Global Gaming Business, July 2022

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CONTENTS

Vol. 21 • No. 7

july

Global Gaming Business Magazine

COLUMNS

22 COVER STORY Back to the Summit

10 AGA Gaming’s Great Resurgence

The fifth GameON customer summit— and the first since 2019—was staged by AGS at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, reminding attendees that the event is unique among conferences, giving AGS customers the chance to interact on a personal basis with the supplier’s team members and benefit from a customized program of presentations and panels addressing issues vital to the industry. By Frank Legato

Anton Severin

12 Fantini’s Finance Real Estate is Asset of Choice Frank Fantini

38 Marketing Don’t Date Your Data Julia Carcamo

Cover photo of AGS President & CEO David Lopez by Ian Witlen

32 Regulating Australia

FEATURES

The gaming regulatory regime in Australia provides both an example of how multiple jurisdictions rule gaming and the pitfalls operators must avoid to prevent government backlash.

16 Knowing the Price While casinos are not hiding the odds or house edge of various games, education may be needed on the true price of the games to avoid problem gambling issues.

54 Making My Point Just Go Roger Snow

DEPARTMENTS 4

The Agenda

6

By the Numbers

8

5 Questions

By Peter Cohen

13 AGEM

By Marjorie Preston

28 New City Gaming

36 Emerging Leaders

Chicago and New York City are poised to become the newest urban hosts of casino properties. The biggest challenges to completion are similar in both markets: tax rates and license fees.

With GAN’s Justine Clay, Live! Philadelphia’s Krystal Jones, and Venetian Macao’s Michael Lee

By Brendan D. Bussmann

28

48 New Game Review

40 Taxing Problems Online gaming and sports betting are the biggest growth areas in gaming today, but will excessive tax rates ultimately bring these new sectors down?

52 Cutting Edge 56 Frankly Speaking

By Jess Marquez

58 Goods & Services

44 The CRM Factor

61 People

Modern customer relationship management owes much of its success to technology that fosters the drilling down of massive amounts of data.

62 Casino Communications

By Dave Bontempo

With Hector Fernandez, Chief Executive Officer, Aristocrat Gaming

JULY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com

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THE AGENDA

It Was 20 Years Ago Today W

By Roger Gros, Publisher

hen you’ve spent decades in the gaming industry, 20 years is merely a blip on the radar screen. But when that time was spent on a business you started and nurtured over those 20 years, it’s quite gratifying. But I have to give the vast majority of credit to others who helped guide this enterprise along the way. Just as a recap, Global Gaming Expo was organized by the American Gaming Association, when the other major U.S. trade show, World Gaming Congress, refused to give up equity in the show to the AGA. In 2001—just after 9/11—it was held soon after WGC and wasn’t a disappointment, but given the tenor of the times, it wasn’t that exciting. WGC was run by the company that owned the major gaming trade publication of the day, International Gaming & Wagering Business magazine. That company had also bought my previous employer, Casino Journal magazine, for the sole purpose of not permitting G2E to advertise in any U.S. gaming trade publication. And for the first year, it worked. IGWB and Casino Journal refused to accept ads from G2E and they ignored its existence. Meanwhile, I had been hired as a consultant to G2E to help them put together a conference program, so my loyalty, obviously, was with G2E. The president and CEO of the AGA at the time, Frank Fahrenkopf, asked me to open a competing magazine, and offered a small investment to get it started. It wasn’t enough to really get the new Global Gaming Business magazine off the ground, so I went to some of my friends and colleagues and asked if they’d be interested in investing in this risky venture. To my surprise, the response I received was overwhelmingly positive. Many of our financial supporters are still close friends to this day. So on our 20th anniversary, I want to acknowledge these folks, in addition to Fahrenkopf, who took the chance on this brand new magazine: Jason Ader, Nick Casiello, Jeffery Compton, Bob Dancer, Jim Rafferty, Steve Rittvo, Dave Waddell… and my mother! I also have to thank our advertisers. We approach each client, not just as an advertiser, but also as a partner. They have goals they want to achieve by advertising in our publications, and we want to help them reach those goals. We do all we can both in the ad space and the editorial space to get their message out. For these companies to take a leap of faith in a startup magazine was not only gratifying but it was an honor to become partners with them. Many of those companies are still around and are still supporting GGB.

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Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

We had a few quirky ideas in the beginning. The first was to publish twice a month. While on paper that seemed to be a good idea—it set us apart from our competition—it was very hard work. We committed to producing two issues per month for the first year, but after that, we realized our small staff was being taxed to the limit, and producing one issue of GGB per month was a better approach for all concerned. Moving from two publications per month to one allowed us to launch GGB News, our weekly e-newsmagazine. The industry was evolving and GGB needed to offer an online feed to quench the thirst of those who couldn’t wait a month for their industry news. A second idea continues to this day—to put together three “annual” publications that would cover specific areas of the industry once a year. G2E Preview (now called Progressive Products Preview—P3) gives attendees and exhibitors a sneak peek at the upcoming G2E. Tribal Government Gaming is a deep dive into the complex issues of Indian gaming and is issued every spring in time for the (N)IGA tradeshow. And Casino Design (now called Casino Style) was originally focused on the design and construction of casino properties but now has expanded to all the non-gaming aspects of a casino resort. Through the years we produced groundbreaking conferences such as Racino, devoted to the burgeoning slots-at-racetracks phenomenon of the ’90s and 2000s; Casino Design, which recognized the art and science of casino construction and featured the Sarno Awards, which recognized excellence in the field; and most recently, the UNLV Gaming & Hospitality Education Series, which tried to elevate gaming education to the next level. I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t mention our editorial advisory board, who you can see to the right of this column, and my excellent staff, in the same place. We’ve had two terrific sales directors, the retired David Coheen and now Terri Brady, who you all know and love. Frank Legato, who is the world’s foremost expert on gaming machines, has been with us since the first issue of GGB was published and recently told me this is the longest he’s ever worked for one company. Hey, me too! And Becky Kingman-Gros, my wife and partner, who runs the entire company and is ultimately responsible for the success that we’ve achieved. And to you, our readers. You’re the reason we do what we do and we’re grateful for your comments, contributions and encouragement in all our magazines and online publications. Thank you for being there!

Vol. 21 • No. 7 • JULY 2022 Roger Gros, Publisher | rgros@ggbmagazine.com twitter: @GlobalGamingBiz Frank Legato, Editor | flegato@ggbmagazine.com twitter: @FranklySpeakn Jess Marquez, Managing Editor jmarquez@ggbmagazine.com Monica Cooley, Art Director mcooley@ggbmagazine.com Terri Brady, Sales & Marketing Director tbrady@ggbmagazine.com Becky Kingman-Gros, Chief Operating Officer bkingros@ggbmagazine.com Lisa Johnson, Communications Advisor lisa@lisajohnsoncommunications.com twitter: @LisaJohnsonPR Columnists Julia Carcamo | Frank Fantini Anton Severin | Roger Snow Contributing Editors Dave Bontempo twitter: @bontempomedia Brendan D. Bussmann | Peter Cohen Marjorie Preston | Bill Sokolic twitter: @downbeachfilm Thomas Zitt __________________

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

GGB



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BY THE

NUMBERS

TrIbal bEnEFITS In WaShIngTon

The Economic and Fiscal Flows of Washington Indian Tribes

a

ccording to the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA), tribal enterprises generate revenue and taxes that benefit both tribal members and citizens of the state of Washington. In a new economic impact report, “The Economic & Community Benefits of Tribes in Washington,” WIGA outlines the many ways the state prospers as a result of tribal enterprises, principally tribal gaming. According to the report, authored by Jonathan Taylor of the Taylor Policy Group, tribes contributed $6.6 billion in state products, $1.5 billion in wages and $1.2 billion in direct state taxes. Tribal enterprises are responsible for 37,000 direct jobs—making them collectively the sixth-largest employer in the state—54,000 jobs that trace back to tribal enterprises with 72 percent of both categories being non-tribal members. In the 30 years that tribal gaming has been conducted, tribal members’ income has increased by 46 percent, unemployment has dropped 31 percent and a full 65 percent have attended college. As a result of this increasing prosperity, tribes are more economically independent than ever, with almost 75 percent of tribal revenues coming from taxes or enterprise disbursements in 2019. To learn more, visit WashingtonTribes.org.

Feets Don’t Fail Me now

T

he latest monthly report by Jefferies about foot traffic in land-based U.S. casinos has an ominous twist. Foot traffic in April 2022 was down 8 percent month-over-month, and a full 32 percent from April 2021, which is better than from March’s 29.1 percent decline versus 2019. The report speculated it may have been the result of rising Covid cases, but the price of fuel had to be factored in as well. No matter whether you drive or fly to a casino, prices have increased substantially recently. Visitation levels remain materially below pre-pandemic levels, though operators have indicated spend per visit has been meaningfully higher. While Jefferies expects the foot traffic to improve in the summer, “some macro headwinds may challenge certain markets.” The Las Vegas market saw similar declines but Jefferies believes that will reverse once international travel and meetings and conventions return to normal levels.

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Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

U.S. Casino Foot Traffic (rolling 7-day index to Jan ‘20)

Source: Jefferies


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NUTSHELL

5

“They

Questions Virginia Valentine President, Nevada Resort Association

irginia Valentine has led the Nevada Resort Association (NRA), which represents Nevada’s largest reV sort casinos, since 2011. As the pandemic winds down, she reflects on how the industry has rebounded, and what this rebound says about the future of gaming in the state. But there are still areas that have not recovered, and Valentine discusses the challenges facing the industry going forward. She spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the NRA offices in the Summerlin section of Las Vegas in May. To hear and view the full version of this podcast, visit GGBMagazine.com.

1 2 3 4 5

GGB: The pandemic was a tough time for the industry, shutting down the entire Las Vegas Strip and every resort in the state. But since then Vegas has really bounced back. Why has it bounced back so quickly? Virginia Valentine: I think that after two years of not doing much, a lot of people have had that pent up

desire to get out and travel. So I think with this return to normalcy, travel is a big part of that. Those 78 days of complete shutdown were quite an amazing period. It was unprecedented. So, now the signs of recovery are good. There’s still some areas that are not quite back to pre-pandemic levels yet. Meetings and conventions, international travel and business travel are not quite back. But there are some very encouraging signs. When Las Vegas did come back, there was a mask mandate for quite a few months on top of that. Was that a negative?

There are, of course, a lot of views on masks. But our view was that if it’s a state requirement, we’re going to comply with it, and of course we did. But for people in the hospitality industry where the employees are there to make the guests have a great experience, it created a little bit of friction. Our role primarily was to make sure that we followed all of the requirements. Those that felt comfortable came back and those that didn’t probably didn’t come back. But now that we’re wide open, it feels good. We just had the NFL Draft, which according to all measurements, maybe except for gaming, was a success. Formula One just booked an event for the Strip in 2023. And of course the Super Bowl in 2024. Are these city-centric events really important to Las Vegas?

Oh, I think it’s huge. If you just think about it in terms of the number of impressions, the people around the country and the world who were able to see the iconic Strip, it’s awesome. I love the new tagline just adopted by the LVCVA (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority), which is the “Earth’s greatest arena.” In terms of the value of people seeing Las Vegas and thinking, “I want to see that and I want to go there,” it’s absolutely huge. Let’s talk about development on the Strip. MGM just closed on the Cosmopolitan. Caesars is trying to sell the Flamingo. MGM operates 60 percent of the rooms on the Strip. Are you concerned about the concentration of ownership on the Strip, or do you think new properties like Resorts World and Fontainebleau will dilute that?

We have new management and new companies coming in here. There’s some rebranding that will go on, along with new capital investment in these properties. I think it is an opportunity for each owner and operator to develop some synergies for them in operating. There’s some opportunity also to get a little more diverse and have some more niche properties. And so I don’t really see a problem with it. Nevada has a big election coming up, electing a new senator and governor. Is the NRA going to support candidates in that election?

This year, for the first time in a long time, we have a political action committee and we’ve raised some money. And we are going through the process now of interviewing candidates and looking for candidates who understand the tourism industry and its importance to the state. So along with our chairwoman, Ellen Whittemore from Wynn, and our executive board, we will identify and support the candidates who will make a difference for our state.

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Said It”

“More than half of consumers who bet with illegal operators thought it was legal.” —Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, speaking about black-market betting operations and the importance of educating the public on the disadvantages of betting with them

CALENDAR July 5-8: iGB Live! 2022, RAI Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Produced by iGaming Business. For more information, visit iGBLive.com. July 12-14: SBC Summit North America 2022, Meadowlands Exposition Center, Hackensack, New Jersey. Produced by SBC. For more information, visit SBCEvents.com. July 25-27: ASEAN Gaming Summit, Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila, Philippines. Produced by Asia Gaming Brief. For more information, visit AESEANGaming.com. August 9-11: OIGA Conference and Tradeshow, Cox Business Convention Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Produced by Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. For more information, visit OIGA.org. August 24-26: G2E Asia Special Edition: Singapore, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Produced by Reed Exhibitions and the American Gaming Association. For more information, visit G2EAsia.com. September 6-9: 13th European Conference on Gambling Studies and Policy Issues, Thon Ullevaal Stadion Hotel, Oslo, Norway. Produced by the European Association for the Study of Gambling. For more information, visit easg2022.org. September 20-22: SBC Summit Barcelona, Fira Barcelona Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain. Produced by SBC. For more information, visit SBCEvents.com. September 21-23: East Coast Gaming Congress and NexGen Gaming Forum, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, New Jersey. Produced by Spectrum Gaming and Cooper Levenson. For more information, visit eastcoastgamingcongress.com. October 10-13: Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2022, Venetian Expo Center, Las Vegas, Nevada. Produced by Reed Exhibitions and the American Gaming Association. For more information, visit GlobalGamingExpo.com. October 16-20: World Lottery Summit 2022, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Produced by the World Lottery Association. For more information, visit WorldLotterySummit.org. November 1-3: SBC Summit Latinoamerica 2022, Seminole Hard Rock Casino Hotel, Hollywood, Florida. Produced by SBC Events. For more information, visit SBCEvents.com.



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AMERICAN GAMING ASSOCIATION

Gaming’s Great Resurgence The AGA’s most recent “State of the States” report reveals a rapidly changing gaming industry that is rebounding quicker than ever before

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very year, the American Gaming Association (AGA) publishes the “State of the States” report, which provides a comprehensive financial and regulatory analysis of every U.S. commercial gaming market from the past calendar year. Covering 2021, this year’s report provides a final retrospective on the most remarkable year in gaming’s history. After Covid-19 drove the industry to its worst year on record, 2021 saw gaming revenue dramatically rebound to an alltime high. Here are the top insights from this year’s report: Driving Record Tax Revenue The commercial gaming industry’s record $53.03 billion in revenue in 2021 generated a record $11.69 billion in tax revenue for state and local governments. This money is critical to communities, funding infrastructure, public education, health care, emergency services and more. Along with the billions more the industry generates in income, sales and other taxes, these all-time high contributions provide even more evidence that when gaming thrives, so do the communities in which we operate. Reshuffling of America’s Top Gaming Markets

While 2020 saw a significant rearrangement of the country’s top gaming markets due to Covid-19, 2021 saw the market hierarchy largely return to the pre-pandemic order. New York City made one of the most significant realignments—moving from the No. 8 spot in 2020 back to its pre-pandemic ranking as the country’s sixth-largest gaming market by revenue. Reduced operating restrictions for Chicagoland casinos helped the 10

Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

By Anton Severin

market regain its status as the third-largest U.S. gaming market, returning the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. region to the No. 4 spot in the process. Las Vegas remains the undisputed gaming capital of America, nearly tripling gaming revenue from Atlantic City, the second-largest U.S. gaming market. Changing Consumer Trends While the rapid pace of state sports betting rollouts continued to be a focus of industry-watchers in 2021, in-person casino gaming remained the bedrock of the commercial gaming industry. Casino slot and table games generated record revenue of $44.94 billion, up 6.6 percent from 2019, despite many casinos being impacted by lingering pandemic shutdowns and operating restrictions in the first part of the year. Though life began to return to some sense of normalcy in 2021, Covid-19 prevented consumers from returning to casinos in pre-pandemic numbers, with annual casino visits down about 20 percent from 2019 in the five regional markets that report such data (Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi). However, this trend was more than offset by strong pentup demand for in-person entertainment by those who did visit casinos, causing average spend per casino admission to jump 34 percent compared to 2019.

Meanwhile, the average age of casino customers continues to drop. In 2021, the mean age of a casino patron was 43.6 years old, compared to 49.6 in 2019. The pandemic has certainly accelerated this change, and its staying power will be closely watched in coming years.

Accelerating Sports Betting and iGaming While land-based casino performance drove overall gaming revenue in 2021, the expanding sports betting and iGaming verticals continue to play a larger factor in the industry’s fortunes. Seven new sports betting markets launched in 2021, along with two new iGaming markets. Together, the two verticals combined for $8.04 billion in revenue for the year, up 158 percent from 2020 and accounting for a record 15.1 percent of annual commercial gaming revenue.

