Casino Life Issue 149 Vol 18

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The magazine for the owners and management of international casinos

Volume 18: Issue 149

Authentic experiences that ROCK in Sacramento

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Editor’s Note

CASINO The magazine for the owners and management of international casinos

Published by Outsource Digital Media Ltd


Editor: David McKee International Editor: Damien Connelly Associate Editor Asia: Bill Healey Victor H. Royer International Correspondent Associate Editor EMEA: Aydin Guney aydin.guney@outsourcedigital International Correspondent: Lyudmyla Kyrychenko lyudmyla.kyrychenko@outsource

Production: Designer: Stewart Hyde Accounts: Helen Holmes IT Director: Pasha Kuzminskiy Publisher: Peter White Tel: +44 (0) 1892 740869 Mob: +44 (0) 7973 273714 Volume 18: Issue 149

Welcome... As I write this, our colleagues at Casino Life Ukraine are in desperate peril, thanks to Russia’s barbaric invasion of the independent nation. It would be easy to just say our thoughts and prayers are with them (as indeed they are) or tut-tut that the casino industry in Ukraine was great for the few months that it lasted. But we cannot simply frown at Vladimir Putin’s fascistic landgrab and go back to talking about fruit machines. We are confronted with a momentous evil, made worse by the impending threat of nuclear war. Putin has already put the thermonuclear card in play, a sad reminder that any despot today can blackmail the rest of the world into submission by even hinting at an atomic cataclysm. (Significantly, one of the sites seized by the invaders was Chernobyl.) Shiny new games and glittering mega resorts seem very insignificant at such a time as now. Putin’s aggression has been emboldened by the ragged counterresponse of the Free World. Our crippling reliance on cheap Russian oil and natural gas undercuts our moral high ground. It is time to look past dollars and cents, and creature comfort, to what we stand for as free human beings and act accordingly. In that vein, we would caution the casino industry to think twice about getting into bed with authoritarian regimes – as Harrah’s Entertainment almost did with Putin in Azov City. One of the United Nations member countries that refrained from denouncing the Ukraine incursion was the United Arab Emirates, states with a terrible human rights record – and where Wynn Resorts recent announced plans to build a casino. The premier Western gaming companies have steered clear so far of Rodrigo Duterte’s capricious regime in the Philippines but there will undoubtedly be a land rush to authoritarian-run Brazil, where the parliament is on the verge of legalizing casino gambling. The casino industry prides itself – and rightly so – on elevating the standard of living wherever it goes. It should be similarly mindful of human rights. Long live a free Ukraine. In other news, countries from Lithuania (possibly the next domino to fall to Putin) to the United States are relaxing their Covid-19 countermeasures, confident that the battle is won. Barring some fresh catastrophe, gaming seems poised to repeat its banner performance of 2021, even if it will be hard-pressed in the U.S. to match its $23 billion score of last year. In the meantime, we look forward to the ICE show in London and celebrate gaming’s growing multifariousness by welcoming the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to Las Vegas. In diversity we find strength and we welcome new voices to the chorus.

DMcKee David McKee Editor 3

Contents 3 Editor’s Note Reflections on Ukraine, human rights and casinos 6 Hard Rock Sacramento Tribal casino President Mark Birtha is interviewed by Victor H. Royer 16 Flourishing Again Palms Casino Resort General Manager Cynthia Kiser Murphey is interviewed by David McKee



26 Velvix Launches U.S. Operations The company incepts an office and showroom in Los Angeles to target the American market 28 Trusted Solutions Catching up with SUZOHAPP Vice President for Europe Tim Kennedy. By Damien Connelly 33 Tailored to fit London’s De5ign is your one-stop shop for ICE exhibitors’ graphic needs. By David McKee


37 Back to Business Clarion Gaming’s Stuart Hunter explains how a pandemic-buffeted ICE London was revived. By Peter White 41 Two-Pronged Approach A new, dual-track casino conference is set to debut in Las Vegas on June 6. Peter White interviews Richard Marcus 46 SUZOHAPP New appointments support continued expansion in Europe. By Peter White





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 Severn Print.

Feature: Hard Rock International

Exterior of Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain

Hard Rock Sacramento A Shining Jewel at Fire Mountain

Casino Life Magazine recently had the opportunity to interview Mark Birtha, President of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain. By: Victor H Royer


ark Birtha is currently with Hard Rock International as president of the Hard

Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain. An executive with the iconic brand, Mark is responsible for operations of Northern California’s premier gaming, dining, and entertainment destination and its team members. In addition, he manages the relationship between the Enterprise Rancheria Tribe (owner) and the Seminole Tribe of Florida (partner and owner of Hard Rock International), as well as future expansion and development related to the 900-acre designated sports and entertainment zone available on the land around the existing property. Before moving to Sacramento, Birtha was the president of the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in Ohio (now MGM Northfield Park). Prior to joining Hard Rock International, Mark was a vice president and general manager with Station Casinos, operating in the Las Vegas locals market. In 2010, Mark was president of Sol Casinos and the AVA Amphitheater in Tucson, Arizona, where he focused on 6

the strategic vision for the organization and had general management responsibilities for the operations of Casino Del Sol, Casino of the Sun and the 5,000-seat AVA Amphitheater. In addition, he oversaw the design, construction and operations of Casino Del Sol’s $130 million, four-star, four-diamond hotel resort expansion development. Mark, first I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Please tell our readers a bit more about yourself, and your role at Hard Rock Sacramento at Fire Mountain. Thank you so much, Victor, for the invitation. I truly appreciate the opportunity to share what we are doing at Hard Rock here in Northern California with your Casino Life audience. I have been in the gaming industry for over 28 years and with Hard Rock International for the past eight years. Currently I am the president of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain. Prior to Sacramento, I was the president of Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield

Feature: Hard Rock International Park which was acquired by MGM Growth Properties for $1.1 billion and rebranded MGM in 2019. Throughout my career I have had the pleasure of working in both operations and development at leading casino and hotel companies across the U.S, including vice president and general manager with Station Casinos, president of Sol Casinos and AVA Amphitheater, as well as management positions with Mirage Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Marriott International and Starwood. In my current role, I am responsible for operations of the entertainment destination and its team members. In addition, I manage the relationship between the Enterprise Rancheria Tribe (owner) and the Seminole Tribe of Florida (partner and owner of Hard Rock International) as well as future expansion and development related to the sports and entertainment zone the property sits within. We broke ground last summer on our $75 million Phase II casino property expansion which includes the Rocktane Gas + Smoke station which opened last November and a 2,500-seat Hard Rock Live entertainment venue which will debut this summer. Please tell our readers more about the casino at Hard Rock Sacramento at Fire Mountain, and the games and facilities provided to players. The Enterprise Rancheria Tribe are the owners of the property and they dedicated close to 20 years to design, construct, and open Hard Rock Hotel &

Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain. It is located 30 minutes north of Sacramento. This landmark destination has become the template for regional casinos in the Hard Rock International portfolio. In addition, this partnership between Enterprise Rancheria and the Seminole Tribe of Florida represents the first time East Coast and West Coast Native American Nations have collaborated to develop an integrated destination resort. The property includes a 169-room hotel, 60,000 square feet of gaming space, six restaurants and three bars, a pool and Body Rock fitness center, and over 10,000 square feet of meeting space in the Kumi Event Center. Hard Rock Sacramento has continued to grow operations since opening and its continued success allowed Tribal ownership to begin construction of its Phase II development. This new expansion includes the Rocktane Gas + Smoke which opened November 2021 and is our first gas station and convenience Volume 18: Issue 149

Asian Gaming Salon

store location on the West Coast. Phase II also includes the development of Hard Rock Live, a 2,500-seat entertainment and multi-purpose event venue scheduled to open in late spring. We are also repurposing part of the real estate on the property to build a high-end retail store called UNITY. How many slots do you have in the casino, in total? Currently, the property has 1,600 Class III slot machines on our gaming floor. We have a large selection of the most current titles and a dynamic combination of video poker, mechanical and video reel games, and ETG’s. We also have an intimate Lightning Link Lounge and our new VIP Link lounge gaming rooms, as well as our high-end slot gaming salon. Our slot machines offer some of the most incredible technology amenities including self-pay jackpots and charging centers on each game, as well as the ability to hold a game based on loyalty club tier level.

