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GGB Global Gaming Business Magazine
RENO REVIVAL GAN’S DERMOT SMURFIT KIOSK ADVANCEMENTS VIRGIN LAS VEGAS OWNER BOSWORTH
September 2021 • Vol. 20 • No. 9 • $10
PENN PROMISE Why the Barstool deal and other online acquisitions will propel Penn National Gaming to the next level
Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers
Are Skill Games Dead?
Or are they simply reorganizing for a bigger and better future?
Looking Out for the Ladies How gaming organizations recognize the importance of mentoring and emphasizing the roles of women
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Vol. 20 • No. 9
Global Gaming Business Magazine
18 COVER STORY Penn Power Penn National Gaming has grown from a racetrack company into the third-largest gaming operator in the United States, and with last year’s acquisition of Barstool Sports, the company is poised to ride the wave of sports betting and interactive On the Cover: Jay Snowden, president & CEO, Penn National gaming to new heights. Gaming; Erika Nardini, chief executive officer, Barstool Sports;
By Roger Gros
David Portnoy, founder and president, Barstool Sports
14 The Evolution of Skill Regulated skillinfluenced slot machines have not made as big a splash as expected over the past five years, but the genre is far from dead.
44 Making My Point Feeling Cultural Roger Snow
By the Numbers
32 Emerging Leaders With Sycuan Casino’s Don-Lee Hardy, Lockdogs’ Ashley Eurich, and DS Virtual Gaming’s Araksi Sargsyan
28 Biggest Little City
By David Ross
34 Cashless, Contactless
By Dave Bontempo
38 New Game Review 42 Cutting Edge 46 Goods & Services
New technology is fueling the industry’s move away from cash and toward cashless, contactless gaming.
While the gaming industry has seen much progress in elevating women to top management positions, there is still much work to do.
12 Fantini’s Finance Good to be Bad
The city of Reno, long faded as a gaming destination because of competition from California, has experienced a renaissance because of new high-tech business.
24 Women to the Top
By Frank Legato
10 AGA Have a Game Plan
48 Frankly Speaking 49 People 50 Casino Communications With Richard “Boz” Bosworth, President & CEO, JC Hospitality Partners
By Marjorie Preston
SEPTEMBER 2021 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em By Roger Gros, Publisher
ince I’ve never been a smoker, my viewpoint of smokers and smoking is a bit skewed. My father smoked his entire life—the real killers, unfiltered Chesterfields or Camels. But he recognized the inherent dangers of cigarettes, which he called “coffin nails” or “cancer sticks” at various times. While he died of cancer at the relatively young age of 68—an age I’ve already surpassed—it wasn’t the lung cancer that is usually associated with tobacco use. When we were young, he offered me and my two brothers $500 if we reached the age of 18 without smoking and $100 every year up to the age of 21 if we kept off the stuff. For me, it wasn’t difficult. I couldn’t stand the smell or taste of tobacco, so I cashed in. My two brothers couldn’t make it and today are still inveterate smokers. Maybe a reverse case of “Do what I say, not what I do.” As a dealer in Atlantic City in the 1980s, I began to dread the players who smoked and the inevitable secondhand smoke that would drift my way—or get blown directly in my face if a particularly nasty player didn’t like losing. So I completely get the disgust that today’s casino employees often display toward smokers—hopefully not directly to their faces. We’ve heard down through the years that smokers are critically important to the revenues of the casinos. There are various stats that purport to prove this “fact” but I have my doubts. Yes, I can see slot players sitting for hours with their ashtrays and smokes, feet perched on the slot base, eyes glazed over, pumping the money into the game. But what would be the harm to make them take a break every hour or so and go out to a smoking porch outdoors to get their fix? To be honest, a friend who was running an Ohio racino showed me a smoking porch that he had stuffed with slot games. He told me that those games won three times as much as the indoor machines. I didn’t ask him how he set the hold percentage, but I get the impression it wouldn’t matter to the players as long as they’re allowed to smoke. Last month, I got a call from Andrew Klebanow, one of the industry’s most thoughtful consultants, and a voice in the wilderness for years advocating ending smoking in casinos. He asked me if the Atlantic City gross gaming revenue report for June 2021 had indeed set a new record. If so, he
said, that’s an amazing statistic. After all, Atlantic City revenues went up for 30 straight years and never hit that number. Now, granted the June revenues included a nice contribution from iGaming, but it still showed strong contributions from the land-based casinos. Still, Klebanow pointed out that throughout the month of June smoking was not permitted in any Atlantic City casino. So the contention that banning smoking would severely impact casino revenues is almost disproven by the June record results. In July, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy relaxed the smoking ban, allowing smoking in the 25 percent of the casino previously designated prior to the pandemic—a joke actually, since there is almost no control over where people smoke within any Atlantic City casino. And given Murphy’s strict restrictions during the pandemic “protecting” the public, his quick about-face on smoking is typical hypocrisy. The dirty little secret about smoking in casinos is that most CEOs and senior execs would welcome a smoking ban. The cost of cleaning up after smokers is not given enough attention. Burns in carpets or table layouts, the haze of smoke in an enclosed casino, saturation of smoke into carpets, drapes and upholstery are all costly to casino operators. A smoking ban would virtually eliminate those problems. But casino execs don’t want to be the first, especially in competitive markets. When Revel opened in Atlantic City in 2010, GM Kevin DeSanctis opened the property smoke-free. Lots of smokers avoided the property for that reason. Granted, Revel was also a bit stingier than other casinos when it came to comps, so a smoking ban wasn’t the only reason for its failure. But it shows the danger of being the first. If all operators in one jurisdiction got together to agree to a smoking ban, the impact on revenue would not be that dramatic. It would also show that operators care about the health and welfare of their customers, a message that became the central issue in the recovery from the pandemic. So can’t we all just get along? Maybe a blanket ban from all members of the American Gaming Association would be a place to start. But it takes a few heroes who would be ready to pick up the gauntlet and move forward. Who has the courage?
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
Vol. 20 • No. 9 • SEPTEMBER 2021 Roger Gros, Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @GlobalGamingBiz Frank Legato, Editor | email@example.com twitter: @FranklySpeakn Marjorie Preston, Managing Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Monica Cooley, Art Director email@example.com Terri Brady, Sales & Marketing Director firstname.lastname@example.org Becky Kingman-Gros, Chief Operating Officer email@example.com Lisa Johnson, Communications Advisor firstname.lastname@example.org twitter: @LisaJohnsonPR Columnists Cait DeBaun | Frank Fantini | Roger Snow Contributing Editors Dave Bontempo twitter: @bontempomedia Marie Casias | David Ross Bill Sokolic twitter: @downbeachfilm __________________
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 2021 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
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RecoRd-Setting Revenue u
.S. commercial gaming revenue reached $13.6 billion in the second quarter of 2021, marking a new industry record, according to the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker. The total bested by a large margin the previous record—$11.1 billion set in Q3 2019 and matched in Q1 2021—by more than 22 percent. With nearly $24.8 billion generated to date, 2021 is close to surpassing 2020 full-year revenue ($30 billion) and on track to overtake 2019 ($43.6 billion) as the highest-grossing year ever for commercial gaming revenue. The second quarter of 2020 sunk to the lowest commercial GGR in history, and one year later it reaches the highest totals ever. Also of interest, gaming revenue still has room to grow considering that most U.S. casinos were still subjected to state united States: Quarterly commercial gaming Revenue reopening guidelines at the start of the quarter that significantly limited casino capacity, offerings and amenities. When the second quarter began, 15 of 25 states—home to three-quarters (345 of 463) of U.S. commercial casinos—restricted capacity to 50 percent or lower, but all had fully reopened by the close of the quarter. “These first-half results are truly remarkable. It is even more impressive when you consider commercial gaming revenue was at its lowest point ever just a year ago,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. “This is a testament to our resilience and commitment to providing customers safe environments and worldclass entertainment experiences.”
online decline in u.K.? report from the U.K. Gambling Commission, disseminated by Catena Media on its Slotsia.com website last month, showed a marked decline in online gaming accounts opened by British citizens. After reaching a peak of 36.2 million in the 2016-2017 time period, the number of accounts has declined by more than 5 million through the 2018-2019 period. It’s important to note that this is only the number of accounts registered at legal online sites regulated by the Gambling Commission, not necessarily the number of players. It’s also difficult to determine if these numbers declined due to the strict regulatory regime and increased negative media coverage of online gaming or if players decided to play at unregulated, gray or black market sites. 6
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
number of online (remote) gambling customer accounts at gambling commission licensed facilities in the u.K. from April 2013 to September 2019 SHARE OF RESPONDANTS IN MILLIONS
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8/11/21 3:07 PM
Questions Dermot Smurfit CEO, GAN
ame Account Network (now GAN) entered the U.S. 10 years ago focusing on social casinos and systems. CEO Dermot Smurfit was emphatic when insisting at that time every casino needed to have a social casino site. And he’s been proven right as online sports betting and now iGaming are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Casinos that have experience in the social casino sector have a leg up on their competitors, and GAN has been adding features and platforms over the last few years. Smurfit talked to GGB Publisher Roger Gros from his offices in California in July. For a full Zoom podcast of this interview, visit GGBMagazine.com. GGB: You recently went public on the NASDAQ exchange. What does that mean for GAN? Dermot Smurfit: We’re very happy with the transaction. It probably was the high water mark of corpo-
1 2 3 4 5
rate reorganization in the 20-odd year history of GAN. Last year we raised $167 million, not just for the IPO, but also to finance the acquisition of CoolBet, an international, very well respected B2C operator in the sports betting field with proprietary sports betting technology they built from scratch. They developed their platform knowing the weaknesses and problems with all the other sports betting applications and systems available to them. We were asked by our clients to find something better, so we looked to the far side of the planet in a place called Europe where there were different and superior mobile sports betting experiences. We evaluated 16 different candidates—some startups, some very large. The more we learned about CoolBet and got to know the team, the more we liked them.
What makes CoolBet so unique?
CoolBet is a highly social engaging offering with some highly developed end-user features that has Jason Robbins, the CEO of DraftKings, talking about maybe developing something like that in the future. CoolBet has it now. It’s being deployed and is getting results right now. It is creating enormous player retention with the social engagement features that I haven’t seen in any other app. When we launch GAN Sports, rebranded from CoolBet, we’ll lift the bar that much higher and the industry will see how we can give our clients the competitive advantage to let them succeed in the marketplace. You’ve announced exclusive distribution for Incredible Technologies and Ainsworth. How is that going to work?
We have the leading distribution here in the U.S. for online casino content. In this case, it’s the marriage of respective strengths of each organization. This deal between GAN and two very well respected manufacturers of EGMs will allow them to focus on what they do best, which is to create great content while GAN takes care of the technology and the “plumbing” of getting them online. One of the weaknesses of online gaming has been the connection between the online casino and the land-based casino. How will GAN help clients bring online players into the land-based casino?
We were the first ones to do this back in 2012 when we worked with Maryland Live! and the Cordish Group to create a social casino that was linked to their loyalty program. From that we learned how to connect the rewards cards to the online gambling accounts. Everything flows from that relationship. Through that we’ve patented the GAN iBridge. We’ve seen more than 160 percent uptick in online gambling revenue from those who linked their rewards card to their online account, and 140 percent for sports betting. We connect those two worlds together in a way that is very sophisticated and ultimately creates value.
“Our region’s low vaccination rate is putting us back on the path to overrun hospitals, unnecessary deaths, fewer tourists, and possible furloughs and layoffs. None of us want that. After the pain endured by so many these past 16 months— and the tremendous progress made in 2021—I can think of no more damaging scenario for us as a community.” —Bill Hornbuckle, CEO, MGM Resorts International, appealing to Nevadans to get the Covid-19 vaccine to prevent future shutdowns
CALENDAR September 9-10: Scandinavian Gaming Show, Stockholm, Sweden. Produced by Eventus International. For more information, visit Eventus-International.com/sgs. LIVE September 12-17: International Masters of Gaming Law (IMGL) Autumn 2020 Conference, Marriott Copley, Boston, Massachusetts. Produced by the IMGL. For more information, visit IMGL.org/conferences/autumn/overview/2021. LIVE September 21-22: Ukrainian Gaming Week 2021, Kyiv Expo Plaza, Kyiv, Ukraine. Produced by Smile Expo. For more information visit ugw.ua. LIVE September 21-24: SBC Summit Barcelona, Fira Barcelona Montjuïc, Spain. Produced by SBC. For more information, visit SBCEvents.com. LIVE October 4-7: Global Gaming Expo (G2E), Sands Expo Center, Las Vegas. Produced by the American Gaming Association and Reed Exhibitions. For more information, visit GlobalGamingExpo.com. LIVE November 9-11: Betting on Sports Europe, Stamford Bridge, London. Produced by SBC. For more information, visit SBCEvents.com. LIVE November 9-10: G2E Asia, Venetian Macao. Produced by Reed Exhibitions and the American Gaming Association. For more information, visit G2EAsia.com. LIVE
For years you’ve been saying that if retail casinos didn’t have a social casino they had to do it. Have you been able to convert those properties you’ve developed social casinos for into the real-money online world?
November 16-18: SiGMA Europe, MFCC, Malta. Produced by SiGMA. For more information, visit SiGMA.com.mt. LIVE
Yes, because over the years we’ve demonstrated the complexity of the technology. Retail casino executives have a lot of complicated technology inside their buildings and recognize how complex it is. Simulated gaming gives the same executive group the ability to understand how complex it is to operate in the online world. The online world is insanely complicated. We are as much educators and consultants as we are service providers. This is the time of one of the most exciting financial industrial opportunities and we’ve been able to help our clients take advantage of it.
November 30-December 2: SBC Summit North America, Meadowlands Exposition Center, East Rutherford, New Jersey. Produced by SBC. For more information, visit SBCEvents.com. LIVE
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
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AMERICAN GAMING ASSOCIATION
Have a Game Plan A new era for responsible gaming is coming
By Cait DeBaun
ore Americans than ever have access to legal gaming— whether at one of the 989 tribal or commercial casinos, 33 legal sports betting jurisdictions, or seven iGaming states. In the past year alone, sports wagering has been legalized in 10 states. And the expansion of digital payments and mobile offerings means our products are more convenient than ever. Responsible Gaming Education Week 2021 (RGEW), September 19-25, provides the occasion to examine how we can expand our responsibility efforts to meet the evolving needs of our customers—many of whom are either new to gaming or are transitioning to the legal market from illegal operators. The American Gaming Association (AGA) is helping lead this charge through our Have A Game Plan: Bet Responsibly campaign, which is bringing leagues and teams, media, and gaming operators and suppliers together to educate bettors with a consistent message on responsible sports wagering. Our partners—DraftKings, FanDuel, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, NASCAR, National Hockey League, PGA Tour, Sightline Payments, UFC, and the Vegas Golden Knights—are educating their millions of fans and customers through broadcasts, television and radio spots, in-venue and out-of-home advertising, digital and social media, and more. As new businesses take advantage of the sports betting opportunity, Have A Game Plan’s message will only increase in importance as we seek to build a sustainable legal market. While sports betting has provided a new way to engage in gaming, digital payments are modernizing how our customers interact on the casino floor. Digitizing casino payments provides on-demand tools for responsible game play that allow customers to set limits on funding and gaming time, monitor their budget, and track their gambling history. These tools also give op-
erators increased insight into potential problem gambling behavior and the ability to implement automated intervention measures. Importantly, operators and suppliers continue to integrate responsible gaming into their culture through training and product development. Employee training continues to become more sophisticated through organizations like RG24seven or efforts like DraftKings’ partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance to build a public health model for employee education. Suppliers like Aris-
released recommendations to streamline these requirements by permitting national gambling advertisements to use national help line numbers that can provide callers with resources or direct them to local programs. This small change can have a tremendous impact by better highlighting available resources. Self-exclusion lists, which allow players to voluntarily block themselves from gaming sites and properties, have also traditionally been siloed at the state level. In a technology-forward industry, where consumers are constantly moving across state lines and can place wagers at the casino or on their phones, self-exclusion needs to be a more seamless experience. Solutions like Conscious Gaming’s PlayPause program are a step in the right direction. Simplifying the process across operators, mediums and geography will only better serve our industry and customers. Our customers are also benefiting from gaming innovation. Gamban is allowing users to block gambling sites across their devices, and operators like FanDuel are partnering with the program to give customers free access to its services. Kindbridge is bringing the telehealth revolution to gaming by connecting those who need help with mental health professionals online, another important step for convenience and privacy. And Entain Foundation U.S., a not-for-profit funded by BetMGM co-parent Entain, recently launched Gamble Responsibly America, a free app that allows players to monitor their gambling behavior and access on-demand responsible gaming and problem gambling resources. While we’ve made strides, building a sustainable industry requires a new era of responsible gaming. The AGA is eager to drive this conversation forward, starting with Responsible Gaming Education Week 2021.
In a technology-forward industry, where consumers are constantly moving across state lines and can place wagers at the casino or on their phones, self-exclusion needs to be a more seamless experience.
tocrat are taking an enterprise-wide approach to responsible game play integration, and others are partnering with academics to deepen our understanding of responsibility in an era of expansion— for example, Global Payments’ and Sightline Payments’ work with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Customer education and game play tools, paired with robust employee training, are one end of the RG spectrum. We also have a commitment to provide the resources and tools for those who need help. The primary support tools—problem gambling help lines and self-exclusion programs— need to evolve to meet today’s gaming landscape and a modern casino customer. Problem gambling help lines, at the state and national level, provide vital support by connecting callers with the resources they need. As it stands, many states require gaming operators to list statespecific problem gambling help lines in their advertising. This is an essential service for localized advertising, but creates confusion and inconsistency in national advertising. The AGA recently
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
Cait DeBaun is vice president, strategic communications and responsibility for the American Gaming Association.
