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Wow. That happened faster than we expected. The backlash against omnipresent sports betting advertising in the U.S., I mean. Scarcely had Sen. Richard Blumenthal requested data from over 65 colleges and universities about their ties to sports betting than the gaming industry went into full retreat—and quickly, too.
Perhaps reacting to demands that they police themselves, the industry— through its lobbying group, the American Gaming Association—rushed out a new code of conduct. Unveiled on March 28, it declares that “college partnerships that promote, market or advertise sports wagering activity” are hereby verboten, closing down a major avenue of marketing. An exception is made for colleges that have ties “to alumni networks or content focused on RG initiatives or problem gambling awareness.” That gives the industry a bit of wiggle room, but not much at first glance.
In a seemingly commonsensical move, no one under 21 can be featured in an ad for sports betting, and both amateur and collegiate athletes are off-limits as marketing figures. Vague “legal age of wagering” language must be replaced with “21-plus” or a similarly explicit formulation. Last—but far from least—the baneful term “risk-free” must be dropped from ads. Caesars Sportsbook is currently experiencing a legal headache in New Jersey over the use of such verbiage.
The new code of conduct is to be reviewed and updated on a yearly basis. Whether this will call off the dogs on Capitol Hill remains to be seen (probably not) but the AGA has done the right thing. Credit AGA President Bill Miller with a rapid response during onerous circumstances and getting an often-fractious industry to sign off on it.
What the industry should do at this point is to stop drenching the airwaves with advertisements, behavior that is prompting much of the congressional nausea (a phenomenon not limited to politicians either). But the gaming industry it seems, for the moment, is content to wait until the free market dictates that ad spending should be curbed.
Some states are not waiting. New Jersey announced it will create the post of responsible gaming coordinator. He or she will “handle all issues impacting responsible gaming and ensure progress on existing initiatives.” In addition, Internet casinos and sports books are mandated to prominently feature the 1-800-GAMBLER number for problemgambling help. “Guaranteed wins” and “risk-free” wagers are a thing of the past. No advertising can be displayed where those under 21 will be enticed. And opting out of direct advertising will be made easier.
As state Attorney General Matthew Platkin put it, “gaming and sports wagering industries continue to grow and mature, [and] so do our obligations to assist patrons who are at risk for problem gambling.” Words for our industry to live by.
3 Editor's Note
Sports betting goes too far, too fast in the U.S.By David McKee
5 “I Think The AIs Have It. The AIs Have It.” The Artificial Intelligence Game Changer.By Damien Connelly
6 Make theirs Manhattan Mohegan, a giant in tribal gaming, looks to conquer New York City and points beyond.By David McKee
16 Champions of diversity
An interview with Dawn Clayton, general manager of Thunder Valley Casino Resort.By Victor H. Royer
26 A Casino in Tibilisi for Luxury-Loving Gaming Tourists
A visit to the Grand Bellagio in Georgia.By Lavrenty Gubin
34 Talent Management: The Inaugural German Dealer Championship Thomas Schenk, vice-chairman, Deutscher Spielbankenverband e. V. and Tobias Hellberg chat with Peter White ahead of the 2023 European Dealer Championship Finals.
40 G2E Asia 2023 Singapore Preview
Yip Je Choong, managing director for Singapore & Indonesia and senior vice president commercial APAC, RX (Reed Exhibitions) talks with Casino Life.By Damien Connelly
44 Update Report on Gaming Legislation in Malaysia, Cameroon and Senegal
48 Think Outside Your Mind
How Open-Innovation Networks Unleash Creativity.By Raymond Chan
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.
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“I Think The AIs Have It. The AIs Have It.”
The Artificial Intelligence Game Changer
In the House of Commons – the British parliament – a question is put to the House verbally by the Speaker. If there is a definitive answer, they use either the phrase, “The Ayes have it,” or “The Noes have it". Making a play on words, “AI” (Artificial Intelligence) sounds the same as “Aye”, so…
In the 1990s, our boutique consultancy was working on three projects simultaneously that were of a similar nature. We were working with Professor Andrew Ehrenberg, considered the father of loyalty marketing because his academic work helped to develop buyer-behavior and loyalty (database) marketing. The three projects our consultancy was working on had, in total, databases exceeding 100 million customers – the clients were publicly listed multi-site and multi-jurisdictional corporations. It took us months of tedious toil to find valuable data nuggets buried in the terabytes of transactional data in each ‘data lake.’
Nowadays, the recorded transactional data is not in terabytes but in multitudes of petabytes, and the compute power required to perform analyses is no longer open only to the likes of NASA and corporations with Cray supercomputers. Still, it leaves me speechless when I consider how vastly superior our data interrogation is today compared to what it was like back when I started my career.
Alongside the advancements in computer power, we have Artificial Intelligence to thank. As with all things ‘computing,' there's always the risk of 'rubbish in + rubbish out' = meaning. The humans creating and interpreting the interrogation and analyses still need to be more than artificially intelligent in order to deliver seriously valuable, EBITDA-enhancing nuggets of buyer behavior that can be influenced by high quality marketing. And, equally importantly, the behavior of non-buyers — it always surprises me how research so often ignores the non-buyers. That's the type of detail where human intelligence really makes a difference, in order to minimize the various biases and misses that are in-built when analyzing buyer behavior.Damien Connelly, Editor EMEA
We will be attending G2E Asia Special Edition: Singapore, which is at Marina Bay Sands May 30 through June 1. You can read more about 'G2E Singapore' in my article in this issue. We look forward to catching up with everyone whilst we're there.
Another place where there are buyers galore is our social media channels. On LinkedIn, we have a closed group to ensure our membership is both highly relevant and very high quality. Our focus on quality is self-evident from our Twitter statistics — we only Follow 269 yet we have 4,325 Followers. We do not follow for the sake of getting a follow back ... we're not that superficial and we have sufficient marketing expertise to understand how quality social media works.
See you in Singapore?
Please join our LinkedIn Group and engage with our high-quality, industry-relevant community.
https://www.linkedin.com/groups/1813053/Editor EMEA Damien Connelly
Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment is dead. Long live plain old Mohegan because “that name is highly recognized in the resort business,” says CEO Ray Pineault. Crisp, candid and upbeat, Pineault makes an ideal ambassador for a gaming empire that is growing to embrace the globe. Starting with a casino, Mohegan Sun, built in 1994 from a converted plant formerly used to craft nuclear reactors for U.S. Navy submarines, the Mohegan Tribe’s business ambitions now reach as far as the shores of South Korea.
Not only is Mohegan’s long-aborning Inspire project near Korea’s Incheon International Airport coming very close to the finish line, the tribal colossus has also set its sights on New York City. Amid a scrum of competing bidders, Mohegan has teamed with Soloviev Group to pitch Freedom Plaza, a giant, mixed-use development that would run the gamut of offerings, near the United Nations’ headquarters on Manhattan’s East Side. Since Mohegan had just launched its Manhattan Momentum Partnership Program, the Big Apple seemed the obvious starting point.
How is your partnership on Freedom Plaza in New York City progressing?
The partnership has been on solid ground all along. Obviously, we’re in the midst of doing all the heavy lifting of preparing responses to the request for proposals, setting up programs properly. We’re working on getting community and political support, and just fine-tuning our product to bring the best that we can to New York City and the State of New York.
When were you brought into the Freedom Plaza project?
It goes back. It’s probably not as long as some of these other operators have been working on New York but we’ve been together five or six months now. We’re quite honestly drinking from a fire hose to make sure we get caught up on everything that’s happening. Being a Northeast operator, we have followed the track of New York downstate gaming for a long time. Once we found a symbiotic partner, like we did in the Soloviev Group, it was incumbent upon us to put our best foot forward, to but the best best proposal forward with the best property. So we’re really excited about it.
It’s an unusual project, incorporating a Ferris wheel, soccer pitches and low-income housing, plus a casino. What makes such disparate elements hang together?
