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GGB Global Gaming Business Magazine
DATA SOLUTIONS ASIAN RECOVERY SOCIALIZING CASINOS NIGC’S SIMERMEYER
June 2022 • Vol. 21 • No. 6 • $10
Palms Power San Manuel becomes the first tribe to own and operate a casino in Las Vegas
Follow the Wheel
How numbers define modern roulette
Cybercurrency & Gaming Getting ready for the inevitable Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers
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Vol. 21 • No. 6
Global Gaming Business Magazine
18 COVER STORY
Return of the Palms
10 AGA Good to Go
Shuttered two years ago amid the pandemic and never reopened by former owner Station Casinos, the newly refurbished Palms held a grand reopening under its new owner, California’s San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. It’s the first Las Vegas casino resort to be fully owned and operated by a Native American tribe, and the San Manuel Band has added onto improvements made by Station.
12 Fantini’s Finance Strength in Stability Frank Fantini
32 Making My Point The Goldilocks Principle Roger Snow
By Roger Gros Cover photo by Denise Truscello
FEATURES 14 Social Media Challenge Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and other social media outlets are now in the toolbox of the smart casino marketer—who can use the outlets to appeal to different demographics. By Marjorie Preston
24 Crypto and Casinos Cryptocurrency as a funding source for casino wagering is in its infancy, as the U.S. begins to mirror international practice in normalizing bitcoin and other digital currencies. By Frank Legato
By the Numbers
13 AGEM 38 Emerging Leaders
28 Understanding Roulette Table game executives understand how the different roulette wheel setups result in consistent mathematical house advantages for the casino. By Bill Zender
34 Asia’s Bounceback As Macau struggles to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic, the question of which Asian gaming markets can fill the void is front and center. By Kit Szybala and Jack Gallaway
40 Data Revolution Casino operators are continuing to benefit from new technology that allows them to mine the massive amounts of available customer data.
With TCSJohnHuxley’s Steph Nel, Firekeepers Casino’s Lisa Kerbawy, and Inter Miami FC’s Harley Rockhill III
44 New Game Review 48 Cutting Edge 50 Frankly Speaking 52 Goods & Services 53 People 54 Casino Communications With Sequoyah Simermeyer, Chairman, National Indian Gaming Commission
By Dave Bontempo
JUNE 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
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The Final Frontier
Vol. 21 • No. 6 • JUNE 2022 Roger Gros, Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @GlobalGamingBiz Frank Legato, Editor | email@example.com twitter: @FranklySpeakn
By Roger Gros, Publisher
Jess Marquez, Managing Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Monica Cooley, Art Director email@example.com
t seems to me that if your company has enough CSR, you probably don’t need as much CRM. But everyone needs ESG, no matter what. If it seems like alphabet soup to you, they are all major tenets of the industry. Corporate social responsibility is a measurement of how a company interacts with the community in positive ways. Customer relationship marketing is how you build a database of loyal customers by giving them what they want when they want it. And environmental, social and governance gauges a company’s impact on the environment, its diversity initiatives, investment in the community and responsible leadership. These are all efforts by the industry to improve its image, which over the years has not been stellar— from the early days of scurrilous operators to the spread of legal gaming when it was bashed by supposed “academics” whose only goal was to squash the industry. The founding of the American Gaming Association in the early ’90s was a turning point, and today the efforts by the group have been very effective in reversing the reputation of the industry. But one step remains. Under all these acronyms, the customers and employees are front and center. The way a casino company treats them is the bedrock of any reputation. There are dozens of programs that emphasize the importance of employees (or team members, if you will) to the success of an enterprise. How you treat your employees is often reflected in how they treat your customers. And any company would want to avoid doing anything that would threaten the health and well-being of members of either of these important groups. Yet that’s exactly what the industry is doing when it continues to condone smoking inside a casino. In what is now the only public space that permits indoor smoking in society, the casino can become deadly. It doesn’t really matter if a casino has a non-smoking section or if powerful air handlers filter the air. The message is the same. “We don’t care about your health more than we care about the bottom line.” The argument that smoking must be allowed to continue or the casino will lose so much money it will be forced to fire workers no longer holds water. In an exclusive article (ggbnews.com/article/numbers-dont-lie/) provided to GGB by two of the most
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
respected gaming analysts, Andrew Klebanow and Gerard Parisi—both principals in the consulting group C3—it now appears that casinos that ban smoking actually increase business rather than lose business. The data that supported the pro-smoking talking points was at the minimum seven years old, and often was compiled more than a decade ago. The data presented by C3 represents up-to-the-minute revenue numbers comparing casinos that once permitted smoking and then banned it following the pandemic. It’s clear now that a smoking ban can actually help a casino attract customers. There was little or no decline from the pre- to post-smoking ban periods, and in fact a small increase in most cases. And when compared to casinos that still allow smoking, the nonsmoking casinos came out ahead. The data is built on a survey conducted by the late, great Mike Meczka, presented at the Indian Gaming conference in 2021. A survey of casino customers in the Pacific Northwest showed that after “location, proximate to one’s home” (32 percent) the next biggest criterion for players to choose a casino was “smoking is not allowed,” at 26 percent. The “smoking is allowed” was cited by only 4 percent as an important criterion. Tribal casinos are to be recognized as the prime mover behind smoking bans, as more than 160 Indian casinos have now banned smoking. So, there is no more justification for continuing to allow smoking in casinos. Even the argument that the casino across town that allows smoking will steal my customers doesn’t hold up. It’s clearly in the casino industry’s best interest to join the rest of society and ban smoking. This doesn’t mean you can’t cater to your remaining smokers, even though only 12.5 percent of the population still smokes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Set up outdoor smoking lounges with slot machines. As long as there are direct outlets to fresh air and the area is clearly designated as a smoking lounge, most regulators have approved those kinds of facilities. Under that alphabet soup of programs, the industry has taken huge steps to reform and upgrade its image. Let’s take that last step and demonstrate that we care about our employees, our customers and our shareholders.
Terri Brady, Sales & Marketing Director firstname.lastname@example.org Becky Kingman-Gros, Chief Operating Officer email@example.com Lisa Johnson, Communications Advisor firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @LisaJohnsonPR Columnists Frank Fantini | David Forman | Roger Snow Contributing Editors Dave Bontempo twitter: @bontempomedia Brendan Bussmann | Alex Goldstein Marjorie Preston Bill Sokolic twitter: @downbeachfilm | BIll Zender __________________
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
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share of the public who gamble online in Great Britain from 2017 to 2021 by age group
report published by the U.K. Gambling Commission has indicated that over the past five years, the number of gamblers playing online has increased, and the demographics of those gamblers have trended upwards as well. While the percentage of gamblers under the age of 34 remained relatively constant during that time, the percentage of gamblers between 35 and 54 increased at a faster pace. When you consider the onset of the pandemic when U.K. residents were locked down for months at a time, the increase is understandable, especially in the older demographic above 65 years of age.
Bricks & Mortar recovery
he formation of C3 Gaming (Casino Consultants Consortium) in 2020 brought together decades of experience in the gaming industry. C3 sends out a series of reports, and one is focused directly on the revenue produced at bricksand-mortar casinos. Some of the ways the C3 reports differ from standard revenue reports include gross gaming revenue versus net gaming revenue, reporting promo credits and match play, regional versus property-level reporting, analyzing table games revenue and table counts by isolating poker, and other factors. In its U.S. Gaming Performance & Trend Report for March 2022, it’s clear that the recovery of landbased casino revenue is under way. The report’s “Heat Map” demonstrates how the vast majority of states have increased revenue by comparing monthto-month, year-to-date and the trailing 12 months. Get free copies of the report and monthly updates by registering at C3GamingGroup.com or send a request to info@C3GamingGroup.com.
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
Percentage Change heat Map, March 2022
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Questions Jacqueline Grace Senior Vice President and General Manager, Tropicana Casino Hotel, Atlantic City
ldorado Resorts bought the Tropicana in Atlantic City in 2018, and it became part of Caesars Entertainment when Eldorado bought the gaming giant in 2020. Soon after that, Jacqueline Grace was named general manager of the property. A longtime executive with Caesars, Grace got her start in gaming as a President’s Associate in Atlantic City, a prestigious program at Harrah’s/Caesars that has produced many top leaders in the industry. She spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros via Zoom from her office in Atlantic City in May. To hear and view a full version of this GGB Podcast, visit GGBMagazine.com. GGB: You’ve been at the Tropicana now for about two years. What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned during that time? Jacqueline Grace: My first two years at the Tropicana have been dynamic, to say the least. I started shortly
1 2 3 4 5
after the Eldorado and Caesars merger, and smack in the midst of a pandemic. So there have been lots of complexities in addition to managing an already complex operation. We’ve been really busy on everything from integrating casino systems to reimagining our food and beverage footprint to driving employee engagement. That said, it has also been really fun. But probably one of the most important things I’ve learned is about the pride of this Tropicana team. We celebrated our 40-year anniversary back in November and we had 54 day-one team members, and quite a few not far behind them. So what I really learned is how passionate and dedicated this team is to the Tropicana. People often use the word family to describe it. And it really is that. You had the disadvantage of starting during the pandemic. How did you navigate your way out of that?
That was indeed a bit challenging to start at a property during the pandemic. The easy part was implementing all of the health and safety protocols that were required at the time, and by no means was that easy work. There was a lot of heavy lifting, but the team did a fantastic job. So I’m particularly proud of that. The more difficult work in my mind was navigating through and managing the morale of the team. So I really focused on two things—trying to get the message out to the team about what you can control what you can’t, and then practicing gratitude. And I think that went a long way with helping us ride that wave and then come out on the other side, a stronger and even more resilient team. How important is retail and the dining and entertainment section of the hotel, the Quarter, to the success of the Tropicana?
The Quarter is incredibly important to the success of the property. With over 15 restaurants, 20 shops, 15 bars and lounges between the Quarter and the rest of the property, there’s so much variety there, and the lion’s share of those options are located in the Quarter. It gives us an opportunity to attract a pretty diverse crowd—folks who are just looking to do everything gaming or folks who may not be interested in gaming, but they want to have a good meal, a great drink, or do some shopping. You just announced a lot of new food and beverage outlets and entertainment features. How are they going to fit into your current mix?
We are so excited about the new food and beverage concepts. The additions are part of the Caesars Entertainment commitment to invest $400 million into its Atlantic City resorts by 2023. And building on the Tropicana success over the last four decades, we are really thrilled to expand our offerings. And we are offering and introducing an unparalleled eight new concepts throughout the rest of the year. When Eldorado took over Caesars, there were adjustments to the Caesars Rewards program. Some customers have been a little critical of that, so you how do you explain those changes?
As we integrated the Tropicana database into the Caesars Rewards network over the last year, it was quite a tremendous undertaking. I am really grateful to our team for doing an incredible job on that. Overall, I’d say these changes are overwhelmingly positive and I hope our customers would agree. Caesars Rewards has been, and still is, the most prominent loyalty program in the country. Here in Atlantic City, we can now offer our guests more ways to earn and more ways to redeem rewards. Not only is the experience the best of what AC has to offer at the Tropicana, Harrah’s or Caesars, but also by being a part of Caesars Rewards, we have the opportunity to offer our customers really great gaming and entertainment experiences across the country at some of our other destinations, including Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and New Orleans.
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
“The (existing) gaming law has not been thoroughly enforced in the past. I hoped that the current period would be an opportunity to rectify the industry’s standards and ensure the healthy development of the casino industry. Then we could earn support from the mainland. Otherwise, Macau will find itself on a narrower and narrower road.” —Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng on changes to the SAR’s gaming laws that require stricter regulation and more diversity in its economy
CALENDAR June 7-9: Canadian Gaming Summit, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Produced by the Canadian Gaming Association. For more information, visit CanadianGamingSummit.com. June 18-21: SiGMA Americas, Toronto, Ontario. Produced by SiGMA. For more information, visit SiGMA.world/Americas. June 20-22: NW Indian Gaming Conference & Expo 2022, Little Creek Casino Resort, Kamilche, Washington. Produced by the Northwest Indian Gaming Association. For more information, visit WashingtonIndianGaming.org. 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. 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.
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AMERICAN GAMING ASSOCIATION
Good to Go Gaming CEOs positive about future of industry
or nearly two years now, it has been difficult to gauge the health of the gaming industry. Customers have returned and are spending more than ever, and demand for travel has also rebounded, but questions have remained. Are the revenue increases sustainable or are they a result of Covid, being fueled by temporary government stimulus programs and fewer entertainment options overall? As we look toward the summer of 2022, a less volatile business environment is on the horizon, according to the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) Gaming Industry Outlook, presented in partnership with Fitch Ratings. The report, published biannually to provide a timely measure of the gaming industry’s economic outlook, shows industry growth returning to rates more reminiscent of pre-pandemic standards and macroeconomic issues replacing concerns related to Covid-19 as the biggest limiting factors on business. Here are five key insights from AGA member CEOs on economic expectations for gaming over the next six months:
By David Forman
2. Covid-19 and demand for meetings and events are no longer among the top concerns for executives, who instead name macroeconomic trends as their most pressing business challenges.
3. Most executives believe the pace of wage increases will accelerate, while hiring and revenue growth are expected to slow.
4. Operators expect to focus their capital investments on hotels, F&B, sportsbooks and slots across the next two quarters.
5. Gaming suppliers almost univer1. Executives say the present business situation is good, but fewer expect it to continue to improve—respondents describing the current situation as “good” is up 13 points from six months ago.
sally expect unit sales to increase across segments.
In all, the report points to the beginning of a new era for gaming—with less volatile revenue fluctuations and free of major Covid-driven business limitations. Keep track of the industry’s progress with the AGA’s Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker and industry-leading research, available at americangaming.org. David Forman is vice president of research for the American Gaming Association. 10
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
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Strength in Stability The U.S. regional gaming operators are booming because of basic strategy and strong leadership
e’re mostly through quarterly earnings season as this is being written, and we don’t have a much clearer picture of the road ahead than we had before it started. The reports and forecasts by gaming companies remain the same: business is booming, the recovery from Covid continues, expenses are under control and consumers are spending freely, though we can’t say for how long. The reaction from investors, however, has been more one-sided: They have been selling stocks of all stripes for fear that inflation will weaken consumer spending and end in recession. That leaves the question of what investors should do now that stocks have sold off significantly. As usual, you can find the full range of opinions from a deepening bear market to those who think we are in a correction and are looking for signs of a market bottom, to bulls who see stocks at bargain prices. Obviously, investors have to be aware of overall economic forces and current stock price valuations. But for long-term investors, it is the fundamentals that matter. In that case, almost all of the domestic U.S. casino companies are strong. And it isn’t just that business trends are strong and may strengthen further as the country recovers from Covid lockdowns and restraints. It is that the companies are well-managed and have prudent and proven growth strategies. During the first quarter earnings season, CEO after CEO of regional casino companies cited strengthening balance sheets and incremental growth plans. Red Rock Resorts, for example, has locked in 70 percent of the cost to develop its Durango Boulevard casino in Las Vegas, where no other casino-entitled land exists in a five-mile radius. The company discussed benefiting from rapidly growing Las Vegas, and is sweetening its growth plan with a low-cost shift toward serving more affluent players. In addition, Red Rock is studying the future of three casinos still shuttered by Covid. After having 12
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
By Frank Fantini
switched 92 percent to 94 percent of customers from those properties to sister casinos, the company now has valuable real estate it can monetize in many ways. Golden Entertainment likewise is making targeted investments in a low-risk strategy of growing at existing properties and taking advantage of southern Nevada population growth, such as ramping up the concert calendar in events-driven Laughlin. Caesars is completing renovation projects throughout its network, and like Golden, is achieving above-targeted returns on investment. Churchill Downs is turning its home state of Kentucky into a historical horse racing empire at reasonable costs. These companies are growing free cash flow and returning much of it to shareholders through stock buybacks and, in cases such as Boyd, Red Rock and Churchill Downs, cash dividends. These all are simple stories of blocking and tackling and prudence. But there’s another quality that the U.S. regional casino companies possess—leaders who have proven records of success and, in several cases, are major shareholders with interests thus aligned with all shareholders. Consider Boyd Gaming. Executive Chairman Bill Boyd has been there all of his life. CEO Keith Smith has been with the company since 1990. He became CEO in 2008, the same year CFO Josh Hirsberg joined the company. At Caesars, for Executive Chairman Gary Carano and COO Anthony Carano, predecessor company Eldorado Resorts was the family business. CEO Tom Reeg joined in 2007. Red Rock CEO Frank Fertitta and brother Lorenzo also joined the family business through
predecessor Station Casinos. Monarch Casino CEO John Farahi and his brothers founded the company. Blake Sartini is founder of Golden Entertainment. President and CFO Charles Protell has been there since 2016. COO Steve Arcana has been there since 2003. Blake Sartini II is EVP of operations. Churchill Downs doesn’t have the same family ties, but it does have same continuity of leadership. CEO Bill Carstanjen has been on the job since 2014 and joined the company in 2003. COO Bill Mudd has been there since 2007. In each of these cases, the companies have been successful investments, some wildly so. Of course, continuity is not an end in itself. And American enterprise is filled with companies where the founders or legendary leaders lost their shine. But that isn’t the case with these companies in my observation. When Bill Carstanjen took Churchill Downs out of the burgeoning online betting industry because it isn’t proving profitable, he made a tough decision, and given the success of his growth strategies in historical horse racing and in further building the Kentucky Derby franchise, it should prove to be a value-building decision for investors. Likewise, the Fertittas’ strategy of pursuing high-value customers in ever more affluent Las Vegas and taking a hard-nosed examination of the future of its shuttered properties are the kinds of decisions made by executives at the top of their game. In summary, there are a lot of good numbers that support the strength and continued growth of America’s regional casino companies. And one of their greatest for investors should be the high quality and proven experience of the executives running them.
all of the “Almost domestic U.S.
casino companies are strong. And it isn’t just that business trends are strong and may strengthen further as the country recovers from Covid lockdowns and restraints.