What percentage of these slot titles are lease, trial, or participation? We offer a nice selection of leased and owned games with our leased titles being refreshed on a regular basis. We typically hover between eight percent to 12 percent of our game mix being the leased/participation style games although this can vary, especially now given product availability. We also have a floor-wide progressive that we offer at our property that guests really enjoy. How many table games do you have in the casinos, and which ones? We currently have 60 table games at Hard Rock 7

Feature: Hard Rock International

Lightning Link Lounge

Sacramento. We have continued to add new tables to our floor given the demand, and we change the game mix and denoms depending on the preferences of our clientele. You can find your favorites from single and double deck blackjack to California-style craps and roulette, as well as baccarat, Pai Gow Poker and Pai Gow Tiles. Our roulette features world-premiere, higher-payout side wagers like Box of Rocks, paying

50 to 1, Bottom of the Class, paying 200 to 1, and Rock Bottom, paying 500 to 1. The casino offers a high-limit table games room as well as a private gaming salon. The property has our Pit 8 which offers up Macau-style games and other unique products that our guests truly enjoy. This is adjacent to our YouYu noodle bar and continental Asian restaurant, creating a unique neighborhood of products catered to this gaming niche segment. We don’t currently offer live poker. We were limited in space on our first phase of development and focused on the core amenities that would create an integrated destination resort. In the near future, we intend to build out a poker room and bingo hall in an upcoming expansion. We realize that guests value those offerings, and although they don’t necessarily move the revenue needle we are all about listening to our guests, “You Sang, We Listened,” and providing them what they want. 8

Are any of these table-game titles on lease, trial, or participation? We actually have a handful of table games that are on a lease basis. We have demo’d games in the past for the property and company to get a sense of their appeal to the guests. Some of our most popular leased table game products are our side bets. For instance, the Lucky Lucky side bet is a market

favorite, and we are happy to offer it. We continue to work with our table-game partner vendors to evaluate new offerings that are compelling and in demand with our guests. Are any of your casino games – slots and tables – available in cashless configuration? Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming are evaluating the technology, procedures, and overall customer adoption and usage of cashless gaming at some of our properties in Florida. We have partnerships with Scientific Games and Everi and thus have the platforms, tools and connectivity to roll out this amenity in each of our locations depending on regulatory approval. We are reviewing the results thus far and looking to introduce a cashless wallet product this summer in the Northern California market. Clearly the technology is compelling and the next evolution for our industry. We want to ensure it is

Feature: Hard Rock International guest-friendly and easy to administer and manage by our team members to maximize the value to all who choose to use it. Please tell our readers more about the high-limit lounge at the Hard Rock Sacramento at Fire Mountain. We have an amazing high-limit program at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain. Given we service guests from our local markets, the Northern California region, and the San Francisco Bay area, we cater to a large and diverse group of guests that enjoy this type of experience at our property. First and foremost, the rooms are beautifully designed and have both an intimate yet inviting presence. One side of the area is dedicated to slots, the other to table games in a traditional manner. They have a club feel and look, and yet offer various products and escalating denoms to cater to guests at every level. This includes our VIP private gaming salon which offers any table game type upon request. We have some one-of-a-kind memorabilia in the high limit rooms, including Elvis’ gold lame’ suit in our VIP gaming salon. You can play with the King! In the center of the room is our invitation-only Plum Lounge. This Hard Rock amenity is a great space that allows VIP guests unlimited access to food, beverage, lounge and other unique amenities. It has a comfortable design and upgraded furniture, almost like being in your living room and being serviced by our butler staff. It truly provides for and exceeds any need, want or expectation. We do private VIP events in the space and rotate the menu for special occasions and cultural events. We just offered dim sum in the lounge for our Lunar New Year celebration. What do you consider is the most innovative aspect of your casino? What sets your casino apart from others in California, and elsewhere? The property opened in October 2019 to critical acclaim and was quickly embraced by guests in the Northern California market. This property is the regional template for all future Hard Rocks around the U.S., so the design here is groundbreaking, and the vibe and décor is truly one of a kind. From the moment you drive up and see the huge video marquee board outside with the large guitar and fire mountain backdrop, to entering the front doors and being swept away with the “exploding guitar” Volume 18: Issue 149

Mark Birtha, President of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain

ceiling fixture, the Eddie Van Halen motorcycle right in front of the Center Bar, and the beautiful porcelain tile floors, and vibrant carpet and fixtures, you are enveloped into a wonderland of entertainment. The property is filled with over 100 memorabilia displays featuring the most iconic artists and even those from the Northern California region. Hard Rock Café is the heart of the property and enjoying a meal there and walking out after shopping in the Rock Shop with your Hard Rock swag in hand completes the adventure. Our Council Oak Steaks & Seafood is a Wine Spectator Award-winning restaurant that recently won Best Signature Dining restaurant in Sacramento. YouYu offers a great menu of authentic Asian cuisine, street food, and noodle dishes and soups, and guests love it. We are bringing back our Fresh Harvest 9

Feature: Hard Rock International

Council Oak Dining Room

Buffet, and we have our Plum Lounge and Constant Grind 24/7 outlet to meet anyone’s needs. When you combine great design with amazing amenities and service that is laser focused on delivering “authentic experiences that ROCK,” it is no surprise we were recognized as the Best Regional Casino in 2021. Hard Rock really raises the quality bar in every market we

We have learned a lot about the wants of our guests in the market. Although Northern California is a very competitive marketplace, we have implemented a strategy of tried-and-true promotions as well as some cutting-edge ones that nobody in the region offers. More traditional promotions include blackjack and baccarat tournaments and weekly

Do you have a players’ club? Please tell our readers how you have it structured to help and benefit your casino players. We have our renowned Wild Card loyalty program in place throughout Hard Rock and here in Sacramento. Guests can enjoy an unlimited number of benefits at the property based on their level of play and can also have experiences at other Hard Rocks as well. Everyone who signs up automatically receives an incentive at the Premier level, and then they can graduate up to Platinum, Elite and X Card, which is our ultra-VIP level status. Benefits vary from free play and free-bet installments to gifts, tournaments, special events, front-row entertainment seats, and meet and greets, to comped rooms and suites, and exclusive experiences with our entertainment partners in the market.

Please tell us about your hotel rooms and amenities. Hard Rock hotel rooms and suites are worldrenowned in their design, fixtures and furniture, and amenities. We have standard king and double queen rooms as well as pool-side bungalow rooms with their own walkout patio. Thirty-one of our 169 rooms are suites, and they range from single bedroom suites to two-bedroom and larger with connectors, as well as corner suites with amazing views and furnishings. Not only are our rooms comfortable and cater to everyone

operate in.


continuity gifts, as well as luxury car drawings and slot pulls. At the same time, we have done some unique golden-ticket promotions, experiential events and parties, and Player Boutique gifting that have allowed us to evolve the market and offer differentiated products and experiences versus our competition.

Feature: Hard Rock International

Hard Rock Sacramento luxury suite

from the business traveler to the weekend family staycation, the VIP gamer to the party celebration suite, they offer the latest in digital technology and in-room amenities available at your fingertips. We even have a private tub in our suites that allows you to connect to your Wi-Fi digital device to create a musical experience that is second to none. And of

course there are some unique Hard Rock-flavored design touches that guests look for at every hotel property. Hard Rock is well known for its Sound of Your Stay program, and Sacramento offers this unique amenity. Take advantage of guitar rentals, record players and vinyl collections, as well as carefully selected playlists perfect for working out, chilling by the pool, or spending a romantic evening inside. From Tracks to Wax and Picks, our legendary hotel room amenities truly create rocking experiences for every guest. And if you need a break from all the fun to get back on track, our Body Rock Fitness Center will get the job done. From the latest cardio to free weights, machines, and boxing, we offer something for every fitness enthusiast to create their gym away from home and continue their healthy disciplines. And of course, it is warm here year-round so the pool is always open! Volume 18: Issue 149

Suite bathroom

As you no doubt know, visitors to Las Vegas are very angry at those properties which charge exorbitant resort fees. Do you also charge resort fees at your property? We don’t here. I had the privilege of spending over 20 years of my career in the Las Vegas market. It truly is a mecca of hospitality and the offerings in the market, along with the evolution of the customer base I witnessed, was truly astonishing. What wasn’t though was the incorporation of daily use fees, resort fees and parking charges. We are in the hospitality business and our focus must consistently be creating 11

Feature: Hard Rock International

Resort style pool with cabanas

experiences that guests covet through our service and amenities. We are an entertainment destination, and it’s challenging when a guest leaves after having an amazing weekend or visit, only to be hit up for fees on the way out the door as their last interaction. Especially fees for things that in some cases don’t cost the property very much or nothing at all or are not even used by the guest. I can understand that Vegas often caters to a once-or-twice-a-year guest, and many times these are people arriving for a meeting or convention and are on corporate credit cards. We just can’t lose sight from our true calling as hospitality executives. Traditional hotels started this practice and have found it to be acceptable for all the same reasons as I mentioned above, we just have to decide on which path to follow as we offer a completely different type of experience. What we find then is when we hit a recession or even during this pandemic, properties are literally begging for guests to come back and have waived these fees to entice people. These revenue streams dry up. As regional offerings continue to evolve, especially in tribal gaming, guests are finding equally compelling experiences closer to home and feel that they are getting far more value for the same product.


