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Volume 13 Issue 105


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NOVOMATIC Gaming Industries GmbH Lawrence Levy,

Phone: +43 2252 606 870 756

Editorial: Editor in Chief: Glyn Thomas Mob: +38 976 007 007 Features Editor:

Damien Connelly Associate Editor Asia: Bill Healey

Associate Editor North America David Mckee Special Assignment Correspondent: Jack Bulavsky International Casino & Gaming Correspondent: JJ Woods Technology Correspondent: Rebecca Green

Production: Designer: Stewart Hyde Subscriptions: Helen Holmes

Web & IT: Sudip Banjeree

Publisher: Peter White

Tel: +44 (0) 1892 740869

Mob: +44 (0) 7973 273714

Editor’s page Welcome to Casino Life...

... and another bumper issue. If you’ve ever been involved in publishing you’ll probably be hooked on two things – the mad runaroundget-it-all-together-Rubic-cubeness of final deadline – and the smell of a printshop... like that of a new car. The addiction repeats monthly and for many, into years – but never fades. That’s part of our business – but what about yours? Have we got the right balance? Anything else you’d like to see? Please drop me a line at We start this month with Robert Ambrose visiting the Hard Rocksino in Ohio and “finding his rhythm”... by talking to Mark Birtha, Property President, about this stunning venue that has seen double-digit growth year on year since opening in 2013. With a “mild facade” that would cause the marketing guys at Hard Rock to blanche, the Downtown in Vegas is truly a beauty in disguise. I dropped in last year during G2E with Peter White, my partner in crime and if memory serves me right we had a fantastic time. It ended late – that I do remember... which all aligns with the casinos USP of offering a great bang for your buck. It’s on our hotel choice pick for G2E this year. Next stop - the Ritz Club, the proud employer of Jamie Cullins, the Dealer of the Year 2017 which was staged at the Playboy Club in Mayfair and hosted by the National Casino Forum. Jamie now goes on to represent the UK in the European Dealer Championships in May at the Hippodrome – and we wish him luck. What was the maximum number of slots permissible in a UK casino in 1983? Twenty? Fifty? Turn to David Cliftons feature on slots on page 30 and find out more – plus the approach of NCF’s Playing Safe report. You will be surprised at the answer and hopefully agree with his thoughts. Each day my Google app knows more about what I like, tracks where I go and helps to guide me to more of what I want. Some people resist this “tracking” but I embrace it fully.... “OK Google” is great on my HTC and even my Android TV and it’s now almost part of the family. Hey, I have my finger on the pulse of technology. Blueclaw offer bespoke services to help bricks and mortar casinos in an online world and they’ve got some great simple advice on page 35. G2E Asia is with us sooner than we thought possible and we talk to Josephine Lee VP at Reed about what we can expect. Robert Ambrose (yes, that man again) dons his top hat and goes all Charles Dickens on us with his proven predictions about the Casino properties in Atlantic City. Victor Royer still pulls rabbits out of the hat with continuing coverage of his fave slots this year, shamelessly plugs his book and repeats his mantra of Casinos are the place to be – not online. Finally, we skid to a halt with Mark Waymans part 2 feature on the Glyn Thomas secrets of Casino Execs. Editor in Chief


Contents 3

Editors page


Guest Comment: Lucien Wijsman

6 Journalists 8

Vegas Experience Ohio Address Hard Rocksino Northfield Park is Definitely a Property that Rocks ‘N Experience. By Bob Ambrose

18 Hospitable Leisure Seth Schorr, Chairman Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino, chats to Glyn Thomas 26 Play Your Cards Right National Casino Forum CEO Tracy Damestani & UK Dealer Championship Winner Jamie Cummins talk to JJ Woods 30 Fixing the machines in casinos conundrum by David Clifton, Clifton Davies Consultancy Limited 36 Visitor Attractions Martin Calvert of gaming-focused marketing agency Blueclaw shares his insight into the most effective ways for land-based casino operators to win in SEO 38 G2E Asia 2017 Welcomes the World Peter White puts the questions to Josephine Lee, Executive VP, Reed Exhibitions Greater China 43 A Tale of Two Casino Properties in Atlantic City By Robert Ambrose 46 Great Casino Slots The Latest, Newest, Hottest, and Best Casino Games. By: Victor H Royer 50 Secrets of America’s top executives, Part 2 By Mark Wayman Editorial Policy: The views and opinions expressed in Casino Life remain principally the views of contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or publishers. The publishers wish to avoid inaccuracies and, whilst every precaution has been taken to ensure that information contained in this publication is accurate, no liability is accepted by the editor or publishers for errors or omissions, however caused. Unless otherwise stated, articles appearing in this publication remain the copyright of the publishers and may not be reproduced in any form without the publisher’s written consent. Printed in the UK by MPC Ltd.


Guest Comment: Lucien Wijsman

95% of gaming staff have a role which influences the customer experience and so training is one of the most important tools you can give them. Training your staff to be more educated in the business they operate in gives them more knowledge and adds interest to their role.” “My intensive four day training course is proven to improve the profitability and efficiency of the gaming floor. The course is based on the principles of Total Quality Management, and will teach attendees how to apply this to strengthen best practice in their gaming operations. The topics are varied and will cover issues such as the different player profiles and their expectations, game mathematics, machine meters, pay table calculations, promotions management, performance analysis, casino layouts and more.” says Lucien. “Attendees will be taught through a mixture of interactive seminars, individual and group tasks. All attendees are encouraged to work together and share experiences in order to maximise learnings, it’s something we have found to be really useful for attendees!” With a career covering more than 25 years, Lucien has travelled the world to provide advice to many well-known clients including Gtech, Novomatic, Casinos Austria, Casino Technology, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, Grup Peralada, Casino Campione d’Italia and many others. Gernot Hoefer, Head of Slots at Casinos Austria, who attended

Lucien Wijsman, Director of Content and Delivery, Slot Summit

Lucien’s open course prior to inviting him back to conduct in-house training, said: “Following the training we have had great success and developed our knowledge of the world of Slots immensely and it triggered a huge improvement in our daily operations. I highly recommend Lucien as a trainer!” The upcoming Slot Academy, hosted in Leiden on the 24 – 27 April 2017 is a very special one indeed. Why? Well, 27th April 2017 is Kings Day!! King’s Day may very well be the best party in Holland. On Kings Day the Dutch celebrate King Willem Alexander’s birthday with music, street parties, flea markets, and fun fairs – it’s a lot of fun and not to be missed! So, pack your orange clothes and celebrate the end of your 4 day training course with a huge party, Dutch style!


Our Journalists

Casino Life Magazine is very proud of its position as one of the leading independent casino publications which crosses numerous platforms between gaming operations to gaming industry suppliers. We have a very diverse group of readers who appreciate and value our high quality and independence. Our readership continues to grow year over year because of this. We are very fortunate to have some very highly qualified independent authors, journalists and operators who help support our reporting efforts. Some of your independent journalists are:

Peter White

In addition to his role as Publisher of Casino Life and Bingo Life, Peter also undertakes interviews with leading Casino operators. He has travelled extensively over the course of 16 years, visiting Casinos World Wide as well as attending the leading gaming industry exhibitions and conferences. Peter is also Vice President, International Operations for leading US based Gaming industry consultancy, WhiteSand Gaming LLC and a Director at Screentrade Media Ltd, a leading International Publisher specialising in the Cinema Industry.


Bill Healey

Bill Healey, Associate Editor Asia has spent his professional life in the leisure software industry, developing and implementing solutions used around the world. Along with this, he has been actively writing on gaming and leisure since the turn of the millennium with content focused on global technology, market reviews and property profiles. Splitting time between SE Asia and USA, he remains actively involved in international technology as a Director of Quasar Group International. Connect on Twitter @heybill

Damien Connelly

Damien Connelly’s achievements have seen him deliver world firsts for B2B and B2C clients. Damien launched DOOM and Microsoft Xbox, opened a game-changing sales channel for Vodafone, partnered Costa Coffee with Shell Select, and created the world’s first Internet-based mobile management service. Damien has also been a mobile gaming judge, won industry awards, been published in The Economist and The Financial Times, and gained multi-industry consulting and client-side experience in casino, Cloud, FMCG, gaming, Internet, media, mobile, retail, technology, and telecoms. Damien is a long-time professional member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and has two Masters degrees from highly respected British universities.