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 JCM Global jcmglobal.com
JCM Global is a world leader in transaction and payment technologies. From its global network of offices, the company provides award-winning solutions such as bill validators, note recyclers, printers, systems solutions, and more. Bronze Member Profile Atlas Gaming atlasgaming.com.au
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Atlas Gaming has established itself as a leader in innovative and high-performance proprietary gaming products designed for global markets, having developed a brand-new, leading-edge software gaming platform that offers all the technical solutions required to create any gaming product. Associate Member Profile Aon aon.com
Aon’s advanced analytics, advice and solutions provide their clients in over 120 countries with advice and solutions that give them the clarity and confidence to make better decisions to protect and grow their business.
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 May 2022 Meeting Recap • The May monthly meeting took place in the third-floor Training Room at the Black Fire Innovation building and had both in-person and attendees via Zoom. AGEM President David Lucchese and Executive Director Daron Dorsey made welcoming remarks and noted that based on the new meeting format for the monthly gatherings, formal minutes of each are not being prepared and circulated. In lieu of those formal minutes, Executive Director Daron Dorsey will circulate a copy of the monthly meeting recap that is published by AGEM’s publication partners each month and work to make them available on the AGEM website going forward. • AGEM’s petition pushing for the approval of cloud computing regulations was formally approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission on April 21 and became effective immediately. The regulations were the result of collaboration between AGEM’s counsel, Dan Reaser, and Nevada Gaming Control Board staff and counsel. Dorsey gave special thanks to Reaser for all his efforts in representing AGEM throughout the process, along with the many AGEM member companies that supplied feedback and queries throughout the various stages. • AGEM plans to make limited political contributions during the 2022 election cycle, focusing mainly on the general elections in the fall while evaluating some small, targeted contributions in key legislative race primaries. AGEM’s officers and government affairs committee members are evaluating recommendations from AGEM’s outside government affairs consultant, Mike Alonso, on the potential contribution framework. • On the trade show front, AGEM had a presence at ICE 2022 in London and the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention in Anaheim, California during the month of April. AGEM Director of Europe Tracy Cohen noted some key meetings with the European Casino Association and other potential new member engagements in London while Dorsey noted similar meetings and experience in Anaheim and highlighted comments from members and attendees about a successful conference and education track at the show in Anaheim. Brian Sullivan and Tom Nieman from Clarion Gaming attended the meeting in person, and gave brief overviews of the recent shows and that attendance was in line or exceeded expectations going into each show given the timing and location of each. As for future shows, Clarion confirmed that ICE 2023 is set for February 7-9, 2023 at the ExCeL location in London, but dates and locations for ICE 2024 and beyond remain under consideration with a decision expected sometime during summer 2022. Clarion also confirmed that the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention locations for 2023 (San Diego), 2024 (Anaheim) and 2025 (San Diego) are established but that other show locations also remain under consideration. For both events, Clarion requested that any AGEM member companies who exhibit at the shows contact them directly with any comments or feedback and reiterated its goal of focusing on hosting successful events for its exhibitors. • AGEM Director of Responsible Gaming Connie Jones was absent from the meeting, but Dorsey provided comments about Jones’ solid efforts to represent AGEM at the IMGL conference in Seattle, Washington in late April and the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling convention in early May.
In April 2022, the AGEM Index fell by 92.98 points to 862.42, marking a 9.7 percent decrease from the prior month. Compared to one year ago, the index added 3.99 points for an annual growth rate of 0.5 percent. During the latest reporting period, 11 of the AGEM Index companies reported stock price declines, with only one company posting an increase. As a result, all 12 companies in the AGEM Index posted negative contributions to the overall index, ending a three-month period of upward growth. The largest negative contributor to the monthly index was Aristocrat Leisure Limited (ASX: ALL), which reported a 47.42-point index loss as a result of an 8.3 percent decline in stock price. Meanwhile, International Game Technology PLC (NYSE: IGT) contributed an 11.4-point loss to the index due to an 11.6 percent drop in the company’s stock price. Despite a 3.7 percent increase in stock price over the period for Konami Corp. (TYO: 9766), a weakened exchange rate between the United States dollar and the Japanese yen led to a 5.19-point loss for the index. In the latest reporting period, all three major U.S. stock indices observed negative growth. The Dow Jones Industrial Average decreased by 4.9 percent from March, while the S&P 500 fell by 8.8 percent. Meanwhile, the NASDAQ saw a 13.3 percent decline over the month.
JUNE 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Making the Most of Social Media
It’s not enough to bombard online followers with random posts, pictures and promos. Strategy matters, as do brand, voice, audience, timing—and authenticity By Marjorie Preston
ocial media originated as a way for people to connect through shared interests. It was quickly appropriated by business owners as a way to drive customer engagement and traffic. But not all social media platforms are created equal. Facebook attracts a different audience than Twitter, which engages different viewers than TikTok. Which of these channels make sense for you, and how can you make them work?
Know Your End Game “Without a specific goal that matches what a channel can do, you’re never going to have the right content to develop engagement and ultimately bring in new visits and revenue,” says Julia Carcamo, brand strategist and president of J Carcamo and Associates. Bringing online followers to the brick-and-mortar property is the goal of most operators. But instead of a 100 percent promotional approach—for example, “Come on in for Taco Tuesdays”—how much better is it to post a 14
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
short video of your chef, cooking up the carnitas and seasonings and chatting about the dish? “Now it gets interesting,” says Carcamo. “You can ask your audience, ‘What’s your favorite taco?’ and have them comment. It’s about creating community and having a conversation with your customers. Then it becomes social.” Most people won’t stop scrolling their feed to view a post unless it’s entertaining or informative or both. So up your game, then outdo yourself. Develop a reputation for great content and don’t stint on that promise. Visuals, images and video are among the best ways to get views. “Engagement is what you’re looking for,” says Justin Shank, marketing expert and head of Shank Marketing, which develops social media campaigns for a number of tribal casinos. “If you’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other platform, the main goal isn’t to sell things but to really engage with your followers.” Manage those relationships effectively to get more bodies on the gaming floor, in the hotel or at the concert arena.
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“Without a specific goal that matches what a channel can do, you’re never going to have the right content to develop engagement and ultimately bring in new visits and revenue.” —Julia Carcamo, President, J Carcamo and Associates
“If you have Snoop Dogg coming in, there’s nothing wrong with running advertising campaigns or dropping a link to buy in the comment section,” says Shank. “But the content has to be engaging, organic and natural.” “Build the relationships first, and then advertise in a way that makes sense for social media,” adds Brian Uran, vice president of marketing for Live! Casino Philadelphia. “You’re creating a nice community buzz where people are engaging with your post, asking questions about the concert that’s coming up. You’re giving away free tickets. My opinion is if you build trust, engagement and authenticity, to not use social media as an advertising platform is a mistake.” Carcamo adds, “There was a time when the thinking was, ‘Don’t promote on social media,’ but that was before it became such an ecosystem for all brands all over the world. We’re in the business of promoting casinos, but try to get a better balance”—say, 75 percent organic content versus 25 percent promotional. Engagement rates track the number of interactions with your content: likes, shares, retweets, comments. “Industry benchmarks are around 1 percent for that,” says Uran. “The denominator of the equation is how many people saw your post or your ad. The numerator is how many people did something with it, whether they liked it, commented on it, shared it. A 4 percent engagement rate for our business is a pretty solid number to shoot for.”
The Big Guns With 2.7 billion active monthly users, Facebook remains the big daddy of social media channels. It skews slightly older, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the traditional casino customer has always been an older adult with more discretionary income. While Facebook may be considered uncool by kids and teens, a quarter to a third of young men and women still use it, and more than 80 percent of millennials report having a Facebook account. YouTube is the second most popular social media platform after Facebook, and the second largest search engine after Google. Every day, people watch more than 1 billion hours of YouTube video. It’s a great place to share special events, entertainment and other reasons people may want to visit a property. According to HootSuite, YouTube is most used by people 35 and under, but is also wildly popular among older folks: 73 percent of Americans aged 36 to 45 use it, along with 70 percent of people 46 to 55 and 67 percent of those 56 and older. On YouTube, properties like the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Borgata in Atlantic City post long-form
walk-throughs to show off their amenities—a preview to entice travelers considering a visit. The 2010 launch of Instagram coincided with the release of the iPhone 4, the first iteration of the Apple device with a front-facing camera. Instagram was the most downloaded app in the fourth quarter of 2021, and now has about 2 billion current monthly users. The platform was acquired by Facebook—now Meta—in 2012. It’s so powerful that today, many travel websites and bloggers rank destinations based on their Insta-worthiness (like Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, which has 1.7 million hashtags and 186,000 Instagram followers). “Instagram skews a lot younger, so the content for Instagram and Facebook are going to be slightly different,” says Shank. “Really nicelooking images, Instagram reels, short videos of things going on—you’re seeing some really creative stuff people are doing with that.” It’s easy to cross-post between Facebook and Instagram, he adds, “but in a perfect world, each platform should be treated differently based on what their strengths are.” Instagram is a great place to showcase entertainment events, deluxe hotel accommodations, and of course, food: think mouth-watering images of main dishes, cocktails and desserts (aka “food porn”). Pinterest serves a similar purpose. If your property regularly hosts conventions or weddings, create a Pinterest board to show off those assets.
Choose Your Channel It’s not necessary to have a presence on every channel, but it’s essential to use those that represent a segment of your customer base. For example, TikTok is growing in scope and influence, but is still largely a hangout for kids. So while Live! Casino Philly isn’t on TikTok, the company’s PBR country bar at Live! Casino Pittsburgh does have an account on the video-sharing app. “Unless the paradigm shifts a little bit, TikTok is not one that we’re looking at,” says Uran, “but we keep monitoring. About once every quarter we challenge ourselves to see if we should we be on a different social media platform. It’s one thing to say, ‘Let’s go on TikTok.’ It’s another to say, ‘Let’s develop a full TikTok strategy where we can be authentic and really speak to the people on that particular platform.’” He adds, “Five years ago, every conference in the gaming industry was talking about millennials and how we attract them. Well, millennials are now 40 years old. Yeah. And so if you see a significant number of 40year-old millennials talking about things on TikTok, maybe it’s a good platform to start investing in. There’s always going to be some new platform to look at, and the demographic will always be changing.” JUNE 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
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“The denominator is how many people saw your post or ad. The numerator is how many people did something with it—liked it, commented on it, shared it.” —Brian Uran, Vice President of Marketing, Live! Casino Philadelphia
Rick Sheer, general manager of the Ute Mountain Casino in rural Colorado, relies mostly on Facebook and Twitter to draw a more mature demographic, along with YouTube videos and push text messaging. “A lot of it has to do with gathering the contact information and maintaining it,” he says. “We’re trying to reach younger customers as well, but of course the money is where the older customers are. We’re looking at how many hits we get, how many likes, how many people are coming in, the traffic we generate. We want to turn visitation on the internet into a trip to our casino at some point. That’s the main objective.” A planned free-to-play online casino will serve the same purpose, he says. “It’s a new age, you know; this is the new way of doing business.”
Don’t Be a Dabbler
Under the Influence O
ne way to extend your brand’s reach is to make friends with “influencers,” social media pros who can showcase your property and products to already-engaged followers. Most gaming influencers “haven’t reached the Kardashian level,” says J Carcamo and Associates President Julia Carcamo, but Brian Christopher’s slot channel has more than 500,000 subscribers, and his YouTube videos have been viewed more than 500 million times. Two middle-aged slot players named Heidi and Fred, also known as the Slot Cats, have more than 17,000 subscribers and upload new videos every day of the week. When the Slot Cats visited an Iowa casino, their fans turned out en masse. “Some wouldn’t have been there otherwise or were new to the property,” says Carcamo. “Some maybe added an extra trip that month or extended their say. We know the Slot Cats did well because we were able to track players. Influencers can be a great asset to work with and when they come in, it can be like having the Beatles at your property.” In a December 2019 interview with GGB, Peter Arceo, general manager of San Manuel Casino (since renamed Yaamava’ Resort and Casino), said, “Working with influencers allows us to show how much fun our casino can be for slot players. Some audiences prefer to receive information through the lens of a person that they’ve come to trust and whose content they enjoy, rather than content published directly from a casino. Allowing an influencer to convey their perspective and their experience to their audience is just another way for us to reach those people.” Kevin Sweet, vice president of slot operations and marketing at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, also was enthusiastic, saying, “I’m in full support of anything that increases the popularity and reach of casino gaming, and slot-playing videos being posted on YouTube or livestreamed certainly do that.”
To make effective use of social media, know yourself, know your audience, and share relevant content in a way that is appropriate to the channel. Live! Casino, for instance, is “an amalgamation of many different, really great and authentic brands inside the casino, and each one has a different ‘persona,’” says Uran. “Live! Casino is the overarching brand, and from a demographic standpoint it’s not unlike a lot of properties across the country— it’s a little bit older, and skews slightly on the female side. So Facebook is a great way to reach that core gamer demographic, whether through organic posting or paid advertising. “Twitter is a great way to reach the sports-betting customer and a slightly younger, male-dominated demographic. Some of our food and beverage concepts rely heavily on Instagram, where food bloggers and influencers live. For other supporting brands—restaurant, the sportsbook, etc.—we have a slightly 16
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different social media strategy for each of them.” Social media is a powerful tool to drive business. A balance of organic content and paid advertising puts results in reach even when budgets are tight. But it’s essential to deliver the right message at the right time in the right voice—one that is authentic and aligns both with your company’s brand and your customers. “It’s pretty bad form to just pump out the same content across all the channels,” says Uran. “You really have to be authentic on each channel, and know if the juice is worth the squeeze.”
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Vegas Born Palms becomes first tribally owned and operated casino in Las Vegas By Roger Gros
alifornia’s San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has become the first tribe to own and operate a casino in Las Vegas. While the Mohegan tribe operates just the casino at the Virgin Las Vegas hotel, and the Seminoles have purchased the Mirage, which will be rebranded a Hard Rock, the Palms is the first fully operating casino resort to open under tribal ownership. The Palms closed during the pandemic, less than a year after it reopened following a massive renovation by Station Casinos, which bought the casino after the original owners and developers, the Maloof family, walked away. Under Station ownership, the property never achieved the traction necessary to succeed and wasn’t reopened when most other Station casinos did following the lockdown. San Manuel has been shopping for a Las Vegas destination casino for some time, according to Latisha Casas, the chairwoman of San Manuel Gaming & Hospitality Authority (SMGHA), the enterprise arm of the tribe that actually owns the casino. The tribe recently opened a complete renovation of its tremendously successful casino near San Bernardino, the former San Manuel Casino, which it renamed the Yaamava’ Resort Casino, which 18
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means a “new spring” or a rebirth. “It is something that the tribe considered for a long time, and seeing the successes that we’ve had in Yaamava’ and all the lessons that we’ve learned from that experience, we wanted to expand,” she explained in an exclusive interview with GGB. “But we wanted to hold true to our core of the things that we know and build upon our expertise, and Las Vegas was where we wanted to be.” Before settling on the Palms, however, the tribe, as it has in California, wanted to give back to the community. In early 2020, the San Manuel Band contributed $9 million to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to support course development and an endowed chair at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. It also provides curricular, faculty and program support at the William S. Boyd School of Law. And just this month, San Manuel established a collaboration with the college’s International Gaming Institute to conduct research into problem gambling. “One of our tribal values is giving back,” says Casas, “and we are so committed to that because we lived off of what others provided to us for a very long time. So when we came into success, we were able to make giving
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“We’ve already had so much positive feedback. We’re just very fortunate about that and we’re going to welcome our locals back. And then of course there are 45 million-plus visitors to Las Vegas every year.” —Cynthia Kiser Murphey, General Manager, the Palms Casino Resort
back a top priority. We want to make sure that we’re giving back to our local communities and all the surrounding communities that helped us.” So it wasn’t a surprise when the San Manuel Band announced it had purchased the Palms from Station Casinos in early 2021. The Palms was originally opened in 2001 by the Maloofs, who had achieved success in the Las Vegas locals market with the Fiesta casino. The Palms was an immediate hit, able to establish a strong locals following during the day, and attracting tourists and out-of-town younger clientele in the evenings with an aggressive nightclub strategy. When Station bought the Palms in 2016, it immediately embarked on a full renovation, eventually spending approximately $1 billion on the purchase and redesign of the property. It reopened following the renovation in 2018 but never fully established the popularity it had under the Maloof ownership, and when the Kaos nightclub, a major investment, failed to generate ROI, Station lost interest in the property. It was one of four Stationowned casinos that failed to reopen after the March 2020 pandemic closings, until it was purchased by San Manuel for $650 million.
