Volume 14 Issue 120
Ballyâ€™s Casino Sri Lanka Booming High Stakes Casino
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Editor’s page Welcome to Casino Life... Summer’s here and soon the team here take a wellearned break, coming back to you in September. For this edition though, we start with Bill Healey taking a trip to Sri Lanka to talk to Simon Best, General Manager of Operations at Bally’s Colombo, one of three casinos in the capital. Meanwhile Richard Noble, the new Chairman of The National Casino Forum took time out from a busy schedule to talk to Peter White. Richard picks up the baton from Simon Thomas and is equally energetic about promoting the positive benefits of the casino industry at a time when gambling has developed a tarnished image. We wish him well at the helm of the NCF. As the Hard Rock opens in Atlantic City, Robert Ambrose played out a real-life game of Monopoly on the Boardwalk and at the opening night rocked out to the “Jersey Boys.” With 4.000 jobs created and 300 advance shows fully booked out Atlantic City is back in vogue Casino Adjara in Tbilisi was one of our first featured casinos in Casino Life over 10 years ago and now they’re celebrating their 20th Anniversary. Bill Healey doubles down and reports back on their double decade. It’s a happy anniversary as well to Aristidis Tsikouras Managing Director GeWeTe who chats chats to JJ Woods about the growth of the company and plans for the future. Next. I catch up with Rashid Suliman, TransAct’s Vice President of Global Gaming in the Asia Pacific and finds out how they are much more than just a world-class printer supplier. Finally. Robert Ambrose Reviews Dr. David Glyn Thomas G.Schwartz book, Tales from the Slot Floor.
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6 Blossoming Future in Sri Lanka Bally’s Colombo General Manager of Operations Simon Best. Interview by Bill Healey 13 Its Time To Unite Richard Noble Chairman of The National Casino Forum chats to Peter White 15 The Real-Life Game of Monopoly is Being Played on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City and the “Jersey Boys,” are at the Helm Casino Life’s Robert Ambrose reports back from the opening night of Hard Rock Atlantic City. 21 20 Years in Tbilisi Casino Adjara’s 20th Anniversary By Bill Healey 26 Happy Anniversary Aristidis Tsikouras Managing Director GeWeTe chats to JJ Woods 31 EPIC Innovation Glyn Thomas chats with Rashid Suliman, TransAct’s Vice President of Global Gaming in the Asia Pacific 34 Tales from the slot floor Book review by Robert Ambrose Editorial Policy: The views and opinions expressed in Casino Life remain principally the views of contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or publishers. The publishers wish to avoid inaccuracies and, whilst every precaution has been taken to ensure that information contained in this publication is accurate, no liability is accepted by the editor or publishers for errors or omissions, however caused. Unless otherwise stated, articles appearing in this publication remain the copyright of the publishers and may not be reproduced in any form without the publisher’s written consent. Printed in the UK by MPC Ltd.
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Blossoming Future in Sri Lanka
Bally’s Colombo General Manager of Operations Simon Best. Interview by Bill Healey
ri Lanka is well known as a treasure for international tourists, with its rich colonial heritage, bountiful beaches, tea plantations, mix of religion and culture, and much more. In this issue we catch up with Simon Best, General Manager of Operations at Bally’s Casino Colombo in the heart of Sri Lanka’s capital. You’ve been in the casino gaming industry for more than three decades. Your roles have taken you to various unique locations around the world. What
led you into the industry? Sheer accident. I had been travelling around Europe for a year with a friend working on the boats in the Aegean and then in the USA working in Florida followed by a return to London for a winter break. We had three months before going to Spain to again work on the boats as we had both been heavily involved in sailing where we grew up in Cornwall and even entered into the Cowes yacht race in 1976. I saw an advert for the Golden Nugget Casino in Shaftsbury Avenue, London for trainee Dealers and it was paying £99 a week so I thought that would be
a good fill in job for three months. Very soon after starting at the Nugget, I realized that I liked the job, lifestyle, money, casinos in general and the people in them. When my friend went off to Spain I stayed at the Nugget and 38 years later I am still enjoying the casino industry. After the Golden Nugget I worked in Sun City Bophuthatswana, Southern Africa then various casinos in Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, Burma, India and Sri Lanka. I have also worked in allied fields in the casino supply industry in Asia, consulted for Aristocrat, a major international gaming machine
supplier, and worked in the cash counting and Cash In Transit (CIT) parts of the broader gaming industry. What path did you take leading you to Bally’s Colombo? Having worked in Asia off and on for the last 10 years, I have always been intrigued by the way they operated in this part of the world. So when a good friend in Macau, who has ties to the owner and senior management of Bally’s, asked if I was interested in a role here, I jumped at the chance. Sri Lanka had also been on my bucket list as I had cousins who were tea planters here in the 1930 and 40’s. One of them, Willoughby Greaves Beauchanmp was appointed the Commanding Officer of the Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force (CNVF) in 1938. So I was very happy when I traveled up to Nuwara Eliya in tea country and stayed at the same hotel my cousins used to stay at when they came