This is a total utilization of the property. It’s just under seven acres. We’re looking to find the highest and best use for the property, for the community and for the City of New York. How do we generate maximum value to the community and the city? The casino is going to take up less than 10 percent of the entire project footprint, but as you know, New York City is in desperate need of affordable housing. Our partners have committed to providing a good number of affordable housing as part of the project. That is a good development for the community. And then open space: New York City has a dearth of areas for open space and providing a community with areas where people can go and use the open space we plan to provide, again, is for the benefit of the community and making sure we’re giving the maximum value back.
What’s the background of your partner, Soloviev Group?
Their father was a New York City developer for quite a long time. They have a lot of commercial real estate in New York already. They’ve actually owned this piece of property for several years. In fact they built the apartment/condo complex directly across the street that was part of the initial purchase, so the family— particularly through the eldest son, Stefan—has developed a very large business outside of Manhattan and they have many holdings, but they still have realestate holdings in New York.
Together, you’re pitching something called the Manhattan Momentum Partnership Program. What is it, in essence?
It’s a loyalty program. Put it in terms of your favorite loyalty program, whether it’s with your favorite hotel chain, a Marriott or a Hilton, or your loyalty program with your local grocery store or with a retailer that you do particular business with. When you’re a member of the Mohegan Momentum program, you earn money back during your spending with our facilities and then that money can be utilized for goods and services, whether at our property or with partners that we sign up to redeem your rewards. The way we look at it in New York is we want to have as many partners as possible and we promote your business, and we
promote our guests to use your business by being part of the Mohegan program. You can use the rewards that you’ve earned at Mohegan to go dine at another restaurant, to shop at a local shop or use other local services, such as tax services. In Connecticut we have relationships with auto-body shops or car dealerships or local retailers. You get to use rewards that you earn within the resort itself and outside to promote local businesses.
You’re trying, through the Momentum Partnership, to incentivize patronage of affiliated restaurants and amenities. Who are some of these affiliates so far and are many of them nearby?
Just having come back from the site this past weekend, there’s not a lot of business in the one- or two-block radius of the site itself. But we’re going to solicit all the businesses and local community. Our team has told us we’ve had a few express interest and sign up. Anybody within the Manhattan area, we’re happy to work out a partnership deal to promote your business in conjunction with ours.
Will they eventually find themselves in competition with Freedom Plaza’s own amenities?
I don’t think we see it as competition. We see it as an overall enhancement to our product. When we’ve done this at our other properties, whether it’s partnering with
another hotel, partnering with a local restaurant, it just provides an additional incentive for our guests to say, ‘Hey, I can use it at Mohegan but I can also go out to my favorite restaurant or my favorite car dealership.’ Yeah, they’re they competitors for discretionary spend, but it enhances the overall value of the program and creates greater guest loyalty. At the end of the day it’s a net positive.
There are at least seven other casino proposals circling New York City at present. What has to happen for Freedom Plaza to be one of the final three?
Wow, that’s a great question. Your count’s probably a little bit light on the seven. There’s going to be more than that and heavy competition for getting this. When you take into account the location, that it’s a shovelready piece of property, all that we’re going to give back with open space, affordable housing and a casino taking up less than 10 percent of the total square footage, then it is the best project for New York City, for the state of New York. But at the end of the day, the siting board is going to make that determination and we’re going to put our best foot forward and talk about the value and benefits of our project.
Various revenue projections have been tossed around for a Class III casino in New York City. How much money do you feel there is to be made?
I don’t want to go into exact projections. Everybody has been projecting what the size of the market is and what it could generate. You could do some extrapolation from publicly reported facilities that exist as electronic table games and slots only. The projections that we’re seeing are not that far off from what probably the total market is. But it also depends on where it’s located as well. Is there ease of convenience of getting to the property? Is it offering the right amenities? There’s a lot of factors that go into maximizing the value of the overall project and that’s we’re focused on. That’s why we think between location, amenities and community involvement, we’re gonna offer the state the best project.
How would a Freedom Plaza casino impact business back at Mohegan Sun?
Listen, we’ve dealt with this in Connecticut for many, many years. You can go back to the late 1990s-early 2000s when Connecticut had essentially a duopoly with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, and Atlantic City was kind of our closest competitor. Since that time
we’ve had New York open additional gaming facilities. We’ve had Pennsylvania. We’ve had Massachusetts. We’ve had Rhode Island expand. This is something that is not new. Anytime there’s a market that is bearing rewards, people want to enter into it and we’ve been prepared for it. Quite honestly, this New York legislation is something that’s been around for it is now seven years, because this would have been the time period there were going to talk about downstate casinos anyway. Gov. Kathy Hochul just moved forward the time frame we expected, so this is something we’ve been prepared for. If we were to win the New York license we think it will be a net positive for both facilities, because the New York facility will be tremendously successful and we’ve got the Connecticut property right here that we can work together on co-marketing.
What is Mohegan Sun doing to remain competitive if gambling comes to Manhattan?
As a corporate entity, to remain competitive—as you may or may not be aware—we’ve expanded outside of Connecticut. We own a property in Pennsylvania. We have a long-term lease to operate two casinos up in Niagara Falls. We’re currently managing the gaming floor and actually own the gaming floor out in Las Vegas at Virgin Hotel. We’re also in the process of building a multi-billion-dollar resort at Seoul, South
Korea. But from a property perspective we’re always looking at ways to enhance the overall property. A few years back, we brought in a staple of New York, Tao, as one of our restaurant groups here. We redid all of our retail offerings, bringing in things like Coach to enhance our overall retail. We’ve recently remodeled our highend lounges for our guests, to give them a better product and more convenience. So obviously this is something we’re constantly evolving and staying on top of but we think we continue to offer a first-class, toprate property here in Connecticut. We continue to look for ways where our brand can be found worldwide.
You mentioned Virgin Las Vegas. How is your casino doing, given that it’s not on the Las Vegas Strip? It’s not and visitation is still down from 2019. We continue to see our Las Vegas property continue to ramp and build. Obviously, we were new to the market so we had to start fresh and build our customer base. Our team out there continues to do that. When you look at the future of Las Vegas, with Formula One coming, with the Super Bowl coming, with many of the conventions starting to return to pre-pandemic levels, we have continued confidence in the growth and expansion of that product there. It’s the top gaming market in the world. We felt that we had to be a part of it, and we’re going to grow our database and enhance our product.
It’s a chain-dominated market. What are the challenges of operating a stand-alone brand in Las Vegas?
Obviously you’re competing with the Wynns, the MGMs, the Caesars, the Sands. But there’s a lot of local operators too, and it’s a matter of what business you’re going after and where you’re looking to garner that business. When you look at the airport traffic, it’s at the highest levels that it’s ever been and it’s continuing to grow. Therefore, we just have to make sure that we identify our market, that we utilize our existing network of properties, and continue to solicit and move people across our network. Having the database we have here in the Northeast, along with what we’ve been able to generate in Niagara and what we have with our other properties, we can provide a feeder market to Las Vegas from our existing properties.
How is Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs performing following its rebranding?
We rebranded it in alignment with the rebranding of the entire organization as Mohegan. It has become a highly recognized and respected name, particularly in the north. It has been actually been very well received by our guests. Pocono Downs was a name that we adopted when we purchased it and, as we thought about it, it wasn’t really fitting for the property. Mohegan has become very well accepted by our
guests. We’re pleased with the performance that the team is having down there. Obviously, during the pandemic everything was shut down like everywhere else. But it’s come back very strong and they continue to come back.
How is Inspire progressing in South Korea?
Inspire is progressing tremendously well. We continue to say, as we have for many quarters now, that the opening of Inspire will be in the fourth quarter of this year. We’re going to begin the mass-hiring process in a few short months. Our team is continuing to prepare for those hiring events. We’re continuing to fine-tune the product on-site that we have. The construction team has 3,000 people on a daily basis and it’s going up swiftly. We think it’s going to be a tremendous product, akin to Mohegan Sun. I like to tell people we’re building Mohegan Sun – which took us four phases to do – in one phase in Korea.
