CASINO The magazine for the owners and management of international casinos
Volume 16: Issue 142
Exciting and Innovatively Traditional Napoleons Casino Manchester
Februar y 24-25 Ukrainian Gaming Week 2021
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7 The Red and the Black Napoleons Casinos enters into Manchester by David McKee 14 Casino group raises the stakes on security With the ability to capture and export live video data in real-time for the authorities in the event of an incident, Axis’ solution provides peace of mind.
18 MGM Resorts’ Human Capital Embracing and Entertaining Humanity. Jyoti Chopra, Chief People, Inclusion and Sustainability Officer, MGM Resorts International. By: Damien Connelly 21 Positively Transforming Andy Anderson Director Tablish chats to Peter White 24 Providing Fast Solutions Nikolay Kossev Chief Operating Officer at Comfac Technology Options Limited and Juliet Capala – Director of Comfac Global Group chats to Damien Connelly 30 The player comes first Cashless-gaming expert Jurgen De Munck expounds on the casino of the near future by David McKee
35 Gaming Legislation Update Report on Gaming Legislation in Sweden and Poland 38 At The Sands, By Dr. David G. Schwartz (Author) Book Review by Bob Ambrose 41 To be, or not to be… This pandemic has many names. By Arjan Korstjens 43 Multitasking: the enemy of success? By Andrew Cosgrove 45 China’s blockchain dominance and the network effect By Raymond Chan 47 Online Gaming SE Asia – Yes You Can By Shaun McCamley 49 Must the Show go on? By Robert Brassai 52 The Last Word By: Damien Connelly Volume 16: Issue 142
39 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.
Editorial: Editor: David McKee email@example.com Features Editor: Damien Connelly firstname.lastname@example.org Associate Editor Asia: Bill Healey email@example.com Associate Editor North America: David Mckee firstname.lastname@example.org Special Assignment Correspondent: Sophie Behan email@example.com International Casino & Gaming Correspondent: Robert Ambrose firstname.lastname@example.org
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Welcome... ...to Issue 142 of Casino Life. Nothing – ever – in the history of gaming has had the impact of Covid-19. As I write this, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is suffering his second attack of the virus, and casino closures are sweeping Europe. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece, Lithuania and Latvia have seen their gaming halls go dark. In the United States, Michigan just re-closed its casinos and other states may follow. The timing is cruel: Third-quarter American casino revenue had returned to 81 percent of pre-Coronavirus levels, a recovery that threatens to be snuffed out as Covid cases surge in the States. Said American Gaming Association President Bill Miller, “While these quarterly results are promising, the reality is a full recovery is dependent on continued public health measures to control prevalence rates.” That is the Scylla and Charybdis between which the gaming industry finds itself. To cite just one example, casino bosses and employees alike in Scotland are chafing at a second Great Shutdown. Grosvenor Casino Edinburgh Maybury Operations Manager Mark McKluskey speaks for many when he says, “My biggest fear would be that the casino industry itself doesn’t recover. It has taken an enormous hit and it has been an exceptionally long time, over eight months now... People who I know who have worked in the industry for a long time will now find themselves without jobs. It is very bleak.” Trends in Asia – where Macao, South Korea and Singapore were quick to clamp down on the pandemic – show that recovery is possible, even inevitable, but things will get worse before they get better in Europe and America is anybody’s guess as Covid spirals out of control. Speaking of the U.S., its November elections were a resounding mandate for gambling, as pro-gaming initiatives ran the table. Sports betting was approved in Maryland, South Dakota and Louisiana, racinos in Nebraska too, four casinos in Virginia got the thumbs-up, betting limits were lifted in Colorado, and San José, California expanded its card rooms. With state budgets under extreme duress, look for online gambling and sports betting to be approved by additional state legislatures. ‘Diversity’ has long been a buzzword in the casino industry but gaming is getting serious about it and no company has been further to the spearhead than MGM Resorts International. Our Damien Connelly scored some time with Chief People, Inclusion & Sustainability Officer
Jyoti Chopra, who lays out the diversity landscape. Her salient point is that “diversity” has to be more than a slogan but a defined goal. Walk an MGM casino floor and you’ll see a melting pot of employees. But, Chopra acknowledges, it is a different story in the upper ranks. Whether in Manchester or Las Vegas, “cashless” is the word of the day. Covid-19 has heightened awareness – to put it mildly – of the insalubrious nature of exchanging currency and coin, especially in a world where transactions can be made at the mere tap of a debit or credit card. To learn more, we picked the brain of DR Gaming Technology CEO Jurgen De Munck, who believes that a cashless casino world isn’t here yet but it’s coming. For a strong dose of nostalgia, gaming chronicler David G. Schwartz takes as back to the time of one of Las Vegas’ most storied casinos, At The Sands, a new history reviewed by Bob Ambrose. It covers the celebrity glitz (Frank Sinatra! Lena Horne!) as well as the dark figures who moved behind the scenes. Given the high standards established by Schwartz’s Roll the Bones and Jay Sarno biography, At The Sands should be must-reading. Andrew Cosgrove throws down some fighting words when he says that multitasking is “the enemy of success.” That road, he argues, is paved with focus and prioritization, not haring after multiple achievements simultaneously. Those of us learning blockchain technology should look to China, writes Raymond Chan, leading home of cryptocurrency patents. This, he contends, could tip the scales of global economic influence. Food for thought. Robert Brassai may strike a note of controversy when he says “it’s time to move on” from the traditional trade show, an endangered species during Coronavirus. He posits a hybrid form of expo – a glimpse of gaming’s probable future in this era of uncertainty. Finally, Damien Connelly offers a ray of hope, if we can wait until 2022, when Covid-inspired efficiencies and renewed consumer confidence will inspire what Jim Murren calls a “very rapid snapback” in economic activity. We certainly hope so.
DMcKee David McKee Editor Volume 16: Issue 142
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Lead Feature: Napoleons Casino
Traditionally Innovative Napoleons Casinos enters into Manchester by David McKee
apoleon Bonaparte was never able to achieve his goal of conquering Great Britain. But namesake Napoleons
casino chain has made British gamblers surrender, achieving footholds in Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Bradford and now Manchester. The chain’s origins go back a long and serpentine way. Chairman and owner Dave Allen got his start as a musician, touring the length and breadth of Yorkshire before launching the Dave Allen Sound band. Miss World founder Eric Morley tipped him as a coming talent and signed him for the Ritz Manchester, Mecca Derby, Leeds, and Sheffield. Allen branched out into the club business in 1968, forming A&S Leisure Group, and opening numerous nightclubs including The Birdcage and five Adam & Eve’s across the United Kingdom. In 1972, Allen purchased The Roxy, a bingo hall and casino. Three years later, he relocated the licence to Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. This was followed by casinos in Leeds, Bradford, Hull and London’s Leicester Square. Allen’s was the first company to move into an area—Leicester Square—which was Volume 16: Issue 142
then considered not suitable for casinos. But over the years, it has proven very amenable indeed. The biggest privately held casino operator in the United
Kingdom, Napoleons has 750 employees across its five casinos, dog-racing stadium and event center. We spoke with Casino Operations Director Soteris Scholarios, who is helming the Manchester arrival. Soteris is a lifetime casino veteran, having begun as a relief cashier during his university holidays. After taking a degree in Philosophy from Glasgow University, he found he enjoyed the casino world so much “that it eventually consumed my entire working life, in every capacity, for corporate and for privately owned, as an employee and as a consultant. Hopefully some of that experience can be put to good use when it comes to establishing the new Napoleons Casino in Manchester.” What is Napoleons’ brand identity? Since the time of our inception, our distinctive group brand has always incorporated red and black, two colors which are synonymous with the casino industry. 7
Lead Feature: Napoleons Casino
Although our logo has evolved over time to reflect modern trends, our brand seeks to maintain a classic, traditional and timeless feel. This is communicated both visually and through our tone of voice and messaging. It is even reflected within the interiors of the casinos themselves: modern with a traditional twist, with welcoming, personable and very personal service at its very core. Who is the target customer for a Napoleons casino? We believe our brand appeals to all ages and demographics, and we seek to make everyone feel welcome. In each city we fine-tune our offerings 8
in line with local demand. In Manchester there is considerable demand for electronic and table gaming, and also for first-class food and drink in convivial surroundings. We believe we have made excellent provision for both. Is your Manchester property brand new? Our property is indeed brand new, one of the very few significant, land-based casino investments in the U.K. during the Covid era. We believe in our offer and in the city. How did you win the license? The license was acquired from PokerStars on New www.casinolifemagazine.com
Lead Feature: Napoleons Casino
Mr Dave Allen, Chairman
sort of precautions are players and employees
Year’s Eve 2014. We had to complete the acquisition before New Year’s Day because another operator had an option which would have been activated on that date. We got it with a couple of hours to spare. How well is the Manchester market served in terms of gaming? Very well. All of the major operators are represented within half a square mile of our new club. As the only non-corporate in the vicinity, our focus will be upon customer engagement and the delivery of our own very personalized service. Since we are still in the middle of Covid-19, what Volume 16: Issue 142
going to have to take? Every precaution—and more—that may be required to promote the safety and security of our customers and staff. This includes full implementation of government guidance and the industry protocols agreed by the British Gaming Council covering social distancing, face coverings, plentiful supplies of sanitizer, signage, internal media with guidance for safe conduct, sanitizing of gaming chips, gaming equipment and of cash, plus much more. Has the situation prevented you from offering certain amenities or games, such as poker? Poker and mahjong have not been included in our initial offer but we shall aim to restore both when we are satisfied that it is safe to do so. How many—and what kind—of table games will be on offer? 9
Lead Feature: Napoleons Casino
We shall open with baccarat/punto banco, American roulette (single-zero), blackjack and three-card poker. There is an especially strong baccarat/punto banco game in Manchester, whilst American roulette remains the most popular U.K. table game.
What do you think is the most important trend in gaming at the moment? The push towards sustainable, responsible gambling is very much to the fore and Napoleons is fully committed to its implementation.
What about electronic table games and fruit machines? Over recent years the importance of slots and electronic games has grown almost exponentially. We have made fulsome provision for the latest, most popular slots and market-leading electronic roulette. The demands of Covid-era, non-remote gaming are such that we shall constantly need to push for new development and enhancement of our offerings.
What is Napoleonsâ€™ responsible-gaming policy? Full compliance with government regulation. It is in all of our interests for gaming to be seen as a safe, wellregulated form of entertainment with built-in protection for the vulnerable and the young.
Volume 16: Issue 142
If the U.K. government could or should do one thing differently in terms of regulating casinos, what would it be? 11
Lead Feature: Napoleons Casino
Constructively engage with the U.K. land-based casino operators, who are doing their best to provide a safe, regulated environment for players. It is in everybodyâ€™s interest for there to be sensible, rational regulation of gambling in the U.K., whether they be consumer, regulator or operator.
Getting back to the Covid era, what about going cashless. Is Napoleons equipped to do that? Napoleons will certainly implement the latest agreement with the government for cashless transactions. It is to be hoped that latest payment methods available more generally will also become increasingly available within non-remote gaming. This would be for the convenience and protection of customers first and foremost, but would also leave a more transparent audit trail to the satisfaction, presumably, of our regulator. How many bars and restaurants will you have in Manchester? Just the one of each, but food and drink will be available throughout the club 24/7 via our valet service. 12
The prix fixe meals are quite affordably priced. Is this a company trait? That is a very important part of our offer. We provide excellent food, reasonably priced, in very comfortable surroundings, with the focus on excellent customer service. We seek to offer a complete evening out for visitors, although also a professional, courteous and friendly service for those who wish only to play.