Cumulatively, these findings point to an industry that is healthier than ever, with record-setting momentum from consumer demand, a player base that is currently getting younger and spending more, and growing diversity in entertainment offerings. As 2022 presents its own macroeconomic challenges in the form of rising consumer prices and supply chain issues, these trends can certainly buoy the industry. In fact, we’re already seeing their impacts this year, as the commercial gaming industry is on pace to surpass its record year in 2021, with more than $19.3 billion generated in gaming revenue through April. Whether 2022 sets revenue records or not, we can all be confident in the industry’s long-term foundation for growth. Anton Severin is director, research, for the American Gaming Association.


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FANTINI’S FINANCE

Real Estate is Asset of Choice Gaming REITS may not be the flashiest choice for investors, but you just can’t argue with success and profitability By Frank Fantini

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t’s been exciting recently at VICI Properties, the one-time Caesars spinoff that has become one of the largest real estate investment trusts (REIT) in America. The company began the spring by achieving investment-grade status, then closed on the acquisition of MGM Growth Properties to become the largest property owner on the Las Vegas Strip. Most recently, VICI announced its continued diversification into what it calls “experiential properties” with a $120 million draw term loan to allow Cabot to develop a destination golf resort in Florida. All of this has, in five short years, achieved a $30 billion stock market value and inclusion into the S&P 500, making VICI a member of the exclusive club of America’s blue chip companies. The immediate result was a spike in the stock price, as investment funds that must own S&P 500 stocks had to buy in, and, in the process, create the long-term benefit of providing something of a floor underneath the stock. Interestingly, the stock of gaming’s first and only other REIT, Gaming & Leisure Properties, also spiked on the news as VICI brought attention to this Sector of Two in the larger sector of triple-net REITs. (GLPI, it should be noted, is no slouch at a $12 billion market cap.) The numbers for VICI are impressive in and of themselves: approximately $2.6 billion a year in rents, plus inflation provisions in leases; ownership of 43 properties in 15 states; on the Las Vegas Strip alone, VICI owns 39,700 hotel rooms, hundreds of food and beverage outlets, 5.9 million square feet of convention and related space and some of the world’s iconic casino names—Caesars Palace, Mirage, Venetian and Mandalay Bay among them. But what makes VICI and GLPI especially interesting and important right now is their stability in the midst of an uncertain economic future. They have already proven themselves during one crisis, as they received 100 percent of their rent payments in 2020, the year COVID lock12

Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

downs slammed REITs focused on other industries such as shopping malls, when many tenants withheld rent. Now, we face the scourge of inflation and possibly a recession. In that environment, hard assets are safe havens, and perhaps no tangible asset is as safe as real estate. Indeed, real estate values along the Las Vegas Strip continue to rise, as evidenced by the recent sale of 2.2 acres along the south Strip for $12.8 million, a figure that bodes well for a company that owns 660 Strip acres, most of which is occupied by properties generating billions of

Today, casino operators, having become tenants, have another expense in the EBITDAR calculation—rent, and it isn’t a “someday” expense. It must be paid now and on time and regularly throughout the life of the lease, after which the property reverts to the landlord barring a lease renewal. As such, it will be very important for the asset-light companies to wisely invest those sales proceeds in successful growth projects. Those that do will find the proceeds can accelerate growth. Others will fall behind. Interestingly, there are casino companies holding onto their real estate. In Las Vegas that is notably Red Rock Resorts and Golden Entertainment. Red Rock might already be demonstrating the value of owning its land. It closed and has not reopened several casinos in the Las Vegas Valley and has managed to transfer most of their customers to other Red Rock properties, meaning it has kept customer revenue while cutting operating costs. Now, Red Rock has real estate it can monetize in a number of ways. That is an option Red Rock would not have had if it had sold the land to a REIT. In addition, as land prices continue to rise, the higher values can be embedded in the value of the stock, giving shares more stability. Finally, REITs aren’t sexy, but they can be attractive. They provide steady, if not spectacular, stock appreciation, and pay nice dividends. Currently, VICI’s $1.44 a share dividend yields 4.9 percent and GLPI’s $2.82 dividend yields 5.9 percent. That means investors get paid for steady growth and the comfort of owning tangible and appreciating assets in an uncertain time.

Inflation, and perhaps “ recession, will provide another

test: Will the asset-light model adopted by casino companies that have sold their real estate to REITs hold up in hard times?

dollars a year in gaming and other revenues. Inflation, and perhaps recession, will provide another test: Will the asset-light model adopted by casino companies that have sold their real estate to REITs hold up in hard times? So far, it’s been easy going for those companies—they pocketed the sales proceeds and went on their way. But what is important is what they do with those proceeds. Initially, there is a feelgood effect as debt is reduced. But now they no longer own an appreciating asset in real estate, while retaining new expenses of rent obligations. And, while buying back shares and paying dividends are fine, ultimately it is profit growth that matters to investors. When companies boasted of EBITDA, Steve Wynn used to remind investors that it is profits that count. The depreciation that is the D in EBITDA is there for a reason. Over time, companies have to spend real dollars to update their properties.

Frank Fantini is principal at Fantini Advisors, investors and consultants with a focus on gaming.


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AGEMupdate AGEM Member Profiles Silver Member Profile Ortiz Gaming ortizgaming.com

Ortiz Gaming is a multinational developer of slot machines, electronic bingo games, and AWP amusement games, developing games and operating gaming facilities in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

Bronze Member Profile BetConstruct betconstruct.com

BetConstruct is a global award-winning technology and services provider for the online and land-based gaming industry with development, sales and service centers around the world—delivering proven and innovative offerings since 2003 and the widest gaming and betting portfolio in the industry.

Associate Member Profile ArdentSky ardentsky.com

ArdentSky is a powerful blend of international gaming/gambling compliance expertise and information technology know-how. Meeting the highest standards for data privacy and cybersecurity, ArdentSky has a reputation throughout the industry for responsiveness and creative problem-solving.

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

AGEM June 2022 Meeting Recap • A little later than planned, AGEM has finally moved into a new office in Co-Operate at Black Fire Innovation, which is part of the Harry Reid Research and Technology Park overseen by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This new facility will be AGEM’s headquarters and continue to provide a location for association business, including the monthly meetings, as the number of physical attendees at gatherings will continue to grow in the coming months. The new office address is 8400 W Sunset Rd, 3rd Floor, Las Vegas, NV 89113. • Following up on the success of AGEM’s petition to Nevada gaming authorities for regulations surrounding cloud computing technology, AGEM is working alongside industry representatives, predominately in the sports betting and racing space, to provide comments and input to Nevada gaming authorities on proposed revisions to Regulations 5, 22 and 26C. AGEM appreciates the opportunity to work alongside industry participants and the Nevada Resort Association in these informal working groups and hopes to maintain an ongoing dialogue with Gaming Control Board members and staff on this and other issues. AGEM Executive Director Daron Dorsey also noted his intention to work with Chair Brin Gibson and Technology Division Chief Jim Barbee to attend an upcoming AGEM meeting and establish a periodic opportunity for them to communicate with the gaming supplier sector. • The G2E Steering Committee meeting was to take place June 23, attended by Dorsey and President David Lucchese from AGEM, Bill Miller and Casey Clark from the AGA, and Korbi Carrison and Fernando Fischer from Reed Exhibitions (RX). In addition, Carrison from RX will be present at the July meeting to provide updates and information about G2E as that event gets closer. • AGEM continues to support the industry’s unregulated gaming machine campaign, with Dorsey meeting with FBI and AGA representatives in Washington, D.C. on June 16. In addition to federal law enforcement discussions, AGEM hopes to establish ongoing dialogue at the state level across a number of jurisdictions to continue shining a light on the ongoing problems caused by unregulated gaming. • In a bid to foster more engagement within AGEM committees, a series of meetings are planned or have taken place recently. The AGEM Compliance Committee met on June 3 and the Mexico Committee met on June 23, headed by Eduardo Alvarez of AGS, who is based in Mexico. The Responsible Gaming Committee will meet on July 13, and quarterly thereafter. Connie Jones, AGEM’s director of responsible gaming, will help lead this committee and focus on how to better message and advocate AGEM’s responsible gaming agenda.

Forthcoming Events • AGEM Executive Director Daron Dorsey will be participating in various panel discussions at the National Conference of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) Summer Meeting held in Boston July 7-9. The event is attended by policymakers and legislators, and provides information on relevant gaming issues within the United States. Dorsey will be participating in GLI’s training seminar and on a panel discussion during the conference, each focused on the growing problem of unregulated gaming.

AGEMindex

In May 2022, the AGEM Index rose by 20.68 points to 883.1, marking a 2.4 percent increase from April. Compared to one year ago, the index was down 96.59 points, or 9.9 percent. During the latest reporting period, six of the AGEM Index companies reported stock price increases, while the other six posted declines in stock price. As a result, half of the companies in the AGEM Index posted positive contributions and the other half posted negative contributions to the overall index, with net contributions resulting in a month-over-month gain. The largest positive contributor to the monthly index was Konami Corp. (TYO: 9766), which reported an 18.99-point gain to the index as a result of an 9.5 percent increase in overall stock price. Meanwhile, Aristocrat Leisure Limited (ASX: ALL) contributed a 6.23-point gain to the index with a 0.4 percent increase in the company’s stock price coupled with a strengthened exchange rate between the United States dollar and the Australian dollar. The largest negative contribution to the index was sourced to Light & Wonder Inc. (Nasdaq: LNW), whose 5.8 percent decline in stock price equated to a 5.78-point loss in the overall index. In the latest reporting period, two of the three major U.S. stock indices observed positive but negligible growth. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased by 0.04 percent from April, while the S&P 500 rose by 0.01 percent. Meanwhile, the NASDAQ saw a 2.1 percent decline over the month.

JULY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com

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Odds & Edges: Educating the

Casino Consumer

Casinos are candid about game odds, the house edge and bettors’ chances to win (or not). Are customers paying attention? By Marjorie Preston

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ost gamblers know the house wins—if not on a single game or hand, then certainly over time. The house edge guarantees a casino will eke out some fraction of profit from every game on the floor, from as little as 0.28 percent for some blackjack variants to almost 30 percent on keno and sic bo. The more a player plays, the more the edge tips toward the house. Casinos aren’t cagey about this—on the contrary. They’re direct about the built-in advantage and the odds to win (or more realistically, not win). Player education programs get into the weeds about probability and the absolute randomness of random number generators; the same programs remind players to set budgets, take frequent breaks and walk away when their bankroll is gone. But a competing message—“Come in and win!”—makes more noise. A 2021 Caesars Entertainment ad, delivered by Peyton and Eli Manning, along with dad Archie, emphasized responsible gaming. But the family also starred in a Thanksgiving commercial in which J.B. Smoove (laurel-wreathed ambassador for the brand’s sportsbook) proclaimed that the holiday season is “a festive time for the sports betting public” and even claimed the Pilgrims loved to gamble. So, how do casinos strike a balance—inviting people to get in the game, while cautioning them to stay out of trouble? Paul Pellizzari, vice president of global responsibility at Hard Rock Inter-

“Our industry needs to be direct about the reality of our games, but that in no way contradicts the fact that we have a business to run.” —Paul Pellizzari, Vice President of Global Responsibility, Hard Rock International

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national, says the dual messages don’t conflict, but are complementary. “Our industry needs to be direct about the reality of our games, but that in no way contradicts the fact that we have a business to run and we’re trying to promote what we’re selling,” he says. Hard Rock’s PlayersEdge program, launched in 2019, addresses bettors across the spectrum: from new and casual players to at-risk gamblers to people experiencing harm. Its RG messaging goes out in digital and print promotions and at touchpoints like casino security podiums, end caps and cages. At the same time, its website also includes instructional content on how to play casino games, including blackjack, poker and baccarat. “It’s about how players can be informed on risks, informed about themselves, and able to plan their night and experience,” says Pellizzari. “If we do that, it helps people have a better experience, stay healthy, and sustain our business over time.”

Gambling 101 Christine Reilly, senior research director for the International Center for Responsible Gaming, says the scientific community “is still divided about what responsible gaming education means and what its impact can be. “The people who write about responsible gambling say an informed consumer is the cornerstone—when a consumer makes the choice (to gamble),


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Learning Curve: Q&A with Jennifer Shatley “Anything that can combat the erroneous perceptions about luck and probability is helpful.” —Christine Reilly, Senior Research Director, International Center for Responsible Gaming

they should be as informed as they’d be about any transaction they partake in. But some people think that puts too much responsibility on the individual, that the industry has a greater role to play in making it safer. There’s a lot of debate about that.” In short, RG messages—however reasoned and supportive—may not reach those who need it most. People with gambling problems have “cognitive distortions,” says Reilly. “They believe if they stay at that slot machine, it will pay off eventually, which isn’t true.” And for all the available information about odds and edge, “they don’t understand probability.” The same may be true even of moderate gamblers. “Try to explain probability to somebody, and for the most part, they glaze over,” Reilly says. “The first thing to know is that 75 percent of people with a gambling problem have a preexisting condition such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse. They’re very vulnerable, and I don’t think a lot of responsible gambling tools can help them, because they’re too far gone.” Not that RG messages aren’t helpful. “There are different audiences for responsible gaming. One is the average person who doesn’t have a problem and just needs to be reminded that it’s helpful to set limits. Talk to people anecdotally, and they’ll say, ‘I always decide when I’ve lost $50, I’m outta here.’ For a person who has a problem, it’s very helpful to let them know they can self-exclude, or give them a helpline number to get the name of a treatment provider or a gambler’s anonymous group.” However, she notes, “It’s always going to be at odds with the regular marketing casinos need to do.” The launch of MGM Resorts’ GameSense RG program coincided with the opening of MGM Springfield in 2017. “The program teaches everyone how to gamble responsibly, using healthy gambling tips and strategies that keep the gaming fun,” says Garrett Farnes, MGM’s director of responsible gaming. “We’re constantly looking for new and innovative ways to share these messages,” Farnes explains. “Most recently we added QR codes to a lot of our slot machines, so people can learn how slots work while actually sitting there, which is awesome. (Senior Corporate Media Manager) Mark Jacobson does the ‘MGM Minute,’ an informative three-minute series on things like responsible gaming (on YouTube). We’re looking at every which way we can share these messages. And if it ever reaches that point where players might have challenges with gambling, we provide the information and resources.” Messaging is supportive, not punitive, lest players “shut off right away, or think, ‘That doesn’t apply to me,’” Farnes says. “GameSense is for everyone, because we want everyone playing better.”

President, Nevada Council on Problem Gambling GGB: You’ve said responsible gambling programs are meant to “stop problem gambling behaviors from developing in the first place.” Does that mean it can be prevented through education, at least in some cases? Jennifer Shatley: RG programs direct those experiencing problems to

help resources, but their primary intent is prevention, and their target audience is all gamblers. But there’s a perception issue that’s detrimental to their effectiveness. They’re positioned as if they’re targeted at individuals experiencing problem gambling. If they’re thought of that way, the vast majority of the customer base ignores them, because they think these programs and tools aren’t for them. In reality, RG programs provide information to those who gamble so they can make informed choices about their play. This includes explaining how games work, detailing the odds, dispelling myths and misperceptions and providing strategies to keep gambling as an entertainment activity to minimize potential harm and keep problems from developing. Do casinos do a good enough job of explaining probability, odds, volatility and house edge to consumers?

These can be difficult concepts to understand, so it’s important to also communicate that over time gamblers should expect to lose and should budget their gambling funds as entertainment expenditure. These concepts tend to be better understood when they’re presented in engaging ways that are both fun and educational. Additionally, this information should be complemented with RG messaging that offers tips on responsible play, such as setting and sticking to a budget. How can casinos balance the RG message—”Keep it fun, play within your means, ask for help if you need it”—with the louder message of “Come in and win?’

In addition to the current practice of featuring RG tags and helplines on marketing ads, advertising efforts can be expanded to include campaigns devoted specifically to RG messages. These campaigns can make up a certain percentage of the company’s overall advertising spend or placement. Further, operators can utilize various communications channels such as texts, popups or email to send RG-specific messages to customers.

Cautionary Tale: The U.K. Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey, advocates for more new-customer checkpoints that make people opt out of spending limits and time limits before they take a single spin on the slots. “At the very minimum we should incorporate limit-setting features

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“Most people who develop gambling problems are seeking escape from problems in their lives, not because they don’t understand the odds.” —Keith Whyte, Executive Director, National Council on Problem Gambling

with clear explanations on how people should gauge them, and get as many people on board at signup,” Nower says. “That’s the way the U.K. is going. The U.K. is also moving much more towards an affordability model, which basically says, ‘We have the tools to understand when players are spending their disposable income or beyond. Do they have payday loans? Do they have second mortgages? We have a social responsibility to help them.’” Look no farther than the U.K. for examples of operators who disregarded their player responsibility, to the industry’s detriment. In one notorious case, an Irish postal worker spent millions of pounds on gambling, some of it embezzled from his employer, with zero intervention from Paddy Power. At one point, he wagered more on a single game than he earned in a year. And despite its responsible gambling policies, Paddy Power entertained him “as a special guest at the Irish Derby and the Europa League final,” and wooed him with other perks, according to the Guardian newspaper. In 2018, regulators responded by slashing the maximum stake per spin on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to just £2.