JJ Woods

Atlantic Casino Consultants is a Company set up to deal with all issues regarding the Casino gaming Industry. JJ Woods, Director of Operations, founded and set up the Company in 2006. He was born in Ireland but left in the Seventies to live in London and for a career in Banking that lasted nearly four years after which he joined the Casino Industry in London where he trained and has, over the last 35 years, been involved in the setting up, design, management, and opening of Casinos around the world. He is an Author on Gaming and has written for several International Publications. He has taken part in Radio and TV debates and was selected as one of the Judging panel for the International Gaming Awards held at Savoy Hotel London in 2014. He is above all extremely passionate about the Casino Industry and its responsibility of Customer care and brings a high level of enthusiasm to any Project regardless of size and is an avid believer of theming Casinos. He is responsible for several Casino designs and their logo.

David McKee

David McKee has covered the casino industry for almost 20 years and his day-to-day thoughts can be found in “Stiffs & Georges” at LasVegasAdvisor. com. For Casino Life, he has written several profiles of suppliers and operators. Other publications for which he has written gaming-related articles include Las Vegas CityLife, Desert Companion, Las Vegas Weekly, Casino Executive Magazine and several others. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife Jennifer and their four cats.

Stephen Karoul

Steve Karoul is recognized throughout the world today as one of the leading Casino Marketing professionals in the industry. Steve is a seasoned casino executive with over 37 years of hands-on experience working for the best casinos in the industry, and is viewed as an authority on every segment of casino marketing covering: Table Game Marketing, Slot Marketing, Promotions, CRM, Player Development, International Marketing, Junket Marketing, Asian Marketing, Ethnic Marketing, Special Events, Player Clubs, etc. He is also the originator and developer of “The Casino Marketing Tune Up.”


Mark Birtha, Rocksino President, Hard Rock International


Vegas Experience. Ohio Address Hard Rocksino Northfield Park is Definitely a Property that Rocks ‘N Experience. By Bob Ambrose 9

The Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park Awarded #1 regional gaming destination, #1 steakhouse, #1 entertainment venue, Top 100 Workplace and countless other recognitions by both local and regional patrons


hose of you that have read my editorials know that I like an operational message on point. Having been on both the development and operational side of the gaming and hospitality industry, I have an appreciation for not only the development process but also the leadership and team commitment needed to take an operation to peak performance and sustain its model of operational excellence. I found such an operation located just 20 miles outside of Cleveland, Ohio. The Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park is a 200,000 sq. ft. synergistic presentation all served on the pallet of the Hard Rock brand. The customer experiences are in the details of its variety of dining options, a 2200 VLT “Vegas” gaming floor, state of the art harness racing track and entertainment venues offering both international and local talent. Ohio legalized casinos in 2009 and authorized eleven gaming operations which includes four landbased casinos and seven racetrack racinos with video lottery terminals (VLTs.) According to the American


Gaming Associations Executive Summary (2016), Ohio has seen a double digit increase in gaming revenue year over year. At the centre of this game driven, and non-gaming supported, universe in Ohio I found Mark Birtha, the property President with Hard Rock International. As I am always the inquisitive Professor, we engaged in a conversation about Mark’s industry history, operating a global brand in a local’s market, leadership and team building. You are a Cornell University graduate, with decades of industry experience that is literally a “Who’s Who” of major property resorts. You have developed and implemented major hospitality projects, held executive positions in operations both in hotels and casinos, charted new paths for yourself in tribal gaming, worked internationally, and now are leading a major branded facility in Ohio. And I might add in your off hours you have been involved in conferences, civic organizations, and academic boards and have authored many

industry articles. At the end of the day how do you re-direct your interest? I love to be challenged and this is a dynamic, ever evolving industry. Hard Rock International is going through an evolution of its own investing more resources and focus on gaming and it’s great to be a part of that energy and environment. Our industry is becoming more of a mature business; but at the same time, it is also continuing to differentiate itself as a complete entertainment experience. For more than 15 years, I have been espousing the power and performance of retail, dining and entertainment (RDE). There continues to be more opportunity for the gaming industry to use these so-called “amenities� as revenue/profit centres, product differentiators, and magnets to expand our existing clientele. I enjoy being an integral part of that conversation and proving that successful formula at Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park. At the same time, there is clearly a focus on technology and how it is going to shape our current business

and the experience of the future. And finally, I truly enjoy giving back to my local community and also mentoring future leaders. I know that will be part of my legacy and contribution to this great industry. It seems that being visible and hands on is part of your leadership model. Can you share how you developed your model of leadership and who were some of your mentors? I was extremely fortunate to enter this industry at a robust time and more importantly be surrounded by visionaries, leaders and tremendous mentors. I started my career working at the Mirage and opened the Bellagio under the one-and-only Steve Wynn. Mr. Wynn has tremendous passion for what he does and is so focused on each and every detail of the guest experience from the building design to execution of world class service. I learned to be a dreamer and also be attentive to the details; and it has served me well my entire career. A bit further in my career, I was fortunate to work on a gaming and hotel development in Las Vegas with Bill Marriott.


A state of the art “Vegas” style gaming floor

What I saw in his leadership style that resonated with me was his mantra of “take care of your people and they will take care of your guests.” That simple belief has made Marriott the biggest hotel company in the world and has proven time and again to be such an integral part of the success story at every stop in my career. Those two tenets have been the foundation of my leadership model, coupled with “walking the talk”, “surprise and delight”, and being willing to do any job at any time to support my team towards our collective success.

spend time on the gaming floor. We know the guests by name, as well as the employees, and spend time “walking” in each of their shoes. At the same time, there needs to be an environment of mentoring and professional growth so that team members can learn and continue to advance their careers. More than anything, we try and build real relationships with our teammates and our guests based on knowing what is important to them, and their needs and wants. We strive to exceed their expectations in our delivery of authentic experiences to each constituent.

Former CEO of Chrysler Corp, Lee Iacocca, stated in his book; Where have All the Leaders Gone, “… here is the thing I learned as a CEO: ou succeed or fail based on your team.” Can you share your philosophy on TEAM building? Such a great question and so critical to overall success. It’s all about the people and the team of course. There has, first and foremost, to be a focused vision, something instilled in our team at The Rocksino from our owner Mr. Brock Milstein. This is further strengthened by a solid culture, and there have been few companies in my experience that have anything close to the culture, beliefs and mottos of Hard Rock International. It is imperative that all of the team members understand and embody those “truths”, from top to bottom. Our executives and I pick up trash, greet guests and

I tell my students of hospitality that each part of the industry is segmented by different amenity units such as: culinary lodging and casino, for example. How do you see the hospitality industry of the future? When I first started my careers, we clearly worked in Casinos, Gaming Establishments. My first management roles were in food and beverage. Seeing what Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson were doing in Las Vegas to harness the power of the complete experience (and all of the amenities and offerings that comprise it) laid the foundation for my focus for years to come. There were integrated resorts before we called them that; we just began to shift both our understanding of what business we were in and the expectations and perceptions of our guests. We solely focused on casino customers,