Mohegan recently upped its equity contribution to the project. What’s going on with that?
Yes, we did announce that. There were a few things that went around. When we first priced Inspire was back during Covid, which with inflation, with the delay, the price had obviously gone up. We wanted to deliver the first-class product that we promised the South Korean government that we would deliver and in order
to do so we had to make sure that we covered some of those cost escalations that resulted. Some things that had originally been cut from the program we wanted to put back because they were enhancements to the overall product. So we added a few things back, like the convention center all of the breakout rooms and if we wanted to run a first-class convention space you had to have the breakout rooms. The buffet, which in Korea is a highly profitable generator, had not been in the original program. As a first-class resort in Southeast Asia, a buffet was necessary. We obviously, due to Covid and price-escalation supply issues, wanted to make sure the project was fully funded.
Given the crackdown on VIP play from China and capital flight, where do you now expect to make your bread and butter?
The crackdown in China really has been on the junket operators. Their activity was suspect at best and in fact one of the largest junket operator-owners [Alvin Chau] was recently sentenced to a prison term for their conduct. There’s business that can be garnered and we’re actually closer to more Chinese citizens than is Macao. When you think about where we’re located, which is in the northern part, we’re actually closer to China than Macao is. We do still think we’ll get business from China. We’re very close to Japan, which recently announced that they’re going to issue a resort license but that’s not supposed to open for eight more years and Japan is a tremendous market. And so is the rest of Southeast Asia, whether it’s Taiwan or Vietnam. Incheon, pre-pandemic was the seventh-busiest airport in the world and, on top of that it is the hub for layovers
for many, many countries, traveling on to other places. The typical stayover time is six to eight hours on a layover. In Korea you can get a 24-hour visa to leave the airport and we’re located within a mile and a half of the airport. We will be running shuttles and picking up people to come enjoy our facility. So we think we’ll be getting people from all over the world. There’s two million expats as well as dual-passport holders that reside in Korea [where gambling by citizens is confined to one casino], which has a population of about 25 million.
How are your digital operations performing? Fantastic. Beating our expectations. Performing beyond what he had expected in the first year and a half of operation. We said from the get-go that we were going to enter digital gaming and enter it profitably. I’m happy to report that we had a profitable year last year and we’re seeing significant growth again this year. We’ve since expanded into Ontario, where we continue to see growth in our base there and we’re currently looking at other jurisdictions to expand to expand our digital footprint.
What other irons do the Mohegans have in the fire?
We are always looking at opportunities. We get calls constantly. We have a development department that goes out and looks at various opportunities. There’s a couple of things we’re looking at right now. Nothing to announce today. We’re going to look for opportunities to expand and bring the Mohegan name to other parts, other properties and other jurisdictions as the opportunities arise.
Feature: Thunder Valley Casino Resort
Champions of DiversityInterview with Dawn Clayton, general manager, Thunder Valley Casino Resort by Victor H. Royer
Casino Life Magazine recently had the opportunity to interview Dawn Clayton, general manager of Thunder Valley Casino Resort, in Lincoln, California. Dawn joined Thunder Valley Casino Resort in August 2010 as vice president of gaming operations. Shortly thereafter she was promoted to assistant general manager and then in March 2013 she was promoted to general manager with direct oversight for the dayto-day operations of Northern California’s premier casino destination resort. She is a 40-year veteran of the gaming/hospitality industry, having held executivelevel positions at commercial, riverboat, racino and Native American properties.
Dawn is a strategic, dynamic, inclusive leader with a proven track record of exceeding revenue projections, increasing guest visitation and developing future leaders in highly competitive markets.
Volunteerism is also part of her DNA, as she serves on the Board of Directors for PRIDE Industries and champions creating employment for individuals with disabilities. She is a member of the Executive Board of Directors for the local SPCA, and for Lighthouse Counseling & Family Resource Center. She is a mentor and sponsor of FLAME (Female Leadership & Mentor Exchange), which helps advance and empower the next generation of female leaders in business, education, public service, and media.
Dawn has been recognized as one of the Sacramento’s Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business” and was named to the National 100 Women to Watch List compiled by Bizwomen. She has also been featured in Forbes Magazine as one of its California Women Business Leaders. She was additionally honored as a Woman of Distinction by the American Association of University Women. Most recently, Dawn was recognized as the Best of the Best in Gaming by Bentley Price and as the 2022 Business Leader of the Year by Placer Valley.
Dawn, first I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Please tell our readers more about your role at Thunder Valley Casino Resort. Thunder Valley Casino Resort is a AAA Four Diamond award-winning, premier destination resort in Northern California. In June, we will celebrate our 20 years of operation and incredible success.
The resort is located 30 miles east of Sacramento in Lincoln, California. The property consists of
Thunder Valley Casino Resort
270,000 square feet of gaming space, including 3,500 slot machines, 100 table games, a bingo room that accommodates 800 guests with dymanic giveaways, our poker room that ranks amongst the best in the country, with guaranteed prize pools exceeding $1 million, 18 restaurants and bars, a 17-story luxury hotel with 408 rooms and suites, an expansive outdoor pool with private cabañas, poolside bar, a luxurious spa, and our most recent addition – the $100M stateof-the-art entertainment facility called “The Venue.” It consists of 150,000 square feet that accommodate seating for 4,500 guests. The sound and acoustics are spectacular.
I have the distinct pleasure of serving at the helm of a truly dynamic, guest-service-focused team of dedicated team members who create memorable experiences on a daily basis.
Please tell us about the newest leadership appointments at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort and in which roles they now serve at the property. The United Auburn Indian Community and Thunder Valley Casino Resort leadership team allocates time and resources to developing their team members, and in preparing them for promotional opportunities
that become available for advancement and career development. I am delighted to share that, with a couple of recent key executives retiring after long tenures, not only in the gaming industry but at Thunder Valley, their positions were filled with internal candidates who are knowledgeable, committed, driven and passionate, and embrace the culture of inclusion and succession planning.
Their ascension in the leadership ranks was a seamless transition and enabled our team members to witness that commitment to the Thunder Valley Casino Resort team, and to its goals and objectives, affords promotional opportunities.
How do you see the Thunder Valley Casino positioned in the current and future gaming market?
The United Auburn Indian Community and the leadership team continually analyze the local markets and trends, actively soliciting input from our guests and team members, and conducting in-depth research to support future growth. This is incorporated into what is shared in our master plan for the property. This includes a full scope of multidisciplinary services and amenities, mixed-use developments, and leisure-
related assets, leading to increased visitation. In June 2023, we will celebrate our 20-year anniversary, and look to the future with great excitement as we look to add to the amenities that we currently offer on the 190-acre site of contiguous land owned by UAIC.
How much of a difference is there between the Northern California tribal gaming market and Southern California?
While I have never had the opportunity to work in Southern California, I know that we share many similarities and commonalities. There are routine conference calls whereby general managers from Northern and Southern California are invited to participate, to share what is transpiring at their respective properties. This was incredibly helpful during the times of Covid, as we were able to share best practices and adopt health-and-safety protocols as a collective group, working collaboratively. That aided our industry in safeguarding our guests, team members and communities at large.
Another example of positive outcomes are from strategic dialogue, as the GMs shared many initiatives that could be considered when attempting to recruit and fill many of the open positions within our organizations—once we were approved to resume gaming operations after the shutdown due to Covid. Labor and supply chain challenges were not unique to any specific region or business, so sharing our insights was very beneficial. The interpersonal relationships forged in this way are a valued asset, and my fellow colleagues at the helm of their properties are some of the finest men and women in the industry.
And how big is the difference between Northern California gaming and Las Vegas? Or Reno? Every region is different, while sharing similarities. For example, during the winter months Reno will often encounter challenges with inclement weather, resulting in road closures that have a negative impact on business operations. Our property is located in a part of California that does not experience issues due to snow and ice. When the aforementioned does occur, we often experience an increase in business.