The casino and amenities will be smoke-free, with an outside terrace for smokers. How is going smokeless being accepted by your companyâ€™s customers? The smokeless restrictions have been in force for a number of years now and most customers are accustomed to the regulations, which apply to all indoor public spaces. That having been said, we do expect the outdoor gaming facility to be popular and so also the indoor gaming lobby adjacent to the external terrace. What is your casinoâ€™s relationship with the local event center? www.casinolifemagazine.com
Lead Feature: Napoleons Casino
Casino Operations Director Soteris Scholarios
The event center, the OEC, in Sheffield, belongs to our parent company, is adjacent to our Sheffield casino, to our head office and to Owlerton Greyhound Racing Track, which we also own and operate. The OEC is an outstanding facility for which we have great hopes and expectations once Covid recedes. Your company has a broad regional reach. Do you have any aspirations on the London market? We were the first company to open in London Leicester Square, a number of decades ago. Given the trials and tribulations of the London casino market, now seemed like a good time for the board to accept one of the many fair offers that had been received, and to focus instead upon the exciting Volume 16: Issue 142
developments planned closer to home—the new casino in Manchester and the Event Centre in Sheffield. With customers having been deprived of casino gambling for so many months, what kind of a response are you expecting when you open? Hopefully enthusiastic but also concerned and cautious. It seems sensible to expect a certain reduction in attendance, at least, but only time will tell. We shall certainly do our best to be as amenable as possible to those who do wish to return for a casino “flutter.” Thank you, Soteris. 13
An end-to-end security solution developed by Axis improves operations and security at Manchester casino
Casino group raises the stakes on security Innovative end-to-end security and surveillance solution developed by Axis improves operations and security at Napoleons Casinos & Restaurants new Manchester site.
xis Communications, the global industry leader in network video, has developed a sophisticated security solution to protect a new casino site in Manchester, UK. The complete end-to-end solution offers advanced levels of protection at the perimeter, entrance and exit points, as well as close monitoring of the gaming hall and individual machines, guarding against break-ins and criminal damage as well as tampering and fraud. Napoleons Casinos & Restaurants is a successful chain with premises across the north of England. Owners, The A&S Leisure Group Ltd, sought to employ a system that would incorporate the latest advancements in security, without the need to use multiple providers. Casinos must be adequately protected, not just to secure the premises and protect against fraud or theft, but also to fulfil legal 14
requirements set by the Gambling Commission and local authorities. Axis, together with its partner Brock Business Support, specified and deployed a solution which was customized to fully support the casinoâ€™s requirements. Guy Hewson, Head of Security at The A&S Leisure Group Ltd, explains: â€œWhen looking at the requirements of the new site, integration between the surveillance and access control systems was important, together with high quality images from the cameras, and immediate video play back with audio. We turned to Brock Business Support who, through its close working partnership with Axis Communications, was able to specify a system that could be tailor made for our requirements.â€? One hundred cameras were installed at the site, requiring six AXIS T8524 PoE+ network switches and www.casinolifemagazine.com
Feature: Axis recording on three servers, all driven by the AXIS Camera Station software running over four viewing stations. The staff entrance utilises an AXIS A8004-VE network video door station, and all staff are admitted after scanning using a biometric reader. Inside, AXIS M3065-V network mini dome cameras cover back of house areas, providing a wide-angle view. Gaming tables, money exchange areas, bars and slot machines are monitored by AXIS P3375-V network cameras with built in two-way audio functionality. At the roulette wheels AXIS F1015 sensor units sit inside the table displays, providing a discrete full view with recording capabilities and images that are clear and sharp. Externally, the perimeter is covered by AXIS P3245-LVE fixed dome network cameras with AXIS Lightfinder technology, ideal for variable lighting and weather conditions. Dave Brock, Managing Director, Brock Business Support, commented on the new solution: “Multiple factors were taken into consideration during the installation of the many cameras and sensors across the Napoleons Casinos site, which meant meticulous planning, right down to considerations around connectivity. For example, the use of AXIS Zipstream technology meant that Cat5E cabling could be used, meaning no need to upgrade. This represented an immediate cost saving for the casino’s owners.” Axis’ solution utilises open platforms to facilitate simple integration with other systems, using APIs and standard IoT protocols. This means that Axis can draw on the expertise of its partners to incorporate their technologies, seamlessly blending them with the Axis components to make up the complete system. Fully customisable and scalable, this solution can meet the growing needs of the business and help it face ongoing challenges as threats evolve and become more sophisticated. With the ability to capture and export live video data in real time for the authorities in the event of an incident, Axis’ solution provides peace of mind for all at the site. Satisfied that the new system has met all of its objectives, The A&S Leisure Group Ltd now plans to review the technologies at the other four sites, implementing variations on the design employed so successfully at the Manchester premises. Read the full case study here: https://www.axis. com/en-gb/customer-story/5104 Volume 16: Issue 142
Feature: MGM Resorts
Jyoti Chopra, Chief People, Inclusion and Sustainability Officer, MGM Resorts International
MGM Resorts’ Human Capital
Embracing and Entertaining Humanity. Jyoti Chopra, Chief People, Inclusion and Sustainability Officer, MGM Resorts International. By: Damien Connelly
This Casino Life article, based on a keynote presentation by Jyoti Chopra at G2E, has been edited for brevity and clarity. Any misrepresentation is my mistake.
yoti Chopra is a resounding role model emphasizing that MGM Resorts ‘walks the walk’ when it comes to its people, talent, and diversity and inclusion strategy. In the spirit of sharing and learning, MGM Resorts and Jyoti were kind enough to publicly preview this strategy with us for the first time during G2E. “One of the important dimensions of a diversity strategy is to have clarity around terminology and nomenclature. It is really important to define what you mean in the context of your corporate environment words like ‘Diversity.’ ‘Inclusion,’ ‘Belonging’ and ‘Equity” 18
Terms and Definitions
As Jyoti noted, “over 70% of MGM Resorts’ workforce is diverse. We have very strong representation at some of the management level ranks. Where we need to focus and improve is in the senior most levels of management of our company.” www.casinolifemagazine.com
Feature: MGM Resorts “The starting point for us at MGM Resorts as we were thinking about our new people, talent, and diversity and inclusion strategy was to understand the macro landscape and what was going on in the world around us. There are a set of themes and observations that are disrupting in many ways both labour markets and the ability for companies to tap into their workforce and meet needs.” “There is a heightened emphasis on diversity and inclusion across the workforce and the workplace. This is being fuelled by the surge in public advocacy and movements, and the rise in legislation and regulation in this area. We are also seeing several trends around the rise of contingent workers and agile staffing models.” “One of the key tenets of (our people philosophy) is putting our people on par with how we look at and value financial capital. We recognise that human capital is indeed a strategic asset on the balance sheet. We firmly believe that by growing, developing, and putting all our talented people into roles where they can unlock their full potential, MGM Resorts will maximise value creation for our shareholders.”
purpose to work – therein lies a much more motivated and engaged workforce.” “Having a robust talent model and talent framework is essential for any kind of people strategy or human capital to work. What’s important is it is holistic, it is enterprise-wide, and it is underpinned by our values of: excellence; inclusion; integrity; and teamwork. It is intended very purposefully to support our business model and our growth strategies. “Let me touch on metrics because this is an important part of any human capital function, and people and talent strategy. What you see here are the key People First performance indicators and success factors that we are using at MGM Resorts. What’s notable is they are both quantitative and qualitative.”
“At the centre of (our people philosophy) is driving an environment and culture which is about caring for one another and having an engaged and diverse workforce. And being able to harness the potential of that to deliver our guest experience, our community engagement, and meet our financial goals. For our people, it’s about creating and cultivating a high performance culture and organisation, because our people are the ones that drive our results and really enable our business activities and business actions.”
People and Talent
“There are four very clear priorities that are the underpinning of our people strategy at MGM Resorts. More importantly, it’s also about connecting individual purpose to our organisation’s impact, and the kind of impact that we aspire to. It’s about adding more Volume 16: Issue 142
Key Performance Indicators
Diversity and Inclusion
“I have articulated here at a more granular level the four pillars of our diversity and inclusion strategy. We have shown the mappings to each of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. We have made a firm commitment to align our work in this area with the UN SDGs. The three Goals we have chosen to focus on are: goal number 5 around Gender Equity; goal number 10 around Reduced Inequalities; and goal number 8 around Decent Work and Economic Growth.” 19
Feature: MGM Resorts
There are four very clear priorities that are the underpinning of our people strategy at MGM Resorts. More importantly, it’s also about connecting individual purpose to our organisation’s impact, and the kind of impact that we aspire to. It’s about adding more purpose to work – therein lies a much more motivated and engaged workforce.
“What each of these pillars represent, in the area of Investing in People, for example, we are focused on increasing our employment of military veterans, in addition to increasing our recruitment efforts around a diverse talent pool. And supporting the diversity of talent, both by gender and by racial and ethnic diversity, at our management levels. It’s also about supporting the development of business skills, and of growing the capacity of minority business owners. It is about expanding our Supplier Diversity Mentorship Program.”