The Club Velvet is drinks, casual dining, award winning comedy acts, live music or exclusive events with a total Vegas feel

and now we host the We are proud to say largest conventions or that we are recognized offer every celebrity as the region’s chef or signature spa premier destination experience and so much for gaming, dining more—as part of the and entertainment. It gaming experience all starts with a local and as a collective and ownership and global independent experience brand operating of its own. What marriage, taking the Great live celebrity entertainment always at the Hard Rock will be fascinating to best of both worlds watch in the future is and infusing them into the intersection of technology and guest service. a product that delivers “wow” experiences with Hospitality is focused on making the guest the sensitivity to, and nuances of, the people who experience personalized and efficient and alllive in the area. Our history begins with the iconic encompassing but at the same time has to ensure Northfield Park Harness Track which is celebrating its we make it hospitable, human and interconnected. 60th year of operations. In our short history since Hospitality is literally taking care of people in your opening, the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park “home”, and there will surely be new ways to has been awarded #1 regional gaming destination, evolve and achieve this in the new AirBnb and Uber #1 steakhouse, #1 entertainment venue, Top 100 generation. Workplace and countless other recognitions voted on by our local and regional patrons. We continue The “Rocksino” opened in 2013 and has had a to raise the bar, reinvest in our enterprise and few years to establish its footprint in the Ohio provide new amenities and experiences to our locals/regional market. A look at the website and guests. We designed an amazing building, filled it I immediately saw the local connection to the with high quality products and services, and hired community in both the display of current Cleveland the best of the best to deliver “authentic experiences activities as well as local community events. Your that rock” each and every day. At the same time, property has shown by action, the definition of we have partnerships with local businesses such a local casino/hospitality property as part of the as Malley’s Chocolates, sports legends including community. Bernie Kosar and the Cleveland Indians, and proudly How has that helped to define the property? represent the best of NE Ohio by featuring icons


regional/local gaming like musician Michael and entertainment model Stanley or the Cleveland that has performed skyline on our signature exceedingly well. At the VLT games. It truly is same time, it is the first a “Vegas Experience. Hard Rock Racino product Ohio Address”! And and its success has our values of Take Time been noted by all in the to Be Kind, All is One, industry. This prototype Love All Serve All and is the footprint for future Save the Planet show The Center Bar makes its statement as the place to be seen at the heart of the Hard Rock Rocksinos around the our commitment to world and we are excited philanthropy and our to be part of that evolution. local community. We have donated more than $2 million to charities in the region since we opened. How does Northfield Park encourage customers to People recognize that we are truly dedicated to visit other Hard Rock locations? making NE Ohio a better place for all of us to enjoy. We are fortunate that Hard Rock has a combined These are some of the things that differentiate us in portfolio of over 200 cafe, hotel and casino locations our marketplace. around the world, with many more coming. In the hotel and casino space, we enjoy sharing our The Hard Rock brand is unique and defines itself. customers with “sister” properties in the Hard Rock How has this Rocksino Northfield Park complex family both domestically and internationally. Playing contributed to growing the Hard Rock brand? at a Hard Rock in Northeast Ohio translates into Hard Rock is an iconic brand that is over 45 years travel opportunities to enjoy new experiences in old and located in more than 70 countries around Southern Florida, or Las Vegas or even the Caribbean the world. The company is focused on evolving at Punta Cana. We have a very strong network of beyond its café foundation and is pursuing multiple player development and marketing executives that opportunities in North and South America, Europe, work closely with each other to ensure that Hard Asia and elsewhere to grow its casino and hotel Rock amenities are available to gaming patrons portfolio. Adding to that legacy is no easy task; around the world. Our guests can experience the but luckily there is only one Rocksino in the world same great live concerts, extraordinary meals, today….Northfield Park! This property is truly amazing suites, mind blowing spas, renowned golf one-of-a-kind and introduced a new and powerful


Hard Rock is an iconic brand that is over 45 years old and located in more than 70 countries around the world

and, of course, world class gaming, tournaments, and promotions (product and service) in their local market, as well as in destination, resort, urban and international locations around the world. What highlights can you share about the Rock Star Rewards programme and how does it contribute to fostering long-term loyal relationships with customers? The Rock Star Rewards programme is a comprehensive loyalty membership that our Rocksino patrons truly value. It allows us to offer tremendous incentives and perks to our patrons, as well as exclusive one-of-a-kind benefits and experiences. A player’s club and loyalty program’s focus is to, of course, determine the value of a guest and then to reinvest in their patronage by offering gaming, retail, dining, hotel, entertainment and other amenities that are personalized and customized to their liking. Our programme does all of that and more, including allowing for guests to ascertain benefits in other Hard Rock locations around the world. And also partake in marquee live concerts and meet-and-greet experiences with iconic music artists! In this day and age people are


looking not just for a free meal or a nice room; they are looking for an experience that is life changing and memorable and can be shared with others. We love delivering on those types of promises. It’s core to our Hard Rock DNA. Our branding statement here is “Find Your Rhythm”, and we offer many different ways to do that for each and every discerning guest to explore and personalize their Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park experience. Establishing and operating a successful integrated customer experience does not happen by accident. It takes knowledge, careful planning, leadership, a great team effort and an in depth understanding of the market. In the Ohio market, the global brand of the Hard Rock name assures its guest not only of a continuity of customer service in presentation, but a cutting edge-unique product environment in its foundation that’s built on “being different from the competition.” That is truly the definition of a “blue ocean” marketing strategy. There is no question that Mark, his team and the Hard Rock brand will continue to deliver to the Ohio market as well as define it!




Hospitable Leisure Seth Schorr, Chairman Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino, chats to Glyn Thomas


For those of our readers that may not be familiar with Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino, please can we commence this interview with a history? The Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino was opened on 11/12/13 in Downtown Las Vegas. Built with an urban hospitality experience in mind the casino resort was developed within its own pedestrian friendly entertainment district which consists of established brands such as Triple George Grill, Pizza Rock, Hogs & Heifers, the Mob Museum and steps away from the Fremont Street Experience. The Downtown Grand has nearly 650 hotel rooms in two towers, a roof-top pool with live entertainment called Citrus and Downtown’s most exciting new restaurant opened in the fall of 2016 called Freedom Beat which offers live music nightly from some of Las Vegas’ most critically acclaimed bands. The Downtown Grand’s casino is set in a boutique environment and provides an intimate gambling experience, which many prefer to the massive casino experience that continues to grow larger in other areas of Las Vegas. What would you say are some of the additional unique aspects about Downtown Grand that set it apart from its rivals? In addition to the interesting concepts that I just described, the Downtown Grand sets itself apart from others by providing the best bang for your


buck. That doesn’t’ mean we are the cheapest, but it means we provide the best value. This isn’t just my opinion, but the opinion of the Las Vegas Review Journal which awarded us “BEST VALUE HOTEL in LAS VEGAS” for two years in a row. Over the past two years the Downtown Grand has invested in eSports and is the first casino in the world to have a dedicated eSports lounge. Further eSports developments are in the works. Can you briefly summarise your career to this point? My career in the casino industry started in Laughlin, Nevada in 1991 when I had a summer job at the Golden Nugget. It was actually my first time understanding the importance of analysis to business decision making as I was tasked as a part of my job to count the number of passengers on the water taxi from Laughlin to Bullhead, Arizona to determine whether the service was worth the expense to the property. I worked in various positions at Treasure Island, The Mirage and eventually was a Casino Executive at Bellagio in 1999. After Mirage Resorts was sold to MGM, I went to work directly for Steve Wynn as Director of Interactive Gaming where I explored the world of Online Casinos during its first iteration in the late 1990s into early 2001. For legal reasons, we put that project on hold (indefinitely it seems)

and I shifted my focus to building and operating The Wynn Collection, a $500,000,000 impressionist art museum in the lobby of the Desert Inn where Wynn Las Vegas now stands. I spent nearly two years in Macau as one of the first members of the Wynn Macau team developing the international marketing plan and helping to build the initial team and infrastructure. In 2006 after a brief departure from the casino industry I moved back to Las Vegas where my partners and I acquired casinos in North Las Vegas. In 2010 we formed our current management company, Fifth Street Gaming to operate these casinos and manage casinos owned by others. We have operated casinos for four different ownership groups. What are your key responsibilities as Chairman of Downtown Grand Hotel and Casino? The Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino has become like a child to me – I actually started developing the Downtown Grand in between the birth of my two children Dax (7) and Mia (5). My job is to nurture the operation, guide the overall strategy and, of course, a main part of my focus is on the casino operation and marketing as well eSports which has become a passion of mine. We are lucky to have a very strong operating team, a stellar GM and recently brought in one of the most wonderful guys

