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CASINO The magazine for the owners and management of international casinos

Volume 16: Issue 138

Beauty, Charm, & Adventure Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage


Editor’s Note

Editorial: Editor: Peter White Tel: +44 (0) 1892 740869 Mob: +44 (0) 7973 273714 pwhite@ace123.com Features Editor: Damien Connelly dconnelly@ace123.com Associate Editor Asia: Bill Healey bill@ace123.com Associate Editor North America: David Mckee dmckee@ace123.com Special Assignment Correspondent: Sophie Behan sophielbehan@gmail.com International Casino & Gaming Correspondent: Robert Ambrose r.ambrose16@gmail.com

Production: Designer: Stewart Hyde stewart@totaldesignworks.com www.totaldesignworks.com Subscriptions: Helen Holmes subs@ace123.com Web: Sudip Banjeree sb@ace123.com IT: John Wiltshire jwiltshire123@gmail.com Volume 16: Issue 138

Welcome... ...to Issue 138 of Casino Life. ‘The darkest hour is just before the dawn’. We face challenging times. As I write this, U.S. casino operator stocks are starting to rebound. Markets are beginning to calm. China, importantly, and the countries surrounding it are recovering. Industry bodies, including the

Peter White

American Gaming Association, are briefing and educating stakeholders to ensure they are aware of the considerable benefits our casino industry delivers. Liquidity and cash flow issues are beginning to get on the radars of governments worldwide. While recognising the challenges we still face, Damien Connelly let’s focus on the positives without being flippant or disrespectful to what has happened to many thousands of people. As an industry focused on entertainment and fun and on providing upbeat memories, we can help lift people’s moods and spirits. Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage in Palm Springs, California, provides an excellent variety of ways to create positive memories. Saverio R. Scheri III, COO of Agua Caliente, shares detail on this Forbes Four-Star Californian resort. I think its Sunstone Spa will be a Bill Healey superb asset in times to come. Shaun McCamley and Robert Brassai, both of whom have been GMs of resort casinos around the world, have produced excellent and thought-provoking articles that will hopefully expand your thinking and help us all rise to the challenges we face. Going forward the industry will be focused on recovering from the recession caused by the outbreak and arguably turning to technology to David McKee invert the trend. What is already being used and what can we expect as we look into the crystal ball? Most operators were coming off a successful 2019 and looking forward to a stronger year ahead in 2020 before the crisis hit. We know this industry will bounce back, resilient as it is. Our thoughts and best wishes are with you all. Stay healthy. Stay strong.

Peter

Stewart Hyde

Peter White Editor 3


Contents 3

Editor’s Note

6 It’s a hot, hot, hot, hot world Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage is basking in unprecedented honors by David McKee. 17 The Customer Always Wins Restaurant Review of Heliot Steak House, The Hippodrome Casino, London by Damien Connelly. 23 The natural choice in Technology Sim Bielak President of Global Gaming & Amusement Business SUZOHAPP Interview by Damien Connelly. 27 Star Performers Aristidis Tsikouras Managing Director GeWeTe Interview by Peter White 32 To Infiniti and Beyond! DRGT launches its exclusive Tables Jackpot Arena and Continues its focus on the Player Experience at ICE 2020 37 New Dates for G2E Asia 39 Why did I buy into a systems meltdown? A users guide to avoiding systems failure before you even unpack the server. By Andrew Cosgrove. 43 Change Management Do you need to rethink operational process and practise? 46 Crisis Management in Casinos By Robert Brassai 50 Last Word By: Damien Connelly 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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THE ACTION! ScientificGames.com The look and feel of the games and their individual components and displays are trade dress of Scientific Games Corp. and its Subsidiaries. TM and Š 2020 Scientific Games Corp. and its Subsidiaries. All rights reserved.


Lead Feature: Agua Caliente

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www.casinolifemagazine.com


Lead Feature: Agua Caliente

It’s a hot, hot, hot, hot world Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage is basking in unprecedented honors. By David McKee

Volume 16: Issue 138

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Lead Feature: Agua Caliente

“A

gua caliente” is Spanish for “hot water” and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has been playing a hot hand ever since they opened their first casino, in downtown Palm Springs, California, on April 6, 2001. Seven years later, the Tribe doubled down in nearby Rancho Mirage, opening their flagship Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. Located amid scrubland across which Jonathan Winters madly drove a moving van in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, in search of “The Big W,” you could say that the resort is Cahuilla Indians’ own “Big W,” as in “big win.” Not only has Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage’s blue-ribbon restaurant, The Steakhouse, been a regular favorite of Wine Spectator Magazine, Forbes recently bestowed upon Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage the rare and coveted Four-Star Award for the resort hotel as well as the Sunstone Spa and The Steakhouse making Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage the only property in California to do so. Does this leave the Cahuilla no new worlds to conquer? Certainly not! The Tribe is pushing toward completion of a third casino, in Cathedral City, CA. It also continues to pursue economic diversification, the ultimate goal of many tribes for whom gaming is a springboard. At the helm is industry veteran Saverio R. Scheri III. A well-traveled casino consultant and former private-sector casino executive (including a stint at Valley Forge Resort Casino in Pennsylvania), Scheri practically beams with pride when discussing the accomplishments of his team members and kindly took time to talk with Casino Life about Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage’s myriad accomplishments.

How far has the Rancho Mirage property come in the time it’s been around? It’s interesting. The first casino was in downtown Palm Springs and it opened over 20 years ago. Then they expanded and opened their Rancho Mirage property on April 18, 2008. They’ve gone from one casinoresort tribal enterprise to two, with a third opening later this year, a cultural museum and spa in downtown Palm Springs, a convenience store and gas station that’s also opening this year and we’ll be breaking ground on a 2,000-seat arena in just a few weeks that will be home to the minor-league hockey affiliate of the new Seattle hockey team in the NHL and we also have our G-league Agua Caliente Clippers playing there, 8

Saverio R. Scheri III, Chief Operating Officer, Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage

along with lots and lots of concerts. They’ve gone from a single casino to a full-on gaming corporation. Where is the new arena being built? It is being built in downtown Palm Springs, just about a block away from the casino. There’s a large parking

garage in between the casino and the arena, so that’s very convenient. How diversified would you say the revenue stream is, with all those new initiatives? Clearly, diversification is a priority, not just within a casino, which we’ve been seeing for many, many years now and we’re certainly doing that through the hotel, entertainment, food and beverage, and the spa. But now we’re doing it through other venues, clearly, with the arena, the convenience store, and the Tribe is involved with many different ventures that are outside the gaming world here. So quite frankly, the Tribe has been in this area for thousands and thousands of years. They’ve found artifacts that go back 10,000 years. When you think back to the town of Palm Springs, when Palm Springs was just a small city, it was this Tribe – the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians that developed this valley into what it is today. www.casinolifemagazine.com