Las Vegas is continuing to differentiate the amenities they offer to their guests via entertainment, sporting events, large-scale conventions, an incredibly large inventory of hotel room product, the Formula One races that are upcoming, etc. Our master plan for
the next five to 15 years incorporates the diversity of amenities that will appeal to our current guests and attract new consumers from Placer County outside of gaming operations. The diversification of our product offerings will enable us to maintain our positioning in Northern California.
Thunder Valley Casino Resort is in Lincoln, in Northern California, and is also positioned near Sacramento and San Francisco. Are these the primary markets for visitors to the Thunder Valley Casino Resort? What are the most prominent demographics in these markets?
About 70 percent of our guests reside within a 30mile radius of the property. Both Sacramento and San Francisco are dominant markets for us. Our guests have options as to where they would like to spend their discretionary income, thus the reason
we continually add to the offerings that span age and demographics. We have a significant amount of our Asian guests who travel from San José and San Francisco. We are the title sponsor of the Ms. Chinatown USA Pageant & Coronation Ball, held annually in San Francisco, as well as the title float that hosts the newly crowned court and Ms. Chinatown winner for the Chinatown Parade.
What is the governance of the Thunder Valley Casino Resort?
The reporting structure in place is that I report to the Board of Directors, who are elected members of the United Auburn Indian Community. The aforementioned members are proactive, supportive, and align to support the initiatives presented that will provide growth and financial sustainability for their membership.
Have there been any operational-perspective changes – or any significant shifts in casino operations – at your property since the pandemic? Meaning other than the naturally required changes to general operations.
Covid presented some very unique challenges for everyone. During the closure of 79 days we faced uncertainty while taking time to reevaluate every facet of our business model. We are so profoundly proud of all our teams, because as we initially resumed business operations we were significantly understaffed while managing huge demand. We, like every other business, needed to implement health and safety protocols to insure the safety of our team members, our guests and our community. The best practices that we committed to performing were often repetitive and routine in nature, but necessary nonetheless. Our teams performed them willingly and with a commitment that was unsurpassed.
We analyzed every aspect of our business model and made some decisions to not resume several of our offerings that we had prior to Covid, such as the buffet. We just received our AAA Four Diamond recognition for the 11th straight year, and many of the testing standards that were implemented during Covid still exist today and focus on high touch-point cleanliness for safety reasons. These protocols will most likely remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Thunder Valley Casino Resort
Please tell us more about the gaming floor at the Thunder Valley Casino. Which games – or type of games – are among the most popular at your property?
Our slot floor consists of 3,500 slot and video poker machines. During the budgeting process we allocated a significant amount of capital to insure that our slot product offerings—and our gaming floor in general— are innovative and have the latest and greatest games, themes, cabinets, signage, etc. We pride ourselves on being first to market with new gaming product for both slots and table games.
Thunder Valley Casino Resort was the first to offer Face Up Pai Gow Poker, as the inventor was one of our former casino shift managers. He has since retired, but his successful game is now offered internationally, with 300 games to date in active placement in casinos. Our leadership team champions meeting with our guests, and actively asking their input and feedback as to games, and offerings they would like for us to consider in adding to our footprint.
How is the Thunder Valley Casino Resort positioned in the ongoing California sports wagering situation?
The most recent sports wagering initiative was the most expensive in the history of the county. While it did not result in approval to offer sports wagering, it in no way dampened the appetite to add this as an amenity to casinos in California. Undoubtedly it will be on a future ballot and we await the outcome of that vote.
Please tell us more about the player’s club at Thunder Valley, how it is structured, and how and where players can earn and use their benefits.
Our Thunder Valley Reward Card is our guests’ unique passport to incredible benefits and special offerings. As a Rewards member, guests earn Rewards points every time they play, to advance to higher tiers within a given qualifying period. Higher tier levels mean exclusive benefits such as invitation for free gifts, slot tournaments, drawings, and specially themed events. What’s more, guests receive five percent back in comps on all non-gaming purchases using their Rewards card throughout the property. The earned comps can be used toward ticket purchases for stellar performances in The Venue, as well as for luxurious spa treatments, award-winning dining options, hotel stays and much more. It’s essentially one card that holds unlimited enjoyment and fun for our guests.
What is new and innovative about the Thunder Valley Casino as of the second quarter of 2023? 2023 has been a history-making year to date. On the President’s Day weekend we opened The Venue with a three-day, star-studded lineup of artists, with none other than The Eagles, Bruno Mars and Carlos Santana. What a way to showcase this amazing entertainment facility! We can now offer year-round entertainment, with upcoming artists such as Jerry Seinfeld, Journey, Bill Burr and more.
Thunder Valley Casino Resort has a very wellknown poker room – please tell us more about live poker at Thunder Valley, and any special tournaments or player incentives, rewards and perks.
Our poker room has been an incredible success. It is a destination for many guests from across the country as we host events with the most well-known tours such as the World Poker Tour (WPT), World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the RunGood Poker Series. Our newly designed poker room affords us the opportunity to host live play and events in one location. The poker room was built to have the technical capability to host live streams and televised productions, such as the WPT Live Steam in April that
netted over 500,000 viewers. The poker room holds the only $1,000,000 in guarantees in the region and commonly offers event series that draw over 1,000 players for each event.
Please tell us more about the hotel facilities, dining and other non-gaming attractions at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort. Our amazing AAA Four-Diamond resort offers 408 rooms and suites, a state-of-the-art, fully equipped fitness center that is open 24 hours a day, and an extensive in-room dining menu.
The Spa at Thunder Valley is a relaxing oasis. And the Coconut Pool & Bar is a perfect way to enjoy a relaxing day.
We offer a wide array of food offerings that are sure to appeal to everyone. Our AAA Four Diamond steakhouse is called High Steaks – what more perfect name could there be? Our gourmet Asian restaurant is called Red Lantern and the Thunder Café is open 24/7 with an expansive menu of items, including pizzas from our open-fire pizza oven. We also offer an array of casual dining options such as Dos Coyotes, Peet’s Coffee, Ben & Jerry’s, Panda Express, Fatburger, Subway and Pizza Hut.
From the perspective of casino operations, how do you see the California tribal-gaming market in 2023 and going into 2024?
The California tribal-gaming market is vibrant and positioned to continue to flourish as we look forward to 2024 and beyond.
Are there any other items, or news, that you’d like to share with our readers about the Thunder Valley Casino Resort? Something I may have missed asking?
As we prepare to celebrate our 20-year anniversary we are excited about what the next 20 years has in store, as we continue to add to our footprint and diversify our amenities.
Finally, in your career in gaming, and with Thunder Valley, what would you consider to be the highlights?
Having started in the gaming industry as a craps
dealer in Atlantic City 40 years ago, a time when there were very few women working in the gaming pits, I never would have dreamed that I would be be working in this amazing, ever-changing and dynamic industry all these years later!
I will be forever grateful to the team members and fellow colleagues for their hard work, commitment, dedication and passion, and for being on this journey with me.
To all the leaders who willingly shared their knowledge, keen insight, words of encouragement and challenged me to embrace the ranks of leadership, I say thank you.
Most importantly, I want everyone to know that climbing the ranks in the gaming industry is achievable. Will it be an easy ascent? Absolutely not. But incredibly rewarding. I am humbled to work for a tribe that champions inclusion and diversity, and invests in their team members.
On behalf of Casino Life Magazine and Outsource Digital Media, I would like to thank you, Dawn, for your time, and for sharing this with us and our readers worldwide.
The new year saw the much-awaited opening of the Grand Bellagio Casino inside Tbilisi's fashionable, five-star Biltmore Hotel. The opening highlighted a star-studded event featuring international artists Eyal Golan and Gypsy Kings, attracting numerous VIP players from around the world. The casino sparkled with excitement as guests toasted the new year with music, dancing and gaming.