Shape of Things Since the massive renovation had just been completed, Palms GM Cynthia Kiser Murphey, a longtime MGM executive and former general manager at New York-New York, said only minor adjustments needed to be made. “The property was meticulously remodeled, with amazing restaurants, a beautiful gaming floor, and some of the finest entertainment venues anywhere—not to mention the suites with unmatched views,” she says. “So the focus for the San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority first and
foremost was the back of the house, which needed to be refreshed quite a bit. And that was the very first project that occurred. We also have a pretty big investment in our new sportsbook, and we’re proud of that along with William Hill (Caesars Entertainment), our partner.” The SMGHA officially took possession of the property in January, and 133 days later, it opened, meaning executives had to build a team to run it. Murphey says priority was given to former Palms employees. “We’re very honored that over 50 percent of our employees have returned after two years,” she says. “And we have over 70 day-one employees who opened the Palms the first time in 2001.” She says the institutional knowledge brought by those returned employees has been a godsend. “For example, 97 percent of the catering department came back, and they walked in here and started showing us how things were done and really helping us with the roadmap,” says Murphey. “And then we always want the
“Success through Palms is a legacy we intend to leave to our children and their children as we build a solid future for the next seven generations.” —Latisha Casas, Chairwoman, San Manuel Gaming & Hospitality Authority
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View at the Ghost Bar
new people to feel welcome, too. So we created kind of a buddy system which was started informally. They’ve helped us tremendously, and we’re celebrating them.” Now that the property has reopened, it has A.Y.C.E. buffet done so without a database of players, always a high hurdle to overcome. Murphey says, however, there’s a plan to utilize the massive Southern California database at Yaamava’ to initially fuel visits to the Palms. “Yaamava’ has a very loyal database,” she explains. “The property is known for tremendous friendliness, it’s immaculately clean, and it’s very, very well managed. So that’s a great introduction to our company to have the Palms partner with Yaamava’. And Yaamava’ just opened a beautiful hotel with awesome amenities and great entertainment. So we know the Yaamava’ customers are visiting Las Vegas. And whether they stay with us or just come over and earn points and take advantage of the entertainment and the dining and the gaming here, that’s great. We’ll welcome everyone.” The locals database will be built by emphasizing the reputation of the Palms, says Murphey. “A very big focus will be the local database, and we feel very confident that people want to come and see the Palms,” she says. “We’ve already had so much positive feedback. We’re just very fortunate about that, and we’re going to welcome our locals back. And then of course there are 45 million-plus visitors to Las Vegas every year.”
Palms two-bedroom suite
Elemental Energy Food and beverage was a major element in the Station renovation and it remains so under SMGHA ownership. It started with Mabel’s BBQ, operated by celebrity chef Michael Symon. “We took a trip to Cleveland to meet with him and experience the barbecue because it is outrageous,” Murphey says. “We convinced Michael to return, so we’re super excited. Mabel’s will feature not only his favorite barbecues, but he’s brought his burger. It’s phenomenal.” Other Palms staples such as the Scotch Steak House, Tim Ho Wan and Send Noodles are returning as well. The Palms is bucking the “no buffet” trend by opening the A.Y.C.E. buffet, which is a buffet with a twist, according to Murphey. “This is not just any buffet,” she says. “This buffet has a vegan station, a fresh salad bar. It has unbelievable Mexican food. It has a really fresh dessert bar with our own pastry chef creations, and we’re going to have some special theme nights too. So that’ll be really fun for our customers.” Entertainment has always been a focal point for the Palms, and that won’t 20
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change, but again, with another twist. “We’re pivoting on the strategy to have a lot of what we call activation,” says Murphey. “There will be entertainment, literally all over the property. You’ll see it. We’re going to celebrate local musicians. We’ll have entertainment in smaller footprints all over the property. We’re going to go long on creating activation, creating energy on the floor, through entertainment.” While Kaos as a nightclub won’t reopen immediately, she has plans for that as well. “Kaos is an outstanding venue. We will definitely be using it. It’s very popular with bookings for special events. There’ll be live music in there. We’re going to try some new formats in there, so we’ll have some fun there.” One of the jewels of the Palms was always the intimate theater, the Pearl. “Pearl is coming back,” Murphey says. “We’ll be announcing as soon as we have that calendar set.” One element that disappeared under Station ownership is returning. “The Ghost Bar is back,” she says. “Quite frankly, we were talking about it
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“We were very busy. We attract over 13 million visitors a year. We certainly didn’t want to have their current experience impacted by our desire to expand. So it took a lot of planning.” —Peter Arceo, General Manager, Yaamava’ Resort & Casino
Yes to Yaamava’ he San Manuel casino was the most successful casino in California for more than 20 years. Part of that success was attributable to its location—the closest casino to Los Angeles—but it was also successful because San Manuel executives had unlocked the secret of customer service. Unlike many locationblessed casinos that simply make money by opening the doors, San Manuel learned how to deliver personal service even with the massive crowds it attracted. On a Tuesday afternoon with the parking garage overflowing and nearly all slot machines occupied, San Manuel could still deliver the personal touch. So when the tribe decided to add a hotel to its amenities and expand the casino, it was important not to rock the boat. “When we embarked on this journey we did not want to disrupt the business,” says General Manager Peter Arceo. “We were very busy. We attract over 13 million visitors a year. We certainly didn’t want to have their current experience impacted by our desire to expand. So it took a lot of planning. I give a lot of credit to the designers and the thought process. It allowed us to basically build everything without really impacting business or the gaming experience.” The new hotel and amenities are spectacular. The 17 stories contain 432 rooms and suites. A new 3,000-seat theater opened in April with the Red Hot Chili Peppers inaugurating the stage in their first tour in two years. The Serrano Spa is a luxury spa offering everything from Amethyst and Marshmallow Soothing Facials to the Crystal Healing Manicure. New food-and-beverage outlets include the Pines, a high-end steak house with such over-the-top menu items like as wagyu beef and gold leaf-topped mac and cheese. But along with the expansion came a rebranding. Arceo explains the logic behind the strategy to
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rename the property Yaamava’. “This gave the tribe an opportunity to share a little bit about the Serrano language,” he says. “Yaamava’ is the Serrano word that means the spring season—to spring from the ground, rebirth, renewal, refresh. And it was actually the code name for our expansion project, which for us meant we’re springing something new from the ground. So the name stuck and the tribe had a desire to reposition the brand. And it allows them to also teach a little bit about their culture by educating folks on the new Serrano word. Right. Mission accomplished there. “We look long-term. It’s not about just this year or next year. We think generations into the future. And so generations in the future, the benefit of being able to teach the community a little bit about their culture will pay off huge dividends in terms of cultural growth, recognition and awareness.” With almost 7,000 slot machines and more than 150 table games, Yaamava’ is one of the largest casinos in the United States, now ready to welcome visitors with all the amenities expected at a major casino resort. Arceo says plans are in the works to promote the Palms to Yaamava’ customers, and vice versa. “The Palms is an exciting sister property for us,” he says. “I work very closely with Cynthia Kiser Murphey. We’re putting together the plan on how we’re going to work together to really take full advantages of the synergies, and have the ability to send our players to a beautiful property in Las Vegas. And the reaction that our guests had initially when they read the press release about the purchase last year before we even took ownership of the property was amazing. We had people coming up to our players club saying, ‘Will I be able to use my points in Las Vegas?’ And of course the answer was yes.”
in the early months and we just started getting so many requests, and we had a board meeting and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ There was the community that wants it so let’s do it.” Although the views from the Ghost Bar will remain, the transparent Plexiglas block that guests could stand on and look down 20-some stories is gone. “We don’t know what happened to it, but it wasn’t here when we took over. But the views are still spectacular.” Another element that Murphey received lots of feedback about was the “shark” above the Unknown Bar at the porte cochere entrance to the property. The shark is a 13-foot tiger shark caught in Australia, segmented into three pieces and kept fresh with formaldehyde. It was designed by British artist Damien Hirst. The bar gets its name from the title of the installation, The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded). “The shark will continue to welcome guests, who can enjoy our signature cocktails at the Unknown Bar,” says Murphey.
Casino and Sports Murphey hopes to attract gamblers to the Palms by having an eclectic mix of slot machines and table games. While the two-year closure might not seem like a long time, it can be for gaming equipment, so she had to make sure that everything was up to date, including the systems. The Palms is using the Konami Synkros casino management system, and has installed many new slot machines. “There are always old favorites enjoyed by our players, and we want customers to find whatever they want,” she says. “So one of the things we’ll be doing is making sure we listen to our customers so we can tell them where to find their machines, whether it’s a more vintage kind of machine or it’s one of our newer products.” Murphey and her team visited the Global Gaming Expo in October to see all the new products available. “We all went there this year,” she says, “and I think coming out of the pandemic, the manufacturers were able to keep up production. So we’ve made sure we’ve got some really exciting new product coming on the floor and mixing it in with some of the favorites that are really well liked by the customers. We will keep our eye on that and we’ll be staying active in the gaming market.” One of the products players will find is the largest order of the Bonus Spin Xtreme (BSX) table-game progressive system ever taken by AGS. BSX is now available on 39 total table games at the Palms. “By linking nearly 40 tables on Palms’ floor to a fast-growing single jackpot pool, Bonus Spin Xtreme elevates the player experience by creating more ways to win and have fun at the table,” says Paul Garcia, Jr., the
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Palms’ director of table games. The William Hill sportsbook replaces one originally opened by CG Technology almost 10 years ago. Since William Hill bought the assets of CG a few years ago, the company had already been operating the sportsbook under Station ownership, so while it wasn’t a big change, it made an impact for William Hill. “We’re super looking forward to partner with the tribe here at the Palms,” Michael Grodsky, general manager for William Hill in Nevada, told the Las Vegas Sun. “The team here is super passionate. We think it’s a phenomenal location.” The book has approximately 100 seats, six betting kiosks and 10 employees, and plans are in the works to add other amenities to the location. “We like to offer great experiences for our sports fans,” Grodsky said. “We’re also working on a system where people will be able to order food to the sportsbook from any of the outlets at the Palms.”
Tribal Pride For Casas, the ownership of the Palms means a real commitment to the future. “We are and will remain focused on living our values to honor our ancestors, culture and sovereignty for all generations… both on and off the reservation,” she told guests at the grand opening. “Success through Palms is a legacy we intend to leave to our children and their children as we build a solid future for the next seven generations.” For employees of the Palms, it also means a commitment to the employees and the guests. “We want to create a sense of community and a sense of buzz,” says Casas. “There’s something about the Palms energy and magic, and we’ve got to bring that to the people. We’re not the largest resort in Las Vegas, and that’s OK. We
need to own our place and we need to do the very best we can with all of the tremendous assets we have, and providing that experience that people come from around the world to visit. “We set up our operating plan, and knew what we could do in the first four months,” she continues. “We have a lot of work to do to build a strategic plan for not only the coming year, next year, but for the next seven generations. So we have a lot of work to do strategically.” As for being the first Native American tribe to own a Las Vegas casino, Casas recognized the scrutiny that will be on them. “It’s not something that’s lost on us,” she says. “We understand the huge importance of it. And we understood during the process, especially going through licensing. We were very careful in the way that we dealt with that process. And especially after talking with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, they reminded us that we’re setting precedent and paving the way for other tribes. So we didn’t take that lightly. We’re hugely honored.”
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Crypto-Capable How will cryptocurrency grow as a funding source for casino gambling? By Frank Legato
ome called it a fad investment at first, like Beanie Babies. But cryptocurrency—and in particular, the most widely used variation, bitcoin—has endured a wild ride that has yet to end. Bitcoin was created as a peer-to-peer electronic currency in response to the U.S. economic collapse of 2008. Introduced by an anonymous October 2008 white paper attributed to the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin offers traders (also called “miners”) a decentralized tender unit not tied to any government or bank. Trading is recorded and logged via blockchain, a permanent electronic ledger of all transactions. The inaugural price of a single bitcoin in 2009 was barely over zero— $0.0008, to be exact. After a month of trading, the price was up to 8 cents. Within a couple of years, it was $10, and by 2013, it had soared to $250. From there, things got really crazy—by late 2014, a bitcoin was worth $20,000. In 2021, trading yielded its all-time high value of $68,000, before dipping quickly to where it currently sits at $31,341.90, as of this writing in early May. Volatility aside, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like etherium, dogecoin and litecoin have become normalized as a sort of commodity, with trades made on centralized and decentralized exchanges, and daily prices reported right alongside the Dow Jones and Nasdaq stock exchanges. Owners store their bitcoins or other units in electronic wallets, and can use those wal24
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lets to exchange the cryptocurrency into more centralized or “fiat” currencies like the U.S. dollar or British pound. “Two years ago, there were industry leaders saying that crypto is for thieves, crooks and blackmailers,” comments Neeraj (Raj) Tulshan, founder and managing member of Loan Mantra, a financial advisory firm specializing in fintech issues. “Yet today, people are going to have crypto-based units on their 401Ks. Crypto is quick, it’s trendy, and it’s fashionable, especially for the younger ‘tech’ generation.” Crypto ATMs are now popping up, Tulshan notes. “Mainstream financial institutions are documenting cryptocurrency, banks are documenting it. There’s a Latin American country (El Salvador) that has officially recognized crypto as a legal tender.” As a legitimized payment vessel, cryptocurrency has inevitably reached the gaming industry. Dozens of gaming sites outside the U.S. allow gamblers to exchange cryptocurrency into gambling units, usually without any scrutiny into where those funds originated. U.S.-based iGaming players, though, are typically prohibited from registering at so-called “bitcoin casinos” where cryptocurrency is converted for wagering. This is primarily due to strict anti-money laundering (AML) regulation. In the U.S., there are currently no iGaming states that allow cryptocur-
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“We’ve had requests from our customers, ‘What are we doing in terms of crypto?’ We’ve had a roadmap for a couple of years now, and this is the first product, and it’s fairly straightforward.” —Darren Simmons, Executive Vice President & Fintech Business Leader, Everi
rency to be used as a payment source. However, that may change soon, so long as cryptocurrency such as bitcoin is converted into fiat currency before any wager is made—as is common for online casinos outside the U.S. In that scenario, cryptocurrency is exchanged for the accepted fiat currency at the current exchange rate. It becomes another funding source for gaming wallets, just like a credit card, debit card or deposit account for cashless wagering. Once converted, the crypto is used as U.S. dollars, or whatever fiat currency is legal tender for the jurisdiction.
Pandemic Boost Cryptocurrency has gained renewed attention as a potential payment source for brick-and-mortar casinos as well as internet casinos, thanks to the global Covid-19 pandemic of the last two years. “The renaissance of bitcoin is only two years old,” Tulshan says. “After it reached $20,000 in 2018 and then crashed, everybody stopped talking about bitcoin. And then when Covid hit and everything shut down, this new love for bitcoin appeared. “In online gaming, it’s going to be huge. It’s decentralized. It will be the biggest thing in online gaming.” Earle G. Hall is CEO of AXES.ai, vice chairman of the International Gaming Standards Association and a board member of the Blockchain Association. AXES produces a cashless payment app that incorporates cryptocurrency as a funding source. “The most important thing to remember is that cryptocurrency is just a currency,” Hall says. “People that have an Apple Wallet or Android Wallet on their phones have their credit cards in there. They might even have a debit card. What they actually have is an electronic wallet that has different payment processors... Those payment processors are responsible for the KYC (“know your customer”). If I have a Visa card with Chase Bank, I’ve done all of the work with that bank to prove who I am. So when I use that credit card, theoretically, everybody knows who I am.” The AXES wallet applies that KYC by converting the crypto to fiat currency. “When we started this out, there were countries all over the world that were farther ahead in cryptocurrency than the United States, because we are in the most mature regulatory environment in the world,” Hall says. “So, the player has the AXES cashless app on their phone, and they connect it to their own personal electronic wallet for crypto. When they want to make a deposit in the AXES wallet, we trace the transaction they’re making, and
what exchange it’s coming from. We record the entire transaction for regulatory purposes. “So when we move that money into the casino float, the casino has full, transparent visibility—the name of the player, the amount of the transaction, the exchange it was taken from.” Hall stresses that when the currency enters the casino float for wagering, it is in the form of fiat currency. In a crypto wallet, he says, “the funding will bring you to a currency exchange, just like when you’re on vacation and you go to the wicket with U.S. dollars and they give you back euros... It’s translated into a stable currency, and from there it’s sent to the online casino.”