In the post-pandemic world, how is your property positioned to provide the best experience for your casino players and guests? We have all been living in this “new normal” period. Hard Rock Sacramento closed from March through May 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All Hard Rock’s properties implemented their

comprehensive Safe & Sound sanitation program to protect employees and guests from Covid-19 upon reopening. From Plexiglas game shields to sanitizer stations throughout the casino and our Clean Team staff on the gaming floor, our company has worked with experts from around the world to implement the most effective cleaning and sanitizing protective protocols for our guests and team members. Hard Rock Sacramento even invested in one of the most stringent air-filtration systems in the industry, Synexis, that kills 99.7 percent of all bacteria and viruses, and mitigates smoke and odors. It is literally a hospitalgrade air purification system that raises the bar in the market and industry. We have invested in every way possible to provide our guests and team members with an environment that ensures safety, sanitation and the highest quality experience possible. Guests recognize this differentiation and investment, and we appreciate their loyalty.

Feature: Hard Rock International

Fresh Harvest Buffet

Do you provide online games to your guests, and web-site visitors? Hard Rock Digital is our online gaming platform that offers several online games depending on the property and the regulatory environment it is in. In Sacramento, we currently offer our Hard Rock Jackpot Casino which solely features online social

But here is something that is truly unique to us. We recently hosted the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition and had the privilege of being the only West Coast Hard Rock to have the models photographed right here in Northern California. So, you can actually take a blackjack tutorial with supermodel Josephine Skriver whenever and wherever you want, courtesy of

Do you have in-house casino game instructional programming on your in-room entertainment consoles? And on your web site? Or accessible to your guests on their smart phones or tablets? We offer a plethora of gaming-support tools including instruction. This is offered via our rack card brochures as well as in-room video training. We have also offered instruction at our games upon request.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know? For example, are there any planned expansions at the property? If yes, please let us in on the secret (we promise to keep it only between us – and a few million of our readers ). Luckily, we already announced our next Phase II expansion. This $75 million development kicked off in June of 2021. Our owners, the Enterprise Rancheria Tribe, have a multi-phase, 20-year masterplan in mind. Given the discipline, passion and vision of our tribal

gaming, and it is a robust package of products that create an amazing experience for those who want to have fun when they are not here physically in the casino. We are optimistic that California will pass sports betting and potentially online gaming sometime in 2022, and that we will be able to take our offerings to the next evolution. This would possibly include a bricks-and-mortar sportsbook offering, as well as a digital platform with enhanced games for those in our market to enjoy.

Volume 18: Issue 149

Hard Rock Sacramento: Not to mention we also take to heart our responsibility to provide resources for guests in need. Thus, we offer our groundbreaking and award-winning Player’s Edge resource. It provides everything from game facts and casino etiquette, to helping players understand their own behavior, identify risks of gambling and develop positive play habits.


Feature: Hard Rock International

Center Bar at Hard Rock Sacramento

council combined with our financial success, Hard Rock Sacramento has continued to grow operations since reopening and begin construction of our Phase II development. This new expansion includes the first Rocktane Gas + Smoke gas station, convenience store and drive-through smoke shop on the West Coast, which opened November 2021.

The real game changer for us is the development of Hard Rock Live, a 2,500-seat live entertainment and multi-purpose event venue scheduled to open in late spring. We are also building out much-needed office space and an 11,000-square-foot warehouse to support our busy operations onsite. We will continue to expand in the future. Clearly sports betting in California will allow us to introduce new amenities, hopefully soon. We have a masterplan that allows for more hotel rooms, meeting space, and gaming positions, as well as other expanded offerings including food and beverage, and retail that will continue to redefine the property’s status in the market. Not to mention, we sit in the middle of a 900acre sports and entertainment zone. This footprint and our involvement will allow us to create a truly special landmark destination that will draw not only from Northern California but eventually from around the U.S. and potentially the world. 14

Finally, in your career, what would you consider to be the highlights up to now? I am very fortunate to have had so many amazing opportunities over the past 28 years of my career. And more importantly, to have been mentored by some of the best in the industry. In turn, I have been able to mentor many of the emerging leaders who are already taking the reins for the future. There are so many highlights but things that are positively burned into my memory include my first day of work after college graduation at The Mirage in Las Vegas. I felt like a kid in a candy store enjoying all the best that Vegas had to offer in the Nineties as the industry really came into its own. I was part of the opening team at the Bellagio, and I remember how beautiful the design of the property was. I remember standing outside watching the fountain shows the day before we opened and pinching myself that it would never be the same the next day when it opened. I had the pleasure of being one of the first executives from the U.S. to be on the ground in Macau in the early 2000’s when licenses were being extended. Working in corporate development at Las Vegas Sands, I remember standing at the ground-breaking of the Sands Macao and then later that day being in Cotai as they dredged the land while Sheldon Adelson

Feature: Hard Rock International proclaimed he was going to build the Las Vegas Strip in China. I had the privilege of working with Bill Marriott in Las Vegas on designing what would have been the largest Marriott hotel in the world. I personally spent an entire day with him touring multiple casino hotels to give him an insider’s understanding of how they operated. Although the Great Recession dashed those dreams, it led me to my first experience in tribal gaming working for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in Tucson, Arizona. I oversaw the development of a $130 million hotel and non-gaming expansion during a time when nothing was being built or developed anywhere in the country. The pride and joy I witnessed when we opened on November 11, 2011 of the tribal members will always leave an indelible mark on me and showed me a different perspective of our industry and the value it brings to those who benefit from it. For the past eight years I have had the pleasure of working for Hard Rock International, a company I had been in awe of for years. Having the ability to learn from and work with industry icons like Jim Allen and Jon Lucas have not only allowed me to better my skills and expertise but also understand the true passion and value of why we do what we do. I led the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in Northeast Ohio up through its acquisition by MGP for $1.1 billion and rebrand to MGM in 2019. This opened a new door for me to work with Enterprise Rancheria on the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain. As Employee Number One, I personally was able to steward development, construction, opening and operations with our Hard Rock shared services support team, and change the landscape of gaming and entertainment in Northern California. I will always remember the exhilaration, tears, and pride we all shared during the guitar smash and opening on October 30, 2019. Having my wife and two sons there in attendance to celebrate the hard work and sacrifices that day will resonate with me forever. I am eternally grateful for all I have been given and all those I have had the chance to work with over my career. We have an amazing industry, and I am proud to have played any small part in its story. On behalf of Casino Life Magazine and Outsource Digital Media, I would like to thank you, Mark, for your time, and for sharing this with us and our many readers worldwide. Volume 18: Issue 149

YouYu Asian Restaurant

Hard Rock LIVE opening June 2022

Hard Rock Café Sacramento

The first ROCKTANE Gas + Smoke Gas Station on the West Coast, at Hard Rock Fire Mountain 15

Feature: Palms Resort


Feature: Palms Resort

Flourishing again Palms Casino prepares to reopen under new ownership and the direction of Cynthia Kiser Murphey. By David McKee

Volume 18: Issue 149


Feature: Palms Resort


n its 21 years, Palms Casino Resort has seen its share of ups and downs. Its starstudded opening on Nov. 15, 2001, was a shot in the arm for a Las Vegas that was reeling from the effects on tourism of the Sept. 11 attacks. Owner and creator George Maloof developed the innovative and canny stratagem of marketing to locals weekdays (especially with good slot and video poker values) and to party-hearty California tourists on weekends. It was a formula that succeeded spectacularly, even though the Palms was a healthy jaunt off the Las Vegas Strip. So popular was it that a second tower was opened in 2005 and the Pearl Concert Theater two years later. (There was even a short-lived Playboy Club.) Then came the condominium boom of the middecade and Maloof embarked on an ambitious condohotel, Palms Place. When the condo bubble burst in Vegas and the Great Recession struck, Maloof found himself overextended and vulnerable. In 2011, he liquidated to private-equity firms Texas Pacific Group and Leonard Green & Partners. This marked an era of stagnation at the Palms. Seeming rescue came in the form of Station Casinos in 2016. It purchased the casino-resort for a knockdown price, and promptly sank $620 million into renovating and reinventing it. Station hoped to reposition the Palms as a competitor with the bigger Strip casinos, a misjudgment that was epitomized by the Kaos nightclub, which promptly collapsed under the combination of excessively lavish entertainment contracts and poor attendance. At times the Palms was producing a negative return on investment for Station. The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 provided a handy reason for mothballing the Palms altogether. During this two-year period of darkness, a beam of light shone from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The latter already had stamped its name on Las Vegas by being the initial gaming partner of the Las Vegas Raiders of the National Football League. Looking to expand their foothold in Sin City, San Manuel set its sights on the Palms and deal with Station was quickly consummated. San Manuel got the Palms for $650 million and immediately embarked upon the challenge of reintroducing a property that had been absent from the community for two years. Thanks to Station’s massive capital infusion, most of the Palms was state of the art but San Manuel does have some remedial work to do. As Vital Vegas 18