in the industry as Senior Vice President of Gaming Asset Management to assist with the continued growth at the Downtown Grand as well as other projects. Few people in business gain the success level you have achieved prior to middle age. What is your secret? I have no secret. I was given great opportunities at a young age (for which I have always been grateful) and took full advantage of them. I was afforded a great education by my parents which I don’t take for granted. Having had a front row seat watching Mr. Wynn and my father develop Mirage Resorts and build Wynn Resorts from scratch was an amazing part of my education that I know I am very lucky to have experienced. When I first moved to Las Vegas at the age of six I lived at the Golden Nugget for 14 months; it was at that time that my casino education began. Over the past six years I have been honing in on my leadership skills and have made many mistakes. I have been criticized (rightfully so in many cases) and had to lick my wounds and learn from my mistakes. My business partners and I are only getting started and we feel the future is very bright. Creating an enjoyable fun and relaxed environment is an important factor in Leisure and


entertainment venues. What kind of investment over the years has Downtown made into the likes of audio-visual & lighting equipment at the Casino? Downtown Grand opened with state of the art Crestron automated systems. Since opening we have upgraded the a/v system to find the optimal music sound and balance between live entertainment and casino ambiance. You are right, creating and maintaining the right environment is critical and an ongoing focus for our company. How do you divide your time between CEO of Fifth Street Gaming & Chairman Downtown Grand along with Downtown3rd? Finding a balance for all areas of my life is a constant focus of mine and something I have started to get good at over the past few years. Time management is critical to any executive. Constantly prioritizing the tasks that are in front of me, surrounding myself by great talented people who I trust and trying to work smart – not just hard – are the tricks that I think are working in my life. Do you have icons like Steve Wynn that you draw your inspiration from or do you define a route to achieving your ambitions of your own creation? It’s been 27 years since that first summer job and

I feel I now have enough data to draw my own conclusions and pave my own way. There is no question my number one role model is my father whose dedication, passion, attention to detail and ability to connect with his team like no one I have ever known has had the greatest impact on me. Certainly, Steve Wynn has had a great influence on my life as well and should inspire anyone involved in the gaming industry – he literally changed the game. Mr. Wynn gave me advice six years ago as I was beginning to develop the Downtown Grand to find a great right hand man who could execute my vision. It has taken me six years to find that guy, but I think I finally have. I have learned from many others in my life including my business partner Bruce Deifik who is a master deal-maker, Jeffrey Fine who always sees an angle in a situation that I may not see at first and is a bit more calm in his demeanour that I am, and my entire YPO forum who on a regular basis coach me. Can you provide our readers with an insight into the organization that you and your business partner, Jeffrey Fine, own and operate: Fifth Street Gaming? Fifth Street Gaming (FSG) was founded in 2010 and has taken many shapes over the past seven years.


Fifth Street Gaming has its roots in operating local casinos, taverns and restaurants. FSG has a sister company, LEV Restaurant Group, that operates over 50 restaurants. FSG has online experience and has created social casino games and recently has gotten heavily involved with eSports. Last week FSG had two major milestones: we were approved by the NGCB to operate Siegel Slots and Suites and hired Humerto Trueba as SVP of Gaming Asset Management. Exciting times! How closely do you work with your marketing team on gaming promotions? Our company is split up into (three) distinct marketing teams. One team focusses on the Downtown Grand, another on our local casinos and a third on our new management platform High Horse Hospitality that focused on unique bar and restaurant concepts such as Golden Tiki and Evel Pie. My role is to give input when asked and make observations and suggestions for improvement when appropriate based on my experience and perspective. Often times I have to let our team leaders make their own decisions and my main role


is to give them the tools to succeed. What charitable causes do you and Jeffery Support? Jeff is incredibly generous and charitable and it is hard to keep track of all of the organizations he supports. I sit on the board of Jewish Federation, Smith Center Advisory Board, Las Vegas Natural History Museum and was appointed by Governor Sandal a few years ago to sit on the Nevada Board of History & Museums. Making charitable contributions in the form of money and time is incredibly important and one of the most fulfilling parts of my life. It is also rewarding to sit on the Executive Committee of the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance and work with the City to continue to develop downtown Las Vegas. We focus on issues like safety, cleanliness, marketing and even citywide transportation. What aspects of your role do you find most satisfying? My role has become somewhat high profile and therefore gives me access to a lot of interesting

people and I have been asked to sit at a lot of interesting tables. What I do with that access and responsibility is how I will one day judge myself but so far it is has been very satisfying (and fun). I absolutely love starting things. I recently co-founded the Nevada eSports Alliance which will shape the future of eSports in Nevada and make Nevada the hub for global eSports. It’s an important part of Las Vegas’ future story. I also co-founded a company two years ago that is a financial services company and it has been very rewarding to see it grow. You have made Las Vegas your home. What is it about the City that persuaded you to make it your home? Las Vegas has been home base since I was six years old. So the initial idea of moving to Las Vegas was certainly not mine. However, I have moved back here on many occasions after living in many other cities including New York, LA, Santa Barbara, Philadelphia and Macau. I chose to live in Las Vegas today because it is an amazing City to raise a family. It is a convenient city to live in and conveniently located to other cities I enjoy visiting (but would not like to permanently live) such as Los Angeles and Sun Valley, Idaho. At this point, Las Vegas is a part of my identity and I am proud to call myself a Nevadan. I also believe I can make a difference in Las Vegas and Nevada in ways I could not in another City. The City and State governments are easy to work with and there is a strong public-private partnership in our community of which I enjoy being a part. What are the key factors in your opinion that contribute most to the operations success in these competitive times that involve a whole host of entertainment and leisure alternatives? It is almost impossible to stand out in Las Vegas with all of the choices that our amazing city offers its guests. Assuming a property can come up with at least one hook to differentiate itself, it is critical to focus on the basics of guest experience. It’s become a cliché amongst operators but at the end of the day it is the experience that we are selling and the clientele to which we are selling it become savvier every year and have a very loud voice via social media, so should you fail in providing a solid guest experience the world will know soon enough.


UKDC 2017 Winner: Jamie Cummins – The Ritz 1st Runner up: Stuart McCallum – Les Ambassadeurs 2nd Runner up: Francesco Paolo Di Marco – Crown Aspinalls

Play Your Cards Right National Casino Forum CEO Tracy Damestani & UK Dealer Championship Winner Jamie Cummins talk to JJ Woods


he Playboy Club Mayfair was the venue for this year’s UK Dealer Championships, hosted by the National Casino Forum. The winner, Jamie Cummins of the Ritz Club and first runner up Stuart McCallum, Les Ambassadeurs will be entered into the European Dealer Championships 2017 that takes place at the Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square on the 9th & 10th May. All 32 participants from 20 countries will gather on the 8th May for


a welcome drink where the lottery draw for the first-round groups will take place. The prize giving ceremony and celebration party on 10th May is also taking place at the famous casino. I commence my interview with Tracy Damestani, the CEO of the National Casino Forum, and that is followed by the Winner Jamie Cummins. Can you tell us about the role of the National Casino Forum within the UK casino industry?

aspects of casino gaming legislation and regulation. NCF provides a platform to help inform policy makers on the current and future growth of the sector. Why does the National Casino Forum host the UK Dealer Championships, and what was the feedback from this year’s event at the Playboy Club? It’s important to recognise excellence; being entered into the UKDC is one way of doing that. Being part of the UKDC gives an opportunity to staff to shine and gain recognition. Feedback from this year’s event from competitors and judges tell us that the event helps build their confidence and skills; they feel more valued. It’s a serious but fun event that helps showcase the industry. Everybody loved the glamour of the Playboy club, we all wanted a photo with a bunny or two! Looking ahead to the 2017 European Dealer Championships taking place in May, why is this event important to the Casino industry? The EDC brings the casino community together and competitors get a chance to see how dealers from different countries perform. It’s extremely competitive but friendly too. The title of EDC Champion has true kudos across the ECA member countries. What does it mean to the National Casino Forum to be hosting the European Dealer Championships in London this year? The EDC is being hosted by the Hippodrome Casino. I am the Vice Chair of the ECA so for NCF it is a double thrill to have the competition on home ground, especially as Mattias Luchesisni won the title for the UK in 2015.