Brick and Mortar, and Crypto In April, Mississippi’s Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort became the first U.S. casino to add cryptocurrency ATMs to the casino floor. The machines, produced by Everi Holdings in partnership with B4U Financial and deployed by Everi subsidiary Everi Payments, Inc., convert bitcoin to U.S. dollars using B4U’s cryptocurrency solution and distribute it to the user as cash. Additional integration capabilities include the ability for the casino to track the disbursement of cash through the B4U API to the owner’s existing systems in real time. This capability is enhanced by Everi’s real-time monitoring tools and remote diagnostics features. According to Darren Simmons, executive vice president & fintech business leader for Everi, the ATMs only convert bitcoin to cash, but other cryptocurrencies may be added to the system in the future. “Everi has actually been investigating crypto solutions for probably four years now,” Simmons says. “The product team has been looking at different opportunities in terms of how we can incorporate crypto effectively for payment acceptance into our world.” JUNE 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Experts agree that more widespread use of crypto as a payment method in casinos will necessarily require an adjustment to the regulatory regime.
That begins with the ATM, soon to be followed by crypto kiosks from Everi. According to Simmons, the kiosks will be equipped with the option to dispense TITO tickets, where the ATM solely dispenses cash. Simmons stresses that Everi’s crypto products are different from the bitcoin ATMs that have appeared at various locations. Those, he says, allow purchase of cryptocurrency as well as liquidation of cryptocurrency for cash. These units only allow liquidation of cryptocurrency for cash at the current exchange rate. “The world is becoming more and more crypto-savvy,” Simmons says. “Financial markets certainly are; retail markets are accepting it. And we’ve had requests from our customers, ‘What are we doing in terms of crypto?’ We’ve had a roadmap for a couple of years now, and this is the first product, and it’s fairly straightforward. “Through our ATM, you can select to go to your bitcoin account and, through the standard barcode process, you can choose to liquidate a value of your bitcoin, and dispense the cash through our ATM. The actual fiat liquidation of the crypto happens with our partner at B4U Financial, and we get the settled fiat currency and dispense it through our ATM. It’s a fairly quick, straightforward transaction.” And since the currency is fiat U.S. dollars when it reaches the casino, no new regulations were required to implement the solution, according to Jay McDaniel, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. “Scarlet Pearl is putting it on the floor strictly in an ATM environment where someone can access their crypto wallet and get money out,” McDaniel says. “But it has no tie to a gaming device; it is simply a funding source for that patron at this time.” Everi’s Simmons says the ATM and kiosk are among several cryptocurrency initiatives for which the company is partnering with B4U Financial. Their next project will likely incorporate cryptocurrency as a funding option for Everi’s CashClub Wallet cashless system. “It’s absolutely part of an extension of how we’ve approached the wallet,” he says. “If you think of the financial transactions that we provide today, when we went to wallet, the wallet is an extension of those financial transactions. So now that we’ve introduced the ability to liquidate cryptocurrency for fiat, bitcoin specifically, at an ATM, we’re going to extend that to wallet. We’ve done that work, and I expect that we’ll be launching that in the very near term.” The cashless wallet, as well as the ATM and kiosk, handle any AML con26
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cerns about cryptocurrency, Simmons adds. “We took a very conservative approach,” he says. “The biggest thing you’ve heard of in the past about cryptocurrency or bitcoin concerns the actors that are associated with it. So, what we said is, we need to make sure that we’re going to (proceed) like the normal banking system.” McDaniel at the Mississippi gaming board agrees, noting that Everi placed a limit on money that can be liquidated from cryptocurrency. “Right now, it’s a $500 transaction limit, and you can have up to three a day,” he says. “So it’s basically a $1,500 limit daily.” “We’ve done things to minimize and reduce the AML concerns you would have, utilizing different technologies,” Simmons says. “For example, Chainalysis, which is fairly widely used and a very reputable company that’s engaged in the cryptocurrency industry. We have great tools that we utilize to manage those aspects of AML concerns.” McDaniel says the Mississippi commission is examining whether new regulations are needed as cryptocurrency moves into cashless wagering accounts, and eventually, into online gaming—should Mississippi legislators authorize it, which hasn’t happened yet. “What we’d be looking at is your gaming wallet, your wagering account, as far as how you get your money converted into a way that it can be for play in the machine,” he says. “How do you do that? You go to the cage and you give them $100 and they put it in, or you directly access a bank account, you directly access a Visa. In this case, would we allow people to access a bitcoin account and redeem that and put that into their wagering account? Those are the kinds of things we have to look at. What different sources could you use to fund whatever account it is you’re using to wager on that machine?” He adds that as a Mississippi casino supplier licensee, Everi is bound to build AML safeguards into their system. “As a licensee, they’ve got to comply with all federal and state regulations, but at the end of the day, our regs just don’t really address (crypto) other than the fact that they must follow things like currency transaction reports, suspicious activity reports—they’re still required to follow those, just like they are with any other type of funding system.” McDaniel says the pandemic has accelerated the need to address cryptocurrency in cashless wagering. “We’re taking our cue from the operators,” he says. “That’s what we have regulations crafted for in the case of cashless, but we don’t want to jump out there with anything until we make sure we don’t come up with something that doesn’t fit. We’re working with the operators: What do you see being the types of funding you want to allow? Are you going to do it through QR codes or debit cards, or cards that you put in the machine? “The pandemic has sped this up. I visited Resorts World out in Vegas just to see how they do it. So, we’re at this point now, waiting for the operators to come to us and say, ‘We’re ready to do this.’ But I think you will see that sooner now that you’ve had the pandemic.”
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For Tulshan at Loan Mantra, the use of cryptocurrency by the gaming industry, just like cashless gaming and other technologies, is simply an extension of general consumer behavior. “Cryptocurrency will be the way people are exchanging products with each other; it’s a global currency,” he says. But experts agree that more widespread use of crypto as a payment method in casinos will necessarily require an adjustment to the regulatory regime. “My view on crypto is that it exists away from a lot of regulations today,” says Andrew Cardno, the chief technology officer for Quick Custom Intelligence, who has done a lot of work on intellectual property and patents in the crypto space. “When you think about things like suspicious activity reports or antimoney laundering, regulations around that are very well-developed with traditional currency. You don’t see the same kinds of controls around crypto. Even trading in the markets—the markets operate in a much more unregulated way. “That’s changing, with moves being adopted. But run the two parallel—fiat currency and the things we do, next to cryptocurrency and the things we do with that—the cryptocurrency is subject to a lot less governmental control and
oversight. You can take a very large holding of cryptocurrency onto a piece of paper or thumb drive and hold it locally. It’s analogous to carrying very, very large amounts of cash around in a completely untraceable way. There’s no bank involved in the transaction; there’s no monitoring of it. If there’s a very large amount of cash redeemed, that triggers regulatory responses. They can put it into fiat currency in a crypto exchange, but they don’t know where it came from. “It’s analogous to printed paper money in terms of how it can be tracked. When someone walks in and uses a credit card or a debit card, or creates a marker or withdraws money from an ATM, these are all bank transactions. In cryptocurrency, it’s like walking into a property with cash in your pocket.” Cardno predicts more regulatory scrutiny on cryptocurrency in gaming will definitely come soon. “As an industry that has prided itself on good regulatory oversight and commitment to AML, I would hope we bring these practices to the crypto world really early,” he says. “Knowing the source of the cash, knowing that it’s legitimate, and that people are not doing money laundering, these are really important parts of the behavior of our industry. These are things we all do well, and deal with every day. And those same behaviors need to be brought into the crypto world.”
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It’s a wheel game with easy-to-understand mathematics, so why is it so misunderstood? By Bill Zender
o stress the importance of knowing numbers, I usually begin my game protection sessions in table games with a simple gambling question. “What is the mathematical house advantage on your double-zero roulette game?” I start out explaining that anyone who has been in the casino gaming field for more than five years can easily be considered a professional and should be able to answer a basic question such as the exact mathematical house edge in roulette. I’m not surprised when no one can come up with the correct answer, which is 5.26 percent, because people in our profession rarely take time to learn the different percentage numbers of the very precious edge casinos hold over the player. I find it amazing that in a field ruled so much by numbers, most people, executives included, have only a general idea, if that. The standard reply: “I don’t know exactly, but I’ll bet it’s pretty high.” How do I come up with the percentage 5.26 percent? Roulette is easy to calculate because it’s straight mathematics. You can figure it out using a hand calculator, but I personally prefer using an Excel spreadsheet. First, one needs to develop a clear picture of the logic behind the math. On a double-zero roulette wheel there are 38 possible pockets for the ball to land (36 numbers plus the zero and double-zero). If a person were to wager on one number straight up to hit, that person has one opportunity for success and 37 chances to fail. If the ball were to fall into the losing pockets, the person loses one chip, while a ball dropping into the wagered number’s pocket provides the player with a 35-chip windfall. Chart 1 illustrates how the 5.26 percent mathematical house advantage
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is calculated. The “probability” numbers are the decimal point equivalent to 1/38 and 37/38. It’s simple to see that by multiplying the payout result by the probability, one can calculate the return. By adding the two returns together, the positive and negative return numbers will produce a total return when one unit is wagered. This decimal result is easily converted to a percentage by moving the decimal point two positions to the right and adding the percentage sign. Chart 1-Advantage of 1 Number Wagered
What about the other wagers on the double-zero wheel which are subject to a host of different payouts? Believe it or not, all but one of the possible wagers experience the same mathematical edge. Chart 2 recaps several of the other wagers including the five-number wager when covering the 0, 00,1, 2 and 3. The five-number wager is an “odd fellow” compared to all other roulette wagers, in which payouts are symmetrical to the probabilities. When examining the properties of a single-zero wheel, this same unconforming wager situation does not occur. How then does this common mathematical advantage apply to the actual
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Chart 2 -Advantage of Other Numbers Wagered
situation on the game itself? Basically, no matter where you wager your chips (bar the five-number wager), the house advantage remains the same. There is no difference between the player who sticks to precise bet placements and the player who tosses a handful of chips onto the table and has the dealer place them as close as possible to the wager in which they landed. Question: Since all wagers (bar the five-number bet again) are mathematically the same, what constitutes a “tough” roulette player? If all bets are subject to the same house advantage, there is no such thing as a tough roulette player. Usually, the casino executive making this comment is referring to a person who used some type of money management scheme and is rated “tough” since it takes a long time to grind him or her out of their money.
In Europe, the more popular form of roulette is the single-zero wheel. On both the single-zero crown and the corresponding layout, the double-zero pocket and number have been eliminated. Note: There is a noticeable difference between the Western double-zero wheel crown and the European single-zero wheel configuration. Based on this premise, how would that change the mathematics on the European wheel? Can you figure it out? The difference between single-zero and its double-zero cousin lie in the probabilities. Where the double-zero offers 38 possible pockets, the singlezero has one less with 37. If you analyze the math on the other remaining wagers, you will see that they all are subjected to the same 2.7 percent house edge as the straight-up wager. Chart 3 – Single-Zero Wheel
To confuse the European situation even more, most roulette games in France are subject to an additional rule known as “en prison” or “la partage.” This rule situation occurs when the player wagers on any even-money bet (black/red, even/odd, or first/last 18) and the ball lands in the zero pocket. In
The European game features just one zero, reducing the house edge to 2.7 percent
some casinos, the player receives half the original wager back, and in other casinos, the bet is placed in “prison” and is subject to a second roll. On the second roll, if successful, the player is returned the original bet, and if not, it is taken. This rule reduces the mathematical advantage of all even-money wagers on the single-zero wheel to approximately 1.38 percent. Don’t forget “quadrant” wagering! Many single-zero layouts include the ability to wager on sections of numbers located on the wheel head. These quadrants, known as (in English) “Neighbors of Zero,” “Zero Game,” “Thirds of the Wheel” and “Orphans,” pay in respective multiples per unit wagered. In addition, there are several variations of these sections wagers which depend primarily on the casino and the clientele. The numbers covered and the different payoff odds are an entirely different article; however, the mathematical house advantage is the same as the rest of the single-zero wagers at 2.7 percent. The area for wagering these quad options appears on the layout close to the dealer and looks like an elongated racetrack. Side note: For those of you in North America concerned with being attacked using a computer to “clock” the properties of the wheel head, i.e., the spin of the crown and ball to determine the approximate landing area of the ball, Europe is where it is happening. There are three reasons for that: slower crown head speeds, lower house advantage to overcome, and the ability to wager quadrants. I’m not saying it cannot happen in North America, but why travel that great a distance to the states to take on a much more difficult game? JUNE 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Confiscated roulette computers that purport to be able to track where the ball is going to land TCSJohnHuxley’s Blaze Roulette at Okada Manila
Ever wonder what mistakes in payouts do to your roulette game? I don’t mean the effect of mistakes we are apt to catch; I’m referring to the mistakes made when the dealer calls out a payout, and the floor supervisor says “go ahead” while inputting rates into a computer screen several tables away. Several years ago, I investigated an alleged roulette incident for a regulatory agency of one of the European countries. My mission was to determine if roulette dealers at a certain higher-limit casino were purposely overpaying certain customers on winning outcomes. After reviewing several hours of video footage, I determined that no misappropriation of funds was evident. However, I did observe payout mistakes made by different dealers. In my opinion, the mistakes were not as numerous as they could have been based on the level of play and chip action, but it begs the question, what do these occasional mistakes cost the casino? How much does the occasional mistake affect the overall mathematics of the roulette game? A majority of the mistakes happen when either an under-experienced dealer or a dealer buried in a high chip action game makes calculation errors. Errors that are common are overpayment that results from addition errors or from using the wrong “key” to estimate the total payout. Other than incorrectly calculating the total payout of the same color, mistakes are made by overestimating the correct number of 20-chip stacks needed for the payout. It was not uncommon to witness payouts made where the dealer inadvertently overpaid with one or two additional 20-chip stacks. The costliest mistakes occur when stacks are converted to larger casino value chips. Dealers are usually accurate when converting color stacks to casino value chips with wagering levels they are familiar with, but they seem to stumble with unfamiliar conversions usually involving higher-value color chips and higher-denomination casino value cheques. On a busy game, the chances of pushing out too much money are much greater than doing so when the business level is more manageable. This problem happens to even the most experienced dealers when they get overloaded with bets and subsequent payouts. What about the mistakes accidentally made in the casino’s favor? Wouldn’t those mistakes help balance out the losses to some extent? The answer is that they will to a point, but the players are more likely to spot and alert the dealer or floor supervisor to mistakes made against them, and are somewhat reluctant to mention payoff errors made in their favor. So what is the cost? If all mistakes made by dealers resulted in a 1 percent overpay of total payoffs, roulette’s mathematical advantage would drop from 5.26 percent to 4.34 percent. Using this error estimation method, a 5 percent mistake rate would render the game almost even money. Remember, it will be the bigger payouts, not the smaller ones, that will be prone to errors. This begs the question, why don’t casino managers want calculators on the tables? I posed the same question years ago when I was still working as a 30
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floor supervisor. Why not have a calculator available so the floor can accurately estimate and confirm a multi-wager total payoff or a casino value chip conversion? It was explained at that time that using a calculator would reduce the skills level of the dealer and floor person for totaling and converting payouts, and would be more detrimental to the game than helpful. At that time, I could see the point, but today I must rethink that logic. By reducing mistakes, the industry would increase win, which improves gaming revenue. If reducing payout errors in roulette were to increase revenue annually per casino by 1 percent of total wagers handled, wouldn’t it make sense to develop an “on table” calculator that accurately totals and converts?