to town. I also went to the tea factory where one of them was the Manager, and it is now a 5 star Heritance Hotel. My family came over late last year and we spent 2 weeks travelling around Sri Lanka visiting Kandy, Sigiyara, Ella, Yalla National Park where I took some fantastic pictures of a Leopard (if I say so myself) and then finished off sitting on a beach in Hikkaduwa for 5 days. I can highly recommend Sri Lanka for its casino offerings as well as for a great holiday and one of the best parts of our trip was the train ride from Kandy to Ella, which is billed as one of the best train rides in the world, and it truly lives up to that boast. Regarding Bally’s Colombo, how does it rank in terms of casinos in Sri Lanka? The only casinos in Sri Lanka operate in Colombo and Bally’s www.ballyscolombo.com is the biggest
of the three casino by a large margin with 100 tables, online gaming www.ballysbet.com gaming machines and multi terminal electronic table games. Does the group have additional casinos in Sri Lanka? Yes we operate two of the three casinos here in Sri Lanka so along with Bally’s we have our sister property Bellagio’s. What is the size of the casino in terms of electronic gaming and table games? We have 100 gaming tables and of that 60 are Baccarat and 30 Roulette tables with the rest made up of Blackjack, Texas, Hold’em and other Poker derivatives and then some Asian centric games such as Sabong Cards (think Casino War) Andhar Bahar, Teen Patti and Sic Bo We also operate 48 gaming machines offering
international manufacturers and games and also have 14 multi terminal stations offering either single zero Roulette or Baccarat. We have a mass market area, VIP and a recently introduced VVIP area called “Infinity” and we offer a range of options for individuals or groups including regular cash chip tables along with non-negotiable or rolling commissions dependent on the client’s requests. We also offer a wide range of packages for individuals subject to their buy in, length of stay and games to be played along with a large spread of table maximums and Baccarat table differentials which are amongst the most generous to be offered in this part of the world. What are the preferred games at Bally Colombo? Certainly Baccarat is the major game here at Bally’s to cater for the ever growing popularity of this game
from our wide circle of Asian centric players, then Roulette comes in 2nd with this game very popular with our Indian players. Where does the casino draw it’s customers from? Are local Sri Lankans allowed to gamble? We have a very small number of local players at Bally’s and the majority of our players come from a diverse range of countries including Pakistan, UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, China and of course India which is on our doorstep. We are only a short plane ride away from many southern Indian cities. I am told on a clear day you can see India from the northernmost part of Sri Lanka. Bally’s Colombo also offers Online Gambling. What markets does this reach, and has it had an impact on guests coming into the casino? While www.ballysbet.com is a nascent part of the business, our online gaming has a customer base at present which is mainly from India with a scattering of players from the Middle East, Pakistan, Malaysia etc. This part of the business has only complimented our existing player base and there hasn’t been any cannibalisation of revenue from our live tables.
At present we offer Baccarat, Roulette and Andhar Bahar to our online gaming customers but we are looking to expand our product offering in the future. What are the non-gaming options at the casino? Are there non-gambling guests that frequent these events and offerings? In addition to the casino offering we have regular dance packages and entertainment offerings each night of the week. Then for special occasions of which we find many to celebrate, we ramp up the entertainment for events such as Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year, Eid Mubarak, Indian festivals such as Holi and Diwali, Bally’s Anniversary, Indian and Sri Lankan National Days and International singing competitions. As I’m calling Australia home nowadays, I know my work is done here when we celebrate Melbourne Cup, the race that stops a nation!!!! Entertainment is a mixture of local, Indian and International dance groups and singers. We recently held a “Miss Bally’s” competition with all the entrants being recent Miss England contestants, and I was lucky enough to be one of the judges. We also have a restaurant for our guests where
they can experience local, Indian and continental dishes. With the local dishes you need to be careful as they can be quite hot. We are not an integrated resort so while the group own 5 star hotels such as the Kingsbury in Colombo www. thekingsburyhotel. com and The Fortress Resort and Spa in Galle, Southern Sri Lanka www. fortressresortandspa.com we do not have any hotels physically linked to the property. But Ballyâ€™s is centrally located in Colombo so there are many hotels such as the Kingsbury Hotel less than 5 minutes away and we provide free transport between any hotel in Colombo and Ballyâ€™s so we take the hassle out of any transport issues. We can also provide free pick up and drop off at Colombo international airport which can be discussed with any of our Marketing team.
Does the casino have an active program for Responsible Gaming? One of my major job descriptors is to introduce international gaming standards to the property and Responsible Gaming is certainly on my list of important items to introduce. We already have a barring and self- barring program here which is rigidly enforced so customers are aware of the steps they can take in this aspect of the operation. Having worked in Australian jurisdictions where responsible gaming is a high priority there are various aspects of these programs I would like to look at introducing here.
Casino Life Magazine would like to thank Simon Best and Ballyâ€™s Colombo for their cooperation and contribution to this interview.
