Casino Life Issue 164 Volume 20

Page 16


Volume 20: Issue 164



magazine for the owners and management of international casinos


Publisher: Peter White

Tel: +44 (0) 1892 740869 Mob: +44 (0) 7973 273714


Editor in Chief : David McKee

Editor EMEA: Damien Connelly

Associate Editor Asia: Bill Healey

Victor H. Royer

International Features Editor

Associate Editor EMEA: Andrew Behan

Las Vegas Correspondent: Ryan Slattery

International Correspondent: Lyudmyla Kyrychenko lyudmyla.kyrychenko@outsource


Designer: Stewart Hyde

Accounts: Helen Holmes

IT Director: Pasha Kuzminskiy

Poor Atlantic City. She doesn’t get nearly the love she deserves from the gaming press, ourselves included. Long after being written off (including by me, mea culpa), she’s still in there swinging, the second-strongest casino market in the U.S. Since Atlantic City is primarily a day-trip market with hotels, you might even call it “the Macao of America.”

Whatever the case, the Boardwalk’s nine casinos have been punching solidly above their weight lately, winter’s harsh blast not slowing them down until January. Even then, despite a three percent dip, Atlantic City is doing far better (16 percent better in January) than in 2019, which seemed like a zenith at the time. Indeed, those politicians who claim the American economy is in the tank would be hard-pressed to explain the prosperity of today’s U.S. casinos.

Where are the snows of yesteryear, complain some casino execs who say they’re not seeing as much in-person play? But whatever the casinos might not be experiencing in the flesh they’re more than making up online. Internet casinos soared to $183 million in the first month of the year, and sports betting win skyrocketed 136 percent to $171 million.

When journalists ask Boardwalk-casino lobbyists about those numbers, suddenly it’s as if they’re not real money. Casinos wanted the online option but now they complain that they have to share it with service providers like Entain and FanDuel/Flutter. Even so, it’s a great deal of money that they weren’t making just a few years ago. Nobody’s seen them turn it away.

At the moment that’s as not a big of a hue and cry as the issue of smoking is. Long-suffering casino workers, along with health advocates, are trying to get a ban on casino smoking through the New Jersey Legislature.

It’s an uphill battle, especially with at least two ‘compromises’ being floated, each of which would essentially preserve the status quo. Both would mandate smoking lounges staffed by supposedly voluntary workers. But anyone who’s been around the military knows that when the sergeant wants a “volunteer,” he means you.

The last-ditch argument against smoke-free air is always that it will close one or more casinos. But, given the estate of some of the older gambling halls, causes for obsolesce seem already at hand. One, which shall remain nameless, doesn’t deign to provide handicapped-accessible parking or sufficient handrails for people with disabilities. Why should they patronize it? When did the customer become the enemy?

This is a town that should be rolling out the red carpet for virtually any gambler it can attract. Instead, some small-minded people in Atlantic City insist upon throwing up roadblocks to greater visitation. Let’s hope common sense wins out … and soon.

Welcome... David McKee Editor DMcKee CASINO The magazine for the owners and management of international casinos Published by Outsource Digital Media Ltd 4 Editor’s Note
16 6 44 36 34 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. Contents 4 Editor’s Note 6 Not Going Anywhere Agua Caliente Casinos, like their founders, built for the long term. By Peter White 16 Comfort and Joy Harrah’s Hoosier Park in Indiana completes a $40 million expansion. By Ryan Slattery 21 Durango Resort Debuts Station Casinos’ newest property is a neighborhood hit. By Ryan Slattery 23 Don’t Be a Stiff Top mistakes people make at the blackjack table, Part Two. By Al O’Grady 27 Looking the Other Way A money-laundering scandal besmirches MGM Resorts International. By David McKee 30 Scaling Peaks Zitro looks back on ICE 20205 and ahead to 2025. By Peter White 34 Partnership is Key Understanding the role of compliance in iGaming. By Ohad Straschnov 36 Drive and Commitment Amy Colbourn, managing director of business strategy for MONOGAM, chats with Peter White 44 Farewell, London DR Gaming Technology reflects upon ICE 2024 and gazes forward to next year in Barcelona. By Peter White 48 The Sun Also Rises SuzoHapp shone at ICE London with successful launches and partnerships 49 Building a Resilient Business Model Are you on a clear path to profitability? By Raymond Chan 30 27 Volume 20: Issue 164 5
Feature: Agua Caliente 6
7 Volume 20: Issue 164 Feature: Agua Caliente Agua Caliente Resort Casinos, build for the long term. By Peter White
Not Going Anywhere

Success begets success at the Agua Caliente casino chain, which continues to grow in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. It’s an unforgiving land for the unprepared, but the Agua Caliente casinos were ready for their moment in the sun, a moment which is stretching into generations. One casino has grown into three, and a fuel station and standalone spa have been spun off for good measure. For a look at

how this gaming phenomenon continues and burgeons, Publisher Peter White spoke with the casinos' Chief Operating Officer Sal Scheri. Their conversation follows …

What have been the aspects of the operation that you have concentrated on developing most over recent years at the organization?

I believe it’s two things: it’s operational excellence, creating and delivering the ultimate guest experience, as well as expanding our operations. In the last few years,

Feature: 8
Agua Caliente

we’ve opened our third casino property, Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City, we’ve opened Agua Caliente Fuel — which also has gaming — and we’ve opened The Spa at Séc-he, a world-class spa in downtown, Palm Springs. Séc-he was just voted the numberone spa in the country by Spas of America. That is a testament to our commitment to creating memorable guest experiences. When I joined Agua Caliente, we had just two casino properties. Our expansion and diversification are possible because of our successes

with our operations team.

With all that comprises a modern-day casino resort, technology is calling the shots. How has your resort operation managed with recruitment of tech skills, and with keeping up with all the new technology developments

For quite some time now, technology has been a mainstay of every casino and resort, and has basically infiltrated every single aspect of operations. It’s a key component of every department and that has only increased as the technology itself advances. It permeates the entire casino. And yes, not only do we need resources with technology skills but we need all of our team members, not just our IT group, but all of our team members to understand that technology is always changing — and we need to be flexible to adapt to the changes to operate a successful business.

9 Volume 20: Issue 164
Feature: Agua Caliente
Saverio Scheri, COO at Agua Caliente Casinos

The rapid advancement of technology is changing the way we do business. In the past, the business drove the technology that was developed. That has now inverted: Now technology allows the business to do things never imagined before. Guests can check into the hotel from their mobile devices and open their rooms with their phones. Restaurant and spa reservations, sign-ups for promotions, and of course play-for-free and real-money gaming can all be done on their mobile device. Funding your slot machine play

and redeeming tickets can all be done on your phone. It changes the way we engage with our guests.

What are the main areas that technology impacts on how you conduct business?

Again, technology permeates the entire operation. You know, on both the guests’ side and also on the team member’ side. It’s part of everything we do and, every single day, we’re seeing more and more. Now with the advent of AI we’re starting to see that touch 10

a lot of different areas as well. Everything from the obvious ones like guest check-in, and of course slot machines on the floor to even places like facilities and housekeeping is now tech-centric.

What is unique about Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage?

Our team members. I’ve had the opportunity to work in many different casinos and this is truly a family. We help each other out like family does. We have a good

time like family does and that shows in the way we treat our guests, and it’s why our guests keep coming back. Our guests, in turn, become part of that family. And that is truly unique.

The resort is host to this year’s Gamecon. Can you tell us about how you got involved with this event and could we expect in the future an eSports gaming center at the resort?

eSports is an interesting vertical in the casino world. A lot of people, including us, are still exploring the potential of eSports and what it could mean to us. Right now, we see the biggest benefit is exposure to a new demographic that we hope will evolve into a gambling demographic. Like a lot of things, we like to explore and evaluate the potential, and we’ll continue to do that.