A casino-quality roulette wheel head is considered a tool of precision that is used to determine a random outcome. But what happens when your roulette wheel is no longer a precise instrument? Would you know it was no longer accurate? Back in the late 1980s, professional gambler Billy Walters attacked a number of roulette tables in Nevada and Atlantic City based on wheel head shortcomings known as wheel bias. Between 1986 and 1988, Walters played over a dozen different roulette wheels in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and beat those games for over $6 million. A team of people employed by Walters tracked the numbers spun on several wheels and his statisticians analyzed the results in search of numbers that “hit” more often than probability dictated. Once these bias roulette wheels were located, Walters approached each casino, placed money on deposit in the cage, and convinced management to raise the straight-up number limit. From what I understand, Walters never had a losing session, and only quit play when the casino had enough and closed the game. How can a casino determine if their roulette wheel head is still the precise piece of equipment they originally put on the casino floor? First, the casino needs to record the results of anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 spins. Next, management needs to determine the average number of hits per pocket and measure the plus or minus difference from that average for each pocket. The next step is to determine the average or standard deviation statistically allowed for the total number of spins observed. Once this average is determined, the standard deviation for each pocket from the norm, both plus and minus can be determined, and any deviation greater than -2 or +2 from the average norm should be called into question. Determining if the entire wheel is “bad” is another matter. When totaling all the different plus and minus deviation numbers from the norm, the total will not tell you anything is wrong or normal because the sum will always be zero. It doesn’t matter the range of the different number deviations; for every seriously plus deviation there are equal minus deviations. Enter the Chi Square Goodness of Fit test. Chi Square is the process of
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A triple-zero roulette game is offered by several casinos on the Las Vegas Strip
“squaring” or multiplying each pocket’s standard deviation by its plus or minus number. Squaring the number will then remove the -/+ sign and produce integers that can be added together. The sum of these integers will produce a number that will indicate whether the roulette wheel head is random or contains problems on the wheel head crown that could result in wheel bias attacks. For instance, one should investigate any wheel head that exceeds a Chi Square sum of 90 as being a problem. The roulette wheel head Walters attacked in Lake Tahoe in 1986 had a calculated Chi Square sum of 142. The Chi Square Goodness of Fit test is considered the “gold standard” of testing for all kinds of problems surrounding the randomness of the wheel head. Not only will it determine if standard wear and tear has created a problem, Chi Square will also determine if the wheel head has been altered by a customer or a dishonest employee. Chi Square tests should be used to check all wheel heads at least once every year. Many of the roulette score board or totem manufactures provide a Chi Square test within their equipment’s software package. Management should contact the manufacturer and either install or activate the software. You may be able to view real-time results on a continuing basis with a simple command stroke of your computer. If there isn’t a Chi Square test software available, please contact me and I will provide you with the Excel spreadsheet I use for that specific purpose (email@example.com). Note: Don’t forget to conduct the same test on your electronic table games (ETGs) as well. Some of the mechanical wheel heads used in the electronic platforms are not constructed with the same precision as the tabletop devices. You may find problems that could be exploited where management would not expect to look.
What’s up with the roulette variation known as triple-zero roulette? Where the Europeans are offering roulette games with a lower mathematical advantage, several North American casinos have decided to take a different direction. By adding a third zero to both the wheel head and the layout, the mathematics change once again, and this time the advantage increases. Chart 4 – Triple-zero Wheel
Well, well. The casino industry has taken a game with a monstrous mathematical advantage and found a way to make it even stronger with an edge of 7.69 percent. Approximately 2.4 percent higher than the standard double-zero wheel, and 5 percent higher than the single-zero variation (without the “en prison” rule). This game has been out on the casino floor in Las Vegas for a dozen years, and the initial feedback I received is that play definitely caters to the lower-limit clientele. One Las Vegas Strip casino’s philosophy for the triple-zero wheel is to keep offering it until the high house advantage hits a “pain point” with the off-thestreet roulette players. In other words, they are going to keep offering it until the novice roulette gamblers wise up. This might work well in a destination-resort location like Las Vegas with a consistent turnover of novice roulette players, but what about a casino where most customers are local players? Please remember an important fact about casino gambling—it’s another form of entertainment for the adult population. Not only is your casino competing with other casinos in your immediate location, your casino is also competing with other leisure venues for the customer’s entertainment dollar such as nightclubs, theaters, sporting events and concerts. Most gamblers enter a casino believing that they will not walk away a winner. They are there to enjoy the thrill received by placing something of value in jeopardy on an unpredictable outcome. If the casino raises their edge so high the customers wagering on the games do not get their anticipated “bang for their bucks,” next time they may opt to spend their entertainment dollars seeing a good movie or cheering for their favorite sports team. As a former Nevada Gaming Control agent, casino operator, professional card counter and casino consultant, Bill Zender has been involved in various areas of gaming and hospitality since 1976. He has instructed courses on game protection, card counting, advantage play and gaming operations at various colleges and institutions throughout the country. As a member of JMJ, Inc., Zender was an owner and operator of the Aladdin Hotel and Casino. For more information, visit billzender.com.
JUNE 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
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MAKING MY POINT
The Goldilocks Principle How to make sure your life is ’just right’
By Roger Snow
n the HBO miniseries Chernobyl (spoiler alert: not a lot of giggles in this one), the grand finale, the docudrama’s denouement, if you will, is a courtroom scene where our protagonist explains with eloquently dumbed-down words and ironically childlike props that the safe operation of a nuclear reactor boils down to one concept. Balance. Because, as we learn, radiation levels only exist in one of two states: they’re either increasing or decreasing. So, in order keep things from going all, uh, Chernobyl on you, you have to constantly monitor and adjust, adjust and monitor. It’s the ultimate game of Goldilocks, and considering this porridge is made of enough plutonium to blow a hole through the earth’s core, you have to ensure everything is… just right. Here’s how it works when it works: Radiation is generated through the splitting and smashing of uranium atoms, with the levels modulated via the inserting and retracting of boron rods in the core of the reactor. This creates steam, which turns a turbine, which generates additional radiation, which is lowered by the circulating of cool water. Graphite slams the gas pedal yet again, while Xenon (which is literally a gas) pumps the brakes. Up and down, down and up. Ebbing and flowing, flowing and ebbing. Never perfectly still, and never oscillating wildly one way or the other. “This is the invisible dance that powers entire cities without smoke or flame,” he says. “And it is quite beautiful... when things are normal.” When things are balanced. Of course, the lesson of Chernobyl is one of imbalance. Or arrogance. Of CYA’ing. Of mistakes and miscalculations and blind adherence to authority. So, what exactly went wrong on that fateful day in April 1986? And what can we extract from those lessons to prevent similar meltdown in our own careers? Metaphorically, of course. Let’s find out.
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Oh the Irony The worst disaster in the history of nuclear power was caused by: A) Earthquake B) Military strike C) Homer Simpson in Sector 7G D) Safety drill Doh! The answer is D. When the No. 4 reactor at Chernobyl exploded, operators were engaged in a routine routine that simulated an unexpected shutdown of power. The old what-happens-whena-power-plant-has-no-power type of deal. For the same reason airplane pilots practice flying and landing when the engines conk out: to be prepared. But when the turbine was running at low speed and radiation levels began to rise suddenly and violently, the natural reaction was to hit the “Scram” button, which jammed every boron rod into the reactor core top fission in its track. Except it had the opposite effect. Because the tips of the rods were made of graphite (more about that later), and graphite accelerates radiation, the singular maneuver designed to douse the flames actually poured gasoline on them. The lesson: When doing anything at work, beware not only of the consequences you didn’t intend, but that the consequences may literally be the opposite of what you set out to achieve. Cheap Isn’t Frugality has its place. Yes, yes, it’s reasonably reasonable to drive across town to save 30 cents on a gallon of gas—or even 3 cents for that matter—or to wait until Memorial Day to get a deal on bedsheets or whatever, but no, no, it’s certainly suicidal to cut corners or pinch pennies on something that could blow a hole in the core of the earth. Like, say, a nuclear power plant. But that’s what happened. Researchers say the cooling rods used in Soviet reactors at the
time were not 100 percent boron. They were kind of a blend (think: cashmere vs. cashmere/cotton) with tips made of graphite. While this did indeed save money—who knew boron was so pricey?—it literally triggered the horrifying chain reaction described above. When the reactor experienced a rapid rise in radioactivity during the test, operators—as they were trained—hit the button that force-fed all the rods into the reactor at the same time. But—and buts don’t get much bigger—when those graphite tips touched first, it was game over. The lesson: No matter the resource (human, material, intellectual, creative), pay for the best and you’ll only cry once. Fix the Problem Not the blame. From Watergate to Deflategate—and every gate in between—the cover-up is invariably worse than the crime. Same with Chernobyl. Despite unleashing more radioactivity into the atmosphere than 400 Hiroshima bombs detonated simultaneously, the Soviet government did its best to, well, how do you say “sweep under the rug” in Russian? Stories abound about the KGB intimidating scientists to suppress the truth, about tampering with soil samples taken by international agencies after the fact, about minimizing the loss of human life. In the end, it’s the reason “Chernobyl” haunts the way it does—as it’s as much about human failing as it is a mechanical one. The lesson: When you make a mistake at work, don’t try to bury it. Come clean. “Every lie we tell incurs a debt to truth,” our protagonist says in the same scene. “Sooner or later, that debt is paid.” Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Light & Wonder. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Light & Wonder or its affiliates.
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Asian Rebound Macau is down for the count, so what countries are leading the recovery from the pandemic? by Kit Szybala and Jack Gallaway
aming markets in Asia were among the first to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and continue to be impacted today. Whether these impacts stem from pandemic-related restrictions or the socalled Chinese “blacklist” for certain overnight tourist destinations, gaming markets across Asia and Oceania on the Pacific Rim are still in a stage of recovery. Prior to Covid-19, nearly all gaming markets in Asia relied heavily on gamblers visiting from China. Most operators had begun to pursue strategies to diversify their business and minimize risks by focusing beyond VIP (junket) gamers to a broader base of customers including premium mass and nongaming patrons. This was the case in Macau (which remains the only land-based gaming destination within the purview of the People’s Republic of China, or PRC) as well as in jurisdictions like Singapore, the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. However, once the pandemic began in China, the effects on gaming markets throughout Asia became exacerbated as the PRC restricted the flow of its residents across its borders. Despite many jurisdictions now beginning to reopen their borders to foreign visitors, a critical question remains as to whether the PRC’s blacklist will further prevent Chinese players from returning to these destinations at the same levels experienced prior to the pandemic. The blacklist targets both land-based gaming and iGaming operations that cater to Chinese residents, and its enforcement may pose the greatest long-term threat to casino operators throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Junkets have also been highly scrutinized under the policy, as it targets those who organize trips for players to gamble overseas. The PRC can exert its influence through the threat of the blacklist to outside jurisdictions, which can further impact hospitality and other tourism-driven sectors that rely on Chinese customers. At the onset of Covid, many would have suspected that global gaming market recovery would eventually occur in tandem with recovery from the pandemic. However, the return of Asia’s largest demand segment remains questionable and has helped stall the recovery of several gaming markets.
Vietnam Prior to the pandemic, well over 1 million tourists would visit Vietnam in a given month, with a majority of visitors coming from China and elsewhere within Asia. In 2021, this figure dropped to roughly 13,000, and, in the first quarter of 2022, only about 30,000 people visited Vietnam per month. There
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has been a push to revitalize the tourism sector in the country amid a protracted recovery in international travel, and there is ample opportunity to tap into the nearly 100 million people who reside within Vietnam today. Prior to 2019, Vietnamese citizens were not permitted to gamble at casinos located in Vietnam. However, under a pilot program first announced in 2017, the Corona Resort & Casino in Phu Quoc became the first casino in Vietnam to allow locals onto the gaming floor. Another locals-designated casino has been authorized for the Quang Ninh province but has yet to open. Recent reports also indicate that the Vietnamese Ministry of Finance is interested in expanding the pilot program to allow two more casinos, with one in the Khanh Hoa province and one in Da Nang City. By tapping into the value of the local market and focusing on other international source markets such as South Korea (which contributed 4.3 million Corona Resort & Casino visits to Vietnam in 2019), the gaming market in Vietnam could recover more quickly than other markets around the greater region.
Cambodia Following a Covid outbreak in March 2021, Cambodia entered into lockdown at the behest of the World Health Organization. NagaWorld, the leading integrated resort in Cambodia, elected to suspend operations for nearly six months in 2021. After sustaining double-digit annual increases over several years prior to the pandemic, total revenue for NagaCorp fell by almost 50 percent to $878.7 million in 2020, and again by nearly 75 percent to $225.9 million in 2021. After reopening in September 2021, NagaWorld is well positioned to recover in 2022, but outlooks from industry analysts are less rosy than pre-pandemic estimates. In a February 2022 report from Moody’s, analysts noted that NagaCorp is “constrained by its single-site operations as well as exposure to political risk and the evolving regulatory framework” within Cambodia. Meanwhile, late in 2021, Morgan Stanley listed Naga as one of the most exposed to risks stemming from a decline in the VIP segment, suggesting that the market faces threats from actors abroad as well as internally. Although Cambodia has reopened its borders to foreign visitors as of No-
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vember 2021, the market is far from returning to pre-pandemic performance levels. In the coastal destination of Sihanoukville, the pandemic brought further chaos to an emerging market already burdened by overcrowding, poor working conditions, mistreatment of local residents, and a total lack of regulatory enforcement. When online gaming was outlawed in Cambodia late in 2019, the town saw a mass exodus of foreign workers and tourists alike, and those who remained were left helpless. As the first wave of Covid-19 came shortly thereafter, the number of casinos operating in Sihanoukville was cut in half. With workers and visitors fleeing en masse, combined with regulatory uncertainty at home and abroad, many challenges remain in the face of a recovery for the gaming industry in Cambodia.
Filipino residents have also been a significant source of revenue to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, particularly through its slot parlors and other smaller casinos. However, Entertainment City remains the single largest revenue source to PAGCOR and relies heavily on gaming and entertainment customers visiting from China. While the IR operators in the Philippines may fret over the return of visitors from China, other questions remain regarding the Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) that were already facing scrutiny from Beijing and were stunted by the pandemic. POGOs were widely understood to be targeting players based in China, and the vast majority of employees were Chinese nationals residing in the Philippines. Following the outbreak of the virus, tens if not hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers fled the country, and many POGOs have closed in the meantime. Now, with the looming threat of the blacklist, a resurgence of these operations in the Philippines remains in question with workers unable to return, and gamers not inclined to log in and play due to increased oversight. Newly elected President Fernando Marcos Jr. is the son of the late dictator Fernando Marcos Sr., who was instrumental in the formation of PAGCOR in 1976. “Bong Bong,” as junior is known, is expected to tackle such tough issues as gaming expansion, whether POGOs will be returning and the elimination of cock fighting. At his side is Vice President Sara Duterte, the daughter of recently departed and anti-gaming President Roberto Duterte, so it is at this time unclear how Philippine gaming will be treated.
The Philippines A nearly two-year ban on tourism into the Philippines was lifted in February 2022, following one of the longest and strictest lockdowns enforced since the initial outbreak of Covid. The reopening was initially slated for December 2021 but was delayed due to the spread of the omicron variant. With such tight restrictions enforced on both residents and tourists, gaming revenue in the Philippines was severely impacted across all segments. The Philippines did experience a slight recovery in 2021 after the initial pandemic restrictions were eased. Entertainment City, the district in Manila that is home to the country’s largest integrated resorts, reached approximately $1.7 billion in GGR in 2021, representing an increase of 18.4 percent over the prior year. However, this remains well below the $3.4 billion GGR achieved in 2019 prior to the pandemic.
Singapore Despite a robust local market segment, the gaming market in Singapore has been dramatically impacted by pandemic-related restrictions and the Chinese crackdown on gaming. Singapore’s borders closed in March 2020 and did not fully reopen until April 2022, which still requires all travelers to provide a negative coronavirus test. At the same time, the Minster of Health changed the country’s Covid-19 status to “Code Yellow” from “Code Orange,” which required reduced indoor capacity, temperature checks, etc. While masks are still required in most indoor places, these eased restrictions are expected to positively impact the casinos in the region. Even still, Singapore’s tourism market, which is a large source of revenue for its casinos, was substantially impacted by the pandemic. Due to restrictions and changes in tourism behavior, Singapore’s international visitor arrivals fell by a staggering 98.5 percent from nearly 22 million in 2019 to approximately 330,000 in 2021.
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Crown Casino Sydney
Marina Bay Sands
From 2019 to 2021, revenues produced by Singapore’s two integrated resorts, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, decreased drastically. During that period, Marina Bay Sands gaming revenue fell from nearly US$2.17 billion to under US$1 billion ($905 million), representing only 58 percent of 2019 gaming revenue. Resorts World Sentosa’s overall revenue, including gaming and non-gaming departments, fell by a very similar margin from $2.48 billion to $1.06 billion, or nearly 57 percent. Most analysts agree that it will take some time for the market to recover as a large portion of revenue stemmed from Chinese demand and other tourist segments that are just now able to more freely visit Singapore again. In its first-quarter 2022 results, Las Vegas Sands detailed that Marina Bay Sands was still being impacted by pandemic-related restrictions and reduced visitation. Despite this fact, the property was able to generate positive adjusted property EBITDA, reaching US$121 million in that quarter. Despite quarterly EBITDA being down 71.4 percent (from US$423 million) in comparison to 2019, property EBITDA had grown month to month from January to March. Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Rob Goldstein expressed that he expects that property EBITDA could overcome the US$1 billion mark in 2022. This goal shows that operators are optimistic about the near term, but still realistic given the fact that this would still represent a 40 percent decline from prepandemic EBITDA levels of close to US$1.7 billion (achieved in 2019).