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It’s Time To Unite Richard Noble Chairman of The National Casino Forum chats to Peter White Congratulations on your appointment to chairman of The National Casino Forum. Can you outline your aims and ambitions for this role? First of all, I’d like to thank Simon Thomas, CEO Hippodrome, for the energy and vision he’s shown as Chairman over the last two years. I have been the vicechairman during this time, so we should have a smooth transfer from his tenure across to mine. It has been a real pleasure to work alongside Simon. We are very fortunate to have a trade body where we have 100% of all UK casino operators as members. We all work very closely together and we all speak as one voice. However, for the last few years, the overall gambling industry really has been dragged through the mud, in particular with concerns and disputes over Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. This has been one of the prime drivers in reducing consumer confidence in the gambling industry. So, a key objective over the next few years is to help rebuild the industry’s reputation. The casino sector has always had a good name, however all of gambling has been tarnished. In the recent consultation into Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures the Gambling Commission and Government weren’t minded to support some quite modest requests for land based casinos. Our wishes and requests haven’t changed; we’re simply looking to modernise and harmonise our sector, and absolutely do it in a responsible way. The Gambling Commission has made it clear that they want the wider gambling industry to work closer together, share best practice and learn from one another. We need to replicate what land-based casinos have already done, talking with one voice, and do this across the whole industry. Another key message from the Gambling Commission is to keep the customer at the heart of all our decisions. I couldn’t agree more! Responsible Gambling is a fundamental part of this and is at the top of every decision we make; however, we mustn’t lose sight of what the consumer wants and expects from a modern land-based casino experience. We’d like the
ability to offer consumers the types of games they see in other jurisdictions and online, and to offer these in what are already safe, well managed environments. Currently the majority of casino premises are only permitted to offer 20 slots machines under the old 1968 Act casino licence. The new 2005 Act casino small licences permit up to 80 slots based on a table ratio. Converting the old licences into new licences is a simple request for our sector and would enable operators to provide a consistent and up-to-date offering for our customers. Playing Safe is now five years old, can you tell me a little more about this? That’s right, we set up Playing Safe five years ago and did so to show our commitment to responsible gambling. Land-based casinos share best practice in this space. We have no interest in competing on compliance. We ensure the whole sector learns from one another and as such we are constantly raising our standards. We were the first sector to introduce a national self-exclusion scheme, which we call SENSE and have been running it for 3 years now. Of course, just having a self-exclusion scheme isn’t enough, it’s evaluating its effectiveness that really counts. The Playing Safe executive are continuously reviewing the scheme, appraising the training and quality of interactions by our teams, and assessing the data to see what learnings we can make. Another important initiative that has been introduced through Playing Safe over the last five years is the ACE (Accreditation, Certification and Evaluation) inspections. The Playing Safe executive visit all operators and assess the senior management team, local managers and front-line employees to ensure the initiatives we have in place are fully understood and are working. These visits are supported by our Staff 360 research project where we use training and observation to evaluate the confidence and effectiveness of our colleagues in identifying individuals who may be displaying potentially harmful behaviours. It’s initiatives like this that ensure the protection of our customers is properly ingrained in our culture.
Playing Safe is constantly evolving. We have been working with a Canadian Research facility, Focal Research, for three years now on a pilot which has just gone live. Using our machine data, the software detects GOIs, gamblers of interest, through a really complex algorithm based on the experience Focal have gained over twenty years. It’s not that these customers necessarily have a problem with gambling, but they are showing potentially harmful behaviours. Our staff have been trained to interact with these individuals. The trial of Focal Research is live across five major operators. We’re quite excited about this initiative as we’ll be able to closely monitor progress and demonstrate that early interaction can make a positive difference. It’s essential that we monitor and identify risky behaviour before it becomes a problem. Alongside Focal Research we are piloting a number of limit setting and pre-commitment trials, putting to use the technology in our gaming machines and casino management systems. As well as being able to notify our customers when they have reached certain limits, the system will also notify our staff as well, enabling further interactions. Are you in partnership with Responsible Gambling Week? Absolutely. It’s taking place in the first week in November and we’re actively involved in the organising of this. We had the inaugural Responsible Gambling week last year, which was a real success for the whole gambling industry. It’s a great opportunity for the wider gambling industry to work together to get an important message out and to share best practice across the sectors. It’s also important to note that all sectors are different. Land-based casinos are rightly at the top of the regulatory pyramid and different sectors generally cater to different customers, however the language and messaging we use can be similar. Ultimately, we want all our customers to play responsibly, within their individual budgets and our messaging should reflect this. Alongside this, there’s a more serious communication for those individuals who if they do find themselves in trouble have clear signposts to advice and treatment providers, for example GamCare. Responsible Gambling week is a great starting point, but it is only a starting a point. We need, as an industry, to work closer together and show a united front. There’s been too much of different sectors having a ‘pop’ at each other. We’ve all been tarnished by this. There’s been a major expansion, in related sectors, to the land-based casinos over the last decade. Yet casinos have stood still. Casinos are a controlled environment and staff have a far greater level of
support. Don’t you think the time is now getting near for casinos to be allowed to progress, the hundreds of thousands who board a plane to Las Vegas are now looking to gain that experience from their local casinos and contribute to the exchequer? I absolutely agree. We have a two-tier structure. I operate two 1968 Act licence casinos in Newcastle and Northampton and two of the new 2005 Act licence casinos in Stratford and Milton Keynes. The key regulatory difference is the amount of product we’re able to offer, however, having suitable product for our customers has enabled us to build larger venues with a wider range of leisure offerings, for example, better bars, restaurants and function facilities. We closely monitor the social and economic benefit to Stratford and MK and share this data with the local authorities. There has been no evidence of any increase in harm to customers in these venues. What the evidence shows is more employment and more money going into the local economy. The time is right now for the Government to recognise this and allow the UK land-based casino sector to grow. Our requests are modest, the ability to bring our 1968 Act licenced casinos in line with the 2005 Act. To truly compete with international venues, the UK casino industry will need the ability to offer the numerous types of game that are available in other jurisdictions, whether this be different stakes and prizes, wide area (multi-venue) progressive jackpots or RNG electronic versions of table games; most of which are currently restricted or prevented under our current legislation. It’s absolutely right to modernise, however we need to be realistic. It is the ‘art of the possible’; start with harmonising the different licences we have, continue to progress our protection policies and work with the Gambling Commission and Government to demonstrate that we are doing all we can to mitigate harm. What would you like to see over the next 12 to 18 months? Although we were disappointed to receive nothing as part of the recent Government consultation, there was at least a willingness to review our sector again. It is our intention to start those conversations with the Gambling Commission and Government now, demonstrate that the progress we have been making over the last five years, alongside the initiatives we have planned for the future, is effective and will continue to protect our customers. It will be disappointing if we are still discussing the ‘status quo’ in 12 to 18 months’ time and have not commenced the harmonisation and modernisation of our land-based casino sector. It’s long overdue!