Diversity and Inclusion
On the point of supplier diversity, Jyoti notes this is a topic discussed in “curated sessions that we call ‘Courageous Conversations’ with diverse cohorts at our company. These have been initiated and led by our CEO and President, Bill Hornbuckle, supported by our Board of Directors. We’ve had candid, heartfelt conversations to understand and get underneath what is at the top of mind of our people, and what are some areas where we can do better as a company; do better as a management team.” Hornbuckle, recently noted that “MGM has long 20
sought to increase the number of Black-owned vendors with whom we work. But, while our goals are appropriately placed, the cohort identified a lack of buy-in from many department leads, who don’t always understand the importance of achieving these goals when establishing relationships with outside vendors. As a result, methods to establish greater accountability around these goals will be pursued. “These areas of focus and the work to address them are not set in stone. Teams have been assigned to develop action plans, and the courageous conversation cohort will continually monitor and manage their progress. Adjustments may be necessary to ensure real and meaningful impact is pursued and achieved. “This is a period of major systemic change...We must reflect about the world we envision for future generations. As the CEO and President of MGM
Resorts, I’m committed to our company’s role in creating a better and brighter future that embraces humanity. To reinforce the importance of people, talent, and diversity and inclusion at MGM Resorts, Mr. Hornbuckle also noted that “I am committed to making people a core pillar of our business strategy and advancing progress on diversity and inclusion as a key priority. And, with the leadership of our Chief People, Inclusion, and Sustainability Officer, Jyoti Chopra, we intend to build on the current moment to ensure that real and lasting change is achieved.” “From the sustained pressure being generated by ongoing protests, to the growing expectations on the part of activist shareholders that companies address systemic racism and provide more to communities than just profits, it is clear that the focus on social issues is urgent, and we will act to catalyze meaningful change.” www.casinolifemagazine.com
Positively Transforming Andy Anderson Managing Director of Tablish chats to Peter White
igital publishing firm Tablish Ltd. is an emergent force in app development. Its content is tailored to iPhone, iPad and Android devices. But the world of apps doesn’t stop there and Tablish is expanding to stay ahead of the curve. It’s branching out into everything from employee wellness to virtual-reality casino play. “Imagine playing the tables at Bellagio from the comfort of your own home,” enthuses Director Andy Anderson, who has seen demand for his product accelerate during the Great Shutdown that accompanied Coronavirus. Tablish is involved in everything as routine as inventory tracking or as sexy as sports betting. Nor are its clients merely casinos: They include entities as large as the government of India. Anderson sat down with Publisher Peter White to discuss the growth of Tablish. When was the company founded and what was the inspiration behind starting the organisation? Tablish was formed in 2011 shortly after the launch of the first iPad. We identified this would create an instant demand for publishers wanting to offer
their readers a digital solution. After 6 months of development we created a turnkey solution for publishers to provide them easy entrance to the app market. This was our entry into tech and since then we have transitioned to create custom apps in all sectors. In late 2019 we were acquired by BIPROS who have offices in the UK, USA and India with over 200 developers. They were founded in 2009 and were set up by 6 senior members at IBM and INFOSYS. What are amongst the most significant developments in App technology in recent times? App technology is constantly evolving but in recent years its been the connection with other devices such as smart watches, wearables, sensors and Internet of Things. This has opened up a whole host of uses and applications in the home and business. Other key developments are Augmented and Virtual Reality which has amazing potential for the casino Volume 16: Issue 142
Andy Anderson, Director Tablish
industry. Artificial Intelligence is become far more widespread in our daily life without us noticing such as programme recommendations on Netflix. Lastly, cross platform development tools have improved over the years reducing the cost to develop an app on both iOS and Android. How has Tablish utilised these technologies in clients apps? We are currently working with a global client who assist companies to enhance wellbeing in the workplace and increase productivity. The app we are creating extracts data from other health apps and wearable technologies to give both employer and employee feedback to help aid their performance and wellbeing. Another project we have recently completed in the construction industry utilizes artificial intelligence in order to provide quantity and cost of building materials based on past projects. 21
Feature: Tablish From an online Gaming perspective how can they be incorporated into enhancing features the operators can provide their customers? Something we see in the future is the use of VR so users can experience the buzz of a casino floor from anywhere. We are so excited about the possibilities in the gaming industry and the sky is the limit. Imagine playing the tables at the Bellagio from the comfort of your own home. Especially during current times this experience will offer the user far more than just using a laptop or other mobile device. Technology in the casino industry is evolving rapidly which is why we wanted to focus on this sector. We wanted to leverage technology that we have applied to other industries into gaming. COVID has meant implementation of technology has been expedited for many companies. What may have been planned in the future is coming to the fore now. Price is always a major importance in amongst the other main priorities such as speed. How competitive is Tablish Ltd when compared against alternatives with like for like tenders? We have a library of software created internally which allows us to leverage certain elements in multiple projects reducing overall development time and cost. This is also coupled with utilizing the best frameworks from Apple and Google which enables us to provide a high quality product at competitive rates. Can you provide examples from amongst your customers, of the various range of Apps that you provide? We have created a range of apps from booking apps 22
for the hospitality industry, sports gaming apps to inventory stock systems for leading tech companies. Overseas, and one of our largest projects, is providing maintenance and operational apps for the electrical grid countrywide in India directly for their government. Customers safety is always a priority for Operators, are their applications that you can incorporate that can assist these organisations in protection against users such as interacting informing them of a time out for cooling off? This is very simple to implement, particularly for online casino apps. Both automated and custom notifications can be set for any app based on either user or house limits. The users account can then be locked for a cooling off period. In addition to that, with regards to general customer safety, we can take it one step further.
Safety checklists for staff and customers (COVID related) can be built into an app to ensure they know the rules and digitally sign removing liability from the casino premises.
Can you see the role AI technology increasing with Apps? Absolutely, 100%, it is already a huge part of online gaming apps. We are already heavily involved in machine learning and with the nature of casinos and player habits it is something which will become more widely used. AI is a method used to prevent cheating in online apps by logging historical user behaviour and betting methods. AI can analyse the data and if it detects the user manipulating odds in their favour then their account can be automatically suspended. www.casinolifemagazine.com
Feature: Tablish Can you tell us about your work with Championship Football Team AFC Bournemouth and the App you provide? We have been providing them with an app for their match day programme for the past 5 years. This type of app has become more popular since fans were not allowed in stadiums and we are also speaking with many other sports teams about a similar solution. We also created them a Player’s App which provided information such as training schedules to be accessed by the playing staff on their device. This is something we are continuing to develop and add more features. How can Tablish assist for example land-based Casinos whom have online gaming website but not sure about the next step with Apps or have existing Apps but now need updating or a brand new versions? We can assist with any type of requirement for both online and land-based casinos. Through consultation either in person or over video call we would understand the clients exact requirements. We would then provide them with a proposal of how we think technology can be best utilized for their business. A growing trend and something we offer is a concierge app for hotel and casino resorts. This allows guests to be able to message reception, order room service, book a massage and also be informed about offers from nearby businesses. Using artificial intelligence the app can send the user offers whilst staying at the hotel based on previous visits and spending habits.
highlight would of course have to be Las Vegas. In the UK I have been to many in London and my hometown of Bournemouth. Another memorable casino experience was at Casino Barriere in Deauville the week of the American Film Festival which was a fantastic atmosphere. Investment in Technology and Innovation is essential in the growth of the organisation wouldn’t you agree? Absolutely, when I reflect 9 years ago to when we started it is incredible how far things have come. Technology is a changing landscape and we aim to be at the forefront of all new technologies. We are heavily investing in our own team to ensure we are at the forefront of cutting edge tech like blockchain, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. How do people react when you tell them about your company? They are excited about the prospect of us being able to assist with growing their business, by providing cutting edge technology. We are so passionate about what we do that we tend to leave a buzz behind whatever we are doing.
Can also assist with websites? Yes, we can create or improve any type of website and all of our apps are integrated in some way to either the back or front end of the website.
Now the company has steady business growth what are amongst your prime objectives over the next 18 months? We are concentrating on helping businesses keep up–to-date with the latest growing trends. We are in a fantastic place as we offer win-win solutions. What we build will make our clients more profitable and create a better user experience for their customers. Working in the gaming sector is something that really excites us. We have the skills and resource to deliver first class applications for both online and land-based casinos.
Did any of you ever go into a Casino before you got into this industry and if so was it in the UK or Overseas? I have always enjoyed the buzz of a casino and the
If you would like a free consultation as to how app technology can assist with your casino, either online or land please visit www.tablish.co.uk/ casino or email email@example.com
Volume 16: Issue 142
Feature: Comfac Corporation
Providing Fast Solutions Nikolay Kossev Chief Operating Officer at Comfac Technology Options Limited and Juliet Capala - Director of Comfac Global Group chats to Damien Connelly
robably the most emergent gaming market in the world is the Philippines and nobody is better positioned to capitalize on its growth than Comfac Global Group. It stands ready to help casinos with everything from information technology to furniture, a veritable end-to-end solution. It even has a sustainability wing, Esco International. Recently Comfac got the seal of approval from Philippine gaming regulator Pagcor. The latter tapped Comfac to crunch big data in order to fairly tax gaming operations. Pagcor even runs the operation out of space provided by Comfac. In this colloquy with Casino Life, Comfac executives expand on the company’s history, its expansion through Australasia and its new initiative to begin conquering the gaming spheres of Europe. Whatever it does, Comfac thinks big. Can we commence this interview with a brief history of Comfac Global Group when it was founded and the services the organisation provides?
Comfac Global Group (CGG) was founded in 1981 and has ever since become one of the Philippines’ leading systems integrator and full-service fit-out firm for workspace facilities. Comfac’s group has expanded and conquered various markets over the years and currently consists of 4 companies: Comfac Corporation – A leader in the Data Centre design and build industry in the Philippines which has proudly built the first data center in the country over 20 years ago together with IBM. Comfac is also known to be a force to reckon with when it comes to Systems Integration projects in the public sector. Cornersteel Systems Corporation – The market leader of the office workspace industry in the Philippines with a 2.4-hectare manufacturing plant equipped with automated and computerized machineries to create any kind of furniture. 24
Nikolay Kossev, Chief Operating Officer at Comfac Technology Options Limited
Energy Solution Company (ESCO) – provides
management support and expertise to help organizations implement building systems that eliminate waste and control expenditures among many other optimizations and system repairs solutions. Comfac Technology Options (CTO) – Being the newest and yet the most exciting company from within the group was launched 7 years ago and already offers to the local market Infrastructure as a service, Big data, Managed services and platform as a service solutions. CTO recently launched its in-country cloud that provides companies with one of the most flexible public cloud offerings on the market with a great price performance ratio and extremely low latency. How long have you been working at Comfac Global Group and can you explain your role at the company along with your primary responsibilities and objectives? www.casinolifemagazine.com
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Feature: Comfac Corporation services, we have just launched a full Infrastructureas-a-Service public cloud offering in the Philippines, hand in hand with fully managed services to clients in the cloud. Additionally to our growing operations in Asia, we are expanding our delivery to both Europe and Africa through 2021. Can you explain the role Comfac has with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation PAGCOR? Comfac Corporation is one of the 3-member consortium that won the bid in PAGCOR’s project. As a systems integrator, we were mainly responsible for the delivery of the audit platform that collects and analyses all gaming data, and provides PAGCOR the basis for appropriate tax collection. Furthermore, we also provided the office space, systems fit-out, data center, (through the member companies of Comfac Global Group) among other necessary components to run the entire project. We also run the day-to-day activities from a technical standpoint. Juliet Capala - Director of Comfac Global Group
Juliet Capala – Director of Comfac Global Group As Director of Comfac Global Group (CGG), and first employee with a 39 year history with the company, I am responsible for the strategy and performance of all the companies within CGG, as well as the wellbeing of our employees.
Nikolay Kossev – COO of Comfac Technology Options As COO of Comfac Technology Options, my remit is to find new partnerships and geographies, for our technological product and services offerings. With our strategic goal to expand our portfolio of products and
Can you explain the process involved in how the company gained PAGCOR as a client? The PAGCOR project was opened on a competitive public bidding last 2017 in compliance with Philippine procurement laws. Comfac Corporation is, I would say, an active participant in government projects for many years so we naturally took interest. Some of our past project involvements include the Land Transportation Office, the Presidential Management Staff, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, National Food Authority, among others. If my memory serves me right, there were about eight bidders who took interest in the PAGCOR project - then trimmed down to four, until awarded finally to our consortium. One of the main reasons why we were awarded the project was the extremely fast delivery of the project from our end. We had to deliver the entire audit platform within three months.
How has the experience of working for 4 years with PAGCOR assisted Comfac Global Group with is approach and various services it can now provide to the Gaming Sector? Our experience with PAGCOR allowed us to better appreciate the online gaming industry as a whole, as it provided us an unprecedented opportunity to working with both the authorities and operators on a daily 26
Feature: Comfac Corporation
basis. As the project is essentially consulting in nature, our PAGCOR project provided us deeper insights on the current challenges both regulatory authorities and operators face today - from a policy perspective, economic, and technical. All these learnings are then fed back into the audit framework while striking a balance between the demands of the authorities and the concerns of the operators. PAGCOR is a known institution worldwide and we are glad to have been given an opportunity working with them. Does Comfac Global Group have experience providing services to land-based casinos?