Lead Feature: Agua Caliente

And Palm Springs wouldn’t be what it is today without this Tribe. Indeed. So how many games does Rancho Mirage have and what variety of games do you offer? Between the two properties we have 2,500 games. We’ll be adding 500 games in our new venue. We have a full complement of table games—blackjack, baccarat, craps, roulette and we have the valley’s only poker room. The spa is given prominent billing. What kind of spa experience can guests expect? When you think about coming to a spa in Palm Springs, there’s a lot of great resorts and big names but our spa, Sunstone Spa, has been voted by Spa Magazine the number-one spa in California and 10

the number-three spa in the country. So clearly the treatments, the environment, the service are clearly above and beyond what you are going to find in a particular spa. Our spa director is one of a kind. He eats, lives and breathes spa, and it shows. The moment you make your reservation to the time you walk out you are transformed. Are customers in casinos like Agua Caliente seeking more of a resort experience nowadays or did the resort come first and the customers responded to it? It’s a little chicken-and-the-egg there. We certainly have great fun for folks that want to pop in, have something to eat, game a little, watch a show. But here at Rancho Mirage, our Forbes Four-Star resort, it’s really an oasis and we have people that come here www.casinolifemagazine.com


Lead Feature: Agua Caliente With the two casinos being relatively close, what kind of synergies are you able to achieve? It’s very interesting. There’s a whole, exciting vibe downtown for the people that live and visit that area, and our casino down there is lots of high energy, lots of fun. Here, in Rancho Mirage, it’s more of the resort experience. So it’s great for people to be able to go back and forth, and say, ‘Hey, I want to try the restaurant over at Rancho Mirage. I might want to try my luck at the other casino, walk around Palm Springs a bit.’ Obviously, being able to earn their points at both properties and redeem their points at both properties is something very compelling for us and our customers. What does the Forbes Four-Star Award say about Rancho Mirage? I’m so proud of that. I’m so proud of our employees. When I first got here this was something they were trying to achieve and I got involved with that. I said, ‘This is a great idea, let’s really go after this.’ We engaged with Forbes to understand what we needed to do to achieve it, and we already had a great teammember base here, who provided great customer service and a great experience. But we brought Forbes in to really fine-tune that experience. And we did our own little touches as well, and in less than two years we were able to go from a Forbes-recommended three-star to a Forbes Four-Star triple winner—and to be a triple winner is extraordinarily rare. You find most

How many of them stay for overnight or longer? We’re a fairly large casino, so we get a little bit of both. We have over 350 rooms, so we’re booked on a fairly regular basis.

places they have a casino or a restaurant or maybe they have a spa or maybe they have two of the three. But we got all three. There is no other hotel or casino in California that is a triple winner and there is no other Forbes Four-Star casino in the country that is a triple winner. The next place you’d have to go to find that, you’d have to move up to five stars and the nearest triple winner in the five-star category is Wynn Las Vegas and Encore. So we’re very pleased about the company we’re in.

For those readers who know where Palms Springs is but aren’t so familiar with Rancho Mirage, where is it, geographically? Palm Springs, in Coachella Valley, is just two hours east of Los Angeles. Downtown Palm Springs is the first thing that you hit here in Coachella Valley and if you were to drive about another nine or 10 minutes east, you would get to Rancho Mirage.

Understandably. What are some of those unique touches to which you alluded? It’s really great. I came here to Agua Caliente Casinos with the experience of being a consultant and having worked for many, many different casinos around the globe. Coming here and seeing these team members that have a passion for what they do, we’re able to collaborate and come up with some really unique ways

and stay not just for a day but for many days. We have some guests that will stay a week or more. So it’s exciting how that customer is really diverse for us.

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Lead Feature: Agua Caliente

When you think back to the town of Palm Springs, when Palm Springs was just a small city, it was this Tribe – the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians that developed this valley into what it is today.

to bring Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley to our guests. Things from the date butter in our steakhouse that is unique to us because we have date farms here in the valley. It’s the signature dishes both in The Steakhouse and some of the other venues. Some of the treatments here in Sunstone Spa you won’t find in any other spa in the world. It’s little touches like that, that you can’t find anywhere else, that certainly helps set us apart. In addition to Sunstone Spa, The Steakhouse was singled out. What are its outstanding qualities? Well, there’s a lot of good steakhouses in the country. I get to go to a lot and our steakhouse is the best that I’ve ever been to. Obviously, you have to have the highest quality meat and it has to be cooked to perfection. And a lot of steakhouses can do that. Not 12

only do we do that, we have some absolutely amazing dishes. Our Filet Oscar, we put a crab on top with a béarnaise and a bordelaise sauce, which I’ve never seen before and it is one of the most delicious things and decadent things I’ve ever eaten in my life. You combine that with the service of people that are so passionate about their jobs and you’re not having a meal, you’re having an experience. The Steakhouse has also been winning Wine Spectator awards since 2007. What’s its secret? We have a vast wine cellar and our steakhouse manager and our food-and-beverage director take advantage, of course, of the wines that are right here in California but they’re also particular about making sure that some of the best wineries from around the world are represented. It’s an amazing selection with www.casinolifemagazine.com


Lead Feature: Agua Caliente

great variety and top-notch wines but wines that kind of satisfy everyone’s budget. How do you find the more-select ones? Our team works directly with wineries and they have

relationships over many, many years—decades even. So because of those relationships they’re able to get special vintages and special offerings that a lot of other restaurants can’t have. With us, we’re happy to take a small batch and really highlight that in our steakhouse. A lot of places say, ‘We need a larger quantity,’ so they’re not able to work with those wineries and special vintages. You mentioned wines being available in all price points. What amenities do you have for a customer who’s on a budget? We have great food options. We have a buffet, of course, which is great in value, and then we have our food area called The District, where we have Indian, Mexican and American deli and you can get almost anything you can imagine. But it’s not just fast food: It’s like going to a restaurant. It’s restaurant-quality food. But it’s at an excellent price point. Then we have 14

our 360 Sports. It’s an amazing venue. It’s a sports bar set in the middle of what would potentially be a sports book if we were ever to have sports betting passed in California. The food is amazing: large pretzels, pulledpork sandwiches, Wagyu-beef burgers, giant tater

tots—you could just get three of them because they’re huge—it’s fun. And we have our three-meal restaurant, our steakhouse and so we run the gamut of options. How instrumental are your employees to your award-winning status? They are the key. It’s great for us to sit at the top and say, ‘Hey, we want to go do this’ and ‘Let’s bring in the training.’ And we train the employees but, at the end of the day, they make it happen. They embrace the concept of delivering a higher level of customer service to create the ultimate guest experience. That’s what we strive to do here and our team members … we have team members that have been here 20, 25 years. I’ve worked in casinos all around the world, but I’ve never seen this kind of dedication and commitment from a team-member base. If I’m driving down the Coachella Valley and trying www.casinolifemagazine.com


Lead Feature: Agua Caliente

to decide whether to stop in Agua Caliente Palm Springs or Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage, what differentiates the two properties? The downtown property has got that cool, hip vibe and it’s right where all the action is in the downtown

area. There’s a club there. Rancho Mirage, we’ve got a beautiful pool, we’ve got the hotel, the resort, we’ve got a large showroom where we have entertainment such as Jerry Seinfeld, who was hilarious. We’ve got all the different dining options, a larger casino. So this is more of a destination whereas our downtown property is more convenient for folks that are visiting down in that area. How is the Cathedral City casino progressing and when do you expect it will open? It’s moving fast. We get down there almost every day and every day there’s a dramatic difference, so we’re very excited about that. We’re hoping to have that open by the end of the year. What scale of casino will Cathedral City be? It’ll be similar to our downtown Palm Springs casino: less games but it will be similar in size and offerings Volume 16: Issue 138

to what we have downtown. We’re very excited about the new pavilion area that is going to offer an indoor/outdoor entertainment area where we can put on shows, we can have DJs. It’s going to be a very versatile area and we’re going to plan on doing something down there every weekend, so we’re really excited about what that’s going to do for that community.