The Real-Life Game of Monopoly is Being Played on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City and the “Jersey Boys,” are at the Helm Partners in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Say “They are Here to Stay.”
he grand opening of the new Hard Rock Hotel Casino in Atlantic City whipped the already enthusiastic crowd into a frenzy with the smashing of guitars by celebrities, spectacular fireworks, dancers, and pulsating music, -vibrating you right out of your seat. It was a celebration of both, marking the opening of the Hard Rock and the simultaneous changing of the city landscape forever. Forty years ago, when the first casino opened in this city on May, 1978 the local Press of Atlantic City wrote: “The city will never be the same again!” Today, you could say, they are re-building “this city, on rock and roll!” And, if I can borrow the same phrase, “The city will never be the same again!” Opening day can best be described as being rocketed to the center of the universe, amidst a major cosmic eruption. It was certainly a testament to vision, leadership and team commitment.
The Hard Rock Hotel Casino opened on the south side of the boardwalk in an area that has seen three casinos close in four years. The property has 2,000 rooms completely renovated, 2200 slots games and 120 tables. Mr. Allen stated that 300 shows have been booked. Close to four thousand jobs have been filled and there is excitement everywhere you look. They have it all in restaurants, retail, convention space and entertainment options. The Hard Rock brand is in 75 countries, did 6 billion in revenue last year, and has 37,000 global employees. This Hard Rock International partnership includes some “Jersey Boys,” as they like to call themselves, in conjunction with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has owned the Hard Rock Brand since 2006. Jim Allen, Chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming said that there has been so much interest in this story, (The Hard Rock opening in AC) that they decided to hold the
press conference before the official grand opening. Their intent was to make it more of a question and answer session with very few speeches. With the primary stakeholders on stage, it became a relaxed and interesting conversation. Mr. Allen discussed some particulars about the property, noting the $500 million in renovations, and reminding the press that; “We promised that we would not just paint and put a guitar on the wall.” “Remember when we said that?” He said. The partners, Joe Jingoli, CEO of Lawrencevillebased Joseph Jingoli & Son and Jack Morris, CEO of Edgewood Properties have strong business and family roots in the state. And they have spent a great deal of time in the Atlantic City area on various projects. CEO Jim Allen was born in south Jersey and began his career in the Atlantic City gaming market. At one point he oversaw operations at all three, then Trump properties in AC, which included the former Taj Mahal, now Hard Rock. You could say that he knows his way around the building. Jim has a reputation for being a hands-on operator. It was very evident on the invited soft play night, as I saw him walking the property in casual attire, blending in with the crowd and talking with guests. That’s the definition of a leader’s leader! Today Jim Allen is Chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming. The partners have poured $500 million into the renovation to rebrand the resort in eight short months.
Mr. Allen pointed out that in the history of the gaming business, no other company, except the Hard Rock, have simultaneously had a positive grade rating from Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch. “This is a financially sound project with no outside debt.” He said. “We do not have to worry about bond holders and interest payments.” “Atlantic City will take the next step; and our project we believe is the catalyst to that,” he said. “Leaving Florida was a big step, said Allen.” “Having both the Hard Rock and the Seminoles together, with all the qualified financial resources, to meet all approvals, is a very “special-moment.” What does the opening of the Hard in Atlantic City mean to the Tribe? “This is an exciting time for the Tribe!” Said Seminoles Chairman Marcellus Osceola, Seminole Tribe of Florida. “This is something great for all of us,” he said. “It is another step forward. This is something our ancestors did not anticipate.” “For me personally,” said the Chairman. “This is a step-in history for Native Americans. We are paving the way for others.” “I am just so excited to be here.” Said, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney. The Senator represents south Jersey and has been very active in the revitalization effort for Atlantic City. “Atlantic City has had some very dark days,” he said. The Senator immediately turned to Seminoles Chairman Marcellus Osceola, and said, “thank you for their trust!”
