the oil.” In any event, the cocktail that won Payday Loans recognition as the most expensive cocktail in the world wasn’t from a casino, but it was a fancy hotel, part of our overall hospitality industry. The winner was the “Diamonds Are Forever” cocktail at the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo, which you can have the bartender slide your way for a mere $22,600. According to a news report, the Diamonds Are Forever drink contains Grey Goose vodka, a twist of lime, and a $16,000 diamond. Hold the phone here. Is Payday Loans’ idea of creating a fine cocktail taking a bottle off the shelf, pouring booze into a glass and dropping in a slice of lime, plus an expensive jewel? The Mad Diamond. It’s created with a $10,000 diamond placed in a tumbler of Mad Dog 20/20. Ruby of the South. A ruby immersed in a bottle of Southern Comfort. Diamond-Imp-and-Arn. A shot of Imperial whiskey and an Iron City Beer with a diamond chaser. (That’s for my Pittsburgh buds.) However, this isn’t quite the same. If you look more closely at the most expensive cocktail in the world, it’s a $16,000 diamond in a $22,600 drink. That means they’re charging $6,600 for a slice of lime and a couple ounces of Grey Goose vodka. OK, that’s preposterous enough to appeal to wealthy drinkers. The second-most expensive drink in the world can be found in our very own casino universe, at the XS Nightclub in Wynn Las Vegas. It’s the Ono Cocktail, priced at $10,000. This one’s a real bargain, because the
p. 65 people:Layout 1 12/16/21 2:41 PM Page 65
PEOPLE SWITKOWSKI CONFIRMED AS CROWN RESORTS CHAIRMAN
rown Resorts has announced the official appointment of former telecom executive Ziggy Switkowski as the company’s new chairman. Having passed the necesZiggy Switkowski sary regulatory checks, Switkowski will replace interim chair Jane Halton in the role. Halton, who has filled the role since August 26, is the only one of 11 Crown board members from a year ago still with the company, and will remain on as an independent non-executive director. Switkowski joins a number of other recent board appointees, including former SkyCity Entertainment Group directors Nigel Morrison and Bruce Carter. When he was appointed in August, Switkowski said it is his plan to “grow value for shareholders by continuing the urgent work to reform the business.” Last year, Crown was deemed unsuitable to retain its gaming licenses for both Crown Sydney in New South Wales and Crown Melbourne in Victoria. The NSW casino was new and never opened, but may eventually open if Crown comes into compliance with regulations in the states where it does business; the Victoria casino remains operational under a two-year probationary period, during which Crown must prove itself worthy to retain the license. Crown Melbourne will operate under the watch of a special manager during that grace period.
CLARK NAMED COO OF SENECA GAMING
eneca Gaming Corp. tapped veteran casino executive Craig Clark as the chief operating officer for its three properties in upstate New York. Clark will oversee business efficiency and drive Craig Clark revenue, profitability and growth at Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. “The corporation has set a standard of excellence at its three properties,” Clark said. “I’m excited by the opportunity to work with our team to create a comprehensive vision for the future, especially as the gaming market continues to evolve.” Clark will work alongside Seneca Gaming Presi-
dent and CEO Kevin Nephew to develop and implement a strategic plan. Before Seneca, Clark served as vice president of finance at Live! Casino Pittsburgh in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He’s worked throughout the U.S. and Canada with Hard Rock International, Rivers Casino, the Turning Stone Resort Casino and the Pechanga Resort.
JULIE CAMERON-DOE LEAVING ARISTOCRAT FOR WYNN
ristocrat Leisure Limited recently announced longtime Chief Financial Officer Julie Cameron-Doe has resigned and will serve in a similar role at Wynn Resorts Ltd. An Aristocrat official, Julie Cameron-Doe Cameron-Doe will fulfill the remaining six months of her contractual notice period. Cameron-Doe will succeed Craig Billings, who last month was named the new chief executive officer at Wynn Resorts, replacing Matt Maddox, who will step down from that role early next year. “Julie is a proven leader and is a sitting publiccompany CFO,” Billings said. “Coming from the gaming industry, she understands many aspects of our business and she has diverse international experience. She is the clear choice for this position, and her appointment rounds out our senior executive team. We are indeed fortunate to have her join us next year.” Cameron-Doe joined Aristocrat in August 2013 and was named chief financial officer in January 2018. She also served as group general manager for finance and general manager for planning and finance at the business. Previously, she was finance director for Healthcare Australia, HotelClub and ebookers. Cameron-Doe was also head of global finance for International Masters Publishers and served in numerous roles at the Walt Disney Company and KPMG.
GRONDIN TO HEAD NJ COMPULSIVE GAMBLING COUNCIL
he Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey has named Felicia Grondin as its new executive director. Grondin has served as acting executive director since July, Felicia Grondin and has been a board member of the agency for four years. Grondin was previously chief of staff for Assemblyman Fred Scerni and legislative liaison of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, where she helped
streamline regulations. In addition, she served as assistant dean of social and behavioral sciences and associate director of the Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University.