The event drew significant attention from high rollers, tourists and locals alike, and the casino provided a truly unforgettable experience. The tables and slots were full throughout the night, packed with players who had travelled from all around the world especially to visit the opening of the new casino.
Grand Bellagio Casino in Tbilisi represents the most fashionable gambling establishment, with a unique design, luxurious interior and expensive furniture. The casino is designed to cater to high-end customers who seek upscale entertainment in a sophisticated setting. The gambling area is spacious, with a wide selection of gaming tables and slot machines. The casino offers exclusive VIP rooms for those who prefer a more private and luxurious gaming experience.
We met Anthony Rerecich, general manager of the casino and asked him a few questions about his establishment.
What's the general concept of the casino? What was your target audience before you started the project? And is it still the same now as you initially planned?
The target audience has stayed the same and it's really to bring foreign players to Georgia. I think Georgia, and Tbilisi in particular, has quite a lot of attractions for foreign players. It's great, it's safe and it's something different from their home countries, like in the Middle East.
What games do you have?
We have blackjack, roulette, baccarat and all the variants of poker: Caribbean, Texas, Ultimate, threecard poker. And now we've just opened the stud poker room: just two tables at the moment but we plan another three.
What are the minimums and maximums on the tables?
Roulette starts at $5 and we go anywhere up to 2,000 flat or 1,000 progressive. For poker we have a $25 minimum. Then we have anywhere up to a maximum of $500,000 payouts. On blackjack we have $25 to $3,000 a box. We have 34 tables and three VIP rooms. As for the poker room, it's pot-limit on Omaha and no limits on Texas.
What about slot machines?
Currently we have 80 slot machines. At the moment
these are EGT, Novomatic and Merkur slots, as well as electronic roulette from EGT. The selection of machines is to be expanded with the new brands during this year, including such manufacturers as IGT and Apex.
Is there anything special about the restaurant and the bar?
Yes, we've collected chefs from all over the world, including an Asian fusion restaurant, obviously with Georgian cuisine. And also we have VIP service, so our chefs will literally prepare you anything you ask for. We have an extensive menu, but as I said, if you want something that is not on the menu, our chefs are more than welcome to help you out and create the fantasy you desire. We have three bars in the casino with top-quality alcoholic beverages and cocktails, served by very experienced barmen. We also have shisha with the best possible tobacco for our VIP players.
I see there is a big stage in the casino. Do you have regular shows?
We have shows Wednesday to Sunday — dancing girls, live music and even big stars. On New Year's Eve we had Gypsy Kings, the Schooler Band, and Eyal Golan the next night. Regular lotteries and tournaments for the players are also held here, like roulette tournaments and slot tournaments. We try to mix it with a bit of humor, like a mix of old TV games, so it's a bit of nostalgia for the players but also at the same time fun. We tend to change it every month or two, so it's something different. Every time you come to the casino, you see something new.
What do you think about the competition here in Tbilisi? How would you evaluate the competitors and the competition in general?
I think it's a very competitive market. All the casinos here are fighting for the same market: Middle Eastern players, Iranian, Azerbaijanian. I have to say that it's a fair fight, as everyone likes a bit of competition. I have met the other GMs and all of them have been open to honest competition because we all understand that, by putting Georgia on the map, it helps each other. In the end we all get more players and it's a safe environment for players to come.
What do you think about the current legal base and taxation in Georgia?
The Georgian government is doing a good job. They're protecting the local general population, which I think is a good thing. I also think we're on the cusp where the license is. Honestly, I think it's approaching where it is a little bit expensive because of the increased competition. So it’s starting to affect the marketing because you have to look after your expenses if you want to make money. But I can't fault the government
for wanting to protect the general population to promote gambling in a sustainable manner.
Is there a potential for growth of tourism in Georgia?
There's a huge potential for growth. You can get all four seasons in one day, so many wonderful sites, such clean nature. I would like to see the government help tourism here, like a visa-free regime for the Indians, for example. I know it's currently not
available but I see a huge Indian potential. I would promote Chinese tourism as well. One of the limits also is the number of direct flights from other countries. This is a good point you bring up, because I've spoken to several airlines from the Middle East and they are interested in increasing the number of flights per day, especially during the season. Currently we have a problem with the flights from Kuwait. So it's obviously growing. Batumi is growing very much and the flights are virtually booked out during summer. I think the local authorities have to push infrastructure to allow more flights.
You just mentioned Batumi. The number of casinos there is growing. It is 12 casinos now with another 10 or so to open within the next couple of years. Isn’t it too much?
In every market you see an evolution of casinos. I've seen it so many times. And you're going to see that casinos will get better and better through time. So say you have 20 casinos, and imagine four, maybe even six casinos wouldn't be able to compete and they will drop out. But you will see a replacement with a newer product, a bigger product, a better product as the evolution continues. Unfortunately, the infrastructure needs to be improved to keep up with this development. Three years, five years down the track, this is where the potential is in Batumi.
You personally have been working in many markets before and you have a long history of managing casinos around the world. What's your personal view of the local market? How do you personally feel here? Is it comfortable for you to work in Georgia?
I actually love Georgia. It was one of the bestkept secrets in the world when I came here. I love it. It's fantastic. Tbilisi is a small city compared to what I'm used to but it's growing and the casino business is thriving. It is a safe jurisdiction to work in. So you've got the best of all the worlds here in that you are able to create a sustainable and, at the same time, safe business. Everyone makes money. We're providing taxes and employment for Georgia itself. And of course, Georgian food is fantastic.
Talent Management The Inaugural German Dealer Championship
Thomas Schenk, vice-chairman Deutscher Spielbankenverband e. V. and Tobias Hellberg chat with Peter White ahead of the 2023 European Dealer Championship Finals
Dealers from Germany are joining those from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland next month. All will descend upon Brussels’ Viage Casino to match skills in the prestigious and hard-won European Dealer Championships.
A total of 22 croupiers from 11 state-licensed casino companies took part in the first German Dealer Championship at Casino Schenefeld from March 20th to 22nd, 2023. On two days of exciting competition, the dealers vied against each other in different, competitive disciplines of the classic casino games roulette and blackjack.
Could we commence this interview with an insight into your role at Baden-Württembergische Spielbanken GmbH & Co. KG?
Our company operates three casinos, Casino BadenBaden, Casino Konstanz and Spielbank Stuttgart in the state of Baden-Württemberg. I am head of HR and legal. With talent management as part of my tasks, I have been planning to introduce an event to celebrate the best talents in the industry. This is very important for the future of casinos in Europe and also for the public to understand what kind of skills are needed to become a casino dealer, which also raises the profile of dealing, making it more interesting for future employees.
Could you provide readers a brief history of the state-owned casino group and an insight into the potential growth opportunities for the brick-andmortar casinos in Germany?
Our company is owned by the state of BadenWürttemberg, which was founded in 1995 and opened its first casino, Spielbank Stuttgart, in 1996. In 2003, the company also acquired the licences to operate Casino Baden-Baden and Casino Konstanz, and grew to become one of the leading companies on the German casino market. Following the pandemic, landbased casinos in Germany have rebounded strongly and are very well positioned for the future. The main focus for growth opportunities at the moment is slot machines.
In addition to your role with Casino Baden you are also an ECA board member and where you are the Association’s Treasurer. Can you provide readers details on your role along with any new initiatives being planned?
As member of the board and treasurer, there is no lack of important tasks to develop the European casino industry and keep all projects financially in check. We focus on events such as the European Dealer Championship 2023 in Brussels and the ECA Industry Forum 2023 in Montreux as staples for the casino industry, but also strengthen discussions with regulators concerning anti-money-laundering and responsible-gaming strategies. One topic we are looking forward to this year is our initiative to send two casino professionals, who have worked intensively on diversity projects within the industry, to the renowned Executive Development Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
When did the German Dealer Championship 2023 take place, how many croupiers entered the finals and was their representation from all the casinos in the group?