Australia In Australia, government regulatory authorities have turned a sharp eye towards domestic gaming operations during the pandemic. Specifically, these authorities have more heavily scrutinized the junket and VIP operations taking place, and have, appropriately, more strictly enforced anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) measures. These money laundering probes issued by the government primarily targeted three of Australia’s largest casino operators. The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre conducted this review on Crown Resorts, Star Entertainment Group, and SkyCity Entertainment Group. It is yet to be determined how these operators will be able to replace these previously significant sources of gaming revenue (although it should be noted that these revenue segments are not as profitable as other segments). In 2019, Crown Resorts garnered AU$513.4 million from its VIP segment, but in 2021 this segment’s revenue fell to only AU$1 million. Similarly, Star Entertainment generated AU$586.0 million in 2019, but this segment only contributed AU$9.5 million in 2021. At the same time, the Australian gaming market has also been impacted by pandemic-related restrictions, with most of the international impact felt in the previously mentioned revenue segments. On March 23, 2020, casinos across the country were forced to close and, in general, were subject to some of the strictest lockdown procedures of any gaming market in the greater region.
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From a tourism perspective, Australia’s international arrivals fell from 9.5 million in 2019 to less than 250,000 in 2021 (a 97.4 percent decrease). However, now, all vaccinated individuals with an eligible visa may travel to Australia again. Since reopening, the Australian gaming market has seen a return to prepandemic domestic gambling loss levels. In a March 2022 bulletin, the Reserve Bank of Australia noted that “unlike some other categories of consumption, gaming machine gambling losses typically rebounded completely once lockdowns ended.” Although the international segment will begin to return in the near term, it will return without most of the junket/VIP segment. As such, many of Australia’s casinos will be working to establish a new normal for baseline gaming revenue levels in their respective markets. This may also occur alongside a regulatory overhaul for the gaming industry in Australia that will focus on casinos as well as pokies (slot machines located in smaller venues outside of casinos). The viability of the market, especially in terms of international play, will likely depend more heavily on internal controls as Australia looks toward establishing a more responsible gaming environment. From a pandemic perspective, most of these analyzed markets are beginning to recover with tourism returning to their countries in some capacity and many pandemic-related restrictions recently lifted. However, the broad impact of the Chinese blacklist and stricter enforcement of regulatory measures in markets like Australia will lengthen the greater region’s road to recovery. Kit Szybala is a partner and the executive director of operations at Global Market Advisors. Jack Gallaway is an associate at Global Market Advisors.
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EMERGING LEADERS Big Ideas = Big Success Lisa Kerbawy Director of Marketing, FireKeepers Casino Hotel isa Kerbawy, the director of marketing at FireKeepers Casino Hotel, has built a successful career in the casino industry through creativity, perseverance and teamwork. Originally, Kerbawy planned on a career in event management, but one day 13 years ago, as she was driving on the highway to her grandmother’s funeral, she noticed the new FireKeepers Casino Hotel signage inviting people to apply to work for the new casino. As her “Nana” enjoyed casinos, Kerbawy used this as a sign to apply and to start a new journey in gaming. Shortly thereafter, Kerbawy was hired for special events and promotions. Prior to FireKeepers, Kerbawy was an event planner for a historic event venue in Michigan. Entering the casino industry presented a new challenge for her, but she tackled it head-on. With her background, Kerbawy liked creating entertainment experiences, making things happen behind the scenes, and watching everyone enjoy the results of her hard work. She applied that background to her new career by thinking of new and refreshing ways to put on promotions and events. In one instance, when creating a November VIP slot tournament, Kerbawy looked for a way to immerse players into a unique atmosphere by transforming a ballroom into a replica log cabin complete with a log cabin porch entrance, comfortable sitting areas, and a giant stone fireplace facade. Another time, Kerbawy put her own twist on the traditional travel package. Instead of a trip giveaway where the destination is already decided, she proposed the idea that the winner goes around the world with a $100,000 travel certificate and has the freedom to select the destination(s). Kerbawy is very persistent. When she has an idea that she believes will work, she fights for it. Earlier in her career, Kerbawy pitched the unprecedented idea of an eight-car giveaway in one day. Despite her strong pitch and belief in the idea, management had concerns. They said to her, “Why give away eight cars in one day when you can spread it out over several weekends?” However, Kerbawy did not give up. She knew that giving away so many cars in one day would
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
generate a lot of excitement for the property. She repeatedly pitched the idea until eventually management compromised: an eight-car giveaway split over two weekends. The giveaway was so successful that it led to an agreement for a one-day, five-car giveaway the next year. FireKeepers has continued the multi-car promotion to this day. It has become a staple of the property’s annual marketing plans and has generated a majority of their Top 10 revenue days. Kerbawy lives by the belief of not being afraid of big ideas, and she looks back at the success of the car giveaway promotion as the epitome of that belief. Teamwork is another attribute Kerbawy has embraced in her career. As she has progressed and learned, Kerbawy values that others have expertise where she isn’t as fluent. As she puts it, it is necessary to “rely on others who are experts in order to achieve your own goals.” Kerbawy has embraced big and new ideas, persisting even when others wanted to take the traditional route, and leaned on others for help in order to achieve her goals. As a result, she is grateful that her hard work has been recognized in the form of being named to the 40 Under 40 list. “It is truly an honor to be a part of this group of industry leaders,” she says. “To be nominated with such a wide pool of quality candidates and to be able to represent such a wonderful company/ tribe that continues to thrive in the industry is incredible.” —Alex Goldstein is an analyst with The Innovation Group.
The Fun Factor Harley Rockhill III Director of Business Intelligence, Inter Miami FC marine and a trapeze artist. Waiting for a punchline? There is none. Just part of the resume of Harley Rockhill III. The central theme of Rockhill’s career to date is the business of fun. “I love the entertainment, hospitality and sports industries, and can’t imagine having a career in any other field,” says the Princeton, New Jersey native. Rockhill leads business intelligence for the Major League Soccer club Inter Miami CF, including pricing and strategies. “The department that my team and I are building is focused on helping the club manage the data from multiple systems and workstreams,” he says. He also attends Florida International University working on a doctorate. Back to the marine and the trapeze. After four years in the Marine Corps, Rockhill enrolled at Florida State University, one of two colleges in the U.S. with a circus curriculum. On a dare from his friends, he said he can perform on the trapeze. He auditioned. A year and 100 performances later he received an offer to instruct others on the trapeze in Club Med in Thailand. “If my father hadn’t had a stroke, I probably wouldn’t have left,” he says. After his father’s stroke, Rockhill returned to
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school for his MBA in management and operations at Florida State, where he also earned his B.S. As graduation approached, a friend suggested relocating to Las Vegas. He first job was with Trapeze Las Vegas, where he taught trapeze. The job paid most of the bills while he cold-called casino executives. “I was interested in revenue management,” Rockhill says. He received a call from Caesars Vice President of Revenue Management James Larsen, now his most valuable and closest mentor. He hired Rockhill as a junior revenue manager. By the time Covid-19 took hold in the U.S., Rockhill was working with BSE Global and the Brooklyn Nets. “I count myself as incredibly fortunate throughout this pandemic,” he says. “I was able to keep my position when most sports teams were furloughing or reducing staff.” It wasn’t Covid that took him away from the Nets. It was the thought of another winter in the Northeast. “I’m not great with weather below 70 degrees. I’ll take 85 degrees and 90 percent humidity over trudging through the snow in New York City.” Rockhill returned to Las Vegas. He joined the new Resorts World Las Vegas, leading the enterprise analytics division of the revenue management department. “I had the chance to work with most departments to develop and implement strategies for all the property’s non-hotel assets—pool cabanas, valet and self-park, entertainment ticketing, nightlife/day life cover and cabanas,” he explains. But the man on the flying trapeze was on the move again. He and his fiancée moved to Miami, where he would pursue a doctorate while working for Inter Miami FC. “I think (the doctorate) will allow me to be in an even better position to help guide a major league sports franchise, casino portfolio, or sports betting company with more profitable revenue management and partnership acquisition strategies,” he says. Rockhill credits his mentors with telling him what he needed to hear even if it wasn’t what he wanted to hear at the time. “But a lesson I would have liked to have learned a bit earlier would have been, be the last one to give your opinion, not the first,” he says. “You don’t have to make sure everyone knows you thought of something… first. Instead, listen to everyone before passing final judgment.” Meanwhile, Rockhill and his fiancée have a wedding to plan this fall. Add to that the MLS season is starting up. Still, once a week, the couple have a date night. But if he wants to really decompress, Rockhill finds a trapeze. —Bill Sokolic
Card Sharp Steph Nel Managing Director, Americas, TCSJohnHuxley hink of a croupier as the CFO of the table game crew, handling the money in and the money out. And in that world, Steph Nel began his journey in the casino industry in 2000 with the Southern Sun Montecasino in suburban Johannesburg. The South African native excelled and in 2003 he ascended to table games supervisor at Gold Reef City Casino. Being a croupier “helped in all aspects of my life,” Nel says. “It taught me many life lessons as all dealers are customer-facing, so conflict resolution, empathy, dedication with shift work and most people skills. It also gave me insight into my current role to better understand our customers as I have worked in operations.” More than 20 years later, Nel is still at it. Since 2007, he’s spent much of his career with TCSJohnHuxley, a leading manufacturer of table games equipment. “We supply and manufacturer anything from wheels to chippers, display boards for all table games, accessories, gaming layouts and now dice. Basically, anything that goes with table games, we can help out,” he says. After almost six years with TCSJohnHuxley in South Africa, Nel hooked up with Axes Network. Axes is a cloud-based casino enterprise management solution company that creates tools and applications to manage cashless transactions, loyalty and rewards programs and similar operational functions for casinos. He was vice president of sales in South Africa and then chief commercial officer. But TCSJohnHuxley came calling again. The opportunity included a move to the U.K. “As much as I loved living in South Africa, it was an opportunity to move to a world-class city as I was based out of London,” Nel says. He returned in early 2015 as senior business development manager. In 2017, he became general manager for the Americas, and transferred to Las Vegas. In 2020, he was elevated to managing director for the Americas, his position today. “Las Vegas is such a beautiful city with magnificent contrasts,” Nel says. “I enjoy going out to the hustle and bustle of the Strip but adore being out in nature. The desert holds a special time. Every time I go out I tend to find something else to fall in love with.” When Nel worked for TCSJohnHuxley in South Africa, his boss and mentor, John Whiskin, helped guide his career. “Through his tutelage I grew as an individual with some of his pearls of wisdom I still use today,” he says. “Sadly, he passed away in 2017 and I miss him every day.” Covid-19 is something now in the rearview mirror, but it changed the landscape forever, he says. Nel and his team managed to adapt to it. “We used the time to reshape how we approach business, and I feel we are sharper and more focused than before,” he says. “I think everyone changed. Who would have ever thought the world would be at a standstill? I feel it showed us that we need to sometimes think that the unthinkable can happen. Life can change in a heartbeat, and not to sound too cliché, but don’t sweat the small stuff and be in the moment. It can be at work or in your personal life. It can all change tomorrow.” — Bill Sokolic
“Who would have ever thought the world would be at a standstill? I feel it showed us that we need to sometimes think that the unthinkable can happen. Life can change in a heartbeat, and not to sound too cliché, but don’t sweat the small stuff and be in the moment.”
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Data analysis is the key to building customer loyalty By Dave Bontempo
hat do the numbers say? And how fast can we sort them out? These major considerations confront hotels and casinos under the broad hospitality umbrella. Each segment remains an autonomous component within the same sphere. Casino operators need to know a player’s favorite game. Hotels need to know the customer’s favorite room type. If both are part of one company, the entity needs to know the relationship between gaming and non-gaming spend. Online properties bring even more significance to quick, accurate, information. That’s what makes the data solutions world a burgeoning enterprise for several companies.
A Wave of Innovation Provide resources. Untangle the mess. They are two core functions of Cendyn, a leading cloud-based software and e-commerce services provider for the hospitality industry. “One of the biggest challenges facing casinos today is the sheer volume of data points being captured across their tech stack,” says Aileen Gerla, the company’s director of product management. “Without a way to wrangle this fragmented data and unite it into a single view, casinos are unable to truly leverage their data insights. The inequitable distribution of data across departments can lead to blind spots that leave potential revenue on the table and negatively impact the guest experience.” While traditional segments of leisure and business certainly apply, casinos can get much more granular with their data than the average hotel, Gerla indicates. There’s more information available, primarily because of how guests spend throughout a property. This ranges from customers who only gamble to patrons who regularly dine at restaurants and bars and those who spend heavily each time they vacation at a property. “To tie all of your data together, consider adding a customer data platform (CDP) to your tech stack,” Gerla says. “The two-way data 40
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sync means that a guest’s on-property activity, from gaming and F&B to retail and the spa, is aggregated into a data-rich profile that when combined with other guest profiles, reveals valuable segments. “You can then drill down even further to see how much money each of those segments typically contributes while on property—and optimize accordingly—giving you a go-to guest intelligence resource for personalizing the guest experience and optimizing revenues.” Cendyn recently added another player into its lineup for this sector, launching the Cendyn Hospitality Cloud (CHC) in April. It has already generated excitement and interest, according to Gerla. “What makes it a game changer is the ability to provide casino resorts with a vertically integrated, cloud-based platform that empowers revenue, ecommerce, distribution, marketing and sales teams with everything they need to drive profitable revenue across the guest journey,” Gerla says. The CHC offers a unified view of every guest, and a system of record for rates and reservations. By combining these critical data elements in one platform, teams across the business can act on their data to automate, personalize, and transform the experience for every guest at every step in their journey, according to Gerla. The company is actively working on even more features and enhancements to explore the platform’s full potential. In conjunction with the launch of the Cendyn Hospitality Cloud, Cendyn has also released the platform’s first applications—its website CMS and Starling, its customer data platform (CDP). The seamless integration between the CMS and CDP sets Cendyn apart to leverage cleansed and de-duped data from the master guest profile, Gerla asserts. “Built using award-winning designs and powered by Starling CDP, our enhanced CMS enables hotels and casinos to recognize returning website visitors and deliver the most targeted personalization available on the market,” Gerla says. “Instead of one-size-fits-all content, the website application will serve tailored messaging to personalize every interaction a customer makes on your
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site, including content, visuals and offers based on their preferences and behavior. This new era of personalization allows hotels and casinos to drive guest engagement, loyalty and profitable revenue growth on their own direct booking channel.” Along with unveiling new products, Cendyn builds on its significant business move last November. The company entered into a merger agreement with Pegasus, a leading provider of revenue and distribution solutions for the hospitality industry. The combination of the companies provides hoteliers with a platform to maximize their direct-booking channel and enhance the guest experience across every touchpoint. At the heart of this merger lies Cendyn’s Customer Data Platform, Starling, and Pegasus’ CRS, which, combined, provide hoteliers access to a true system of record for profiles and rates for every guest. Leveraging the alignment of these key data points puts hoteliers at the forefront of personalization to enhance the direct-booking experience. “So far, the results of the merger have exceeded expectations,” Gerla indicates. “The Cendyn Hospitality Cloud platform now benefits from over 400 integrations with more already in the works. We’re entering a new phase of growth as a single company, and we are excited about building on our success and finding new ways to bring the Pegasus and Cendyn products together for our customers.”