Who Excludes Who? Data for New Jersey shows that 5 percent of bettors make 75 percent of the bets and represent 65 percent of all money wagered. “That clearly shows there’s a disincentive to limit high-intensity bettors, a large proportion of whom are likely problem gamblers,” says Nower. In her view, self-exclusion contracts—a pillar of responsible gaming policies—need to be a two-way street. “We know that people with gambling disorder have loss of control. It’s an addiction; they’re unable to stop despite repeated attempts. But if you look at the self-exclusion contracts in most states, it puts 100 percent of the responsibility on people with a diagnosed inability to control their behavior. “These contracts specifically say the operators have no duty of care, though they have the resources, data and credit histories to know who’s gambling beyond their means. Everybody has to take their piece of responsibility.” Nower also takes a dim view of RG pages that include “popups with bonus offers.” So, most self-exclusion programs currently put the responsibility on the person who may be least able to exercise it. Should operators then make like bartenders, saying, “You’re flagged?” “I’ve been part of policy deliberations on exactly this question,” says Hard Rock’s Pellizzari. “The short answer is, obviously casinos can remove and exclude people for different behavioral reasons—mistreating staff or other guests, or cheating. But to be clear, the exclusion in that case is about the be-

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havior. It’s not, ‘We think you have a gambling problem.’ Operators aren’t in a position to make that determination. “The longer conversation is around duty of care and a possible role for operators. There’s a natural tendency to think you should be able to remove people, but it’s actually difficult. And a psychologist will tell you, unless someone wants to get help themselves, third parties can only help so much.” He rejects the perception that the industry preys on the weak. “It’s interesting to go to Atlantic City or Lake Tahoe or South Florida and ask our employees, ‘Do you think our business model is premised on addiction?’ Because you’ll hear people say that. Our employees don’t think that’s true. We couldn’t have a business and succeed if everyone was addicted.” Tens of thousands of Hard Rock staffers have been trained to detect signs of potential problem gambling, and are authorized to intervene—up to a point. “We spend time in the training saying, this is a mental health disorder—a ‘process addiction,’ as the clinical people would say,” says Pellizzari. “And so we can say, ‘You’re not a social worker or clinician, but here’s what you can do.’” Among the options: suggest that a player take a break, comp that player for a meal or hotel room, and, in more serious situations, refer them to professional help in a discreet, compassionate way (while keeping a supervisor in the loop). Meanwhile, on its website, CaesarsCasino.com says it “reserves the right to exclude a player at company discretion if… there is a reasonable risk that the player is not gambling responsibly and he refuses to self-restrict or selfexclude.”

First, Do No Harm Keith Whyte, executive director of the Washington-based National Council on Problem Gambling, says education about odds and randomness “may have an impact on youth by reducing risk and increasing protective factors. But as a protective factor for adults, it’s likely pretty weak. “Perhaps a better way to look at it is, does it cause any harm? No. Could it help? Does it provide maybe a little bit of a protective factor for people who are at low risk for problems, without a family history of addiction, for example? Maybe. “Most people who develop gambling problems are seeking escape from problems in their lives,” Whyte says, “not because they don’t understand the odds or are bad at math. Parallels to alcoholism are probably helpful—teaching people about the consequences of drunk driving doesn’t reduce alcoholism, but it may prevent a little bit of drunk driving.” According to Reilly, “Anything that can combat the erroneous perceptions about luck and probability is helpful,” but that kind of educational content may not be game-changing for people with an addiction. Meanwhile, look at any casino ad and you’ll see the beautiful people, celebrating their wins with fist-bumps and champagne, feeding the dream of every casino customer to one day beat the house. And players keep playing, because every so often, some average Joe sits down at a slot machine or table game and wins a life-changing jackpot.


CALL FOR NOMINATIONS AGEM Continues Memorial Awards to Honor Legacies of Jens Halle and Peter Mead Seventh Annual Jens Halle Memorial Award Honoring Excellence in Commercial Gaming Professionalism

A longtime Bally and Novomatic executive in Europe who was most recently CEO of Merkur Gaming based in Florida, Jens died on May 20, 2015 at the age of 57. He will not be forgotten and the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM) is asking for nominations that meet the following criteria:

Seventh Annual Peter Mead Memorial Award Honoring Excellence in Gaming Media & Communications

The founder and publisher of Casino Enterprise Management magazine, Peter died in Las Vegas on June 24, 2015 at the age of 54. He will not be forgotten and the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM) is asking for nominations that meet the following criteria:

“Nominees must have experience working in the mainstream “Nominees must have experience working in the global gaming media, gaming trade press or individual gaming company PR/ supplier sector for a minimum of 10 years and possess the following communications for a minimum of 10 years and possess the traits and qualities that Jens displayed throughout his working life: Professionalism, business success, international scope, attention to following traits and qualities that Peter displayed throughout his detail and timely follow-up; a working life: Quality reporting willingness to ‘go the extra and communication with an mile,’ both figuratively and emphasis on personal contact literally; a sense of humanity to generate ideas and gather in an oft-times cutthroat information; taking risks and business; a recognition of the questioning the status quo; importance of a handshake challenging the industry to consider new ideas; and and a fair deal for all; and a dedication to the health of the Alan Feldman and Sebastian Salat, honored as 2021 recipients during identifying trusted partners to G2E last year. View the full video presentation at: AGEM.org/News improve the overall product.” industry as a whole.”

Do you know of someone who exemplifies these qualities? Nominate them! All nominations must be between 300 and 700 original words and submitted via email to AGEM Executive Director Daron Dorsey at Daron.Dorsey@AGEM.org and received by the August 31, 2022 deadline. Winners will be honored during the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in October. ©2022 Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM).




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Game On Again AGS welcomes customers back to its unique GameON conference with compelling speakers and panelists BY FRANK LEGATO Panelists in a session on inventory control say there are far too many low-performing games on floors

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arly in June, gaming supplier AGS held a three-day conference for 125 of its key customers. Held in Florida at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood Hotel & Casino, it was the company’s fifth GameON Customer Summit. At its closing, the AGS team didn’t gather to tally product sales from the conference. There was no comparison of attendance, because the number is the same every year. GameON is not that kind of conference. Launched in 2016 with sessions at this same Hard Rock Hollywood property, GameON is not a traditional customer sales event. It is, rather, an effort by AGS to interact with its top customers in a non-sales setting, with presentations addressing

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Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood Hotel & Casino was the site of the fifth AGS GameON Customer Summit

issues important to the overall gaming industry. These are complemented by a group of unique social events at which AGS representatives can interact with customers in a casual setting. David Lopez, the company’s CEO, says that’s the idea of GameON. In fact, an AGS customer conference wouldn’t exist any other way. When Julia Boguslawski, the company’s chief marketing officer, first raised the idea of a customer summit, Lopez rejected the idea. “I said no, we’re not doing that,” Lopez recalls. “I don’t like customer events; I don’t think they’re very productive for customers. “Julia said, that’s not what we’re going to do. We’re going to do programming, informational sessions—it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be educational. It’s going to be inspiring.” In other words, it wasn’t about selling. “We’ve got 362


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AGS products, while not the focus of the conference, were still available for sampling

“It’s supposed to be informational. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to stimulate conversations that otherwise wouldn’t exist.” —David Lopez, CEO, AGS

other days a year to sell,” Lopez recalls from Boguslawski’s original pitch. “We’re not selling for these three days. We’re just going to hang out; we’re going to talk. And we’re going to try to share things with them that they don’t otherwise get an opportunity to hear. “We think that this conference is the best because we’re not asking anything of our customers other than to fly in, sit down, learn, have fun, an do some social events. And we we’ve created this agenda that’s not about our products. You don’t have to sit and listen to product pitches about AGS all day long. In fact, we’ve been criticized that we’re not doing enough product pitching. I’ll take that criticism all day. It’s supposed to be informational. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to stimulate conversations that otherwise wouldn’t exist.” This year’s GameON certainly checked all those boxes, from its keynote by entrepreneur, record producer, rapper and author Jesse Itzler to a cashless technology discussion by rival suppliers, sessions on NFTs and crypto and supply-chain issues, and social events that included a rooftop reception and a dinner cruise down the Stranahan River on the massive South Beach Lady yacht. The reason for the lack of emphasis on attendance, incidentally, is that AGS wants to keep the interaction on as intimate a basis as possible. Lopez says the entire attendance is limited to 200 people, including AGS staff, sponsors, media and speakers. “We try to keep it intimate so that the conversations can really marinate and percolate over three days,” Lopez says. “If there are 500 people there, I might talk to you for 10 minutes, then I might not see you again for the entire three-day period. So we like to keep it smaller, because it’s the intimacy that matters most.” This year’s GameON was the first since 2019, the fourth and last prepandemic edition of the event. Asked if there was any “catching up” to do with AGS customers, Lopez says that wasn’t necessary, since the company has maintained contact with its customers consistently through pandemic

shutdowns, reopenings and other challenges wrought by Covid-19. “We see our customers quite a bit,” Lopez says. “When we think about our industry and what we’ve gone through—we’ve all experienced how 911 impacted gaming. We experienced how the economic downturn eliminated all these jobs in gaming. We saw October 1 (the 2017 mass shooting) in Las Vegas. And now, the Covid shutdown of basically every casino in North America.” Last fall’s Global Gaming Expo, he says, was a good first step back to normalcy after those challenges, and he says it was a good omen for the ability to bring GameON back. “G2E was a nice little event last year where everyone came back together, but it’s primarily focused on selling,” he says. “I think getting together post-Covid now, the ‘catching up’ is personal. It doesn’t have to be about business. “And quite frankly, these folks are our family. In the end, we spend so much time together as the AGS team, we spend time on the road with these folks, we go visit them, we break bread with them. (GameON is) a nice opportunity, post-Covid, to spend time as a gaming family.”

GameON 5.0 The program for the fifth GameON summit kicked off with a lively presentation from Jesse Itzler, the famous entrepreneur who parlayed early success as the rapper Jesse James into a remarkable career in which he cofounded Marquis Jet, the world’s largest private jet company (which he sold to Berkshire Hathaway), helped to develop Zico coconut water (which he sold to the Coca-Cola Company), and became a co-owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. Itzler, who also authored the New York Times bestseller Living with a Seal, talked about how all his ventures came not from a carefully laid-out business plan, but from his heart, and an innate belief that he could make it happen. One example of this theme was how he launched Marquis Jet after hanging out at a swanky party and meeting people, finding out what JULY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com

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Acies’ Chris Groves talks sports betting trends

their needs were. After establishing trust, he told one partygoer he ran a private jet rental company, and the partygoer happened to be looking for a private jet—that person became the first paying customer of Marquis Jet, now the top such business in the world. Itzler also emphasized that true success comes not from pursuing only money, but pursuing the spiritual, human side of the equation—becoming a “spiritual billionaire.”

Money Talks The conference program heated up with two issues that have been among the hot topics this year in the gaming industry, both involving payment technologies. In a unique discussion among rival suppliers in the payment space, Lopez moderated a panel discussion between Omer Sattar, co-CEO of Sightline Payments, and Darren Simmons, executive VP and fintech business leader for Everi Holdings, Inc. “Those companies are not exactly going to lunch together very often, right?” says Lopez. “It’s fair to say they are rivals, and they might be called bitter rivals.” In fact, Lopez, the moderator, himself leads a company that competes with one of the two represented on the panel. “Everi is one of our No. 1 competitors on the slot side,” he says, adding that they’re also “like family to me,” owing to the fact Lopez was president of Everi legacy company Global Cash Access for nearly two years. “I used to work with many of them, but 24

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the spirit of what GameON is about is reflected in that Everi and Sightline Payments are talking about something that’s very germane to the industry right now.” At the session, Simmons noted that the discussion of cashless play at casinos is nothing new. “This is something that’s been a topic of discussion for a few years,” he said. “As the gaming industry looks at what goes on outside the industry, they see that digital payments have grown dramatically over the past few years. “The opportunities are not only from an efficiency standpoint, but of an experiential standpoint as well... It’s an opportunity for engagement with the player—connecting with the player, and giving them experiences they might not otherwise have.” Sattar said that creating a network of cashless gaming at various casinos won’t be as easy as applying a universal system like Apple Pay to casinos, mainly because of the competitive factor—since casinos don’t want the funds in a player’s electronic wallet to go across the street to another casino, players are typically going to have individual wallets for each casino brand.

“As the gaming industry looks at what goes on outside the industry, they see that digital payments have grown dramatically over the past few years.” —Darren Simmons, Executive VP and Fintech Business Leader, Everi Holdings, Inc.


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Cryptocurrency expert Travis Wright describes the “Metaverse”

The cashless discussion was followed immediately by an extensive look at cryptocurrency and its applications in the gaming industry. Crypto expert Travis Wright, who with Joel Comm hosts the “Bad Crypto Podcast,” presented a “Beginner’s Guide” to crypto, NFTs and the Web 3.0, explaining everything from the use of crypto for virtual goods to the “Metaverse,” a virtual world that includes virtual casinos in the “Decentraland” virtual world. The first day also featured the conference’s annual “Word on the Street” Wall Street panel, in which moderator Brad Boyer, AGS senior vice president of corporate operations and investor relations, queried analysts Chad Beynon of Macquarie and Barry Jonas of Truist Securities on the potential rebound of gaming stocks, the relative stability of gaming REITs, and the fact that the strongest performance always comes from the best-managed companies. One of the best sessions the first day was a compelling interview by Lopez of Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association and former CEO of the American Gaming Association, on the supply chain issues that have dogged all industries, including gaming. Freeman noted that the difficulties in the supply chain can be traced in large part to the labor shortages following the global pandemic—he noted that the trucking industry today has a turnover rate of 90 percent—and to the way U.S. business locks deliveries to specific ports. Freeman noted that while China moves goods on the fly to whatever port is equipped to accept them, the pandemic saw the port in Long Beach, California with a lineup of ships waiting to be unloaded while other ports like Portland and Seattle were virtually empty. Supply-chain issues have held up deliveries of equipment like bill validators, monitors and computer chips. According to Lopez, that means for some manufacturers, what was a lead time of weeks for supplies pre-pandemic has become months. Other highlights from day one: 26

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Sightline's Omer Sattar and Everi's Darren Simmons discuss cashless payment technology

• John Hemberger, AGS senior vice president and GM of table product, joined AGS Senior Director of Table Game Content Jamie Abrahamson for a presentation outlining the benefits operators are experiencing from Bonus Spin Xtreme, the industry’s first floor-wide table-game progressive. Product demonstrations illustrated how the progressive is now being applied to the games of roulette and craps. (This was the only part of the entire program that directly involved an AGS product.) • Hussain Moosvi, president of Misfits Gaming Group, and Brooks Pierce, president and chief operating officer of Inspired Entertainment, gave an update on the expanding markets for esports tournaments and for virtual sports as an addition to casino floors and/or sportsbooks. The second day of the conference kicked off with Chris Grove, co-founding partner of Acies Investments, with an overview of sports betting trends, including the improvements in data speed that will speed up live betting to the next level, and what he called the “casino-fication” of sportsbooks to include samegame parlays that resemble RNG-based casino games. This was followed by a fascinating look at the emerging phenomenon of “slot influencers,” in which casinos, manufacturers and “influencers” benefit from the latter live-streaming slot sessions to YouTube and other social channels. Featured were Brian Christopher, one of the first influencers—he has some 750,000 followers—and host of the BC Slots YouTube channel, which draws millions of views every day, along with BC Slots Marketing Director Britt Carter; and two of BC Slots’ biggest supporters from the casino operations side, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Media and Digital Marketing Director Thomas LaRocca and Jackie McQueen, content marketing manager for Cherokee Nation Entertainment. The panel noted the invaluable benefits of marketing slot games via social media influencers. BC Slots video streams, for instance, have an average watch


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time of 18 minutes, an unbeatable way to market slots to a public that lives on their phones, and to provide instant feedback to slot manufacturers on new games. Other day-two highlights: • OPTX Co-CEO Tom Rafferty and Data Science VP Dr. Steve Bright gave an overview of the potential uses of artificial intelligence to serve patrons through loyalty programs. • AGS Game Development VP Steve Walther moderated a panel including Nick Hogan, CEO of ReelMetrics, and Mark DeDeaux, AGS senior VP and GM of slots, looking at the importance of slot inventory management. Hogan noted in his presentation that today’s slot floor is being stifled by an overabundance of variety, which means that low-performing games are being played by a disproportionate number of customers. He noted that inventory imbalances are the rule today rather than the exception.

Looking Ahead This year’s GameON ranks with the best of the five, Lopez says. “Looking back, the first was the best for customers because of the element of surprise; they had no idea what to expect. But this is right up there with the best programming we’ve had. Looking to the future, we’ll continue to do our best to make it informative and keep it fresh.” Lopez adds that one of the priorities over the coming months will be to

select a venue for the next GameON summit. “We look for locations that are convenient to get to and that our customers will be excited to visit,” he says. “In the past, we’ve looked at venues where we have strong customer relationships, and it’s made the process easier. “We’re excited to be back at it again. This is an extremely valuable event, and I’m not talking about selling—it’s the building of customer relationships, and letting them see a little bit more about what we’re about as people, not product.” As far as the conference program, he adds, “We don’t know whether we’re pushing the industry forward, but the important part is that we’re trying, and that’s the key.” As far as priorities for AGS beyond the next GameON, Lopez says it’s all about concentrating on performance in the three business segments—slots, table games and interactive—despite the challenges in the overall economy, concerns about stock prices, and other macro issues. “Our objective is to keep our head down, execute, and do a great job with our three business segments,” Lopez says. “We’re branching out into a couple new things that we’ll talk about later in the year, but it’s all about execution, the launch of some new products towards the end of the year, and then moving into next year. I’m looking for momentum moving into 2023. It’s key to stay focused and disciplined, but also to be aggressive and look for that momentum.” GameON served as a launching point for the company to build that momentum.