The member-companies of the Comfac Global Group provide different products and services across various industries. Cornersteel Systems Corporation, being in the systems fit-out business, and Comfac Corporation as a data center design and build pioneer in the country, have both serviced some of the land-based casinos in the Philippines. If any land-based casino brand would like to setup shop in the Philippines, these two companies can certainly help out. How important to delivering the Audit Platform project for PAGCOR was Comfac Global Groupâ€™s experience with data centers and other technical services? I would say that it certainly helped a lot that Comfac Corporation is into data center design and build business, as building an on-premise data center was part of the requirements of PAGCOR. Itâ€™s the same with office space requirements because of Volume 16: Issue 142
Cornersteel. For the audit platform itself, Comfac Corporationâ€™s experience with similar government projects gave us that confidence in delivering the required solution in three months. Having relevant experience helped us deliver according to the timelines expected from us. Had we not have those expertise internally, we would have risked outsourcing and potentially risking delays. As with any other business who prefers to deal with just one vendor, finding a group that provides all that you need is certainly an irresistible offer. What other major organisations has Comfac Global Group gained over recent years? As a group, Comfac Global Group has helped thousands of enterprises in the Philippines both in the private and public sectors. Having been in the business for more than three decades and still 27
Feature: Comfac Corporation
growing is a testament to the quality of services the group provides and the commitment we put into each project. Fortune 500 companies including Accenture, Infosys, Wipro, among others, are long-time customers of the group. In many instances as well, our clients would typically bring us new opportunities as they were extremely satisfied with our services. A good example is Asian Development Bank. In the late 80â€™s, Comfac Corporation formed a joint venture with IBM to bring data center design and build expertise to many enterprises in the Philippines. We sold off all our
shares in the JV to IBM several years down the line. The groupâ€™s effort to penetrate the international market started four (4) years ago when we opened shop in Auckland, New Zealand to provide IT consulting services in the New Zealand and Australian markets.
This year, we opened our new office in Bulgaria, this time looking into the European market. What are amongst the key benefits Comfac Global Group can provide to the Gaming Authorities? Our experience with PAGCOR provided us not just theoretical but hands-on experience on how gaming audit/fiscalization could actually work in a jurisdiction. The Asian market, which remains largely unregulated compared to the UK or other countries, was certainly a daunting task to fiscalize in the first place. A large
part of our success is understanding the entire picture, and not just implementing the technology components. For countries who may be looking at implementing fiscalization measures in their respective gaming industries, they could certainly leverage from our experience. The Philippines has done a good job, but there are many rooms for improvement still. As you may have heard in the news recently, many POGOS are contemplating to leave (if not have already done so) because of the new tax measures being implemented. Social impact due to the influx of foreign workers will also have to be addressed. Instituting controls to circumvent money laundering is also another thing. These said, embracing online gaming for the purpose of increasing government revenues without the proper measures in place is a risky proposition. But this can be greatly reduced with the right partner which has accumulated a wealth of experience in this area. www.casinolifemagazine.com
Feature: Comfac Corporation How do you see the potential for Comfac Global Group in the years ahead in regions in Gaming that are opening up such as South Korea, Ukraine and in a few years the likes of Japan? In the coming years, many governments will look for new revenue streams to fund their fight against COVID19. If done right, the online gaming industry could significantly contribute to this effort. Online gaming is generally unregulated in many countries and therefore the width and depth of this opportunity remains to be uncovered, and properly taxed. Weâ€™d be excited to share our learnings for sure. As a matter of fact, we have been in negotiations with various governments to implement our existing systems and help other jurisdictions regulate the online gambling industries. We were very excited to find out that many jurisdictions are suffering from unregulated gambling markets and are looking for ways in which they could tax and regulate the online industry. That being said, we came up with various ways in which we can partner with those jurisdictions to be financially sustainable for both parties and ensure a long term partnership. Our results with PAGCOR would speak for itself and should help other
jurisdictions easily see the benefits of implementing the audit platform. PAGCORâ€™s revenues grew 40x from 1.5 million USD in 2016 to over 60 million USD the following year. In the second year of operations we doubled the revenues for the initial 63.5 million USD to over a 124 million dollars. You can validate these figures in the official website of PAGCOR. What are the unique factors that distinguish CGG from its competition? Comfac Global Group stands above the competition through our in-house expertise, strong partnerships with product vendors, and our very own manufacturing facilities for custom furniture. Further to that, our diversification has really helped us uncover new horizons and achieve extremely low costs due to internal partnerships from within the group when tackling a new project as in the case with PAGCOR. Even though, we are considered a relatively large organization with numerous offices worldwide and over 1,000 employees, we still remain extremely flexible and tailor-fit each and every requirement to our customers specific needs.
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Sports Betting Operator provides new product and technology features and the latest Sports Betting News, keeping Online gambling companies up to date with the fastest growing Gambling Sector in the world. www.sportsbettingoperator.com Volume 16: Issue 142
Feature: DR Gaming Tech Cashless
The player comes first
Cashless-gaming expert Jurgen De Munck expounds on the casino of the near future by David McKee e’ve learned a few things from the Covid-19 pandemic. One is not to
underestimate the importance of conventioneers. Another is that the cashless casino cannot arrive soon enough. As American Gaming Association President Bill Miller said, “At last year’s Global Gaming Expo, I challenged the industry to enable payment choice on the casino floor. And I’m proud to report that we’ve made tremendous progress. Regulators in Nevada and Pennsylvania recently approved new rules to permit digital payments in their casinos—a huge breakthrough. We anticipate movement soon in New Jersey, Indiana and Iowa.” Continued Miller, “tribal casinos like Hard Rock and San Manuel are already successfully using digital payment technologies. Every day, I’m seeing suppliers announce new, innovative payments products. Station Casinos launched chip and pin debit solutions through ACS Play On at all their Nevada properties. Gaming leaders—like Konami, Everi, IGT—have all rolled out new digital payments products … All of these innovations will help limit the spread of COVID-19 – and accelerate gaming’s modernization.” The AGA prexy explained, “Payment modernization is not only about customer convenience. It also promotes responsible gaming by helping players set budgets, limit playing time, and closely track play. And it helps casinos follow the money, a key component of our anti-money laundering efforts.” Going cashless has been the quiet goal of the industry for some time but Hollywood Casino Toledo General Manager Justin Carter made headlines at Global Gaming Expo by saying, “We can’t move to a cashless environment soon enough. The thought of touching things has already started to become like the dodo.” We’re also seeing movement on the regulatory front. Last June, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved eight amendments to ease cashless gaming, primarily to facilitate the movement of money from debit cards to games and from digital wallets to smartphones. 30
Jurgen De Munck CEO DR Gaming Technology
Against this backdrop, we sat down with a specialist, DR Gaming Technology CEO Jurgen De Munck. We started with the obvious question … Jurgen, do you think that the current Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the cashless debate? Yes, at a primary level and in obvious relation to specifically the physical transfer of the virus. That said, the World Health Organization continues to affirm the fact that Covid-19 is solely spread when saliva droplets are left on objects and surfaces by an infected person when they sneeze on, cough on or touch these surfaces. Healthy persons then get infected when they touch these surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth before properly cleaning their hands. www.casinolifemagazine.com
Feature: DR Gaming Tech Cashless Whilst I maintain that in time all operations will be cashless, in specific relation to your question, my view is that as long as we all utilize our best endeavours to inhibit the spread of the virus, both as consumers and service providers, and subscribe to the protocols prescribed by the WHO with respect to regularly washing our hands, wearing a face mask and, most importantly, refraining from touching our eyes, nose and mouth, cashless- and cash gaming will continue side-by-side for some time to come. Notwithstanding what you’ve said, surely cashless is the future? Or do you believe there will always be a place for cash in the industry? I believe that cash will remain king for some time. That said, I do believe our sector’s reliance thereon, or rather widespread use thereof will diminish. It was almost exactly a year ago, at G2E 2019, that I, along with Juan Carlos Afanador from the Vicca Group—a TITO operator in Colombia—and Mark Banks, the CEO of Grand Casino Brussels, a cashless operator, discussed this exact question in a debate called ‘Implementing Cashless and Cardless Systems’ moderated by Peter Arceo, the general manager of San Manuel Casino in California. All three operators supported the inevitable and requisite need for a migration to cashless, based not only on customer expectations, the increased security provided as a result thereof and the simple convenience, but also on the impact cashless gaming has on better tracking and assigning game play data to specific players. The result is the garnering of what is unbelievably valuable data; data that if used correctly can create such definitive and outstanding value that players will simply not want to play anywhere else.
What’s in it for the player? I’d like to again reference G2E 2019 and mention a cashless-related excerpt from American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller’s welcome address, as quoted in an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Giving consumers a choice in how they pay to enjoy gaming can be a win for them, a win for regulators, a win for law enforcement and a win for gaming operators and suppliers alike.” That, in my view, sums up just how customer-centric we as vendors and operators need to be in order to remain not just competitive but sustainable. We cannot dictate what—and in this case, how—our customers play but Volume 16: Issue 142
we do need to always be aware of what technological advancements there are and continue to provide these options to our players. Why should operators invest in a cashless solution and do you think that Covid-19 has at all affected the speed at which these investments could or should be made? Our design mantra has always been, ‘the player first’ and, as a result, I firmly believe that it will ultimately be the player, as supported by Mr. Miller’s comment above, who drives operators’ speed of migration to cashless, whether that be expedited by the current pandemic, or as a result of changes to society’s general service expectations as technology evolves, remains to be seen. Our view, as stated many times previously, remains that both TITO and player cards will become a technology of the past—in that order—over the next 5 to 10 years. In addition to the current pandemic and its associated risks, TITO ticket costs are also becoming more and more prohibitive. The move to RFID cards and ultimately to cardless gaming makes both practical and commercial sense. Cashless and multi-currency solutions through electronic fund transfers—via either a player card or an application—are without a doubt the future. It is safer, simpler and an easier-to-manage solution for players and operators alike. One of the main commercial benefits of going cashless is the elimination of many cash-handling costs, notwithstanding which, many operators still offer cash in some form or another as a further payment option. What is your view? You are quite correct in noting the cost benefits 31
Feature: DR Gaming Tech Cashless
L-R: Juan Carlos Afanador, Jurgen De Munck, Peter Arceo and Mark Banks
of operating cashlessly, in relation to not only the cost of handling that cash, but the elimination of the associated hardware required to use that cash, specifically in relation to coins, but also in respect of notes and TITO tickets, acceptors, and printers too. Our view is that at present the most cost-effective way for gaming operators to manage their casino and meet the expectations of their customers is via a cashless system. Hard cash is becoming less and less of a currency every day, and that evolution will extend to land-based casinos. It is merely a matter of time. As long as the service is as secure, easy, and reliable as that provided by retailers and/or any other types of entertainment vendors, players will want it, and will adopt and accept it gladly.