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Good to be Bad Financially, gaming companies are doing great, but why doesn’t that translate to higher share prices? By Frank Fantini
s this as good as it gets? That appears to be the question many investors were asking after the torrent of secondquarter earnings reports. And based on the action in stock prices, their answer appears to be yes. Casino operator after casino operator reported bang-up earnings beating expectations and pre-pandemic performance. CEO after CEO pounded the table about powerfully growing business volumes. They all but swore mighty oaths that they will maintain cost discipline as their properties fully reopen, thus sustaining record EBITDA margins. Yet, the stocks hardly moved. Some actually slipped. There were some exceptions among smaller companies. Golden Entertainment stock soared 9 percent to an all-time high on the day after its earnings release. Century Casinos soared 17.5 percent. However, the case could be made that both of those stocks had been way undervalued. For most stocks, prices were mostly flat. Some remain well off of their 52-week highs, such as Penn National still cut in half from its high and DraftKings down a third. The old Wall Street bromide is buy on the rumor. Sell on the news. The 2021 version might be buy in anticipation of a recovery from Covid shutdowns and of maintaining high margins. Sell on the evidence that the recovery is in full swing and high margins are here to stay.
Oh, Oh Covid As of this writing, the pandemic news is daily becoming more unsettling. Renewed travel restrictions are slamming Macau visitation again, and casino stocks there are near their lows. In the U.S., a growing number of casinos again require customers to mask up, though operators say they don’t expect that to affect business. No one, it appears, has much stomach for locking down the U.S. economy again, though if Covid continues to spread, attendance at major events such as concerts, sports contests and con12
ventions could be significantly affected. The uncertainty doesn’t appear to be affecting stock prices yet but it also isn’t a catalyst for upward moves. But there is a glimmer. The U.S. might be nearing the point where the virus has run its course. The combination of persons fully vaccinated and those already having had Covid is now over 60 percent. Add in persons partially vaccinated and the number is more like 70 percent. That is getting very close to the 70 percent to 80 percent needed to break the chain of transmission or, as we say in 2020s speak, herd immunity.
The old Wall Street bromide is buy on the rumor. Sell on the news. The 2021 version might be buy in anticipation of a recovery from Covid shutdowns and of maintaining high margins. Sell on the evidence that the recovery is in full swing and high margins are here to stay.
Let’s Make A Deal Normally, when we talk deals, we’re talking about companies getting bigger through acquisition. But we have two of the biggest gaming companies making big news this year by doing the opposite—Scientific Games and Caesars. After the series of mergers that created today’s Sci Games, investors were told that the lottery is very complementary to the slots and table games business because it adds stable revenues. The company also had created one-stop shopping: Want a slot machine? Look at what we’ve got. Want a casino management system? Got that, too. How about table games and their accessory products like automated card shufflers? Got ‘em. By the way, ya gotta buy a lottery ticket, too, because ya never know. What happened, as it so often does, is that the deals that made sense to the financial engineers of
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
Wall Street didn’t make sense in the real world of conflicting cultures, insecure employees, redundant product lines and a ton of debt piled up to create the behemoth. But Sci Games over the past year made monumental changes. Financier Ron Perelman sold his controlling interest. Top executives of highly successful competitor Aristocrat were brought in, including former Aristocrat CEO Jamie Odell as executive chairman. Odell and CEO Barry Cottle led a strategic review that resulted in the decision to divest lottery, now seen as slow-growing rather than adding valuable ballast, and sports betting in order to concentrate on what the company does best—games, especially in the fast-growing digital world. And, with proceeds from the divestitures, Sci Games will solve its debt problems. On the operator side, Caesars will sell the international assets of William Hill for probably around $1.5 billion. Those proceeds also will go towards improving the balance sheet. The sales also will allow Caesars to focus on what it does best, run casinos, and, importantly, converting a good portion of the industry’s largest database of proven customers into sports bettors and iGamers. Caesars also has one more divestiture to go—a Las Vegas Strip property, which will add more money to improve the balance sheet. With growing EBITDA above $1 billion a quarter, iGaming in its U.S. infancy, and free cash flow set to exceed $10 a share, it is easy to calculate a stock price of $150 a share compared to around $90 as of this writing. But the potential is greater as Caesars continues to become more efficient and achieves its growth strategies under the leadership of CEO Tom Reeg. So, having earlier invoked one cliché, I’ll end with another appropriate to Sci Games and Caesars: Sometimes, you achieve addition through subtraction. Frank Fantini is the editor and publisher of Fantini’s Gaming Report. For a free 30-day trial subscription email email@example.com.
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AGEMupdate AGEM MEMBER PROFILE
Japan-based Omron Amusement Co. is a gaming machine components manufacturer with a wide-ranging product portfolio—bash buttons, lens lighting panels, cabinet lighting assemblies, cabinet topper assemblies, machine tampering sensors, and other gaming devices. Omron Amusement has 40 years of experience in the Japanese pachinko and pachislot industries. This allows Omron Amusement to develop diverse manufacturing processes and diverse product portfolios. Omron Amusement is a gaming technology company that works with partners to develop industry-changing products to make their cabinets stand out on the casino floor. This year, Omron Amusements will release a Standard Circular Water-Resistant Bash Button to its impressive product listing. Omron, which has developed button technologies for over 20 years, is introducing a new low-profile, dynamic bash/bet button for use on top of touch-screen button deck displays. This new “floating” button technology uses sensors in place of traditional electro-mechanical switches but retains excellent tactile feedback for the gaming player. The new button’s large transparent lens cover allows for excellent display messaging and visibility, and the optional halo LED bezel lighting adds colorful, eye-catching highlights. In addition, excellent life/durability test ratings and an IP54 seal-ability construction greatly reduce the risk of button failure in the field. For more information about Omron Amusement and its products, contact Jacob.firstname.lastname@example.org.
AGEM Board of Directors Actions for August 2021 • Following an inquiry from some AGEM members to request an update to regulations so that cashless wagering systems can operate in the cloud, AGEM President Dave Lucchese and Executive Director Marcus Prater had a Zoom meeting in late July with Chairman Brin Gibson and Technology Division Chief Jim Barbee of the Nevada Gaming Control Board to present the general concept. The AGEM team presented a brief summary of what the proposed new regulation language might look like and were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of Chairman Gibson and Chief Barbee. The AGEM Compliance Committee is now putting together a list of proposals that could provide one of the most significant developments AGEM has spearheaded for the supplier sector, in terms of scope and scale. These positive moves reflect the chairman’s initial discussions with AGEM that he is open to new ideas and advancing technology on the casino floor. • During the pandemic the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) was overwhelmed with fraudulent claims of unemployment and many employees in gaming and other industries found their names had been used for fraudulent applications. Since then, DETR had in some cases contacted the innocent parties to pay back what was erroneously paid out to the fraudsters, sometimes asking for tens of thousands of dollars. Many of the innocent parties have received letters from DETR acknowledging the mistake and absolving liability, but there are still a number who have not. AGEM state government counsel Mike Alonso has been working with an appointed director of DETR to ensure the final acknowledgment letters are sent out and also having DETR write to GCB Chairman Gibson, highlighting that gaming professionals caught up in the scam should not have any future issues with obtaining gaming licenses or approvals. • AGEM members approved a contribution of $10,000 to support the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling. The Nevada Council on Problem Gambling is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to generate awareness, promote education and advocate for quality treatment and support resources for problem gambling in Nevada. • AGEM welcomed three new members at the August Board of Directors meeting. Global Payments Gaming Services, approved as a Silver member, is based in Las Vegas and provides commerce solutions to global entertainment and gaming companies. New Bronze member Acres Manufacturing, also based in Las Vegas, specializes in connecting real-time machine and player data to advanced analytics and bonus ing. New Associate member Fireplay Games, based in Omaha, Nebraska, focuses on innovation for the gaming industry, including implementing skill features for Class III games.
Forthcoming Events • The AGEM-AGA Golf Classic Presented by JCM Global, benefiting the International Center for Responsible Gaming (ICRG), will take place on September 28, at Cascata in Boulder City, Nevada. This continues to be a key event for AGEM, providing a fundraising boost for an event that has raised almost $3 million in donations for this very worthy organization.
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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.
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In July 2021, the AGEM Index reported its first decline in eight months as it fell 70.06 points to 925.32 points. From a yearover-year perspective, however, the AGEM Index remained up 504.46 points (+119.9 percent). In the last month, only three of the 13 AGEM Index companies reported increases in stock price. The main contributor to the index was Crane Co. (NYSE: CR), whose 5.3 increase in stock price led to a 6.29-point gain for the AGEM index. Transact Technologies (NASDQ: percent TACT) and Galaxy Gaming Inc. (OTCMKTS: GLXZ) also marked stock price increases of 21.3 percent and 23.3 percent, re the of the period, Transact Technologies added points overall index while Galaxy Gaming Inc. spectively. At end 0.67 to the added 0.49 points. The monthly decline in the index can be attributed todrops in stock price for most AGEM Index compa nies. The largest impacts to the index were driven by Scientific Games Corporation (NASDAQ: SGMS), which reported a 20.3 percent decrease in stock price that led to a 25.36-point index decline, and International Game Technology PLC (NYSE: IGT), whose 21.7 percent decrease in stock price equated toa 17.6-point loss for the index. In July, most companies in the AGEM Index experienced declines in their stock price from the prior month. However, 12 out of the 13 companies reported yearover-year gains on their stock values. Unlike the stocks that contribute to the AGEM Index, the major indices posted positive percentage changes. The S&P 500, theDow Jones Industrial Average and NASDAQ grew by 2.3 percent, 1.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.
SEPTEMBER 2021 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Working on Skill
After half a decade and amid pandemic disruption, the skill-influenced game genre is still very much a work in progress By Frank Legato
ive years ago, a handful of pioneers appeared, championing a new genre in the slot-machine universe. Suppliers like Gamblit, GameCo, Synergy Blue and Next Gaming gained some steam in the slot universe beginning with the 2016 regulatory approvals in Nevada and New Jersey of variable payback percentages—a range of return-to-player (RTP) numbers that would accommodate a factor of skill on the player’s part that may increase the chances of winning. It was dubbed “skill-based” slot play, something of a misnomer when considering that chance still played a big role in game outcomes. A more appropriate term, and one adopted by many of the suppliers, is “skill-influenced” slot play—more along the lines of video poker in that skill can raise the RTP, i.e., reduce the house edge. Beginning with the 2016 Global Gaming Expo, radical new styles of games appeared—arcade-style shooting games in which hand-eye coordination increased the chances; multi-level video games mimicking the most popular mobile games appearing on iPhones; puzzle-style games; even games that utilized driving skills for better results. The ensuing half-decade was marked by fits and starts as the few pioneering companies got skill-influenced games approved and placed on slot floors. Some games were pulled back after failing to earn, some of the suppliers foundered. A few of the major slot manufacturers dabbled in the skill-influenced genre, and later pulled out. Now, in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, some in the industry have questioned whether the pandemic shutdowns have hammered the final nail in the coffin of skill-influenced slots. Others insist skill-influenced gaming is a work in progress, and point to the recent success of electronic table games, which were in the market for years with marginal success at best, as offering a beacon of hope for skill on the slot floor. Rick Eckert, managing director of slot performance and analytics for Eilers & Krejcik Gaming (EKG), is one industry expert that offers such hope for skill-influenced gaming. “I believe it is still a work in progress, but clearly has struggled to penetrate the market,” Eckert says. “The functionality and marketing of skill-based games on casino floors leaves much more to be done.” Eckert is one of those who offers the success of ETGs as potentially 14
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
analogous with skill-influenced games. “Even when looking at the first ETGs to hit casino floors, they underwent many changes and are still evolving today as they start to gain traction,” he says. “And these are games are based on table games—game formats that have not changed in many decades except for side bets and minor variants.” Eckert says that while a few of the skill-influenced manufacturers have appeared in EKG’s Eilers-Fantini earnings reports, they are not making a big splash compared to traditional games. “All of them earn for operators, but are arguably not earning to many operators’ expectations.”
Work in Progress Suppliers of skill-influenced games are clearly not ready to throw in any towels. Rather, most are working with customers to get feedback that will ultimately push the genre forward. “What we did was evolve the gaming genre from a period starting in about 2016 through 2020,” says Eric Meyerhofer, CEO of Gamblit Gaming. “In the four-year period, we saw a significant improvement in the win per unit per day on different titles. And it was really a journey of thinking about the demographic, how people play, what makes a good wager.” He adds that the arcade style that Gamblit and others began with lent itself to shorter play sessions than normal slots. “People found the games interesting to look at, and they drew people, but their sessions were short because often the game was more complex, and people had a hard time interpreting what makes a win. “So the evolution was to really simplify the games, make them tighter in terms of wager cycles, and shorten those cycles. After that, we saw at least a doubling, if not tripling of the win per unit per day on the games.” “Over time, this category has evolved from the early skill-based games into various interactive wagering models,” says Adam Rosenberg, president and CEO of GameCo. “These models can be represented in a few categories:
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“These models can be represented in a few categories: pure RNG games, hybrid RNG and skill games, and pure skill-based games. It is important to understand that even ‘skill-influenced’ can mean different things.” —Adam Rosenberg, President and CEO, GameCo
pure RNG games, hybrid RNG and skill games, and pure skill-based games. It is important to understand that even ‘skill-influenced’ can mean different things.” Next Gaming, founded by Four Queens and Binions owner Terry Caudill and Mike Darley, a 35-year casino operations veteran, was among the last suppliers to attack the skill-influenced game model. “In the last five years, there’s been a lot of growth,” says Next Gaming CEO Mike Darley. “There’s been a lot of growth within our different companies—us, Gamblit, GameCo, Synergy Blue, Competition Interactive. “All of us are on a big learning curve, putting product out on the floor, getting feedback from the guests, all those things you need to do. It has not been accepted as much as we had anticipated, but that doesn’t mean it’s not needed. It is absolutely needed on the casino floor to bring in a younger demographic and offer something that is gamblingunique to a slot player or any gaming player.”
Growing the Genre As suppliers and operators continue to ride the learning curve on skill-influenced games, the suppliers are evolving the genre according to the feedback they’ve received from customers. “Our product roadmap includes games having skill in the base game, others having skill only in the bonus round, and still others that involve player agency and interaction without skill,” says GameCo’s Rosenberg. “The ‘skill’ involved can also range from physical dexterity to strategy and decision-making to pattern-recognition, among other things. We believe the interactive wagering category should be quite broad, to provide the greatest possible diversity of games that are different, not just better.” Rosenberg says GameCo products to date have drawn a much younger audience than the slot market in general. “We found that peak revenue from our games comes from 30-year-old players, and demonstrated that over 80 percent of carded revenue from our units comes from players aged 21-49—a monetization rate for this group of approximately four times that of slot machines. “Furthermore, because of the ability to generate incremental revenue, we believe that the cannibalization rate of placing a GameCo machine on the floor is just a fraction of that of a replacement slot machine. We are excited about the continued evolution of our products and look forward to the release of our newest games in the near future.” For GameCo, the biggest successes have come from casual games like Mystery of the Secret Temple and Destination Tiki. “We have a number of new matching
and casual games coming out this fall, including a Star Trek Voyager: Delta Quest match game we are very excited about.” Gamblit was preparing to launch its fourth generation of games when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, according to Meyerhofer, who says the new batch took all the lessons from customer feedback into account, including a shorter wagering cycle. “We had only about 30 days data, but those games showed tremendous promise,” Meyerhofer says. “We had (launched) two particular titles that had approached about 90 percent of floor index, which for a game that has a much slower wager cycle than a slot machine was a pretty telling statistic as far as performance. “Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and we weren’t able to release our fourth generation set of games to floors, but we felt that those games really had rendered the lessons of the previous years into a form that was going to hit the floor index level, where operators were more comfortable at expanding to multiple games per location.” Those first two games were Navy Blitz and Lucky Words Connect. Meyerhofer says there were six others in submission behind that when last year’s shutdowns occurred. Next Gaming was achieving similar success prior to the shutdown, and Darley says interest in the company’s games has outlasted the pandemic crisis. “We’re really encouraged,” he says. “We were kind of last to the dance, but we’ve got placements now in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Northern California and Nevada, and the acceptance is good. “We’re really being very strategic in our placements to understand the demographic makeup of the casinos, and because we don’t want to put more product out there than we can service very well.” Data and feedback from the field has led to modifications to some of the games, including tutorial screens on the third monitor, “but we are encouraged by the expansion of our footprint,” Darley says. Next Gaming has widened the appeal of its product beyond the youngest patrons by featuring titles from Atari like Asteroids and Arkenoid. “Those are very familiar to an older demographic, no doubt about it,” Darley says. “And they love those games. The challenge to that specific demographic is while they like the games, it’s a smaller population of those that are willing to play those games now. It’s been interesting to learn that. If you go down into a younger demographic, we found out that what we anticipated is they’re more likely to play those games. SEPTEMBER 2021 www.ggbmagazine.com
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They’re not intimidated by them.” But the hottest Next Gaming title right now, says Darley, is Bust-AMove, a casino version of the popular bubble-popper internet game. “Bust-A -Move is being played more because it’s a match-three game,” he says “Tens of thousands of people play match-three; it’s a very casual game. You can play at your own pace. That seems to be the most popular right now. And it’s got a wide berth.”