You run a winner of Forbes five-star and four-star ratings, and readers of Palm Springs Life Magazine voted The Spa at Séc-he as one of the best spa experiences in greater Palm Springs. What is your secret?

Our success is due directly to the commitment of our team members. They are well trained but, even

11 Volume 20: Issue 163
Feature: Agua Caliente

more importantly, they understand how important the guest experience is to our operation. They internalize our training and are very passionate about exceeding our guests’ expectations. Many resorts say this, but it is real here. The proof is in our success and our accolades.

How has the entertainment-events aspect of the leisure complex developed over the last five years and do you see further growth in this?

Entertainment has been a staple for casinos since the beginning of gaming. It continues to be and, with the ever-changing entertainment options and the way people access entertainment, it’s woven

into the tapestry of our resorts. Now you can stream movies, concerts and shows on your SmartTV or mobile phone. So that’s given access to many more entertainers than ever before. With so much more entertainment available, it’s really changed the way we deliver entertainment to our guests. It’s not just a headliner in the main showroom, we have a variety of entertainers in a variety of places.

You have fostered over the years a strong commitment to the local community. Has that been an important asset of the whole enterprise that is Agua Caliente?

It’s important for Agua Caliente to be a good neighbor in the community because we’re not just here for the short term. We’re here for the long term. Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs has been open for over 30 years. And the only way to do that successfully is to build a relationship with the community leaders and the population of the community.

Tell us about the recent news of Agua Caliente Casinos’ Concourse at the Palm Springs International Airport.

This groundbreaking partnership with the Palm Springs International Airport marks an historic first in the records of collaboration. Through this remarkable 12

alliance, we will enhance the airport experience and introduce travelers to the essence of Agua Caliente from the very moment they step foot into the terminal. The renaming of the concourse in early 2024 signifies the commencement of this trailblazing, concoursenaming-rights partnership. Over the course of three years, the partnership will encompass naming rights to the RJ Concourse, activation space and a range of advertising opportunities throughout the newly named Agua Caliente Concourse, along with additional promotional prospects at PSP.

Tell us more about the Pívat Cigar Lounge, which is apparently the only one of its kind in California.

Pívat Cigar Lounge, established in 2018 within Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa, aims to provide a oneof-a-kind experience by combining a world-class cigar lounge with live gaming. The lounge offers an extensive selection of over 52 cigar brands and 200 profiles, showcased in a walk-in humidor. Additionally, the recent expansion includes an outdoor area and the introduction of the exclusive Pívat Membership Club. With a team of knowledgeable cigar sommeliers, an award-winning, craft-cocktail program, delicious menu offerings from The Steakhouse, and gaming facilities now available, Pívat Cigar Lounge sets itself apart as the premier destination for luxury and entertainment.

13 Volume 20: Issue 164 Feature: Agua Caliente

Comfort and Joy

Harrah’s Hoosier Park in Indiana completes a $40 million expansion. By

Caesars Entertainment has poured $40 million into a full-scale renovation of Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.

The Anderson, Indiana property, which the company acquired in 2018, underwent a massive remodel that added gaming space to a casino that holds 1,450 slot machines and 40 table games, as well as new dining experiences. The exterior includes a redesigned porte-cochere, a prominently lit Harrah’s

Hoosier Park sign and a new façade.

Since acquiring Harrah’s Hoosier Park from Centaur Gaming, Caesars Entertainment has elevated the horse racing property. It added a sports book in 2019, introduced table games in 2020, and unveiled the Hoosier Outdoor Pavilion in 2023. Casino Life caught up with Senior Vice President and General Manager Colin Skidmore to talk about the renovations. 16 Feature: Hoosier Park

A $40 million project is a big commitment. What led to the investment?

Well, in 2020, our property launched table games. Prior to that, our casino had been slots- and video poker-only since opening in 2008. With table games opening up, it became apparent that there were a number of things that needed changing to make this a better experience for both our guests and team members. This property hadn’t been designed for tables, so there were issues of space and the layout needed to be addressed. You know, as we’re looking at these things, we begin to see other opportunities. Maybe some more open space near our cashier’s window, maybe high limits could use a bar, maybe a refreshed dining experience. Eventually, it was decided that a full property expansion was really what was warranted.

Why was now the right time for the expansion of Hoosier Park?

There’s never exactly a convenient time to renovate an entire property, so the thought was to get it done as soon as possible, once we understood what was needed. We pride ourselves on our commitment to our guests, and since the impact of adding table games was so immediate, we felt the implementation of improvements needed to be just as immediate. That said, we were thoughtful about the project and utilized a number of phases as to be careful to structure the expansion work in such a way that guest impact was minimal for as long as possible.

How would you describe Hoosier Park?

It’s a very unique property in that it feels welcoming and accessible to all types of people, while still having the feel of a Las Vegas casino. We’re very fortunate to be able to offer virtually every type of gaming experience a guest may be interested in: slots, table games, a sports book, and we have a standardbred racetrack that runs eight months a year. Then you throw in our dining and beverage options, where we have five restaurants — including a fine dining steakhouse — and six bars, including one meant for our non-smoking guests. So it’s got something for everybody.

You’ve said the property is unrecognizable now. How dramatic were the changes?

Where to begin? Well, we’ve doubled the size

of the casino floor. We now have a much larger, much brighter, high-limit area. We have opened a promotions-and-events center, so all of our events now have a fixed, centralized location. The casino exterior itself has received a facelift, complete with a new porte-cochère. We’ve got brand new carpet throughout the casino. Not to mention much more thought and care was put into the spacing and variety of both slots, and table games.

What are some of the most exciting new amenities brought to the property?

High limits has its own bar and private bathroom now. We’ve expanded our parking, especially for our disabled guests and veterans. We’ve got a new, outdoor patio area for families in our local community to come out and enjoy racing and live music. We also have a beautiful dining area on the casino floor which overlooks our exciting, standardbred horse racing track.

17 Volume 20: Issue 164 Feature: Hoosier Park
Harrah’s Hoosier Park General Manager Colin Skidmore 18
Feature: Hoosier Park

Describe the design aesthetic. What were the ideas and motivation for the new look?

Bright, colorful and fun. That’s a big part of our mission statement here at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. We want this to feel like a fun, comfortable place to come out and play. We’ve also added some touches that are a little more modern, something to kind of elevate the aesthetic we had before.

Tell us about the big changes to the casino floor?

We’ve added a large number of slots and table games. We’re currently at more than 1,400 slot machines and over 40 table games. We’ve got a new dining area located right off of the casino floor with an expansive seating area. Whether you’re talking space, aesthetics, or just variety, it’s a night-and-day comparision.

Could we talk a bit about the high-limit room?

We’ve consolidated our high-limit table games and slots into one area, while actually expanding on space for both. We’ve also added a bar and restroom to the high-limit area, which is a first for our property. Table games minimums range from $50 and up with maximums over $10K. Other accommodations can be discussed for those VIP guests with an appetite for more exciting limits.

The expansion introduces the Center Bar's new design. What is that like?

It’s a much more elevated, roomy space now with over 16 TVs. Brand-new furniture, brand-new counter space, video poker right at the counter. Again, it’s a result of our keeping things focused on creating a fun and exciting atmosphere and making sure that it’s right at the center of the action.

What new restaurants were added?