Is there player demand for a cashless casino? In terms of why operators and the aforementioned retailers still accept cash as an alternate option to cashless comes down to offering consumers choice: The player must always come first. In my experience, the answer talks to the human psyche and the fact that casino operators understand how to meet player needs. As players and consumers, we want to know we have an option; it’s empowering. Have you ever been to an event where you can only use a certain payment provider, or only cash? It’s irritating, isn’t it? We don’t like being told what we can and can’t do. We also sometimes just like to feel the physical money. A wad of cash has a feel to it, doesn’t it? Whereas a card or your phone, in the case of an e-wallet, feels exactly the same whether it has a balance of $0 or $10,000. 32
We’ve discussed a number of pros with respect to going cashless. But what are some of the challenges that operators face? At the outset let me say that, in my experience, ahead of talking about the challenges of going cashless, almost every operator I have spoken to sees the value associated with providing a cashless solution for both his players and his staff, and similarly they all have the same concerns: the expense, data security and ease of use, and the perceived inconvenience and downtime. With respect to the first couple of points, I believe this is where we as a service provider and partner are truly able to ‘come to the party’ in that our solution does not require the purchase of expensive servers. Our patented technology allows our solution to operate without a permanent server connection. It also ensures full game-play-data replication across all gaming devices on a casino floor—and furthermore allows for the likes of centralized ticket-printer and/or note acceptor software downloads. What kind of infrastructure is involved? In respect of the physical installation, the time required and operators’ unfounded concern with respect to player inconvenience and loss of revenue, I can attest to the fact that in respect of DR Gaming Technology the disruption is minimal. For example, in South Africa we completed a cashless migration across three venues comprising 80, 140 and 220 electronic gaming machines (EGM), each roughly
120 miles apart, in four days, including travel time. At Grand Casino Basel in Switzerland, we completed the full migration of their gaming floor in a day, whilst the casino was open. With the proper planning, nondisruptive pre-installation preparation, and the preprinting of new loyalty cards for players, the crossover can really be quite painless for players and staff alike. Jurgen, your ticketing solution enables players to transact cashlessly between not only multiple EGMs but tables and operator venues too. How do you ensure that the data security you referred to earlier, in a serverless, ticketing/cashless solution? I believe that what sets us apart from our competitors is indeed the serverless technology you refer to. That being said, I need to clarify that the offering we have relates to our system not having to be connected to a server at all times. It is not serverless per se. What www.casinolifemagazine.com
Feature: DR Gaming Tech Cashless is key, and it drives not only our reliability but our affordability and our functionality, is our patented drSMIB, to which all EGMs, tables, cash desks, player kiosks and the like are connected. Via it, operators are able to define parameters, amend user access and license keys, and update and change various other details relating to individual EGMs or tables, as well as local and wide-area jackpots. This functionality then extends to the entire gaming floor and its associated aforementioned support services too. Each drSMIB, on which all edits are undertaken, then automatically synchronizes with all other drSMIBs in the network, locally or across an operator’s entire estate as soon as any changes are made. In so doing, they ensure unparalleled data redundancy, real-time data and reporting, and provide the transactional security to which you refer. Time is indeed money and as long as operators are able to track all transactions all the time and as they happen, and then be notified of any exceptions in real time too, player and operator data and funds remain secure. Where do you see the
next innovation for ticketing solutions? Ticketing, despite its ongoing use, was the precursor to smart-card technology, which in turn is being replaced by RFID and NFC technology. Both of these now afford operators with significantly less expensive—approximately 50 percent—and easier-touse player-card options, and ultimately place them in a position to migrate to both a cashless and cardless solution. In addition to the current pandemic and its associated risks, TITO ticket costs are also becoming more and more prohibitive, and also not very environmentally friendly. The move to RFID cards and ultimately to cashless gaming just makes commercial sense, even though the initial cost in issuing all players with an RFID card may seem prohibitive. After Volume 16: Issue 142
an average of what we would estimate to be no more than 100 TITO tickets being printed, the RFID cards would probably have paid for themselves. They last far longer, do not need to be replaced as frequently as every transaction—unlike a ticket—and, when true cardless technology is embraced there is nothing to print and, as a result, nothing to throw away. The move to coinless gaming happened almost organically and we see a progression to cashless as not only inevitable but logical, with many operators skipping the ‘stop off’ at TITO completely. South America, parts of North America and Africa are understandably still cash-dominant. How does one tailor a cashless solution for these markets? That is very true but the ‘evolution model’ remains the same, with the adoption of new technology happening in particularly
the two aforementioned ‘developing’ regions at an even faster rate than elsewhere. One only has to refer to Carnival City Casino in South Africa. As far back as late 1998 it opened with not a single coinoperated slot machine or ticket printer. It was all carded game play from Day One. It’s similar in Mexico, where true cashless gaming has been around since the market opened in 2004. The solution for these regions exists, and many operators and regulators have already embraced it. The key, though, as I referred to earlier, is the player. He comes first and until he embraces it and really starts to demand it, the migration will remain slow. Thank you, Jurgen. 33
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Legislation Report: Marco Tomic
Gaming Legislation Update Report on Gaming Legislation in Sweden and Poland. By: Marko Tomic, Partner, Law Firm Anđelović, Siketić & Tomić d.o.o. Zagreb
Gambling (for money) in Sweden is regulated under a Gambling Act which entered into force on 1 January 2019. The aim of the respective act was to regulate, amongst other, online gambling market, whereby the land based casinos (currently four in four major cities) are operated by the state-owned Svenska Spel as the only operator authorized to operate casinos in Sweden under the Casino Cosmopol brand. Legal age for gambling in Sweden is 18 whereas a person must be 20 years old to enter a land-based casino. One of the goals of the new act was to achieve moderate gambling in the country, which imposed on the operators the duty of care in respect of excessive gambling and prevention thereof. This mostly refers to players’ right to self-exclusion, budget and log-in limits etc. In order to legally offer games of chance in Sweden, operators must hold a valid license whereby a betting license covers both land-based and online betting Volume 16: Issue 142
while the operator is not obligated to organize it in
both manners. Each type of license is rendered by the Swedish Gaming Authority for a limited term of maximum five years. Further to the above, not all licenses are available to private operators (state monopoly exists) and these mostly refer to online commercial gambling and betting. Also, there is a requirement for license holders to be connected to a national online system and have their servers located in Sweden unless the national gambling authority has entered into an agreement with the gambling regulator of a country where the system is located (in EEA). Currently such agreements are in place with Maltese and Gibraltar authorities. One of the interesting features of the existing gambling act is the fact that operators can offer bonuses to players only once and upon registration in the system and may not offer credit to players. Also, the national gaming authority is authorized to block payments to illegal operators as well as to block and/ 35
Legislation Report: Marco Tomic
or blacklist their IP addresses. It is worth mentioning that players located in Sweden are currently not prohibited from online gambling provided by unlicensed operator if such operator is not specifically targeting Swedish market, but in such case they do not enjoy the protection of Swedish Gambling Act. Even though marketing of casino games is restricted (TV, radio and outdoor advertising is not permitted),
the intensity of gambling advertising in Sweden has prompted the government to consider introducing restrictions and is expected to do so in the coming period. Future developments include also the intention of Swedish Gaming Authority to protect the regulated online gambling market in a manner that a warning message will pop-up to Swedish players logging into unlicensed site and instructions to payment service providers to block payments to the same.
and online gambling while the act does not contain a specific definition of online gambling but rather contains a provision that it applies to games of chance conducted via Internet (without further explanations). Further to this, online gambling operators are also bound by the E-Commerce Act, regulating all online services. Legal age for gambling in Poland is 18 years. The Gambling Act refers to games of chance divided into four categories: (i) general games of chance (e.g. lotteries, bingo etc.); (ii) betting; (iii) card games; and (iv) slot machine games. Ministry of Finance is the competent authority for games of chance in Poland and is, amongst other duties, authorized to license and supervise operators. The aforementioned amendments to the Gambling Act in 2017 introduced a quite restrictive and inflexible licensing regime which envisaged three types of
Gambling (both land-based and online) in Poland is regulated under the Act on Gambling Games as of 19 November 2009 (as amended). This Gambling Act imposes strict rules on gambling and sets harsh requirements for gambling operators, with severe penalties for their violation. The Polish gambling regulations are still considered to be among the most restrictive in Europe. Major update of the Gambling Act occurred in 2017 and, amongst other changes, introduced blocking mechanism restricting access to websites of unlicensed online gambling operators (blocking and blacklisting of offshore operators), as well as an obligation for payment services providers to cease providing services to such operators. The Gambling Act regulates both land-based 36
Legislation Report: Marco Tomic gaming licenses in Poland referring to (i) license to run a land-based casino, (ii) betting license and (iii) notification on commencement of regulated activity. Licenses are usually rendered for a six-year term and can be renewed. Further to the above, the only online form of permitted games of chance offered by private operators is mutual online betting and/or lottery while a state-owned company named Totalizator Sportowy can offer online casino-style games with the exception of poker (i.e. online poker is illegal in Poland). There are legal brick-and-mortar casinos, and the number of the same is limited under the Gambling Act. In addition to venues that offer traditional casino games, there are also bingo saloons and land-based sports betting facilities. Each municipality with population of 250,000 or less can have one casino, and there can be another casino for each increment of 250,000 persons. For bingo saloons, the rule is one location on every 100,000 persons. Poland gambling laws allow slot machine parlours as well, which are all operated by the same state-owned company that is authorized to offer online casino games i.e Totalizator Sportowy. There can be as few as three and as many as 50 machines
in one slot machine parlour. In respect of advertising, the same became possible in 2017, although with strong restrictions. Only licensed operators can advertise, and the contents of advertisements are highly regulated. Betting advertisements are not allowed on covers of newspapers or magazines. Advertising of betting is also prohibited in public places, except for mass events where a betting operator sponsors (i) the event; (ii) the team or participants in the event or (iii) a relevant athletic association. Advertisements can be presented only between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Advertising and promotion of games of chance such as bingo, lotteries, and number games, is permitted in all media without limitations. When it comes to future development, no major overhaul of the Gambling Act is expected in the near future. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Finance plans to introduce further novelties with respect to blacklisting of unlicensed gambling domains. The amendment proposal to the Gaming Act has the aim to significantly simplify the criteria for entering a website into the blacklist i.e. the government is even more motivated to fight the unlicensed gambling in the country.
DISCLAIMER: Law Firm Anđelović, Siketić & Tomić d.o.o. wish to avoid inaccuracies and, whilst every precaution has been taken to ensure that information contained in this report is accurate, no liability is accepted for errors or omissions, however caused.