The event started on March 20, 2023 and finished on March 22 of that year. As it was the first event in Germany, we were very happy to welcome 22 candidates from 11 casino operators in the country. It was a highly competitive event with many highlights and it was very well received by the participants. In the end, there were four finalists competing for the championship.
Champion: Tobias Hellberg, Casino Schenefeld, Spielbank SH GmbH
2nd: Jun Kimura, Casino Duisburg, Merkur Spielbanken NRW GmbH
3rd: Josef Hlubucek, Spielbank Leuna, Merkur Spielbanken Sachsen-Anhalt GmbH & Co. KG
4th: Irini Tatidou, Spielbank Stuttgart, BadenWürttembergische Spielbanken GmbH & Co. KG
Best Chipper & Best Card Handler – Sylvestra Kowalczyk (Merkur Spielbanken Sachsen-Anhalt GmbH & Co. KG)
Best Pushing Stacks – Mario Matta (Spielbank Berlin GmbH & Co. KG)
Best Cutting – Oleksander Perets (Spielbank Hamburg Jahr + Achterfeld GmbH & Co. KG)
Best Mathematician – Temin Joguncic (BadenWürttembergische Spielbanken GmbH & Co. KG)
Lucky Loser – Anita Jovanova (Spielbanken Niedersachsen GmbH)
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How much competition is there between casinos for the title of German Dealer Champion?
It was a very interesting and dynamic competition. There were many different skill sets demonstrated by the competitors. The industry is very professional and the competitors reflect this professionalism. However, it is also an event to meet, network, share experiences and best practices with colleagues from all over Germany. It is a unique event that combines these two very different goals.
What were your particular standout high points over the course of the three days?
In my role as vice president of DSbV – Deutscher Spielbankenverband e.V., one of the two German casino associations, and with DSbV sponsoring the prize money for the event – my professional highlight was the high service quality displayed by our colleagues at the event. We can confidently compete at the EDC 2023 in Brussels. A personal highlight for me, however, was the high attendance and the fun that my colleagues had participating, judging and spectating.
Did you manage to find yourself being caught up in the excitement of the occasion.
Definitely! Competition aside, our industry provides entertainment for our visitors all year round. At a
championship event, this entertainment factor is next level. With an audience consisting of mainly industry professionals, the entertainment must keep up with the demand, which the candidates handled perfectly.
This clearly has been a major success, what advice would you like to give to this year’s unlucky contestants as well as to those dealers that are considering entering next year’s German Dealer Championships?
I spoke to many contestants and representatives at the event and the success of the event has a lot to do with the organisation provided by the team of Spielbank SH GmbH, under the guidance of CEO Rainer Schepull. The experience was only possible with Casino Schenefeld stepping up and hosting this remarkable event in a very professional manner. For contestants that have not yet participated, I can only recommend that they try it out. There were also some casino operators that were not represented at the event and I encourage them to provide their employees with time to prepare and train for next year's event. It is a win-win, really.
What was it like for you and your team to organize this inaugural German Dealer Championships? Rainer Schepull: It was a great honour to host the first-ever German Dealer Championship in our
Casino Schenefeld. At Casino Schleswig-Holstein Group, hosting gaming events is part of our business. Especially our Casino Schenefeld has a proven track record in carrying out large-sized events. We were aware that the premiere of the German Dealer Championship will be setting standards for upcoming championships in Germany. Therefore, seeing the great success of our event makes me very proud of our team of Casino Schenefeld.
As a member of the ECA and having attended the Finals over recent years would you say that the standard of dealers has risen over the last decade at European Casinos and that the European Dealer Championships has been a contributing factor?
Every year, new attendance records are broken. This also means that every year more dealers are training and trying to fulfil the competition standards set by the ECA. The standard has definitely risen and the event’s most important factor is entertainment. Every candidate knows this and prepares accordingly. With more ECA members hosting national championships in the future, the quality will rise even higher, and will serve to improve the training of new staff in the casinos. The casino visitors are the ones that will benefit most from this development.
Do you think all the publicity in Germany from this year’s tournament and its popularity will assist with recruitment?
With Germany being in a difficult post-pandemic job market, showing potential employees the skill level and the excitement in the casino industry will help raise the profile of the industry as an employer of great talent. However, there’s still work to be done to raise the popularity of the event so that it gains such reach and prominence.
Do you anticipate that the German Dealer Championship will grow further in the years to come judging by the amount of publicity this year’s Contest has gained?
We are confident, that the event will grow in the following years. Right now, we are working on the 2024 event and will also make it an event to remember. After a few successful events, we are certain to attract more casino operators and sponsors to host forthcoming championships.
QUESTIONS FOR THE WINNER
How did you feel when your name was announced as German Dealer Champion 2023?
The initial feeling was completely surreal. To be honest, at the beginning of the competition I was not really thinking about the fact that I could possibly become the German Dealer Champion, because I was pretty happy and simply excited to be a part of it. Just before the final started, I realized that I am very close to winning this event.
It definitely took some days until I felt relieved, proud and happy. All in all I am deeply grateful for participating in this unique event.
What are your strategy and goals apart from winning the European Dealer Championship Finals 2023?
I love what I’m doing and I think the casino business is exactly the place where I want to be. In the future I see myself in a leading position from where I am able to leave my footprint in this exciting industry.
G2E Asia 2023 Singapore Preview
Yip Je Choong, managing director for Singapore & Indonesia and senior vice president Commercial APAC, RX (Reed Exhibitions) chats with Casino Life by Damien Connelly
G2E Asia is the international gaming trade show and conference for the Asian gaming industry. Organized by the American Gaming Association (AGA) and Reed Exhibitions (RX), G2E Asia made its debut in 2007, defining itself as the preeminent show for the Asian gaming-entertainment industry.
The AGA fosters a policy and business environment where legal, regulated gaming thrives. The AGA’s diverse membership includes commercial and tribal casino operators, as well as sports betting and iGaming companies, gaming suppliers, consultants and advisors, and more.
RX is in the business of building businesses for individuals, communities and organizations. The company elevates the power of face-to-face activities across more than 400 events in 22 countries and 43 industries. RX is passionate about making a positive impact on society.
With 25 years of experience in the commercial realm, Yip Je Choong has led numerous transformational projects across Asia Pacific, where he helped organizations achieve higher sustainable growth and profit margins. Je Choong has also driven change within teams, encouraging the adoption of ‘customer value led’ approaches through his coaching
and knowledge-sharing techniques.
Je Choong carried with him a vast experience spanning the express logistics, manufacturing, advertising and education industries before joining RX in 2014 as its APAC revenue management director.
Je Choong is currently the senior vice president commercial APAC where he’s responsible for mergers and acquisitions, and commercial-excellence programmes. He also oversees the RX business in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Je Choong’s passion is in data analytics, which he frequently uses to tell stories and solve business challenges.
G2E Asia has grown and expanded, and now has two shows – one in Singapore, and one in Macau. G2E Asia 2023 Special Edition: Singapore runs May 30 through June 1, 2023 in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
Thank you for your time, JC. In your own words, how will you and your team elevate the power of face-to-face activities during G2E Asia 2023 Special Edition: Singapore?
We welcomed nearly 6,000 visitors, reuniting the Asian gaming community in-person for the first time since 2019. It marks a milestone for G2E Asia, which serves to connect thousands of gaming’s leading suppliers and operators with visitors of the most important gaming and entertainment countries in Asia. The Singapore event in May falls nicely in the global gaming-event calendar and allows our customers to go back to their normal routine of attending at all the major global gaming events. We look forward to sharing details for next year’s G2E Asia as they become available.
Conferences, exhibitions and in-person events have recovered very strongly since the challenging ‘lockdown years.’ Why do you think that is?
G2E Asia has always reflected the industry that we serve by identifying the trends, leaders and products that are driving the Asian gaming community forward. This year is no different whether in Singapore or Macau. Specific to the special edition in Singapore, our content lineup will deliver the insights attendees need to inform today’s business.
Why should gaming industry professionals attend G2E Asia 2023 Special Edition: Singapore at Marina Bay Sands, May 30 through June 1?