“Bust-A-Move is being played more because it’s a match-three game. Tens of thousands of people play matchthree; it’s a very casual game.You can play at your own pace. That seems to be the most popular right now. And it’s got a wide berth.” —Mike Darley, CEO, Next Gaming
Into the Future? The evolution of skill-influenced games will no doubt continue as additional feedback is received. “The game play of many skill-based games still leaves much to be desired,” comments EKG’s Eckert. “As someone who grew up playing video games, the repetitive game play of current skill-based games is too simplistic to keep my attention for long.” Eckert says even the games targeted squarely at the Gen Z and millennial generations through their familiarity with mobile games are still subject to a learning curve. “Most mobile-based games are popular because of the quick and easily accessible game play that can entertain users for short and quick amounts of times,” he says, “whereas most casino patrons tend to play for hours.” Meanwhile, suppliers of skill-influenced games continue to tweak their product offerings, while keeping an eye on changing player demographics. “We at GameCo believe that player demographics are destined to change radically, disrupting legacy business models as existing customers continue to age out,” says GameCo’s Rosenberg. “Approximately 80 percent of landbased gambling revenue is slot revenue, yet younger people don’t play slot machines to the same extent as their older counterparts. “As operators, suppliers and content providers all struggle with how to update their offerings to appeal to this next-gen audience, we believe that our games will be critical in engaging this audience. Ultimately, those who get it right will generate massive incremental revenue from younger customers having a whole new lifetime value. We have been fortunate to have so much industry support during our evolution to date, and we believe that support lends credence to the importance of our strategy.” EKG’s Eckert notes that much of the future of skill-influenced gaming may be online. “I believe there is still room in brick-and-mortar locations for this segment to grow, but there seems to be more growth opportunity in the online casino space for this segment to thrive,” he says. As it happens, officials of Gamblit Gaming couldn’t agree more. Gamblit recently ceased land-based production and mothballed its hardware in favor of a concerted effort to port all its games for internet gaming. “We had been talking about pivoting to at least add an online component back in late 2018 and early 2019, and started to look into doing that,” says Meyerhofer. 16
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“The reason was, you could just see online really is a strong growth market, and companies that have an online business usually trade at higher multiples.” After last year’s closures, Meyerhofer says it was clear the land-based side would be disrupted for some time. “So we decided then to do a 100 percent pivot to online. We took the games in the land-based area and we converted them to HTML. “We have 10 titles completed. We have others in development now, and we’re looking at distribution options for partnering up with a company to bring that online content out. And then as far as reactivating our land-based side, I’m sure that’s a possibility in the future, but our focus for the foreseeable future, at this point is, is online.” For Next Gaming, the future lies in broader-appeal games that can be enjoyed by all age groups. “We had a couple sitting side by side playing Arkenoid,” Darley says, “and they were having so much fun because they were bantering—‘oh, do this,’ ‘oh, you can do that.’ ‘I’ll beat you.’ That’s a unique component for a slot experience, because spinning the reels on a video reel game won’t allow you to do that. “When the younger generation started populating the casinos, it was interesting to watch the resurgence of table games. It was just fascinating. They liked the social aspect of live table games, and especially craps, where they could go around the table and talk to each other. I think you can gain a similar experience playing our games.” As far as growing the genre, Darley says, all it will take is a leap of faith from operators to devote unused floor space to the skill-influenced genre, with the sole purpose of generating incremental revenue. “I think we’re simply part of that evolution of a slot floor, and of putting different product in the casinos,” he says. “I’m confident that it’s just going to take some time for a large population to understand that these games aren’t as intimidating as they think they are, and to have enough momentum within the industry to have them on the floor, to have people play them and have winning and entertaining experiences.”
Make your move This is one you’ll have to see to believe G2E BOOTH 4047
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Penn Point Why Penn National Gaming’s track record sets it up for additional successes
Penn National started as a racetrack company with a track of the same name near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and has grown exponentially since that time
By Roger Gros
or many years, Penn National Gaming has been the third-largest gaming company in the United States, trailing only Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts. Penn has managed to avoid the financial difficulties that have surrounded the top two, but few people realize that Penn has been an innovator for its entire existence as well. To start with, Penn National founder Peter Carlino truly redefined the term “racino” when Pennsylvania entered the gaming market and his Penn National Race Course was one of the first casinos to open. Carlino’s racinos weren’t just slot parlors attached to racetracks. They were full-fledged casinos that also offered horse racing. And those casinos were “Hollywood” branded—a brand that could adapt to every budget with different levels, with quality at every turn. Then Carlino invented the gaming real estate investment trust when he founded Gaming & Leisure Properties Inc. (GLPI). It led to an avalanche of gaming REITs, all of which have grown quickly and successfully over the past few years. Former Harrah’s executive Tim Wilmott was Carlino’s successor, and brought the Harrah’s family-style organization into Penn National, without the Harrah’s bureaucracy. In his 20 years as president, he led Penn through several purchases of rival regional gaming companies. And now that Wilmott has stepped down, his successor, another former Harrah’s executive, Jay Snowden, is taking Penn into the next generation of omnichannel gaming companies that are able to reach out to customers 24/7 to create memorable experiences. Even following the pandemic, Snowden is positive about the future of the company. “I couldn’t feel better about where the company is, all that we were able to do in the last 18 months, around launching our digital products in Pennsylvania and three other states,” he says. “And we’re going to be live in a total of nine states by the start of football season. “Our core brick-and-mortar business is producing revenues and EBITDA and margins like we’ve never seen before in the history of the industry. “We now own a media business that is one of the fastest-growing sports media businesses in the world. And I couldn’t feel better about how all three of those come together, and essentially how we think about building this out in the future. I think what we’re attempting to do really transcends any of those individual verticals of business.” 18
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
Online Options It was a risk, says Snowden, to take on the online gaming options when they first launched. But then the pandemic happened, turning everything on its head. Penn is now active in two states that have both online gaming and sports betting. New Jersey will be the third by the time the football season starts up in September, and several others have already been added to the list. “We found in Pennsylvania and Michigan that, in some cases, you’ve got customers who had traditionally been brick-and-mortar casino players only, because it was the only form of casino gambling at the time that was legal,” says Snowden. “And at the advent of online casino and online sports betting, the ones who decided to participate in both forms, maybe their play was down a little bit on the bricks-and-mortar side, but if you were to add what their engagement and their total spend was across the different platforms, in every scenario, it was higher.” The purchase of Barstool Sports in 2020 allowed Penn to concentrate on great service and platforms, says Snowden. “The Barstool ownership, and not having to get into the crazy arms race of paid advertising, and TV commercials with the biggest promotions and all of this chase for promiscuous customers, was the key,” he says. “We have a business across all the different verticals that is set up to have the best margin
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In addition to its digital presence, Penn National has branded all of its casino sportsbooks as Barstool Sportsbooks
Penn’s lone Las Vegas property, the M Resort, is experiencing something of a boom due to its partnership with its neighbor, the Las Vegas Raiders and their practice facility
profile. And so, I am indifferent. As long as we have people within this ecosystem that we’ve created, of experiences across sports betting and online casino and bricks-and-mortar casino, we don’t really care which of those you spend most of your time on. “We want to create experiences that generate loyalty and retention. Our focus right now is on making sure that we get launched in all of the states that are legal. That will create scale. We have to continue to improve our product offering, both from a digital standpoint and a core brick-and-mortar standpoint, and make sure that we’ve got differentiated experiences and content to keep people excited and coming back, because we’re doing things that no one else is doing.” While the Barstool deal makes sense now a year later, it was really the first of its kind, with a casino company and a media company merging. Snowden says it was a calculated risk. “You don’t know how a partnership is going to go when you’re working on the deal and getting ready to announce,” he says. “It’s like a honeymoon period. Everybody’s on their best behavior, and everybody’s getting along perfectly. And then after you announce the deal, you’ve got to start figuring out how to execute on the vision that you’ve articulated. So we’re now close to 18 months since we announced this in January 2020, and closed the deal in February 2020. And I take a step back and look at what we’ve been able to accomplish over the 18 months—and I think that (Barstool president and founder) Dave (Portnoy) and (CEO) Erika (Nardini) would certainly say that we’ve delivered on the things that we said we would be able to do, and they have absolutely delivered on the things that they said they would be able to do.” The Barstool demographic made it very attractive, says Snowden, and it has been reflected in the active sports bettors on the Barstool platform, which Snowden describes as “much younger” than the competing companies.
In addition to Barstool, Penn has recently acquired a game studio, HitPoint, based in Massachusetts. The object of this purchase was to create proprietary content that will only be available on Penn touchpoints. “We wanted to have control of that content roadmap, as it relates to what we’re going to be able to offer from a digital perspective,” says Snowden. “And we’ll have a few of those live at the start of football season, for online casino. You can expect to see new content coming out from that online studio every couple of months, from now going forward.” And finally, filling what Snowden calls the “missing piece,” Penn completed a deal for Score Media & Gaming (theScore), giving the company the leading access to sports betting in Canada, which was recently approved, but more importantly, the technology that comes with Score. The deal gives Penn its own technology, enabling it to cut ties with B2B vendors and produce “industry-leading margins.” “Importantly, the transaction provides us with a path to full control of our own tech stack,” says Snowden. “TheScore has developed a state-ofthe-art player account management system and is finalizing the development of an in-house managed risk and trading service platform.” While all these companies are owned by Penn—Barstool will undoubtedly be owned completely by Penn in a couple of years—the company will run each as separate businesses. “They’re our partners, and we treat them as partners,” he says. “We don’t treat them as an acquired business. We’re not going to change the way we look at them, and how we think about them as partners, and how we value them. They are a big part of what we do at Penn, and that’s not going to change.”
Land Locked For years, Penn’s regional casinos have been the focal point of the company. Over the last 20 years, Penn has gobbled up competitors, Hollywood Casinos, Argosy Casinos, Pinnacle Entertainment and many other smaller companies and properties. Its GLPI REIT trailblazed that sector and changed the financial structure of Penn National. But Snowden says, despite the focus on the interactive channels, the land-based casinos are still the company’s bread and butter. At the recent announcement of the company’s first-quarter earnings, Penn earned praise—and “buy” ratings—from a variety of analysts for its SEPTEMBER 2021 www.ggbmagazine.com
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“We’re in a good spot right now. Our businesses across brick and mortar, and digital and media are all growing, and they’re healthy, and the balance sheet is in great shape, because we did two capital raises last year, and we’re sitting on $3 billion in cash.” —Jay Snowden, President & CEO, Penn National Gaming
low debt load, impressive cash flow, organic growth and corporate stability. “In terms of the revenues and cash flow, we are still being predominantly driven by our core business, the brick-and-mortar casinos,” says Snowden. Penn is heavily invested in the Illinois market, and Snowden admits he’s concerned about a possible casino in downtown Chicago. But if the example of the new Hard Rock casino in Gary, in northern Indiana, which competes directly with Penn’s Ameristar East Chicago in eastern Illinois, is any indication, the impact may not be so bad. “If you look at our results at Ameristar along with the Horseshoe in Hammond, and Rivers in Des Plaines, all three of us are showing growth over 2019,” he explains. “The Hard Rock property is hitting numbers that they were hoping to hit, doing $20 million to $25 million a month in GGR. So I’m knocking on wood, but it looks like it’s more of a ‘grow the market’ story, than it is a cannibalization story.” In Las Vegas, Penn bought the M Resort at the far south end of Las Vegas Boulevard during the economic downturn in 2010. Five years later, it grabbed the Strip property Tropicana, but will end its management of that property shortly when Bally’s Corp. takes over. GLPI is still the landlord. Still, Snowden says Penn likes their Las Vegas position with M Resort. “What an amazing property that is,” he says. “Market share is great, as well as revenue growth and profitability. We’ve got great offerings. We’ve maintained the property very well. The Raiders’ practice facility is next door and we’re the official hotel of the Las Vegas Raiders. We just opened a Raiders lounge and a Raiders café. The property is executed extremely well, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the not-too-distant future if we’re talking about real expansion because we’re starting to bust out of our seams, which is a good problem to have.” Snowden says he doesn’t believe a Strip location is that important to Penn. “Given our strategy of omnichannel, it’s a lot more important that we have the best geographic footprint across the U.S.,” he says. “We can participate in land-based entertainment, as well as in digital and interactive entertainment. And our footprint does allow us to do that today. “Would it make sense for us to acquire a property on the Strip? I think it would have to be right price, right location, and something that we believed was going to attract, not just our loyal customers, but also the Barstool audience. I think at the right time and at the right price, right location, something like that can make a lot of sense. But we’re not trying to chase something down in Vegas.” As for additional expansion, Snowden thinks their regional penetration is complete. But he admits that markets that haven’t yet been legalized like Texas and Georgia remain options. “We’re in a good spot right now,” he says. “Our businesses across brick and mortar, and digital and media are all growing, and they’re healthy, and the balance sheet is in great shape, because we did two capital raises last year, and we’re sitting on $3 billion in cash. We can be patient and opportunistic and continue to just build out the offerings and the products and create 20
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great experiences for our customers, and just go after M&A where and when it might make sense for us.”
Simple Strengths Snowden believes the current trend toward cashless transactions blends well into Penn’s plans for the future. “We’re very bullish on the future of contactless, cardless, cashless technology in the casinos. We refer to it as the three C’s.” Snowden says the company’s Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has started operating cashless via a partnership with Everi. “It’s amazing,” he says. “If you download the mychoice app (Penn’s loyalty program) you can check your account information, and your offers and points. But now through that mychoice app, it now also acts as a wallet. There are lots of different ways that you can fund your wallet—credit, debit, cash at the cage, through the Everi devices that we have, ticket-in, ticket-out across the floor. And you don’t have to carry a piece of plastic anymore, you don’t have to carry cash. It’s fantastic from a security standpoint.” Snowden knows it’s crucial for cashless payments to be available in every channel and in a simplified manner. “You want to eliminate the friction,” he says. “You want people to have one account, and be able to bounce around within your app to your other offerings, so it’s seamless for them, it’s the same wallet, you can go to the casino, you can go back home and bet on the Bucks-Suns game tomorrow night. And that’s the vision.” In addition to being an innovator, Snowden believes there are two factors that make Penn National Gaming a success and able to avoid the financial troubles that sometimes buffet his two largest rivals. “First of all, I think we have the best people in the industry,” he says. “There’s a certain profile of person that we look for, when we’re hiring from executive all the way to our front line. And it’s people who are really passionate about joining the company, and subscribe to the vision that we’ve created—people who are going to be focused on delivering great experiences. “And the other factor is that we’ve always been disciplined in how we think about investments, how we think about capital allocation, how we think about M&A. I think our track record’s been really good, where we’ve set the company up for success. We’ve been able to continue to grow. We’ve diversified. We were able to pivot, and move from a horseracing company to a horseracing and casino company. “And then we started getting into the social gaming business, we spun off our real estate. We’ve been sort of a trailblazer in a lot of different areas, and I don’t think you should expect that to change. If anything, I think you should expect that to accelerate, because we thrive in environments of chaos. “We’ve proven that a lot over the last 18 months. We welcome it. We think we can navigate it. We operate as a really flat organization, so people are empowered to make decisions. And we move quickly. If we make mistakes, we admit it, and we move on. But we’re not afraid to make those mistakes, and I think that really makes us different.” To hear a full podcast of the interview with Jay Snowden, visit GGBMagazine.com.
JCM Global Celebrates Women in Leadership
Vice President, Finance and Legal
KAREN CARNEVALE Director of Human Resources
Director of Operations
With more than 90 years of combined experience in their fields, Dana Talich, Karen Carnevale, and Jane Sia comprise nearly half of the executive management team at JCM Global® (JCM). Their expertise and experience are a large part of why operators of all sizes rely on JCM.
ana Talich is Vice President – Finance and Legal for JCM and is responsible for all financial, legal, compliance, and information technology areas of the company. JCM relies heavily on Dana’s knowledge and over 30 years of experience to ensure it remains in good regulatory standing in over 200 gaming jurisdictions where the company is licensed and operates. Karen Carnevale is Director of Human Resources for JCM and coordinates the development and implementation of employee support services, developmental programs, and recognition awards. Karen has been in the human resources field for more than 30 years, working in casino operations, healthcare, construction, and manufacturing. Karen’s breadth of experience in the gaming industry made her a great fit for JCM when she joined the leadership team in 2011. Jane Sia is the Director of Operations for JCM and oversees the company’s day-to-day activities, including production, purchasing, warehouse and shipping/receiving. Joining JCM in
2010, she started as Supply Chain Manager with over 20 years of experience. As Treasurer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) and Certified in Planning and Inventory Management (CPIM), Jane has the international expertise necessary to tackle the many challenges currently related to the global supply chain.
JCM greatly appreciates the contributions of these women in leadership, as well as the many other amazing women making an impact on gaming today. With them leading the way, JCM and the industry at large have bright futures ahead.
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Barstool Basics Erika Nardini Chief Executive Officer, Barstool Sports
arstool Sports was founded in 2004 by David Portnoy, respectfully now referred to as “El Presidente.” Erika Nardini was appointed CEO in 2016 and brought smart business sense and a tough negotiating stance to Barstool. The company has experienced explosive growth since that time. With more than 100 million members, Barstool has a wider reach than such sites as ESPN Digital, the Washington Post, Turner Broadcasting and The New York Times. For a full Zoom podcast of this interview, visit GGBMagazine.com.