We’ve got the Dash Café and the Slice Pizzeria at our new dining area, located right off of the casino floor. Dash offers a ton of great, fast, casual dining options, including a quick-service Grab & Go. Slice Pizzeria offers up New York-style pizza, which guests can enjoy as a slice or a whole pie. And we’ve got an absolutely beautiful dining area to enjoy this in, with a direct view of our racetrack.

For more information, visit www.

19 Volume 20: Issue 164 Feature: Hoosier Park

Durango Resort Debuts

Station Casinos' newest property is a neighborhood hit. By Ryan Slattery

mphasizing food, sports and gaming, Station Casinos has opened a new neighborhood resort in the southwest valley of Las Vegas. The 209-room, 15-story Durango Casino & Resort, which opened December 5, is the company’s first major casino-resort opening since Red Rock Resort debuted in 2006. With fewer rooms and a smaller footprint than the company’s other properties, Durango is focused more on dining and nightlife, with the goal of giving locals in the area an alternative to making a trip to the Strip. With the exception of its food hall, Durango is not very kid-friendly. There is no bowling alley or movie theater. However, Station executives have already floated plans of a possible expansion that could include both, along with a new hotel tower, a spa, a music venue and more gambling space.

EWhat is unusual at Durango is the presence of natural light throughout the casino. Station CEO Frank Fertitta III and his brother, Lorenzo Fertitta, elected to construct the building with glass windows to allow the sun to shine through. It’s a nice addition and brightens up the entire property—something of which visitors have taken note.

When talking about this, General Manager Dave Horn predicts we’ll see more natural light and maybe even a clock or two in future designs. “People keep harping on that because it is an old-school-casino thing to not let anybody know what time it is,” Horn says. “Everyone has a phone on them. It’s pointless. Frank and Lorenzo are very astute on lighting textures, tones and colors, and felt natural light could be a fun take on the overall design. It does look beautiful. We’ll probably see more skylight activity in future casino designs.”

Prime beef and prime-time sports

As for sports wagering and game-day viewing, Durango is establishing itself as a prime place to watch sports. Following the launch of the company’s new STN Sports app, which debuted recently with a new look, new features, better sports-betting options and higher parlay payouts, Durango introduced a state-of-the-art sports book with a high-end, fullservice restaurant, VIP seating and an outdoor patio.

The George, as it’s called, is open 24 hours so that fans can catch international sporting events live. While the patio provides an alternative to typical sports

21 Volume 20: Issue 164 Feature: Durango Resort

book seating, inside there are individual seats, booths and tables to dine at that surround the wraparound LED screens. And dining here, much like the entire property, is top notch. The menu is more than the usual sandwiches, burgers and pizzas. The George serves items like honey sriracha grilled shrimp and gorgonzola crusted lamb, tomahawk steak and umami-dusted halibut. Horn admits it’s one of his

favorite spots. “The George is pretty awesome. It’s an intimate setting and there’s no bad seat in the house.”

But the bread and butter of Durango Resort are its 18 bars and lounges and, Horn is equally fond of the Eat Your Heart Out food hall. It’s a curated collection of unique restaurants carefully selected not only for food quality but for the stories of the operators themselves. Station wanted eateries with owners who are not only passionate about their food but the community it serves.

Many new-to-market concepts that in the first weeks of opening had long lines. This included L.A.’s Irv’s Burgers, Sicilian-style pies from Prince Street Pizza, Chef Gene Villiatora’s Hawaii street-food offerings, pasta from James Beard-award-winning chef Marc Vetri at Fiorella and Uncle Paulie’s, a sandwich spot. Vesta Coffee, Nielsen’s Frozen Custard, Shang Artisan Noodle, Yu-Or-Mi Sushi and a Station favorite, The Oyster Bar, are also located among the food stalls.

Durango is more than just quick-service finds. Beyond the grab-and-go spots, the resort has a number of stellar sit-down options. The resort’s signature restaurant is Nicco’s Prime Cuts & Fresh Fish. Think T-Bones Chophouse (Red Rock Resort) or Hank’s Fine Steaks (Green Valley Ranch) but with an elevated twist focused on wagyu beef and fresh fish, including branzino, dry-aged for anywhere from 14 to 17 days.

On the steak side, Nicco’s serves only USDA prime beef—wet or dry aged—along with an impressive list of wagyu beef sourced from the United States and Australia, as well as true Kobe beef from Japan including Hokkaido Snow Beef, nicknamed that because its marbling patterns resemble snow crystals. Nicco’s even uses the beef shank braising to serve with tortellini and green peas. “It’s a throwback to the Las Vegas steakhouses of the Sixties and Seventies when everybody had some solid pasta dishes,” Horn explains.

Station Casinos also partnered with Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants to bring California-inspired dishes and pastries at Summer House, and with Clique Hospitality, which operates Mexican restaurant Mijo Modern Mexican, speakeasy Wax Rabbit (hidden behind a tequila locker), and the Bel-Aire Lounge, which is becoming a local party spot. Clique will also operate Bel-Aire Backyard, which is sure to become the neighborhood’s pool party hotspot this summer. 22

Don’t Be a Stiff

Top mistakes people make at the blackjack table, Part Two. By Al O’Grady

As a blackjack dealer for a number of years, I can honestly say that nothing would surprise me at the tables. I am not going to be arrogant enough to say that I have seen it all. No one has. But I can say that I see players making mistakes all of the time and they can be summarized in the next few columns. Give yourself an assessment and look at these points. I guarantee that one or more of these applies to you. The good news is that it can be corrected. If I could be your personal blackjack coach, I would have you focus on this list. There are no guarantees in life but if you get to the point where none of these items applies to you, you will definitely be a force to be reckoned with at the casino. These points are in no particular order as they can each have a negative impact in their own way.

Being a jerk by telling other people how to play

It is amazing how often people forget the Golden Rule. Simply treat others the way you want to be treated.

How would you like it if someone berated your play at the table? You probably would not like it, so do not do it to others. They might be playing incorrectly, but at the end of the day it is their money and they can do whatever they want with it. You do not own the casino. They have the same right to be at the table as you do. What I find very amusing happens when some guy who thinks he is a 21 expert tells other people how to play, when in fact he makes basic mistakes himself. If you find yourself in a situation where a novice player is making a mistake that can affect the table, simply tell the individual that he is making a mistake and the reason why, but do it in a respectful, friendly fashion. By being respectful and friendly you will find that not only will that player take your advice; they will be asking you for advice on future hands. It will be a pleasant experience for everyone. If the other person is not receptive to friendly advice, then simply take a break or go to another table. Above all, you need to handle the situation with class.

23 Feature: Al O'Grady Volume 20: Issue 164

Not tipping the dealer

This is a contentious issue and, as a blackjack dealer, I freely admit that I am certainly biased, but there are some general guidelines regarding tipping. If you had a losing session, no dealer would expect a tip at all. If you really want to piss off a dealer, win a whole bunch of money and do not tip at all. Dealers talk amongst themselves and you will get a bad reputation in a hurry. You will be viewed as a cheapskate, a lowlife and every other name under the sun. What is worse, in future sessions you will not have the dealer on your side. The dealer will be rooting for you to lose. Why would you want that? If there are any discrepancies requiring a judgment call by a supervisor, the dealer will not give you the benefit of the doubt. On the flip side if you are winning and you are tipping the dealer along the way, the dealer will be on your side. If you make an honest mistake by asking for a card when you should stick, the dealer might say “Are you sure about that?” The dealer will easily have earned his money helping you win.