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Tale of Two Cities New York has the opportunity to learn from Chicago’s challenges, but will it be realistic or greedy? By Brendan D. Bussmann

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s Charles Dickens so eloquently penned in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,” and so the phrase goes on. The same could potentially happen as two of America’s largest cities add casinos within the urban core. Chicago is just wrapping up its selection of an operator in Downtown Chicago. New York state is set to begin this process for three potential licenses likely in or around New York City. With very few good opportunities left in the United States, New York could potentially be one of the more sought-after licenses, as Chicago was once viewed. While the jury is still out on both, these cities can learn from each other as it relates to tax rate, licensure, and community commitments to make the projects work and offer the maximum benefit to their respective jurisdictions. The challenge for a strong gaming development comes down typically to a handful of things. This includes tax rate, license fee and structure, ability to conduct business with the local and state governments as well as the regulatory body issuing the license, the ability to develop within a rational environment that understands how gaming works, and the ability to attract a workforce. While some environments are better than others, there is a health balance for which all of these can work in tandem to create a strong development. However, a push and pull of some of these factors in one direction or another can create the opposite effect, making it at best a challenge to operate. In some cases, it can make the project unachievable and leave good companies, investment, jobs and tax revenue on the sideline.

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The Chicago Proposition Chicago is one of the great American cities, and opportunites to do business within the confines of the city are rare. Chicago presents one of the few opportunities for an urban casino to exist in a major metropolitan area. It presents a unique opportunity to be able to cater not only to a locals market but to business customers, and to a lesser extent, the international guest. However, to take advantage of these additional market segments, the casino must have close proximity to business and tourism-related facilities. In 2019, the Illinois legislature put forward a comprehensive gaming bill that allowed for the expansion of brick-and-mortar facilities throughout the state as well as legalized sports betting. Of the six brick-and-mortar sites outlined in the bill, Chicago was viewed to be the most attractive, but also had its own set of special requirements to assist the city in some of its financial

At the request of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the Illinois legislature lowered the proposed tax rate from 72 percent to 40 percent, but even that lower rate has significant challenges


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Bally’s River West was chosen as the winning bid for the sole Chicago casino

commitments with the pension fund, and also in hopes of attracting significant investment into the city. After being signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker, the city of Chicago conducted a market feasibility study to determine the potential for a Chicago casino. Union Gaming concluded the report from August 2019, and it can be best summarized with the sub headline of “Not feasible due to the onerous tax and fee structure.” The report went on further to state the following: “The gaming expansion legislation that allows for a casino in the city of Chicago is very onerous from a tax and fee perspective. Our understanding is that on top of the existing tax structure on adjusted gross receipts (AGR) paid by all Illinois casinos, the city of Chicago casino would also pay an additional 33-1/3 percent privilege tax on AGR. “The developmental impact of high taxes and fees notwithstanding, we forecast that a casino in the city of Chicago has the potential to become the highest-grossing casino in Illinois, significantly higher than the current market-leading Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, which generated $441.8 million in AGR in calendar 2018.” Based on the initial analysis provided by Union Gaming, it estimated that a Chicago casino would have an effective tax rate of approximately 72 percent—an approximate tax of 39 percent based on the sliding-scale AGR and the 33.3 percent privilege tax on AGR that was specific to the city of Chicago. Based on this finding, the city had to go back to the drawing board to see how they might proceed forward with a potential development. The city went back in 2020 to the Illinois legislature to try and correct the measure and see if they could reach a more manageable tax rate while the other brick-and-mortar facilities proceeded forward in the state. The legislature passed an amended tax structure in May 2020 that while more favorable, still was not at a desired rate. Chicago then commenced with an updated study by Union Gaming to see how the opportunity changed with the amended legislation. In the revised report from August 2020, Union Gaming noted several

Even with its difficult location in Yonkers, MGM Resorts’ Empire City Casino is favored to be named as one of the recipients of a Class III license

challenges that remained to the future development within Chicago. Most of these surrounded the tax rate, which would still have to compete against its nearby peers in the state. Based on the revised law, Union Gaming approximated the tax rate on AGR at roughly 40 percent, significantly better than the previous 72 percent tax rate but still at challenging levels considering the cost of operations and the desire to make a profit. The challenges with that tax rate were multiplied because of its two new neighbors to the north and south as well as the existing casinos that have been JULY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com

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Sports betting in New York state has the highest tax of any legal U.S. jurisdiction, making profits questionable and driving players to illegal sportsbooks

in market for decades. Union highlighted it by saying: “The Chicago casino will face a higher effective AGR tax than both its in-state and out-of-state peers... The IL/Chicagoland peer group paid an average effective tax rate of 35 percent in 2019, and the three northwest Indiana peers paid an average of 29 percent. Noted above, the Illinois peers will pay lower taxes on table games going forward, which will make them notably more competitive with the Indiana casinos.” Union Gaming went further to highlight the challenge in the sliding scale adjusted gross revenue formula by saying: “Public Act 101-0648 has restructured the AGR tax to be significantly more palatable for potential developers, although it does remain higher than the statutory tax rate schedule for all of the state’s other casinos. Ultimately, and based on an AGR mix that, while still slot-centric, has a greater proportion of table games revenue than the peers, the effective tax rate on AGR should be around 40 percent, or lower, as detailed herein.”

The Selection Process Chicago faced another challenge. As is typical in other large-market opportunities, it decided to conduct a two-step process when it initiated its search for an operator and developer. The first was to conduct a request for information (RFI). Due to economic challenges from the Great Shutdown and the recovering of the gaming industry from the pandemic, it launched this initial stage to understand what parties may be able to commit to in the current Chicago climate. Of the four gaming companies that submitted to the RFI process, only two ended up submitting in the subsequent request for proposal (RFP). MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts chose not to participate in the RFP, leaving two of the premiere gaming companies out of the mix for one of the largest land-based opportunities in the United States. The RFP selection process for Chicago was also mired in controversy. With three of the applicants in Rush Street, Hard Rock and Bally’s submitting bids for five sites, it became a case of the “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) effect. This included even the winning bid in Bally’s facing community pressure and the neighbors not desiring the chosen casino location in the hearings subsequently before the approval by City Council. Other accusations of consultants working for both the city and operators, as well as other local demands by various stakeholder groups including the city, caused a rough ending to a process that was stalled due to the tax rate problems at the start and the delayed operation selection in the end. 30

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Even without table games and with a limited selection of slot games, Genting’s Resorts World New York City at Aqueduct racetrack is one of the most successful casinos in the world, and is a favorite to win one of the three New York City area licenses

New York’s Sports Betting Failures While some in the industry publications have labeled the tax revenue generated within the state of New York as a winning formula echoing the ghosts of former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s statements to approve sports betting, the operators in the market are feeling the effects of a high tax rate with little margin for error to operators. In May, BetMGM Chief Financial Officer Gary Deutsch had the following to say about the New York sports betting market: “The specific problem in New York is that it has a high tax rate of 51 percent of gaming revenue, and it applies that rate to both real revenue and phantom revenue associated with non-cash promotional wagering. So even at lower than typical promotions levels for a new market, operators in New York stand to experience effective tax rates—that’s taxes divided by real revenue—of well over 100 percent.” Deutsch further goes on to say the following: “We have hoped that the New York tax environment will be updated and we can then again more aggressively pursue New York players. However, (with) all rational allocation of capital with sophisticated investors in Entain and MGM, we simply can’t apply our capital against an irrational investment thesis. Players would never continue to play if the house always won, and house cannot continue to play if it’s always going to lose.” Simply put, if you have too high of a tax, you will not see the investment and you will not see quality operators go into the market.

New York Development Challenges When the New York state legislature passed this year’s budget, it upped the timeline for the three remaining downstate casino licenses by one year. The legislation that was signed by Governor Kathy Hochul created a floor for bidders in terms of tax rate and license fee. This includes a minimum tax of 25 percent on slots, a minimum tax of 10 percent on tables, and a minimum $500 million license fee for the privilege to do business in New York state. As we saw with sports betting, this is a guideline of what may turn into a bidding war that makes the license opportunity irrational and unachievable for a project that could if done right attract billions of dollars in development of an integrated resort. While the request for application (RFA) has yet to be released, there is a cautionary tale to be told if you use the sports betting RFA as an example. The previous RFA incentivized bidders to get more points based upon the higher tax rate. Considering the spectrum of high tax rates that were high-


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lighted in the study of downstate casinos that was completed by the New York Gaming Commission, one can only assume that this artificial floor for tax rates will likely increase to gain more points in the RFA, leaving investment and jobs on the cutting room floor. In a recent earnings call, Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg discussed the challenges with the New York City environment. He stated: “In New York—how do I answer this politely?—New York is a difficult regulatory state. I think it’s going to be extremely expensive to build there. I think it’s going to be an extremely expensive license fee. And I think there’s a likelihood that you’re going to have to solve some other problem of the city in addition to creating the jobs that you do in building a casino. So it’s not going to be enough to pick a site, build a casino, create the jobs, and generate a return. There’s going to have to be other investment there as well.” Reeg went on to say that it is unlikely because of those market constraints that the company would make a material investment in New York.

The Opportunity Still Exists New York City presents an interesting opportunity to capitalize on a tourist population as one of the highest-visited cities from international and domestic guests. It also has a significant supply of business customers, whether they are there for a convention or just to do business in the heart of the city.

However, this means that a facility must be within close proximity to where these two customer bases sit. Customers will typically only patronize a casino that is of high quality or in close proximity to other attractions. Business travelers and tourists will not see the benefit of leaving the city, leaving these market segments short of their potential. New York City will likely be one of the most sought-after casino licenses in the world. In a city that never sleeps, it must take into account the lessons of the past in determining the best course of action going forward. There is a special opportunity to take these three licenses and generate significant investment in the New York City market. But with a license fee of at least $500 million just for the privilege to do business, those are dollars that do not generate additional jobs or investment in the local communities directly through the development. Reasonable tax rates and license fees have proven to be a winner in other jurisdictions. Time will tell if those lessons can be implemented in New York as the process unfolds. Brendan D. Bussmann is the managing partner of B Global and has over 25 years of experience in the gaming, hospitality and sports sectors, where he currently advises public and private companies, tribal nations, sports organizations, financial institutions, associations, and government agencies around the world.


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By Peter Cohen

Head to Head: The Regulatory Backlash in Australia Regulation Down Under provides lessons, challenges

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ushing the gaming regulatory boundary is like stretching elastic— the industry pushes one way while the regulator pushes back. Sometimes, just as can be seen with elastic, the stretching moves the regulatory boundary a little more in the casino operator’s favor. Unlike elastic, though, if the regulatory boundary is pushed too far, it doesn’t break. Rather, it snaps back further than its starting place. That’s the position the Australian casino industry finds itself in today. Australia comprises eight states and territories. Every one of them has at least one licensed casino and all but one has competition from slot machines in non-casino venues spread widely throughout. In addition, betting on horses and sports is ubiquitous. Other forms of legalized gambling also exist, making Australians the world’s biggest gamblers per capita. The widespread availability of legal gambling is primarily a result of complex national constitutional laws which limit each state’s and territory’s ability to raise revenue through taxation. As a consequence, the states and territories have turned to gambling because taxes raised that way are less painful to impose than virtually every other option available to them. By being reliant on gambling tax revenue, state and territory governments have an interest in ensuring sustainable gambling businesses. 32

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Regulatory Scheme Each state and territory has its own regulatory regime. Since the early 1990s, there has been continued growth in gambling availability and spending even though successive state and territory governments have maintained some caps on the number of casinos and slot machines. Regulators ensured the requisite integrity. Even though growth in gambling opportunities requires more activity from gaming regulators, over the past decade governments have sought ongoing “productivity improvements” from gaming regulators, which is government-speak for doing more with less. In Victoria, the home of Australia’s biggest integrated resort, Melbourne’s Crown casino, the gaming regulator was combined with the liquor regulator in 2012 ostensibly to improve liquor regulation but also in a misguided effort to reduce the overall cost of regulating both sectors. The combination of productivity improvements and the structural changes associated with incorporation of the liquor regulator resulted in much-needed gaming regulatory skills being lost. At the start of this century gaming regulators embarked on regulatory reform programs to eliminate what appeared to be unnecessary regulation. Until recently, it appeared that this model of light-touch, risk-based gaming


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Crown Melbourne is Australia’s largest and most profitable casino resort

regulation was serving all parties well. However, recent inquiries in the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia—which happen to be the states with the three largest casinos in the country—have shown that something has gone horribly wrong with this model. It would seem that a combination of regulators taking their eyes off the ball, perhaps due to de-skilling caused by budget cuts, and casino operators abusing their social license to operate, have combined to allow inexcusable and illegal practices to infiltrate the operations of the country’s biggest casinos. The major operators are accused of a range of serious breaches, including allowing money laundering to take place, misrepresenting financial transactions, withholding information from gaming and AML regulators, and underpayment of gaming tax. As a consequence, the country’s biggest operator, Crown Resorts, has been found unsuitable to be licensed in three separate inquiries in three different states. Nevertheless, it has been allowed to continue to operate, but it must follow a highly defined pathway to suitability in each jurisdiction or run the risk of having one or more of its three casino licenses canceled. Crown operates casinos in Melbourne and Perth and has a casino waiting for final approval to open in Sydney. That approval has been held up by that state’s regulator due to the findings of these inquiries, although it seems final approval might not be that far away. The second biggest operator, Star Entertainment, has casinos in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast and is part of a consortium building a glamorous new integrated resort in Brisbane. The license for its Sydney property is currently under review, and by any measure, it has not been going well for Star. As happened with Crown, Star Entertainment has seen the mass exodus of company directors and senior executive personnel as

public hearings disclose inappropriate and allegedly illegal operations at Star’s Sydney casino. A finding on Star’s suitability is yet to be announced, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to expect a similar decision for Star as has already occurred with Crown.

Regulatory Crackdown Because of the casinos’ misbehavior, governments have introduced new laws with tougher penalties. In Victoria, the maximum fine which could be imposed on the casino operator as a form of disciplinary action has increased from AUD$1 million (about US$720,000) to AUD$100 million. Part of the reasoning for the steep increase was to ensure that Crown could be prevented from retaining any financial benefit it might gain from its misdeeds. Just recently, we’ve seen the regulator make use of this new penalty provision by imposing a fine of AUD$80 million (approx. US$57 million) for breaches involving misrepresentation of financial transactions identified in one of the inquiries. The regulator stated in its reasons for this decision that Crown had generated AUD$32 million in revenue from this activity. As such, an AUD$1 million maximum fine would have been manifestly inadequate. Other law changes recently announced in Victoria will impose greater obligations on the operator to cooperate with the regulator, and for the regulator itself to work more closely with other law enforcement agencies when potential non-gaming law breaches—such as loan sharking and drug dealing—are observed on the gaming floor. Further regulatory changes will follow. In Victoria, these are expected to include various provisions to tighten observed weakness in anti-money laundering controls as well as a number under the umbrella of responsible

The major operators are accused of a range of serious breaches, including allowing money laundering to take place, misrepresenting financial transactions, withholding information from gaming and AML regulators, and underpayment of gaming tax. JULY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com

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gambling initiatives. Some of the changes will be quite radical. They include abolishing cashless gaming for any transaction which is over AUD$1,000 (USD$570). Pre-commitment for slot machines, which already exists as a voluntary scheme, is likely to become mandatory for all players to use in Melbourne’s casino. In addition, time limits on customer play are anticipated. The proposal, although not yet enacted, is that there be a three-hour maximum play period on slot machines followed by a mandatory break of at least 15 minutes. In addition, players will be restricted to 12 hours maximum slot play in any 24-hour period as well as 36 hours maximum play per week. There is also a recommendation from the Victorian inquiry to require new procedures for the verification of the identity of all persons seeking to enter the Melbourne casino gaming floor. This proposal seems anathema to most Australians, who have consistently resisted any form of a national identification system. Whether this libertarian streak will stall or even prevent this proposal from seeing the light of day remains to be seen. Carded play for all gambling at the Melbourne casino is another recommendation likely to be implemented. The recommendation resulting from the inquiry is that the operator will be required to collect player card data including: • Player buy-in (time, amount) • Player buy-out (time, amount) • Play periods (date, start time, end time) • Player turnover • Player losses and wins • Gambling product type being used This data will be provided to a new body comprising one member each from the casino operator, the regulator and Victoria’s independent Responsible Gambling Foundation. The new body will then make this data available for research purposes to enable a better understanding of gambling behaviors and responsible gambling initiatives.