“We are on the rise!” Said the Senator. “The only way you are going to get investments like this, (meaning the Hard Rock) is when people have the understanding that government is not like the way it was. We are moving forward.” It was high praise on all fronts to get this project in place and open on time. Both in the press conference and the Estess arena event, speeches were filled with praise for the tremendous level of cooperation from all sectors, to include local and state law enforcement, regulators, unions, and supporting vendors. Having been involved in casino property development myself, that high level of cooperation is needed, but doesn’t routinely happen. It was emphasized by CEO Allen, that there were no labor issues for the entire development process. “The power of the pen, used to be the mentality of Atlantic City!” Said CEO Allen. “This has been an engaging environment (praising the city and all involved entities) to take on this monumental task,” he said. From the podium, partner Jack Morris, CEO, of Edgewood Properties stated, “In all his years of business, he has never seen this level of cooperation.” The Mayor Frank Gilliam of Atlantic City summarized the culmination of today’s opening events with several key phrases. “A phenomenal day for Atlantic City, he said. “This is the next step for the future!” “This is a collaboration.” “This is a spirit of working together.” “There is an energy in this town.” If I may take some editorial privilege, as the author of this article, this was also an exciting experience for me, as I have a long history of working in Atlantic City, and have always been a cheerleader; even in its darkest hours. We have seen in recent years, a one step at a time initiative by stakeholders, such as the Hard Rock take place, giving hope and bringing a piece back to the city image with their brand. The presence of the Hard Rock global brand is contributing to making the city a more diversified hospitality and entertainment market. Change
has been slow to happen in this city, but as all participants at the grand opening seemed to agree on, that this is just the beginning! Establishing and operating a successful integrated customer experience does not happen by accident. It takes a solid financial platform, knowledge, careful planning, exceptional leadership, a great team effort, and an in depth understanding of the market. The successful brand of the Hard Rock brings a variety of already recognized amenities to the market. The famous Hard Rock Café is known worldwide for its casual dining and signature burger. Other non-gaming elements bring a consistency to the brand that adds interest, curiosity and cross generational appeal. The Hard Rock brand is historical and offers a broad market appeal. The Hard Rock brand has perfected the expertise through great service and product Identification. It is a, “singular,” personal customer experience or “identifier,” for each of their customers, but on a mass market platform. This strategy creates the return-customer that calls it their own, one customer at a time. I heard a customer ask a store associate about a very specific Hard Rock logoed shirt. That says a great deal about brand relationship and personal identification! And the great collection of museum quality, music memorabilia is of tremendous historical value. It defines decades of popular culture through music memorabilia which evokes memories in all of us, of other times and places, unique to each of us, in which only what music can provide. That is part of what makes the Hard Rock brand so personal. Redesigning seventeen acres of a brick and mortar property in about 8 months is not an easy task. Considering this property has bones dating back decades and was built to accommodate another gaming era in Atlantic City. Today, the transition from the old property to the Hard Rock looks seamless. Although we know it took countless hours of team effort and solid hard work. They accomplished the mission!
The property offers boardwalk entrances that provide an open view of the gaming floor and other key hospitality elements allowing “first-timers,” an ease of movement through the property. The grand entrance from valet is spectacular! A guitar chandelier capturing the theme of the brand greets the guest and is beautifully illuminated overhead as you enter. As you descend the escalator, you are immersed in an array of graphic images depicting music legends and iconic images. The perimeter of the gaming floor is generous with great signage, and there was easy access to all locations including the elevators. My hotel room was perfect. Everything in its place. And access to Wi-Fi was great. Having been a guest at the property under the prior management, I had an existing benchmark for comparison. I have stated in my editorials that a great deal about Atlantic City’s history has been a tug of war between the “old and new,” and the marketing models vs. the current customer perceptions. There is no doubt that the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino entertainment complex in the Atlantic City market is a game changer! It’s no secret in the past decade, that AC has faced numerous challenges, with casino closures, ongoing local and state political intrigue, and property ownership changes. The summer of 2018 is witness to the beginning of an improved Atlantic City tourism model. What sparked this Hard Rock and Seminole initiative?
How did we get here? What began the process that created ‘the Jersey boys? (This was the name the partners affectionately tagged on themselves.) Jack Morris, CEO, of Edgewood Properties: I had the great pleasure to meet Jim Allen about 3 years ago, and we had a conversation about AC. My partner Joe Jingoli and I go back about 25 years. I knew we “needed good partners.” After meeting Jim and knowing the kind of person he was, also from New Jersey, and his commitment, I talked to Joe and well, -because we are the “Jersey boys.” We talked about where AC was, and it needed our help! We could not have done it without the Seminole tribe because, with no disrespect from our friends on wall street, -but, they didn’t want to touch this place! The only people willing to do it are the people up here on the podium. And I am proud to be here!