What sort of involvement do the Agua Caliente Casinos have with the surrounding communities? Like a lot of big business that want to be good community neighbors, we have the ability and really the responsibility to work with a lot of local charities, cities, hospitals, police, fire—because we have a responsibility to help them to help those that are in need. Our casinos and our Tribe really go out of their way. It’s easy to write a check but it goes beyond that. They’re really involved and spend their time as well as making financial contributions, to make sure that we are part of the community in a responsible and giving way. Some tribal casinos have started marketing in Las 15


Lead Feature: Agua Caliente

Vegas itself. Do you see that happening for you? We see that and it’s interesting. We certainly understand why they’re doing it because they’re trying to compete for folks that are driving up or flying up from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. They want to give them another option. We certainly believe that it’s important for there to be an awareness of Agua Caliente in those areas. But when they’re advertising

in Las Vegas they’re really focused on the L.A. market. Fortunately for us, we really are set apart from our competition. We offer something quite different. We provide that ultimate guest experience. We’re the only Forbes Four-Star triple winner in the country now. So we have many customers that will opt to drive past our competition and visit us, and we love that. We embrace that and work to expand our marketing in those areas, to build on that and continue to build that customer loyalty. You’ve said you hope to offer sports betting. What is your preferred timeline for that? My preferred timeline would be next week. [laughs] But that’s not the way things work here. We’re hoping that there’s an initiative on the ballot this November and we’re hoping that that’s successful. If it is, as soon as the Legislature here in California can set the guidelines and the regulations for us, we’ll be ready to go. 16

So you have all the infrastructure in place? We’re prepared and we have a wonderful venue for it. The big news is that the infrastructure is much easier to do nowadays. As fast as they can let us do it, we’ll be ready to go. Looking beyond sports betting, what do the Agua Caliente Casinos hope to offer in the future? Ultimately what we want to do is not just provide great customer service but provide the ultimate guest experience, so that we think about going out to dinner and pick a restaurant, we want to be that when they think about their entertainment option because we’re not just a casino. We have entertainment, we have food, we have a resort, so we want that to be what people think of, first and foremost. For us to do that we have to provide them with a phenomenal guest experience every time that they come here.

As a transplanted New Yorker, how are you enjoying the California lifestyle? I refuse to fly back east during the winter months, I can tell you that. [laughs] I’m loving it. The people are great. The weather is phenomenal. Now I see why people come here and do not want to return home.

www.casinolifemagazine.com


Feature: Hippodrome Restaurant Salvo Russo, Restaurant Manager and Mery Esposito, Head Waitress of Heliot Steak House, and Damien Connelly

The Customer Always Wins Restaurant Review of Heliot Steak House, The Hippodrome Casino, London by Damien Connelly Executive Chef: Ioannis Grammenos Instagram: @Meatologist_Ioannis_Grammenos Twitter: @HeliotSteakHouse Volume 16: Issue 138

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Feature: Hippodrome Restaurant

I

s there a more mesmerizing backdrop to eating a meal for an adult than a great casino floor? Casino floors are a cornucopia of emotions with constantly evolving stimuli. Filled with adults, casino floors bubble and overflow with sensory inputs...especially audio and visual. As a stand-out restaurant

backdrop, great casino floors are up there with the great squares and plazas of the world in my opinion. One of the biggest selling points of the multi-award winning Heliot Steak House at The Hippodrome is its layout. It is spread over three tiers and begins on the first floor. Tables in the Heliot Steak House afford wonderful views over the Grand Casino, which is on the ground floor, and of the central auditorium which is an open space spanning an impressive four floors. There are not many restaurants where you can sit and view ‘The Gods’ while eating - a reference to The Hippodrome building’s history as a circus and variety theatre that opened in 1900. Located on Leicester Square, with a London Underground station directly beneath, The Hippodrome is in the heart of London’s West End. It is perfectly located for visiting London and the West End’s theaters and shows. Indeed, The Hippodrome has its own show which it imported from Las Vegas 18

- Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike Live! Pre- and postshow eating opportunities are fully catered for by the Heliot Steak House. This is a restaurant where you get more than you expect. It’s located in some of the most expensive real estate in the world and still affords great value for money: Starters are from £8, Mains from £14 with most Side dishes £3, and all Desserts are £7. Along with great value for money + its West End location + its very intelligent tiered layout, the food is delicious. I met some of the culinary team (back- and frontoffice) during my visit and it was apparent how much pride they take in their job...great to see. It’s of course a team performance to deliver such quality at incredible value. I would like in particular to ‘tip www.casinolifemagazine.com


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Feature: Hippodrome Restaurant

I met some of the culinary team (back- and front-office) during my visit and it was apparent how much pride they take in their job...great to see. It’s of course a team performance to deliver such quality at incredible value. my hat’ in acknowledgement of a job very well done to Mery Esposito (Head Waitress) and Salvo Russo (Restaurant Manager). An advantage I consider inherent to well-run F&B outlets within casinos: they have a high ratio of staff to customers. This allows casino restaurants to deliver outstanding customer service and exceed 20

customer expectations. Heliot Steak House leverages this inherent attribute and builds upon it by having courteous, happy and knowledgeable staff. Heliot Steak House offers a dining experience that’s close to what one would expect in a formal ‘white table cloth’ fine dining restaurant yet in a friendly and quite informal manner. Heliot Steak House also delivers www.casinolifemagazine.com


Feature: Hippodrome Restaurant portions that satisfy rather than tease. They leave the teasing to the Magic Mike Live! show. I placed my trust in the hands of Mery and was glad I did so. She asked insightful questions about my eating preferences (beyond the standard food allergy questions). This allowed Mery to advise more appropriate course options for me based on her superior knowledge of the menu. Mery was very comfortable advising on food pairings and was a very capable sommelier. As I noted above, Heliot Steak House is a restaurant where you receive more than you expect. Plus it is more than a steak house. Given The Hippodrome caters to a mass- and premium-mass customer base, Heliot Steak House provides a varied menu that encompasses vegan, vegetarian and seafood options. Its signature dishes are, of course, steaks. Heliot Steak House offers USDA aged steaks. My starter was Sea Bass Ceviche that had both a “Wow” taste and a “Wow” serving experience - I’ll not spoil the show by divulging the serving experience here...you need to visit Heliot Steak House at The Hippodrome and order the Sea Bass Ceviche yourself to experience it. I was tempted by the Goat Cheese Lollipops, the Foie Gras and the USDA Meat