GGB: You joined Barstool long before sports betting was legalized in the U.S. and before most people thought it would be. Was there any strategy or plan surrounding a possible legalization of sports betting at that time? Erika Nardini: I joined Barstool in 2016. Dave Portnoy started Barstool in
2004. I think he was betting long before that. So, sports betting was always part of Barstool’s DNA. Dave liked to talk about his bets, he liked to complain about his bets. He brought on Barstool Big Cat, who was doing the same thing. So, I don’t think we could have foreseen PASPA being repealed, and what a tremendous change that would create for us as a company. But once we saw the winds change, and the light at the end of the tunnel, that this could be a reality in the U.S., we knew that was going to be a game-changer for this company. Once it did become legal, what kind of strategy did you have then? Do you approach other gaming companies, or do they come to you?
Barstool had been working with both FanDuel and DraftKings for years, as well as a lot of different casinos and betting companies. We first really went about what I could call a “rental” strategy, whereby we had multiple sports betting and fantasy partners. We segmented them into different types of programming—we really had a horse racing partner, bringing our content, bringing our personality, and ensuring that converted for multiple partners. It had a positive effect on our revenue, because everyone was competing for a finite set of assets at Barstool. We set about having a ton of conversations. There’s really not many companies in the industry we didn’t talk to. And Penn ultimately became the right fit. So, what was it about Penn that made them so special?
There was a couple things about Penn. The first is that we got on with the Penn crew really well. When you start a partnership, you have to consider, could your company mesh up with somebody else’s company? And we had good chemistry, from the start, which is really important to both Dave and myself. The second piece is, Penn had everything we didn’t, which was essentially guns, money, and steel. They had licenses. They had the casinos. They had a lot of margin. They have a national footprint, as the largest retail regional casino operator. We had everything Penn didn’t. We understood the internet better than anybody. We had a brand that was beloved. We’re making content in sports
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betting, that I would say is some of the best content out there today. And we had a brand that was recognizable. Two years ago, not many people were talking about Penn or Penn National, the way that they are now. And so, what we felt is the marriage of those two things could be really successful, and really great for both audiences. So how has your relationship been with Penn, now that you’re in the trenches with them?
It’s been great. We’ve really enjoyed our partnership. We’ve collaborated, we’ve made a lot of different things happen. We’ve tried a lot of different promotions. We’ve launched an app. We’re gunning it to be live in as many states as possible. So, it by all means has been a sprint. I think we’ve learned a lot from them. And I think they’ve learned a lot from us, which is, I think, the best thing you can say from a partnership. Penn owns 36 percent of Barstool right now, and they have an option to buy the entire company. How will your role and Dave’s role change, if they exercise that option?
That’s a great question. So, hopefully Jay will keep us. Part of the reason Penn structured the investment in such a way as the acquisition would happen, they didn’t have any experience with a media company or an internet company. And we are decidedly an internet media company. And so, I don’t foresee there being a huge change in either Dave’s role or mine. I think we’ll take on additional responsibility. I think we will bring the companies closer together. I think we may operate some things slightly differently. But, you know, at the end of the day, what we are trying to do is to grow a big, beloved sports betting brand. And we are looking to create an experience that is fun and rewarding for our audience, and we’re looking to showcase that experience, promote that experience, engage people around that experience, using content and the internet. Barstool is much more than just a sports betting and gambling app. It’s about a lifestyle. Does that make it more sticky than other sports betting apps?
I think consumers care about a bunch of things. I think they care about a good product. And there’s a lot of really good sports betting products out there. There’s a lot of very sophisticated companies in this space. What our differentiator is, is that when you say the words “Barstool Sports” or “Barstool Sportsbook,” or “Big Cat” or “Dave Portnoy” or “Kayce Smith” or “Ryan Whitney,” it means something. It conjures up the idea of a person. And we have a brand that is human, and, yes, flawed and fallible and magic and funny and self-deprecating and authoritative. We have all of those things. So when they bet with Barstool Sports, it’s like they’re betting with Dave, or they’re betting with Big Cat—they’re part of something. And you cannot buy or strategize your way into being part of something. Being part of something means that you’ve created something that is memorable, and stands for something, and has feeling associated with it. And that’s really why we are so cultural.
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It looks like you really look out for your core demographics. From unboxing frozen pizza products during the pandemic, which gave visibility to struggling businesses, to the recent drive to raise money for small businesses that were negatively impacted during this time. It takes a compassion to do that. It seems like that’s not really planned to any extent; that really comes from the heart.
Yeah, it does. We kind of do it, and then figure out how to do it. We’ve done a lot of that. When the NCAA women’s golfers were not able to play in their regional final, it was really upsetting. So within 72 hours, we created an incredible golf tournament, just for female athletes. The Barstool Fund—we’ve raised over $41 million for small businesses, at a time when the government wasn’t stepping up, the legislators hadn’t stepped up, chambers of commerce hadn’t stepped up. So we stepped up for small businesses. We didn’t have a PowerPoint or a plan at the beginning of 2020 to say, “Hey, we’re gonna raise money for small businesses.” It happened on a Friday afternoon. We had it in motion by Sunday. You know, just today, we announced that we’re creating our own 501(c)(3), for the Barstool Fund, so we’ll continue to help small businesses. So, there is a lot of compassion in this company. There’s also a lot of “Do it first and figure it out later,” which I also think is part of what makes us so exciting.
Penn has also branded its bricks-and-mortar sportsbooks as Barstool Sportsbooks. How do you ensure that the Barstool online experience translates to the in-person experience?
That’s very important to us. One of the things that’s so important to us is that when you see Barstool, you know it’s Barstool. It should look like Barstool, it should smell like Barstool, it should taste like Barstool. So, we’re maniacs, if you ask the Penn people, about that. You know, we are very eager to have our own line of sports bars. We’re not going to retrofit our brand into things that just don’t feel right. And we’re pretty ornery about that, I would say. But it’s important, because that’s the fastest way to kill something, to make it not stand for anything. How do you find employees who really “get it,” and create loyalty throughout the brand?
That’s the hardest thing. First, we’ve been fortunate in that we have eyes for the internet, so we can understand people who really work and can stand out on the internet. I think in a way where we can get people earlier than anyone else can. I think the second thing is, we have an incredible college program, whereby, we’re finding people to intern for us, when they’re 18, 19 years old. And by the time they enter the workforce, they get our brand; we’ve seen who’s good and who’s not good. So, we’re able to have our pick. We’re fortunate in that people want to work here; we’re really grateful for that. But we also want to choose the best.
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Room at the The advancement of women in gaming, especially in the upper ranks, is being achieved on multiple fronts: through social pressure, corporate fiat and perhaps most importantly, generational change
By Marjorie Preston
inger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did—backwards and in heels.” That old saw, attributed to former Texas Governor Ann Richards, onetime Pennsylvania Rep. Faith Whittlesey, and Ginger herself, was more likely coined by cartoonist Bob Thaves for the comic strip Frank and Ernest. With a single line and a few brushstrokes, Thaves summed up the ageold dance between men and women in the workplace—and the distinct challenges faced by those in heels. The strip appeared in the 1980s, as unprecedented numbers of women stormed jobs historically held by men. From 1972 to 1985, women in management nearly doubled (though the leading jobs for women fell into predictable, traditional categories: secretary, teacher, clerk, cashier). But that was then. It’s no longer a man’s world, on the job or elsewhere. In 2021, you’d be hard-pressed to find a large corporation that doesn’t make much of its diversity and gender-equity initiatives, and the number of women in its ranks. How’s the gaming industry doing? Let’s look at the dance card.
Minority Report By overall population, women outnumber men, but in workplace leadership, they’re still a minority. In 2017, gaming industry veterans Christina ThakorRankin and Kelly Kehn founded the All-In Diversity Project to tilt the needle toward greater inclusion for women and other underrepresented groups. Four years in, Thakor-Rankin has seen progress. “What’s positive is that what used to be just some companies is starting to change into many companies,” she says. “This is a huge shift psychologically, for a whole range of reasons: from changing product and customer demographics to the realization that talent and skill are not the preserve of just men. But we may need to wait a little while longer for it to translate to physical numbers of women at the top.” 24
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And how. According to Catalyst.org, in general, the higher you go up the career ladder, the fewer the women you’ll see. As of 2019, women made up 30 percent of corporate vice presidents, 26 percent of senior VPs and only 21 percent of CEOs. In gaming, people like Denise Coates, the billionaire CEO of Bet365, and Jette Nygaard-Andersen, recently tapped as CEO at Entain, are breakthrough examples of women wielding incredible power and influence in the industry. “They’ve shown that women at the helm don’t only perform, they outperform their male counterparts,” says Thakor-Rankin. According to All-In Diversity’s All-Index, which looks at how gaming jobs break down by gender, there are far more women in human resources (75 percent), and far fewer in IT (17 percent) and financial jobs that can lead to the C-suite. That’s changing, too. “Oddly enough, the change is more geographic than anything else,” says Thakor-Rankin. “In those parts of the world where technology is a driver for national economic success—such as Eastern Europe or India—there are far more women in traditionally male tech roles.” In the U.S., with a greater emphasis on STEM education for girls and young women, the change is likely to be more organic.
Having Their Say Global Gaming Women (GGW), established in 2016, creates forums for women in business to “learn from one another, create lasting connections, and nurture emerging women leaders.” A foundational leadership course addresses what could be considered a touchy subject, even a stereotype—the reluctance of some women to assert themselves. A 2012 study by Brigham Young University and Princeton found that in working groups, women spoke out just two-thirds as often as men; according to study co-author Tali Mendelberg, they were “less likely to be viewed and to view themselves as influential in the group and to feel that their ‘voice is heard’”
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this will know what’s wrong with these pictures. And yes, it’s from 2021.” In an attempt at damage control, the show’s organizer said, “The sad fact is there are not many women CEOs in the gaming industry’s leading companies.” He added that some women who were asked to participate declined. Gagnon, for one, isn’t buying it. “When people say, ‘I couldn’t find a qualified woman for that panel,’ I fundamentally believe they haven’t looked hard enough—or else they have the wrong network.”
‘Tip of the Iceberg’
“If you’re hiring someone most like yourself, who makes you feel comfortable, maybe you’re not picking the right person to make it a diverse thought team.” —Holly Gagnon, Global Gaming Women, HGC Hospitality Gaming Consulting
Which brings us to the uncomfortable issue of tokenism. If there’s only one woman on a panel, is she a token, a standard-bearer—or a bit of both? “The word ‘token’ is a Catch-22,” says Gagnon. “You think, it’s 2021; do we really need quotas to have the most talented people in a position? The other side of that coin is, over and over again I’ve heard from women, ‘Until I saw you in that role, I didn’t believe it was possible.’” So, can companies address inequities in the workplace while avoiding tokenism, quotas or the perception of same? Maybe not, at least to start. “The problem with quotas and tokens is that they focus on just one thing—the tip of the iceberg,” says Thakor-Rankin. “As one of the only women who regularly chairs events as well as taking part in panels on traditionally male subjects, I can relate entirely. “It’s important, though, because those starting their careers need to see role models as something to aim for—in the absence of role models, the implied message is, ‘You can get so far and that’s it, so better shift sector now.’” She agrees that the support of others in the same boat could very well be indispensable. “Sometimes this support is emotional and human—the peer group network you can sound off to, who can relate to your feelings and frustrations. Men have this, as they’re in the majority. Not so easy if you’re the only woman. Who do you go to? This can be incredibly isolating—even more so where the appointment of the female came at the expense of one of the male group’s preferred candidates.” Joann Pierce, head of business development for iGaming platform provider GAN, spent years in the business, in roles with increasing scope and responsibility. After taking a break to raise children, she found it was an uphill battle getting back to work. “Now I was a stay-at-home mom, the CEO of a household, competing with people who had maintained their careers and those just coming out of college,” she says. “That’s when the importance of having a strong network
(emphasis added). In the words of BYU Magazine, in these situations, “having a seat at the table does not mean having a voice.” Sure, the study is a decade old, but longstanding cultural roles don’t change overnight. Holly Gagnon, owner of HGC Hospitality Gaming Consulting, is past president and CEO of Seminole Gaming, a distinguished fellow of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a founding board member of GGW and chairwoman of its mentoring committee. She says when women participate fully in peer mentorships and the group’s Lean-In Circles, they see greater progress in their careers. “The biggest feedback we get is the feeling of inclusion and not being alone—there’s a whole concept of being the ‘only.’ How many times has a woman in a meeting been the only woman? Lean-In Circles provide a feeling of being seen and identified—‘Here’s somebody who gets me.’ Women can talk about what they’re experiencing and see how others have navigated the same situations.” In January, a gaming awards event came under fire when the judging panel of 52 people contained a single woman. As All-In Di—Christina Thakor-Rankin, Co-founder, All In Diversity versity wryly posted: “The women reading
“Generation Z is the first fully multicultural, multi-dimensional generation. As they start to become the majority, they’ll continue to push change based on their expectations as employers, employees and consumers.”
SEPTEMBER 2021 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Q&A: Women at Work Wendy Montgomery Senior Vice President of Global Brand, Marketing and Communications, IGT
hen it comes to support for women, IGT took a bold step forward with its new policy to ship breast milk home for working mothers on the road. Wendy Montgomery, co-executive sponsor of WIN with IGT (the Women’s Inclusion Network), speaks about that generous program, and other ways IGT works to advance women at work. GGB: In 2019, women made up 47 percent of the workforce but held just 21 percent of CEO positions. In other words, the higher up, the fewer women. When you look around the executive ranks at IGT, are you happy with women’s representation there? Wendy Montgomery: Although there’s still
room for progress in IGT’s upper management roles, I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made to date. We’ve increased the number of women on the executive leadership team over the last four years, and implemented processes to ensure the advancement of women throughout all verticals of the company. We’ve also invested in training that bring awareness to gender biases. As a result, we were recognized as one of 325 companies across 50 industries around the globe for our commitment to advancing women’s equality, as part of the 2020 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index. Studies show women fill more administrative and supporting jobs, while there are more men in operations, P&L and R&D—all of which can lead to CEO and board-level positions. Will it take another generation for those ratios to be more balanced?
IGT has women in highly visible positions throughout the company and on our board of directors. Our chief technology officer of global gaming and lottery (Rachel Barber) is a woman, who rose through the ranks from her early days of being a software engineer. Despite these important examples, there’s a lot of room for growth, and I believe it will benefit all our stakeholders to have more women holding P&L responsibility and leading more technical functions. IGT empowers women in all
Grant Denton, founder of The Karma Box Project with IGT employees and WIN members Beth Smith and Cari Blomquist
roles, and encourages them to bring their best selves to work, no matter where their scope or “level” falls within the organization. I think any gaps that exist today will continue to narrow over the next few years, but I don’t believe it will require a generation. What are women in the ranks telling you about the programs IGT now offers for women?
As co-executive sponsor of WIN with IGT, I’m able to see firsthand the impact these programs have. Last year, we piloted a global six-month mentorship opportunity. About 30 mentees were paired up with senior-level mentors, including myself. I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my career to have a several female mentors, so I jumped at the opportunity. And as a mother to a 15-year-old son, I know how challenging it can be to juggle work and parenting. Earlier this year, IGT issued its first Parent Guide for employees in the U.S.—a project that had deep meaning to me and so many others. This guide was a direct result of employees wanting to share challenges they’ve faced as working parents and on their diverse paths to parenthood—for example, infertility, the need for miscarriage bereavement and the need to ship breast milk home while traveling. I was so proud to see it come to fruition. Employees from all parts of the organization contributed to its success, and an equally diverse set of employees will benefit from its contents.
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became very clear. As part of GGW, I could pick up the phone and have discussions about those challenges and be real about it.” It may be that women face tougher decisions about the work-life split, particularly when it comes to motherhood. “You can’t sustain a pace that allows you to be successful if you’re falling short on the intangibles of life,” says Pierce, who set aside inviolate “time blocks”—say, 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.—when her children were young. “I could be busy writing a report or busy chopping up bananas. “I talk less about work-life balance and more about integration... But if you choose to be nursing a baby while you’re going for that CFO position, it can happen. Let’s start a plan to do it.” GAN became a GGW sponsor in February, but Pierce says the company had already bought into its mission. “I haven’t seen a situation at GAN where women didn’t have the same opportunity. There are women in tech roles and in executive roles. “There are women in project management, product development, technical, marketing and finance. I cannot honestly think of a department that’s not equally balanced, in my view.” So an alliance with GGW was a good fit, “very appealing to us in terms of the programs they offer.”