NCF’s vision is to make the UK the most attractive destination in the world for casino gaming. Our mission is to support the interests of the UK land based casino operators. Our core activities include: working with Government departments, The Gambling Commission, Local Authorities, researchers and academics within the gambling field and care providers. NCF provides its membership with forums to develop and innovate the casino industry. NCF members are actively involved with all

How are croupiers trained to identify those at risk of problem gambling? All casino staff, not just croupiers, undergo regular training to ensure they recognise the signs of problem gambling. As well as broader social responsibility training, it is given in a variety of formats – face to face, online as well as external training courses. The key point is to keep the training fresh and relevant. More broadly, what measures has the sector got in


Winner Jamie Cummins with Playboy Bunnies, UKDC 2017 contestants gathered at the Playboy Club London

place to promote responsible gambling? The UK casino industry has a long history of conducting and promoting responsible gambling, this is nothing new to the sector. All casino operators are members of the NCF; membership requires operators to adopt the Playing Safe Principles which have been built on the strong social responsibility protocols that casinos embrace. Under Playing Safe the ACE (accreditation, certification and evaluation) Panel - an independent body of experts, comprising Professor Yvonne Guerrier, Dr Guy Bohane and Tom Kavanagh - is tasked by NCF with evaluating land-based casinos’ responsible gambling policies and practices against the seven core elements of the Playing Safe principles. How many people are now employed by the UK casino sector? The Gambling Commission published direct employment figures of 16,300; however this doesn’t take into account the in-direct number, which is circa 30,000. Readers may assume that the casino sector is a


male dominated industry. To what extent is this the case? There are many myths and assumptions about casinos; employment diversity is one of them. When NCF conducted an employment survey the results showed that over 60% of gaming staff in senior management roles were female, while general gaming staff was split 56% male and 44% female. There’s more gender equality in casinos than people might think. Jamie Cummins Did you do any preparation for the tournament? As I really didn’t expect to do that well in the tournament, I didn’t really prepare. I think that may have helped me perform well, not knowing what to expect and just going on instinct. How impressed were you with your fellow contestants? I didn’t really get to see them perform during the competition but I do know some of them and I did see the others practising on tables before the tournament started. I was really impressed with what I saw. I think it made me relax a little more

because I was even more assured I wouldn’t win! So I was just trying to have a good time and enjoy playing in the tournament. Have you always been good at maths or is down to mental agility? Yes, I’ve always been good at maths. Since starting in the casino industry, I think my maths skills have played a big factor in my performance and why I have got to where I am today. But it’s not all about being good at maths; to be a top dealer you also need to have other skills, such as being able to deal with people (customers) from all over the world and managing a variety of challenges that come with the job. Personality also plays a big part. You have proven you have high functioning technical skills. That requires a lot of concentration and focus, whilst you also retain a relaxed engaging persona, which isn’t easy when concentrating in a pressured situation that requires speed of thought and action. What is your secret? For me, I think it’s because I’m confident in my abilities and skills. I’m very laid back, very relaxed

and I don’t stress out when the job gets challenging. How are you managing your time ahead of the Grand Finals? I’m just taking it day by day. It’s all still a blur to me what actually happened and I’m really looking forward to what happens next. The Ritz Club must be delighted with your achievement? Yes, I’ve had a great response from my colleagues and the management team including Mr. Roger Marris, the CEO. A few of my colleagues, like myself were very surprised but most were very confident I’d do well. I was invited to have dinner with friends and family at The Ritz hotel to celebrate winning UK Dealer of the Year, which was a very generous gift and it was an amazing evening. Roger Marris, Chief Executive of The Ritz Club said, “We are thrilled that Jamie has been awarded UK Dealer of the Year Award. Being a great dealer is a combination of technical skill, mental agility, an engaging personality and being able to exceed in delivering great customer service.”


may 31 - june 2, 2017 @ The Biltmore, miami

JUEGOS MIAMI Where the Latin American business community meets

Japan Gaming Congress Grand Hyatt, Tokyo | 10 – 11 May 2017



Fixing the machines in casinos conundrum by David Clifton, Clifton Davies Consultancy Limited


y first professional involvement with British casinos was in 1983, back in the days when not only the number of casinos, but also the extent of gaming facilities they could each individually provide, was restricted by the “demand test” enshrined in the Gaming Act 1968. It may be hard to believe today, but the maximum permitted number of jackpot gaming machines (as they were then known) was fixed at just two per casino, pursuant to government policy at that time to avoid stimulating demand for, and to prevent excessive, gaming. That number had risen to ten (with a maximum stake of 50p and prize of £1,000) by the time of publication of the Budd Report in July 2001. Thereafter, without it seems any evidence-based rationale, the Gambling Act 2005 increased the permitted number of jackpot machines (re-named as category B1 machines with a current maximum stake of £5 and maximum prize of £10,000, with the option of a maximum £20,000 linked progressive jackpot on a premises basis only): • from 10 to 20 in the case of “converted” 1968 Act casinos, • subject to a 2:1 machine-to-table ratio for small 2005 Act casinos – reduced from the original recommended 8:1 ratio – capped at 80 machines, and • subject to a 5:1 machine-to-table ratio for large 2005 Act casinos, capped at 150 machines. In 2012, a Parliamentary Select Committee described land-based casinos as the “most highly regulated sector and therefore the most appropriate venue for hard, high stake forms of gambling”. A year later, the Government said that it:


• “recognises that access to higher stake and prize gaming machines can support socially responsible growth in the casino sector”, • “welcomes the industry’s commitment to explore and ultimately deliver enhanced player protection measures which will help build public confidence in the casino sector and its commitment to minimising the harm caused by its products” and • “notes the foundations being laid by [the National Casino Forum] and its members in this regard through the development of the Playing Safe code”. Playing Safe is NCF’s enhanced responsible gambling programme launched in September 2013 and designed to develop and improve player protections and to mitigate harm to consumers, followed two years later by SENSE, the first national self-exclusion scheme of its type within this country, that is implemented by all casinos nationwide. Bringing matters completely up to date, on 13th March this year I attended the NCF’s Playing Safe Reception, at which we were given an update on ground-breaking research by Focal Research Consultants Limited, which the NCF is partnering, to develop tools to aid operators to effectively identify and intervene when players exhibit early signs of potential problem gambling behaviour, which is surely precisely the sort of enhanced player protection measure the Government was calling for in 2013. In NCF’s submission to DCMS in response to the latter’s “Call for evidence: Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures”, it has called for consideration of higher stake and prize machines for high-end Mayfair casinos plus the following changes to gaming machine entitlements: • move small 2005 Act casinos to a 3:1 machineto-table ratio, subject to the present cap of 80 machines, • allow “converted” 1968 Act casinos the same ratio of 3:1, similarly capped at 80 machines, and • increase the machine numbers cap for large 2005 Act casinos in accordance with the existing 5:1 machine to table ratio up to 500. In support of its request, NCF has said that such changes will allow the casino sector to respond to customer demand, match global competition


and keep up with technological advances: all key considerations post-Brexit where possible sterling parity with the dollar and the euro will inevitably boost tourism figures. Against a backdrop of: • the ongoing development by the British casino sector of highly researched and carefully considered safeguards to protect the consumer and increase their trust and confidence in gambling operators, in line with the Gambling Commission’s call in November last year for the gambling industry to think about what the customer needs rather than what the Commission expects, • compliments since then from the Commission’s CEO Sarah Harrison to chief executives in the casino sector for showing leadership in raising standards, • reports of regular complaints being made by customers in busy casinos who have to wait for an hour or more for a machine to become available, • a recent Gambling Commission gambling participation report showing no material change in problem gambling statistics, and • a situation where there are presently fewer gaming machines across all 150 or so casinos presently operating in Great Britain than one will find in a single casino in Las Vegas, this appears to represent a well-argued, evidence-based and consistent set of proposals which, if agreed by DCMS and implemented as sought, would: • fix the gaming machines in casinos conundrum that Richard Caborn, the minister responsible for gambling at the time the Gambling Act 2005 was enacted, admitted in 2012 was an area “where we could have applied more common sense” and “is something that needs to be revisited in my view”, • make a valuable contribution to Government coffers in the sense of boosting jobs in the sector, adding to economic growth and raising additional tax revenues and • place the British casino sector in a much more competitive position to face the financial uncertainties of a post-Brexit world.