Palms General Manager Cynthia Kiser Murphey

reporter Scott Roeben observes, the back-of-house areas had been neglected. Says Roeben, “if customers can’t see it, it doesn’t affect the bottom line. It does, however impact morale greatly and it’s clear San Manuel makes employee satisfaction a high priority. I get the impression the space wasn’t a disaster, but rather typical of backof-house areas, but given the overall great shape of Palms, it stood out as needing an upgrade.” To that end, San Manuel is reportedly spending millions of dollars on higher-grade employee areas. Roeben opines, “Giving employees a pleasant and welcoming place to take their breaks and eat is an important part of hiring and retaining good employees. Happy employees make customers happy.” And happy customers are what casino General Manager Cynthia Kiser Murphey hopes to create. She’s no stranger to Las Vegas gaming, having run MGM Resorts International’s New York-New York for 12 years, from 2008 to 2020. After that, she ran a benefits fund, parlaying some of the experience she gained in human resources in what was then MGM Mirage, rising to the position of senior vice president of human resources before transferring

Feature: Palms Resort

to New York-New York. A University of Nevada-Las Vegas graduate, Kiser Murphey is no stranger to resort openings, having been centrally involved in three. Given the marketing alchemy involved in conjuring up a new audience for the Palms, this may be Kiser Murphey’s biggest challenge yet. You’ve said, “We will be building the new Palms.” What did you mean by that? Well, we are opening the new Palms, so we are reopening a beautiful resort that was carefully and meticulously remodeled with beautiful furnishings and unmatched amenities. I gotta tell ya, when I first saw the property I knew it was beautiful but I was very, very excited when I saw what condition it was in. Our job is to reopen it with a new sense of hospitality and welcoming after a two-year closure because of a worldwide pandemic—and to be the first Native American-owned casino and resort in Las Vegas. So we’ve a little bit of history to make here in the next few months. What physical changes can we anticipate when you reopen—and when will that be? We’re reopening in the spring. We’re working as hard as we can as fast as we can to open it, and do Volume 18: Issue 149

it right, to bring it back in the respectful and proper way that it needs to be done. There’s many, many important operational details to line up and over 1,000 people to hire. So we will open as soon as we can. We don’t have an opening date. It’s very important that we order all of our supplies, get all of our people in, get everybody trained and get all the

systems implemented. You can imagine the detail for ordering chips, cards, dice, linens and making sure all the employees are fitted into their uniforms, hired, processed, fully trained. There’s a lot to do and we’re going as fast as we can. We’ve been licensed just a little under four weeks and we are working around the clock to get there. We’ll have a date soon, I hope, but we haven’t an exact date yet. How will the San Manuel Palms be marketed to the public? With our location we will certainly embrace the Las Vegas community. We have an extremely loyal, well-developed group of customers coming from Yamaava’, which was formerly called San Manuel Casino, that have decades of experience with that wonderful property as well. So those will be key components: embracing the locals and bringing the Yamaava’ customers to Las Vegas. 19

Feature: Palms Resort What’s your customer ‘sweet spot’? We’re really working on that and envisioning all of that right now. Again, if you take the Yamaava’ customer, there’s a lot that’s known about that already. Then, taking a look at the Las Vegas community and giving the locals a reason to come down, to see us, to visit us, looking at both neighborhood reach as well as the broader community reach. Part of that is under review right now and being studied by a team of people that has just been hired, with more to follow in the future. The Palms has been out of action for two years. How has the industry changed in the interim? The industry is dynamic and fluid right now. There are changes. What I’m so proud of our industry in general—and even in our Las Vegas gaming industry—is how we have been so agile and so resilient to the constant changes, the market conditions and of course the community these conditions have produced. First and foremost, to come to any gaming establishment, any resort, our customers have to feel safe and know that there’s a commitment to their health—as do our employees. So that’s number one. Two years ago, if you would have said to gaming executives that masks and hand sanitizers would be one of the most important tools and principles of our business, it would have sounded quite foreign to us. Now masks and testing and health protocols, those parts of our professional responsibility are paramount now. We’ve all learned a

lot and, being that we are a front-facing industry, we have to keep being on the forefront. In our company we have health experts who’ve been hired to keep us safe and to constantly keep us updated, because as you know, the landscape is changing. I’m really proud of our industry and, as a property about to reopen in these conditions, it is our responsibility to continue that and take it where it goes in the future. So nothing is more important because if people don’t feel safe and healthy then they’re not going to feel comfortable coming to relax and enjoy themselves. Second, I think people’s mode of travel has changed. A lot more people drive. Also people change their mind or conditions change a lot. You have relaxation on rules and cancellations, and all that, so we have to be a lot more flexible with our customers and with our employees with regard to that. And we have to be transparent. We have to show our customers how we clean and how we constantly update. 20

If one remembers the old Palms, what will they find different and the same about the new-look one?

Some of the most famous amenities, such as the Pearl Theater, such as the beautiful swimming pool, such as Scotch 80 Prime, the beautiful Brenden movie theaters, some of those will definitely be familiar to customers from the previous Palms. While we have those amenities...and theaters is one good example. There’s 14 theaters. During this closure time they’ve completely remodeled, put in luxury seating and improved the facility so that when we reopen, while you’ll still feel comfortable and familiar when you come in, you also will see that it’s been refreshed and updated. The casino floors have changed in terms of the product, in terms of what customers want to do. We’ve refreshed the product on our gaming floor and our goal is for people to feel familiar, feel a tremendous sense of hospitality and welcome by very friendly employees that we’re working hard to hire right now. We have some new technology coming into the sports book. We’re refreshing the back of the house.

Feature: Palms Resort

We’re refreshing the employee areas. We’re working hard to do some refresh on Palms Place, which is

fortunate to have a relationship with Michael Simon, who has Mabel’s Barbecue. Michael’s also working

What kind of a gaming mix will you offer? We’re working on that now. We want to make sure that the Yamaava’ customers have a sense of familiarity. What does that customer want to see on a gaming floor and how to we present that in a Vegas way? We’ve just hired the gaming team. They’ve been on a couple of weeks and they’re working diligently on the right now.

What is your entertainment program for The Pearl? We are so proud to have the Pearl Theater and it’s in beautiful condition. The acoustics are amazing. What we’ve learned in the short time we’ve been there is how much the acts want to come back to the Pearl, so we’ll be building an entertainment calendar to bring familiar and new acts through. It’s a really wonderful venue. It’s got excellent heart and soul, great history. A lot of excellent acts have started calling us. We’ve also got a recording studio, which is kind of fun to package with the Pearl Theater. Some acts want to come and cut an album or a single with us, so we’re working on that as well. We’ll be announcing within the next few months some of that entertainment programming.

our condo-hotel tower that has not closed during the pandemic but certainly has been a challenge because of conditions in the market. So we’re looking to bring all that back.

Similarly, what will be your repertory of dining amenities? We have a very wide range all the way from Scotch 80 Prime, which is clearly our premier, premium, wellknown and -loved venue, all the way to some really fun fast-casual restaurants. We also are very lucky and Volume 18: Issue 149

with his team to bring some new menu items and refresh that wonderful neighborhood restaurant, and that’s kind of a unique amenity. Gamers love it, locals love it and tourists really appreciate it as well.


Feature: Palms Resort

How will the Kaos space be repurposed? What we’re doing with that now is, number one, looking at various options. We have already started booking it for some events and we have had some great success with that. There’s actually a fair amount of demand for that space. We’ve had the license for a little over three weeks. So I don’t want to say that we don’t have everything built out yet but in three

the day it’s great. When the sun goes down it’s just outstanding. The views are amazing. You could put the views from these suites up against any major city skyline, whether you’re talking about New York, Miami or internationally. It is jaw-dropping to look out of our suites. You could come back 16 different times, stay in 16 different suites and have completely different experiences.