Strength in Numbers Sometimes change follows upheaval—as at Wynn Resorts. In 2018, in the aftermath of the sexualharassment scandal that sent Steve Wynn packing, the company added three women directors. Now they comprise 36 percent of the board, making Wynn one of the Top 40 S&P 500 companies in terms of female board representation. And by the way, Fortune magazine just named Wynn Resorts one of the year’s “World’s Most Admired Companies.” Other global operators, such as MGM Resorts and Caesars, have publicly declared they’re on the path to gender equality in management and the directorial ranks in the next few years. Even without those policies, says ThakorRankin, things are changing, because the world itself is changing. “Companies, organizations are a reflection of society—investor, employees and customers. Generation Z is the first fully multicultural, multi-dimensional generation. Their ex-
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“I don’t want to get the position because I’m a woman. It’s not about what I am but who I am. How hard I work. My integrity and loyalty.” —Joann Pierce, Director of Business Development, GAN
pectations of what’s acceptable are very different to previous generations. “They don’t believe in racial or cultural stereotypes, and they have no fear of calling out what they consider to be inappropriate. As they start to become the majority, they’ll continue to push change based on their expectations as employers, employees and consumers.” It bears repeating that diversity is good business. “The research says a diverse organization with a diverse board performs at a more profitable, sustainable level,” says Gagnon. “I think organizations and boards are recognizing that diversity of thought leads to better outcomes.” Awareness is pivotal at every rung of the ladder, perhaps most fundamentally in the hiring process, where unconscious bias may exclude qualified applicants. “Sometimes a candidate may feel very comfortable to you,” says Gagnon. “That’s when you have to ask yourself. ‘Why am I comfortable? Is it because they mirror me?’ If you’re picking someone most like yourself, who makes
you feel comfortable, maybe you’re not picking the right person to make it a diverse thought team. Comfort can be complacency. As Ann Simmons Nicholson on the GGW board often says, ‘If you’re uncomfortable, you’re learning.’” Echoing Thakor-Rankin, she says, “I have the fortunate opportunity to work with men, younger men, and they don’t see gender. They see capability and effectiveness. Things are changing.” While companies are on board with the philosophy of inclusion, advancement for women in business isn’t something to be bestowed, like a favor or a gift. It’s something to be achieved, says Pierce.“I don’t want the position because I’m a woman. I want it because I’m the right person for the job, because I earned it. It’s not about what I am, but who I am. How hard I work. My integrity and loyalty. Regardless of gender. “I am a South Side Chicago girl. I have seen all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds, go out and go after their goals. I carry that ‘just go get it’ mindset with me every day.”
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The Reno Recovery Why diversification worked for this gaming destination By David Ross
instein once said, “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity.” Reno, once a hub of gaming in Northern Nevada, lost its great casinos to Indian gaming in neighboring California. Amid that disaster, Reno seized the opportunity. It diversified, forging a renaissance that created a home for manufacturing and high tech—and gaming too, because casinos thrive in humming economies. Today Reno’s population is larger than when it was a casino town. It is the fastest growing city in the U.S., a few miles from the largest industrial park in the world. Here, you can have a good-paying career, raise a family, and join new industries that are changing the face of America. It’s also a gateway to some of best outdoor experiences in the West. As much as anything, Harrah’s Reno, which Bill Harrah opened in 1932 as Harrah’s Club Bingo, is the face of the new Reno. A Las Vegas developer purchased it in October 2020 for $41.5 million and plans a multi-use development called Reno City Center. This is how it happened.
Tribal Tribulations Ken Adams, who publishes CDC Gaming Reports, and who has been an observer and participant in the Reno scene for decades, notes that in 2007 Reno’s revenues dropped by two-thirds. “The impact of Indian casinos was that Reno lost somewhere between 20 and 25 casinos between 1990 and when the last one (Harrah’s) closed,” says Adams. “The industry shrank proportionately.” In the 1980s, a local reporter wrote that 25 percent were employed in gaming. “The real impact left Reno without anything to bank its future on. Any career person in the industry went elsewhere. Those who stayed had jobs that weren’t very secure. The casinos that stayed—like the Atlantis and the Peppermill—were well placed in a local neighborhood. They were the only ones that were secure.” The Eldorado was the first casino in Reno to diversify, says Adams. It bought a casino in Louisiana. “Harrah’s as a corporation simply ignored Reno,” Adams says. “They didn’t keep the property up but continued to use it. They couldn’t sell it because it had $100 million in deferred maintenance. That’s what Reno looked like.” Then things started to happen. One was in the midtown area. The other was at the new industrial park, east of Reno, in another county, but still a major source of economic strength for the city. Another factor is unusual: Reno became base for the iconic Burning Man festival, which happens in the desert a hundred miles away. Reno is the closest city to the festival, which attracts 50,000 revelers each August. They create a 28
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Virginia Street, the former hotbed of casinos, has fallen into disrepair
“city” that, afterwards, vanishes as everyone carts it all away. Someplace has got to supply it. As Adams describes it, “A woman who owned a used clothing store started to sell costumes to Burning Man participants. Costume stores and then restaurants and other things grew up around that district. It had a yearround presence, but a definite presence once a year. People would stop on their way to Burning Man.”
Burning Growth Today, Reno is so identified with Burning Man in that many pieces of municipal art come from the festival. Examples: The 40-foot-long Space Whale sculpture in City Plaza, the 12-foot-high steel “Believe” sign and the
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The former Harrah’s Reno is set to become a multi-use residential development
The Grand Sierra and other casinos away from the center of town have thrived as a result of the diversified economy
Guardian of Eden that debuted at Burning Man and sits at the entrance to the Nevada Museum of Art. The next big idea was for the “Biggest Little City in the World” was the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, considered the largest industrial park in the world at 107,000 acres and 160 square miles. Then-Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (now president of the University of Nevada, Reno) ac“A rising tide lifts all boats tively promoted the project. “He negotiated with Tesla and diversification is key.” to build Tesla Gigafactory 1. —Chris Abraham, Senior Vice President Tesla inspired Panasonic and of Marketing, Grand Sierra many other tech companies to look at Reno,” says Adams. “At the same time we underwent a change in thought process,” continues Adams. “The mayor was a former casino guy, very effective at the business level in trying to do the old way of business. Then we elected a young woman mayor who was interested in changing the business model and going to high tech.” Hillary Schieve, elected in 2016, is still mayor. “She’s been very supportive of the process although some of the city council were not terribly in favor,” says Adams. “Some tax deferment wasn’t popular. It was anti-business attitude. The governor got past all that. Now people complain not as much.” A key person in diversification was Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. This nonprofit works with governments and private entities. The Reno of a decade ago was “at the bottom of a long slide at the end of the Great Recession,” he recalls. “In 2011, unemployment was 11 percent. The gaming economy had dried up. Travel gaming was being sidetracked by new Indian casinos along the interstate. People didn’t need to go to Reno. Because of the recession people didn’t have money to travel. We didn’t have much tourism which was linked to gaming. The industry was in decline. In fact, it was obvious in Reno before it was in Vegas. Reno had been in slow decline. The flagship casi-
nos went elsewhere.” As a second-tier gaming city, Reno was used to cycles. To rebounding from cycles. “This time, we weren’t rebounding,” says Kazmierski. After five years, the city remained in a slump. “The community realized it needed to change. A newspaper called Reno ‘the Detroit of the West.’ That was the environment in 2011. They decided to do economic development differently and invited me in.” Part of that was diversification. “We laid out a plan to attract advanced manufacturing, which I knew was fleeing California. We had insignificant manufacturing. We had no data centers. I had experience with data centers and we were fortunate to get Apple. We had no real entrepreneur growth, which was going to the Bay Area.” They had a three-pronged goal: • Advanced manufacturing • Data centers • Entrepreneurial growth They leveraged Reno’s geographic location. “Reno is literally the center of the West when it comes to logistics and ground transportation,” says Kazmierski. “It’s the only city where you can drive to the 11 Western states in one day.” Kazmierski witnessed the transformation. “We led it,” he says. “The local economy and local governments here support us and are on our board. The board led the effort, supported and participated in the programs we were doing. It was very much a collaborative approach. The community understood we couldn’t go back to where we were before—we needed a new direction.” Tesla came in 2015. “We brought in 40 companies before Tesla even looked at us,” says Kazmierski. “But by landing Tesla, we used that to market the region even more aggressively. Tesla let us rebrand the region.” These manufacturing hubs, says Kazmierski, “are more advanced technology than most people realize. The whole Tesla facility is all engineers and desk space; the lower level is robots. It’s high-paying, quality jobs, and not what people think of as manufacturing from 50 years ago.” The Tahoe Reno Industrial Center is home to Tesla, Panasonic and 20 other companies employing a total of 10,000. “The reason advanced manufacturing is so important is, it gives you quality jobs you need for the future,” says Kazmierski. “They don’t ebb and flow. They are going to operate no matter what the economy. We operated just fine during the pandemic. Our entrepreneurs worked from home. It’s a very stable part of the economy. Data centers are an important part of our economy. SEPTEMBER 2021 www.ggbmagazine.com
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“We rebranded a quality of life to attract visitors and the talent to fill these jobs. Where the quality of life isn’t spending an hour and a half in a commute.Where you can raise your family. Quality of life was an important component.” — Mike Kazmierski, President and CEO, Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada
“We rebranded a quality of life to attract visitors and the talent to fill these jobs. Where the quality of life isn’t spending an hour and a half in a commute. Where you can raise your family. Quality of life was an important component.” As a result, casinos fill up in midweek from the locals. “The casinos,” says Kazmierski, “just had their best year ever, even through a year of the pandemic. Unlike Las Vegas. Because our people work up here and drive traffic from California, and because people work here and couldn’t travel. Our revenues were actually up. As we come out of the pandemic, tourism is filling up the weekends and business (i.e., conventions) activity is filling up the midweek.”
Casinos Continue Gaming, says Kazmierski, “is still a very important but declining part of our economy. It’s gone from the cake and frosting to just the frosting. It no longer drives our ability to be economically stable.” Reno’s population rose 30 percent in 10 years. “Part of that,” Kazmierski says, “is job opportunities, and some people who had left coming back. Heavy construction and home building is off the charts. We’re ranked as the fastest growing city in the nation. And the best city to raise a family.” Christopher Abraham, senior vice president of marketing for the Grand Sierra Casino, a locally oriented property, is a fan of diversification. “It benefits all business, everyone across the board. A rising tide lifts all boats and diversification is key,” he says. “We aren’t relying on one industry. Reno has many positive things about it. Nevada has a business-friendly environment. We are centrally located to the West Coast. We’ve made some tax incentives for major companies to relocate including Tesla—Google has a campus; Panasonic and Switch, which is data storage—just to name a few.” Collateral benefits include a strong local economy buoyed by tech manufacturers. “It strengthens the local economy,” says Abraham. “They have hired many people. Local wages have risen significantly. We have low unemployment. The airport has more direct flights than ever in history. You can see the runway from our building. More people are relocating here—and when family and friends visit, they need places to stay.” He adds, “We have a fantastic hotel and 200,000 square feet of business space. Many amenities for business travelers and people checking out the market. We are the first property they see when they leave the plane. If they stay here they get to know our products and our amenities. We see a lot of that business travel.” Abraham is bullish on diversification for other reasons: “We are probably 30
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
one of the few Reno resorts that does less than 50 percent of its business in gaming,” he says. “We have 200 rooms and an entertainment venue that seats close to 3,000, a big pool, bowling alley, retail shopping, and an RV park. We have many revenue centers. Gaming is just one part of what we do here.” Grand Sierra belongs to local chambers of commerce and economic development associations. “We’re part of the effort to bring business here to Reno/Tahoe,” says Abraham. “Every time a new business locates here it’s beneficial to us. We actively promote Reno/Tahoe as a destination.” Reno City Manager Doug Thornley came to Reno less than a year ago, as a newcomer who appreciates its positives and negatives. “We are less subject to the ebbs and flows of tourism, but that’s not to say it’s not an incredibly important part of the economy,” Thornley says. “The way it happened has put stress on the housing market and the manner we deliver services. A growing city doesn’t necessary mean revenue keeps up with growth. But again, it is a better spot than we were in 2008, 2009 or 2010.” The city is growing at a “parabolic rate.” “It’s extremely difficult to buy a house in the Reno-Sparks area (that includes Storey and Washoe counties). Certainly a hard-working and important part of the local economy are cut out of that,” says Thornley. “Single-family homes are becoming less attainable. We see a lot of development of apartments and condos, and we would love to see more infill.” Nevada’s property tax system, says Thornley, has “stressed services and makes for long-term challenges.” The technology park is in neighboring Storey County. “The taxes stay there but our residents go to work there,” says Thornley. “The development is largely positive, but in terms of service delivery and doing things for our citizenry it is a unique challenge.” Harrah’s conversion into a mixed-use development is emblematic of the times, says Thornley. Reno is also working with Washoe County to take over homeless shelters, so CDBG and HUD money can be repurposed for low-income housing. The gaming industry, Thornley notes, is doing just fine. “The GSR (Grand Sierra Resort) had a run that was their best on record in the spring,” he says. “Caesars is doing well and room nights have ticked up. We have a significant drive in the market that differentiates us from Las Vegas. Reno is not as dependent on the national fly-in. Because our casinos are so accessible they have fared well coming out of this pandemic.” Thornley sees Reno as “on the precipice of really exciting things. We have a business-friendly climate. We are trying to attract light industry and those who want to make the jump from California. Our future is really bright. Now after having been focused on the pandemic, we’re ready to take the next steps and make it happen.”
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EMERGING LEADERS Dreaming Bigger is Better Don-Lee Hardy Safety Specialist, Sycuan Casino Resort on-Lee Hardy graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice administration and big dreams to break into the criminal justice world, when his actual dream job was unexpectedly thrown into his lap. As he was waiting for his background checks at several law enforcement agencies to clear, he accepted a job working security at a local casino in the interim. After a year of working in security, he transferred into surveillance and quickly realized how much he enjoyed working in this new realm. Hardy took great satisfaction in this particular field because of its expansive overview of all facets of casino operations. In a few short years, he worked his way up from surveillance operator to department trainer, and again up to shift manager and the opportunity to build a department at a newly opening casino from the ground up. He did everything from hiring team members to forming policies and procedures, and in August 2019, he joined Sycuan Casino Resort as a safety specialist. Hardy was quickly taken by the positive culture at Sycuan, which clearly trickled from the top down. He was impressed by the level of involvement that the tribal council members had in operations and making themselves available to team members. Describing Sycuan as “a great place to work,” Hardy notes their ambition to innovate, heartened by the fact that “because that’s how we’ve always done it” is not in their repertoire when it comes to creating and improving systems. With their willingness to try new strategies and take chances, they have consistently succeeded in improving quality for guests and team members alike. The Covid-19 pandemic was perhaps the perfect illustration of a time when forward thinking had never been more crucial. With the unique challenges the pandemic brought, it also inspired new thinking, from team member and guest accountability, headcount, and overcrowding prevention, to the hiring of safety agents, and to the rearranging of events, restaurants, table games and slot machines. Guiding Sycuan’s best practices was an enormous ordeal, and the pro-
Virtual Reader gressive approach of Hardy’s team was integral to the casino’s success. When Hardy flashes back to the pivotal moment that had the greatest impact on his career, it was the jump from his comfort zone of surveillance to internal audit. This change was far different than what he had experienced previously, and helped him transition into the field of safety. In the safety world, the risks are higher due to factoring in the well-being of team members and guests. In internal audit, the focus is on ensuring strong controls and regulations, which he also takes very seriously. This change involved a leap of faith on his part, but with the support he received from casino management and his drive to prove them right, he entered this new workspace with perseverance and an unshakeable work ethic. In addition to these character traits, Hardy’s interpersonal skills have benefited him throughout his career. Well aware that “no one is excited to sit down with the internal audit guy,” he quickly established a line of open communication with the different departments, being careful to take an approach that was collaborative and not combative. When the departments and senior management saw his team player attitude and interest in helping them improve, the trust was established, and they now reach out to him regularly. Hardy is a firm believer that drive, passion and relationship skills can carry a career to far lengths. His advice to all future emerging leaders is, “When you remove yourself from your comfort zone and what you think you know, you open yourself up to accomplishing even more than what you initially envisioned. Dream bigger and don’t settle.” —Marie Casias is manager, marketing and administration for The Innovation Group.