On-Demand Marketing Officials at VizExplorer believe industry changes over the past couple of years involve the need for automation and simplicity. Most operators’ resources are limited, making it hard to do all of the work and analysis themselves, and they want their solutions to be not just descriptive but prescriptive, officials say. Here is a further sector overview according to company reports compiled for GGB: With the advent of sports betting and iGaming, many operators have woken up to the fact that the sheer volume of data requires a trusted data partner to bring everything—bricks and mortar and digital—together to understand player behavior and their marketing efforts. VizExplorer also perceives a greater receptiveness to cloud solutions. The company’s solutions can be either in the cloud or on premises. Its latest entry into this space is VizOnDemand Slots, Player Development & Marketing. It brings simplicity and automation to the operators through powerful reporting and recommendation engines. These capabilities are designed to serve every area of the business and answer key business questions. That includes whether one wants to see high-level performance metrics or drill down into granular detail of games and players. The software makes it simple to arrive at these insights and
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Fast Data for Markers oe Pesci would love this. Jwaiting A scene from movie Casino illustrates the age-old dilemma of for money in a casino. Pesci tells someone he can’t leave the area for a few minutes “because I’ve got a marker coming.” He wouldn’t wait now. Marker Trax ushers in the new realm of instant marker access. Patrons can apply for a casino marker through its mobile app or are instantly approved through the Marker Trax verification process. The Marker Trax system allows players to be scored and given access to their markers in minutes. It will be a revolutionary product and concept, according to company founder Gary Ellis. Marker Trax’s entire evolution is based on data solutions. “With traditional casino markers, there’s no way to fully track those funds, to make sure they’re staying within the resort and not being taken to a rival resort, or even—most importantly for the operator—actually being paid back,” Ellis says. “At the same time, customers—and not just casino gamers—have been demonstrating through their purchase activity across all sectors that they want their entire consumer experience to be more convenient and streamlined. Specifically in gaming, they want their funds immediately available; they don’t want these big delays between when they apply for the marker and when they can get back to enjoying themselves, and they want an easy process to pay their markers back.” Marker Trax eliminates logistical obstacles, enabling operators to reach customers more efficiently. “They’ve wanted this technology, this ability, for so long, but there have been too many roadblocks, from the cost of complicated, expensive infrastructure overhaul to, frankly, getting customers comfortable with using the technology,” Ellis says. “And getting customers comfortable with the technology is no longer a concern, because they’re practically begging for it. Things like digital wallets, touch to pay, and other things like that are more accepted now. We’ve grown so accustomed to that technology in our everyday lives, and to how much more convenient it makes the consumer experience, that we’re wondering why it’s not available everywhere we spend our time and money.” The company’s primary product is its namesake: Marker Trax. It’s a triple-patented casino advance line system that reduces operators’ risks in issuing markers, while simultaneously creating a more convenient and accessible gaming experience for customers. The Marker Trax system utilizes cutting-edge fintech solutions to help operators optimize their business, through risk evaluation, compliance, data analysis, or creating a frictionless gaming experience. Marker Trax also provides underwriting and advanced financial support for notifications and billing. Operators are provided with a central dashboard, through which they can view all transactions and connected account balances, and have access to robust activity reports. “But what we’re doing that really separates us from everyone else is looking at the customer experience at the same time and with the same weight,” Ellis asserts. “It’s an instant approval and fund-drawing process, so it maximizes playing time for the customer by eliminating extra time in the cage waiting for funding approval.” Ellis says the next evolution wave is making technology available in multiple resorts within a single company. If a company owns five casinos and a customer gets a marker in one of them, the patron currently can’t take that same marker to one of that company’s other casinos. “But imagine if you could take that marker to the operator’s other properties, either directly across the street, or even miles away,” he says. “That’s where we’re going next.” Ellis recalls the first time he watched a customer have to stop play, make their way to the cage, fill out forms and wait for a marker. A vision became clear: improve the process for everybody. That was 20 years ago. “Every day since then, I’ve been working to make it happen,” he says. —Dave Bontempo
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make revenue-driving decisions from them. Its reporting suite, ease of use and flexibility are big differentiating factors, as well as the ability to rapidly develop custom reports and leverage both customer and machine data. This provides an extraordinary level of insight into customer behavior. The Slot Recommendation Engine is leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. It works because it is based on a robust dataset and built by experienced operators. The product is road-tested with multiple customers and it has already delivered tremendous value in the field, VizExplorer officials say. The “wow factor” is the breadth and depth of its solutions. The focus is on taking large amounts of data and presenting it in a clear, actionable way.
The QCI Platform “The data solution space has become essential tooling for operation of the business in a modern gaming operation,” says Andrew Cardno, co-founder and chief technology officer of Quick Custom Intelligence (QCI). “It is now recognized that the nature and type of tooling required to operate a business is different from the transactional systems that run them.” Cardno says the company has deployed its datadriven operational tooling in over 100,000 gaming machines including 55 North American resorts. The QCI product line represents the latest iteration in the data space from Cardno and Ralph Thomas, who have been in this space for 15 years. “The big trend is finding tooling that can assist with team member acquisition and retention,” Cardno asserts. “We are seeing team members expecting to be able to operate in an environment where the data flows are part of easy-to-use and dataenriched processes. The QCI platform is extremely high-performance and has enabled a new generation of tooling that uses algorithms to assist in the day-today operation of the business.” Cardno says the company’s top-performing tool in this sector is the QCI Platform, a marketing tool. This core technology layer allows the company to provide a dynamic tool set that is fully empowered with the depth of the data. “The QCI Platform is the one of the most difficult areas of technology within the QCI stack,” he says. Among the key features are interface layers to the majority of gaming systems, data streams and related data such as hotel and food and beverage. An extremely robust layer of data cleanup handles the trickiest parts of the data consolidation, such as applying algorithms to clean up the gaming machine attribution. A robust API layer used by the entire application
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stack provides for consistent and correct tooling regardless of the user. Cardno makes a further analysis based on his interactions with the QCI gaming math team. “Gaming is an industry that is extremely data-rich, and we are proud to build a community of users who are truly empowered to interact and apply this rich data to meet their individual brand goals,” he says. “We strive to build the technology, the team and the business model that allows us to partner, effectively removing the traditional blockers such as statements of work and charges for training. “We are amazed at how this innovation in how we are doing business has allowed us to focus on delivering value and ensuring our community is realizing that value.”
The ADM Advantage “The market for ever-increasing data needs and requirements seems to be growing daily,” says CasinoSoft owner Matt Montano. “Upstart slot machine communication systems now can deliver every SAS signal from the slot machine directly to a database for a variety of systems. “This is a night-and-day increase in data from what the legacy slot systems do. The vast increase in the volume of data requires more sophisticated tools to analyze and make sense of the data. Tools such as Excel and CSV are completely ill-equipped for this increase. At CasinoSoft, with our SAR analytics, we focus on a single slice of this data being suspicious activity patterns that may be happening every day inside the casino with no one noticing. But the data doesn’t lie.” The company’s biggest products are its Title 31 and Tablet Taxforms mod-
ules. Its recently added Automated Document Management (ADM) module is quickly rising as the newest hit with casinos, Montano asserts. “Although casinos are not completely going away from paper documents anytime soon, our ADM system has successfully improved work flow and organization, saving casinos valuable time, resources and money,” he indicates. “CasinoSoft’s ADM system uses embedded barcodes to automatically identify, organize and file documents including end-of-shift paperwork and various tax documents. “It also has the ability to scan in IDs front and back to quickly update or create a new player’s profile. Gone are the days of staff members needing to pre-organize and scan in one document at a time to each file or profile. With our ADM, you can take a stack of pre-barcoded various paperwork in any sort of order, plop them in a high-speed scanner, and simply click a button.” According to Montano, what makes the company’s ADM hardware a dream to casino IT departments is the network-driven, driverless high-speed scanners, that do not need to be plugged into each desktop nor have complex driver settings configured. “You can have one single scanner in each department area across the floor with multiple desktop stations wirelessly communicating with it,” he says. “What used to take supervisors of staff members hours to scan and file documents, now takes less than five minutes.” Throughout the industry, the race gets faster, operators seek the latest new edge, and companies need to provide them. The ones that can place a decipherable customer profile at an executive’s fingertips find the sweet spot. Data is their entry.
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NEW GAME REVIEW by Frank Legato
Double Money Link Light & Wonder
ouble Money Link is a new game Manufacturer: Light & Wonder series on Light & Wonder’s KasPlatform: Kascada cada Dual-Screen cabinet based Format: Five-reel, five-line, 20-line or 50-line video slot on the company’s popular Money Link franDenomination: .01, .02, .05, .10, 1.00 chise. The two inaugural games are City of Max Bet: 50 (five-line), 400 (20-line), 750 (40-line) the Gods and Western Trails. Top Award: Progressive; reset at 1 million credits times The base game is a five-reel video slot in denomination five-line, 20-line or 40-line configuration. Hit Frequency: 32.17% There is a five-level progressive jackpot, with Theoretical Hold: 4.97%-12.5% a top prize resetting at 1 million times the denomination ($10,000 in the penny version of the game). The new game retains the popular Locking Curtains & Walking Curtains Free Games Feature. Pyramid symbols on each of the middle reels trigger eight free spins. There are “Locked Mystery Symbols” on the screen that open with each spin to reveal game reel symbols. The main bonus is a hold-and-re-spin feature involving cash-on-reels coin symbols. In the normal Money Link feature, triggered by six or more scattered coin symbols, the coin symbols lock in place for coins land on all 15 reel spots, the top Grand Jackpot is awarded. three free spins. When another coin symbol or one of the Randomly when the feature is triggered the game will go into “Double lower four progressive symbols lands on a free spin, it locks Money Link” mode. This triggers a second reel array above the main one. and the spins return to three. The player then proceeds with the hold-and-re-spin feature on both fiveWhen no coins land for three spins, the feature ends and reel arrays simultaneously. all accumulated coin values and progressives are awarded. If
Panda Blessings AGS
his new addition to the Imperial 88 family of games, available on the Orion Portrait or Orion Curve cabinets, features cash-on-reels symbols in a hold-and-re-spin bonus, all centered around the cute character “Amanda the Panda.” The base game is a five-reel, 1,024-ways-to-win game. There are three separate bonus events. During the primary game, coin chest symbols are collected, and randomly overflow to award a bonus. The Imperial Jackpot Bonus, which is common among games in this family, displays 13 gold coins. The player picks coins to reveal credit awards or one of four progressive jackpots, resetting at $10 (Mini), $25 (Minor), $800 (Major) and the top $10,000 (Grand). Six “Prize” symbols in any position trigger the Hold and Win Bonus. The cash-on-reels prize sym44
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
Manufacturer: AGS Platform: Orion Format: Five-reel, 1,024-ways-to-win video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10, .25, .50. 1.00 Max Bet: 880 Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset Hit Frequency: 30.87% Theoretical Hold: 2.86%-13.94%
bols lock in place for five free spins. Each time another prize symbol appears, the spins return to five. An “Instant Win” symbol awards the accumulated bonus as the feature continues. There also are “X2” and “X8” symbols that increase the values of the cash-onreels symbols. Three bonus symbols trigger six free spins. During the free spins, additional free spins can be added. The Imperial jackpot Bonus and the Hold and Win Bonus are both available during the free spins.
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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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Smokin’ Hot Stuff Wicked Wheel Fire & Ice Everi Holdings
Manufacturer: Everi Holdings
veri revives one of its strongest brands Platform: Flex Fusion with this new slot on the Flex Fusion Format: Five-reel, 243-ways-to-win video slot cabinet. In this iteration, the Smokin’ Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10 Hot Stuff cartoon devil uses a pitchfork to “fire” Max Bet: 480 progressives to higher levels, a blue version of Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset Hot Stuff named “Freezy” to increase progresHit Frequency: 33% sives on a bonus wheel, and an ice cube in a proTheoretical Hold: 5%-17% gressive picking bonus to award an extra jackpot. In fact, the core of this game consists of seven progressive jackpots, with multiple ways of landing them. The base game is a five-reel, 243-ways-to-win video slot. There are three is won in addition different bonuses in which a progressive can be awarded. For random perito the player’s matchods, a “Fired Up Jackpots” feature will activate. If a progressive is won durthree prize. ing the “Fired Up” period, Hot Stuff will bump the winning player up to In the Wicked the the next-higher jackpot level. Wheel Bonus, both of There are two progressive picking bonus events. In both, the player the game’s characters get picks icons to reveal either a credit award or a progressive jackpot, and wins involved. Hot Stuff applies when matching three of the same prize. In the Hot Stuff Progressive Pick multipliers to random credit amounts, while Freezy adds progressive slices to event, Hot Stuff removes the lowest progressive from the board, and the the wheel. Either character may nudge the wheel to increase the player’s prize. player’s picks go for the higher progressives. In the Freezy Progressive Pick, The seven progressives range from a “Mini” resetting at $10 to an “Epic” the choices include an ice cube which awards one of the progressives, which resetting at $10,000.
Treasure Ball Duo Luck Konami Gaming
his new game series on Konami’s Dimension 49 large-format portrait cabinet, with inaugural games Gorilla Riches and Elephant Break, features a random event that can result in multiple credit awards or progressive jackpots. The base game for Gorilla Riches is a five-reel, 40-line video slot on a five-by-three reel array. Elephant Break is a ways-to-win game on a five-by-four array, resulting in 1,024 ways to win on each spin. Both games feature a free-spin bonus, with three, four or five triggering symbols resulting in up to 20 free games. The common feature is the Treasure Ball, depicted as a giant vending machine above the reels, filled with balls of multiple colors. Randomly after any spin, a dragon character will breathe fire on a spinning disk. If the disk lands on a number, that many balls are ejected from the big machine, to reveal credit awards or one of five progressive jackpots. Up to 20 balls can be ejected. The player touches each prize ball to reveal the
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
Manufacturer: Konami Gaming Platform: Dimension 49 Format: Five-reel, 40-line or 1,024-waysto-win video slot Denomination: .01 through 5.00 Max Bet: 700 Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset Hit Frequency: 26.11%, 28.62% Theoretical Hold: 6%-12.9%
award. Red balls contain credit awards—the awards increase with higher bets. Gold balls contain one of the four lower progressives, resetting at $10 (Mini), $25 (Major), $40 (Mega) and $300 (Maxi). The diamond Treasure Ball reveals the Maxi or the top Supreme jackpot, which resets at $10,000. The top two prizes are linked progressives.
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CUTTING EDGE by Frank Legato
Cashless Made Easy PRODUCT: Sovereign MANUFACTURER: AXES.ai
XES.ai has launched a cashless platform designed to provide an easy cashless solution. Too many companies are providing small, unintegrated pieces of the evolving customer cashless experience with separate visions, agendas and technology bases. The lack of integration is causing high friction and low adoption, and defeating the purpose of what cashless is all about. AXES officials note that cashless has many components from bill acceptors to loyalty cards to ATM, kiosk and cashier desks. More importantly, the migration to a mobile app means the ability to greatly increase customer loyalty, engagement and satisfaction. All these companies are looking for data to fuel their own strategies, therefore rendering all pieces of the cashless puzzle a highly competitive and friction-full environment. Sovereign is a cloud-based platform that offers all the traditional functionality of TITO, player tracking, players club, smart card, cashier, ATM, kiosk and more in one integrated, seamless platform and code base. The
Markers Reimagined PRODUCT: Marker Trax MANUFACTURER: Marker Trax LLC
aunched in 2018 by Ellis Island Hotel & Casino founder and Las Vegas gaming visionary Gary Ellis, Marker Trax is an industry-disrupting, innovative cashless casino marker system. Through an intuitive, easy to set up, use and maintain mobile application, Marker Trax issues and manages casino markers through a fully digital system, and— key for operators—makes paying those markers back seamless and incredibly convenient. Marker Trax is a direct response to the cumbersome and financially risky process of issuing physical funds for a marker, a process that has long been accompanied by the knowledge that some of that cash will leave your property and go to a competitor or, even worse, will simply walk out the doors never to be seen again. Through Marker Trax, marker funds are issued digitally, integrating with existing resort systems to only be available for use and withdrawal within their home property. The product further reduces the funding collection risk to operators by turning that into an automatic process, as well: Rather than providing the player with a specific, approved amount of cash, Marker Trax instead extends the marker by way of a digital line of credit. When players cash out their winnings from their favorite slot machine, the outstanding marker balance is first paid back, before the player receives the excess funds. That functionality also translates to more robust reporting capabilities— player activity, payment types and total enrollment statistics are all available through the operator dashboard in quick, easy-to-understand fashion, dramati-
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
Player App offers gamification, loyalty and rewards, as well as open and closed loop transactions. The notification center ensures a patron never misses a promotion or announcement. Sovereign operates in stand-alone cloud mode and does not require any other system to offer a complete cashless environment, and includes a fully integrated real-time data warehouse, just in case. If you do have an existing casino management system, Sovereign integrates in parallel or in synchronization to ensure customers are happy and loyal. Sovereign is based on virtual server technology. Sovereign is a workflow-based fintech platform that understands a customer’s journey from anonymous to KYC and from low/no recognition to VIP. Sovereign is a platform of fully integrated products with the same code base, so real-time everything is possible. It was created to make the journey to cashless simple, easy and frictionless for the casino and the customer. For more information, visit axesnetwork.com.
cally augmenting the ability to create tailor-made gaming experiences that cater not just to the entire player base, but to individual players. Processing and approving a traditional casino marker can take days or even weeks, but with Marker Trax it takes just minutes, an appealing feature for operators and players. As much as removing cash from the equation is an operator-centric feature, it’s as much of a benefit to players, too, who appreciate the added security and convenience of not having to handle large sums of money. That security and convenience are of great benefit to the payback process, as well, which is fully automatic. Players who use Marker Trax are also able to spend more time enjoying their favorite games, and less time filling out paperwork and waiting for approval at the casino cage. Another highlight of Marker Trax’s fully digital nature is the ability to consistently optimize the experience over time. This is anything but a static, stagnant product. Already a number of innovations are on the horizon—or even imminent, in many cases—including the ability to connect between multiple properties owned by a single operator, integration into mobile wallet setups, expansion to table games and sports wagering, and more. With more and more companies and products entering the cashless tech sector, Marker Trax has already set the standard for both operator and player convenience and security. For more information, visit markertrax.com.