What makes your suite product unique? Oh my gosh, the suites are so stunning. Each one has its own story. The views are absolutely spectacular. What’s been added to the skyline since the closure, we’ve got Allegiant Stadium. So you look at Allegiant Stadium, standing in our suites, by day or by night, it’s just stunning. And of course the landscape of Las Vegas and the view of the Strip...the suites are, each one, carefully designed around their own theme and there are unique aspects to each suite that make them very special and very desirable. During

What are the pitfalls to avoid in re-reinventing the Palms? We have to take a hard look at bringing the right aspects of what’s new to the customer. We’re spending a lot of time thinking about that. I don’t think I can talk about the pitfalls of the past because I’m not as familiar with what went right and what went wrong. What we have to do is carve a new way that works for our company and our tribe, and really bring to the forefront the history and the culture of our tribe as we bridge what San Manuel’s intentions are to the Las Vegas community. So really it’s carving a new way, rather than looking backwards and that’s why we’re very carefully planning everything from demographics to amenities to offerings. I think you pose a really good question, one that we consider daily. I would say the answer is it’s still under development.

weeks we don’t have everything built out yet. [laughs] We’re working on all of it. The Kaos space is really unique and quite beautiful and comfortable, and it’s got state-of-the-art technology so we definitely plan to use. We’re looking at the best ways to deploy that. We definitely have some bookings coming for event space, too.


Feature: Palms Resort As a Strip veteran, what can Strip experience bring to the Palms and how much do you have to acquaint yourself with the locals market? That is my number-one goal is to learn as much as I can about the locals market. Fortunately I’m a longtime local, which means I’m a longtime customer of both the locals properties and the Strip. Though I’ve spent my career down on the Strip I’ve spent my life up in the community. It’s important for my to hire the right people who can bring the vision, and not only to hire them but to listen to them and collaborate and work together on what the new Palms is going to be. That’s the most important thing is to figure out how do we in a really robust, safe and appropriate way to bring the Palms back to this wonderful community and get 1,000-plus Nevadans back to work. How many old Palms employees do you think you can lure back? Our goal is as many possible. So what we’re in the process of doing is contacting them, doing a major outreach to find them. As you can imagine, in two years people move, people change phone numbers. So our first order of business for the whole month of January has been contacting Palms employees and welcoming back as many as we can, as many as we can find, as many as are interested. We’ve been very, very focused on that. We’re scheduling what we call a ‘recall event,’ which is both virtual and in-person

to try to get the Palms people back. What we’ve learned so far is that there’s a group that really want to come back. It’s almost more than a job to them. A lot of them ‘want to come home.’ I’m really proud and happy about that. I’m not idealistic enough to think we can get all 1,000 back because people’s lives change. But we’re going for as many as we can get. How would you describe San Manuel’s customerservice culture? One of the things that’s so stunning about walking in there is how friendly the employees are, what a great commitment to service they have. They are very, very warm and engaging with the customers. By the way, the property is immaculate. While they have 4,600 slot machines, they have employees that are remarkable and really, really excellent at hospitality. That’s important for us to be consistent.

Volume 18: Issue 149

San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority Chairwoman Latisha Casas

How do you bring that culture to Las Vegas? By hiring the very best people we can, who are really, truly committed to service. And that starts with my management team all the way to the front line. Finally, how do you plan to capitalize on your preexisting relationship with the Las Vegas Raiders? First of all, there’s a new connector road. The Palms is on West Flamingo and there’s a brand-new connector road that was built that makes it very easy to get over to Allegiant Stadium. So we can provide very nice access to the stadium. We have the view of Raiders Stadium that’s excellent and we’re all about locals. We’re all about winning tomorrow in Cincinnati, by the way, and we can’t wait for the Palms to be to open to celebrate our restaurants, have tailgate parties in our sports book, to create a little bit of atmosphere that’s supporting the Silver and Black, as well as the Golden Knights, as well as the Silver Knights, as well as the Las Vegas Aces, as well as UNLV, as well as the Aviators—and any other team that comes to Las Vegas. We’re going to be all-in on local teams. 23

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Advertising Feature: Velvix

Velvix includes a variety of game themes that will engage Eastern and Western audiences

Velvix Launches U.S. Operations


The company incepts an office and product showroom in Los Angeles to target the American tribal casino markets

merica’s newest slot manufacturer is betting big on the country’s tribal casino market with the announcement of the group’s expansion, starting in California. Velvix LLC is the product of parent company XSGroup of Taiwan. The new brand is based in Los Angeles, California, and includes an office and product showroom located near to Los Angeles International Airport in El Segundo. Velvix brings across impressive technology from Taiwan and will provide both hardware and software to casino operators across North America. The group has plans to focus on tribal gaming, with entry into the California and Oklahoma markets planned in its first year of operation. 26

The company will be attending NIGA 2022 in Anaheim. However this may not be the first time operators have come across the Velvix brand. The group previously presented its first product showcase at an inaugural G2E 2021 presentation in Las Vegas. The team is not new to the industry either, with Managing Director Chris Wieners leading the brand’s U.S. launch. Carrying with him more than 15 years of sales and marketing experience in the gaming industry, his past work includes roles with the Las Vegas Sands corporation. Also heading up the team is Amy Jiang, a previous head of strategy and business development with Aristocrat. The full team spans several continents, bringing together experts in game design and math,

Advertising Feature: Velvix sales, marketing and gaming operations. Velvix’s suite of products includes three unique cabinets featuring stunning edge-lighting and modernized styling. Their C-curve product, “CurlX” is impressive in that it offers a 43-inch display in 4K resolution with touch-screen functionality. Nearly the entire button deck is virtual, allowing for customizable betting configurations. The 27-inch topper in HD is attractive, as is the wireless charging unit on the button deck. The company’s two other cabinet products include both portrait and landscape options. ClimaX offers a 43-inch portrait display in 4K, while TwimaX offers two 27-inch landscape screens. Both come complete with a 27-inch HD topper, virtual button deck, wireless charging and edge lighting effects. All of the cabinets offered by Velvix include drivers for the most common peripherals when it comes to bill acceptors and ticket printers. As for game titles, Velvix is entering the market strong. More than 25 titles span across both linked progressive and standalone progressive options. The game thematics include an array of titles that offer both Eastern and Western styles, as well as unique game play that keeps players winning and engaged. The group’s flagship title, “BaoBao King,” sees patrons play one of four machine themes, each based on a character from the Chinese zodiac. The game’s most exciting points come during the “Battle Feature,” where two players square off and battle for credits – in which BOTH players enjoy a prize! This

coupled with various bonus games that require touchscreen participation ensure players are fully engaged with the game. Each of Velvix’s game titles offers its own unique bonus features, from board-game-styled engagements to products that resemble role-playing games (RPGs). This is further enriched by the many “easter eggs” that the Velvix development team has hidden throughout all forms of game play. Standalone progressive game titles include more than 13 unique themes. Of specific note is the Dice ‘Em Up title, which features various bonus games and a base gameplay that centers around the Sic Bo table game. Also notable are Fortuneland, an adventurethemed game that triggers a “Money Climb” bonus feature and House of Happiness, an Asian-themed game that rewards players by collecting fortune cookies throughout the base game. Perhaps worth noting is the company’s commitment to its partners. As a new entry into the American Volume 18: Issue 149

BaoBao King is Velvix’s premier link progressive product

gaming market, Velvix has pledged to turn titles around quickly with a heavy emphasis on player feedback. The group prides itself on market research and adaptability, removing layers of management and allowing game designers to collect direct feedback from casino operators. The assumption is that this will lead to quick turnarounds in the development of games customers really want, as well as adjustments to existing titles based on customer feedback. As a newcomer to the market, it will be interesting to see how Velvix further develops its portfolio and what feedback the market provides based on its initial launch. Expect to see the first games on floors in the third quarter of 2022. The company is actively

promoting the launch of its showroom (scheduled for the second quarter of 2022) – expect more information on an official launch event to be provided soon!