What is a fair tip? There are no hard and fast rules, but if you’re looking for a guideline then one to two

percent of your winnings would be reasonable. There are those that don’t tip because they feel the casino should pay its employees more and why should the winners have to subsidize a casino? Those people are right. The casino definitely underpays its dealers but with that mentality you are just penalizing the dealer. You have to remember that dealers are paid a little more than minimum wage and rely on tips for a decent income. If they did not have a decent income most would quit and do something else. The job is simply not worth it. There is a shortage of quality dealers and if winning players stopped tipping altogether, many good dealers would leave and you would make a bad situation worse. A really good idea is to put the dealer in the game. Simply put a chip next to your bet. If the hand wins, the casino matches the chip, and the dealer gets both chips as a tip. It’s win-win all around. You have the dealer rooting for you to win and the casino is paying the dealer more if the hand wins. What’s not to like about that one?

Betting the same amount every time

It’s amazing how many people don’t know this but if

25 Feature: Al O'Grady Volume 20: Issue 164

you bet the same amount every single time, then over the course of time you will go completely broke. If you play perfect strategy the casino has approximately a 51-49 edge over the player. If you bet $25 per hand then, on average, you are losing $50 for every 100 hands that you play. These are only averages, of course. There are short-term positive and negative swings. It is the same scenario if you were tossing a coin. If you tossed a coin 100 times, it most likely would not be 50 heads and 50 tails. It could be 62 heads and 38 tails or 57 tails and 43 heads. As you approach infinity, it would truly be a 50-50 split. The same logic holds true for blackjack. Over a large sample size, you would get closer and closer to a 51-49 edge for the casino. The way you make money at this is by betting more when you have an advantage. Card counters know this. That is why they bet more when they have the advantage and less and when they do not. For those that do not count cards, they are relying on short-term variances and also on different betting strategies, such as betting more on winning streaks and less on losing streaks.

Taking insurance

There will be times when the dealer’s up card will be an ace and he will offer insurance. You can make an insurance bet of up to one half of your original bet. If the dealer has a blackjack, you will be paid 2:1 on your insurance bet while losing your original bet. The end result, you break even. Don’t even bother with this bet. Let’s do some basic math. Assuming a balanced shoe (there is an equal chance for each card to be the dealer’s down card), there are nine cards where the dealer does not have blackjack while there are four ways he does. So assuming a balanced shoe, the

odds against having blackjack are 9:4 or 2.25:1, yet you are only paid 2:1. The reward is less than the risk. Now in all fairness to professional card counters, there are times when taking insurance makes sense but only when the true count is at a certain level and there is a higher concentration of 10s, but I am assuming you are not a professional card counter. Some players may get a 20 and will take insurance to protect a strong hand. The problem with this is twofold. First, as demonstrated, the risk is greater than the reward for the insurance bet itself; secondly, if the dealer does not have a blackjack, the player loses the insurance bet. And if the dealer continues to draw and hits a multiple-card 21, the player loses again. The end result is the same. Pass on the insurance bet.

Al O’Grady has been a blackjack dealer for over seven years. He is a freelance writer with an Economics degree and is currently pursuing a degree in Mathematics. 26

Looking the Other Way


money-laundering scandal besmirches MGM Resorts International.

"If we know, we can’t allow them to gamble.” With those words, Scott Sibella, former president of MGM Grand and Resorts World Las Vegas, admitted his guilt in a money-laundering scheme during his tenure at MGM.

Sibella’s crime was to allow (since-convicted) illegal bookmaker Wayne Nix to gamble at the Grand using “illicit funds” gained via his sports betting operation, during the years 2017-9. Sibella admitted to prosecutors that he knew the source of the money but “didn’t want to know” lest he lose a high roller.

“I didn’t ask, I didn’t want to know I guess because he wasn’t doing anything to cheat the casino,” Sibella said, by way of rationalizing his inaction. For his crime, he faces a possible five years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000. The latter may seem small compared to the money involved in the case: Nix was permitted to wager—and lose—over $4 million in cash at MGM casinos.

Nix was also the recipient of free rooms, meals and golfing excursion, value unspecified. During the golf trips, Nix mingled with other high-ranking MGM executives.

The $7.5 million excuse

By way of defending what he did, Sibella excused his conduct on the grounds that “I took no action for my personal benefit or inurement.” Even so, he violated the Bank Secrecy Act. Stated Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Tyler Hatcher, “While president of MGM Grand, Mr. Sibella undermined the trust and confidence of his employees, customers and regulating agencies, and for that he will be held accountable.”

His actions have already been costly both to MGM Grand and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, which have paid a $7.5 million fine to cover their culpability. Nix faces sentencing on March 6 for a variety of crimes, while Sibella’s day in court comes May 8. The

Feature: Money Laundering Volume 20: Issue 164 27

Cosmopolitan was not yet owned by MGM at the time of its miscreant actions (parallel to Sibella’s). A Cosmopolitan host knew Nix’s money was tainted but let him play $928,600 anyway.

Veteran columnist Ken Adams queried Sibella’s behavior, noting that he “was one of the highestpaid executives in Las Vegas. Why would he risk that for Nix or any other gambler? Did he think he was untouchable and could do anything and not be punished?”

A troubled tenure

Following his tenure at MGM Grand, Sibella took the presidency of Resorts World Las Vegas, overseeing that megaresort’s opening. According to Adams, it was “a troubled project, plagued by recessions, lawsuits, construction issues, and design problems.” He was fired from that job last autumn for unspecified violations of corporate policy. The firing came at a time when both Sibella and Resorts World were under intense federal scrutiny.

According to reporter Dana Gentry, aforesaid probes also extended to Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo. Under Sibella, Resorts World Las Vegas gave its full financial support to Lombardo’s upset gubernatorial bid against then-governor Steve Sisolak, although Sisolak had provided a blanket waiver that allowed Resorts World to continue construction throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even as his guilt was being adjudicated, Sibella was angling for a new job in the casino business. He stated, “As this process comes to a conclusion, I look forward to continuing to provide my knowledge, skills and insights to support the continued growth, evolution and professionalism of the gaming industry.”

A Sibella comeback?

It could happen. Nevada regulators, who previously pronounced Sibella “vindicated” of charges of associating with undesirable gamblers at MGM Grand and Resorts World, said only that they were “monitoring” the plea deal. The Nevada Gaming Control Board had knowledge of Sibella-related wrongdoing back in 2019 but did nothing, as did then-MGM CEO Jim Murren.

Sibella now bears a felony rap sheet, something which has barred other casino aspirants from carrying out their Sin City dreams. However, any position 28 Feature: MGM Resorts International
Scott Sibella, former president of MGM Grand and Resorts World Las Vegas PHOTO: GREG ASKINS

not requiring a gaming license is open to someone with a felony conviction, giving the industry a great deal of leeway with regards to its former star, who even headlined an episode of the CBS-TV series “Undercover Boss.”

Still, could more ‘felony shoes’ be about to drop? “Casual attitudes about anti-money laundering compliance are dangerous,” an industry source told the Nevada Current’s Dana Gentry. “This could be just the tip of the iceberg.”

Added a former Control Board employee, “It sounds silly, but pleading guilty is better than not and then being found guilty later. And this sounds backwards, but he has a better chance of getting licensed than he does of someone hiring him at this point.” Or, as former Stratosphere president and California regulator Richard Schuetz put it, “I would be a bit surprised if there are a lot of people waving job offers at him, with the current state of information.”

Sibella himself has been keeping largely mum. He told the Current in early October that the truth behind his Resorts World dismissal was “coming soon.” No explanation has followed.