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
Araksi Sargsyan Head of Business Development, DS Virtual Gaming raksi Sargsyan is a bookworm. She creates a home library wherever she lands in her work: Latin America, Asia, Armenia, and her hometown of Tbilisi, Georgia. She gives some of those books to her co-workers. “However, I don’t know why my Peruvian colleagues need works of Remarque and Marquez in Russian,” she quips. Spreading her love for books throughout the world speaks to Sargsyan’s travels on behalf of her employers. Born in Tbilisi just as the country separated from the Soviet Union, Sargsyan describes herself as Armenian by nationality with Russian roots and a Georgian spirit. She received a degree in linguistics, but never felt a connection to that field. While still in university, BetConstruct invited her to interview for a job. “I had a football past, so integration into the gambling industry was not difficult for me,” says Sargsyan, now head of business development for DS Virtual Gaming. She loved the excitement, the risk. “You will not get bored.” Sargsyan sees travel as part of her career plan. “Since childhood, I have studied foreign languages, as I have always dreamed of communicating with people from different countries, with a different mentality and vision of the world,” she says. Sargsyan joined DS Virtual in April 2020 just as the coronavirus pandemic took root. Her current position interacts with all departments to coordinate tasks and offer the client the best experience. “It begins with product development, sales, account management, and so on. Here I can use all my experiences on a grand scale, and it makes
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“Being a person who always works with dedication and gives all the best where I can, I have absorbed the philosophy of my companies. Each of them generously rewarded me with experience.” me happy,” she says. Covid-19 cut out all travel. “I am a very extroverted and open person,” Sargsyan says. “I like meeting new people and getting to know their stories personally.” On the other hand, she got to spend more time with her family. “But I am looking forward to meeting my colleagues and industry peers again. Nothing beats live communication.” Sargsyan spent almost two years with Digitain and two and a half with FinUnion. “To some extent, BetConstruct, FinUnion, Digitain, and now DS Virtual Gaming made me what I am now,” she explains. “Being a person who always works with dedication and gives all the best where I can, I have absorbed the philosophy of my companies. Each of them generously rewarded me with experience.” When it comes to obstacles, Sargsyan says you need to understand the source of the problem. “Patience is a crucial aspect. I am a very temperamental person. So, staying calm and waiting has been something that I needed to learn. At the end of the day, obstacles are in our heads.” She says her parents are her biggest boosters. “Their unconditional love and sacrifice made me what I am today,” she says. “When I was 14, my parents told me ‘Remember, daughter, no matter what happens to you in life, in this house you will always find love and support.’ These words inspired me.” In five years. Sargsyan hopes her company becomes one of the most sought-after for virtual games. And she hopes to have a family. As for advice, she says enjoy every moment. “Appreciate everything you have before it fades away,” she says. “Don’t judge yourself for each mistake. After all, you are just a human being.” —Bill Sokolic
Lock on the Future Ashley Eurich Vice President and Chief of Operations, Lockdogs shley Eurich has taken a circuitous route in her career. A degree in English and psychology. A film production class. A maid service. A concrete company. University. A film festival. Each step contributed something. “I have always felt guided, and although some decisions put me in difficult predicaments, I always prevailed, gaining valuable experiences and skills along the way,” says Eurich, vice president and chief of operations at Lockdogs, which manufactures locks for slot machines. After graduating from Minot State University in 2008, Eurich worked in insurance sales, before she launched a maid service business at a time when she also worked for a concrete company in various supervisory roles. She left North Dakota for Minneapolis in the summer of 2015 to run a startup for her fiancé. Even after the relationship ended, she continued to operate the company through early February. The film class evolved after the separation. “The class gave me hope and provided a skill set I came to apply later on in a variety of roles,” Eurich says. In October 2016, Eurich shifted gears again and joined Capella University in management positions, initially in Minneapolis and then remotely. The following January a friend asked her to help with the jellyFEST film festival in Los Angeles. “The experience helped me find my confidence. It also showed me that I can do anything that I am called to do... even joyful things,” she says. When her team at Capella went remote due to Covid-19, morale dropped, she says. Meetings were difficult. “Covid made it all hell, plus trying to maintain a job, my sanity, finances—it was one of the biggest struggles I have ever gone through,” she says. She left Capella last December with a separation package just before the college instituted involuntary layoffs. “The day I made my decision to take the offer, a double rainbow appeared in the sky,” she explains. “I loved that job, but the work culture was reactive and my efforts to improve the inefficiencies were stymied.” While still with Capella, Eurich joined Lockdogs in 2018 and moved up to chief of operations in January. In addition to her title, the job entails distribution, communications, troubleshooting, generating new business, demos, trade shows, even installation. “Any hat that a business needs put on to run, I wear it.” For the position, Eurich works remotely. “The challenge is being my own motivator,” she says, “checking every item off the list without the energy of an office or a team motivating me to do it.” Still, Eurich considers herself a success despite a lack of a roadmap. “I am blessed because I am resourceful enough to execute anything in front of me,” says Eurich, who relaxes by writing. “I have handled obstacles by simply doing them, and not quitting. And I have learned another opportunity always awaits.” Eurich’s influences include her father. “He showed me I am loved.” Jeff Connor, the owner of Lockdogs, has been the closest thing to a mentor. “He has never given up on me. He taught me to see things through. He tells me the potential he sees within me.” As expected, her advice reflects her own career. “Listen to those who truly believe in you and speak goodness into your life. Take risks and let go of any worry about how things will turn out. A thousand opportunities will present themselves.” —Bill Sokolic
SEPTEMBER 2021 www.ggbmagazine.com
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The Cashless Touch Vendors continue to provide technology combinations to facilitate cashless, contactless casino play By Dave Bontempo
iosks and contactless devices were bound to intersect sooner or later in the gaming world. And the pandemic made it sooner. Their accelerated presence occurs while operators try to put Covid-19 in the rearview mirror. The growth of self-service technology already had spiked demand for a touchless experience in varied industries. The pandemic of 2019-20 sped up this trend, from a health angle. Safety needs, deployed via smartphone, enable customers to gamble without touching slot machines and kiosks. Vendors address both the need for funds-access speed and a health safety net. Kiosks and contactless devices have never meant more for each other.
Arsenal of Solutions If necessity is the mother of invention, then innovation is a niece or nephew. Darren Simmons, the executive vice president and fintech business leader for Everi, touts the company’s ability to adapt to the Covid-19 effect on casinos. “With the rapid spread of Covid-19, casino operators had to rethink how they interact and engage with their patrons, so they feel they have the experience they want but in a safe and secure environment,” he says. Everi has been delivering self-service kiosk solutions, across multiple products, to casino operators for years. The pandemic has driven greater adoption of these services by casino patrons, who want cashless loyalty solutions and cashless payment options, according to Simmons. “The pandemic has not eliminated the use of cash in casinos,” he says. “But it has contributed to an increase in the use of digital wallets and contactless payments and has pushed operators towards a new cashless paradigm. Everi wants to be a part of the solution by leveraging the infrastructure casinos have built over the years with self-service kiosks, which has created a foundation that will contribute to the natural evolution towards contactless and cashless options.” 34
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
QuikTicket, for example, has gained tremendous traction with casino operators and their patrons in both commercial and tribal gaming jurisdictions, he says. “QuikTicket allows patrons to access funds through a simple and quick cashless, self-service ticket purchase at our kiosks that they can put directly into an EGM,” Simmons explains. “Many casinos made the implementation of QuikTicket a priority for their reopenings and expansions. Our goal is to provide gaming patrons the same ability, comfort and convenience to load, retrieve, and unload funds that they experience with other funding applications like a kiosk, ATM or the casino cage.” Simmons also touts the Everi CashClub Wallet. This product enables casino customers to deliver integrated digital patron experiences alongside current solutions by leveraging their existing investments in infrastructure like kiosks and operations with the addition of “Casino BaaS” (“Banking as a Service”) capabilities and advanced financial technology. “The goal is to create a funding experience all while still providing customers with multiple options to access funds while on the casino floor, whether it is with a mobile device or interacting with a kiosk,” Simmons says. “Existing controls, processes, and favorite guest interactions are extending to include—but not mandate—new digital ones. From touchless TITO (ticket in, ticket out) dispense to moving funds from your personal account
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to retail, gaming or online endpoints, Everi makes it easy. Most of all, regardless of the touchpoint, Everi will act as the broker for movement of funds and reduces risk and overhead for the casino.” Everi has launched a multi-purpose kiosk—its Prelude series—that maximizes space with a compact physical footprint. It can be mounted or stand alone with a pedestal kit. The Prelude series not only supports cashless payment solutions, but also delivers Everi’s Loyalty Engagement promotional services with full mobile options as well. Simmons says Everi has unveiled a modern version of its CXC series, 5.0S, that provides a single screen for marketing content as well providing traditional functionality like ATM, ticket redemption and bill breaking. “All of these new products are fully integrated with our AML Compliance, Giving Module and CashClub solutions that allow properties to move cage-based transactions to the casino floor,” he says.
Stability With Mobility Global Payments Gaming Solutions produced its own product lineup to address the pandemic. “The global pandemic emphasized the immediate need for cashless, contactless solutions on the casino floor,” says Christopher Justice, president of Global Payments Gaming Solutions. “As an industry leader, Global Payments answered that call and leveraged its existing technology within VIP Mobility and VIP Financial Center to meet the needs of all patrons, regardless of their preferred method of funding.” “Cashless gaming shouldn’t be a ‘one size fits all’ offering, which treats all customers the same. Our solutions are tailored to the individual needs of our operating partners and the individual desires of their end users.” Prior to the pandemic, contactless payment methods were considered an opportunity to meet consumers’ evolving preferences rather than a necessity, he asserts. But the global health crisis fueled the need for safe, contactless payment methods as patrons returned to the casino floor. Most competitors drive a singular user experience; however, Global Payments’ solution caters to the preference of patrons who use cash as well as those who prefer a cashless experience, according to Justice. VIP Mobility and VIP Financial Center are powered by Global Payments’ VIP Preferred e-check network. By harnessing the convenience, flexibility and ease of Global Payments’ groundbreaking VIP Preferred e-check network, plus functions like e-check and Choice 4 deferred settlement, today’s guests can transfer funds directly from their VIP Preferred balance to their favorite game with the touch of a screen. Justice says VIP Mobility is the culmination of efforts since 2018 to leverage mobile technology and transform the gaming experience for patrons and operators. VIP Mobility is the industry’s first mobile solution enabling true cashless and contactless gaming from funding through cash-out. VIP Mobility was designed to solve a number of problems for patrons and casino operators alike, he indicates. “For patrons, a common pain point in gaming is waiting in line at the ATM or cage to fund their game,” Justice says. “However, VIP Mobility enables patrons to skip the line and access funds directly from their phone. In 2020, Downstream Casino & Resort made VIP Mobility available to its patrons. Since the solution went live, several patrons have described the VIP Mobility app as fast, easy to use, convenient, and secure.”
“Cashless gaming shouldn’t be a ‘one size fits all’ offering, which treats all customers the same. Our solutions are tailored to the individual needs of our operating partners and the individual desires of their end users.” —Christopher Justice, President, Global Payments Gaming Solutions
Customers are generally impressed with the ability to transfer funds, keep funds on the app and go from machine to machine, according to feedback reported by the company. With VIP Mobility and VIP Financial Center, casino operators are empowered to leverage a multi-channel approach, allowing patrons to use the same account and funds across multiple casinos and channels. By embracing system-agnostic solutions, like VIP Mobility, as well as VIP Preferred and VIP Financial Center kiosks, casinos can tap the flexibility needed to modernize their payment infrastructure to deliver the alternative, cashless experience that many patrons prefer. In 2020, Global Payments Gaming Solutions created VIP Financial Center to help casinos combat fraud while remaining compliant in the process. VIP Financial Center is the industry’s first true, full-service solution that provides convenient self-service TITO tickets, bill breaking, echeck, ATM and cash advance capabilities to casino guests, Justice says. VIP Financial Center’s LightSpeed Kiosk series has been carefully designed to provide robust service capability, high dependability, easy serviceability, enhanced security, and an easy-to-use, consumerfriendly interface all in a slim profile design. This enables casinos to achieve maximum value for the floor space occupied by their kiosk solution, while saving more room for revenue-producing slot machines or table games.
JOINGO-ing the Party Sightline Payments acquired Joingo, the leading mobile engagement and loyalty platform for the gaming industry, earlier this year to help enhance Sightline’s product offerings. It was a smart pickup. Joingo’s mobile app solution is used by nearly 100 casinos nationally, according to Kirk Olson, senior vice president, mobile, for Sightline. “The mobile app allows patrons to fund their cashless wagering, connect to slots and table games, hotel check in/out, view folio, keyless entry, room controls, and view their loyalty rewards account balances and personalized promotional offers,” he says. “It also gives them the ability to find their favorite games on the casino floor and make restaurant reservations with just a few taps. “A mobile-first experience is one that Americans have come to expect in their daily lives—whether in banking, airline travel, stocks, or ordering coffee,” Olson adds. “Joingo complements Sightline’s leading Play+ wagering account by providing customers with greater utility and SEPTEMBER 2021 www.ggbmagazine.com
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“The ability to combine the key functions of a kiosk with loyalty cards and tracking along with the leading cashless funding solution in Play+ creates tremendous opportunity for operators to have a one-stop shop for their mobile and cashless gaming needs via Sightline’s suite of products.” —Kirk Olson, Senior Vice President, Mobile, Sightline
an enhanced user experience.” The marriage of Joingo and Play+ first launched at Resorts World Las Vegas, the Strip’s newest casino, in late June. Guests using the Resorts World Las Vegas mobile app, powered by Joingo, can now access their virtual loyalty card, view their loyalty points in real time, make reservations for amenities across the property, and wager on slots and table games using their cashless accounts. Users of Joingo’s solution do not need to worry about remembering to bring their physical loyalty card or stopping by loyalty kiosks when visiting Resorts World Las Vegas. “Sightline’s approach is a software-driven mindset,” Olson asserts. “We believe our clients should be able to easily integrate a mobile app solution with their gaming and retail systems in a cost-effective manner—as opposed to purchasing and maintaining hardware and kiosks across the floor. This is similar to the approach that airlines are now taking, where they are removing video screens on flights and offering in-flight entertainment via their app because they know everyone will have a mobile device with them.” Olson indicates that because of societal shifts toward contactless options—whether via QR-code menus, tap-and-go payments, or use of mobile wallets—the market for Joingo’s loyalty and engagements solutions has increased dramatically over the past 18 months. “Casinos for many years have lagged behind other industries in the use of mobile apps because of one key problem: lack of utility,” he says. “Today, Joingo’s mobile app can transform a guest’s experience by providing them with the ability to access whatever they need right within the app, be it checking in to their hotel room, generating a mobile key, accessing their offers for their stay, making reservations for a show or dinner, or accessing their cashless gaming account to wager on the casino floor.” This utility can also revolutionize loyalty and personalization for operators. Olson says the gaming industry spent more than $600 million on promotional mailers sent to their guests last year. These direct mail efforts are costly in printing and posting, along with being slow to arrive. By leveraging the app, casinos can easily deliver an offer to a patron in real time based off their location, spending behavior, and gaming worth, he indicates. “The mobile-driven data, which casinos collect about their customers, can dramatically improve their marketing strategies,” Olson says. “This information can also be used to forge partnerships with other businesses where customers are spending their time and can be used to drive visitation to your resort. “The ability to combine the key functions of a kiosk with loyalty cards 36
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
and tracking along with the leading cashless funding solution in Play+ creates tremendous opportunity for operators to have a one-stop shop for their mobile and cashless gaming needs via Sightline’s suite of products.” Sightline is expected to launch additional products into this space in the coming months.
Riding the Cashless Train Officials for FABICash, also known as FABI, say the company has been awarded corporate contracts for Churchill Downs, Golden Nugget and Maverick. It is now in more than 200 U.S. casinos coast to coast. The company recognizes the new reality of responsible gaming. It has partnered with the major gaming, sports betting and POS platform providers to facilitate a fully cashless gaming experience through FABIWallet, which allows the patron to play at slot machines and tables, place sports bets and play online without the need for a cage or kiosk visit. All transactions integrate into its compliance Title31 tracking solution, FABITrack, making it a true omnichannel cash access, mobile wallet and compliance solution. FABIWallet is one of a fleet of products the company has directed at this sector. Here is an overview of some of them. FABICash: The company’s team of in-house software engineers designed a fully PCIcompliant, web-based product that is easy to use, customizable, efficient and fast. The FABICash platform has achieved 100 percent up-time, making it the most reliable cash access solution on the market, officials say. FABITrack is the company’s Title 31 AML compliance program that conveniently interfaces with all gaming platforms. It aggregates all player activity for a particular gaming day and easily creates a CTR batch e-filing with direct connect to FinCEN. Mobile Jackpot electronically processes jackpot payouts in real time, from a Clover mobile device or PC workstation—multiple payout options, including the multi-function kiosk with TITO bill break, ATM and e-check processing. Throughout the industry, companies continue to embrace unofficial industry code. Make funds access easy. Make it fast. And make it safe.