The creative experience that will bring your visions to life
ACE Publishing & Total Design Works Volume 16: Issue 142
Book Review: At The Sands
At The Sands, By Dr. David G. Schwartz (Author)
Book Review by Bob Ambrose
t the Sands, by Dr. David Schwartz provides a look back to the birth of one of the most famous casinos in Las Vegas. The Sands Hotel and Casino operated from 1952 to 1996. The book is a time capsule and once the first page is turned you are witness to the history of a very unique casino hotel property, the Sands. The bonus in the book is that you become better acquainted with its evolving host city, Las Vegas. The book details the Sands as a casino industry model of evolution in terms of its managerial changes through 44 years and also leading as a company in a casino/hospitality revolution. It was always at the forefront of industry operational procedure enhancements and unique offerings to the public. Dr. David Schwartz, is UNLV’s associate vice provost for faculty affairs and noted historian on gambling. He has authored several books on gambling, casinos, and the men that operated them. I had the pleasure 38
some years back to meet him and to be interviewed for another of his books, entitled, Tales from the Slot Floor. Dr. Schwartz has consistently shown us through his many books, his appreciation for deep, welldocumented research, and the result is his superlative narratives. In the book I saw the Sands as a “portal,” to also look at a special moment in time for the city of Las Vegas. And thanks to the great imagery and characterization of people, presented by Dr. Schwartz, how the gambling industry made its “bones,” bringing it to today’s commercial model. The construction of the Sands took place in an era when “wise-guys” often had the final say “inthe-house.” They were the bank! We also meet an endless chorus line of highly respected rich and famous celebrities that show you both their talents and darker side. It is about the people that give the orders, and those that carry them out! www.casinolifemagazine.com
Book Review: At The Sands If you are familiar with Las Vegas and gambling’s history, you are already familiar with some of the names. I guarantee after reading this book, you will come to know them better. And if it’s a first introduction you will wonder where you have been! The stakeholders of the Sands may not have been visible or even in Las Vegas but they stood behind their front men. It was those front-line executives that were the casinos public face. They were respected and well, very good at operating a casino property and taking care of business without question. Their personalities were as unique and colourful as the lives they led. They will be forever in the archives of casino history. There was Billy Wilkerson, whose vision of an earlier casino development called the Flamingo was lost to gangster Bugsy Siegel. There are mob figures such as Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Moe Dalitz and other casino investors who always had the final say, sometimes the “hard-way;” in the darkness of the desert. With the mob presence, no matter how discreet they were, there always came endless investigations, government committees, FBI wire-taps, informants and special surveillance techniques always watching for the “skim.” The Sands was no stranger to any of that and they had their share. And at times some of the key executives even had fun with it. But their reign at the Sands also focused on working with the city and financially contributing to many great city projects. It was a unique relationship. Schwartz highlights how public and private relationships of convenience among property principals were formed between the city and casinos to get things done. It’s not much different today, only we can see circumstances being much more transparent. And in most cases a deal not made doesn’t end with someone leaving Las Vegas on a permanent basis. Of course, more corporate types arrived on the scene in later years to take property ownership into a more reputable direction. Eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, who is one of the Sands owners in the timeline, purchased several properties and paved the way for corporations to own many properties on the strip. The Sands was part of that as well. Dr. Schwartz weaves the fabric of the American model into the back-story as well. Las Vegas in the 50’s and 60’s was in many ways a microcosm of what America was like. We are looking at a post-world war America. A country still trying to return to a growth Volume 16: Issue 142
economy and a move forward for its citizens but still practicing some of its negative policies such as segregation. Equality for all was still not achieved and during the Sands time on the strip it unexpectedly became a launching pad for change and racial equality; in part thanks to Frank Sinatra and some of the other celebrities that played there. With that said meet Jack Entratter; former owner of the famed Copacabana in New York. He was a person with his hand on the pulse of the entertainment world. His early vision and vast entertainment connections brought the right headline entertainment to the Sands Copa room. It filled with guests to hear the likes of Sinatra, Martin, Davis and a cast of other big-name stars. And when the packed shows ended the guests jammed the casino floor to leave their cash. It has been said that “Las Vegas is a city built on public relations, and the Sands’ Al Freeman was one of its early masters.” The Sands master of media relations knew how to play the public relations spin with many of the mass-media outlets. Newspapers, radio, TV, and movies provided a public relations vehicle for the Sands. Those media outlets in many ways were still finding their own way in the market place and their reporters and writers were similar to sharks looking for their next meal nibbling on anything that floats by. They were eager for gossip and any crumb of information on the rich and famous. Their published accounts placed the Sands at the forefront in the Casino Hospitality industry of the day.
As Dr. Schwartz effectively points out through countless stories in the book, Entratter and Freeman were a fraction of the early Sands team that helped to secure early success and its footprint for the future into Las Vegas history. Another part of the chain of command at the Sands in the early days was the casino manager Carl Cohen. The Casino Manager had power. One example is a story about a well-known comedian that crossed him over the comedian’s refusal to write new comedy material for his show. This displeased Mr. Cohen very much. Soon after the encounter the comedian found himself out of a job not only at the Sands, but any club in the country. The one club he did find some work happened to burn down the next day. (Sorry, you will have to read the book to find out who it was.) That was the power of the “boss.” The Sands was responsible for a lot of industry firsts. As a former casino executive, myself I found it 39
Book Review: At The Sands interesting that Cohen actually laid the ground work of an early surveillance system, monitoring the gaming tables without the use of people in the catwalks overhead. The Sands model presented headline entertainment acts to fill the Copa room and eventually the casino with customers. The property sponsored many in-house marketing promotions and strategically courted the press to create public awareness and interest. Casino Manager Carl Cohen also knew how important the Sands high rollers were and they always received what they wanted. The book’s table of contents is a tribute and a wonderful tie-in to the great song writing talents of the day. The use of the song titles as chapter names adds to the nostalgia of the era and the The book’s storyline. As an example, Chapter 11; “Ain’t that a Kick in the Head” is a tune that Dean Martin sang in the original 1960, Ocean’s Eleven movie starring the cast of Sinatra and company within the backdrop of the strip’s many casinos. The movie was massive free advertising for the Sands since its principal actors were regulars on the Copa stage. Sheldon Adelson was the key player in the final chapter of the Sands history. He imploded it in 1996 to make way for the Venetian mega-resort. He saw potential as the other Las Vegas strip properties were modernizing around the dated Sands facility. Stakeholders were changing the way they did business. It was a new time on the strip with manufactured volcanoes, pirate ships, major show attractions and the ability to host large scale conventions. Adelson was no stranger to the convention business and took his vision much in the way Jack Entratter did with bringing entertainment to the Sands. The visionaries such as Adelson and others saw that there were definitely other avenues of property amenities to increase the property bottom line – other than just the casino. Formerly known as loss-leaders (not a profitable amenity – such as hotel rooms) they soon became massive cash streams. The city of Las Vegas is a broad story in itself with every single casino property having its own special time-line. But in this book, it is clear that the Sands was the model for decades. Today’s Las Vegas is built on the bones of the past; however, it always finds ways to reinvent itself for every generation. At the Sands is an excellent 40
time piece showing how deep the historical roots are with its entertainment, dining and ways to create anticipation for the customer experience. These experiences today, owe their origins to the early visionaries both with infamous and famous reputations. The industry is still filled with mystery and intrigue and continues to be the setting for movies, countless articles and books. But as Las Vegas goes it is the stuff that movies and books are made of. At the Sands goes beyond a casino story into an American experience with mobsters, big business, celebrities, billionaires and unlimited amounts of cash. The book clearly details how the original model of casino gambling through the decades was turned into a fortified hospitality experience. The casino now is just part of the total experience. It’s all because visionaries through the decades found ways to broaden the gambling industry’s footprint and make money at it. Simply said, because it is about the customer “experience.” Quite simple. The Sands by simply adding more bait to the hook in terms of amenities went beyond courting the original casino “Whale.” Dr. Schwartz’s chronology of events at the Sands details how the Sands casino management knew how to develop industry concepts as well as establish benchmarks to broaden the allure in capturing the customer interest. There is no doubt about their vision. Las Vegas does not build for the ages and sadly the Sands was imploded in 1996. Its footprint gone and out of the imploded cinder ashes arose Sheldon Adelson’s mega resort called the Venetian. Many of the artifacts of the Sands are gone forever except for various items that appear on eBay from time to time. In the absence of that, Dr. Schwartz has given us an amazing piece of history, written in great depth. Having now read the book I feel that I was in the Copa Room and I sat at the Sands gaming tables and experienced the history. The book is a must read! Oh, and by the way, as I am writing this, I am listening to the CD, The Rat Pack Live at the Sands. Back to reality! Robert Ambrose. Casino Life International Casino & Gaming Correspondent, Consultant and Adjunct Professor Casino Management. To learn more about other books by Dr. David Schwartz has written visit: https://dgschwartz.com www.casinolifemagazine.com
Feature: Arjan Korstjens Arjan Korstjens
To be, or not to be… T
hat’s the question...This pandemic has many names. The big equaliser, the great reset, the wrath from the past, the warning from earth. We did not see it coming, were not prepared and it treated everyone equally. The whole world came to a stop, everywhere, all businesses, all homes. After the first lockdown we crawled back up. And that is exactly where it went wrong, or better to say, where it went in different directions. Some countries did great, others were stupid and paid the price or will pay the price. Some populations listened to the rules, others were stubborn and continued the way they were. And this is where I want to make a parallel to our industry. What did you do? Volume 16: Issue 142
In a survey I sent out to my global network I learned that almost everybody closed in the first lockdown period. Some in April, but most in March. On average in that first period we were 10.8 weeks closed, so nearly one quarter. And some unlucky amongst us did not reopen yet (Sweden, Georgia, Chile) or just opened last week (Colombia). The second lockdown seems more spread and ‘milder’. The Western part of Europe is closing whilst the Eastern parts are still open. But this is a snapshot at the moment I am writing this article. Our friends at the ECA are keeping an active overview, which you can see on the map. During the first lockdown I learned that most of the operators I talked to did a complete shutdown of the organisation. So besides closing the floor they 41
Feature: Arjan Korstjens also sent other staff, like Marketing and Business Development home. ‘Forced’ by the opportunity to get compensation from the government or cut staff cost they used the time to hide under a rock to see if the storm blew over. There were only a few who used the time to rethink their reason for being. “To be, or not to be” was Shakespeare’s way for saying: Do I cope with the circumstances handed to me or do I give up and go and die. This, under the new lockdown or if you are still open, is still a valid question to me. To be, or not to be. Let’s hope this whole situation will somehow be better soon, somewhere H2 2021 or so. But then, what happened to the world and how did you react? Did you wait under your rock and do you hope that you can pick up the thread that you dropped end of 2019? If you think a vaccine will bring those circumstances right back you should rethink. Even a 90% vaccine will take a year to be effective. And to those of you who’s regulars were 60+ I would say: do you really think they will come back in full force? Or did you prepare for the new reality? Radical changes are always the best incentives for new starts and this is what I want to challenge you to. This is the time to experiment and to reinvent yourself. All old learnings and laws can be set aside, what a great time to learn. And due to limited guest capacity or demand we also have the time for it. Ask yourself a couple of questions:
• Being sure that at least 20% of your old regulars will not come back, what could our new target groups? • What is our place in a society where other entertainment will be limited for quite some time? • How can we bring in new guests and make sure they come back (yes, this approach can use a make-over as 50% never returns)? 42
Image Courtesy of the European Casino Association
• Where does Responsible Gaming come into my Marketing mix to grow my business? Use your time and staff to brainstorm and think of crazy things that you never did before. And experiment! I will leave you with another quote of another famous British inspirator: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill.