Feature: Money Laundering Volume 20: Issue 164 29
7,435 MEMBERS 5,041 MEMBERS Join people that count. Join the Casino Life Group The magazine for operators of International casinos and gaming equipment manufacturers
Richard Schuetz, former Stratosphere president and California regulator

Scaling Peaks

Zitro looks back on ICE

s 40,000-plus attendees flooded ICE, one of the standout booths they would have seen was that for Zitro. The game maker brandished a fistful of new casinofloor games, in addition to its online repertory. ICE London also marked the European debut of Zitro’s wide-area progressive (WAP)

ATo sort through the rush of sensations, Publisher Peter White sat down with Zitro International President Sebastian Salat.

2024 and ahead to 2025. By Peter White months, these games have already demonstrated an outstanding performance in diverse markets worldwide. Among these games, I must mention “Fu Frog,” “Fu Pots” and “Lún Pán Dú” which — along with the new games introduced at ICE, unprecedented until now — provide the best guarantee for operators’ investment. They ensure diversity and commercial refreshment for all the Zitro machines they acquire.

With regard to Zitro's presence at ICE 2024, what novelties did attendees find at the company’s booth?

At ICE London we showcased recently launched games from G2E Las Vegas, designed for the European market. However, over the past few

I must also highlight that the products presented at ICE have been adapted to the preferences of European players. This adaptation includes not only betting configurations and mathematics but also incorporates game mechanics in high demand in Europe, as seen in our new games “Energy Link,” “Drum Dynasty” or “Hit Selection,” thoughtfully designed primarily for the European market. At ICE,

games. 30 Feature: Zitro
Left ro right: Sebastian Salat, International President, Zitro and Johnny Ortiz, Founder, Zitro

we also made our debut in Europe with our WAP product line, already operational in Latin America, and we plan to deploy it in all the markets where we operate throughout 2024.

Finally, I want to emphasize the significant growth of Zitro Digital’s offerings, continuously adding new titles such as “Makeda-Epic Kingdom” or “ImperiumMighty Hammer.” Additionally, we have introduced various promotional tools to support operators in the commercial management of our games.

What has been the reaction from visitors to Zitro Digital, who have been showcasing their online versions of their classic, land-based slots?

All operators, whether operating in land-based or digital environments, are pleased to see us release titles that have been successful in their land-based casinos, also in digital format due to the immense opportunities this strategy offers for cross-selling. Digital-only operators appreciate the distinct personality of our games and their unique features that set them apart from the game offerings of other studios that release a much larger number of games but lack the distinctive character of Zitro games. Our

Feature: Zitro Volume 20: Issue 164 31
Zitro Team ICE London 2024

strategy focuses on a smaller yet proven number of games, accompanied by our promotional tools to support customer operations.

Given your global presence across LATAM, North America and Europe, to what extent do you look to personalize for each region?

We already customize our games for each region. Our games support multiple languages such as Spanish, English, French and Portuguese, and we are adding others, particularly in the digital versions of our games. We also adapt to the regulatory requirements of each jurisdiction. From a commercial perspective, we configure each bank of our machines according to the demographics of each casino’s clientele. This includes denominations, betting levels, jackpot amounts and hit frequencies, and return-to-player percentages.

It’s the final day of ICE London. How has the 2024 show been for Zitro?

We are proud and satisfied with the great reception our products have received from European customers and from other latitudes, consolidating Zitro as an outstanding leader in the global gaming industry. The operators who visited our booth were able to corroborate the enormous progress that Zitro has made in the breadth and diversity of its product range, which makes a visit to our booth at ICE — or at any other event in which Zitro participates — a must for any casino operator in the world.

What are your hopes and expectations for ICE Barcelona 2025?

ICE London has been for years a must for all professionals in the global gaming industry, and an invaluable tool to demonstrate the strength of our industry, which is not always valued as the powerful technological and economic engine that it is. It is now up to ICE Barcelona to take the baton from London and continue to grow. To do so, Barcelona has undisputed logistical advantages derived from the fact that the fair will be held within the European Union, and from the fact that the city is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world.

On the other hand, the fact that the show is held in Spain is an additional incentive for Latin American operators who, in our opinion, will travel in much greater numbers to Barcelona than they did to London. And they can expect a big showing from Zitro at ICE Barcelona. Given that Zitro’s main technology campus is in Barcelona, we assess very positively the opportunity that ICE Barcelona will represent for Zitro, as we expect to have many opportunities to show operators and regulators our facilities, and — through them — the dimension and scope of Zitro's project.

Do you have any personal highlights of the past 12 months?

I have turned 65 years old in company of my dearest wife and my family. Another year has been joyfully spent leading Zitro’s international growth, allowing me to meet again with so many customers around the world who are also my dearest friends. My passion for mountaineering and climbing has led me to reach a great number of summits, providing me with amazing experiences and breathtaking views. 32 Feature: Zitro
Peter White, Publisher, Casino Life and Sebastian Salat, International President, Zitro

What are amongst Zitro’s main goals for 2024? I will try to summarize our objectives in five points:

• Consolidate our presence in the U.S. market, making Zitro an essential supplier of gaming machines for any operator in the country.

• Maintain our leadership in Latin America and Spain, and grow in the rest of the continents towards our goal of making Zitro a global leader.

• Make Zitro Digital the preferred supplier for any online casino in the world.

• To provide our organization with the necessary resources and tools to support our growth.

• To strive for the satisfaction of our employees, suppliers and customers. Success is not measured only in financial terms. In fact, success can only be built on solid and lasting relationships with all stakeholders in the business.

33 Volume 20: Issue 164 Feature: Zitro
Zitro Digital - ICE London 2024

Partnership is Key

Understanding the role of compliance in iGaming.

By Ohad Straschnov 34 Feature: Soft2Bet
Ohad Straschnov, senior compliance director at Soft2Bet

Ohad Straschnov, senior compliance director at Soft2Bet, explains the key role of regulatory compliance. He also delves into how the company’s work in the field enables its partners to operate and grow in regulated markets.

Regulation and compliance are key topics for iGaming companies because they define the framework in which every company in the sector works, whether they are operators, providers or even affiliates (in some EU countries as well as the U.S.). They also influence financial planning, and business issues like payout ratios or marketing and customer-communications rules that iGaming firms must follow in regulated markets.

As an iGaming company, dealing with regulations and their constantly evolving requirements is an everpresent feature of Soft2Bet’s work. Straschnov, the group’s senior compliance director, says navigating this environment today is even more relevant since Soft2Bet significantly expanded its regulatory footprint in 2023.

Critical daily work

Straschnov says Soft2Bet’s “compliance teams engage in regular, in-depth discussions and joint strategizing to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of the online gambling industry. This is particularly relevant for Soft2Bet when taking account of our multi-jurisdictional approach.”

From ensuring operational activities are in line with legal standards, to contract negotiations, and conforming to regulations, the team monitors and enforces adherence to both internal policies, and to external regulatory requirements. “This work is critical in identifying and mitigating legal risks, thereby safeguarding the company's interests,” Straschnov notes.

This synergy is particularly evident during key projects such as market expansions, licensing processes and acquisitions. “This internal collaboration ensures not only the successful acquisition of licenses but also effective launches in new markets," Straschnov adds.

Good for business

But if regulated markets are a great benefit to the industry, and part of its evolution, they also push up costs and, of course, taxes. How does Soft2Bet deal with these issues?

“We encourage stakeholders to view regulation and compliance as being as pivotal and beneficial as any other aspect of the business,” Straschnov says. "They enable operators to advertise and showcase the spirit of innovation that iGaming is well known for, and they foster sustainable business practices.”

For a provider such as Soft2Bet, whose platforms are built to be flexible and adaptable to accommodate multiple regulated markets. This means “our partners can grow their business in complete peace of mind and know that we are on top of any regulatory change, whether in relation to advertising guidelines, reporting and testing requirements or responsible gambling tools,” adds Straschnov.