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NEW GAME REVIEW by Frank Legato
Dragon Kingdom Everi Holdings
his new Dragon Kingdom game series is on Everi’s Empire Arena setup, which connects the monitors on the supplier’s portrait cabinets in a pod setup. The inaugural games in the series, Dragon Kingdom Eternal Wealth and Dragon Kingdom Golden Creatures, are Asian-influenced 243-ways-to-win video slots. Across machines in pods runs a horizontal wheel, its selections streaming by players in a community-based feature. Using a mystery trigger, the wheel comes to life, with prizes including free spins, multipliers, progressive jackpots, multiple wheel spins and two secondary bonus features streaming past all the players in the bank. There are six localarea progressive jackpots available on the bonus wheel, the top Grand resetting at $5,000. The dragon character breathes fire that forms a pointer on each player’s screen above the wheel, and each active player on the bank wins the bonus that lands on
his or her screen. The wheel begins to come to life before the actual spin, foreshadowing big wins as the wheel nears the mystery trigger. Manufacturer: Everi Holdings Platform: Empire Arena Format: Five-reel, 243-ways-to-win video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10 (multi-denomination available) Max Bet: 880 Top Award: Progressive; $5,000 reset Hit Frequency: 32% Theoretical Hold: 4%-15%
Game of Thrones: King’s Landing Aristocrat Gaming
his premium game on Aristocrat’s enormous new Neptune Dual cabinet highlights the eighth and final season of the epic Game of Thrones TV fantasy series. It follows the theme of King’s Landing, the capital and largest city of the series’ Seven Kingdoms. Icons and bonus events recall the Drogon beast and the Red Keep, the seat of the story’s king. The base game is a 40-line video slot on a four-by-five reel array. In a mystery feature dubbed Drogon High Fire Reels, the Drogon randomly appears and expands the reels to a random height of seven to 14 rows, with wild symbols added to two or more reels. Three Free Game icons in the base game trigger five free spins. Additional free spins are awarded with “Collect+1” symbols in the free games. They are guaranteed to be “Drogon Spins,” in which the reels are expanded on the imposing twin 49-inch monitors of the Neptune Dual cabinet. The main Red Keep Bonus involves “Credit on Reels” symbols, Aristocrat’s version of the “Cash on Reel” play mechanic that involves reel symbols displaying credit amounts that are accumulated for a payoff. Six or more of the symbols trigger the Red Keep bonus event, which utilizes Aristocrat’s “Hold & Spin” pay mechanic. 38
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
The triggering Credit on Reels symbols lock in place for three re-spins, and the feature continues as long as at least one Credit on Reels symbol appears, which resets the spins to three. In this feature, the throne symbol unlocks up to four additional rows of symbols, and resets the spin count to three. Within the Red Keep Bonus, the player can trigger the Red Keep Jackpots feature, in which rows of spaces appear under each of the four progressive jackpot meters. As the bonus progresses, jackpot icons can fill the spaces under any of the jackpots—the player can win all four if the feature lasts. The top Grand jackpot reset at $10,000. Manufacturer: Aristocrat Gaming Platform: Neptune Dual Format: Five-reel, 40-line video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10 (multi-denomination available) Max Bet: 240 Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset Hit Frequency: Approximately 50% Theoretical Hold: 3.8%-11.38%
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Ultra Rush Gold Incredible Technologies
his new game on IT’s V55 and Infinity Summit cabinets takes full advantage of the 55-inch monitors on each cabinet to bring the Ultra Rush game, the supplier’s first to utilize a “hold-and-spin” bonus feature, to a premium format. The Ultra Gold Rush series is being launched with two sister games—Tiger Run and Mythical Phoenix. Both are five-reel, 30-line video slots. The game character—a golden tiger or a phoenix—is the main difference between the two base games. Like the original Ultra Rush game, each base game awards eight free spins for three scattered bonus trigger symbols. During the free games, all royal symbols are wild, and there are “nudging” wild symbols—wilds that land just above or below a pay line and nudge to the line, potentially forming a win. The hold-and-spin Ultra Rush Bonus also is reprised, but with a new basegame feature that increases its frequency. The goal of the bonus is to collect scatter symbols over three spins. Each symbol bears a credit amount, some rising as high as several thousand credits. The feature starts out with three spins on a special set of reels. Each time a scatter symbol lands, it remains in place and the number of available spins resets to three. If three spins occur with no additional scatters, the feature ends with the player awarded the cumulative total of the credits displayed. If the entire 15space grid is covered with the symbols, the player gets a bonus of $600 (on the penny version at max bet), in addition to the accumulated credits. In Ultra Rush Gold, the primary game includes normal game symbols that are also orb symbols—they appear as an orb with the game symbol at the bot-
tom. These symbols combine with other game symbols to form the normal line combinations, but they also lock in place to count toward triggering the bonus, in a persistent feature called “Gold Lock Spins.” This persistent feature mimics the main hold-and-spin feature in a three-spin sequence. The symbols, like the main feature, all include credit amounts on them. There are other twists added to the main hold-and-spin bonus. During the feature, in addition to the scatter symbols bearing credit amounts, there are symbols labeled “wheel.” At the end of the feature, each of those symbols triggers a spin of the progressive wheel above the reels on the top screen. There are four awards on the wheel. There are static Mini and Minor jackpots of $10 and $50, respectively, plus two progressive jackpots—a Major resetting at $500 and the Grand, resetting at $10,000. The progressives are available at any bet level, including the minimum 50-credit bet. After the main feature ends, you get as many spins on the progressive wheel as you’ve accumulated. It’s possible to win more than one progressive in a single feature. Manufacturer: Incredible Technologies Platform: V55, Infinity Summit Format: Five-reel, 30-line video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10 (player-selectable multi-denomination) Max Bet: 300 Top Award: Progressive; $10,000 reset Hit Frequency: Approximately 50% Theoretical Hold: 5.92%-14.92%
Kraken Unleashed Scientific Games
his new game series woven around the mythical Kraken sea monster is featured on Scientific Games’ TwinStar Matrix cabinet, featuring three stacked 27inch monitors in landscape configuration. The two inaugural games in the series, Dive For Five and Storm Maiden, include a common feature that is a twist on the hold-and-spin mechanic. Each base game is a five-reel, 50-line video slot including a two-level near-area progressive jackpot plus two static jackpots. Three, four or five scattered Temple symbols award six free games with a win multiplier of 1X, 5X or 20X, respectively. During the free games, any Maiden symbol on reel 4 awards a multiplier of 2X to 5X. The progressive Kraken Feature is triggered by three Plank symbols. If a Plank symbol lands in the top or middle position of a reel and the Kraken Feature is not triggered, the symbols on that reel shift down by one position and lock in place for the next spin, or next free game if in the free-spin feature. Each Plank symbol displays a credit prize up to 100 times the total bet, MINI Bonus, MINOR Bonus, or MAJOR Jackpot. Six or more 40
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
scattered Plank symbols trigger the Kraken Feature, and three spins are awarded. All Plank symbols that triggered the feature will be held in place for the duration of the feature. During the feature, if one or more Plank symbols land on screen, then those symbols will be held for the remainder of the feature and the number of remaining spins is reset to three. If fewer than 12 positions are held at the end of the feature, the prizes displayed on all held Plank symbols are awarded. If all 12 positions are held, then one spin of the Kraken Reel is awarded and awards a credit value of 20-200 times the total bet, a multiplier of 2X-5X, the Mini Bonus, Minor Bonus, Major Jackpot or the Grand Jackpot. The top jackpot resets at 500,000 times the denomination. Manufacturer: Scientific Games Platform: TwinStar Matrix Format: Five-reel, 50-line video slot Denomination: .01, .02, .05, .10, 1.00, 2.00 Max Bet: 500, 50, 25 Top Award: Progressive; resets at 500,000 times denomination Hit Frequency: 23.97%-29.16% Theoretical Hold: 9.07%-12.17%
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DON’T MISS THIS SPECIAL
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CUTTING EDGE by Frank Legato
Custom Apparel PRODUCT: Design Collective MANUFACTURER: Cintas
esign Collective by Cintas created a custom apparel program for Resorts World Las Vegas, the first new casino on the Strip in a decade. Design Collective’s inhouse designers blended garments from its ready-to-wear lines with custom-designed pieces to curate an apparel collection that enhances Resorts World’s brand identity. Design Collective became a Resorts World partner early on, working side-by-side with executives throughout the resort including their interior design team, to create a cohesive look that seamlessly blends functional, luxurious apparel with the traditions and time-honored details of the international Resorts World brand. The apparel program utilized the Resorts World corporate brand palette as the cornerstone for the collection— Resorts World red is implemented in buttons and embroidery elements. Design Collective researched fabrics, fabric technologies, and runway trends, to create an elegant program that adds to the Resorts World brand story and enhances the guests’ experience. The sleek, yet simple elegance of this collection features job function requirements built into the design. Each garment has hidden structural features.
For example, the dealer shirts include a seamless front placket assuring a pristine appearance to the customer. From the angle of the strap to the inner hidden construction, to how low the back is cut, the iconic cocktail dresses include functionality and support. The apparel program was also designed with innovation. The fringe-beaded cocktail dresses make a bold statement with crystal bead and sequin embellishments and are made with reinforced thread for quality. Meanwhile, the valet shirts utilize moisture wicking, lightweight fabric and feature reflector components and hidden pockets. They also include a traditional mandarin collar neckline with Asian inspiration and are represented in multiple colors, in short and longsleeved styles. The collection also includes pieces from Design Collective’s retail collaborations including Chef Works, Shoes for Crews and Dolcessa swimwear. Resorts World relied on Design Collective’s extensive experience in the gaming industry to create a luxury apparel program that matched its unique and innovative property. For more information, visit cintas.com.
Next-Gen F&B PRODUCT: PanOptic AI-Powered Kiosk MANUFACTURER: Agilysys
s the pandemic comes to an end, gaming industry demand for new guest engagement alternatives is increasing dramatically. Driven by a combination of guest expectations for frictionless self-service and the need to optimize operations, many operators are taking a holistic guest journey approach that includes self-service options for a broad variety of guest interactions. As a 100 percent hospitality-focused solution provider, Agilysys has staked out a cutting-edge position in innovation across the property, including with the PanOptic AI-powered self-checkout kiosk. A prime example of frictionless guest self-service is kiosk checkout for grab-and-go stores, cafeterias and other F&B outlets where packaged items are offered. Available in the fall of 2021, the new PanOptic AI-powered selfcheckout kiosk allows guests to simply place multiple food items on the kiosk tray all at one time. As soon as the guest places items on the tray, our PanOptic AI service uses computer vision and AI to scan the items, recognize them, initiate a new shopping cart and automatically add the items to the cart. The kiosk can simultaneously identify multiple items instead of having to individually scan each one, and the guest can seamlessly add/remove
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
items to the cart without using the kiosk user interface. The kiosk is smart enough to recognize foreign items (such as wallets, car keys, phones, pens, etc.) placed on the tray along with the valid store items and can take appropriate action. The total bill is calculated based on the respective prices of the identified objects, and the guest can easily check out items in the cart using any of the payment methods supported by the property—credit card, contactless NFC payments, gaming loyalty cards or employee/student accounts. In today’s labor-constrained hospitality environments, the Agilysys PanOptic kiosk helps operators to drive more volume through food checkout lines while maintaining or reducing the number of checkout staff required. The result is faster guest service, increased revenue and optimized venue operations. For more information, visit agilysys.com.
WHERE THE GLOBAL GAMING INDUSTRY COMES TOGETHER Global Gaming Expo (G2E) is back to reunite and energize the industry. As the premier event for commercial and tribal gaming professionals, G2E will help you make meaningful connections, discover cutting-edge technology, and experience innovative content. Whether in-person or virtually, you’ll want to be part of the G2E experience taking place this October 4-7, 2021 (Education: October 4-7 | Expo Hall: October 5-7) at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, NV.
REGISTER TODAY AT: G2E2021.COM/GLOBAL-GAMING-BUSINESS EDUCATION OCTOBER 4-7 EXPO HALL OCTOBER 5-7 SANDS EXPO, LAS VEGAS
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MAKING MY POINT
Feeling Cultural Keep your chin up and your head held high; it will all work out By Roger Snow
ulture and morale—like disinterested and uninterested, jealousy and envy, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus—are often mistaken for each other. But both in terms of literal definition and operational practice, they are best described by their differences rather than their similarities. Using the fewest words possible, culture is the collective personality and attitudes of the people in your company. Are they honest or dishonest? Selfish or selfless? Risk-taking or risk-averse? Collaborative or cutthroat? Innovative or complacent? And using even fewer words, morale is the collective mood of the people working there. Are they happy or miserable? Engaged or disengaged? Homicidal or suicidal? Wait, those aren’t opposites. Anyway, the point is there are two points: 1) Culture and morale are not the same; and, 2) You and your company must focus on both to optimize results. Full f’ing stop. And how do you do that? Like this:
bah. Sure, being a cheerleader is great—especially for morale, which we will get to later— but cultivating culture is more like tending a garden: you plant, you water, you till, you nurture, but sometimes, you have to roll up your sleeves and rip out the weeds. Roots and all. Because much of culture is addition by subtraction. Bill Parcells knew this. Whenever he took over a new football team, he would immediately identify the culture killers and then… counsel them? Rehabilitate them? Give them a stern talking to? No, he would just toss them off the roster. Jack Welsh from General Electric knew this, and he came up
Most of the initiatives “companies use to boost culture actually have the result of strengthening morale.
Culture Vultures To paraphrase that famous quote from Aristotle, who was speaking 2,000 years ago and was speaking on the subject of individual improvement, your company’s culture is what it repeatedly does; therefore, “It’s not an act, but a habit.” Repeatedly celebrate ideation and risk-taking, and you will get more of it. Repeatedly punish failure and you will get less of it… in large part because you will get less ideation and risk-taking. Repeatedly indifferent about both and you never know what you’re going to get. Which is the worst outcome of all: fostering a culture that’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. The good news is you, as leaders, control this. The bad news is that you actively have to do it, and it’s not all rah-rah and sis-boom44
with rank ‘em and yank ‘em. There’s a CEO in our industry that knows this, and coined this metaphor: “Sometimes you gotta take out the trash.” Now, this may seem cruel. Because it is, especially if you’re the one being hauled to the curb. And no, no executive likes whacking people—OK, maybe one or two do—but if you want to be a leader, it’s part of the job. You’re not doing it because you’re a sadist; rather, you’re doing it because you’re a protector, a protector of the most powerful yet most fragile element of your company. Its culture.
Morale Of The Story Everyone rambles on about culture, but when was the last time you heard even a whisper about morale? Exactly.
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
But that doesn’t mean companies don’t believe in it or value it. Au contraire, mon frere. Ironically, you could argue that in fact, most of the initiatives companies use to boost culture actually have the result of strengthening morale. And that’s a good thing. Casual Fridays? Morale. Bring your dog to work day? Morale. Parking-lot BBQ to celebrate the end of the quarter? Morale. Pizza with the president? Morale. Holiday party with a karaoke machine and beer pong and allyou-can-drink margaritas and complimentary Ubers at the end of the night? Morale… and hey, that sounds like fun. As leaders, you can improve morale just by walking around and talking to people in your organization. Think back before you were a big shot, and how great it felt when the boss stopped by your cubicle for a chinwag. Be approachable, be friendly, be inquisitive. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Don’t hide in your office like Scrooge McDuck. Mix and mingle with the team. But morale is not all about having a good time. It’s also making everyone understand his or her importance to the success of the company. You matter and your job matters. Late one night in 1961, John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters and walked up to a man mopping the floor. “Why are you working so late?” Kennedy asked. “Mr. President,” he responded. “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” Is that cool or what? When you make your employees feel appreciated and respected, and make them buy into their role in your vision, that’s exactly where it will take your company’s morale… To the moon. Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Scientific Games. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Scientific Games Corporation or its affiliates.
Strength in Numbers
More than 160 member companies from 22 countries Nearly $21 billion in direct revenue • 61,700 employees 13 publicly traded companies • ONE POWERFUL VOICE Address worldwide industry regulatory and legislative issues • Discounts on major trade show booth space Promote responsible gaming initiatives • Updates from influential global industry leaders Advertising discounts in leading industry publications • Educational partnerships benefiting students and members Visibility in AGEM’s print advertisements • Exposure for publicly traded companies in the monthly AGEM Index Join AGEM today and work together with the world’s leading gaming suppliers. Marcus Prater, Executive Director +1 702 812 6932 • firstname.lastname@example.org Tracy Cohen, Director of Europe + 44 (0) 7970 833 543 • email@example.com Connie Jones, Director of Responsible Gaming +1 702 528 4374 • firstname.lastname@example.org Design & photo-illustration by Jeff Farrell.com • AGEM and charter ESP member since 2007.
©2021 Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM). Membership list current as of August 2021.
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cards, the carded cashless variation of Resort Wallet enables them to use their Agua Caliente ACE Club card to access their Cashless Wagering Account. With it, players insert their card into a slot machine and transfer the funds into the game.
AGA PROMOTES NATIONAL PROBLEM GAMBLING HELP LINE
he American Gaming Association (AGA) is recommending a new approach to national advertising campaigns to allow the use of national gambling help lines to assist problem Jessica Feil gamblers. “Most customers enjoy gambling as a form of entertainment—but for those who no longer find gambling fun, the more than a dozen problem gambling help lines across the country are essential services,” said the AGA in a press statement. The new AGA policy statement encourages streamlined requirements for national advertising campaigns, which would allow operators to improve disclaimer readability and better highlight problem gambling resources. “Problem gambling help lines are a vital resource for those in need of help,” said Jessica Feil, the AGA’s vice president of government relations and gaming policy counsel. “Unfortunately, lengthy lists of state-specific help lines on national advertisements create barriers for those seeking help when we should be making these critical resources easily accessible. This approach—allowing the use of a national help line in national advertising—is the most effective way to protect players.” Each state has its own specific requirements for including problem gambling disclaimers in published and broadcasted advertisements. This is an essential service for localized advertising but creates confusion and inconsistency in national advertising. According to the AGA, this results in: • Diminished awareness: Requirements to display multiple national and state-specific help line numbers can result in more than a dozen phone numbers in difficult-to-read fonts, reducing accessibility to those in need. • Customer confusion: Multiple help line numbers also cause consumer confusion, since many problem gamblers may not know which number is the appropriate number to call—for example, is it based on where they reside or where they are gambling? • Outdated offering: Requiring problem gamblers to use a call-in help line overlooks more modern services used for crisis assistance, like text messaging and chat support.
IGT’S Resort Wallet
IGT TO DEPLOY CASHLESS TECHNOLOGY AT AGUA CALIENTE
nternational Game Technology announced that the company has agreed to implement its Resort Wallet cashless solution and its proprietary IGTPay full-service funding solution at all three Agua Caliente Casinos in California—Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Rancho Mirage, Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs, and Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City. This deployment of Resort Wallet in combination with the IGTPay solution will give patrons mobile access to funds from all available types of external sources. The available sources can include credit and debit cards, bank accounts and e-wallets. This can reduce contact with cash while increasing player loyalty through enhanced convenience. Agua Caliente Casinos is scheduled to implement the full suite of IGT’s Resort Wallet modules in 2021. The suite includes both flexible variations of IGT’s cashless offering: cardless and carded. The player’s PIN-protected Cashless Wagering Account can fund both variations, either digitally through external sources via IGTPay such as bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards, or e-wallets, or through cash deposits at the casino cashier, kiosks and slot machines. Funds in the Cashless Wagering Account are securely maintained for the next play session or property visit, and players can also transfer funds between slot machines on-site, as well as between Agua Caliente’s other properties, or withdraw funds into a bank account. As part of the planned IGTPay full-service funding deployment, Agua Caliente Casinos will benefit from IGT’s payments team, which has been operating in digital gaming markets since 2013 and will support all aspects of paymentrelated services. With the cardless variation of Resort Wallet with IGTPay, players will be able to use Agua Caliente’s Play Agua mobile app to access their Cashless Wagering Account. Players tap their smartphone on a slot machine to card in, and transfer funds electronically to the game. For patrons who prefer to use physical loyalty
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
KONAMI’S SLOT CABINET IS NO. 1
onami Gaming’s Dimension 49 video slot cabinet ranked as the industry’s top indexing portrait-style cabinet for three consecutive months, according to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming and Fantini Research. The Dimension 49 is a core cabinet with a 49inch flat portrait display in 4K ultra-high definition (UHD) and 27-inch video topper. It features the same standard base design as Konami’s awardwinning Dimension 49J premium cabinet. Its popular debut game series Fortune Mint has appeared in the Eilers-Fantini Central Game Performance Database as well, including as the industry’s fifth highest indexing game in the core (low-denom, video reel) category. Like all cabinets in the series, Dimension 49 has a sheen silver finish, generous slant top, dual spin buttons, USB charging port, and wireless charging pad. Its towering portrait display showcases a large mix of original new series, including Fortune Mint, Guardians, Triple Sparkle, Myth of the Pyramids, Boosted Great Stacks, Jackpot Orbs and more. Custom end caps, pod fillers, infills, and animated LED overhead signs are also available to accommodate a broad variety of floor configurations.