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Feature: Hippodrome Restaurant

I placed my trust in the hands of Mery and was glad I did so. She asked insightful questions about my eating preferences (beyond the standard food allergy questions). This allowed Mery to advise more appropriate course options for me based on her superior knowledge of the menu. 22

Balls...Sea Bass Ceviche was the advised choice by Mery, and it was a “Wow” experience. Mery used her wine knowledge and the Gavi she advised complemented the Sea Bass perfectly. Main for me was a Rib Eye. I can’t say that I ate my Rib Eye because it literally melted in my mouth. They seriously know how to cook USDA prime steak at the Heliot Steak House. Mery’s wine pairing advice was again excellent. Dessert I will admit was a bit of a struggle. By this time, with such healthy portions, I was feeling quite full. But needs must! Mery advised the Almond Millefeuille paired with a Royal Tokaji Late Harvest. They were delectably balanced and provided a wonderful closing taste to our meal at the Heliot

Steak House. It’s such a great restaurant to eat in. Its location in the heart of London’s West End is very convenient. The food is delicious. The front- and back-of-house staff ensure customers receive a great experience with excellent service. The tiered layout uses to full advantage the entertaining ambience one can feel throughout The Hippodrome - starting on the first floor overlooking the Grand Casino and with full auditorium views, this means Heliot Steak House customers can sit and watch the entire property and all the comings and goings of the staff and customers from the comfort of their table. The vibe you get from the casino and indeed the entire property means you leave with upbeat memories, wanting to return. Would it be unfashionable to posit that the customer always wins in the Heliot Steak House at The Hippodrome? www.casinolifemagazine.com


Feature: SuzoHapp Sim Bielak, President of Global Gaming and Amusement Business

The natural choice in Technology Sim Bielak, President of Global Gaming & Amusement Business, SUZOHAPP. Interview by Damien Connelly

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Feature: SuzoHapp

N

obody makes more game parts than SUZOHAPP, founded in Mount Prospect, Illinois, with manufacturing facilities in China and Poland. Fresh off the ICE show in London, SUZOHAPP had a wealth of new technology to showcase, which it does in this conversation with Damien Connelly. With sports betting on the upswing, this is a particularly opportune time for technology companies to turn their attention to that sector and capitalize upon it. As company President Sim Bielak says, “it’s a very exciting time.” SUZOHAPP was ready with sports-betting terminals and a line of replacement parts. SUZOHAPP’s focus is happily divided between what’s new and what’s old. In the latter case, retro, reel-spinning slots are making a comeback, something upon which Bielak is poised to capitalize. As for the new, that would be jurisdictions like Brazil and Ukraine, which have been flirting with casino development for some time and seem finally poised to take the plunge. That’s

quite a long way for a company that started out making coin doors for arcade games. Bielak brings us up to date on SUZOHAPP’s new frontiers and what it has to offer a rapidly expanding gaming industry. How was ICE London 2020? ICE London was a very successful show for us and was a great experience to see what’s new in the industry. Traditionally, ICE has given us the opportunity to meet with our customers and find out what new projects they’re working on and showcase solutions that may help them develop new ideas. What surprised us most this year, however, was the number of new faces at the show. With the rise of sports betting, the gaming industry is growing and evolving rapidly as technology advances to support this new sector. It’s a very exciting time to be in the industry and that was clearly reflected in the diverse nature of the businesses and attendees at ICE. 24

What were amongst your most popular products at ICE London this year? We have a number of well-known products and brands in the gaming sector. Our ELO and VisionPro monitors are vey popular, which are our premium products for electronic table games. While our new dynamic panel buttons were a huge hit because of their ease of use and adaptability, it was particularly interesting to see the resurgence of our mechanical reels and levers. Stepper games, otherwise known as mechanical reel games, have renewed appeal as a retro item and are making a comeback. While digital games are certainly still pushing the boundaries of innovation and looking for new ways to appeal to customers, the attachment to traditional gaming methods remains strong and we aim to be a primary supplier for that market. As sports betting is on the rise worldwide, our sports betting terminals and components for these terminals were also of key interest. Our offering includes a variety of www.casinolifemagazine.com


Feature: SuzoHapp

different sports betting options from kiosks to retail counter POS terminals and our booth showcased the main component areas where our products live. This comprehensive level of support for an upcoming market really made us stand out.

customers with products that can serve them in ways the competition can’t. On top of those unique products, the sheer size of our offering makes the sourcing search much simpler and allows customers to focus on their primary product rather than on the peripherals.

SUZOHAPP clearly invests a great deal of money and time in the provision in what must be the most comprehensive range of products, components and solutions for the Gaming, Amusement, Sports Betting, Lottery and Bingo markets. Absolutely. While our offering is unparalleled in the industry, we are always looking at ways to make it broader and more effective. One of the biggest benefits of our extensive knowledge and experience in the industry, is the ability to look at products outside the gaming world and recognize right away if they could make our industry better. That “eye” for products allows us to find niche markets and increased value for our

What are the most exciting markets for you right now? The North American and European casino gaming markets remain steady but strong. Obviously, we are looking for larger emerging markets such as the sports betting market in the US which has evolved in some areas faster than expected. We are always keeping an eye on international markets to see that regulation takes hold such as in markets like Brazil which can have significant potential. Then we are always looking for new opportunities for growth. Our core markets are strong and stable and we are looking for the next emerging market such as Ukraine – we will see how that evolves.

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Feature: SuzoHapp

Our primary objective, not just for 2020, but always, is to exceed our customers’ expectations. We exist in an industry that is constantly changing and growing and adapting. What are amongst the main objectives for SUZOHAPP 2020? Our primary objective, not just for 2020, but always, is to exceed our customers’ expectations. We exist in an industry that is constantly changing and growing and adapting. To that end we have to be able to change, grow, and adapt and help our customers do

so as well. The primary benefit of working with us is the combination of our experience and years in the industry with the wide selection of products that we’ve handpicked because we know they can serve a purpose and serve it well in a gaming environment. A partnership with us allows companies to have that edge when change comes to be flexible and quickly adapt with new products and new designs because we simplify the sourcing process. To that end, it’s our prerogative to take that a step further every time to make sure that our customers are set up to succeed and excel. How have things changed since your promotion? When I first started with the company, the primary goal was to branch out the revenues out of our core business of gaming and amusement products with some acquisitions outside of that space to give broader diversity to our business overall. About halfway through last year, I took up the role of the President 26

of the Gaming and Amusement business. My aim was to refocus our efforts on the global gaming and amusement business because it is a core segment to our company with a large, loyal customer base. Over the last several months we have refocused our efforts in this space by introducing several investments in people and products - really showing our commitment to the

industry and driving the business forward. Our whole strategy is to help customers to simplify their sourcing. Whether you’re an OEM looking for innovative, highly engineered solutions for your gaming machines, or you’re an operator of casinos, we really are the best provider in terms of products, availability and support. Similarly, we have the engineers, the resources and the manufacturing capabilities in China and Poland to meet any of our customers’ needs. As leaner work environments become more prevalent in our times, we feel that those attributes and benefits work well for our customers and service that need. For myself, it has been great to come back and refocus on an industry that I love and am passionate about with great customers, friends and colleagues; working with a great team of people to make the business even more successful. Having very loyal customers has been a key driver for our continued growth and success. www.casinolifemagazine.com