Expanding the regulatory footprint

Soft2Bet obtained a number of European licenses in 2023 and has applied for new ones in a number of other major regulated markets. What was the rationale behind those moves?

“In 2023 we obtained licenses in major European markets such as Italy, Romania and Greece to go with those we already hold for Sweden, Denmark and Malta. We are also going through the regulatory process in Portugal in the EU, New Jersey in the U.S. and Ontario in Canada. These moves align with our aim to significantly grow the B2B side of our business. Being licensed in these markets will enable us to go live with partners quickly and in a way that is fully compliant with local regulations,” Straschnov explains.

For all the talk of company growth, the workload must have been significant. How did Straschnov and his team address each market in which Soft2Bet was applying?

“For S2B to achieve its goal of obtaining a license in a new market as swiftly as possible, it must first understand and evaluate the licensing and technical requirements, in particular any new or unique jurisdictions where requirements are unlike any other market where the company already operates,” he explains.

Looking ahead, Straschnov says “Soft2Bet will be launching more brands in regulated markets and getting licensed in New Jersey, Ontario, Portugal, and more. In particular, North America represents a great opportunity and is a major objective for us. We look forward to operating and offering our exceptional products there.”

Feature: Soft2Bet Volume 20: Issue 164 35

Drive and Commitment

Amy Colbourn, managing director of business strategy for MONOGRAM, chats with Peter White

ou’re running a Las Vegas resort that’s due to open soon. How do you stand out in a crowded marketplace? Ideally, you find an agency that thinks outside the box. In the case of Virgin Las Vegas, you pick up the phone and call MONOGRAM. It’s a newish marketing agency that paradoxically has a wealth of experience in Sin City. MONOGRAM Managing Director of Business Strategy Amy Colbourn unravels that paradox for our own Peter White in a recent conversation.

YCould you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

I’m managing director of business strategy for MONOGRAM. I’m charged with focusing on business leadership, specifically in terms of brand strategy and business development. I help drive strategy and lead the teams who manage the relationships. I’ve been working with Executive Director John Schadler since O.H. Partners acquired

the team from SK+G and opened the Las Vegas office five years ago.

I’ve spent the majority of my career on the East Coast, working for independent agencies. While there, I was able to lean into brand strategy and lead marketing efforts for local casinos, regional destinations, and several state lotteries, as well as drive global consumer brands. That experience was a great complement to the luxury-marketing and megaresort legacy of SK+G. I was inspired to take our work to the next level with industry-category focus and a dedicated team with a focused skill set.

What do you love about being in the advertising industry?

One of the reasons why I love the advertising industry is because it’s always evolving. That means we have to stay in lock step with consumers, up to date on pop culture and abreast of innovation. We’re constantly operating in a growth mindset. Advertising is an exciting and dynamic industry. 36 Feature: Monogram

Tell me more about the team at MONOGRAM

As much as we are laser-focused on luxury, hospitality, destination, and casino marketing, we are committed to a team of experts who have the experience and who truly possess the passion for what we offer. We’re not for everyone and we’re OK with that notion. This is the kind of place where we’re always on. We’re always thinking about our clients' business.

Marketing specialists love working for agencies with a range of client verticals that offer a ton of exposure to different businesses, challenges and opportunities to do amazing things creatively. Agencies that specialize in marketing for a focused vertical, such as hospitality and take it to the next level of specialization. It requires a unique skill set, one that’s highly conceptual with the ability to define the experience. It’s highly emotive and requires the ability to deliver the experience. What we do is very brandcentric, meaning we have the ability to do effective brand marketing while also selling amenities. What we do requires a highly polished design aesthetic in order to create distinct visual identities or to imagine an experience from a back-of-the-napkin idea.

Tell me more about what makes the experience as a MONOGRAM client different.

MONOGRAM was created to deliver specifically for the clients it serves. Just as we help properties define customer-service culture as an element of the brand and a competitive advantage, we seek to offer the same level of personalized service to our clients. The experience for a MONOGRAM client is highly skilled and very personalized.

We realized that we had an existing set of clients who had expectations that were aligned with the hospitality businesses they serve and that we needed to shift operationally to specifically align with these expectations. This means going beyond defining our client-service culture to cater to the needs of the hospitality sector. It’s the invisible promise of an experience — an experience that delivers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s about making intangibles more tangible. It’s about competitive advantages that are based on emotions and not things.

MONOGRAM serves a different kind of client. The clients themselves are high-touch and require personalized service just like the customers they market to, and guests they serve.

What notable projects has MONOGRAM been involved with recently?

We work with clients on a lot of international casino, resort, and destination projects that are highly confidential and have long development times — up to five, six or even eight years from conception to opening. With these projects we’re bringing a brand vision to life as projects are conceptualized working alongside architects, investors and designers.

That aside, one of the most fun brands we’ve worked with recently is Virgin Hotels. We reimagined Virgin’s loyalty program, “The Know,” when it was rapidly expanding throughout North America. It was a fun way to take loyalty from the transactional nature most consumers are familiar with — like points and rewards — and adopting a lifestyle approach to loyalty that is more about personalization and preferences. I could go on …

Tell us more about the project’s development phases and what they involved?

Virgin Hotels’ work, along with our depth of knowledge in the Las Vegas market, parlayed us into being the brand agency to introduce Virgin Hotels to Las Vegas. The beloved Virgin brand was up against a few challenges. First, replacing the acclaimed Hard Rock Hotel and, second, stepping into an off-Strip location.

37 Feature: Monogram Volume 20: Issue 164
Amy Colbourn, managing director of business strategy for Monogram

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We stand out because we focus on serving one industry and doing it better than any other agency. It means better understanding of the nuances, insights, audiences and industry so we can focus on building strategies for the future.

We took all the rich equity the Virgin brand had to offer and leveraged the opportunity to appeal to a new demographic of visitors to Las Vegas — the ones with the been-there-done-that attitude who were looking for Las Vegas done differently. The launch campaign never gets old. It’s a truly refreshing experience and it was a hard nut to crack in the entertainment capital of the world. We’re pretty proud of having made it a success in many regards.

How does MONOGRAM expertise apply to the casino floor?

Great question. We concentrate all of our efforts in understanding the players within the competitive landscape to know how to position clients in any market — giving them a clear competitive advantage over all other options.

And, when it comes to casinos, you aren’t just competing with other casinos.

When you know who you are and what you have to offer, you can really focus on the people who buy your products and services rather than worrying about what the competition is up to.

You’ve had a couple of incredibly busy years.

What can we expect next from MONOGRAM?

What projects do you have for 2024?

You can expect us to take the lead in terms of thought leadership and innovation. Hospitality is one of the fastest-growing sectors and its competitive nature will require more from brands in terms of marketing. The ones who are best able to create smart positioning strategies, and who are able to develop and deliver messages that resonate with consumers will be the ones who win. I’m not going to name names because that would give away too much information. Be sure to follow us as our success stories continue to unfold this year.

What would you like to see in the future from MONOGRAM? Are there any dream collaborations, projects or ideas that haven’t come to life as of yet?

We’ve been doing this for a very long time and, at the same time, we’re just getting started. So, in terms of the future for MONOGRAM, the sky's the limit. We just know we won’t settle. When it comes to clients, we don’t want just anyone. We want brands that seek to be exceptional and are willing to do what it takes to be exceptional. The same goes for our team.

It’s been five years since SK+G Las Vegas and Phoenix-based The Harkey Group joined forces. How was the merger, culminating last year, in the organizations rebranding to MONOGRAM?