INCREDIBLE TECHNOLOGIES ENTERS EGT MARKET
lot supplier Incredible Technologies (IT) announced its entrance into the U.S. electronic table game market in July. Powered by Zuum Interactive’s software, pilot
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installations of the company’s ETG products will launch in select markets later this year featuring roulette, craps and other popular games. IT’s existing infrastructure across nearly 200 commercial and tribal gaming jurisdictions in North America allows the company to rapidly deploy the new product line to customers. “Our ETG development marks an important milestone for IT as we continue to grow into new markets and product lines while still leveraging our core strengths,” said Dan Schrementi, IT’s president of gaming, ahead of last month’s trade show. “The roulette product we’ll be previewing at NIGA comes from a proven pedigree in the ETG space, and is just the first game for this new product line. We will test launch the first games in North America this year before planning a broader rollout in 2022. The ETG segment continues to grow in the U.S., and IT is well-positioned to compete in the space.”
tegration of the digital CashClub Wallet in July. Aristocrat’s Oasis 360 is comprised of mobile, slot management, bonusing, digital, table management, loyalty solutions, kiosk, and a media management hub. Oasis 360 is built with an open architecture that allows for dynamic integration with third-party technologies such as CashClub Wallet. “The integration between Oasis 360 and Everi’s CashClub Wallet shows our focus on delivering innovative guest and operator experiences for our customers with a continued pledge to worldclass partnerships,” said Cath Burns, executive vice president of customer experience solutions for Aristocrat. “Our commitment to both guest and operator experiences are at the heart of everything we do, and this partnership will be a driving force to move our industry technologies forward.” Meanwhile, Acres Manufacturing Company wrote in a separate release that the integration of CashClub Wallet into its Foundation system “allows casinos to enable cashless gaming at any slot machine or table game and is deployable at casinos worldwide.” Foundation, released by Acres earlier this year, gives casinos new capabilities to operate efficiently and market profitably to players. The system reports every measure of data from any slot machine
in real time, giving casinos direct ownership and control of the entire data library. In addition, Foundation can write commands to the credit meter on any slot machine. The integration allows casino players to move money into Everi’s CashClub Wallet, which can then command the Foundation system to make appropriate changes to the credit meter on any slot machine. “We are proud to partner with Everi to allow its CashClub Wallet direct access to any casino game connected to Foundation,” said John Acres, CEO and founder of Acres Manufacturing Company. “Together with Everi, we are answering the industry’s call to rapidly implement cashless gaming.”
BETCONSTRUCT TO OFFER NEW GAMES IN U.K.
oftConstruct (Malta) Ltd. has successfully registered the Blast and Amp Striker games with the U.K. Gaming Commission. Given approval for providing these engaging solutions to the company’s U.K. and White Label partners, BetConstruct has made a major step forward in its global expansion. The catchy Blast and the highly attractive Striker create an engaging experience for players with their fair and straightforward game play.
EVERI’S CASHCLUB WALLET ADOPTED BY ARISTOCRAT, ACRES
veri Holdings’ CashClub Wallet cashless gaming solution has been integrated into Aristocrat Gaming’s Oasis 360 casino management system and Acres Manufacturing’s Foundation casino management system. Everi’s CashClub Wallet is a mobile digital wallet that enables casino operators to offer cashless and contactless funding of electronic game play across the casino floor. Everi empowers casino operators to successfully deliver on all aspects of the emerging mobile ecosystem, including funding at the gaming device, payments at point of sale, or funding online sports betting, iGaming or social gaming—a true cashless experience while providing customers with multiple options to access funds while on the casino floor. Both Aristocrat and Acres announced the inSEPTEMBER 2021 www.ggbmagazine.com
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FRANKLY SPEAKING by Frank Legato
Slot Heroes, Craps and Surf Music
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
word “gaiety” at a backroom door to drink from a 55-gallon drum of brandy, mixed with their favorite flavor. I may just visit there on my next trip to Las Vegas— not to drink from a big drum, as romantic as that seems. I’m searching out cheap craps. My perennial favorite, South Point, has regrettably ditched the $5 craps minimums. It’s $10 now, which can be a challenge, me being a humble reporter and all. I know they used to have a $1 craps table at Railroad Pass, so $5 will make me a high roller. Moving on, I see Casino Vicksburg has brought live entertainment back. First up last month was Heritage Wrestling’s “Inaugural Brawl,” always a hoot, I’m sure. Why is it the Inaugural Brawl, though? Do they dress up like incoming and outgoing U.S. presidents before, you know, womping each other with folding chairs? Following the Brawl will be the Beach Boys in October, no doubt sponsored by Life Alert. Mike Love is scheduled to belt out the tour’s showcase song, “I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up.” Showtime is planned for 6 p.m., but it may have to be pushed back as 70-year-old roadies set up amplifiers, sound systems and life support equipment. Because the Beach Boys are old, get it? Hey, in my house growing up, the Beach Boys were the next big thing after Mitch Miller. Or was it Spike Jones? I just remember that I was pretty much on my earliest Catholic school nuns when the Beach Boys first appeared. I’m sweating over Sister Rose and her first-grade steel ruler, and the Beach Boys are singing about Little Deuce Coupes. But I’ve strayed off the point. As if I had a point in the first place. Oh, yeah, Beach Boys in Mississippi. I forget sometimes. I’m no spring chicken either, you know? VICT OR R INALDO
ere’s our popular monthly feature, which I just made up, to highlight inspiring stories from the floors of our nation’s casinos. It’s called “Heroes of the Slot Floor.” This month’s installment is titled, “Don’t Screw with a Slot Player in New Jersey.” According to the Atlantic Daily Voice, a South Jersey man whipped out a box cutter and held it to the neck of an Atlantic City slot-machine player, demanding the player’s money and jewelry. (I’m guessing Eternal Nº5 earrings from Chanel. White gold, $10,500 a pair. That’s what I wear when I play slots.) As it turns out, the slot player in Atlantic City wasn’t about to give up his wallet or Nº5 earrings to some schmuck with a box cutter. He stood up and counter-attacked, and another player joined him in slamming the guy until he ran away. It was like the guy tried to rob Batman. Anyway, a casino security guard had no problem tackling the guy as he tried to run away. He was charged with robbery and weapons offenses, and he’ll most likely be residing soon where box cutters take on an entirely different purpose. Speaking of casino crime, last month, a guy in Pennsylvania found out about the state’s “defiant trespass” law. This 41-year-old guy from Norristown, Pennsylvania somehow got himself kicked out of the Valley Forge Casino Resort last September. News reports didn’t reveal just what it was he did for the folks at little, friendly Valley Forge Casino to tell him to leave, and to please never come back. But the stories do say what happened when he showed up at the casino August 6. He was arrested by state police and cited for “defiant trespass.” According to the Sanatoga Post, defiant trespass is a crime in Pennsylvania that occurs “if someone comes onto or stays on your property after being told to stay away.” Man, I’m from Pennsylvania, and I never heard of that law. I’m thinking back to all the times I could have cited that law to evict houseguests. (Mostly relatives, though, so I’d drop the charges after they were cuffed and hauled away.) (Hey, they’re family.) Next, I just read on a popular news website that the Railroad Pass Casino, the oldest casino in Nevada, is celebrating its 90th anniversary. The office of Global Gaming Business is in Boulder City, a municipality in which, somewhat ironically, gambling is illegal. But a stone’s throw from our office is the Railroad Pass, just over the city line in Henderson. It opened in 1931, the year Nevada legalized casino gambling. In addition to gambling, the place was a speakeasy the first couple of years. Before Prohibition was repealed, according to the article, workers building what would become the Hoover Dam could whisper the pass-
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PEOPLE MACDONALD STEPS DOWN FROM LAS VEGAS SANDS
ndrew MacDonald has stepped down as the chief casino officer for Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Sands China. MacDonald has been with LVS for more than a decade, and is considered one Andrew MacDonald of the most analytical minds in the gaming business. Just last year, MacDonald was given responsibility for running Marina Bay Sands, as Managing Director George Tanasijevich turned his attention to local and international expansion. After starting as a dealer at Wrest Point Casino in Hobart, Tasmania, he advanced quickly until being appointed a regulator in Queensland. Later, he worked for Genting, Crown and Jupiter’s Gold Coast, now the Star Gold Coast. He later joined investment banking firm Macquarie Capital as managing director and co-global head before joining Marina Bay Sands in 2010 and then the corporate role at Las Vegas Sands two years later.
ISOM-CLAUSE TO HEAD BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS
ational Indian Gaming Commission Vice Chairwoman Kathryn IsomClause has been appointed deputy assistant secretary of the interior for Indian Affairs, which is sometimes Kathryn Isom-Clause known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Isom-Clause has served on the NIGC since March 15, 2016. According to a statement from Chairman E. Sequoyah Simermeyer, “Isom-Clause was an essential member of the commission and spearheaded the agency’s focus on critical issues during her tenure. In particular, her dedication to and advocacy for human trafficking awareness and missing and murdered indigenous women brought awareness and training on these important social problems to the Indian gaming industry and beyond.”
PA GAMING BOARD NAMES NEW CHAIRWOMAN, NEW MEMBER
ennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf named regulator and former state General Counsel Denise J. Smyler as the new chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, replacing David M. Barasch,
who announced his retirement in July after six years on the board. Wolf also announced the appointment of state official Nedia Ralston to the gaming board. Denise J. Smyler Smyler was appointed to the Gaming Control Board in 2019 after serving as general counsel, during which time she oversaw legal services for the governor, his staff and more than 30 state agencies. During his time as board chairman, Barasch oversaw many changes in Pennsylvania gaming, including the addition of internet gaming, sports wagering and video gaming terminals at truck stops. Ralston formerly was deputy finance director for Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign. Most recently, she was director of the Southeast Regional Office of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
CORDISH FILLS TWO GAMING GROUP POSITIONS
he Cordish Companies hired two key executives for the gaming division. Cathy Beeding becomes executive vice president and general counsel and Suzanne Trout executive vice president and chief marketing ofCathy Beeding ficer. Beeding and Trout join Cordish Gaming Group as the company expands its footprint in locales like Pennsylvania, with recently opened Live! Casino properties in Pittsburgh and Suzanne Trout Philadelphia. Beeding is responsible for all legal, regulatory and compliance affairs, including oversight of all Live! Casino & Hotel properties in Maryland and Pennsylvania, along with iGaming and sports betting initiatives. Prior to Cordish, Beeding served in a similar position at Churchill Downs Incorporated, responsible for managing compliance across the company’s casinos, racinos, racetracks and online sportsbooks and casinos. Trout will plan and execute marketing and brand development. She served as chief marketing officer at Foxwoods Resort Casino. She launched her career in hotel operations at the Tropicana Resort in Atlantic City, quickly moving into marketing as the director of marketing before moving to the Tropicana in Las Vegas.
ORTIZ NAMED CEO, GM OF MILWAUKEE RESORT
fter conducting a nationwide search, the Forest County Potawatomi have named Dominic Ortiz as CEO and general manager of Dominic Ortiz the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee. Ortiz began his role at the Milwaukee property on July 26. Ortiz, an enrolled member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation of Kansas, most recently served as chief financial officer of Soaring Eagle Gaming Properties and Corporate Services in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Business and the Harvard Business School’s General Manager/Executive Education program, and has 17 years of experience in a number of leadership positions at tribal casino properties across the country.
GAN NAMES SHORE INVESTOR RELATIONS VP
AN Limited recently announced the appointment of Robert Shore as vice president of investor relations and capital markets. Shore joins the comRobert Shore pany with more than 15 years of experience in corporate finance, investor relations, and Wall Street research. In the newly created role, Shore will lead GAN’s investor relations and capital markets efforts.
September 2021 Index of Advertisers
Acres Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 AGEM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45 AGS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Aristocrat Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52 Casino Player Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31 Everi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 Fantini Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47 GAN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 iGaming Player . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39 Casino Style magazine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41 IGT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51 IGT Global Solutions Corporation . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Incredible Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 JCM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21 J Carcamo & Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 Reed Expo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43 The Innovation Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 TransAct Technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
SEPTEMBER 2021 www.ggbmagazine.com
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Richard ‘Boz’ Bosworth
ince the legendary Hard Rock Las Vegas closed two years ago, its replacement was highly anticipated. The first Virgin Las Vegas was introduced in March, owned by JC Hospitality Partners. For Richard “Boz” Bosworth, CEO of the company, it’s the culmination of a unique multi-operational concept that is quite new to Las Vegas. His vision and commitment to that plan have resulted in a unique, highly branded property just off the Las Vegas Strip that introduced Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment to the city as the operator of the casino. Bosworth spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros from his offices at Virgin in July. To hear and see a full Zoom podcast of this interview, visit GGBMagazine.com.
GGB: Congratulations on opening Virgin Las Vegas. Tell us how the acquisition of the former Hard Rock hotel came about. Richard Bosworth: Our ownership group was in
pursuit of the Fontainebleau, dating back to 2016 and 2017. We were actually in due diligence in 2017 specifically. I literally happened to get a call from the owner of the Hard Rock at the time, saying that they heard that we were in town and we were just looking to acquire a casino hotel. He had heard a little bit about our multi-operative business plan and he thought their property, the Hard Rock, would actually suit itself well to our strategies. At that point, we just switched gears and thought it would be much easier, more functional, more economic and faster to market to acquire the Hard Rock and rebrand it and transform it per our plan. And a year later, we closed the transaction. Was there any discussion of keeping the Hard Rock theme?
No, there was not. We had a very specific plan to introduce two new brands, or underrepresented brands, into Las Vegas, that being specifically Hilton and Virgin, and ultimately, Mohegan. And of course, we’re supplemented by AEG and 50
President & CEO, JC Hospitality Partners our restaurant partners as well. But the plan was always to transform and rebrand the property. How did you get involved with Virgin and Richard Branson?
Well, I was pursuing projects throughout the country with Virgin Hotel Group, specifically in Chicago and Las Vegas. And we liked him, and the Virgin Hotel Group liked our structure of bringing in a third-party experienced gaming operator. Letting Virgin focus on what they do, having a very successful gaming operator focus on what they do, because that would have been a new business to them. So that multi-operator environment was a bit different and they liked that. Why do you think the Virgin hotel brand is really a powerful brand to introduce into Las Vegas?
I think not only is the Virgin Hotel brand, but I think Virgin as a brand, and the entire travel consortium, whether it be Virgin Holidays, whether it be the Virgin Airlines, whether it be the Virgin cruise ships, whether it be Virgin Galactic. It’s a brand that resonates very well, internationally. It resonates very well in North America. And it resonates very well in Las Vegas. We’ve really been embraced by the local community, which is such an important part of our business. Tell us why you chose Mohegan as the gaming operator. How influential was your gaming adviser, Bobby Soper, a former Mohegan CEO, in that process?
We actually ran an RFP process with gaming operators around the world—many of them Native American; many of them not. The multi-operator plan really was birthed with Bobby Soper, myself and Hilton, frankly. Bobby spent a lot of time with me, going to visit the folks at Hilton talking about the protocols. How these two very successful operators can work together, utilizing their databases. What would be important to their customers. What does the gaming customer need from a hotel, what do hotel customers need as relates to food and beverage, and interaction with gaming and entertainment? So,
Global Gaming Business SEPTEMBER 2021
Bobby was incredibly critical to the entire process. Let’s talk about the property. Did you renovate the entire property? Every hotel room?
We renovated actually every inch of the front of the house of the property, including the five-acre pool deck, as well as the sense of arrival, the landscaping. You can see in the front, even the café. And there was a broken structured building in front that we took down; we opened it up to two acres so you have truly a true resort sense of arrival when you come into the property. Tell us about your plans for meetings and conventions.
It’s really one of our most important investment pieces. We want to grow what was already a successful event business for the Hard Rock, but taking it to another level—which is why we’ve added about 30,000 square feet of additional event space. It’s a very, very important part of our business. Another reason is that we’re affiliated with Hilton. Hilton has 16 national sales offices that drive group business as well. A significant part of our business is driving groups and events. Not only, of course, to service the citywide events, but also the self-contained group events at the property. How has the current uptick in business in Las Vegas helped Virgin? It seems like you really opened at just the right time, when people started to come back to Vegas.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than smart, right? We are clearly feeling the impact of the increase, and the traffic flow up to Las Vegas. It was a great time for us to open fully activated. I’ve never experienced a property that has gotten to 100 percent of its fair market share so quickly. We literally are there already, and my expectation level is that sometimes it can take anywhere from six months to a year. We’re selling out every weekend. Our midweek business is increasing two-fold every week, and now we are very close to market occupancies for midweek as well. And we are seeing a significant uptick as well in our group and event business.
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