Feature: GeWeTe Aristidis Tsikouras, Managing Director, GeWeTe

Star Performers Aristidis Tsikouras, Managing Director, GeWeTe. Interview By Peter White

Volume 16: Issue 138

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Feature: GeWeTe

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ontinental casinos seeking an end-to-end solution for cash handling often as not turn to GeWeTe, a German-based firm with a wide European reach—and ambitions in the North American sphere as well. The company began modestly enough, making change machines 27 years ago. GeWeTe saw an opportunity within the casino industry, where the change person on the floor used to be omnipresent. GeWeTe’s change machines rendered that function largely superfluous, freeing up casino staff for other customer interactions. The company’s technology gradually evolved to enable debit-card transactions and hopper refills. Under the direction of founder Aristidis Tsikouras, GeWeTe captured 75 percent of German market share and began marching toward domination of the European Union. “Indeed, ever since 1993 we have constantly increased year-on-year turnover and our staff number has grown significantly throughout the years,” Tsikouras told Casino Life. Being absorbed by the Gauselmann Group only enhanced GeWeTe’s international reach, bringing it into over 150 casinos. Research and development, manufacturing, sales— GeWeTe does it all in-house, simplifying the choices for casinos looking for new solutions in cash handling. While GeWeTe’s solid-state machines may not be the cheapest upfront, they’re built for the long haul (for decades, sometimes) and what is spent on retail is recouped in absence of repair costs. With a durable past to draw upon, Tsikouras sat down with Publisher Peter White to discuss GeWeTe’s promising future.

How was ICE London 2020 and what machines this year are your star performers? The ICE is meanwhile the most important trade fair for our GeWeTe, especially since we have been offering solutions for the international casino market in the past 4 years. The fair was very successful and the response from existing customers and potential new customers was fantastic. I know of no other manufacturer of cash handling systems that has such a huge range of products as we do. We offer the right solution for every Volume 16: Issue 138

need. For sure, the greatest interest for the casino area was with our bestseller in this sector the Cash Center Premium, but of course also with our new product Cash Center Deluxe for the betting area and the Cash Recycler Premium for AGC´s and the street market. Tell us more about the Cash Center Premium? We presented the device for the first time at ICE 2019. The response was fantastic and we have installed since last ICE our device in over 200 casinos worldwide. We have “packaged” the high quality equipment and technology of GeWeTe that has been consistent since more than 27 years in a new and innovative design. The device represents this brand new design concept with an extra-large 27” side-lit touchscreen display. This display not only acts as the interface to the customer, it can be used by operators for information and advertising purposes and making it an effective marketing tool. Our Cash-Center-Premium has a stylish front plate combined with illuminated aluminium strips on all sides and an illuminated ground plate. Optional the front plate can be customised individually. It offers cash-in, cash-out, can accept tickets and naturally pay out the cash sum of a winning ticket. Player / customer

cards can be accepted. The CashCenter-Premium thus excels in its flexibility of handling all cash and cashless payment requirements. Customers can choose between a bill vallidator or recycler. Four banknote dispensers enable the large dispenser capacity of 2,000 or 3,000 bills per dispenser unit ( in total up to 12.000 banknotes). Up to 4 coin hoppers can be fitted – meaning up to four coin values can be dispensed. The optional PinPad Terminal enables the acceptance of bank cards. “The Cash-Center-Premium is also simple to manage. It can be connected to many casino management systems. Furthermore, software settings, preventative maintenance and money transactions can be carried out from anywhere around the world – just an internet connection and browser are required.” 29


Feature: GeWeTe

Minimising the machines foot print on a gaming floor is a major factor with Gaming venues. So the Cash Center Compact Casino must be popular with Casino operations World-wide. As I said at the beginning, I know no other manufacturer of cash handling systems that has such a wide range of products as we do. With our long experience in the street market, especially in the AGC sector and in the pub sector, the need for space has always been an issue. Not only the Cash Center Compact Casino, but also the Cash Center Premium was designed in such a way that it takes up little space. Both devices have the same footprint. And our Cash Center Compact even less, according to the GeWeTe motto, the right solution for every need.

Has GeWeTe any corroborative statistics on sales of coin and bank note recyclers and change machine sales that can be linked to any reduction in usage? In the street market, cash is still used in many countries. Especially in Germany, where we are the clear market leader with a market share of over 70%. Here, the recycling of coins as well as the recycling of banknotes is very important, to minimize the cash in a location. 2005 we sold the first coin recyclers equipped with bulk acceptance and recycling of coins, including a banknote recycler, and this resulted in our 30

most sold devices Cash Recycler, Maxi Cash Recycler and Cash Recycler Premium, which we have now sold more than 20,000 times worldwide. You have a superb location at ICE London and the whole GeWeTe Merkur Gaming booth did look impressive and am sure your whole Team at GeWeTe must enjoy their time at the show! Yes, you recognized that perfectly correctly. We are very proud that we belong to such a large group as the Gauselmann Group and that this gives us the opportunity to present our entire product

range “in the first row�. This gave our team an extra big boost of motivation, which was immediately noticeable in the sales figures! What are the key features these machines have that set them apart from the competition? Everything we do from the initial design, to the final installation and ongoing service is undertaken by GeWeTe . All is under one roof! The whole competence. GeWeTe use high quality components and high security systems for all models and have an extensive range of models and options to suit a wide range of customer requirements We are constantly

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Feature: GeWeTe

adding and adapting our products to meet the needs of our customers, last year alone we launched three new models and many new options Do you tend to travel a lot to meet customers around the World or do you combine those trips with attendance at major shows hosted around the World? Both are the case. In the major gaming markets in Europe, as in our home market of Germany, England, Spain and Italy, we have our own employees in both sales and technical support. We work with distributors in many other countries. For example, there is no country in Europe without a GeWeTe system installed, but also in many other countries worldwide. Of course, we also use the contacts of the Gauselmann Group , which is represented worldwide with more than 14,000 employees.

What are the next exhibitions this year that readers can get to see GeWeTe’s very latest range of machines and associated transaction and currency handling equipment? We take part in almost all casino and gaming shows worldwide. This year we will exhibit at ENADA in Rimini, at PGS in Lima, at Belgrade Future Gaming in Belgrade, at the Entertainment Arena Expo in Bucharest and of course at G2E in Las Vegas, Volume 16: Issue 138

When you are traveling and you happened to be for example a meeting with a Casino operator and you know there is another not far away with your machines do you find yourself if you have the time visiting to see how the machines are performing? The feedback from our customers and especially the feedback from the staff who work with our devices every day is very important to us. Only if we listen to these people and implement what their wishes are, can we develop the right products and therefore my answer is yes, my employees and I use every opportunity to get suggestions and feedback from the field.