SEE YOU IN CALIFORNIA! Velvix will be attending NIGA 2022 at the Anaheim Convention Center from 19 to 22 April. Visitors to their booth can expect a showcase of their full cabinet library as well as 16 of their most popular titles, including many not previously showcased at G2E 2021 in Las Vegas. Looking to see more of what they’ve got to offer? Velvix is offering limited invitations to the grand opening of their showroom in Los Angeles, California. Contact them directly for more information via

Velvix LLC

201 Continental Blvd. Suite 260 El Segundo, Ca 90245 +1 212 729 8043 27

Feature: SuzoHapp

Trusted Solutions I

Catching up with Tim Kennedy, Vice President of Sales for Europe at SUZOHAPP By Damien Connelly

t was a tumultuous but ultimately auspicious year for the gaming industry, and SUZOHAPP was not exempt. Fortunately, things turned out for the better, not the worse, as Tim Kennedy explains to Casino Life. How did 2021 turn out for SUZOHAPP? 2021 was a roller coaster for the industry with the different variants and waves of the pandemic with restrictions, closures, and reopening but it was actually a rather good year for us. We have a terrific team that has learned how to adapt and react very quickly to the ever-changing market, and their creativity really made this year work. Traditional gaming isn’t quite where it was pre-pandemic yet, 28

but we’ve seen so much growth in sports betting and electronic table games that it will be exciting to see what the future holds. Sports betting is one sector SUZOHAPP clearly have had great success in 2021. What are the goals for the sector this year? In 2021 we launched our sports betting terminal collection with great success. We plan to further expand on that offer and really focus on what makes us unique, which is the ability to customize our solutions for each individual customer. We also know that as the sports betting sector grows, players will expect to be able to place their bets at more than just a terminal so we’re determined to have solutions that work for every venue.

Feature: SuzoHapp Will SUZOHAPP be exhibiting at the NIGA in April and if so will you have the complete ecosystem for a sports betting platform for visitors to view? We are most definitely exhibiting at the Native American gaming show expo in April and are very excited to feature our sports betting ecosystem. Visitors will be able to check out our standard kiosk terminal, our bar top terminal, our over-the-counter experience as well as our cashredemption options. There have been a number of promotions at the company such as Markus Prader and Norman Ridall, as well as the appointment of Anette Jauch, which follows on from the recent addition Edgardo Zucconi, based out of Buenos Aeries. We have an incredible team that has not only adapted but thrived during the challenge of the pandemic and their promotions were well deserved. As we are expanding our footprint in Europe and also looking at the emerging markets in South America it is important for us to ensure that our growth is well supported with the right resources led by those that have shown they can excel in this new market. SUZOHAPP introduced a complete ecosystem for sports betting platforms. Can you explain to readers what that encompasses? Our vision for sports betting is to allow customers to place their bets however they want, where they want

whether that be at the bar, behind the counter or on the sports book floor or somewhere else entirely. Our new ecosystem is just the beginning of us executing on that vision with our kiosk terminal, our bar top terminal, a wall-mounted terminal and more. Most importantly though is our ability to quickly customize each of these solutions to suit the needs of each particular platform and provide them with high quality product at low lifetime costs. We are approaching sports betting with a mindset that you shouldn’t be limited to the same terminal that you see everywhere but partner with us to determine how to stand apart from the crowd.

burden of hardware and designing custom solutions, to assisting with required certifications and licenses, by allowing SUZOHAPP to be your trusted hardware partner, we can set you up to succeed.

How can SUZOHAPP assist gaming licenced premises with setting up sports betting at their establishments in the U.S.? We have years of experience in the industry and know the ins and outs of getting to market. From easing the

Casinos require it would seem more and more displays located on walls around and bars, even suspended from ceilings. How has SUZOHAPP responded to this ongoing trend, and what is the range of screens that you can provide?

Volume 18: Issue 149


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Feature: SuzoHapp

Tim Kennedy, Vice President of Sales for Europe

SUZOHAPP offers two primary lines of monitors, our VisionPro line and, of course, the top-quality Elo displays. Within these two product lines we offer every size between 10 inches and 72 inches with various options for LED framing, touch screen capabilities and more. We believe strongly that our offering is the best quality for price and are very proud of what we have to offer.

What exhibitions can readers expect to find SUZOHAPP at this year? Tradeshows have been in such a state of flux since the pandemic has started and while we have multiple shows planned, such as EAG, FIJMA and Interfun Expo, circumstances continue to develop and we have to do what is best for our team, our partners and our customers. We hope to see our customers in person for many of the large scale events this year but will have to see what happens as the pandemic drags on.

Volume 18: Issue 149


Feature: SuzoHapp


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Feature: De5ign

Tailored to fit London’s De5ign is your one-stop shop for ICE exhibitors’ graphic needs. By David McKee


f you’ve admired the look of Casino Life, it’s the handiwork of Stewart Hyde that you are appreciating. Stewart has many strings to his bow, especially his firm De5ign, which stands ready to help exhibitors at ICE London. In this exchange, we look at what he can do for the industry and what makes him tick as a designer ... or would that be de5igner? Can we commence this interview with a little insight into your knowledge and experience of creative design? Sure, I’ve been a graphic designer for over 20 years and have had my business for just over 10 years. I have worked with a variety of different businesses across a number of sectors, helping them create the Volume 18: Issue 149

ideal brand to enable them to market their company in the appropriate manner and allow them to take off in the direction they desire. There isn’t a much more important element to a business than your brand, because that is the base from which you identify yourself. I offer five key services which are logo and brand design, brochure design, magazine design, digital design, and event design. I find that there is a real correlation with the aforementioned. Before launching my own business I worked for different agencies and publishing companies, which in turn allowed me to gain valuable knowledge in both the client-facing situation and liaising with print houses for various products to different specifications of production. 33

Feature: De5ign How can you assist exhibitors at ICE London this year with creative design? In print, we are able to manage the whole process from the client’s requirements and order through to delivery of products to the show, whilst getting more favorable prices due to my long-lasting relationships with a selection of suppliers. When it comes to exhibition stands, we can design and organize the print and delivery of stands, roller banners, leaflets, flags, and any other products that the client wishes to produce to showcase their brand and deliver their message. As for advertisement design, we can deliver top-quality artwork for the client’s requirements across different mediums, whether it be for printed publications, digital banners or individual handouts at exhibitions. We guarantee that everything created will have brand synergy throughout so that potential customers are in no doubt about who they are talking to. If you want promotional newspapers and handout brochures, we can produce a variety of different printed products to either your standard A4 or A5 size or, if required, to more bespoke dimensions, depending on the client’s needs and end-goal requirements. We can also advise on the type of paper and extra finishes that we believe will give their product that extra lift when placed into a prospective client’s hand. What advantages can exhibitors gain from using

the services of De5ign? The advantages are plenty. The client is effectively working with an extended member of their team with a wealth of knowledge and experience in producing quality designed and printed products. These will be delivered on time and to budget, which alleviates the stress and hassle that might occur, and which allows the individual or team to concentrate on their day to day tasks, safe in the knowledge that everything is being dealt with accordingly. Can you provide readers details of your knowledge of ICE London and your creative work in a sector that is a niche industry, where few design agencies have any experience of the industry let alone shows such as G2E Macau, G2E Las Vegas or ICE London? Of course, as you say this is a very niche sector and I have really absorbed that fact as the years have 34

Feature: De5ign

We offer project management, which includes artwork checks, printer liaising, ensuring your deadlines are met and keeping on top of quality control. The best part is you’ll receive just one invoice, no matter how great the complexity of the project.” passed. I have attended these expos for the last 10 years—excluding last year for obvious reasons—and always make sure I visit as many stands as possible and chat with various team members so that I manage to get a good understanding of what their company stands for, along with the direction they are heading and what they are trying to achieve at the show. When you throw into the mix the variety of nationalities that attend, you get a broad understanding of what makes them tick—which is really valuable for me. Saving money is always a very important factor in any organization’s investment in exhibiting at major exhibitions. How can your organization assist exhibitors at ICE London in getting the best value from their promotional show budgets? Good point.This is usually the number one question we are always asked in the outset. We can advise on formats and how to rework to make your product more cost effective. We have a selection of trusted print contacts to obtain you the best possible quotes at the most competitive rates. No matter the size of your print request, we will make sure that we place the job with a printer that specializes and suits the specification. We offer project management, which includes artwork checks, printer liaising, ensuring your deadlines are met and keeping on top of quality control. The best part is you’ll receive just one invoice, no matter how great the complexity of the project. How long have you worked with Peter White and his team at Outsource Digital Media? Peter was one of my very first clients when I launched Volume 18: Issue 149


Feature: De5ign my business and we have created a long lasting and very strong relationship over the last 10 years. We design and print-manage all of ODM’s publications, and also support them with other design needs across both print and digital mediums from business cards through to website creation. It’s an absolute joy to work on each title, and I get to see firsthand the time and effort both Peter and his team put in to creating the very best content and product possible. Finally, I take it you’ll be exhibiting at ICE London in April? That’s correct, I’ll be right alongside Peter and his team. He kindly allows me to make use of a booth/ stand. This is also a bonus for any clients who are exhibiting, as I will be on hand to deal with any issues—God forbid—that arise and also discuss any work they may want carried out moving forward for future events. It’s a great three days and I love the array of different businesses that exhibit within such a niche industry. Thank you for your generosity with your time, Stewart. We’ll let you get back to work.