Visitor Attractions

Martin Calvert of gaming-focused marketing agency Blueclaw shares his insight into the most effective ways for land-based casino operators to win in SEO


and-based casino operators know that customers see them as many things – an entertainment venue, a social hub, a corporate hospitality an exciting experience and more. Attracting visitors through the doors can be a challenge – but there are significant opportunities to casinos that can encourage their existing clientele to return more frequently, as well as attract wholly new audiences and players. In this short article, we’re going to talk about the role that local SEO can play in making your casino business visible and attractive. What is local SEO? Search engine optimisation is the discipline of attracting new customers by carrying out strategies that make your business more visible in search engine results. Local SEO is the local dimension of this – ensuring that your business is visible in map views of local search results in specific regions, or showing up

in the coveted ‘three pack’ of businesses that you see in boxes at the top of Google results after conducting a location-based search such as ‘casino Birmingham’.

If your business is one of the top three listed, then you’re in an extremely good position – but there is an issue.


These top three results change based on extremely small changes in searcher location. Two searchers looking for ‘Birmingham casino’, standing two or three miles apart but still in the city region will very likely see a different three-pack of results to each other. This means that it is very difficult to control or optimise performance for appearance in the three-pack – what you can do as a casino is make sure you are being seen as a ‘local’ casino wherever possible. Where there are a lot of competitors, clicking the map will take the user to an expanded view with up to 20 businesses listed. Being included on this list is the important part – the searcher’s own location shapes who appears in the top three-pack, but being in the top 20 that the three-pack is drawn from is partly down to your local SEO strategy. So – how do you do it? 1. Complete your Google MyBusiness profile Your MyBusiness profile ( ) is essentially the hub for Google’s direct knowledge about your casino business. You can supply a whole range of information that will help Google to categorise your site and your business correctly – especially locally. Adding a profile and keeping it up to date with the most accurate information will mean that you’re giving the search engine the information they need to understand your business – and there is a greater chance that snippets from your reviews, opening hours, pictures, reviews and more will show up in an actual search engine result. This means that you increase your real estate on the page, displace competitors and highlight your amenities to be the most attractive option for someone searching for a casino in the region. Remember – search engine performance isn’t just about being found – it’s about showcasing your casino as the place they’d love to visit. 2. Build links with local authority to your site Having links from local directories and highly trusted, authoritative publications (even ‘nofollowed’ ones) allows your site and your casino to be understood as a real business, tied to a local area.


You can earn these links by making sure that whenever you’re featured in the local media, a link to your site is always included. Partner up with local blogs to get coverage and links from them – consider how to approach local businesses, local sports teams and more – but always get that link. Directories like business listings are not as powerful for SEO as they once were, but they still signal to Google that you’re a business with a strong presence in the region, and so should be shown in local search results. 3. On-page SEO Optimising your website’s content is key in local SEO. Again, your aim is to give search engines all the information they need to understand that you are a casino with brick and mortar locations that people can visit and enjoy. Ensuring that your company name, address and location are featured at the footer of every page on your site, in the same format they appear in any directory, business or Google MyBusiness listings, to create a consistent record across the internet. In terms of code, making sure your city/region is mentioned in the meta descriptions (and Title, Image Alt and H1 tags as appropriate) of your site pages will help local SEO initiatives. Very importantly, this means when your casino appears in search results, you’re telling the searcher where you’re located in text. Using the fictional example of London-based ‘Casino ABC’, this might appear something like – ‘Casino London | Casino ABC, Oxford Street birmingham Discover the stunning Vegas-style Casino ABC on Oxford Street in London. Games, cocktails, entertainment and more – open 24/7.’ Making sure your on-page content and code is fully optimised and gives search engines and potential customers the accurate and inviting information needed to ensure that your casino performs well in search engine optimisation is the final piece of the local SEO puzzle. For further information

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Josephine Lee, Executive Vice President of Reed Exhibitions Greater China


G2E Asia 2017 Welcomes the World Peter White puts the questions to Josephine Lee, Executive VP, Reed Exhibitions Greater China

G2E Asia was in many exhibitor and attendee’s opinion a huge success, what have you planned for 2017? Last year’s edition of G2E Asia marked a decade of growth in which the show reached a number of unprecedented milestones. Nearly 11,000 visitors from 83 countries and regions attended G2E Asia, including important government, gaming and tourism stakeholders. In 2017, G2E Asia is on track to break even more records. Other new additions to this year’s show, include:

steady growth over recent years. How are G2E Asia and conference both acknowledging and responding to this sectors growing market? Currently G2E Asia is covering land-based, online gaming and non-gaming sectors on a broader scope where there are segmented zones, targeted networking events as well as conference sessions covering these sectors. Further, building new forums like the Future Technology Leaders event into our programme enables us to stay on the cutting-edge of new and emerging markets.

Introducing the Integrated Resort Experience With the surge in non-gaming spending and aligning with the Macao government’s initiative, the Integrated Resort Experience at G2E is a new addition to showcase products and services focused on diversifying revenue streams for Asian casinos. Exhibiting products, technologies, and services focus on non-gaming elements, including: entertainment, clubs, bars, and other “IR” technology and business solutions. These new categories will help casino operators stay ahead of the curve and provide customers with the ultimate experience beyond the casino floor.

Can you summarise the key aspects of G2E Asia appeal – what would be your top five with one being the most important? Across the continent, G2E Asia is renowned as a key gaming and entertainment business hub. Every year, over 95% of Asian casino operators attend the event. It’s a truly regional gaming event in Asia. The top five reasons it’s appealing and important to attend are: 1. Asian gaming professionals attend – it’s a can’t-miss event in the region. 2. Access to suppliers to discover and source new products. It’s where business gets done. 3. All industry professionals leverage G2E Asia as a one-stop sourcing platform to look for cutting-edge products and solutions. 4. The place to network, establish new contacts and make quality business connections. It is expected that more than 400 business meetings will be prearranged through online and offline matchmaking services. 5. The conference programme, along with a series of seminars and presentations, provides insights