We will feature content on the latest innovative products, market trends, regulatory requirements and networking with technology specialists, regulators, and top leaders in the field. It will feature a show floor across 20,000 square meters to accommodate the projected 6,000 visitors from Asia and abroad, showcasing more than 100 exhibiting companies and their most cutting-edge products, solutions and technologies.
G2E Asia 2023 Special Edition: Singapore has all the activities – networking luncheons and events, a multi-day conference with world renowned speakers, an exhibition hall with the industry’s best suppliers, etc. Is there a typical profile for an attendee or for an exhibiting supplier?
The G2E Asia Conference Program in Singapore returns for three content-rich days of sessions and forums led by high-level industry leaders, influencers, and experts.
• An in-depth look at the financial outlook for Asian gaming markets
• Two panels dedicated to mmerging markets as well as spotlights on Thailand and Japan
• An insightful panel discussion on optimizing customer experiences
• Learn from some of the sharpest minds in the Esports industry to get valuable insights from the sessions of “Leveraging the Global Esports Industry”
• IAGA Best Practices Institute will examine compliance and regulation challenges, and issues in Asia, key considerations for new and expanding markets, and the latest advancements in combating financial crime.
G2E Asia 2023 Special Edition: Singapore will provide a treasure trove of diverse and targeted onsite activities for conducting business and making new connections. Visitors can choose from a welcome reception and a variety of segmented industry cocktail events, including the Table Games Networking Cocktail, Slots Networking Cocktail, and Esports Networking Cocktail.
There are significant growth jurisdictions in the Asian market, including Japan and Thailand. Will G2E Asia 2023 Special Edition: Singapore address these opportunities?
Day 1 Conference | May 30 14:45 – 15:35
Topic: Emerging Markets Roundtable (Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, India)
Asia continues to be an attractive location for increased IRs, sports betting and online gaming. While Macau and Singapore are now sophisticated and mature markets there are a number of emerging jurisdictions. This session will address a variety of gaming development and operational issues in emerging markets including Thailand, the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam. Each country is facing somewhat similar but also country-specific issues as they seek to legalize gaming or enhance existing gaming. Strategic planning, understanding the market segments in the current environment, VIP play, travel from China to Southeast Asia and regulatory issues will be addressed in this session. Our panelists are veteran Asian hands in multiple jurisdictions who offer decades of experience in Asian gaming.
What are you most looking forward to during G2E Asia 2023 Special Edition: Singapore?
We look forward to welcoming a projected 6,000 visitors and more than 100 exhibiting companies across 20,000 square meters of exhibition space. Whether content, networking or exhibition, G2E Asia continues to meet the moment as our industry resurges from the pandemic.
Update Report on Gaming Legislation in Malaysia, Cameroon and Senegal
The attitude towards gambling and games of chance in general is quite diverse in Malaysia, bearing in mind the ethical and religious diversity of the country with Muslims as the dominant religious group. Gambling is quite popular in the territory, even though only certain forms of games of chance such as lotteries, horse racing and casino games are legal while any kind of sports betting and online gambling are prohibited.
Games of chance in the territory are governed by four main laws, the Betting Act from 1953, the Common Gaming Houses Act from 1953, the Racing Act from 1961 and Shariah law (applicable only to the Muslim population). Currently in the country there are six (private) lottery operators, three horse-racing tracks and only one land-based casino/resort, all of which are off-limits for the Muslim population and persons under the age of 21.
Operators may organize the games of chance in the territory only if a license or permit has been granted by the authorities – the Unit Kawalan Perjudian (Betting Control Unit) of the Ministry of Finance.
Notwitshstanding the fact that the legislation is outdated, and that online gambling is illegal in the territory, this market is quite developed since the population is mostly young and highly skilled in new technologies. All major online gambling sites operate and accept wagers from the players in Malaysia. At the same time, the government is using all available tools to block access to these websites by IP and
payment blockage or even arrests, which occurred in the beginning of 2023.
Regarding future developments, the government announced in 2021 that it will begin working on a new legislative framework which would address the status and development of the industry. However, it remains to be seen what the future approach towards games of chance in general and even more specifically online gambling will be, bearing in mind the political changes which occurred after the elections in late 2022, at which the conservative political options won the majority vote, as well as the country’s dual-system of law – the Sharia-governed Syariah Courts for the nation’s Muslims (over half of the total population) and the secular courts.
Gambling has been legal in Cameroon since independence from France in 1960. As in most countries, for a long period of time only lottery games were regulated and most of the legislative development in Camerron occurred in the 2000s. As a curiosity, currently there is no lottery operator in the country.
The most recent legislation, the gambling decree dates back in 2019. This last piece of legislation also regulated the online gambling regime.
The competent authority for the gambling industry, responsible for issuing licenses, is the Prime Minister’s Office. The maximum time of validity of a license is capped at 10 years, with operators having the opportunity to renew the agreement with the government. It is also worth noting that even foreign licensed operators may apply for the online gambling license in Cameroon. Based on publicly available information, not one operator applied for the online license in the country.
Despite the population being mostly Muslim, Senegal has legalized games of chance in the territory and even has brick and mortar casinos operating (the first casino opened in Dakar in 1993).
The main piece of the gambling legislation currently is the decree from 2004, which also addressed online gambling. Under the act, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Economy & Finance oversee issuing licenses to gambling establishments.
Games of chance that are legal in Senegal are: (i) lottery (a monopoly of LONASE); (ii) sports betting (also a monopoly of LONASE); (iii) casino gambling; and (iv) poker (only within licensed casino venues).
The biggest gambling company in Senegal is by far LONASE, the state lottery company which basically holds a monopoly on online games of chance as well. Based on publicly available information, online gambling is not expressly mentioned in the legislation (even though use of technology in placing wagers is accepted), and licenses are currently not being issued. The only way around this situation is to partner with LONASE to be able to enter the market and offer services to Senegalese players.
However, bearing in mind the size of the country and the current legal framework which recently also addressed money laundering, terrorism financing, corruption and non-compliance, the market for games of chance in the territory is not so developed due to numerous reasons. Nonetheless, it can be expected that in the future even more residents will try their luck in the industry of games of chance.
In addition to the above, according to Senegalese law, placing bets on unlicensed foreign online gambling platforms is illegal. However, this is not enforced, players are not penalized for this and unlicensed gambling websites are also not being blocked. One of the reasons for the current situation on the online gambling market is the low Internet penetration rate which is dramatically rising (with the widespread mobile use as well) and will most definitely lead to additional rules governing this part of the gambling market.
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.
Metropolitan Gaming Wins at ICA Compliance Awards Europe 2023
Metropolitan Gaming is delighted to have been selected as the winner of the Compliance Team of the Year (Non-Financial Services) at the ICA Compliance Awards Europe 2023, recognizing its highly effective approach to player protection, combating financial crime and meeting high compliance standards.
The success of Metropolitan Gaming’s compliance output follows a highly advanced ‘three lines of defense’ strategy. In addition, the Group worked to mitigate AML strategies and social-responsibility risk, and to develop a frictionless customer journey. Metropolitan Gaming heavily invested in manpower at venue level and centrally to develop managementinformation tools. The focused delivery-andmonitoring regime was reviewed regularly, and a period of continuous improvement has since followed across the company-wide compliance program.
ICA President Bill Howarth, commented:
“We congratulate Metropolitan Gaming for their outstanding achievements, and for driving excellence in financial-crime prevention and compliance. We have been really impressed by the volume and quality of entries, and congratulate all winners. We highly commend entrants for being recognized for their collaboration, innovation and dedication. Thank you to everyone who attended the ceremony last evening and we look forward to welcoming you again for another successful edition in 2024.”
In recent months, the Gambling Commission presented Metropolitan Gaming as a positive case example of how far the company has progressed by making “significant improvements in culture, policies, procedures and delivery” in the HM Treasury Supervision Report 2020-22.