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Feature: ICE London

Back to Business Y

Clarion Gaming’s Stuart Hunter explains how a pandemic-buffeted ICE London was revived. By Peter White

ou recently announced your new April dates. Can you explain the process by which you arrived at these dates and the practicalities of moving events the size of ICE London and iGB Affiliate London? Working alongside and in the best interests of our customers has always been and will remain at the very top of our agenda, so when it became clear that the original February dates for ICE London did not give the industry sufficient confidence in terms of the Omicron variant we set in motion a reach-out programme to connect with our community of exhibitors, sponsors and attendee groups. Migrating events the size and scale of ICE and iGB Affiliate London represents an enormous challenge. This, coupled with the popularity of ExCeL London as a venue and the return of inperson events in the UK, amplified the challenge of securing dates that worked for the industry. We have Volume 18: Issue 149

a great relationship with the senior team at ExCeL London and with ICE being one of the flagship events in their calendar, we worked tirelessly during the run-up to and through the Christmas period to identify and secure an alternative date. Due to the size of ICE, we only really had two potential solutions, both sitting either side of the Easter break in April – neither of them perfect solutions, but our only chance to ensure ICE would be able to run in 2022. ExCeL’s support was essential and involved the migration of several other events to enable ICE to have the entirety of ExCeL, which is the space required to operate at full capacity. Whilst we have been really encouraged by the support that we have received from individuals, companies and organisations including the European Casino Association, The Gambling Business Group also appreciates that the new dates will not suit everyone and we will continue to work through any remaining challenges with our clients, 37

Feature: ICE London

Esports represents a massive growth sector. How will it be represented at ICE London 2022? I believe Clarion was way ahead of the game when we launched the esports feature at ICE London 2020 and we continue to make important progress helping operators to deepen their knowledge of esports betting. Once again it will have a high profile and most importantly an authentic presence. We have

It’s important to stress that as organisers we do not have a dogmatic link with London – the only dogma that we subscribe to is to always work in partnership with our customers and to always act in their best interests. To get a clear picture of our customers’ opinion on London as host city we commissioned a body of independent research which was conducted by Explori in July 2021. Explori surveyed a total of 684 ICE stakeholders and it was part of a thorough research programme that also included direct engagement with a sample of 50 exhibiting brands – a community that represented 55 percent of the total ICE floor space. Seventy-five percent of ICE attendees – over two-thirds of whom were based in continental Europe – said that London was the right host location citing ease of travel (61 percent), the convenience for international visitors/ exhibitors (59 percent) and the ability to attract the right mix of customers and suppliers (53 percent) as the key benefits of holding the world’s most popular international business-to-business gaming expo in London. Of the 10 percent who weren’t happy with London, the most frequently cited reason was the impact of Brexit. To supplement the research and to sense-check its findings we will also be commissioning an additional independent survey with our entire exhibitor base – both qualitative during the ICE show with teams from Explori engaging directly with exhibitors and quantitative via surveys post-show. I would like to stress that we would never insist on a location that the industry wasn’t happy with. Our

What pressure do you feel to relocate ICE to mainland Europe? How important is it to keep London as host city and what is the appetite among your customers to relocate?

What Covid protocols will you have in place? Clarion took a proactive and collaborative approach to Covid, contributing to the drafting and refinement of the widely adopted ‘All Secure Standard.’ The ‘All Secure Risk Assessment Framework’ is a best-practice guide for event professionals, delivering bio-secure events in a world where Covid transmission is still a risk. As a team we all feel a sense of pride at having been a part of that process. Obviously Covid protocols must have the flexibility to be able to respond to what is a dynamic and rapidly changing scenario. Our Covid requirements are published at It is a delicate balancing act to get right but with the

Stuart Hunter, Managing Director, Clarion Gaming

and support them with their preparations and planning for what is the world’s biggest and most influential gaming industry gathering.

secured the iconic Hyper X Esports Truck which serves as a mobile arena. Also known as Big Betty, it’s a customised, 21-metre-long, classic Americanstyle truck and boasts a rooftop VIP area and players’ lounge with 20 gaming stations. It unfolds into a fully equipped esports studio and main stage, enabling us to reflect the culture, theatre and appeal of the esports phenomenon, which will be explained courtesy of the keynote speakers who will be sharing their insight with our B2B audience. Our job as event organisers is to explain and de-mystify esports, in the process helping to inform the gaming and betting market about the scale of the esport betting and wagering opportunity, and how it can be harnessed by the industry.


pledge is to always work with our customers in order to deliver the best and most favourable outcomes for their businesses and for the industry that we are proud to serve.

Feature: ICE London

support of our exhibitors and visitors I am confident that we will deliver an edition of ICE London and iGB Affiliate London that will be both safe and business-friendly. Bingo has a bigger presence at ICE London - can you tell us more? We’ve been working closely with Miles Baron and the team at the Bingo Association to help give the retail side of the sector a sharper focus on the ICE London show floor. The feature has been rebranded as the Bingo Association Hub and will serve as a meeting

co operating across a range of initiatives, with us providing our in-person events and media brands as a platform for YGAM to extend its reach and continue to provide the international gambling industry with its specialist City & Guilds Assured safer-gambling training. As a team we are really excited to be working in partnership with YGAM across a broad range of activities. When I took on the managing director role, I was very conscious of making the relationships that we have more than simply endorsements and to harness the strength and reach of the brands that we

You named YGAM as your inaugural charity partner – how is that progressing? We announced our relationship with YGAM during Safer Gambling Week. The two organisations are

Clarion has invested a six-figure sum in a Hosted Meetings Programme – can you explain what that will comprise? The Hosted Meetings Programme represents a £250,000 investment and will match influential buyers from throughout the world with companies exhibiting on the ICE show floor. The initiative, which is a first at ICE London, is being curated by Newbridge Events, which has a track record of working alongside

place for the brick-and-mortar industry as well as providing a home for key industry suppliers. The area is slightly larger than in the past, the Bingo Hub has its own logo and we are working to raise the profile of the sector at show. We aim to work with all of our stakeholders in the broadly-based ICE community to deliver an event that works for them. Retail bingo is central to the at-show experience and as a team we will be working hard to make the Bingo Association Hub a ‘must visit’ component of the ICE London experience. This is very much a process, and I look forward to working with Miles and his team to build the profile and presence of bingo at future editions of ICE London – it’s a very important sector.

Volume 18: Issue 149

have built over the years. One of our key pledges is to support the industry’s safer-gambling-and-gaming undertakings and the partnership will enable us to do this in a number of ways, including providing a platform for YGAM to promote its digital and inperson safer-gambling-training programmes, have a continued presence in the Consumer Protection Zone and deliver safer-gambling insight and content via


Feature: ICE London leading show organisers and brands including the UK government’s Department of International Trade. The programme is a key component of the ICE Charter that we published summer 2021 and which was created in order to maximise the ROI exhibitors receive from being part of ICE London. Exhibitors provide intelligence on the type of buyers that they want to see at the show, and the team at Newbridge then identify the profiles of potential customers, and facilitate the relevant connections ahead of establishing a bespoke at-show buyers schedule and curating one-to-one hosted meetings. We have created a dedicated VIP lounge at the show with a concierge and I anticipate that we will be hosting upwards of 70 international buyers. It’s another part of the overall benefits of being part of ICE London. There have been some changes to ICE VOX – what are they and what is the thinking behind the changes? We have addressed the ICE VOX agenda in order to provide delegates with what are flexible and focused learning opportunities. Presented as master classes the programme covers a range of business-critical topics, which will be discussed and explored in full by a lineup of leading industry experts. Having consulted with our stakeholder community, the challenge has been to deliver the exceptional content that ICE VOX is famous for but in a more user-friendly and flexible format. The programme allows delegates to select and participate in more intimate discussions that drive into the details of key business issues, without interfering with their exhibition and meeting schedule on the show floor. This way they can participate fully in the totality of the London experience. ICE VOX speakers and attendees will have access to a revamped VIP networking experience in the new World Pavilion space, with access reserved for speakers, attendees and their guests. This gives attendees the opportunity to meet and bump into the industry’s ‘who’s who’ in ICE VOX, helping to filter networking opportunities from the ICE attendees on the show floor. The International Casino Conference and the World Regulatory Briefing are also contained within ICE VOX. And finally – what would you like to say to readers considering visiting ICE London/iGB Affiliate London 2022? Both ICE London and iGB Affiliate London are living 40