Bio: Arjan Korstjens – Consultant, Speaker & Trainer Arjan Korstjens is a consultant, speaker and trainer in the international Casino industry. Working from his own company, Explayner, he helps casinos improving the result and effect of their Marketing in both the online and landbased world. He has worked for, amongst others, Holland Casino, SBM Casinos Monaco, Sun Monticello Chile, Partouche Casino Oostende, Casinos Austria Viage Brussels, Casinos del Sol Paraguay and Olympic Entertainment Group. Arjan specialises in promotional strategies, Responsible Gaming on the casino floor and database marketing/loyalty programs. He is a course director for the Totally Gaming Academy and speaks and chairs at various conferences around the world. https://nl.linkedin.com/in/arjankorstjens
Feature: Andrew Cosgrove
Multitasking: the enemy of success? When your best work turns out to be your competitor’s worst, you could be a victim of multitasking, and in a world that has been drastically transformed by the Coronavirus pandemic, slot managers around the globe will need to be laser sharp focused in order to remain competitive. Say ‘NO’ to multitasking!
ome might say that multitasking is the ultimate ‘must have’ skill in today’s competitive job market because it’s considered productive to answer an email, order a coffee, have a meeting with your boss, fix a slot machine and, all this, while having to meet financial targets and exceed customer expectations! Some CEOs go even further and proclaim that – without multitasking—success, fame, fortune and everything that goes with it will remain an illusion. On the other side of the debate, I contest that multitasking is the enemy of success and a wise leader will banish multitasking from their building allowing their management team to focus on operational priorities that will nurture growth and sustain the kind of success that a multitasker can only dream of. So how can you, the humble slot managers of the world, make sure that multitasking doesn’t creep up on you like a hungry
peregrine falcon on an unsuspecting field mouse? Focus on your number one priority and build success sequentially. Building sequentially relates to building one step at a time in a logical order to maximize results. Focusing on more than one goal at time will yield the same result as the peregrine falcon trying to catch two field mice at the same time while travelling at speeds of up to 390km/h and expecting not to go home hungry! The ‘One step at a time’ concept might be alien to the multitasker and is frequently reflected in the ‘okay, regular and forever average’ results they achieve. Success, however, means identifying your top priority and identifying the sequence of events that will ensure that you reach your goal, and using focus to achieve greatness one step at a time by breaking down your top priority into smaller, more actionable steps. In real life, the road to success can be bumpy, and it can be really easy to lose focus, which is why it’s important to counterbalance the bumps and remain on track. In Volume 16: Issue 142
project management the ultimate project objectives are revisited on a frequent basis in order to assure that focus is maintained, and the project remains aligned with expectations. A great leader knows all about the
bumpy road to success but keeps the multitaskers at bay by adapting priorities and making sure that each step they take is laser sharp focused and leading towards their number one priority. No one succeeds alone – In any business, teamwork is essential and for you to reach your ultimate goal you will need the help of others. A common mistake of the multitasker is to want to claim glory from themselves by doing everything at the same time and by themselves. I have borne witness to this kind of phenomena; it’s not pretty and rarely results in anything successful. No one is self-made, and all successful people have someone behind them whether it be a friend with a technical skill or a coach who pushed an athlete to their limits. If you’re working on moving half of your slots floor around, you know you’ll need to coordinate with electricians, IT techs, slot techs, Security, suppliers, and the list goes on. The focus is the same, ‘to create a more productive slots floor’ one step at a time so 43
Feature: Andrew Cosgrove delegating tasks is essential and will give you more time to focus on managing the coordinated effort and increasing your chances of success. Beware of multitasking lies and thieves of productivity. Some bosses state that everything matters equally and other outrageous, non-productive rants. Multitasking is one of those rants and is a big lie simply because by definition it calls for juggling which, in turn will cause distraction, loss of focus, place limitations on your productivity, and inevitably cause your projects to fail. Multitaskers fail to recognize many of the thieves of productivity such as the ability to ‘say no’ and fail to realize that to be successful you have to justify one thousand ‘no’s’ to defend a single yes, so make sure you know what you’re getting into beforehand. The fear of chaos is another attribute of the multitasker but when you’re busy focusing on your top priority some things will inevitably not get done. Great leaders know that on the path to success, chaos will inevitably make an uninvited appearance and so they counterbalance the effects by blocking out time to focus on their main priority and deal with chaos by becoming more productive. Don’t fear big and use your time wisely. Some bosses use the word big as much as possible when it comes to projecting success. Big plans, big budget, big benefits, and big risks are enough to send the multitasker into overdrive and force many employees to run for the hills rather than step outside of their comfort zone. The great leader looks at big, embraces it and uses it to their advantage. They are relentless in their pursuit of success so block out time to focus on their one priority instead of constantly putting out fires like our familiar colleague the multitasker. Think about this, we all have the same amount of time in the day so the more you concentrate on what you can do right now to help achieve your number one goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. To be successful it’s important to drown out the noise and concentrate on what’s important, so think big, use your time wisely, start taking action and greatness will become your new best friend. Are you asking the right questions or are you just multitasking yourself towards the wrong answer? Part of great success starts by asking the right kind of question and not, as the multitasker might speculate, by asking a thousand random, mostly irrelevant ones where the only goal is to create more clutter. The right kind of slots question might be, “what’s the one 44
priority I can focus on to maximize slots productivity in such a way that by doing so I will add more value to the customer experience and in turn, generate higher revenues?” By first asking the right question you now have a vision of what the ‘big picture’ might look like and when you start by establishing well defined goals, you have already taken the first step towards building a solid foundation for success. By ignoring ‘what’s doable’ and drilling it down to ‘what’s necessary,’ you become more productive and are ready to start building in the right direction and adding true value to the customer experience. Use purpose, priority, and productivity to achieve extraordinary results. A lot of businesses focus only on profit and productivity without giving any thought to their significantly larger cousins, Purpose and Priority. The unseen and largest driver behind success is purpose and we all have it. The peregrine falcon’s purpose is to eat in order to survive, and in order to survive you have to set your priorities (this includes saying no!) without which, you won’t have much luck being productive or eaching your revenue targets. A typical slots example might be a choice between changing the power supply in your top performing slot machine and diplomatically telling your boss that he will have to wait for his urgent meeting regarding the AV setup for the office party which is still three months away. Together, purpose productivity and priority are the foundations of success. Neglect one of them and multitasking will set in and reaching your goals will become like launching a fishing boat with multiple holes in its hull and expecting it never to sink. Conclusion – Success remains an illusion to many, but if you ask the right questions, block out the noise and focus on your number one priority, success will no longer be an myth and even the multitasker might find satisfaction in building extraordinary results one ‘focused’ step at a time.
MY MINI-BLOG Andrew Cosgrove is a seasoned slot operations veteran and certified project manager with over 24 years of hands on experience in Latin America and the Caribbean. Andrew has worked on both the operator and supplier side of casino slots and continues to help clients succeed and exceed customer expectations. Andrew can be reached at andy.cosgrove@ hemingwaycasinoconsulting.com or see https:// hemingwaycasinoconsulting.com
Feature: Raymond Chan
China’s blockchain dominance and the network effect
y article on blockchain and its network effect was first published in 2018, and since then an extraordinary growth in blockchain development has happened in China. As of mid-May, China held 19% of the world’s total of 3,924 blockchain patents, ranking third after the US and South Korea according to the South China Morning Post. Ant’s payment app Alipay held the most of any individual company, with 212 patents. Tencent, with its online payment service platform Tenpay and WeBank, is holding 42 and ranks ninth globally.
The China aggressiveness in
Raymond Chan Volume 16: Issue 142
blockchain technology is actually predictable. The global money transfer network SWIFT and the dollar dominance have given the U.S. a great deal of leverage over other countries, and the U.S. has used the system as a stick to block Russia in 2014 and threatened to lock China out of the dollar system if it failed to follow U.N. sanctions on North Korea. The new blockchain infrastructure, which have peer-topeer commerce nature in a trusted environment, is in an excellent position to replace, or at least run as an alternative channel, when the “old-fashioned payment settlement and messaging technology” is blocked for any reason. 45
Feature: Raymond Chan Four years ago, the Chinese government had already included blockchain in the State Council’s technology blueprint and President Xi Jinping backed the technology again during a speech held in last October. The speech has further pushed its development and application in the country. A pilot program has begun for an official digital version of its currency with the likelihood of a bigger test at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. The new blockchain-powered virtual yuan could bolster the government’s power over the country’s financial system and one day maybe even shift the global balance of economic influence. However, reader should not compare this new currency as any other cryptocurrency including Bitcoin and Ethereum. China actually has cracked down on the use of such coins. At the same time, China will likely be wary of any circumvention of its capital controls to keep people from moving significant amounts of wealth out of the country directly or indirectly via Hong Kong or Macau.
The Network Effect
While a new digital currency is likely years away from a national rollout, China’s push in the technology has triggered a network effect of blockchain use case studies. Our internet today is wildly opened, and it can’t protect everyone’s data and privacy effectively. Middle platform or sharing-economy businesses like Spotify or Facebook are taking advantage to
monetize your creative contents. Blockchain has a peer-to-peer decentralized commerce nature, and this ‘modern internet’ is giving the internet a new definition. The use case of digital currency as happening in China is just a beginning in blockchain. Blockchainbacking tokenization of virtual goods in gaming is another example, where the game providers and players will be able to able to interact closer than ever before. Gaming operators can offer unique digital accessories on blockchain to players that aren’t available for direct sale. The “smart contract” facilities provided by some blockchain networks, such as Ethereum, allow for the creation of agreements which will be executed when certain conditions are met. This is likely to be highly useful when it comes to, for example, authorizing one game to react to digital avatars, creating compulsion and providing additional in-game boosts to enhance the 46
gaming experience for new generation customers. Furthermore, players will be better equipped with more control while playing, allowing in-game strategy and potentially positioning themselves with higher chances of winning (in selected jurisdictions). These features will engage players for longer timeon-device and drive up revenue from casino floors. Most importantly, the mobility of digital avatars is giving operator the opportunity to do O2O (onlineto-offline) marketing after the customer has left the gaming floor for recurring business.
Every new ecosystem starts with a chicken-and-egg problem: The supply won’t join the system unless there’s a demand, and demand is challenging to prove without real supply. For obvious reasons, China is seeing an immediate need to push for the technology and the snowball has just begun to roll. It is bringing new business opportunities to innovate, and we love to hear what you think too. Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” If you are seeing interesting use case of blockchain or other emerging technologies, I would love to learn about it too. You are always welcome to reach me at email@example.com and even if I can’t reply every email, I do read all of them regularly. Thank you!