Jimmy Howard, group compliance director at Metropolitan Gaming says, “Metropolitan Gaming strives to benchmark standards in compliance across the industry, and we’re delighted to be recognized for our work and commitment that has helped us to achieve this award. This award distinguishes excellence within our venue teams, who deliver compliance, and the support teams who provide the tools to facilitate compliance.”
The ICA ceremony was attended by over 360 guests, bringing together regulatory and financial crime-prevention professionals, celebrating the contributions of individuals and companies combating financial crime, and meeting high compliance standards. The evening celebrated the achievements of a total of 119 shortlisted finalists. Selecting the winners for 2023 was an esteemed judging panel comprised of 66 senior compliance and financialcrime-prevention leaders from across the ICA membership, ICA subject-matter experts and the wider compliance community.
Think Outside Your Mind: How Open-Innovation Networks Unleash CreativityBy Raymond Chan
In today's fast-paced and ever-evolving business landscape, creativity and innovation are crucial for success. Companies must continually adapt and seek new ideas, both internally and externally. Open-innovation networks can be a powerful tool to tap into the collective creativity of individuals and organizations beyond a company's walls.
The Open-Innovation Paradigm
Open innovation is a business strategy that encourages organizations to collaborate with external partners, such as researchers, start-ups, customers and competitors, to accelerate innovation. It involves sharing ideas, resources and knowledge across organizational boundaries to create new products, services or processes.
Henry Chesbrough, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, first coined the term “open innovation” to describe this shift from traditional closed-innovation models, where companies rely solely on their internal research and development (R&D) efforts. Open-innovation networks are an extension of this concept, focusing specifically on the connections and relationships formed between organizations and startups or individuals to foster creativity and innovation.
The Power of Open Innovation Networks
Open-innovation networks bring together people and organizations from various industries, backgrounds and disciplines. This diversity of perspectives and expertise can lead to novel ideas, solutions and approaches that might not have been discovered within a single organization's R&D department. By leveraging the collective knowledge and resources of the network, companies can reduce the time it takes to bring new ideas to market.
Furthermore, open-innovation networks can help businesses reduce their R&D costs by tapping into external resources and expertise. This can include collaborating with partners on shared projects, licensing technology from external sources or even acquiring entire start-ups with innovative solutions. Sharing the innovation process across a network of partners can help companies test and refine new ideas and technologies before fully committing to a particular path, reducing the chance of costly failures.
Examples of Open-Innovation Networks in Practice
Many companies have successfully embraced openinnovation networks to drive creativity and innovation. Some notable examples include:
• Procter & Gamble's Connect + Develop program, which encourages external innovators to submit ideas and collaborate with P&G on new product development.
• Singapore Airline KrisLab, an international brainstorming platform that connects thousands of participants from around the world to develop new ideas and solutions for the company's products and services.
• General Electric's Ecomagination Challenge, a crowdsourcing initiative that invites individuals and organizations to submit ideas for renewable energy technologies and sustainable solutions.
Outcomes of Innovation
Embracing open-innovation networks can yield a multitude of positive outcomes for organizations. These outcomes are not only limited to the development of new products and services but also extend to the creation of innovative business models, process optimization and improved collaboration.
1. Business model innovation: Open-innovation networks can lead to the creation of new business models that disrupt traditional industry norms, and create “new value” for customers and stakeholders. A classic example is the early stage of digital photography technology, which brought the new value of convenience over quality to consumers.
2. Process optimization: Collaborating with external partners can help companies identify new ways to optimize their business processes, resulting in lower costs, improved efficiency and better customer service.
3. New product development: Open-innovation networks can facilitate the development of new products and services by tapping into the collective creativity and expertise of a diverse range of partners.
Approaches to Open Innovation Execution
One of the key challenges companies face is determining how to best execute an open-innovation strategy. There are several pathways to gaining access to external innovations, each with different benefits and drawbacks.
1. Buy the Solution
The most direct approach is to buy the desired solution or technology from an external partner. This can involve acquiring a company outright or licensing their intellectual property and products. While acquisition gives you full control over the solution, it also requires significant upfront investment and risk. Licensing mitigates risk but you have less control over the solution and often pay ongoing licensing fees. For many companies, buying an existing solution is an easy way to gain new innovations that can be quickly integrated into their operations.
2. Build the Solution
Another approach is to build the solution in collaboration with external partners, co-developing technologies or products that meet your needs. This leverages the expertise and resources of partners while sharing costs and risks. However, it requires finding partners with complementary capabilities and aligning objectives which can be challenging. When done well, co-development can result in solutions that neither party could achieve alone.
3. Partner with the Company or Startup
Forming strategic partnerships with companies or startups in possession of the target innovation is another option. Partnerships allow both parties to bring a solution to market together, benefiting from each other’s strengths. While partnerships require compromise, they enable resource sharing and risk mitigation. They also provide the opportunity to gain new insights into markets or technologies from an outside perspective.
4. Participate in the Solution Through Investment
Investing in external startups developing relevant solutions is an approach that provides financial and strategic support to new companies in exchange for access to their innovations. Corporate venture capital arms are often tasked with investing in startups
aligned with their business priorities. While investing secures a window into new solutions and emerging industries, there is always a possibility of loss if the startup fails. However, the rewards can be significant if the startup succeeds, as the value of the solution and the startup itself can increase substantially.
Measuring the Success of Open Innovation
Open-innovation initiatives are complex, often-long-term projects that require dedicated resources and funding. To justify continued investment, companies need to measure the success of their open-innovation efforts and clearly demonstrate the value generated.
1. Innovation metrics: Instead of solely focusing on the number of new innovations produced through open innovation projects, a more comprehensive approach is to measure the impact these innovations have on attracting potential new customers. This encompasses evaluating the reach of new products, services, business models or process optimizations that have emerged, as well as their speed of progression from idea to implementation. Greater reach and faster innovation cycles are strong indicators of success.
2. Financial metrics: Analyze the monetary value derived from open innovation. This could be revenue generated from new products or services, cost savings from decreased R&D expenses, increased market share or other factors. Positive financial returns are a clear sign your initiatives are creating value.
3. Partner satisfaction surveys: Provide feedback on how content external collaborators are with your company and the outcomes of open innovation projects. High satisfaction scores indicate you have built the cooperative relationships needed for success.
4. Employee engagement metrics: Measure how actively and eagerly your staff are participating in and contributing to open innovation initiatives. Strong employee buy-in and involvement are required to shift culture, and mindsets towards open innovation.
5. Competitive advantage assessment: Examine how open innovation has improved your company’s position relative to competitors. This could mean benefits like enhanced brand reputation, differentiated products,
ABOUT RAYMOND CHAN
Raymond is a seasoned software engineer, product designer, and digital technology expert with a wealth of experience in corporate innovation. He co-founded two prosperous startups, TGG Interactive and Global Gaming Group in Asia, where he served as director and CEO, leading customer intelligence and electronic gaming businesses from 2007 to 2018. Earlier in his career, Raymond was a founding member of the data engineering team at E*TRADE, a part of Morgan Stanley, and played a pivotal role in designing the TiVo customer intelligence system for an internet unicorn in Silicon Valley. At present, Raymond utilizes his proficiency as an innovation strategist, guiding organizations from Japan and China along the journey of innovation to achieve growth and prosperity.
access to new partners or talent, or faster innovation cycles.
While open innovation can be an amorphous concept, focusing measurement around key areas like innovation-impact outputs, financials, partner and employee relationships, and competitive position provides a balanced scorecard of your progress and success. The metrics you choose should align with your specific open-innovation objectives and priorities.
Open-innovation networks have the power to unleash creativity by connecting businesses with diverse perspectives, expertise and resources. By embracing this collaborative approach, companies can accelerate innovation, reduce costs, mitigate risks and ultimately, drive business success in a competitive global market. As organizations continue to navigate the challenges of the 21st century, open-innovation networks will play an increasingly crucial role in shaping the future of business and fostering a culture of creativity and growth.