Grand Opening Event
It made absolute sense for Hard Rocks Grand opening ceremony to take place in the rededicated Etess Entertainment arena. What better way to reintroduce a performance venue to the public with a capacity to seat 8,000 guests and a design and sound system, capable of hosting high energy events. The Broadway spectacular like production at the main event was a compliment of dance, pyrotechnics, confetti and balloons descending on a star-studded group of celebrities and a crowd of on
lookers reveling in the moment. Oh yes, and don’t forget about the guitar smash! Symbolic of the iconic Hard Rock brand is its international loyalty base of customers, it’s brand is so encompassing in its global footprint, and diversity, that it has crossed generational demographics and culture complexities. The love of the brand was clearly evident by those that attended opening day ceremonies. Some traveled great distances to be here for this historic moment in the city’s history and company. In the competitive congested, and sometimes oversaturated casino market place (like the east coast) a company planning to open a resort needs more than a marketing strategy of telling the market place they are “different.” The Hard Rock Brand is unique. They are different! I think you can say they do operate in a “Blue Ocean” strategy in a sea of “red” competitors. For those of you not familiar with this strategy it is based on a book published in 2004, by Kim and Renee Mauborgne. Basically, its premise is that companies can be successful by creating an uncontested space in the market. (Blue Ocean.) The Red Ocean is compromised of everyone else competing in the same market. The Hard Rock has been sailing, “Blue,” for several years. It’s a solid, self-defining brand. We know today, in general, that the casino floor environment has been reinvented with major design changes, to include a more open casino floor. New technology has assisted with this re-design, but also, the market place has called for the change. Gaming floor sightlines now include cafes and restaurants as well as more space to allow for social gatherings. It is about a blending of community within all segments of hospitality. This is very evident within the Hard Rock model. The Atlantic City model is at a new beginningdriven by the vision of companies that see the city as a cup half full rather than half empty. We applaud the stakeholders that stayed when the financial waters were turbulent, and we welcome the new
stakeholders such as the Hard Rock and Seminoles Tribe who bring their strategically thought out models to this market. There is a new source of energy in this coastal gambling city. We are witnessing a historical transition in Atlantic City. In some ways it is highlighting more of the non-gaming experiences that made Atlantic City the marketable city of the 1900’s that today just happens to have casinos. The beach, the boardwalk, lavish hotels, dining, retail and great entertainment options are part of that integrated resort experience in this city. The Atlantic City model is about a more strategic hospitality footprint, and a blending of community among all segments of the tourism presentation. So, take note of the Summer of 2018, when the “Jersey Boys,” came to town! The city will be a different model from its former casino influenced market base going forward. The most favored phrases of Hard Rock’s opening day included: • It’s a new era • The city is again open for business • A Renaissance in the city • The city is moving away from the past We are applauding a 2017 win of $2.6 billion in Atlantic City gaming. And with back to back years of positive casino wins and a renewed interest by investors, such as Hard Rock International, there is optimism and talk about a renaissance taking place right here on this beach. We have seen Atlantic City and its complex gaming and hospitality infrastructure continually tested. Today, with the opening of the Hard Rock, we are witnessing Atlantic City tourism moving to the next level. “Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Vince Lombardi. Robert Ambrose, Gaming Consultant, Adjunct Professor Casino Management, Fairleigh Dickinson University
20 Years in Tbilisi
Casino Adjaraâ€™s 20th Anniversary Tbilisi-based Casino Adjara celebrated its 20th anniversary early this summer with a party lasting two nights (15 & 16 June). Casino Life featured this trendy Georgian casino at the start of this year in Issue 114, and now follow-up with Vedran Bajat, Managing Director at Casino Adjara after the anniversary event
How many guest were at the party, and was there a good turn-out from celebrities and TV personalities? Attendance each night was around 1500 visitors. Entertainment on the first night was performed mostly by local artists and TV celebrities and it was attached to a 100.000 GEL (40K USD) lottery for slot players only. Entertainment on the second night was of a much higher level and it was attached to a live games lottery with a prize fund of 400.000 GEL (160K USD). Most of the entertainment was supplied by professional dance and entertainment groups and individual artists invited from Ukraine and Russia together with some locals performers and TV celebrities. The theme of the second night party was based on Alice in Wonderland with the whole
performance in the first part of the event dedicated to the theme. We redecorated part of the casino in order to additionally highlight the theme of the night. The second part of the entertainment was more like a â€œfairytale for adultsâ€? with a dance performance by a popular Russian female group as well as a local acrobatic dance performer. Overall the event turned out to be very successful and we received a huge amount of positive feedback from our customers and invited guests. Everybody agreed that such an event had never before been done or organized by any Georgian casino. Are there video posts by the casino and/or local news outlets highlighting the event?
There were some posts in the local medias but I must admit that we didn’t get too much general coverage mostly due to fairly negative attitude of local medias toward gambling in general. Having reached the 20th year, what does the future hold for Casino Adjara? Current situation on Georgian market won’t allow us to “rest on our laurels” after what has been a successful 20 years. The recently increased competition (number of casinos) will push us to
work very hard to maintain a dominant position in the market which is our main goal for the years to come. Fulfilling such a task will be very demanding to the whole of our structure as the new competitors are professional companies with good experience and high level of standards.
Casino Life would like to congratulate Casino Adjara on their twenty successful years, and wish them the very best for the years to come.