VICTORIA RECRUITS THORN AS LEAD REGULATOR
he government of Victoria, Australia has named former Department of Health Secretary Fran Thorn as chairwoman of the state’s new gaming regulator. Starting January 1, she will be charged with establishing the new Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC), which replaces the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Fran Thorn Regulation (VCGLR). The decision to form a dedicated casino regulator followed a Royal Commission inquiry of Crown Melbourne. That probe found the operator unsuitable to retain its casino license but granted it two years in which to prove its suitability. Thorn, formerly Victoria’s top health bureaucrat, will bring “extensive experience” to the new regulator, having previously designed and delivered significant government service reforms and worked across government in policy, planning, funding and regulation. Thorn has been appointed for an initial three-year term.
January 2022 Index of Advertisers
Acres Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 AGEM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57 AGS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Aristocrat Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9, 68 Casino Player . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61 Everi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5, 33 Fantini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63 Fox Rothschild . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 G2E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55 Gaming Laboratories International . . . . . . . . . . .25 GAN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41 GGB Magazine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 GGB Podcast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51 HBG Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 IGT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67 IGT PlaySports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 IT Technology Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 J Carcamo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43 Lifescapes International . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 Q Casino & Hotel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59 World Game Protection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47
JANUARY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
p. 66 casinocomm:Layout 1 12/16/21 1:31 PM Page 66
Richard Schwartz CEO and Co-Founder, Rush Street Interactive
ichard Schwartz co-founded Rush Street Interactive in 2012, before any online gaming was legal in the U.S. Initially RSI focused on social gaming, but it ramped up quickly as online gaming was legalized in New Jersey in 2013. When PASPA was repealed and sports betting was added to the menu, RSI spent time getting their app right, and today it is one of the fastest-growing apps in the industry. RSI recently was approved for mobile online gaming and sports betting in Connecticut and New York, where it already operates the most successful retail sportsbook in the state. Schwartz spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at G2E in Las Vegas in October.
GGB: Rush Street Interactive has been doing some real interesting things since the last time we talked. You had a very successful year. Tell us some of the milestones that your company hit. Richard Schwartz: First of all, the financial
highlight is that we went public in December. Every quarter since we went live, we’ve been able to beat the market projections and raise our projections. We’ve been able to progress a lot of our efforts to diversify our business. We’ve not only grown casino—which we’re known for—we’ve also been growing our sportsbook business as well, which is exciting. Secondly, with market access, we announced five new deals in the last year. We’re about to launch in about five new markets. So we have a lot of expansion. We also really focused on responsible gaming this year, something we’re really proud of as well. We’ve put a lot of effort into that. And then the last thing I think I’d mention is just the product enhancement; we came out with a new app, and it’s working great. And features and enhancements we’re making to the user experience are something that we’re really excited about. 66
Global Gaming Business JANUARY 2022
Congratulations on winning the New York license. The big prize is of course California, where there are least two competing sports betting referendums that will go on the ballot in 2022. Are you actively involved in any of those efforts at this point?
No, currently we’re not. We have a very well-established government affairs team that’s very involved in all aspects of lobbying around the country. At the current time, though, we’re evaluating different strategies for that market. We haven’t committed to any strategy. I think there’s a lot of dynamic parts moving there, and for us it’s important to evaluate and assess each opportunity and be very careful and cautious of what we do before we commit to a strategy. So, right now, we’re sort of neutral. Michigan was a big success for RSI. How have the operations been going so far?
It’s great. We’re No. 4 in online gaming revenues there. Online casino has always been a strength for us there, and we’re really the strongest of anybody who doesn’t have the existing database. We’re doing it from scratch, and we’ve been able to show that we’ve been growing market share pretty consistently in that market. There have been a lot of big mergers in the iGaming business. Golden Nugget was bought by DraftKings, and plenty of other deals that we could mention. RSI seems to be in a really good position, if you want to be acquired. Is that part of your goal?
No. Our goal is to build the best user experience you can, for casino and sportsbook. To constantly improve it, so that it gets to the point where we offer something that is unique in the marketplace. We’re focused on building the business and running it. However, obviously, there are rumors like this all the time in our industry and right now our name is coming up quite often. It really goes back to why we built the business, why
we’re focusing on things like market access, building in-house platform technology, which is very important in this industry. We have a casino focus, which a lot of companies are now recognizing as important. But at the end of the day, this is a very early stage of this industry. So, it’s exciting to hear that, but we’re just building this business to run it. This market is super-competitive right now, with all the players throwing money at the customers and pulling out all the stops when it comes to advertising. How long can this keep up? Is it sustainable?
No, it’s not sustainable. It’s going to have to rationalize at some point. The investors won’t let companies market and bonus at these levels forever. And I think when that happens, though, RSI is going to shine even more. Because we are doing things, right now, fundamentally the way they should be done long-term. When you go from bonusing your players at 80 percent, and you go down to a more sustainable level, those players are going to notice that difference and may no longer play with that brand. So for us, it’s about earning the players’ trust because we’re doing the right things, we’re treating them well. And I don’t think what you’re seeing right now is sustainable. I don’t know how long it will last, but at some point, it will change. Do you think the growth of sports betting is going to spur further growth of legalized iGaming in the other states that already have sports betting?
We do think so. I can tell you, I get more calls from our peers in our industry, all talking about how we’re going to legalize online casino markets, like Illinois and other markets around the country. But you have that land-based casino support, which didn’t exist in the past, pushing in a positive way. You have the state governments realizing their revenue base would be much larger for casino, and I think the need for additional tax revenue is going to spur some positive momentum.
Project1:Layout 1 8/13/21 8:26 AM Page 1