We did exactly what we do for our clients. We started with a clear mission, created a strong brand positioning and brought it to life. Every aspect of our brand is who we are, what we do and who we deliver for. We want clients to feel as much a part of the MONOGRAM brand as we do. Another really important aspect is the company we keep. The clients we represent are all aspirationally aligned. They represent the best of the best — from a luxury development brand at Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas to a multi-property resort, casino and spa in the romantic desert city of Palm Springs.

What are the key aspects of MONOGRAM that have been amongst the main reasons so many Las Vegas resorts and casinos have chosen the company over the years for brand development?

There’s a real market need for agency partners who add value and can help solve complex brand problems. Clients need someone who understands the industry, and can provide strategies to get there quicker and smarter. Another thing is that service and brand marketing is more complex; it has different needs and requires a different skillset. Spend an afternoon with John Schadler, and you will learn more about brand marketing and strategy for hospitality than some people learn in a lifetime.

39 Volume 20: Issue 164 Feature: Monogram


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With so many advertising agencies, how does MONOGRAM plan to stand out?

We stand out because we focus on serving one industry and doing it better than any other agency. It means better understanding of the nuances, insights, audiences and industry so we can focus on building strategies for the future. When you understand, you’re better poised to help businesses navigate changing landscapes and gain the competitive edge.

Specialization in luxury marketing means really understanding the luxury consumer and the competition in the market. We concentrate all of our efforts in understanding the luxury consumer, their pain points and what motivates them. This allows us to expertly craft and deliver messages in ways that resonate specifically with this group of consumers.

What does a speciality agency offering like MONOGRAM allow you to do?

MONOGRAM allows us to create a team that does one thing and does it better than anyone else. It also creates an agency that is a complement to The Harkey Group of agencies. While The Harkey Group focuses on being a holding company serving a range of clients, MONOGRAM focuses on brand marketing for luxury clients, most notably hospitality clients. There is a clear distinction between

marketing products and services. In many cases we say we are marketing the invisible — the intangible aspects of an experience that, when added up, deliver a sense of perfection.

How does a specialty agency offering like MONOGRAM make you more valuable to the clients you serve?

When we think about what clients want, we’re better prepared to deliver overall. We’re less likely to treat marketing as a handoff and we become much more engaged in the business strategy. We’re able to have a seat at the table to discuss strategies further up the marketing channel — even as part of business operations — and to operate as a true extension of the client team.

Clients want communication and, more specifically, they want added-value communication. Clients want you to understand their business and their industry so that you can deliver strategic leadership, industry knowledge, business strategy (and how they make money), and new product innovation. Clients demand creativity and more so they want an agency that can help them be the unique voice in the room. And, they want media strategy as a specialized skill to work in tandem with the creative. We can deliver the things that clients want most.

41 Volume 20: Issue 164 Feature: Monogram
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What would you say are unique service offerings to MONOGRAM that other agencies simply don’t do?

Two things that come to mind are fundamental human truths and conceptual inception. All of our strategies are based on consumer insights. We seek to understand the human truths that drive preference and loyalty among guests. It’s never about pushing products by boasting features. That’s where marketers go wrong. Everyone may say they do, but they don’t. I can name six major resorts that have launched in the past two years and have no idea who they are or what audience they serve.

We begin brand development at its inception, influencing every detail from architecture and design to guest experiences and market launches. We call this placemaking. Our placemaking efforts have helped top luxury companies infuse their brand essence into every guest interaction.

Do you view your Las Vegas location as a competitive advantage in any way?

Our address gives us the opportunity to anchor our Las Vegas office and leverage the location. This is intentional as it provides access to the most evolving and innovative hospitality brands in the world. This keeps us close to the heartbeat of hospitality in the entertainment capital of the world. This is where it all starts — eventually everyone comes to Las Vegas.



MONOGRAM is the premier marketing agency for notable hospitality, entertainment, and gaming companies throughout the U.S. and the world. As brand architects in the luxury lifestyle space, our focus is singular in purpose and deep in expertise. Naturally we are based in Las Vegas, the capital of consumerism. It’s a place created by visionaries and dreamers, an ever-evolving showcase of innovation, frequented by guests from all walks of life. Vegas is the ultimate cultural testing ground for the masters of hospitality, entertainment, dining and retail. And we, dreamers ourselves, are perfectly positioned to leverage this incubator as we conceive of groundbreaking ideas to help realize our clients’ visions.


In December 2018, the team at SK+G Las Vegas, an advertising agency that developed some of the world’s most-respected brands in hospitality, joined forces with Phoenix-based O.H. Partners, a fast-growing and likeminded company, to form O.H. Partners Las Vegas, and service a growing roster of hospitality clients. In 2023, this new collaboration evolved into its own agency, Monogram, under O.H. Partners’ umbrella company, The Harkey Group. As its own entity within THG, our agency has an even greater depth of capabilities and resources, providing our clients with more value, agility, and measurable results.

43 Volume 20: Issue 164 Feature: Monogram

Farewell, London

DR Gaming Technology reflects upon ICE 2024 and gazes forward to next year in Barcelona. By Peter White

CE 2024, the last to be held in London, has ended and its 40,000-odd attendees have gone home, leaving vendors to pick up after them. The braintrust of DR Gaming Technology took some time out from tidying up its booth and packing away its wares to sit down. CEO Jurgen De Munck and three of his managing directors reflected on ICE and on what the future holds. In addition to De Munck, directors Duncan Pollock (Africa), Andreas Duller (Austria) and Christophe Van Quathem (Belgium) spoke with Casino Life. Their discussion has been edited for clarity and length.

IHello again, gentlemen, this time next year we’ll be chatting about paella and not bangers and mash, won’t we? Nonetheless it still is 2024, so how did things go at Clarion’s final ICE in London?

De Munck: Really well! I know that’s what

everyone says but I really mean it. We had some great feedback from existing customers, some really positive engagements with a number of prospective customers across both Europe and Africa, as well as some meaningful ‘go forward’ meetings with some new partners. And as always, Clarion put on a well-organized, well-promoted and well-attended event.

That’s good to hear. What do you mean though by new partners?

Duller: Jurgen has spoken previously of our collaborative relationship with other suppliers in the land-based sector, and often referenced our international jackpot collaboration with APEX and our subsequent representation of them across a number of jurisdictions. Where in Mexico, specifically, we now operate in excess of 1,500 APEX EGMs on a revenue-share basis – that’s the type of partners we’re referring to. 44 Feature: DR Gaming Technology

Understood. Any of those partnerships heading Africa’s way, Duncan?

Pollock: Well, I’d be letting the proverbial cat out of the bag if I shared that now, wouldn’t I? So I shan’t.

OK, let’s leave it there then. Can you tell me, though, what garnered the most interest at Booth S6-350 at ExCel this year?

Pollock: Our app, which we spoke about previously, was often a starting point both with existing and new customers. The conversation in most cases expanded into our broader systems offering, with cashless gaming and web-based reporting stealing most of the spotlight, and then, more often than not, our ‘systembased’ jackpots.

Van Quathem: We also had a bit of a video tutorial running on the LED screen above our booth – a product we also offer, as a matter of interest –detailing the capabilities of our drMediaManager, and that too drove a number of conversations. I think the fact that visitors could actually see how the Media Manager worked from a jackpot design point of view, and not ‘just’ as a scheduling tool, was well received.

Any comment from you, Andreas, regarding your customer discussions at ICE?

Andreas: You know we have an extremely mature market in Austria, one I am proud to say we service really well. That said, we also service a number of other jurisdictions too, and what was encouraging for me was the number of operators I chatted to about our core systems and cashless capabilities. The huge take-out for me was how operators, as their respective markets mature, have really started to embrace our ‘Player First’ mantra – one that we maintain has to be stuck to by us as the service provider, as well as our customers, the casino operators, in order to ensure our joint success, sustainability and growth.