Junkets Junked Restrictions have also been imposed on the casinos’ international business. This used to be a lucrative opportunity for Star’s Sydney, and Crown’s Perth and Melbourne casinos, earning large sums from international players, primarily from China. Sometimes called commission-based players, these players’ losses were taxed at a lower rate than the gaming revenue derived from the main gaming floor, with the differential being used to fund the commissions paid to the players and junket operators who delivered them. However, various breaches of laws have detonated a bomb under this business. Money laundering allegations, illegal credit betting and casino operators using junket operators with alleged criminal ties have all been uncovered by the media and subsequently confirmed by formal investigations. As a result, junkets have effectively been banned, although in this case, the casino operators got in first and declared they would no longer use them. International players will still be welcome at the Australian casinos, but there will no longer be groups of junket players. Rather, players will be independent travelers. It must be presumed, though, that the various regulatory controls, including the improved identity verification and AML controls, will dampen the level of international business. The Chinese government has previously indicated that it was uncomfortable with the amount of business international casinos had with Chinese nationals. While no specific jurisdictions or casinos have been named by the Chinese government, it has been assumed that Australian casinos were one group in the Chinese government’s sights. As a result, the revenue stream from this source was already shrinking. Nevertheless, the ongoing loss of junket business is impacting each of Crown’s casinos in Melbourne and Perth and Star’s Sydney casino. The 34

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Operational irregularities at Sydney’s Star casino will likely result in sanctions on its parent company, Star Entertainment

business case for Crown’s Sydney casino, while not yet operating, was clearly designed around a significant level of international and junket business, particularly from China. The abolition of junket play may hit Crown’s Sydney casino harder than the others, which all have a strong domestic market.

Regulatory Restructure Much of the change for the industry, though, will not just be through new laws. In addition, the gaming regulators, chastened by their previous apparent incapability, are being restructured and populated with new members. As a consequence, there will be a substantial reset in the way casinos are regulated in Australia. The regulation of liquor will be removed from the responsibilities of the Victorian and New South Wales regulators, with an emphasis being placed on casino regulation above all other forms of gambling regulation. New gaming board members have or will be appointed along with new executive staff. They will wish to flex their collective muscles and show the operators that any non-compliance will not be tolerated. This has already been seen in Victoria with Crown’s recent AUD$80 million fine. In addition, the risk-based model of regulation, incorrectly seen by some as a “hands-off” approach, is likely consigned to the dustbin, at least in the shortto-medium term. As a consequence, casino operators will face slower and more restrictive regulation with more checkpoints and pre-approval processes. This is a shame. It shouldn’t be necessary. But the casino operators only have themselves to blame. There is a view in some quarters that casino operators should not be allowed to push against the elastic in attempts to extend the regulatory boundaries. I disagree with that view. I think every casino operator has that right. However, it’s the regulator’s job to push back. It would appear that this did not happen as much as it should have. Over time it seemed that the lack of pushback emboldened the larger casino operators either to find ways to work around the law or ignore the law altogether. Nevertheless, to paraphrase a comment from the head of one of the recent state inquiries, “just because there is no security guard outside a bank, that doesn’t mean a person has permission to rob it.” Similarly, it is not unreasonable for the states and territories to expect their casino licensees to operate within the law without the need for stricter forms of gaming regulation. Peter Cohen is director regulatory affairs for The Agenda Group. He was previously the executive commissioner and CEO of the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation.


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EMERGING LEADERS Flexible Flyer Justine Clay Senior Director, CX, GAN aving a mother champion an industry for her daughter might not seem so unusual, but gaming probably wouldn’t be your first guess— Justine Clay’s mother pitched casinos because she’s an avid slot and bingo player. “There will always be gaming,” Mom told her daughter. With the growth of iGaming and sports betting, Mom was more prescient than ever that her daughter made the right choice. “I love this industry, and continue to learn and expand my knowledge every day,” Clay says. As senior director for customer success at GAN, Clay oversees a Las Vegas-based team liaising with partners, in addition to handling one of the company’s largest accounts. “I work closely with our teams around the world to ensure future developments are on track and live issues are addressed in real time.” Born and raised in Brockton, Massachusetts, south of Boston, Clay obtained an associate degree at Massasoit Community College. She went west to San Diego State University where she became one of the initial graduates of the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming at the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. The program focuses on cultural and political contexts, casino operations, legal and regulatory issues, marketing and public relations in tribal gaming. “I had the opportunity to couple the education with an internship at Sycuan Casino in San Diego,” she says. During and after college, Clay worked as a cocktail server, a concierge and a slot attendant. These experiences groomed her for future challenges involving customer interactions and prepared her with different problem-solving techniques. “Being able to connect with people and relate to the customer is an area I’ve been able to excel in thanks to those early gaming-floor experiences,” she says. After the Sycuan Institute, Clay worked in tribal gaming operations, commercial gaming operations and independent gaming testing laboratories along with her current role on the iGaming and sports supplier side of the business. Before joining GAN, Clay received a promo-

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“Being able to connect with people and relate to the customer is an area I’ve been able to excel in thanks to those early gaming-floor experiences.” tion at Gaming Laboratories International to director of client services for North America. This was during the Covid-19 pandemic, right after she gave birth to her second daughter. “I was still able to take my full maternity leave,” she says. “However, coming back and turning on the laptop at home for eight-plus hours a day was a major adjustment at first. But there was some benefit to being home as well. I’m sure many of us in the industry struggled with worklife balance, given that you were home 24/7 for almost two years.” It’s not that easy to just walk away from the laptop and take a break, Clay says. Flexibility is key. Parents often had to home-school children and take care of them afterwards on top of their full-time jobs. “One of the more difficult changes we all faced during the pandemic was not being physically available to meet with a colleague or client in person,” says Clay, who enjoys a beach vacation with her family to relax. “Many of us experienced ‘Zoom fatigue.’ Trade shows were done virtually, and it just wasn’t the same. I personally enjoy being around people and meeting face-to-face.” With the pandemic behind her, Clay can now work on getting back to normal. In five years, she expects to see more and more jurisdictions legalize sports betting and online gaming in both commercial and tribal locations. “Digital technology will continue to innovate and thrive in our industry,” she says. And that means new recruits. Clay has some advice for the next generation: “Don’t be afraid to take risks, ask questions and make suggestions if you see improvements that can be made somewhere within your organization,” she says. And have fun. “Love what you’re doing, even on the toughest days in your career.” —Bill Sokolic

Making the Leap Krystal Jones Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia ith a leap of faith, Krystal Jones made the first step in fulfilling her career-long ambition of attaining the role of chief financial officer. Working in the back office as a financial accounting manager for Caesars Entertainment, Jones learned of an opening for director of finance at Harrah’s Laughlin, an opportunity to gain handson operational experience.

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“I knew that applying for the role and putting my name out there for consideration would be a stretch, but it was important to me that I round out my understanding of the gaming industry by adding that operational experience.” “I knew that applying for the role and putting my name out there for consideration would be a stretch,” Jones says, “but it was important to me that I round out my understanding of the gaming industry by adding that operational experience.” Her experience in Laughlin catapulted her career. Jones saw a huge benefit in understanding the centralized services side of accounting while also having operational finance experience.


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Meeting in Macau Michael Lee Executive Director of Casino Regulatory and Compliance, Venetian Macao

“Making the shift from behind-the-scenes to on-property finance led me to my current role at Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia, and I couldn’t be more grateful for taking the leap at the time.” In her CFO role, Jones is responsible for the development and management of financial operations and strategic direction of all financial activities at the newly opened world-class gaming, dining and entertainment destination located in the Philadelphia Stadium District. “Attaining the chief financial officer role has been a goal of mine since I started my career, and I’m so proud of myself for accomplishing it before the age of 40,” she says. Jones joined Live! after serving as vice president of finance at Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, where she was responsible for the development and implementation of the property’s financial plan, key performance metrics and cost control objectives. She also served as the key liaison between the property and investors for all financial matters. Previously, Jones worked as the executive director of finance at MGM National Harbor in Maryland, where she was a key member of the opening team, providing strategic direction and daily oversight for the finance division. Jones began her career in the gaming industry as an accounts payable analyst at Caesars, where she appreciated the opportunity—unique to a casino resort destination—of being exposed to several types of businesses under one roof. Her advice to other young professionals: always ask questions and think outside of the box. Asking questions, especially “why,” allows you to learn and fully understand the task at hand. And thinking outside of the box shows that you can add value to the company. “Don’t be afraid to think differently than your peers or colleagues,” she advises. “These are two pieces of advice I received early on in my career and are how I really made a name for myself—I continue to follow this myself today.” —Thomas Zitt is executive vice president of The Innovation Group.

hen Michael Lee completed law school at Singapore Management University in his native Singapore, he had no idea how many lawyers were in the marketplace. “The legal industry in Singapore was facing an unprecedented glut in lawyers at the time I graduated,” Lee says. “I found work as a lawyer, but I was not being intellectually stimulated in this role.” Lee stumbled across a job posting for a slot compliance manager at Marina Bay Sands. He didn’t know much about slots or compliance. But he got the job anyway. “The rest is history,” he says. He must have learned a lot in a short time, because one of the senior HR execs offered Lee a chance at the Venetian Macao. “I had been to Macau only once, but I knew the tremendous scale of the gaming industry there, which brought with it unparalleled learning opportunities at the first integrated resort on the Cotai Strip and one that was a leader in bringing non-gaming attractions to Macau,” Lee says. He accepted their offer within the hour. Lee now runs the gaming compliance and responsible gaming departments at the Venetian. For the former, he deals with the “analysis, negotiation and implementation of regulations, standards, and operational guidelines by the regulator.” “The unstructured and more challenging part of this role involves ad-hoc requests and guidelines,” Lee says. “The responsible gaming department ensures that we are in compliance with the prevailing government regulations on responsible gaming.” He also works with non-government organizations to promote responsible gaming to society at large. The Macau government is putting in an incredible amount of effort to grow and develop the responsible gaming framework locally, Lee says. “The role captured my attention because it allowed you to witness firsthand, and indeed potentially work on the actual solutions that a company had to implement. I have been very involved across all levels of operations.” Part of his job description involved implementation of Covid-19 pandemic steps like social distancing and casino closures. “These practices were a first for the resort,” Lee says. The pandemic had an impact on the Venetian as it did everywhere. “We have had to juggle an incredible amount of changes from a regulatory perspective primarily due to the policies on pandemic controls which sometimes feel like building a house on shifting sand,” Lee says. “But it is a most welcome challenge as it keeps us all active and hones our situational awareness and capacity for making measured changes under an inordinate amount of time pressure.” While most executive teams found a way to work remotely from home, for Lee that was a non-starter. “This role requires that I be very involved in all aspects of the business, which is not something that I could do remotely, even if I had an opportunity to,” says Lee, who relaxes by watching the sunset with his 1-year-old daughter. Lee sees the industry in Asia strengthening with the growth of integrated resorts on a regional basis. He also sees the stigma attached to gambling disappearing. “The younger generation is able to distinguish between unhealthy obsessions and healthy consumption, which really is what gaming can be, given the appropriate parameters including being aware of your spending limits, as you would when engaging in any other forms of entertainment.” Lee has advice for those following in his footsteps: “Be laser-focused on what they want out of the gaming industry as a career, and then start to work toward that goal right from the beginning.” — Bill Sokolic

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MARKETING

Don’t Date Your Data With so much information available to casino operators these days, how can you evaluate its quality? By Julia Carcamo

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or as long as I can remember, data— and what we did with it—was always an essential part of the world of casino marketers. Today it has become a focal point for anyone in marketing looking to build a case, get more budget, or justify the existence or continuation of any marketing program. The challenge seems to be that a new data source comes with each day. The key is how we filter through a plethora of data and create the stories that matter to our business. “Casino operators and marketers have no trouble generating data,” says Dan White of Dan White & Associates. “I think where the problem can exist is having mechanisms in place to filter or distill data in a meaningful way so that operators can then put that data to use and make good decisions.” That can become a real challenge despite (or perhaps because) more companies are offering analytics services and ways to approach your data management. The number of tools and processes being introduced can seem quite daunting. If you are operating on a smaller budget, it could also appear you are missing out on something significant. The trap can happen when filtering compresses data too much. Anytime we are dealing with data, we can tend to compress the complexity of the data down to something that is simplified for understanding. However, that compression might lead to a flawed interpretation. A lack of filtering can be problematic because we end up looking at vast amounts of data. That opens the door for everyone to latch on to their favorite data point (typically because it paints the best picture for their efforts). The solution is for the organization to identify and prioritize the key metrics that are important and meaningful and then build the reporting to capture that information. This process is critical if you are DIYing your analytics, but it can also be invaluable when consider38

Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

ing a third party. Rather than allowing a third party to tell you what is vital to your business, you tell them so that they can give you the data you need to meet your goals. We have to know our actions lead to the correct response, and that response has to be revenue at a lower cost. For years, we have followed that line of logic in the mail and with our players clubs. Today, more and more of our messaging channels are measurable. Suddenly, the advertising manager and media buyers have to learn the tools of data science. The ongoing migration of a simple tool like Google’s Universal Analytics to G4 is likely the most talked about today, but as casino advertisers invest more of their media dollars into digital, understanding and filtering data becomes as important to them as understanding the copy and images that will create the desired response. If you’re not already dabbling in data, it’s time to take small steps. Some operators benefit from planning and analysis and business intelligence resources, but for those who do not, all is not lost. Ask the questions that will help you grow the business. Profitable Customers founder Mary Loftness has been (in her words) “crunching casino data” for 22 years. In that time, she can say the answers have always been in the “why.” In her view, you must understand why business was the way it was yesterday, last week, last month, and last year. You must understand why expenses were such or why the players club is growing or not. Asking the why will lead you to the data that will help you make the decisions to continue growth. For White, this takes the form of trending reports, which he says would be his first step to understanding a property’s operation. In my experience, it was something we called the segmentation report, which also looked at trends by segment—a snapshot of offers, redemptions, revenue, and profitability. As you can see, the solutions can vary, but all

intend to find the story that will lead to growth. Agree on the meaning. One of the most important steps we can take is to ensure everyone understands the meaning of the data we rely on. While, as an industry, we have metrics that are universally accepted, new streams of data are coming into play, giving us new points to measure (or not). An obvious example is social media. When we first started using social media, we often created report after report of likes and shares, but with no real value to the measurement. I can remember website reports touting page views! Likewise, traditional media buys solely based on impressions, cost per point, and GRPs have lost their luster. Understanding the data that results from our actions and what those measurements mean to the business is a must. More importantly, everyone involved must agree on the value of that data. We have all been in situations where departments might present different reports based on the same information. The data might not match up or might be completely different. The result can lead you to a very unclear story of how the property is performing. The leadership team must define success metrics, and then everything should cascade from there. Format for your audience. Data visualization may be one of the most valuable modern marketing skills. Once you start your data journey, make an appointment to revisit everything in 90 days to understand if the priorities are still the same. Whether you are doing everything in Excel or have partnered with a third party, this checkpoint can ensure you are consistently working with the most relevant and valuable data. Julia Carcamo is a casino branding expert and the author of Reel Marketing: The Art of Building a Casino Brand. As president & chief brand strategist at J Carcamo & Associates and founder of Casino Marketing Boot Camp, she aids casinos in building and maintaining engaging brands.


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Tax & Spend: How Regulations Impact iGaming and Sports Betting Success Will high sports betting tax rates torpedo success? By Jess Marquez

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hen mobile sports betting went live in New York state on January 8, many around the industry were curious to see if the market would perform well enough to outpace the controversial 51 percent tax rate for operators, the largest to be implemented thus far. Even on day one, sentiment was mixed—Action Network CEO Patrick Keane told CNBC it was “arguably the biggest day in the history of sports betting,” while Jim Chanos, renowned hedge fund manager, called the business model “flawed” from the outset. Well, how does $250 million in tax revenue in less than six months sound? Bone-crunching for operators surely, yet symphonic for state officials whose budgets have faced unprecedented squeezing thanks in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic. This push-and-pull between the two sides has come under more scrutiny than ever before as the industry continues to expand and rates continue to increase. And if anything, tensions seem to be escalating—when asked about New York’s tax revenue explosion, ex-Andrew Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told PlayNY that “(operators) said it wasn’t going to work but the proof is in the score—Taxpayers 1, Hacks 0.” Even markets that have yet to implement sports betting, such as Missouri, are having trouble finding common ground; shortly after a recent sports betting provision fell through in the waning hours, state Senator 40

Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

Denny Hoskins was adamant that casinos were chasing “a golden ticket,” and that operators “basically killed this because of their greed.” Hoskins has proposed a 21 percent tax rate in the Show Me State. So what does this mean for the sustainability and profitability of the industry moving forward? How will operators choose to navigate increasing tax rates with narrowing margins, and what impact will it have on player experience? Has sports betting expansion become lawmakers’ panacea for ailing budgets? For most of these markets, especially on the East Coast, there are still far more questions than answers. In the meantime, however, businesses are doing what they can to stay competitive while convincing players to stay within legal markets, which are in many ways at a disadvantage against their offshore counterparts.