Have you anything else you would like to add? I would like to thank our customers for their loyalty over the years and I would like to promise to our existing customers, but also to our future customers, that GeWeTe will continue to provide you with great products and solutions of the best quality, made in Germany, and that we will remain true to our motto, the right solution for every need!

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Feature: DRGT

To Infiniti and Beyond! D

DRGT™ launches its exclusive Tables Jackpot Arena and Continues its focus on the Player Experience at ICE 2020 R Gaming Technology™s CEO, Jurgen De Munck, MD: Africa, Charl Geyser and MD: DRGT™ Online, Jean-Michel De Busscher talk to us post ICE 2020

Gentlemen thanks again for taking the time to talk to us; did ICE 2020 live up to your expectations? Jurgen: Without sounding too patronising, the short answer is yes. I think we were all a little wary of what 32

effect the current goings on globally would have on visitor numbers, and they luckily appeared to have almost none. Charl: Agreed! We had a really good Tuesday, and Wednesday in my view was the busiest day from a general ‘unsolicited’ foot traffic point of view; I unfortunately can’t really comment on the South Hall, but our North Hall was really busy. www.casinolifemagazine.com


Feature: DRGT Jean-Michel, ICE is your key exhibition-cum-networking event each year, as the head of your Company’s Belgian distribution business what drew the most attention from your customers. Jean-Michel: As you know we have been operational in our home country now for well over a decade, and as noted when we last spoke, we remain the market leaders there by some margin. As a result, our relationships with our Belgian customers are good, as is the case with the rest of our European customers who are looked after by Christian Eder and his team based in Austria, and they more often than not remain at the forefront of much of our product development. I think what raised the most interest at ICE this year was a stronger focus on actual player engagement and the tools available to ‘talk more frequently and more directly’ to the player, what I am referring to here is our drScreenFull EGM top screen integration (as a communications and player loyalty tool) and our drMediaManager which allows operators to easily manage,

schedule and then share advertising, promotions and reward content directly to individual players or groups of players. CEO, Jurgen De Munck Then, as always, there was also interest in our slots jackpots and a few new configuration option additions; in my view this experience; we also alluded to the key role staff play too talked to operators focussing more and more on in driving that player experience. the player experience as a defining factor, and their Whilst Tables games provide the perfect search for ways to make that experience better than opportunity to engage directly with players, slots that of their competitors; bespoke jackpots is for games with their attractive cabinets and eversure one of those ways. evolving game themes and jackpots do make for a really appealing offering. As a result, we saw a very Slots jackpots lead nicely into my next question: real opportunity, one that I believe we partly realised you launched a rather special tables jackpot with the development of our tables jackpots games concept at ICE. Can you tell me more about that? (the Company’s BlackJack11’s remains a much Charl: As Jean-Michel noted, and as we discussed sought after game across the globe), and that we in our interview ahead of ICE, operators are looking have now fully realised with our Infiniti Tables Jackpot for ways to continually ensure they offer a better Arena. Volume 16: Issue 138

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Feature: DRGT So, what is it, and why do you believe you’ve now bridged in entirety the ‘jackpot gap’? Charl: We believed what was missing from every Tables Pit, was that ‘surprise and delight’ slots jackpot experience: that massive jackpot sign, those dedicated ‘banks’ of jackpot machines and of course a compelling jackpot itself, and we are of the view that what we have developed here is exactly that. Jurgen: In addition to that ‘wow factor’ we also looked at the practical side of things. The arena is designed with a circular footprint to ensure optimal use of casino floor space, and has a plug-and-play modular design to facilitate a simple and speedy installation. It also comes with two LED jackpot sign options: • either a free-standing overhead LED jackpot sign, or if space and structures permit, • a 3m diameter overhead hanging LED jackpot sign. Jean-Michel: I’d also like to add, coming back to my reference earlier around slots jackpot options, that the Infiniti Tables Arena is fully integrated to offer standalone, floor wide, or wide-area progressive jackpots across multiple game types; there is a:

MD: Africa, Charl Geyser

• blackjack only option of 5 tables, or a • 3 blackjack and 2 roulette table option. We’re convinced that Infiniti Tables Arena will without a doubt provide Tables players with a jackpot experience 2nd to none, and operators with a tool to deliver that experience. Let’s stick with Tables for a minute: your Tables Management System again appeared to be quite the talking point? Jurgen: Yes, you are quite correct; we have spent a considerable amount of time over the last year or two focussing on this portion of our product offering. As was the case with our Tables jackpot products and is the case with our Infiniti Arena, we saw a very real opportunity here to provide a better solution to assist Tables Managers in measuring, managing and servicing their players better. Volume 16: Issue 138

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Feature: DRGT Jean-Michel: As an example, we now offer players the ability to buy in at the table with FOREX and offer operators the functionality to in turn offer those players real-time exchange rates. Then when they are ready to cash out their balance is simply transferred to their player card and they can then move to an alternate table, or simply use it to play their favourite slot machine. Charl: Add to that the fact that all Tables game play data now integrates into our accounting, cage and reporting modules, and that we’re able to now not only allocate loyalty points to Tables players, but double loyalty points to our jackpot game players, and we really do offer a compelling Tables Management Systems solution.

MD: Online, Jean-Michel De Busscher

Charl, let’s end off with you. As with JeanMichel ICE is integral to your African business. Was the continent well represented in London? Charl: I think so. Allwin Language, our Africa General Manager, and I were definitely not afforded any spare time over the three days. The South African Casino, Limited Payout Machine (LPM) and EBT (Electronic Bingo Machine) operators were all represented; what was most encouraging though was the wider spread of African representatives we engaged with.

As an example, during the last quarter of 2019 we did a full management system install at the breath-taking Millionaires Casino in Nairobi, Kenya, and we continue to receive requests and interest in our system, our slots progressive jackpots, and our BlackJack11’s Tables jackpot game – in fact we had a lengthy discussion at ICE with an operator from Egypt. So, to answer your question: yes, Africa was indeed well represented – literally from Cape to Cairo. Thanks for your time gents, and may DRGT™ continue to grow from strength to strength Jurgen: Thank you; for as long as casinos have players, we’ll keep pushing the boundaries and leveraging technology in order to provide operators with the best possible player experience enhancement tools. 36

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News: G2E Asia

G2E Asia Postpones 2020 Trade Show G lobal Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia – the

marketplace for the Asian gaming and entertainment industry – is postponing G2E Asia to July 28-30, 2020 at the Venetian Macao. G2E Asia and its organizers, the American Gaming Association and Reed Exhibitions, fully understand and appreciate the level of planning that is required to participate in this event. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and related travel and commercial restrictions make those preparations too difficult to hold the show as originally planned. “Like all of you, we have carefully monitored this global health crisis. Our top priority is ensuring a safe environment for employees, customers, and exhibitors at G2E Asia,” said Josephine Lee, chief operating officer, Reed Exhibitions China. “We made this decision in consultation with our exhibitors and the Macao government, and out of an abundance of caution. We apologize for any inconvenience that Volume 16: Issue 138

this may cause and thank our customers for their continued support of G2E Asia.” G2E Asia will continue to monitor the situation and remain in close contact with all G2E Asia stakeholders to provide updates as available. For more information, please visit www.g2easia.com 37