Happy Anniversary Aristidis Tsikouras Managing Director GeWeTe: Interview by JJ Woods
Clearly a lot of organisation went into organising this important occasion in the history of GeWeTe. Please give us an overview. The management team took the decision at the end of 2017 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of GeWeTe in style. We then actually began with the initial preparations back in January of this year. We wanted to take this opportunity to bring together all the people who have made GeWeTe the company it is today. This was very important to us – to have this chance to say a big thank-you to them all – so we chose to invite our customers, our entire staff and indeed our key suppliers. Nearly all the members of the Gauselmann Board joined us on our special day that personally meant a great deal to me – as it shows yet again how important GeWeTe is within the Gauselmann Group. We are responsible for the entire redemption terminal and change machine market in the group – including for casinos. What stays in your memory from this celebration? Simply everything. Everything was perfect. The weather was fantastic, the location was wonderful – at Phantasialand near Cologne. The event
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room was just right and we all enjoyed excellent food and drink. The performance of the digital magician Simon Pierro was unbelievable – we were all astounded to see him pouring beer into a glass from an iPad! Having grown up in this region, it was great fun as well to listen to the Cologne band Bläck Fööss that sings in local dialect. Our guests could relax, dance and enjoy this local band. The last guests went home about 3 o’clock in the morning – so it shows how much fun was had. This was a big occasion that was clearly very enjoyable for all. That is very true. I received well over 100 messages the next days from guests thanking us and saying how much they enjoyed the evening. Furthermore, our guests enjoyed having the chance
to look behind the scenes at our headquarters in Mechernich. We opened our factory doors throughout the day and conducted tours through the building which was much appreciated. A big contributing reason for GeWeTe success over 25 years is down too its innovation in banknote and coin handling machine development along
with reliability – a focus we can expect will never change at the organisation. Does that mean we can expect further exciting developments in the years ahead? Our success does not only stem from our management team. Our success stems indeed from our entire team. Our employees are our most important assets. Their knowledge, expertise, motivation and loyalty all go together to create a very special team that is dedicated on creating the best solutions of its kind in the market. Innovation can thrive in such an atmosphere and at GeWeTe I can say it certainly does. I’d like to emphasize here that we will not be resting on our laurels. We will continue each and every working day to focus in bringing the most innovative, secure and enduring solutions around redemption and change machines. This combination ensures we continue to provide market-beating solutions that are the best value for money as well. A real win-win
for our customers. Anything else you’d like to mention? I’d like to conclude this interview by thanking everyone who made this event possible. My thanks go to all the team at Gauselmann and GeWeTe who organised this. They did a great job. And naturally to everyone who came and made this evening such a special one. We had over 400 guests in total.
TransAct’s Rashid Suliman is pictured with his partner, Kylie Suliman, at a function in Macau. Suliman and his family relocated to Macau with TransAct in February of 2012.
EPIC Innovation Glyn Thomas chats with Rashid Suliman, TransAct’s Vice President of Global Gaming in the Asia Pacific
How long have you been working at TransAct Technologies and can you explain your role at the company along with your primary responsibilities and objectives? I’m Vice President of Global Gaming in the Asia Pacific region and have been with TransAct for over six years. I have been in the industry for 24 years, working previously at Orion Art, Ainsworth & Mikohn Gaming Corporation in various roles from sales and operations manager to project management. At TransAct, I’m responsible for building customer relationships and driving gaming sales across Asia Pacific. TRANSACT is primarily known for manufacturing highly reliable TITO printers. Can you provide readers with more detail on the other products
you supply to the Australasian market? Yes, TransAct is globally known in the casino sector for the industry leading Epic 950 TITO printer. In addition to our premium TITO printers, we also offer printer solutions for all gaming applications. These include the Epic 880, which is the go to printer for sports betting terminals across the world; the Epic 430, which is used in kiosk applications and the Epic 3000, the chosen printer in countless lottery jurisdictions around the world. By having a stable of products, we can glean knowledge from a huge field base to give our customers the best product experience. Australia has also proven to be a great market for the Epic 430 and Ithaca 9000 printers, which are our robust, high-end point of sale printers used in electronic betting terminals.