Keeping Players in the Legal Market Perhaps the one thing that both states and operators can agree on is that markets should be structured in such a way that keeps players from gravitating towards gray or black markets, which have had a decades-long head start in most states. It appears, however, that they disagree on how to go about doing that, or what “success” really means for everyone involved. “If the intent really is to help channelize the black market and offer consumer protection, a super-high tax rate is in many ways counterintuitive to


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USA SPORTS BETTING TAXES

“Tax rates most directly affect businesses’ ability to grow and innovate.” —Seth Young, Chief Strategy Officer, FSG Digital

doing so,” says Seth Young, chief strategy officer for FSG Digital, the sports betting and iGaming affiliate of Fifth Street Gaming. “It seems more like a cash grab than it does a consumer-facing initiative. That said, if the money is spent for the benefit of the citizens and is allocated for good public policy, that’s a very different conversation. But government spending hasn’t always been super-efficient. As far as promotions go, we’ve seen a massive pullback from operators in states where you have unsustainable rates, and that opens the door for the black market too. The black market is very much flourishing in certain places because of butchered structures.” Player exodus is bad for all sides—it takes hard-fought money out of everyone’s hands, and it reflects poorly on states’ market structures if players are willing to make the effort to go elsewhere when legal options are right in front of them. It also leaves players vulnerable, with no regulations or consumer protections to fall back on. This issue is at the forefront for organizations such as the American Gaming Association (AGA). “One of the things that we have to be mindful of is the idea of building a sustainable market,” says AGA Senior Vice President Casey Clark. “The AGA has never been focused on being quickest to market, or rapid expansion of legalization at all costs; it’s been about getting it right, and our focus there means creating the right policy environment, the right regulatory environment, the right tax structure, the right responsible gaming provisions, the right consumer protection provisions.” “We know from AGA research that consumers overwhelmingly want to be betting in the legal market. So we need to all work together, everyone involved in this business, from the policy makers to regulators to leagues and teams and media companies and gaming operators and everybody in between; we all have to be working together to create that opportunity for American sports bettors who have been betting on sports since there have been sports to bet on to migrate their action into the legal marketplace.”

Impacts on Player Experience In many ways, the numbers speak for themselves—in total, legal U.S. sportsbooks netted about $1.4 billion in gross gaming revenue (GGR) in 2021, which is still peanuts compared to the $17 billion that offshore operators are estimated to rake in annually. What’s worse, up to 55 percent of current U.S. sports bettors aren’t even aware that they may be betting

$

STATE

MODEL

TAX RATE

Arizona

Mobile and retail

10% online, 8% retail

Arkansas

Retail only

13% of first $150 million, then 20%

Colorado

Mobile and retail

10%

Connecticut

Mobile and retail

18% online, 13.75% retail

Delaware

Lottery monopoly

50%

Illinois

Mobile and retail

15%

Indiana

Mobile and retail

9.5%

Iowa

Mobile and retail

6.75%

Louisiana

Mobile and retail

15% online, 10% retail

Maryland

Mobile and retail

15%

Michigan

Mobile and retail

8.4%

Mississippi

Retail only

12%

Montana

Lottery monopoly

Revenue minus management fees

Nebraska

Retail only

20%

Nevada

Mobile and retail

6.75%

New Hampshire

Lottery monopoly

51%

New Jersey

Mobile and retail

14.25%

New Mexico

Tribal retail only

Revenue minus expenses

New York

Mobile and retail

51%

North Carolina

Tribal retail only

Revenue minus expenses

Ohio

Mobile and retail

10%

Oregon

Lottery Monopoly

Revenue minus management fees

Pennsylvania

Mobile and retail

36%

Rhode Island

Lottery monopoly

51%

South Dakota

Retail only

9%

Tennessee

Mobile only

20%

Virginia

Mobile and retail

15%

Washington

Tribal

TBD

West Virginia

Mobile and retail

10%

Wyoming

Mobile only

10%

District of Columbia

Lottery monopoly online, retail

10%

with an illegal operator, according to the AGA. This then forces companies to make some tough decisions, decisions that typically have a direct effect on the end user. Brian Wyman, senior vice president of operations and data analytics for gaming consultant The Innovation Group, has had to help businesses consider some of these decisions. “All these things are things the operators are thinking about. It’s player reinvestment, it’s advertising, it’s reinvestment in that technology stack, it’s customer service, it’s the quality of their retail sportsbooks,” says Wyman. “And when the tax rate is high, the operator has to make some decisions about how to allocate the remaining funds. The operator’s not under as much pressure when the rate is 12 percent. “If you think about some of the big cost centers for sports betting operations, you’ve got promotional spend that really goes right into the players’ hands. That’s a major driver of expense for these businesses. And one JULY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com

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“We all have to be working together to create that opportunity for American sports bettors who have been betting on sports since there have been sports to bet on to migrate their action into the legal marketplace. “ —Casey Clark, Senior Vice President, American Gaming Association

thing that’s sort of unique about the New York model is that, in a lot of jurisdictions you’re able to deduct that promotional spend before you incur the tax rate. In New York you’re not able to do that, and so that makes New York an even bigger challenge for operators. “Another is advertising and media spend. You see the commercials with Caesars on television, or you see DraftKings and FanDuel and MGM all have some level of media that they’re out there with, that’s another large spend category. And then it’s investment in their technology stack, it’s ‘Do I have an app that is right for my consumers?,’ it’s ‘Am I making sure that I’m able to leverage the data that I have to make sure that I’m putting a competitive app on the market?,’ and that’s a user experience and interface thing but it’s also ‘Am I offering enough variety in terms of the games and the types of bets and things like that?’” Bettors are no different than any other consumers in the sense that they will usually take their money to businesses where they feel they are getting a good deal, and that becomes tricky when there’s not a lot of room for experimentation. “When you focus on cost-cutting measures, you don’t really focus on growth,” says Young. “That’s two different things. Tax rates most directly affect businesses’ ability to grow and innovate.” When new opportunities do arise, however, competition is usually stiff, and margin for error is slim to none. Single-game parlays, or parlay bets featuring multiple wagers on the same game, have emerged as a popular option. “You saw a race recently from a lot of shops to get single-game parlays up,” says Wyman. “That’s a big math challenge to get that right and to not get beat up offering these parlays. Because if you don’t get the math right, savvy players can really take advantage of that.”

The iGaming Element While in some respects, it’s easy to lean on the side of pessimism when it comes to the long-term prospects for operators in markets with tax rates above 15 percent—currently the case in eight states—but there is one wrinkle that could prove to be a savior of sorts (or a savior of sports), and that is iGaming. It’s no secret that online casino gaming has much better margins than sports betting, yet historically the two sectors haven’t always gone hand-in-hand. “I think what we know to be true is that there had been an expectation or a thought that iGaming and brick-and-mortar casinos were usually mutually exclusive propositions,” says Clark. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen that they’re complementary and not competitive. There are a lot of opportunities that exist for operators, whether they’re brick-and-mortar operators or they’re traditional legal sports betting operators, to bring another form of gaming to meet consumers right where they are. That’s something that the gaming in-

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Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

dustry has been really strong at for a long time, innovating to ensure the customer experience is something that meets or exceeds their expectation.” Some states, such as Pennsylvania, with a sky-high sports betting tax rate, require sports betting licenses for iGaming. That then begs the question of whether the potential benefits of iGaming can outweigh the potential losses of sports betting, and whether operators will accept those pitfalls to gain a foothold in the iGaming space, which is expanding in both legality and accessibility. “I don’t think any operators right now would categorize sports betting as a necessary evil to get iGaming, but I do think that operators generally view iGaming as a real prize,” says Wyman. “The revenues will be larger, and will grow over time. They have better margins, so I think iGaming is the real prize here, for sure.” According to the AGA, online gaming revenue surpassed $3.7 billion in 2021, between just six states—Connecticut, with just 3.5 million residents statewide, tallied nearly $50 million in revenue in only two months. And according to a recent report from Mordor Intelligence, the overwhelming majority of online casino bettors in the U.S. were between the ages of 21 and 34 in 2021, which should come as little surprise given the familiarity with online interfaces. “There’s a fair amount of money to be made in the online casino space,” says Young. “Consumers are certainly gravitating towards convenience gaming.” Success is often a function of realistic expectations, and it is certainly realistic to expect operators to offer first-class experiences on a digital platform; gaming often has a way of attracting the best and brightest. Rather, the question now becomes whether they will get the opportunity to, given current market conditions. “As new generations come into the gaming business or are interested in it or attracted to it for whatever reason, gaming is going to continue to innovate and be an entertainment option of choice for everybody,” says Clark. “There’s a lot to unpack as far as how operators decide to do what where and when and at what cost, but the most important thing to think about is how we ensure that we’re providing the right kind of consumer protections, or that we’re enabling people who want to spend entertainment dollars to gamble have that opportunity with the protections of the regulated marketplace. iGaming is only legal in a handful of states, unlike sports betting, which is now widely legal around the country. iGaming is still pretty confined, so there’s a lot of opportunity for growth in that marketplace.” At this point, all signs would indicate that the combination of sports betting and iGaming is poised to dominate the industry moving forward, but it remains to be seen whether or not the proper balance between states and operators can be established before businesses go bust and states are left to re-think budget woes once again. Indeed, it would appear that if no adjustments are made, Azzopardi’s scoreboard will be reset to: Taxpayers 0, Hacks 0, with offshore books coming out on top.


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Customizing

Customers

Customer relationship management systems super-charge a casino’s ability to create long-term loyalty

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By Dave Bontempo

an software deliver the soft touch? Operators rely more than ever on the hints, guidelines and nuance provided by sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) software. Human beings make final decisions, but the datadriven analytical insight from top systems gives them a final-choice menu. From there, they use the information to pinpoint offers, separate players into tiers and reward proportionally. CRM software helps operators retain players, manage preferences, track expenditures and measure the effectiveness of targeted marketing campaigns. Along the way, they glean a crystallized view of how often players visit, what games they prefer, how frequently they make deposits, and their average wins and losses.

The CRM Oasis Cath Burns, executive vice president of customer experience & RMG for Aristocrat Gaming, considers CRM the backbone of the casino operations. Like an actual backbone, it must be robust and support the entire casino floor body. With Aristocrat’s Oasis casino management system, operators have accurate accounting and player tracking data to better define their customer journey strategy, Burns says. This approach can be augmented by additional Oasis suite products to enhance marketing and bonusing, overall player engagement and interaction on the floor. “As for changes, the biggest ones we’ve seen in the last couple of years are the digitization of the gaming floor, and the way guests interact with the property when they’re not on property, which sometimes is referred to as ‘off-premises engagement,’” Burns says. “These changes are allowing operators to expand their brand and provide new engagement for players in ways we’ve never experienced before. “Guests can receive real-time updates, view balances, and connect with hosts to plan incremental engagements without having to step foot on property. This off-premises engagement is allowing operators to gain brand recognition that translates into deeper wallet share of their loyal guests.” 44

Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

Cendyn has thrived for nearly 20 years with its innovative eInsight CRM

The needs and preferences for properties also have evolved. That means CRM products need to be sharper. “In the past, CRM was needed to provide data to run the actual day-to-day operations for the gaming floor,” Burns indicates. “Casino management systems were necessary to operate; however, they were not being utilized to incorporate enterprise management and provide a competitive edge. “Contrast that with today, when operators tell us they need a true business partner for their overall enterprise operations. Operations are no longer limited to the gaming floor, and now incorporate all aspects of an operator’s strategic offering and vision. “Oasis, and our full product suite, have become a way for operators to strategically differentiate themselves in ever-changing, ever competitive markets. Oasis’ CRM has become a cornerstone for operators’ bonusing, digitization strategy, customer engagement, data mining, reporting and overall business enterprise needs.” Aristocrat has a couple of star performers in this realm, she asserts. “In the online space, our hottest products are PlayerMax Mobile Concierge and B2B Social Casino,” Burns says. “These applications are leveraging the power of an operator’s brand to create a fully customized offering that will resonate with the operator’s customer base. “We have a full support team for training and customization to launch the applications, as well as ongoing managed services and live operations. PlayerMax Mobile is a hosted application in AWS. B2B Social is also hosted on GCP. Once these apps are fully customized and ready to deploy, we work with the operator to create Apple and Google Play Store accounts to deploy the applications for their customer base consumption.”


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Synchronized Data Machine One size may not fit all, but perhaps one image will. Cendyn, a prominent innovative cloud software and services provider for the hospitality and gaming industry, has thrived for nearly 20 years with its innovative eInsight CRM. The principle emerged from lifting the industry out of the data silo trap, in which information stored by separate company departments essentially becomes burdensome. Siloed data created barriers to information sharing and denied leaders a holistic view of company data. Cendyn ushered in its change, integrating data from channels as diverse as sales, customer satisfaction, property management and loyalty realms. The end result provides a customer snapshot, regardless of which channel the player originated from. This has become more significant as operators tabulate the performance of individual departments within their umbrella of operations. Finding the right program for every customer provides an instant advantage. Its Single Guest View feature treats each guest profile like like a fingerprint. Customers leave behind a trail of favorites, likes, dislikes, hotel stay choices and destination offers. Cendyn’s tool keeps all this data in a master guest profile. Profile data can be used to define and segment target audiences based on past stay history, preferences, loyalty status, guest lifetime value score and more. The eInsight tools can propel operators to reach another level of customer involvement via eNgage. Operators can use front-line staff to treat every guest like a VIP. Sitting on top of the PMS, eNgage provides an operator’s call center, front desk or guest services agent with live, up-to-date information on the guest to ensure they’re communicating a uniquely personalized message at the right time.

Staff can send emails acknowledging a guest’s birthday, flowers to the room if it matches that occasion, or a specific gift offer at that time.

Staying Ahead of the Curve Ted Keenan, vice president of product management at Light & Wonder, says the best CRM solutions incentivize players to make return visits. Those incentives are most easily understood by the player though comps and free-play awards. “Casinos are unique from other industries in that they have a particularly intimate relationship with their players,” Keenan asserts. “In addition to the excitement of a live floor, entertainment, food, the thrill of a win, and various other experiences, casinos share a unique connection with their players that is built on trust.” This all-important relationship between casino and valued player requires a significant amount of time to build, Keenan adds. “An effective CRM strategy is therefore vital to long-term player development,” he says. “Casino CRM strategies have evolved over time from promotion-centric/campaign-centric strategies to player-centric strategies. Casinos have shifted CRM strategy from utilizing one promotion targeted to multiple players to utilizing multiple suitable promotions for a single player.” Keenan says the industry must adjust to the rapid marketplace changes that took place over the past couple of years. “The world went virtual overnight, and like most industries, casinos could no longer be proactive and were forced to react by adjusting their CRM and player re-investment strategies,” he says. “The industry has since seen an increase in adoption of technology across all demographics and will see much more digital collaboration in the CRM space compared to the past.” Keenan indicates that casino operators want a complete view of the


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The CRM Advantage player. One view of the customer across all channels of game play and resort spend is thus a valuable tool. “L&W offers a suite of CRM solutions for casino operators,” says Keenan. “At the core of any CRM solution is the player tracking system or casino club. The first step in a CRM solution is identifying the player. Next, Business Intelligence provides advance analytic tools for understanding player behavior and segmenting players. “Campaign Manager and EBS enable casino operators to act by awarding offers, bonus games, and participation in promotions. Finally, L&W Host empowers a casino employee with a full contact management system for the best personal interaction with players.” Harnessing the power of data is driving the change in the gaming industry, he says. The company software uses data for improving player engagement and operational efficiency as well as providing insight on games, players, and decisions.

The Magic of CRM Andrew Cardno, co-founder and chief technology officer of Quick Custom Intelligence, believes the casino industry has reached a crossroads between information and people to implement it. “The most significant change in the last couple of years is that experienced player development (PD) team members are becoming increasingly challenged to hire and train,” he asserts. “Many of these teams are already short-staffed, requiring team members to fill multiple roles often. “The old CRM tools that are generic and inadequate at providing, let alone analyzing, complex data are part of the cause of the recruiting problem. The critical item in this issue is staff retention and enablement. Without the help of an industry-built CRM tool to enable PD team members to make actionable decisions through the ability to track the constantly changing natures of player spend, it is difficult to retain both new and experienced hires.” According to Cardno, with many inexperienced team members being hired into the industry, casinos need a CRM system that can monitor and predict success, not just for players but for the player development team. QCI Host is the company’s hottest product in this space, he indicates. “We have been deploying an average of 100 hosts per month for one year,” he says. “The tool is incredibly fast and responsive, and we can deliver it effectively. Combining real-time with historical data, QCI Host was designed to fit a casino’s needs to accurately analyze the complex nature of player data and their spending behavior over multiple stays, restaurant visits, countless promotional events, hotel nights, or special events.” Cardno also touts QCI Platform, which provides fully automated management of the data warehouse and data lake. “This enables us to apply cloudmanaged technology to a vast number of deployments,” he says. “This open platform is fully integrated with chat agents and phone systems to enable an AI-based chat response mechanism and auto-dial response. In addition, we offer the ability to integrate with campaign management tooling to allow CRM users to be an automated part of the offer delivery process.” Nothing, of course, can replace the smile, the handshake and the one-onone relationship given by face-to-face contact. This, in the end, may be the difference-maker for some properties. But they all need software to be in the game first.