up to their reputation for providing a launchpad for new businesses and a platform for those seeking to expand into international markets. During my time in the events industry, the overarching aim of every show director is to get the right balance of established exhibitor brands and new businesses. The injection of ‘new blood’ with new products and new services adds the X-factor to the in-person experience and makes a major contribution to why live events are so vital to business. Combining numbers from ICE and iGB Affiliate there will be over 700 exhibitors present at ExCeL London – an unprecedented number. The key features of both ICE and iGB Affiliate London relate to their physical size, the fact that they cover every gaming vertical and their internationalism. They reflect the totality of the gaming industry and provide visitors with a unique opportunity to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the product mix. Some 50 percent of the ICE show floor will be occupied by brands active in land-based gaming, which reflects the equilibrium and balance that are at the core of the ICE London experience. From both a visitor and an exhibitor perspective I think the experience will be slightly different from that of previous years after such a long time away. We know from staging iGB Live! last autumn quite how much the industry has missed in-person events and the ability to meet, network and to do business. It was a fantastic experience and I believe one that will be replicated on an even grander scale in April at ICE London, iGB Affiliate London and ICE VOX when we will be able to celebrate the return of the industry. Our 2022 creative, ‘Together never felt so good’ has never been so relevant and is totally appropriate to the mood music of the industry.

ICE London (12–14 April 2022, ExCeL London) is the biggest B2B gambling industry event in the world and embraces every aspect of the gambling ecosystem from games creators, distributors, operators and retailers, to trade associations, strategic bodies and regulators. To register visit: The co-located iGB Affiliate London event (13–14 April) connects affiliates to a 360-degree experience of igaming via networking and business lead-generation opportunities, content and learning. To register visit For more information on the ICE VOX Conference (11–13 April), incorporating the World Regulatory Briefing and the International Casino Conference visit:

Feature: Richard Marcus

Two-Pronged Approach A new, dual-track casino conference is set to debut in Las Vegas on June 6: Table Games & Surveillance Departments Together. By Peter White


hy have you the Global Game Protection & Table Games Conference? Richard Marcus: The main idea is to revolutionize how table games and surveillance departments share data and work better to improve the overall casino operation. The Global Game Protection & Table Games Conference is actually two conferences in one that at times merges both audiences together. It is the first conference of its kind. There have been separate game protection and table games conferences heavily attended by casino executives who’ve traveled across the globe to attend them. Those casino vice presidents and directors of operations who wanted education for their staffs in both fields had to send their table games and surveillance people on individual trips. Volume 18: Issue 149

But now that unwieldy requirement has been waived! This conference is designed to offer the best education to those who want to learn both of these integral sectors of casino operations at one event, and as many functions of table games and game protection surveillance often merge, what better way to do so than to have a dual educational program running side by side and at times together? What are the key benefits they will gain from attending? All key casino people who want to run efficient table games, game protection and surveillance operations in their casinos will benefit. Remember that “Game Protection” in casinos often has implied connotations to surveillance, but the total definition of the term is often left in the hamper. Game protection must be 41



INDIAN GAMING TRADESHOW & CONVENTION As the largest gathering of tribal leaders and casino executives in the country, the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention is the place where tribal and commercial gaming come together to conduct business, learn, and network.


Feature: Richard Marcus

The era of cheats will never end, and there are lots of highup people in game protection that are saying that cheating is becoming less and less of an issue. I do not agree with this.” equally practiced on the casino floor by table games

be a main exhibit hall as is seen at all major casino

Your events gain a lot of coverage worldwide from both operators and manufacturers of slot machines and table gaming equipment, along with gamblers. Are there sponsorship opportunities for organisations with the Global Game Protection & Table Games Conference? Yes, there are sponsorship opportunities for casino vendors and new table game inventions. There will

These last two years have seen an unprecedented level of disruption to the operations of casinos. There is no doubt that the high-quality professional standards will be unaffected. However, with all disruptions are there areas of operations that casinos should monitor more than usual? In short, monitoring has changed considerably in casinos, especially during the early stages of the pandemic. A good example of this is the surveillance department, which had to shift almost all of its assets to Covid compliance and safety issues within casinos, not only the gaming floor but the hotels and work areas as well. Surveillance departments had to sacrifice or reduce monitoring some areas of their properties to focus upon issues such as mask wearing, sanitizing, etc. This monitoring changeover is still at least partially in effect.

people as it is by surveillance people. In fact, some casinos perfectly delineate the term between both departments, creating key positions called “Game Protection Manager” or “Game Protection Director.” People holding these titles should not be a fixed part of either the table games deparatment or the surveillance department. By learning how to operate together and share information, they will increase casino operations’ bottom line. Learning the steps how to do this is the key benefit of the dual conference.

Volume 18: Issue 149

industry conferences.


Feature: Richard Marcus

Its been over three years since our last interview and in that time technology and surveillance has continued as it does to improve. So isn’t the era of cheats being brought to an end its just a matter of time? The era of cheats will never end, and there are lots of

high-up people in game protection that are saying that cheating is becoming less and less of an issue. I do not agree with this. We must not forget that the most intelligent and sophisticated cheats are improving their own technology and surveillance as well, thus the cat-and-mouse game continues, although on a much higher level. And we must also not forget that the bulk of casino cheating, even by professionals, is not high tech but rather new and effective variants of the same old scams. The Chip Cup Scam has been around for decades yet it still occurs at casinos right around the world. To my knowledge, this scam rarely happens anymore, at least not in the world’s major casinos with good compliance and game protection policies. RFID technology has wiped out most forms of cheating involving chip manipulation? Volume 18: Issue 149

This is true, but like any high-tech protective feature including facial recognition and artificial intelligence, there is a human factor, mainly the one that has to correctly interpret the data and act properly upon it. Talented cheats (like myself back in the day) are capable of psychologically taking control of the human factor and actually convincing casino personnel to ignore or misinterpret the Big Data they’re getting from high-technology, including RFID.

Can you tell us what you have planned for your event at Excalibur Hotel Casino, Las Vegas? To make it the first and only dual Table Games & Game Protection Conference that best educates the casino industry in those sectors. Please can you provide readers how they can register for your events and also find out more about you and your training events? My website is also a “dual” website. The conference website is actually a website within my personal website. Everything about me, my conference and my training events is there to be found. People can find all the details and register on the website.


News: SuzoHapp

New appointments to support continued expansion in Europe

Markus Prader, Business Development Director

Anette Jauch, Senior Account Manager


e Meern, The Netherlands, February 3, 2022 - SUZOHAPP is pleased to announce an enhancement of its Sales and Business Development teams in Europe led by Markus Prader as the new business development director. Prader joined the SUZOHAPP

team in 2018 as a key accounts manager and will now focus on building and sustaining the business development arm of the company, focused on our customers, their experience and interaction with our sales team and platforms. Prior to joining SUZOHAPP, Prader spent several years in business-development management roles and held a number of senior positions in casino operations and marketing around the world. Prader founded MP Gaming in South Africa and was a partner at Tajitsu Industries. “To further cement our position as the trusted hardware experts in the gaming, amusement and sports betting markets in Europe, we are looking at new ways to enhance our customers’ experience,” says Prader. “I am excited to execute significant changes that will make it easier for customers, current and new alike, to do business with SUZOHAPP, implementing tools, platforms, and strategies to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations in the new 46

Normal Ridall, Director of OEM Sales

post-pandemic market.” To fill Prader’s former role, SUZOHAPP is appointing Anette Jauch as senior account manager for Europe. Jauch brings with her decades of experience in the gaming sector. This new position has been specifically designed for Jauch, and is tailored to suit her previous career in the European gaming industry in various sales and marketing positions for companies such as Mikohn, IGT, FutureLogic and CPI. Jauch will focus on customer relationship development, predominantly in the DACH portion of Europe, as well as Scandinavia and other key individual accounts. For SUZOHAPP’s operations in the UK, Norman Ridall has been promoted to director of OEM Sales and will take over leading the UK team towards another record year of growth in this market. “We are pleased to have Markus and Norman assume their new roles within our team, and we welcome Anette Jauch on board, as we embark on the next chapter of strengthening our already solid, focused and terrific sales team in Europe,” said Tim Kennedy, vice president of sales for Europe at SUZOHAPP. “They will each bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and positive energy to their new roles and to our organisation.”

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