Convening Future Technology Leaders This newly added networking event provides the ideal platform for 120 future technology leaders from integrated resorts, gaming suppliers and governments to discuss applications of innovative technology and solutions. The Land based and Online Bingo Sector has seen


covering the latest market trends, regulations, opportunities and challenges to stay informed on the industry and ahead of the competition. With the Macau Gaming sector having experienced a reduction in its profits in recent years, what is G2E Asia doing to assist with the turnaround? It is important for G2E Asia, the industry’s premier event for the gaming industry in Asia, to remain knowledgeable of the market and deliver value to the industry. With the surge in non-gaming spending and aligning with the Macao government’s initiative, the Integrated Resort Experience at G2E is a new addition to showcase products and services focused on diversifying revenue streams for Asian casinos. Exhibiting products, technologies, and services focus on non-gaming elements, including: entertainment, clubs, bars, and other “IR” technology and business solutions. These new categories will help casino operators stay ahead of the curve and provide customers with the ultimate experience beyond the casino floor. Comprehensive representation of the industry sum up the most common responses when I ask visitors to G2E Asia. Has that been amongst the main goals since the show was launched for G2E Asia to be an all-inclusive representation of the industry? It is our goal to make G2E Asia an all-inclusive representation of the industry which encompasses a


few aspects. These include attracting key customers and new companies, and covering land-based, online gaming and non-gaming from the suppliers. All industry professionals will congregate at this annual event from regulators, operators, manufacturers, governments, trade bodies and media. The conference programme is inspiring and provides insights covering the latest market trends, regulations, opportunities and challenges. What else can we expect for raising the profile of Bingo in this increasingly diverse niche industry where each sector has such a powerful visual impact on the show floor, from the size of the booths and the technology on display? It is our goal to provide ease of sourcing and navigation on the show floor for our audience. New product launches and innovative technologies and solutions, are delivered through the Tech Talk Forum on the show floor through face-to-face meetings and interactions with a wide range of products and solutions. How is the 2017 G2E Asia conference programme shaping up? The G2E Asia 2017 conference programme is developing very well. The framework includes a broad scope of market development & regulation, gaming technology and casino operations, integrated resort development, operations and marketing and iGaming.

What’s new for G2E Asia 2017? The Integrated Resort Experience (IRE) is the first-ever event at G2E Asia to centralize sourcing of new products, technologies, and services that drive revenue and value from non-gaming sources across Entertainment, Clubs, Bars, IR Technology and Business Solutions, and helps integrated resorts and casino operators stay ahead of the curve and keep a finger on the pulse of the market, as customers seek the ultimate experience beyond the casino floor. The IRE is a timely new addition to the booming event and an excellent way to diversify revenue streams for Macau. Convening Future Technology Leaders This newly added networking event provides the ideal platform for 120 future technology leaders from integrated resorts, gaming suppliers and governments to discuss applications of innovative technology and solutions. The exhibition floor for 2016 was impressive Is there going to be more exhibition floor space being made available at the G2E Asia 2017 Show? Halls A, B & C of the Venetian Macao will be completely used, covering over 37,000sqm gross exhibition space – an anticipated 20% growth in exhibitors in 2017. For those of our readers that haven’t yet attended but are considering, what advice would you provide them as to why G2E Asia 2017 is a must attend event? G2E Asia is the marketplace for the Asian gaming industry which provides the tools you need to make smart business decisions. It is the must-attend event in Asia where you can gain the latest market trends and industry insights, make quality business connections and source for innovative products and services for the lucrative Asian market. How can readers find out more about this year’s show and conference programme? For more on G2E Asia 2017, visit Is there anything else you would like to add? Don’t miss G2E Asia held May 16-18 at the Venetian Macao.




NETWORKING, EDUCATION AND BUSINESS INSIGHT Experience G2E Asia for the tools you need to win in the market.







A Tale of Two Casino Properties in Atlantic City: The former Trump Taj Mahal and the Trump Plaza

“Too late to place your bets! I got this prediction right,� says Bob Ambrose. 43


n December I was in Atlantic City documenting the city scape in photos as I have so many times before. I was setting up a photo shoot of the still operating Hard Rock Café shown against the backdrop of the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal that closed in October 2016. As I looked through the lens of my camera it hit me. “The Kingdom of Rock!” This property is a natural fit for the Hard Rock brand in total. The location and size of the property is perfect. A chill travelled through my body with this revelation. So you don’t think I am one of those fortune tellers that read your palm for $5. I told some people about my prediction to note the date. One was a local newspaper reporter. (By the way the fortune tellers are located further down on the boardwalk. And I am old enough to remember when they only charged a $1!) But if you send me $1 I will see what I can do for you. Having spent the last 30 years as a gaming executive, university instructor of same and general observer of all things gaming and hospitality especially when it comes to AC, I felt very comfortable about my prediction. So on property #1 I wish the Hard Rock much success. I know the team will put together a fine


resort and strongly contribute to expanding the Atlantic City model. You can take this prediction to the bank or your local bookie! Property #2 is the former Trump Plaza located next to the famous Boardwalk Hall. Built in the 1980s as part of the Trump Harrah’s partnership it quickly became the Trump plaza with Harrah’s selling their interest. Later during its life cycle it bought out its neighbour, a then unfinished project conceived by the late Bob Guccione publisher of Penthouse Magazine fame. In that buy out the Trump Plaza gained a parking lot and an existing hotel tower that was formally the Holiday Inn. The property continued to use the name Trump but now President Trump, he has had nothing to do with its operation since 2009 (name only) passing ownership on to Karl Icahn who also owns the closed Taj Mahal and the operating Tropicana in AC. The Plaza is one of those former monuments to hope and dreams still left over from the 80s casino hotel frenzy that dots parts of the boardwalk. A reflection of its former self the outer walls are paint blistered from a combination of sun and salty sea air. Faded awnings hang over the entrance reflecting neglect over time. The name Trump has been removed. Although the Trump name is still visibly

etched in sun bleached shadows left by the outline. Since its closing in September of 2014 there has been a great deal of speculation about its future. This week there was a story in the press about a study taking place to possibly demolish it. It was reported that a group of engineers and other hard hats were on site to assess it. What can you do with a shuttered 600 plus room casino hotel that is in need of upgrades in all areas and resides on a prime piece of Atlantic City boardwalk in New Jersey? After touring the property in 2008 as part of a feasibility study team I have to agree it resides on decaying bones. A demolition is an expensive proposition; however, keeping the property closed and managing facilities inside so it does not degrade further is also expensive. The outside is decaying and when you add the darkened structure to the boardwalk nightvisuals it is not the touristy landscape that attracts visitors. As much as I like history preserved, this multilevel miss match of 1980 architecture needs to go. But something must go in its place other than a vacant lot. I refer to the former site of the Playboy hotel, which after several owners under different brands, (including Trump) was torn down and is still a vacant lot. In Las Vegas they implode a property to make way for bigger and better. Right now a patch of green grass and trees would be better than what is currently decomposing on the boardwalk as the Plaza. I do vote to keep the parking garage and turn the bottom floor into retail space making it a multiuse property. Hmmm. Perhaps I just predicted that building’s future. In summary: I have been in a unique position to have watched Atlantic City’s ups and downs for decades. In my tale of two properties we have the possible tear down of one structure and rebrand of another. In a previous editorial I wrote about the 1980 movie Atlantic City which captured Atlantic City in transition. The fictional character, an aging mobster want-to-be named Lou (Burt Lancaster) and a young, beautiful dealer want-to-be named Sally, (Susan Sarandon) represented the old and new guard. Atlantic City was depicted as a city of two models both in contradiction. It was about its aging

layered history of the decaying destination resort city; as the new and improved version of hospitality and gambling was literally building a foundation on its decaying bones. Perhaps the two properties have similar roles. The newer Taj is now going on to its journey of a rebrand and finding itself while the older of the two, The Plaza continues to live in the past and may soon self-implode on itself. (Enjoy my photos)

As Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities: “…It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” Hmmmm, I wonder if Dickens was predicting the history of Atlantic City? Atlantic City has everything before it. That is why I continue to observe its ever changing model. Bob Ambrose @bobambrose



Casino Slots


The Latest, Newest, Hottest, and Best Casino Games. By: Victor H Royer

or those of you who are reading this in England, or Europe, you call them “fruit machines”. For our readers in Australia, we, of course, mean “the Pokies”. But here, in the USA, we all call them “slots” – because, in the days of coin-operated machines, there was a “coin” which was inserted into a “slot”, and – hence – “slot machines”. I realize that this explanation may be somewhat banal for many readers, and perhaps unnecessary, but since this article is directed toward the younger casino players, I thought I’d better mention it, just in case no one remembers slots as they used to be – with coins, and handles to pull, instead of buttons and ticket-printers. Great Casino Slots – Volume 3 – is the title of my latest book. I mention this because for the past several years, I have been creating a series of such books, each one featuring the latest, and best, of the games being offered by the major manufacturers. It’s a way to introduce these games to a greater audience than they otherwise might attract, as well as a means to showcase such games, often in advance of their release, and appearance on the casino floor.