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Feature: Andrew Cosgrove Andrew Cosgrove

Why did I buy into a systems meltdown? A user guide to avoiding systems failure before you even unpack the server

I

n an ever more competitive landscape, it’s essential to make informed decisions in order to remain competitive and choosing the best casino management system for your operation can increasingly mean the difference between success and failure. During my first slots system installation I distinctly remember that there was an air of excitement that comes with being a tech and being involved with new technology. For my part Volume 16: Issue 138

it involved hard wiring the systems cables to the slot machines hard meters, connecting them to an interface box and testing for both server communications and accounting accuracy. It may have been a simple accounting system, but the slots director was happy, the GM was happy, and the local gaming authority were happy just because the system gave us faster, more accurate data that enabled us to produce better results. The system had its limitations, but we knew 39


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Feature: Andrew Cosgrove that long before making any financial commitment. We had discussed our internal requirements, we did our systems research, we set aside a budget and came up with a plan that aligned with both our strategic and financial goals. We knew what we wanted and made it happen and in doing so avoided a systems meltdown and quickly became one of the top performing casinos in the region. However, not all systems are created equal so it’s important to have a strong business case, a solid organizational structure and a plan that will successfully take your system from a mere concept to a major part of both your operational and financial success. The idea is simple enough yet so many operators continue to experience unnecessary systems frustrations such as a lack of quality hardware design, poor software performance and inadequate product support and training. Casino management systems don’t come cheap so it may be worth taking your time and considering some or all of the following to help you avoid a system meltdown and give your operation the necessary technology and credibility to become a market leader. Knowing what you want is an essential first step for any business venture to become successful. Each casino market has its own unique requirements as does each operational department so it’s never a good idea for just one individual to take on all the responsibility of knowing exactly what an operation needs without first

discussing it with the management team. Involving your key employees in the thought process from the very start can and will provide you with valuable insights and minimize the risk of failure. It will also serve to motivate the team, increase employee buy-in and help maximize the use of operational time and resources. Your operation may only need a simple slots accounting system, or it may require every module available regardless of the cost, but no matter what jurisdiction you operate in or how many customers you have in your database, knowing what you want from the very start is one of the first steps towards maximizing your systems potential. Product Research is very important as it can be easy to get caught up in all the different terminology, tech specs, sales pitches, payment terms and the day-today pressure that comes with running a successful operation. Hire a consultant if necessary, as choosing Volume 16: Issue 138

a system should never be rushed and what ever you do, please don’t take the sales rep’s word for it!!! I’ve had the privilege of participating in systems research and product installations for all types of gambling operations and for companies from both sides of the budget spectrum. This invaluable experience has taught me that there are indeed systems available to satisfy all your requirements no matter what your budget or size of your operation. However, without the appropriate research choosing the right system becomes nothing more than a gamble which is the kind of risk that no serious operator should be willing to take. There are modules for everything including slot accounting, table management, cage and finance, player tracking, analytics, BI and AI, dispatch and alerts, self-service modules, marketing and there are also modules within modules!!! The bottom line is that all this information can easily make decision making become much more challenging so it’s important to research what each vendor is offering as well as the key differences between each system. Just as important as researching the actual system is researching the vendors which, in the age of social media, has become so much easier to do. Asking your team for advice, checking out the competition and requesting the provider for feedback from their existing customers are also very useful techniques to help you reach a well-informed decision. Technical reliability and after sales service are huge factors if your objective is to avoid a total systems

catastrophe and the almost certain wrath of your slot customers. It’s also important that you have your operational staff’s buy-in for the system and that they can see the immediate benefits of using it (especially a new one) on a daily basis which, without reliable software and hardware, is never going to happen. It’s one thing to have a faulty communications harness but it’s something quite different to have your machine lock up for a hand pay because of a systems timeout error. It’s also widely considered a bad sign if you have to change the hardware on a daily basis because of overheating due to a design fault on an inferior quality product. As already stated, systems don’t come cheap but neither does the hardware, machine downtime or the exodus of your once loyal customers. After sales service, especially during the first months directly after going live is essential as there is nothing more irritating than when helpline calls and emails go unanswered. The best systems providers have 24/7 helplines and a 41


Feature: Andrew Cosgrove price tag so it’s important to be aware of the costs involved and to eliminate any unnecessary modules when planning your budget. Another budget awareness tip is to make sure you negotiate service fees as they can vary widely from one vendor to another.

reliable automated tech support system so it’s always advisable to make sure you get the kind of after sales service that meets all of your operational requirements. Economies of scale and budgets come into play especially for smaller operators as it becomes very difficult to compete against the big corporations on a

head-to-head basis so in order to remain competitive every penny invested has to create a positive impact on results. Words like Business Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence are great buzz words and they are truly amazing tools to have at your fingertips, but they do come at a price and if you’re daily win per unit is below $100 a day then you may need a lot of slot machines to justify what can be a very large investment. There are cheaper alternatives to the systems vendors AI and BI solutions and any progressive company knows that and will invest in them and their staff whenever appropriate in order to make sure that they maximize the benefits and remain competitive. Reasonably priced online courses for everything from creating automated dashboards to creating your own apps are also readily available and investing in your existing employees will almost always give you a healthy return on investment. As previously stated, most systems are available in modules and each one may come with a separate 42

Organization and training are factors that need to be analyzed early on in the purchasing process as it’s very nice to buy and own a formula one car but not so nice to find out after the fact that you actually need someone who can drive it for it to make any real money! It’s essential that operators recognize and make the necessary changes to their organization in order to accommodate the system so that it may be used to its maximum potential. Operators should be asking questions such as, “do I need to change the company’s organizational structure to accommodate the necessary changes?” or, “do I need to hire more staff?” or even, “should I invest in extra training to maximize the systems potential?” On site training for operations staff is pretty standard but without the necessary resources in place early on, it can prove difficult to maintain the necessary momentum after the initial support period has ended which can and will cause delays in seeing any real return on investment. As with any major project it’s important to have a solid business case for your system and it’s equally important to be clear on your product requirements and project roles and responsibilities. Your company will also need to have the right organizational structure in place and have a solid plan that will not only direct, manage and deliver your system on time and on budget, but one that will also keep your staff motivated to meet and exceed your customers expectations on a consistent and long term basis.