ICE truly is a global get-together. Duncan, Africa is a BIG place. Was it well represented?

Pollock: Yes, I’d say so. We had visitors from Botswana, Ghana, Seychelles, Nigeria, South Africa, Malawi and Mauritius as I recall – some existing, and some prospects, which was encouraging. And to Andreas’ point above in respect of existing customers, many of them were looking for better

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ways to reward and communicate with their players in order to build better, and more ‘sticky’ relationships. I’d like to think we have some of the best, most robust, and most cost-effective technology and tools the sector has to offer in assisting them to do that, and as such I remain bullish as to what the future holds. Time will tell.

De Munck: Our African customers and visitors were not the only ones looking for tools to assist them in understanding, engaging, and rewarding their players better. In some of the conversations I was involved in, the same rang true for many of Andreas’ and Christophe’s customers too.

A last question and it’s for you, Christophe. You look after Belgium specifically and enjoy considerable market share amongst the nine locally licensed casinos. How do you help them and yourselves remain relevant?

Van Quathem: I think the answer is twofold, and it relates to the very reason, despite the ever-increasing scope of alternate offerings vying for their share of consumers’ wallets, as to why the land-based casino sector continues to remain a well-supported form of entertainment. They are the very fact that social engagement takes place, and that relationships and communities are built. Also, we all – service providers and operators alike – continue to leverage technology as best we can, to learn as much as we can, in order to service and reward our players better.

De Munck: I’d like to add to that, if I may, and reference an article I read on the Forbes website about 18 months ago. The point was made that there is no real, one-size-fits-all loyalty solution. In order to make it effective, no matter the sector, rewards need to be easy to earn, there must be a variety of them and technology needs to power the program. I think we tick those boxes and, as long as we continue to provide relevant technology and product solutions that assist our customers in nurturing the player communities Christophe alluded to, we will all continue to remain relevant.

Thanks again gents, looking forward to seeing you all in Barcelona in January.

De Munck: Absolutely! Along with some sunshine, I hope.

47 Feature: DR Gaming Technology Volume 20: Issue 164
Jurgen De Munck Andreas Duller Duncan Pollock Christophe Van Quathem

The Sun Also Rises

SUZOHAPP shone at ICE London with successful launches and partnerships

SUZOHAPP had a successful participation at the ICE London event. It showcased two exciting launches that generated significant interest and valuable discussions with customers.

The highlight was the announcement of a strategic partnership with LED Studio, a leading manufacturer of cutting-edge LED technology for displays and digital signage. These LED solutions offer unparalleled visual quality, durability and integration capabilities. In particular, the modular design of the 55-inch Edge Display allows for customization to fit unique configurations, providing customers with a flexible and sustainable solution for their display needs. At ICE London, SUZOHAPP also introduced the visually striking SUZOHAPP End Cap and the versatile V-Poster Promotional Display, catering to the specific needs of the casino and sportsbook industries. This partnership with LED Studio opens up new opportunities for SUZOHAPP to expand its market reach and offer innovative solutions to its clients.

Additionally, SUZOHAPP launched the SUZOHAPP Marketplace, a global trade platform for casino operators and OEMs to buy and sell overstocked, high-quality gaming components. This innovative platform has been well-received by customers for its seamless purchasing process and the support provided by SUZOHAPP's distribution management team. The SUZOHAPP Marketplace not only offers a wide range of products for sale but also helps reduce environmental impact by facilitating the sustainable and efficient exchange of overstocked products.

“We are thrilled with the success of our participation at ICE London, and with the positive reception of our new launches and partnerships,” said Tim Kennedy, vice president of sales in Europe. “The partnership with LED Studio and the introduction of the SUZOHAPP Marketplace demonstrate our commitment to innovation, and customer satisfaction. We look forward to continuing to drive growth and success through these initiatives.” 48 News: SUZOHAPP

Building a Resilient Business Model

Are you on a clear path to profitability? By

The Importance of a Clear Business Model

Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, understanding the importance of a clear business model is crucial. It’s the blueprint that sets the tone for your goals and dictates how your company will pursue them. We will explore why a well-defined business model is essential for directing your business towards its objectives and ensuring long-term success.

Understanding Different Business Models

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has extensively identified three primary business models that dominate the modern landscape. They are...

Professional Services: This model includes firms like legal practices and accounting agencies, where expertise is the primary offering.

49 Feature:
Raymond Chan
Volume 20: Issue 164

Value-Added Resellers: Examples include manufacturers, such as a factory making iPhones or a software company developing games. Giants such as Tesla and Apple also fit here, albeit with multiple models under one roof.

Platform Businesses: These businesses, like Uber, Airbnb and eBay, thrive on information asymmetry by connecting different user groups that benefit from each other.

By identifying which of these models resonates with your vision, you can refine your strategy and concentrate on the actions that will lead to success. If your business doesn’t align with any of these three models, it’s crucial to reevaluate your business plan. This ensures that you’re operating a viable business with a clear path to profitability, rather than pursuing a personal hobby under the guise of entrepreneurship.

The Art of Pricing

Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of pricing their products based on cost alone. However, the price should reflect the value delivered to the customer. Take the iPhone: Its production cost is just a fraction of its market price, which is justified by the value and status it offers to consumers. Beyond mere functionality, it represents a lifestyle and can sometimes exert social pressure.

Interestingly, the most successful pricing model might just be offering services for free. Google, one of the world's most profitable companies, provides its core services at no charge, creating value in alternative ways.

The Power of Pivoting

In a rapidly evolving marketplace, agility is a prized asset. Businesses must stay attuned to the ‘signals of change’—the subtle, yet clear indicators that it’s time to pivot for greater success. Pivoting doesn't necessarily mean overhauling your entire business model; it’s about making strategic adjustments in response to market demands, technological advancements or emerging trends.

Take the journey of Instagram. It began as a whiskeylover’s check-in app called Burbn. Recognizing the growing popularity of photo-sharing over check-ins, the founders pivoted to create what is now one of the world’s most-used social media platforms. Similarly, Duolingo’s story is one of strategic adaptation. Starting


Raymond is a software engineer by profession with a track record in corporate innovation and entrepreneurship. He co-founded two prosperous startups, TGG Interactive and Global Gaming Group in Asia, where he served as director and CEO to lead the customer intelligence and electronic gaming businesses from 2007 to 2018. Earlier in his career, Raymond was a founding member of the business intelligence team at E*TRADE from Morgan Stanley and played a pivotal role in designing the TiVo customer intelligence system in Silicon Valley.

as a free, language-learning app for students, Duolingo tapped into a new revenue stream by identifying a need for English-proficiency certification. Its establishment of a remote English test has become a significant source of income, reflected in its impressive market capitalization upon listing on NASDAQ.

These examples underscore the necessity of remaining flexible and responsive to the changing business landscape. By staying vigilant and ready to pivot, you can capture new opportunities and steer your business toward even greater heights.

Building a Future-Proof Business

As we’ve explored, a clear business model not only provides a roadmap to your goals but also underpins the resilience of your enterprise. Different business models serve different purposes and your pricing strategy should reflect the unique value you offer. Moreover, maintaining a mindset open to pivoting can lead to breakthroughs that propel your business forward.

In closing, remember that the process of building a resilient business model is continuous. It’s about setting a solid foundation, staying adaptable and always being ready to pivot towards better opportunities. By doing so, you can ensure that your business not only survives but thrives—no matter what the future holds. 50
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