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Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

I

GT has identified four must-have customer experience components that brands need to keep in mind. One is social listening. Setting up a listening process through robust social listening tools can help brands adapt to customer needs and when their preferences change. Another is omnichanneling. This includes integrating online channels so that once users sign up on one platform, they don’t have to go through the procedure again on the others. This integration makes customers view a brand positively. A third is personalization. By implementing advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning, they are able to study their users and recommend services that suit them. And the fourth is CRM. Data such as choice of communication channel, new or existing user, and devices used can be handed to one team; content likes, product interests and user behavior can be handed to another. With the right CRM tools, teams can spend quality time on studying customer data and work towards improving the customer experience. Ryan Reddy, senior vice president of product marketing and payments for IGT, touts an assortment of them. “At its core, CRM is about attracting and retaining players, which is why CRM programs are so critical for our customers’ success,” Reddy says. “At its most fundamental level, IGT Advantage (casino management system) gives users access to important data that will ultimately help them segment and develop players.” The IGT Advantage Patron Management application is at the heart of many casinos’ CRM efforts, as it offers a robust set of data, tools and currencies with which to reward and incentivize player behavior, he adds. “Revealing that data in meaningful ways via Advantage Analytics helps provide our customers the support they need to make important player reinvestment decisions in real time—or by leveraging historic data,” he asserts. “Having a 360-degree view of player behavior is critical to any CRM program. Whether it’s player-facing IGT systems applications such as Bonusing and Resort Wallet, or back-of-the house apps such as Mobile Jackpot, Host, Responder, etc., IGT develops its solutions to ensure a seamless player experience across the enterprise that aligns with CRM initiatives.” Reddy says that with casino systems, innovation tends to be incremental and not disruptive. The company’s customers are embracing the option for cloudbased IGT Advantage deployments, cashless gaming technologies Resort Wallet and IGTPay, content-rich bonuses and mobile technologies that empower gaming floor staff to work efficiently and deliver quality guest interactions, he says. Although there is no one-size-fits-all view on CRM, IGT is tightly connected to the needs of its customers. Reddy says many of them are creating and deploying highly customized loyalty programs, bonuses, incentive plans and tier programs. “This is part of the reason why IGT Advantage is the preferred casino management solution for so many operators around the world,” he says. “Due to its modular design, our customers can truly personalize their deployments to meet their customer needs, achieve their business objectives and run bespoke CRM programs with highly individualized offers. “IGT is working with our customers to identify the most important business opportunities in this area and apply related R&D investments in the most strategic manner possible.” —Dave Bontempo


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NEW GAME REVIEW by Frank Legato

Devil’s Lock Bluberi

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his new game on Bluberi’s tall Novus Series b49 cabinet features a locking bonus and several primary-game mystery events. The base game employs a five-by-three reel array, with 15 individual reels and 40 pay lines. Randomly during base-game spins, the main devil character will appear to grant credit awards, multipliers, wilds or other bonuses. He also appears to celebrate big wins. When the devil lands in the middle position, he activates all cash-onreel coins symbols on the screen, as well as any symbols corresponding to one of the four jackpots—static prizes of $25, $75, $500 or even the top Grand of $6,600. A “Rewind” symbol on the screen brings out the devil character to transform other reel spots into additional prizes. Also, any devil symbol landing on the reels can randomly unlock one of two “Pig Pots,” which each award six free games. During the free games the devil locks in position, awarding the value of any cash-on-reels coin symbol that lands in that spot during the free games.

Manufacturer: Bluberi Platform: b49 1.0, b49 1.5, b49 2.0 Format: 15-reel, 40-line video slot Max Bet: 660 Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10 Top Award: $6,600 Hit Frequency: 32.19% Theoretical Hold: 4%-14%

Ultra Rush Gold X Incredible Technologies

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his is one of the inaugural games on Incredible Technologies’ Prism VXP cabinet, which uses a commercial grade motor to cause a giant 55-inch flatscreen monitor to physically raise and lower to enable different game features. There is a main game screen and an oversized button deck that serves as a third monitor, but during bonus game play, the 55-inch monitor physically rises, adding 13 inches to the height of the display. The Ultra Rush game family has been a big hit for IT, with players flocking to Ultra Rush and Ultra Rush Gold, which feature fantasy Asian warrior characters and a lock-and-spin bonus feature. The new version, Ultra Rush Gold X, takes that hold-and-re-spin bonus to a new level with the vertical expansion of the reels. The base game is a five-reel, 30-line format with three rows of symbols. Five scattered bonus symbols—there are three different symbols that can work together—trigger the Ultra Rush Bonus. The triggering symbols—pearls, gold pearls and wheels—lock in place for three free spins. Each time another of the scatters 48

Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

Manufacturer: Incredible Technologies Platform: Prism XVP Format: Five-reel, 30-line video slot Max Bet: 450 Denomination: .01, .0-2, .05, .10 Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset Hit Frequency: Approximately 35% Theoretical Hold: 5.84%-14.87%

lands, the spin count returns to three. Three spins without any scatters ends the feature, awarding the accumulated bonus. Filling the screen with the symbols triggers a wheel spin for a guaranteed progressive. For the new “X” version, the big monitor physically moves upward to add more rows of symbols to the reel grid. Each symbol with a green arrow adds a row of symbols, with the motor moving the big monitor upward. If you pick the 5-cent or 10-cent denominations from the multipledenomination lineup, the grid can rise to nine rows. That can result in huge credit awards in the lock-and-spin feature.


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Grand Legacy

Ainsworth Game Technology

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his new game on Ainsworth’s A-STAR Slant and A-STAR Dual cabinets offers a classic highdenomination stepper-style experience with a number of more modern extras. The base game is a three-reel, nine-line game with 2X, 3X and 5X multipliers on screen overlays. Multipliers can be added together for wins up to 125 times the normal value. There are all the classic winning reel symbols, including single, double and triple bars, and four different-colored “7” combinations. Wins are greeted with a classic ringing bell. The wild symbols consist of green, red and silver diamond symbols marked “Jackpot.” Landing three jackpot wild symbols on a pay line returns one of the corresponding progressive jackpots displayed in the top box, where the complete pay schedule is displayed much like the classic mechanical reel-spinners. Mixed diamond wild symbols on a pay line return a progressive resetting at $975. Three green diamonds re-

Lucky Coin Link IGT

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his new progressive slot family from IGT feaManufacturer: IGT tures two base themes, Platform: PeakSlant49, CrystalCurve Asian Dreaming and Atlantica. Format Five-eel, 10-, 20-, 30- or 40-line Lucky Coin Link utilizes the video slot engaging coin collection meMax Bet: 880 chanic from the company’s Denomination: .01-1.00 proven Coin O’ Mania game, in Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset which players can collect coins Hit Frequency: Approximately 40% until they trigger the re-spin feaTheoretical Hold: 4%-14% ture. Lucky Coin Link also features five progressive jackpots and free games. The five-reel base game is available with 10, 20, 30 or 40 pay lines. In the fiveby-four base game, any coin symbol appearing in the coin collection row will lock and trigger the re-spin feature when five coins lock. The reels expand to a five-by-six matrix during the re-spin feature and can award wilds, multipliers, and free games. Furthering the win potential during the re-spin, if a coin lands on one of the five progressive jackpot symbols, the corresponding value is won. Lucky Coin Link also features a free games bonus that is triggered when three treasure chest symbols land on the reels in the base game. Lucky Coin Link is available on IGT’s PeakSlant49 and CrystalCurve cabinets. 50

Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

Manufacturer: Ainsworth Game Technology Platform: A-STAR Format: Five-reel, nine-line video slot Max Bet: 27, 45 Denomination: 1.00, 5.00, 10.00 Top Award: Progressive; $30,000 reset Hit Frequency: Approximately 15% Theoretical Hold: 4%-15%

turn a prize starting at $2,100. Three red diamonds return a progressive resetting at $4,500. Three silver diamonds on pay lines 1-4 return a prize resetting at $10,500. The Grand Prize is returned for three silver diamonds on pay lines 5-9. (Significant, since most similar slots only return the top prize on one pay line.) That resets at $30,000. The reels also contain a “Triple Jackpot” symbol that triples the value of the progressive when it hits. The game offers a chance at multiple jackpots when diamond combinations land on more than one pay line. The prize values are added together when that occurs.


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CUTTING EDGE by Frank Legato

Data Made Easy PRODUCT: VizOnDemand MANUFACTURER: VizExplorer

ata is the lifeblood of every business. VizExplorer’s newest product offerings take the guesswork out of data and put it directly to work for operators. The VizOnDemand platform brings simplicity and automated insights through a clean, intuitive user interface that leverages AI and provides predictive analytics. VizOnDemand covers the most critical areas of the casino business—slots, player development and marketing. Operators have seamless access to their most important data. VizOnDemand products are configurable and provide actionable recommendations as well as insightful reports that track both machine and player data. VizOnDemand’s out-of-the-box reporting capability provides immediate impact and syncs with industry best practice analytics. Whether you want to see high-level performance metrics or drill down into granular detail of your games, manufacturers, and/or players, Viz makes it simple to

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grab these insights and make revenue-driving decisions from them. Ease of use and flexibility are big differentiating factors for the reporting suite. With just a couple of button clicks you can navigate from reviewing slot performance to visualizing how the player development team is pacing. In addition to that, the ability to rapidly develop and deploy custom reports that show you where the business is going is a game-changer. VizOnDemand leverages AI and disparate data sources to guide the operator through a fully automated, customizable set of prioritized recommendations based on ROI. Viz leverages both customer and machine data to provide an extraordinary level of insight into customer and machine behavior with future predictions built in. For more information, visit vizexplorer.com.

Power of Automation PRODUCT: Logic Rules Engine MANUFACTURER: GiG

he power of automation can remarkably transform the way a business works, particularly when it comes to improving the player experience, entering new markets, creating a safer playing environment and improving your customer lifetime value. GiG provides this through the Logic rules engine, with automated features that help to improve the customer experience by allowing users to create real-time actioned events, helping to drive a strong competitive advantage. The fact of more markets becoming regulated combined with the excelled demand for a strong digital presence fuels the need for operators to work harder than ever to ensure they are fully compliant and positioned as a market leader. GiG built the Logic real-time rules engine to help empower operators to build their own bespoke rules, without the need for coding knowledge, so they can react to changes in regulation as fast as possible.

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Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

Logic allows users to take better control of their operations, speed up business processes and avoid common problems when communicating requirements to external resources. The real-time rules engine, combined with its responsible gaming tools, allows you to monitor, detect and proactively engage with problematic gambling behaviors. This helps to ensure that you are always one step ahead of the responsible gaming curve, proactively providing a safer player experience for your customers. As an operator, if you want to gain a competitive advantage, personalization should be a vital part of your overall marketing strategy. The power of automation allows operators to personalize and tailor marketing messages and bonus rewards, which ultimately helps to build a loyal customer base by showing your players you understand them from their very first interaction. For more information, visit gig.com.


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MAKING MY POINT

Just Go Do you take a chance or do you stay in your comfort zone?

By Roger Snow

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hould I stay or should I go now? If I go there will be trouble And if I stay it will be double So you gotta let me know Should I stay or should I go?” —The Clash Because if you decide that yes, it’s indeed time to go, you’re going have to close the door behind you before you can open the one in front of you. Like at a dog park. Or an aviary. Or a prison. And whether it’s escaping physical incarceration or career stagnation, the barter remains the same: you’re swapping stability for opportunity. Because long gone—with a few exceptions, of course—are the days of the methodical, linear ascension inside a single company; the dealer becoming the boxman becoming the floorman becoming the pit boss becoming the shift boss becoming the casino manager, and so on. Or, on the supplier side, the cubicle-jockey grinding his or her way into the C-suite. Want to test this theorem? Look no further than where you work, and you’ll likely find that most senior executives indeed came from somewhere else. They weren’t draft picks; rather, they were free agents recruited away from solid jobs at solid organizations. Places where they not only knew everyone’s name, but where all the bodies were buried and the skeletons were closeted. Places where they were well comped and well respected. Ambition makes you do that. That or craziness. Aesop famously wrote about the dark side of such appetites in his fable about the dog with a bone in his mouth. You know, the dog sees his reflection in a pond, and thinking it’s another dog—and more importantly, another bone—he barks to scare him away, unwittingly dropping his own bone into the water. Ruh-roh. Yet every day in our world, folks bet double-

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or-nothing on their careers, switching companies for more money. Moving overseas for a promotion. Broadening responsibilities to impress the higher-ups. And all the while waving a balled fist at the Peter Principle, which as we know is pretty good at exposing those folks whose aspirations exceed their aptitudes. So, to circle back to our musical question, how do you—yes, you—know it’s time to stop doing what you’re doing and start doing something else? According to Harvard Business Review, there are a few telltale signs you should look for. For example: Maxed Out “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain,” says Hans Gruber in the movie Die Hard, “he wept for there were no worlds left to conquer.” Sometimes it happens. Whether you’re a Greek king or a regional rep, sometimes you work somewhere long enough and literally accomplish all your goals. And now, with upward mobility perhaps stunted, you atrophy, doing nothing more than repeating the same experiences over and over, the only thing that changes being the weather and the calendar. Code name: SSDD. When you get there, it’s time to change direction. Working for the Weekend Be fast and be honest—every dozen years or so, when Christmas falls on a Tuesday and you’re getting four or maybe five days off work, are you happy or horrified? For the most part, if you’re more excited about not performing your job duties than performing them, you may need to consider busting a move out of there. You’ll be doing yourself— and not to mention your employer—a favor. And as Breaking Bad proved (and so did Game of Thrones, except in reverse), people judge you on how you end. Don’t botch your exit.

Burn Baby Burn You’re burned out. Torched. Toasted. Not anyone’s fault, but you just can’t deal with any more inputs, any more problems, any more tasks or assignments or arguments. Like with poker or pinball, you’re on tilt. When it gets to that point, what’s the point? Opportunity of a Lifetime Oprah Winfrey left her gig at a local news station to start her own talk show. Now she has her own network, called, coincidentally, OWN. Robert McNamara left his job as president of Ford Motor Company to be Kennedy’s secretary of defense. Years later, Lee Iacocca left his job as president of Ford Motor Company—well, to be fair, Ford left him—to become CEO of Chrysler. And GOAT quarterback Tom Brady retired after 21 seasons in the NFL so he could fulfill his dream of spending more time with his wife and children. Wait… what? How can you pass up a chance that doesn’t come with a second chance? You’ve got to go for it, even if it means sacrificing seniority and goodwill and the familiarity you’ve nestled yourself in over the years. Steve Harvey has a great speech where he uses the metaphor of “jumping” into the unknown. (It’s a bit preachy for some tastes, but it’s definitely worth a listen.) Just don’t fear the fear. All those high achievers around you have stared down the same dilemma in their careers. And the one thing they have in common is they seized the opportunity rather than being so scared that the opportunity seized them. Read that last sentence again and think about it. Roger Snow is senior vice president for Las Vegas Sands. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Las Vegas Sands or its affiliates.


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Submit your innovative product or service for the most prestigious supplier awards in gaming. The GGB Gaming & Technology Awards are the only awards program recognizing excellence in technology. Judged by an independent panel, the awards honor the most innovative and efficient products and services that address issues operators face each day. NOMINATIONS OPEN IN 6 CATEGORIES:

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For more visit: www.ggbmagazine.com


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FRANKLY SPEAKING by Frank Legato

The Other Half

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was fishing around our vast news archives the other day, looking for subjects suitable for skewering in this space. This is an exhaustive process of opening up carefully preserved newspapers, magazines and books, and scouring the news and research of the day. No way does it involve going into the Google News search and entering the word “casino.” Honest. Be that as it may, I came across a pre-pandemic article on what they do for the highest of high rollers at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Published by Bloomberg late in 2018, it was written by Brandon Presser, who had been hired by the resort as a butler/bartender/guy Friday in the Cosmo’s Boulevard Penthouses. According to Presser, these were the go-to high-roller haunts at the time, available only by invitation, and even then only by depositing at least $1 million at the Reserve, a private three-room casino on the hotel’s 71st floor. He says he took the job specifically to learn how the other half lives, and to spill the beans in print about all their secrets. And there were definitely a couple of doozies. A couple more even doozier than that. Presser quoted the casino’s marketing director describing the Boulevard Penthouses as a “judgment-free zone.” Good thing. One story about a guest who demands the suite with the chinchilla-fur hammock, on which he lies naked and waits for a butler to find him, was one of the milder stories. There is the “well-known basketball player” who likes to have sex in front of the butlers while they pack up his luggage. There’s an old woman who starts to throw fists at anyone in the vicinity when she’s losing in the casino, and then, according to the story, “asks the butlers to dress up in pajamas, crawl into bed next to her, and read her bedtime stories.” You know, I have a chinchilla-fur hammock out back next to my Weber grill (who doesn’t?), but I don’t think I’d ever ask butlers to put on pajamas and read me bedtime stories. (That’s the plumber’s job. He kills with Goldilocks.) The welcome gifts at the Boulevard Penthouses are pretty sweet—objets d’art, a full-time chocolatier who creates edible sculptures based on the guest’s Instagram photos, $1,100 bottles of whiskey, $4,300 Louis XIII cognac, $14,000 bottles of wine from the Rothschild estate. Personally, I never wager a dime until I get a $25 bottle of Jim Beam and a $3 bottle of beer from the Pabst Blue Ribbon estate. (Of course, I have to pay for it myself.) Presser noted several riders that come with rooms for repeat guests, such as the exact number of minutes guests like their eggs boiled, or fresh 56

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JULY 2022

seafood picked out via webcam from the casino’s private aquarium. One guest always gets an order from T&T Ginseng of rare teas, herbs and cordycep worms. “Cordyceps aren’t actually worms,” Presser explains. “They’re a type of caterpillar-eating fungus that gets hand-picked in the Himalayas and are sometimes used like Viagra.” Thank goodness. Fungus I can take, especially if it means killing all the caterpillars that typically crawl around high-roller suites. But I’d never stand for drinking worms, no matter how frisky they make me. A lot of these high rollers bring their pooches with them. The butler staff will find themselves walking schnauzers around an on-site dog walk, and there’s even a specialized “culinary team for canine-specific gourmet feasts.” Hey, my Lab is happy with a hunk of cheese or a Beggin’ Strip, but if I ever do get into the Boulevard Penthouses, I’ll get her the royal treatment. (Better cheese—maybe feta—and the highest-priced Beggin’ Strips.) They also bring weirder animal guests, like nocturnal snakes that require blackout shades in the rooms, or a flying squirrel “with severe separation anxiety” that requires special pampering from the staff. I wonder if they provide a moose as a companion. At least, I’m sure they put on the Animal Channel. When you read how much these folks are betting in the private Reserve casino, you realize why the casino will get them whatever kind of worms or fungus or caterpillars they want. The Bloomberg piece describes one guy who bet $300,000 per hand on two tables simultaneously—$600,000 per minute, or $36 million per hour. The article says that matches the 2017 gross domestic product of the South Pacific nation of Tuvalu. I love to slum around Tuvalu. Everything’s so inexpensive. Perhaps some day, after I hit the Powerball maybe six times in a row, I’ll get into the Boulevard Penthouses. Hey, it can happen. In fact, go ahead and put the Pabst and Jim Beam on ice. Oh, and call the plumber. He can read me Hansel and Gretel this time.