So – why am I writing about this here? • Skill-Based Slots • Attracting the Younger Casino Players • Best of the Best Konami recently had a very successful launch of their skill-based game: Frogger, as well as a terrific competition for players of Frogger, and their new games. Frogger is one of the games I profile in my book Great Casino Slots, for that very reason. On the Sci Games side, their WMS brand released the very popular Space Invaders game last year, and that, too, has been a huge hit. Both of these latest offerings from Sci Games and Konami are part of the growing trend among OEMs to create more and more product that appeals to the “gamers”, specifically “video gamers”, among the Millennials. A way to attract them to the casino, and create for them a challenge that will, hopefully, inspire them to become regular casino players. And, of course, games like Frogger and Space Invaders also directly appeal to the older Arcade gamers, like me, who fondly remember spending buckets

of quarters in video arcades tugging and twisting the joy-sticks of these games when they were first introduced, a long time ago now. In one of my earlier articles for Casino Life magazine, I wrote a story titled: Oh Those Pesky Millennials, in which I alluded to the inevitable fact that – in time – even these now so-often thought of as “pesky” and “moody” new crop of casino players – or perhaps more accurately non-players – will, eventually, come around, and partake of the traditional casino fare in much the same and similar fashion as we do today. All of these new innovations notwithstanding, the more traditional casino offerings – including the more traditional casino slots – will remain on the casino floor, and will be played even by these players. In time. While I am of the opinion that too much emphasis – and too much money and resources – are being directed at trying to focus so forcefully, and seemingly exclusively, on attracting this mostly distracted young millennial crowd, this does not mean that I am against such developments, or that I don’t appreciate the truly great innovations in casino games, such as those that are now being created, and offered in our casinos. In fact, that’s another reason why I have been writing this series of books about great casino slots, because they are, by and large, truly great. But like with everything in life, it’s all a balance. Just how much of this “new” stuff do we do? And how much of the “old stuff” do we get rid of? And why? Or for how long? As the attention-span on the younger casino players shrinks to mere seconds, before they are distracted by something else and move on, just how do we make the case for these new products and games? How do we get the message across? What should we do to help these young people truly appreciate the fun and excitement of the traditional casino, while still showing them these new games? Well, apart from what’s already being done with games like Frogger and Space Invaders, we now have two new conduits for these players: • eSports • Video Game Machines


The phenomenon known as eSports is beginning to find its place in mainstream casino gaming. In Las Vegas, a new 15,000 seat arena dedicated to eSports is on tap, and the Nevada eSports Alliance, Cofounded by Seth Schorr, chairman of the Downtown Grand, is dedicated to making Las Vegas the eSports capital of the world - nevada-esports-alliance-aims-make-vegas-esportscapital-world There is even an eSports Convention planned for September 7 & 8, 2017, at the Westgate in Las Vegas In the USA, lately there has been a dedicated “push” among business and government interests to legalize all sports betting, or at least remove from it the stigma associated with its past – and often undeserved – unflattering reputations. With eSports, there are no such issues. This is a perfectly viable new 21st century casino gaming offering, and it directly appeals to the very people the casinos, and OEMs, are trying to attract as casino players – the Millennials. Similarly so, GameCo has had tremendous success with their Video Game Machines (VGMs), having created some of the most cutting-edge newage gambling games for casinos, also attracting the very same “new” crop of video gamers. With the hope, as with the others, that by their patronage of these games, they will also become more interested in the traditional casino games, including slots. Like those about which I have written in my books. So, the point here seems to be this: To understand the newly-evolving world of casinos, and casino gaming, and the players on whom this industry will depend for its sustainability, it seems we need to more fully embrace the homogeneity of the casino experience as it is being viewed by the emerging market – while at the same time not losing sight of the fact that we still have a very great and sustainable product as it currently exists. We


truly do have great casinos slots, and the OEMs keep designing and creating even more, and better games, as we speak. Like with all things new, there are growing pains, and trepidations. By embracing eSports, Sports wagering, Video Gaming as a form of Casino gambling, skill-based slots, and the more traditional casino models, we have nothing to fear. As Franklin D Roosevelt, the US President during the great depression of the 1930s said: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” This was true then, and it is true today. In the casino business, “great” does not have to mean “always something new”, and neither does it have to mean “always something old.” The transitional – and trans-generational – models of casino operations, and casino gaming, do not need to inspire panic, or fear. Or lack of profit. It’s simply a new “package”, inside of which are the fruits from the garden of Eden we all know, as well as a plate of new tastes and adventures. And the whole thing is an experience – and that’s precisely what casinos still are: an experience. You can’t get that just online. At some point all of us will have to lift our heads, look away from the smart-phones and iPads, stand upright, and walk into the real world. And there, and here, we find the casino, and casino games, as a platter full of great things. Fruit machines, pokies, and slots. Yum! Victor H Royer is President of Gaming Services & Research. He is a 34 year veteran of Las Vegas gaming, a 27 year consultant to the gaming industry, author of 50 books, and more than 4,000 articles on casino games and gaming. In addition he has researched and authored over 300 industry reports on the subject of player preferences, marketing, player development and customer relations. He can be reached at:

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Career strategy: Secrets of America’s top executives, part 2


y name is Mark Wayman, and I’m a Headhunter focused on gaming and high tech. Over the last twelve years I have placed 800+ executives. Compensation starts at $100,000, average placement is $200,000+, and last year I placed eight executives north of a million dollars. What do highly successful executives (top 2%) do differently than everyone else? How do they end up with the best jobs and the biggest compensation packages? This is part two in my series on the “secrets” these top executives utilize when managing their careers.

Mark Wayman, Godfather of Las Vegas

Personal Accountability – Successful executives don’t find fault or place blame on others. Candidates tell me they were fired because the company was no good, their boss was a jerk and/or their spouse did not support them. It’s their parents’ fault, kids’ fault, the dog’s veterinarian’s fault. Consider this: the only common thread in all your dysfunctional relationships is…YOU! This has become a huge American cultural issue. It’s always someone else’s fault. Take responsibility for your actions and learn from your mistakes. No one is going to judge you. There was only one perfect human being. Get the Right People on the Bus – Successful executives don’t worry about what other people think. Not everyone is going to agree with you or like you. The world is full of unhappy, miserable people that want to drag you into their vortex. Avoid them like the plague. Let me tell you, there is a long line of Mark Wayman haters. Because I would not represent them as a candidate. Because I won’t do business with their company. Because I won’t invest in their cooking show. Focus on getting the right people on


the bus. People that support you and want to help you be successful. You don’t need that many! Givers, Not Takers – Sure, you can make a case for takers like Steve Jobs, but successful narcissistic megalomaniacs are an anomaly. My experience is that authenticity, genuineness, and caring about other people are the attributes most common to success. People want to do business with those they like and trust. And always remember, to whom much is given…much is required. Be Realistic – Successful executives are REALISTIC. Every day I see candidates that want to double their salary. That…is silly. And being unrealistic is a great way to ensure no Executive Recruiter will represent you. Maybe your Dad will double your salary, but no company will. Even if I thought you were worth it, no HR person is going to support me. A second issue is executives that are making way above market rate compensation, then get terminated and start a job search. They get their head around that big salary and end up on the beach for six to twelve months trying to duplicate it. In some cases…they never work again. Be realistic in your expectations.

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Casino Life Issue 105 Volume 13 2017

Casino Life Issue 105 Volume 13 2017