TransAct Technologies has a direct sales model that involves direct contact with Casinos, as well as Distributors supporting particular regions. What has been your perception so far from your meetings with Casinos whom are existing customers and those that are prospective customers? The Asian Pacific region has always sat a little differently within TransAct. Although we have had the same global distributor as the rest of the company, my team and I have always been out on the road generating business with both the Manufacturers and also creating excitement for our products with operators across the region. Because of the geographic size of the region, rather than try and cover the whole market directly, we decided to appoint regional sales partners who could focus on their local market and give customers the best possible sales and support experience. We are still out there visiting customers and building the TransAct experience, but we have found that supplementing this with local partners who know their customers’ needs is much more efficient than having a sole global partner. As such, we have recently appointed two new partners, signing agreements with Asia Pioneer Entertainment (APE) in Macau and The Bright Group (TBG) in Australia. What new products have you found that have had most interest by Casinos? That would overwhelmingly be Epicentral, which is our promotional marketing system and the gaming industry’s only enterprise-level promotion and bonusing software suite. This software allows casino operators to target and deliver promotions to customers in real-time directly at the slot machine and electronic table game. Capable of working with all existing slot management systems and games, regardless of manufacturer, Epicentral provides casino slot and marketing teams with the
unparalleled ability to create a floor-wide bonusing environment that has been proven to drive increased time on device and, ultimately, increased revenue for the casino operator. Outside of the more established markets such as Australia and Macau how do you see the potential for TransAct Technologies in the years ahead in regions that are opening up such as South Korea and in a few years the likes of Japan Thankfully, it’s already proven to be a busy year across the region. In March, MGM Cotai opened equipped with TransAct’s Epic 950 across the entire floor, a deal which also saw the existing MGM Macau property remove and replace all the incumbent printers and replace them with Epic 950. This was a huge win for the company and comes on the back of five of the last six new openings in Cotai installed with TransAct across the floor. The Epic 950 has proven itself time and time again across the world and continues to win a growing following of fans with its robustness and reliability. Nagaworld in Cambodia has turned to the Epic 950 for the opening of the Nagaworld 2 Casino. We also notched up important new opening wins at Imperial Pacific Resort Hotel in Saipan and Corona Casino at Phu Quoc in Vietnam. The Corona property will open later this year with Epic 950 printers across their expansive floor. The Philippines is a steadily growing market with casinos set to open outside Manila, along with the continued expansion of existing properties. In
fact, it has been a happy hunting ground for us in recent years and hope to expand on that success. It goes without saying that Japan is of huge interest, and TransAct has already appointed a sales partner for that region in preparation for this. When Japan opens up, we will be in a great position to take advantage of any opportunity. Outside the casinos, in some states of Australia, the Pub and Club market is still relatively new to TITO and there are huge growth opportunities as regulators open up regulations and operators realise the benefits of TITO printers, along with the perks of specifying one type of peripheral across the whole of their machine operation. In terms of other more short term opportunities, we have a busy second half of the year coming up and will have more to report on that soon. Where can visitors to this year’s Australian Gaming Expo find your booth? We will be at stand 612 at AGE, where attendees at the show will have a chance to see first-hand the reliability of the Epic 950 and the
Epic Edge, which is packed with technology to simplify casino operations and improve slot floor performance. In addition to the TITO printers, TransAct will also demonstrate its full range of Epic roll-feed printers for the VLT, gaming, sports betting and lottery markets; Epic 430, Epic 880, Epic 3000 and Epic 9000. Filling out TransAct’s presence on the show floor, the Epic Edge TT and Epic 950 TT are purpose-built printers taking the power of the advanced Epic Edge and proven Epic 950 outside the slot machine to give casinos the option of printing TITO at table games, players’ club desks or cash desks. The TT product line packages the printer with an internally mounted power supply in a stylish compact design that is easy to deploy. In addition, thanks to their dual port capability, the Epic Edge TT and Epic 950 TT allow operators to expand the bonusing environment created by Epicentral, to non-gaming device applications. We look forward to meeting you at the TransAct stand at AGE, where we will be showing our full range of gaming products.
Tales from the Slot Floor: Casino Slot Managers in Their Own Words Author: Dr. David G. Schwartz
he individual commentaries of life on the slot floor, are based on a series of interviews conducted by Dr. David G. Schwartz, Director for Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las
Vegas. The interviews are with present and former slot managers from a variety professional backgrounds. Their response, through a series of opened ended questions, provides the reader with a prospective on how management and slot machines have developed through the decades. It is a candid commentary, -an “oral history,” from those that have lived the experience of developing slot floors, purchasing equipment, dealing with the changing technologies, leadership of employees and satisfying customer needs. Through the series of interviews, Dr. Schwartz has also captured the historical time-line of the slot product development. The casino industry is a people business. The book is about the people, working every day in an environment of continuous high energy, anxiety, anticipation, customer excitement and customer disdain. It can be quite challenging. And that’s just the first 30 minutes of the day! There is no right or wrong answer to the questions posed by Dr. Schwartz. The answers are an individual portrait of each manager and their decisions within the framework of their work environment. You will see the managers personal and professional perspectives. How the current technologies of the “day,” drove initiatives and created new paths into the parameters of gaming’s platform. This book is also a sharing of leadership philosophies and management skills.
From negotiating million dollar deals, to the purchase of gaming equipment, to opening a property; the stories from the managers offer insight, and in a way, pull back the curtain, on an aspect of the casino floor that in many ways, is still cloaked in mystery. The operational strategies of the slot floor come from the managers operating from the “back-ofthe-house,” an area not open to public view. To the average customer, “the-front-of-the-house,” is where the slot floor resides. To the customer, it all seems very simplistic in presentation, with all the slot games placed neatly in a row like new cars in a show room. At least that’s the way we like to have it appear. It was an honor to be asked to share some of my industry stories and thoughts for this project. I am also humbled to be able to have shared my thoughts with fellow slot managers, (some I know personally,) whose talents I admire and respect. Being familiar with Dr Schwartz’s literary achievements and having used his books in my classes, I knew this would be a product of superb educational quality. Whether you are from the “old or new school of thought, currently working in casino slot management, or a related field of hospitality, a student, or are just curious about the industry, this book is for you. Robert Ambrose, Gaming Consultant, Adjunct Professor Casino Management, Fairleigh Dickinson University
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