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P3 PROGRESSIVE PRODUCTS PREVIEW

INSPIRING, INNOVATIVE & CUTTING-EDGE FOR THE GAMING INDUSTRY

Global Gaming Business presents the annual publication Progressive Products Preview, or P3. With tremendous innovation taking place in the international gaming industry, P3 showcases the cutting-edge technologies, products and services that are shaping the future of the casino industry.

• Systems & Platforms • Payment Processing • Kiosks • Consulting Services • Architects & Designers • Cashless Alternatives

• Furniture Providers • Security & Surveillance • Uniforms & Costumes • Health & PPE Solutions • Sports Betting Products • iGaming Services

P3 will be mailed in early September as a stand-alone publication to 20,000 executives in commercial and tribal gaming. P3 will also be distributed at G2E 2022 and the Indian Gaming 2023 trade shows.

TERRI BRADY Director of Sales & Marketing

phone: 702-248-1565 x227 email: Tbrady@ggbmagazine.com


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GOODS&SERVICES OIGA ’22

OIGA ’22 RETURNS

Tulsa, OK August 9-11

TO TULSA

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hey call it the “biggest little show in Indian gaming” for a reason. The importance of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Tradeshow and Conference (OIGA) cannot be underestimated. The event draws attendees from across Oklahoma and the Southwest, as far west as California and as far east as North Carolina. Gaming vendors eagerly gather at the show for a chance to display their latest products and services to supply casinos in one of gaming’s most progressive and technologically savvy jurisdictions. Returning this year to Tulsa at the Cox Business Center on August 9-11, OIGA ’22 should follow the success enjoyed recently at Indian Gaming ’22, the trade show of the National Indian Gaming Association in Anaheim, California in late March. With more than 3,000 attendees, OIGA has developed a solid, loyal following that attend the conference each year. Starting with the John Marley Scholarship Golf Tournament on August 9, the show opens for the full day on August 10, with a reception and “Stay and Play” event wrapping up that day. Conference session are held both days. For more information, visit OIGA.org.

ACCEL COMPLETES CENTURY GAMING ACQUISITION

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istributed gaming operator Accel Entertainment, Inc. announced the completion of its previously announced transaction to acquire Century Gaming, Inc., one of the other leading distributed gaming operators in the U.S., for $164.2 million in cash and stock, including Century’s working capital. Century brings to Accel more than 8,300 gaming terminals and over 900 licensed locations across Montana and Nevada, including bars, taverns, truck stops and convenience store groups in both markets. With the closing of this transaction, Accel also adds design and manufacturing operations to its portfolio through Grand Vision Gaming (GVG) as well as Century’s proprietary “i-Rewards” and “Gamblers Bonus” rewards programs. Century’s executive team, including CEO Steve Arntzen, CFO Heidi Schmalz and GVG Managing Director Merle Frank, will continue to lead as part of the Accel group. Arntzen commented, “In Accel, we have found an ideal strategic partner, and together we are 58

Global Gaming Business JULY 2022

uniquely positioned to accelerate our growth trajectory as we deliver the latest technological advancements to the gaming market. I am proud to continue to lead our dynamic team and build upon our strong momentum under the Accel banner as we provide our operators and players with attractive locations, the highest-quality products and world-class support for which we are known.” Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon said the $164.2 million closing price for Century, Nevada’s second-largest slot machine route operator and the largest in Montana, was a solid investment.

CALIENTE CASINOS ADD ZITRO GAMES

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lot and bingo supplier Zitro announced that Mexico’s Caliente Group has completed the installment of 100 new multi-game slots on Zitro’s new Altius Glare cabinet. The latest installment completes a 250-game offering of the Glare cabinets, which total 1,200 installations in the Mexican market. The new cabinet features the multi-game Wheel of Legends, which has a totally unprecedented graphic quality, with impressive visual effects and high-quality sound, among many other features that are mak-

ing it a worldwide success. In addition to the incorporation of Altius Glare, and the new Glare family, the alliance between Caliente and Zitro is reinforced with the installation of Megashare Lounge, the system of shared progressives by which, if a player wins the MEGA prize, all Megashare players win, which generates an extraordinary atmosphere in any gaming hall.

ICRG RECEIVES $200,000 GRANT FROM CAESARS FOUNDATION

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he International Center for Responsible Gaming (ICRG) announced that it has received a $200,000 grant from the Caesars Foundation in support of the organization’s research and education on gambling disorder and responsible gambling. “Caesars has supported ICRG from day one and has literally helped create the field of study on gambling addiction and responsible gambling,” said ICRG President Arthur Paikowsky. “We are deeply grateful for their continuing support of efforts to effectively prevent and treat gambling disorder.” Since its establishment in 1996, the ICRG has become a prominent funding source in problem gambling research, yielding hundreds of articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The donation will also help fund several programs designed to educate treatment providers, responsible gambling professionals, regulators and public policy makers about gambling disorder and responsible gambling. ICRG-funded research has informed the industry about the health risks of casino employees, created the only research-based website on college gambling, and launched a national campaign to make parents and teachers aware of youth gambling. Projects


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currently in process are evaluating the responsible gambling tool of self-imposed limits on time and money spent gambling and the national impact of sports wagering.

IGT PROVIDES SYSTEM, SLOTS TO PHILIPPINES’ NUSTAR CASINO

Nustar Resort and Casino

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nternational Game Technology PLC announced that its IGT Advantage casino management system and a variety of leading IGT games and cabinets will be deployed at the new Nustar Resort and Casino in Cebu, the Philippines. The IGT Advantage deployment will connect Nustar’s 1,500 slot games and 250 table games while enabling the casino to build patron loyalty, optimize its casino operations and access valuable, real-time performance analytics. It also positions Nustar to offer cashless gaming in the future via IGT’s Resort Wallet systems technology. In addition to leveraging IGT’s world-class CMS, Nustar will be the first casino in Asia to deploy the supplier’s Peak49 cabinet. Complete with a 49-inch, ultra-HD portrait monitor, progressively curved display and a range of ergonomic and convenience features, the Peak49 cabinet is supported by a rich content pipeline for Asia. The casino will offer its guests IGT’s market-attuned Ying Cai Shen link on the Peak49 and CrystalCurve cabinets, and will feature a variety of other performance-tested IGT games on its floor such as Cash Cove Fish On and Lucky Buddha on the CrystalDual 27 cabinet, and Golden Jungle Grand and Coin O’ Mania on the CrystalCurve cabinet.

MOHEGAN SUN ADOPTS TANGAM’S SLOT OPTIMIZATION SOLUTION

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angam Systems, a gaming software provider, last month announced the deployment of its new product line, Slot Optimization and Data Analytics (SODA), at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. Mohegan Sun has now deployed Tangam’s portfolio of table games and slot optimization software across more than 300 tables and 4,500 slot machines. JULY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com

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PEOPLE PATRICK NICHOLS TO LEAD VENETIAN LAS VEGAS

SIGHTLINE PAYMENTS APPOINTS 3 NEW EXECS FOR CANADIAN, U.S. MARKETS

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n June 9, the Venetian Resort Las Vegas and the Venetian Expo announced that George Markantonis is leaving his role as president and CEO to be replaced by Patrick Nichols, the former Patrick Nichols general manager and chief strategy officer of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Markantonis is known throughout the industry for his approachable and welcoming style with all team members. Under Markantonis’ leadership, the Venetian Resort had five record-breaking years. When the pandemic hit, followed by the death of Venetian founder Sheldon Adelson and the sale of the resort, his ongoing communication with employees and characteristic optimism helped steer the operation through a uniquely difficult period. As chief strategy officer at the Cosmopolitan, Nichols led development, construction, retail and entertainment operations, financial planning and analysis, and new business development. Prior to serving as CSO, Nichols held a number of operational and strategic planning roles of increasing responsibility.

MICHAEL VANASKIE NAMED PARTNER AT THE INNOVATION GROUP

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he Innovation Group last month announced that Michael Vanaskie has become a senior vice president and partner in the firm. Since joining The Innovation Michael Vanaskie Group in 2015, Vanaskie’s projects have covered many markets, clients, and areas of work. He is instrumental to the firm’s respected research services, where he has become known for creating customized instruments for clients, specifically in the areas of tourism growth, amenities and expansion. Vanaskie also has stepped into a leading role within the firm’s community and economic impact analysis practice, helping public and private entities understand the impacts of new or expanding projects. This work has dovetailed with his additional concentration on international development. Prior to joining the company, Vanaskie spent several years in equity research, working within multiple billion-dollar-plus funds after graduating summa cum laude from Washington College.

s Sightline Payments continues to expand across North America, the company has announced the hiring of three new execuBrian Cottengim tives—Will Hill and Tamara Tenenbaum will take over its cashless gaming division in Canada, and Brian Cottengim will lead Sightline’s cashless operations for U.S. integrated resorts. More specifically, Tenenbaum will assume the role of senior vice president, business development and managing director-Canada; Hill will be named vice president, business development–Canada; and Cottengim is the company’s new senior vice president of client solutions strategy. All three have extensive experience in both gaming and finance, having worked for companies such as Caesars Interactive, Freedom Pay and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

HARD ROCK AC NAMES THREE EXECS

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ard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City has appointed three key executives. Alicia Magee Anthony Faranca has been named general manager. A Philadelphia native, Faranca is a seasoned casino executive with extensive experience managing large gaming properties in several states including Maryland, Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Anthony Faranca Faranca began his casino career in Atlantic City as a guest services manager, and was promoted to regional vice president of national casino marketing at the four Caesars Atlantic City properties. He also has held GM positions at Auggie Cipollini Parx Casino, the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas and at Live! Casino in Hanover, Maryland. Alicia Magee was promoted to the role of vice president of finance. Magee previously served as Hard Rock’s executive director of operational compliance since 2020. Auggie Cipollini has been named senior vice president of administration. According to the com-

pany, Cipollini will be responsible for IT purchasing, retail sales and other financial aspects of the business. This marks the latest in an impressive Hard Rock tenure so far for Cipollini. Prior to this most recent role, Cipollini served stints as the president of Seminole Hard Rock Support Services, LLC and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood.

NOVOMATIC AMERICAS PROMOTES KATHLEEN MCLAUGHLIN

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ovomatic Americas recently announced that Kathleen McLaughlin has been named vice president of corporate North American sales and marketing. A mem- Kathleen McLaughlin ber of Novomatic’s Global Marketing Forum, McLaughlin has served in various roles including vice president of North American marketing and vice president of North American product management since December 2017 and continues to report to President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Meitzler. In her new role, McLaughlin will oversee the company’s efforts to enhance corporate sales and focus resources on the development of corporate customer relationships, further strengthening customer sales and service initiatives throughout North America. She is responsible for Novomatic Americas’ National Account customers, including multi-site casino operators and other key customers.

GGB

July 2022 Index of Advertisers

Acres Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 AGEM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19, 35 AGS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Aristocrat Technologies/Games . . . . . . . . . . . . .64 Axes.ai . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 Bluberi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Casino Player Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51 Everi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 Fantini Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59 Gaming Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 GGB Casino Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60 GGB G&T . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55 GGB iGP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53 GGB P3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57 IGT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14-15, 20-21 Incredible Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31 J Carcamo & Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47 Jackpot Digital . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63 OIGA - Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Tradeshow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39 Reed Exhibitions (RX) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49 SBC Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43 The Agenda Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59 Vaask . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 WIPFLI/Joseph Eve . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45

JULY 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com

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CASINO COMMUNICATIONS

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&A

Hector Fernandez Chief Executive Officer, Aristocrat Gaming

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recent restructuring of divisions of Aristocrat Technologies established three sections devoted to iGaming, social gaming and land-based gaming. Hector Fernandez was elevated to CEO of the gaming division at that time. He joined Aristocrat in 2018 as CFO for the Americas and EMEA after a long career in finance. With Aristocrat producing many of the most popular casino games, Fernandez could just steer the ship, but he understands that to stay on top, the company must continue to lead with innovation and compassion. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the company’s Las Vegas headquarters in May. To hear and view a full podcast of this interview, visit GGBMagazine.com.

You’ve been president and now CEO of Aristocrat Gaming for about two years now. What’s the most important thing you learned during that time here at Aristocrat? Hector Fernandez: It’s all about our people. At

the end of the day, every single thing we’ve accomplished over the last two years is because of our people and their resilience. Their commitment to the business. Our commitment back to them. And overall, quite frankly, it’s about picking the right people, setting the right expectations, setting the right rewards system, and setting the right accountability metrics. At your last earnings call, Aristocrat Gaming produced a 41 percent increase in profits, and more impressively on your part, it was a 61 percent increase in the North American market, which, of course, you’re responsible for. How did you do that?

We talked about this through the pandemic— this concept that companies that continue to invest through economic shocks can actually leapfrog the competitors. And it’s one of the things that we, as a business, understood was important. We were fortunate that we had a strong

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balance sheet, and we just continued our D&D investment. If you look at the number of games that we sold for the half, it was an all-time record half for us. It really is a byproduct of the choices we’ve made through the pandemic, starting with being there for our customers, through our Aristocrat Assist program. As we saw the world start coming back, we realized that there were going to be some supply chain challenges because those companies had kind of hunkered down, not spending as much money. So we saw that early on, and one of the things that we did is we were aggressive and took long positions of inventory. If you look at our results for the half, the reason we were able to fulfill all that demand, and the reason we had a very profitable business is because of our forward investment into inventory, that proved to be the right decision. You’ve got a financial background. How does that help you manage the successful bottom line but also the creative side?

Having a finance background allows me to worry a lot less about the numbers on a day-to-day basis. I think when folks come up through different paths without a finance background, that’s where they have to spend the vast majority of their time because it’s a very hard skillset, and it requires a lot of experience. What really helped me is I’ve been able to spend more of my time on our people and our customers, and far less time on the P&L, if you will. Because within a 15minute meeting, I can have a grasp of what’s happening, and what the future kind of looks like, based on trends, without having to spend hours of discussions. Aristocrat has had a lot of breakthrough products over the last few years, the Buffalo series and Lightning Link, just to name the two that are most copied in the industry. How important are these products to the success of the company?

They are the backbone of what we’ve been able to build. If you think about Aristocrat seven or 10 years ago, if you think about our entry into the U.S., we were not anywhere in the top five. We were able to take some of the lessons from the Australian market, which is where our roots are. A lot of the products that have been successful there, a lot of the math that has been successful there, some of the volatility from a game performance standpoint, we were able to bring it to this market, and over time, really accelerate the growth. So, today we’re the undeniable No. 1 player globally, not just in the lease market, but also now in the for-sale market. And it’s really behind these investments and some of these proprietary brands that we have built over time. One of the new products we launched almost a year ago was Buffalo Link. And Buffalo Link is essentially Buffalo, with Lightning Link math behind it, and we believed it would be a fantastic combination. It was the most-anticipated game. It was the fastest-ramping game we’ve ever put out there. And we continue to have installs out in the marketplace. And so that’s been a very important part of our portfolio, this diversification element. We were at the groundbreaking of your new manufacturing facility in Henderson, Nevada in April. There were over 100 employees there that will work in that building and they were clearly excited. How gratifying is that?

Honestly, every day I wake up—particularly in this new role—there’s over 4,000 families that depend on the decisions that our team makes and that’s the first thing I think about. And I think that people can feel that. People can feel that commitment for their personal well-being, their personal progression—the ability to create wealth over a lifetime of work. And they give us that love back. This is what I love about coming to the office—that gives me a ton of energy. It makes it so we want to win every day. And we want to win the right way.


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