ABOUT RAYMOND CHAN Raymond is a product engineer, software developer, and serial entrepreneur. During his career in Silicon Valley, he was part of the data engineering team that developed the E*TRADE and TiVo data centre since the late 90s. Most recently, Raymond cofounded TGG Interactive in 2014 and founded Alphaslot Foundation in 2018 to push the boundaries of what’s possible by technology innovations. Originally from Hong Kong, Raymond’s interest in technology began when, as a boy, he wrote software for profit using dBase on the early Apple II system. He later earned an engineering degree in computerized traffic signal control system to combat growing urban congestion at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Feature: Shaun McCamley
Online Gaming SE Asia – Yes You Can
s land based casino revenues continue to flounder and with no real end in sight to these difficult times, is there an online strategy that legally targets the very lucrative Asia markets, and which delivers much needed revenue to your properties’ bottom line? As an early mover into the online space in 2000, first as a consultant then as an operator, I have seen the industry change beyond recognition. Launching an online casino today is not for the faint hearted, you will need deep pockets, be smart and take knowledgeable advice from experienced industry experts and have an iron will to succeed. The good news, there are alternatives which also open up the very lucrative Asia markets. Let’s park for now the obvious question, will China and like-minded Asia jurisdictions finally approve their citizens to gamble online? When working with clients interested to move into the online space, the first question I ask is why do you want to get into the online space, closely followed by what deliverables do you expect to see from your online casino platform and of course, what is your budget? There are a number of key challenges for incoming operators today, not least restricted markets, licensing complexities and associated fees, player acquisition costs and a significant budget needed just to be
competitive. Finding a licensing jurisdiction that meets your needs and then working through difficult ring-fenced regulatory requirements can be very challenging. Licensing is location specific, time consuming and costly. Unlike a land based casino, with an online business there is no walk by traffic. The market today is very competitive with player acquisition costs upward of $4K a player. An online casino business is a high volume model which means you need to drive substantial traffic to your site. To achieve the amount of traffic needed means allocating 80% or more of your operating budget to marketing spend. Today mainstream media providers like Google, FB and the like just don’t deliver the right traffic and are incredibly expensive. Payment solutions are expensive with credit cards full of risk from chargebacks. Hassle free instant deposit and cash out solutions for players is Volume 16: Issue 142
absolutely paramount in today’s online environment. In Asia as we know, this is a huge hurdle to surmount. So if you’re still up for it then good luck and happy hunting because as you can see building, launching and operating an online casino platform today will be difficult, time deficient and costly; It’s not the direction I would recommend. For me the better option is to look at a gaming
model which can deliver significant revenues, upwards of $150 million a year, is growing at a rate of 250% YoY throughout Asia. There is a model where the regulatory process is minimal and in first world jurisdictions does not currently require the operator to be licensed. The market segment I am talking about is Social Casino Gaming. In 2017 the global social gaming industry generated $106 billion in revenues, with the social casino gaming segment generating $4.5 billion in revenues. China, Japan and Korea generate 90% of the games revenue in the region. Asia is the second largest social casino market after North America with revenues of around $900 million, and that number is growing with an eye popping 250% YoY growth. JP Morgan estimates in the coming year we will see 8% - 10% revenue growth in the Asia Pacific region. The most popular games are slots, bingo and poker which are easily played on mobile devices. Over the 47
Feature: Shaun McCamley past couple of years there has been a definite and pronounced shift to mobile platforms. This reflects a move away from PC based platforms where social media giant Facebook, which in 2012 and 2013 was estimated to have 59% market share, today has an estimated 23% market share. In terms of game development over the past five years there really haven’t been any new game innovations or additional game upgrades. Slotomania although being the oldest social slot game on the market is today still the most popular offering with more than 20 million likes on FB. In terms of publishers, Playtika remains the largest social casino publisher and the most popular of the social casino portals with around 29% market share, closely followed by Double Down and Scientific Games with Zynga and Madfish coming in with around 7% market share each. In terms of regulation there isn’t any as social casino gaming with no prize or payout schedule is not considered to be gambling. In the U.S. gambling requires the presence of three elements: consideration, chance and some sort of prize. Players bet on the outcome of an uncertain event to win a larger amount. Social games are not gambling, if they eliminate one of the three elements. Because the games are not regulated, operators are free to set the odds at any level they want. In fact, these games are almost never truly random. Game developers don’t want players to get bored, so the game becomes easier if a player is stuck at
one level, or on the other hand harder if the player is winning too quickly. This Dynamic Game Balancing (“DGB”) is done automatically, because game designers want players to be hooked and these games are addictive as a result. So if it’s not gambling how do social casino game providers generate the large revenues we see today?
Non-game apps, particularly media providers, often use this model in the form of a ‘paywall’ protecting premium content. PAID / PREMIUM - Pay your money and get your game. The old fashioned way. Parents, many of whom have decried IAPs as honey-traps rate this model. Savvy and successful operators optimise trigger activities and focus on micro data detail for example, what prompts a player to purchase an IAP? Trigger activities like getting stuck on a level, or having to wait 30 minutes for some seeds drive IAPs. Understanding how these trigger activities work, and analysing individual or macro-level data is critical for showing the right paid products to the right players at the right time. So in this time of defining crisis operators need to look outside of the box to solutions that can deliver. The best way forward is to take the path of least resistance. Given the cost, time to market and challenges online casino games present, our advice to clients is to take a look at social casino gaming as in our view it is a much better option and one that will deliver significant branding and revenue opportunities to a properties bottom line. Casino floors are not going to fully open any time soon, and when they do eventually allow players back, ramping up business levels to pre-Covid-19 levels will take time. Smart land based casino companies are already looking to get into social as they recognise easy cost effective branding opportunities with
FREE, WITH IN-APP-PURCHASES (IAPs) – The most common and lucrative model. Distributing a free, entirely open-access game attracts players to download. Once captivated, IAPs offer additional credits, discounts and incentive chances to skip ahead or enhance the playing experience.
excellent cross over promotions, the opportunity to build out their database whilst at the same time generating significant revenues. If you are considering a move into either social or online casino gaming, or would like to learn more about either platform, talk to us today about first steps and preparing a market feasibility study. Euro Pacific Asia Consulting has written and delivered online gaming feasibility studies to clients around the world. Not only does EPA have the development and operational experience to write and deliver your study, we are also able to prepare and execute the associated business plan. Use EPA to map out critical strategic operational planning from project commencement through to the successful roll out of your platform.
FREEMIUM Apps - Freemium apps involve some form of ‘upgrade’, perhaps to unlock exclusive levels.
Contact us today for a detailed proposal at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are basically three revenue models:
Feature: Robert Brassai
Must the Show go on?
he gaming industry has always had a very healthy trade show and conference business around it bringing gaming professionals of all sorts together with each other, suppliers, educators, etc. From major international companies to small local shops, we had events of all shapes and sizes where we could meet long lost colleagues, spend the yearly capex on equipment and supplies, listen to industry leaders share their thoughts about the latest trends or learn a thing or two on educational sessions. Major gatherings like ICE with iGB, the G2Es, the SBC events and SIGMA just to mention the biggest ones, became must attend calendar dates for gaming professionals of management level. All this is in past tense since February, when the world entered a seemingly unstoppable avalanche of inadequate COVID responses. The conference and show industry answered very quickly, moving their land-based events into cyber space. Letâ€™s see how successful and sustainable this move turns out to be. The show ecosystem is a three-tiered one, and needs the organizers, industry professionals as visitors and suppliers as exhibitors for its existence. The financing of the whole circle obviously comes from the
suppliers as they were able to show during the years that these shows helped them sell their goods and services. The organizers also pocketed their profits from the sales of exhibition space and sponsorships. The visitors got good pricing in the form of show specials and got to see many suppliers on one trip and do a proper comparison of the different offerings. Everyone profited one way or another and the social aspect of the whole gathering was the icing on the cake. Lavish parties, exquisite dinners in the best restaurants, show tickets, golf tournaments and similar off show activities made sure the visitor would have a great time and come back the following year. And we did have a great time indeed. Is any of this ecosystem movable to the online sphere? The organizers are using cutting edge technology to make the experience as realistic as possible and recreate the usefulness and vibe of the land-based shows and conferences. For those of you Volume 16: Issue 142
who participated on a few of these in the past couple of months I donâ€™t have to explain how sitting in front of a computer screen is no substitute for having a face to face chat with a vendor on the show floor, not to mention the rest of the experience. Conferences and online education, to a certain extent can give you similar bang for your buck, but even these cannot beat the presentational version. Going from one virtual show to another it is evident that most people sign in, look around, maybe listen to a panel or presentation and they leave. The headcount is surely going down as more and more visitors get disappointed with the meaningless experience. The core excuse for these shows, the shopping bit, can now be done through a call or skype chat directly with the vendors at the convenience of both parties. Conferences can be pre-recorded and watched anytime. The part that made these gatherings fun, 49
Feature: Robert Brassai unfortunately cannot yet be replicated online. Suppliers keep paying the advertisement dollars to the organizers for now, as this is what they have always done, and there is a solid longstanding relationship between them that keeps the momentum. But I believe very soon this house of cards will collapse, when suppliers and service providers one by one realize that their advertising budget can be put to much better use, not to mention the time and effort needed to participate on online shows with very few relevant visitors added to the already existing pressure of diminishing sales. How the show industry will survive these times will very much depend on how long “social distancing” will keep the physical exhibition floors closed and how strong the existing ties with the different suppliers actually are to see them through current restrictions. They will have to come up with a different business model or end up like Nokia. I can see smaller boutique firms emerging, offering relevant content on different educational and conference niches. Content that lives well in its solely online form, can be consumed and digested at the pace the customers see fit. Trying to
move a social experience based on personal contact and presence to an online environment is a futile effort and goes against every sales and marketing principle. Time to move on guys before it’s too late. The exhibitions and conference organizers that served us so well during the past decades must embrace the spirit of adopting and innovating that our industry has been always known for.
Biography Robert Brassai, consultant, strategist and gaming expert. Robert is the founding principal of the gaming consulting firm “Sense4gaming.” The firm takes on projects from casino concept and management to marketing and operations. Robert brings to the casino industry a wide range of experience and expertise. Robert, a leading casino executive has used his wealth of experience to establish and transform many casino businesses. In the past 25 years he has opened and managed properties for some of the industry’s leading companies like Sun International, Queenco and Kerzner International.
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Last Word: Damien Connelly
Pivot Your Operations
ities with more ‘social glue’ facilities — think restaurants, bars, cafes, libraries, museums, and casinos — are more innovative than similar cities with fewer ‘social glue’ facilities. In a recent article with Vegas Inc., Jim Murren, ex-CEO of MGM Resorts International, stated: “In 2022, I think we’re going to see a very rapid snapback in consumer activity nationwide, particularly in Las Vegas.” In terms of managing the challenges we currently face, Tilman Fertitta, Chairman and CEO of Landry’s Inc. and owner of Golden Nugget casinos commented to CNBC that, “companies including restaurants and hospitality and casinos…we’ve all learned to operate differently… ’22 could be a spectacular year…If we can get back, all companies, flat to negative 10 percent in same-store sales, I think these companies are going to have 10 percent better profits than they were going to have before this pandemic even started because we’ve all learned to operate so much more efficiently.” In all likelihood, there will be ongoing closings and openings across the world during the next year or so. My advice to everybody reading this article: Treat 2021 as a thinking year. Treat 2021 as a year to appraise, analyse, stategise, model, research variables, innovate, test/launch/fail/repeat/succeed, develop alternate avenues for your business, and basically totally reassess what you do and how you do it. People’s behaviour has been permanently changed — as I noted in my Last Word in issue 138, psychological deconditioning means the ‘snapback’ Mr. Murren refers to will probably not be acrossthe-board but in specific customer cohorts. You will benefit from using ‘nudges’ to trigger certain customer cohorts to return. You might also need to consider adapting your business plan to extend your brand into ‘nearby* markets’ such as restaurant-only, or video gaming cafes. (*Note: when I write ‘nearby’, I do not mean physically, I mean behaviourally, psychologically. You can’t open a hospital as that would be considered too much of a brand stretch by your customers, but you can open restaurants or video game cafes to extend your brand touch points.) 52
Great assets will be available in superb locations during 2021. For example, the New York State comptroller estimates that, of the 23,650 restaurants operating in the city in 2019, between 33% and 50% could close over the next 6-12 months. Operators such as MGM Resorts International use regional properties as feeders for their destination properties. Would your business operations benefit from more regional properties, and maybe even urban properties? Could you use a chain of restaurants and/ or video game cafes to feed new customers into your properties? Could you successfully launch/develop a new format that intercepts your customers where they are rather than relying on them coming to you? Get innovating. Start your pivot.
Biography Damien Connelly has worked with some of the world’s largest corporates on business and strategic planning, on creating innovation, and on introducing growth programs, such as with Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever and Vodafone. He’s worked in the casino industry for almost 15 years. His first MA was from Glasgow University in Economics and Management, and his second MA (with Distinction) was from Kingston University in Marketing. He is a professional member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
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