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FRANKLY SPEAKING by Frank Legato
Mobster in a Barrel
he mob lore associated with Las Vegas and its casino business is a funny thing. On the one hand, the gaming capital has worked hard since the corporate takeovers of casinos in the 1970s and 1980s to shed its mobster history, and escape from all the stereotypes that go with it. On the other hand, the history of when “the boys” ran things can be attractive to thrill-seekers and the curious. Just look at the popularity of the Mob Museum, in the heart of Downtown Las Vegas. I admit I ponied up the admission fee and spent hours walking through the place. (I wanted to see pictures of all my old buddies.) (Just kidding.) I’ll admit the old stories of holes in the desert with patent-leather shoes sticking out of them are intriguing. But last month, those stories bobbed up in a big way out at Lake Mead, when the receding lake—there’s a bathtub ring around it as the water continues to disappear in drought conditions—revealed a surprise: Beachcombers stumbled upon a barrel containing human remains. Then, within a week, a second set of remains appeared. News reports didn’t say whether the remains had pinstriped suits and two-toned wing tips. However, comments reported in the Associated Press from Oscar Goodman, the colorful ex-mayor of Las Vegas, were priceless. “There’s no telling what we’ll find in Lake Mead,” Goodman said. “It’s not a bad place to dump a body... I’m relatively sure it was not Jimmy Hoffa.” Damn, Goodman went and stole my Jimmy Hoffa joke before I even got to make it! But Goodman should know, considering his clients back in the day like Tony “The Ant” Spilotro—the real Nicky Santoro, which was the character based on the mobster as portrayed by Joe Pesci in the movie Casino. Heck, Goodman even plays himself in the movie, as Nicky/Tony the Ant’s lawyer. Last month, he told the AP that a lot of his former clients were interested in “climate control,” mob talk for keeping the lake level up so the barrels stayed down. Not likely. The lake level has dropped more than 170 feet since I first started to go to Las Vegas in the early 1980s, which was around the time Tony the Ant got whacked and the old Stardust crew went to the slammer in a skimming scandal. The Stardust was the Tangiers in the movie. Lefty Rosenthal was Robert DeNiro as Ace Rothstein, and... Oh, just watch the movie on Netflix.
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
The point I am making in a painfully circuitous manner is that they’re probably going to find more “boys.” I’m thinking reality show here. Bobbing for Gangsters. Also on Netflix. Speaking of gangsters, Caesars Entertainment is reportedly looking to unload Bugsy Siegel’s old joint, the Flamingo, for at least $1 billion. Nothing has been confirmed. Caesars’ new owners have stated that one of the operator’s Las Vegas Strip properties is likely to be sold to reduce debt, but they’re not saying it’s the Flamingo. Still, reports in Bloomberg and other news sources are juicing up the rumor mill that the Flamingo will go. I always liked the Flamingo, especially the pool and a couple of the bars. But I always thought they should have preserved more of what the place was like before Bugsy was rubbed out. They could have preserved the original hotel, or at least the suite occupied by Siegel and his girlfriend Virginia Hill. I would have paid to go through the trap door in the closet and down the ladder to an underground garage where there was always a waiting Cadillac to make a quick getaway, complete with a chauffeur. (I guess that was a pretty easy job. Three shifts.) I’ll bet they could have made millions every year off tours of that suite, which had bulletproof windows, one entrance and five exit points. They tore out the suite in 1953, and the last remnants of Bugsy’s “carpet joint” hotel were gone by 1993. All that’s left is a plaque where the hotel once stood, near the present swimming pool. It notes who Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was, and marks where the hotel stood. What’s ironic is that Siegel usually gets credit for inventing Las Vegas with the Flamingo, but in reality, it wasn’t even his original idea. He muscled the place off Billy Wilkerson when the L.A. restaurateur came up $400,000 short on construction costs. Mobsters are like that. (Not that I know any.) And no, they’re not going to find Bugsy in Lake Mead. He was killed in Los Angeles and buried with his movie pals at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. But I still wouldn’t rule out Jimmy Hoffa.
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GOODS&SERVICES EVERI MAKES TWO ACQUISTIONS
veri Holdings Inc. last month made two major deals that strengthen the company’s marketing and HHR efforts. First, Everi announced that it has acquired certain strategic assets of XUVI, LLC, a privately owned marketing platform provider designed to value, target and engage customers to increase loyalty through immersive data analytics utilizing customer behaviors and artificial intelligence. XUVI’s marketing platform, BeamStudio, is a cutting-edge technology solution that combines historical and behavioral propensity data to assign a customer’s future value based on their unique characteristics and behaviors. The technology provides real-time predictive and actionable insights to augment marketing with targeted campaigns focused on valued customers. BeamStudio increases operating efficiencies through data analytics and automation of routine marketing tasks, and optimizes marketing spend
by reducing over- and under-reinvestment. BeamStudio is expected to assist Everi’s current QuikMarketing capabilities and leverage consumer data to assist casino marketers and deliver intelligent interactions across all channels, and lay the foundation for highly targeted, cost-effective and successful campaigns to acquire new patrons and strengthen existing customer relationships with precision and insight. And second, the company announced that it has acquired Intuicode Gaming Corporation, a privately owned game development and engineering firm focused on historical horse racing (HHR) games. In 2021, Intuicode generated over $10 million in annual revenue from the sale of gaming machines and recurring participation revenue from game theme placements at HHR locations throughout the United States. Intuicode and its experienced HHR game development team provide Everi with additional HHR expertise that will help the company accelerate its entry into and growth in the expanding HHR market. The acquisition cost includes an initial payment of $12.5 million, with two additional payments based on future revenue to be made on each of the first and second anniversaries of the acquisition’s closing in 2023 and 2024. Total consideration is expected to be $22 million-$27 mil-
lion, and Everi expects to fund the purchase price from existing cash on hand and future cash flow.
IGT, ARISTOCRAT SIGN CROSS-LICENSING AGREEMENT
nternational Game Technology PLC announced that it has signed a broad patent cross-licensing agreement with rival Aristocrat Leisure Ltd. that includes valuable patents related to game features and remote game server (RGS) technologies. Under the agreement, IGT will be able to offer licenses to the companies’ combined game feature and RGS patent portfolios to the global gaming industry. Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed. “This agreement extends and expands the previous patent cross-license between IGT and Aristocrat,” said Renato Ascoli, IGT CEO, global gaming. “This combination of two of the gaming industry’s most valuable game features and RGS patent portfolios can help propel the evolution of gaming with compelling content and advanced game mechanics.” Aristocrat CEO and Managing Director Trevor Croker said, “We are delighted to achieve this longterm agreement with IGT, which is highly aligned to Aristocrat’s established and successful IP strategy.”
AXES ACQUIRES ASSETS FOR CLOUD-BASED MEDIA MANAGEMENT PLATFORM
ew-age gaming company AXES.ai announced it has acquired the assets for a new media management platform that is cloud-based. Newly dubbed as AXES.TV, AXES.ai CEO the new platform will improve the Earle Hall company’s ability to track, manage and schedule all forms of user interaction and quickly share media and other information through cloud systems. According to the company, AXES.TV will be able to partner with cutting-edge ad placement and data management companies to generate new forms of revenue for clients. It also will be integrated with the company’s cashless interface as well as their other fintech strategies. “This acquisition will empower AXES clients to offer interactive publicity to tailor a patron’s experience to receive, in real time, communication, marketing and publicity relevant to each person,” AXES President and CEO Earle G. Hall said.
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
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STAR EXECS STEP DOWN
VALBUENA WINS NEW TERM AS SAN MANUEL CHAIRWOMAN
GENTING SINGAPORE APPOINTS NEW CEO
ynn “Nay” Valbuena was reelected chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for the fifth time. The newly reelected chairwoman and tribal council members of the San Manuel Lynn Valbuena Band of Mission Indians were sworn in on April 12. For nearly 50 years, Valbuena has held numerous elected and appointed positions within tribal government, including secretary-treasurer and vice chairwoman. She also has a lifetime of service and leadership with regional, state and national organizations, including the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations (TASIN), where she is currently serving her 27th year as chairwoman. Valbuena also served as vice chairwoman for the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, secretary for the National Indian Gaming Association, and delegate to the National Congress of American Indians. She previously served as a trustee for the National Museum of the American Indian, which is a part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. She continues her trusteeship for the Autry Museum, and has been an advisory council member of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of California since the organization was founded more than 20 years ago.
QCI NAMES FARAHI EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN
avid Farahi, the former CEO of Monarch Resorts, has been named executive chairman of Quick Custom Intelligence, the San Diego-based gaming and hospitality system developer. David Farahi Farahi had been an adviser to the company and will focus on finances, working with key clients, product development, and developing initiatives to expand QCI’s verticals. Farahi served four terms as president of the Colorado Gaming Association between 2015 and 2021, spearheading the industry’s legislative agenda, including three successful statewide ballot initiatives. This year Farahi became an adjunct professor at Metropolitan State University Denver, teaching an introductory course on gaming and sportsbook management.
enting Singapore has appointed Tan Hee Teck as its new CEO. The 66-year-old Tan has been with the company since 2004 and has held the position of president and chief operating officer since Tan Hee Teck 2010. He started with the Genting Group in 1982 serving in senior corporate and operational roles, and also spent time as COO and executive director of investment brokers DBS Vickers Securities until he returned to Genting in 2004. The company said Chan Swee Liang has been reappointed as the lead independent director for another three-year term. She will also now lead the nominating committee. Her former slot at the remuneration committee will be filled by Hauw Sze Shiung. Genting Singapore also said Ong Jinq Her has been appointed as company secretary. Genting Singapore operates Resorts World Sentosa, one of two integrated resorts in Singapore, along with Marina Bay Sands. In 2019, both IRs struck a deal with the government to extend their duopoly to 2030, provided they invest a combined S$9 billion in new amenities.
MOHEGAN GAMING APPOINTS PARKER AS SENIOR VP
ohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) recently announced the appointment of Nelson Parker as its new senior vice president of strategic development. In his new role for the Nelson Parker Connecticut-based tribal gaming operator, Parker will identify, assess and execute growth opportunities and strategic new venture projects for the company and play a key role in future growth and capital planning. He will report to MGE Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Carol Anderson. Prior to joining MGE, Parker served as a managing director at Driftwood Capital, a private equity fund focused on hospitality investments. He has previously served as senior vice president of corporate development at Penn National Gaming, senior vice president of hotel and casino development at Hard Rock International, vice president of development at Foxwoods Resort Casino and corporate director of development at Argosy Gaming.
he fallout from investigations into the operations of Australia’s Star Entertainment has claimed three more executives. Resigning in May were Chief Financial Officer Harry Theodore, Chief John O’Neill Casino Officer (NSW) Greg Hawkins and Chief Legal & Risk Officer and Company Secretary Paula Martin. This follows the resignation of CEO Matt Bekier a month earlier. The Star investigation has uncovered AML violations, VIP irregularities, and illegal credit card transfers. Executive Chairman John O’Neill will serve as CEO until a replacement for Bekier can be found.
THOMPSON NAMED CHAIRMAN OF INDIANA GAMING COMMISSION
ndiana Governor Eric Holcomb has chosen Indianapolis sports and entertainment attorney Milt Thompson to lead the Indiana Gaming Commission, the board that regulates casinos, sports wagering, charity gaming and fighting contests throughout the Hoosier State. Milt Thompson Thompson, an attorney at the law firm of Bleeke Dillon Crandall and president and CEO of the sports consulting firm Grand Slam, will serve as chairman of the commission through at least September 30, 2023.
June 2022 Index of Advertisers
Acres Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 AGEM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51 Agilysys, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 AGS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Aristocrat Gaming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21, 56 AXES.ai . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 Casino Player Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47 Everi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5, 17 Fantini Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52 Fox Rothschild . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41 Gaming Laboratories International . . . . . . . . . . .11 Global Gaming Business . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43, 45 HBG Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55 IGT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9, 33 J Carcamo & Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49 Reed Expo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37
JUNE 2022 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Sequoyah Simermeyer Chairman, National Indian Gaming Commission
equoyah Simermeyer, a member of the Coharie Indian Tribe of North Carolina, was appointed to the National Indian Gaming Commission in 2015 as an associate commissioner. In 2019, he was elevated by President Donald Trump to chairman and confirmed by the Senate. His term will expire in 2023. Prior to his role with NIGC, he worked as an adviser to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He began his career with the National Congress of American Indians, a national intertribal organization focusing on the protection of tribal governments’ rights and status. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at the Indian Gaming ’22 trade show and conference in Anaheim, California in April. For a full video and audio podcast of this interview, visit GGBMagazine.com.
GGB: One of the stories we did in our most recent Tribal Government Gaming magazine was basically a history of the NIGC. Many former members of the commission explained how difficult it was in the early days. They didn’t have offices of their own, and there wasn’t a lot of respect, either from the government side or the tribal side. Things have obviously changed down through the years, but why has it changed so dramatically? Sequoyah Simermeyer: Well, the industry was al-
ready in place, and the commission was integrating a new framework into how the industry operated. That presented its own challenges and growing pains. And the early commission should absolutely be commended for the work they did to set a tone and lay down a path. I know that over the course of the agency, the opportunity to collaborate as part of a bigger regulatory community, with tribes and with operators and other stakeholders, has added to the success of it, and it’s helped to implement a more consistent and predictable implementation of policy objectives that IGRA laid out, which I think has also contributed to its growth and the role it plays today. 54
Global Gaming Business JUNE 2022
In the column you wrote for TGG, you announced a program called the “3 For 35 Project.” Explain the impetus behind that.
The agency’s had a focus in four areas in recent years. And one of those areas is preparedness across the regulatory community and the opportunity that exists to help prepare the regulatory workforce to fall in line with that objective. And so, we, in doing this project, are looking at the opportunity to remind the public about the unique regulatory structure and the unique aspects of the Indian gaming industry, that were affirmed in the Cabazon case 35 years ago. We’re trying to facilitate a conversation across the regulatory community about our workforce, and how to plan for the next 35 years. And so, we identified three areas of discussion that we want to use to help facilitate that conversation: skill-planning—what skills our regulatory body is investing in, in order to prepare for the future of the always-evolving industry, from a regulator’s perspective. Strategic recruitment, whether it’s a large community of a workforce that you’re drawing from, or a small rural community—maintaining continuity of operations is an important role that the regulatory body must play. And finally, knowledge retention. And as we grow and the industry matures and reaches different milestones, how do we incorporate the knowledge from past regulatory subject matter experts and use that to build in the future? In addition to the quality of the chairmen and the commissioners, the staff at the agency is really important, too. You have people on the staff there that have been there for years, long-serving dedicated public servants. How will you replace them when it comes time to retire?
I think maintaining that continuity of operations is important. Being strategic and thoughtful about how we are training subject-matter experts within any organization, we’ve made
that a priority. Technology’s been a strong investment area for us in recent years, and getting individuals who can help us to remain relevant in the regulatory community has been important. The NIGC is known for doing tribal consultations about the regulatory process. How do you use the tribal consultation to find out what the real issues are in tribal government gaming?
Another focus for us has been in the area of being innovative in outreaching collaboration. Consultation is one aspect of that. It’s an important aspect—not just for good decision-making, but it’s also important because it is a way to develop and cultivate the governmental authorities, and be aware of those authorities that are so important to the federal-tribal relationship. And that’s a unique responsibility that every federal actor has. A large role of the NIGC is to interact with the tribal gaming commissions. In many cases, appointees to regulatory agencies—tribal or commercial—don’t have a lot of knowledge about gaming to begin with. How do you participate in informing them on how gaming works, and what the regulatory process is at the federal level?
During the past two years especially, we have really expanded the reach of our training program, which is the primary way that the NIGC meets its responsibilities under IGRA to provide technical assistance. And we’ve not only used virtual tools that have come about because of the pandemic, and trying to be mindful of budgets and other uncertainty restrictions on tribes; we’ve also looked at streamlining the content of the courses we’re offering in that area. We’ve looked at making them more case-study interactive-based, and because of that, we’ve been able to be more cost-effective, more accessible, and averaged a much broader turnout. So using those tools to educate and to outreach is one important aspect of that.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort Hot Springs, Arkansas
DESIGNING EXPERIENCES THAT ARE
T R A N S F O R M A T I V E
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