MY MINI-BLOG Andrew Cosgrove is a seasoned slot operations veteran and certified project manager with over 24 years of hands on experience in Latin America and the Caribbean. Andrew has worked on both the operator and supplier side of casino slots and continues to help clients succeed and exceed customer expectations. Andrew can be reached at andy. cosgrove@hemingwaycasinoconsulting.com or see http:// hemingwaycasinoconsulting.com/ www.casinolifemagazine.com


Feature: Shaun McCamley Shaun McCamley

Change Management

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Do you need to rethink operational process and practise?

hange Management, a resourceful process to improve properties’ gross gaming results and a process I am often asked to explore with clients looking to improve bottom line results. So what is Change Management and by implementing change what are the benefits and will it improve your bottom line Volume 16: Issue 138

results? Before we explore Change Management and its deliverables, we need to step back and look at what’s happening on casino floors today. As an industry veteran who started as a dealer in one of London’s Mayfair clubs back in the 1970’s, at times I just cannot believe what I’m seeing on casino floors 43


INNOVATIONS INNOVATIONS CONNECTING PEOPLE AND IN THE ASIAN IN THE ASIAN INNOVATIONS ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY IN THE ASIAN 連接亞洲 ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY 連接亞洲

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Feature: Shaun McCamley today. $4 chips, $2.50 minimums on roulette, $15 and $35 minimum bets on Black Jack and trainee’s let loose on tables with only 3 weeks training seem to have become the norm. We seem to have lost a key principle in gaming of keeping things simple for staff and players alike. Over the years the industry has moved to appointing people to senior casino management positions with little to no hands on casino experience rather, the trend has been toward accounting or analytical backgrounds. The flow on from this over time sees scenarios where personnel moving into and through casino management have never actually dealt games, and as a consequence have little understanding of what the basics are from the grass roots level. Getting back to basics like dealers having decent chip handling skills is why transformational change in the work place has become so important, this leads us into the need for a Change Management approach. So looking at your business do you need to go through this process, and what does it really involve? Essentially a Change Management process from a service viewpoint means being able to devise, recommend, implement and execute effective and efficient process improvements to maximize Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) across Mass, Premium Mass and VIP. The process includes seeing how best to manage costs down, through internationally accepted best management practices and standards

SP SP

SP

on an ongoing basis, while at the same time positioning the gaming product through cutting edge practices that improve practical value as well as intrinsic value and hence dramatically improve total perceived value to the properties customers. Have tables on the floor where dealers and players can comfortably make and reach their bets. If this sounds obvious next time you walk the floor see how dealers and players struggle to do just that. And it doesn’t stop there, the process means reviewing, reporting on, recommending and delivering a number of initiative’s and strategic improvements to People, Parts and Processes. This will normally include a review of all aspects of operational processes on the gaming floor and labour management practices with the view to optimising staffing levels, productivity, security practices, and service standards. Over the years we have developed highly detailed revenue enhancement, Volume 16: Issue 138

labour and budget modelling scenarios that include staff rostering / payroll costing / scheduling practices, revenue modelling and budgeting models that can link recommended revenue initiatives and improvements to detailed time and motion models based on key measurements and metrics of the casino that mathematically demonstrate improvements to GGR. Further benefits are derived from a full review of rules and regulations, betting limits, supervision levels and commission structure offered in Non Negotiable chip play, paying particular attention to a full bottom to top line review of all operating costs associated with programs offered. Seeing the need across many industries for transformational change, The Harvard school of Business adopted a Balanced Scorecard Perspective as a framework when reviewing an operation. This has proved invaluable in prior executions of transformational change, planning, organization and implementation / execution in the workplace. Today transformation change in the work place is a planning process by way of developing a [strategic] plan for modifying an enterprise’s business processes. This is achieved through an ongoing best business practice change management execution of all reviewed policies, procedures, and processes to move the organization from an “as is” state to a “to be” state. Time and time again this procedure has delivered numerous benefits by way of leveraging

improvements through a structured process and framework. A key component in improving the overall operation is reviewing the requisite level of skills, support and training given to staff on an ongoing basis. This is especially so around key fundamental aspects of ensuring all games are run optimally and quickly without putting adverse pressure on the players. An example could be doing a float or tray chip count at the end of a shoe quickly and efficiently without the need to count all chips on a shoe by shoe based estimate. Accuracy can be applied at day end. There is no question in today’s business world, that looking closely at your operation with an open mind and then asking yourself, is it time to look at transformation change through a Change Management process. Well from what I see today the answer is a resounding yes.

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Manage This: Robert Brassai Robert Brassai

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Manage This: Robert Brassai

Crisis Management in Casinos O

n my long list of subjects for this column, crisis management has been patiently waiting for its turn to see the light of day in print. It would never be more relevant than right now I guess, in what we could certainly call the biggest crisis of our lifetimes in many countries around the world. I haven’t felt my freedom restricted since my days in the army back in 1987. I believe this holds true for most of us, having lived the best part of our lives in absolute freedom that we so much take for granted, that a quarantine for example comes as a serious shock to the system. The threats to “our way of life” in the past decades came from three main sources: natural disasters, financial crisis and terrorism. As for the average Joe, all these three were out of our control. There was not much people could do to stop or influence these events, thus we regarded them as random acts that we have to live with, but

that wouldn’t normally change our normal behavior, as most people don’t constantly live expecting bad things to happen to them. The story of crisis is a slightly different one for businesses. While a business as such would not organize its activities based on random and very infrequent threats, it must have a plan to deal with these once they happen. On paper. In real life most businesses don’t have such plans and when crisis hits, they take random and ad hoc actions many of which can actually do more harm than good. This time around the nature of the crisis is very different and its effect is prolonged it seems. In the wake of a natural disaster or terrorist attack the damage is done in a short period of time and most of the efforts are concentrated on recovery. A financial crisis will set back a business by a certain percentage for a longer period of time. All above mentioned scenarios will cause damage but will ultimately let Volume 16: Issue 138

things get back to their normal flow and the business will recover. There is a breaking point however, and when the crisis has a serious impact on the earning capabilities of the business for a prolonged period of time, the chances of recovery decrease rapidly if the business doesn’t have enough financial reserves to see it through several months of zero income. So, let’s see what a casino can do in times of a crisis. The following table sums up the main avenues of action to be taken:

Facilities Product • Partition off space • Sell equipment • Schedule maintenance, renewals, modifications • Introduce new, innovative product

Time Labour • Part time workforce • Lay off employees • Schedule training • Streamline non-productive procedures

Customers • Segment database with personalised offers • Complimentary service offering • Build loyalty • Review pricing • Increase promo activity 47


Manage This: Robert Brassai

A financial crisis will set back a business by a certain percentage for a longer period of time. All above mentioned scenarios will cause damage but will ultimately let things get back to their normal flow and the business will recover. Many of these have to do with operational optimization as well, and a casino should have several scenarios for implementing some or all of these points. Obviously, the list is not exclusive and there could be other measures to take as well depending on the situation and different circumstances of the business. The COVID situation is novel in the sense that the measures to contain it include in effected countries shutting down points of transmission. These are mostly public places where people meet and get close enough to each other for the virus to transfer from one person to another. A casino is the ideal ground for these infections with the number of instruments such as chips, cards, slot machines, etc. being touched by a multitude of people. Thus, casinos should logically be among the first businesses to come under

restrictions. And when there is no such a rule from authorities, people tend to stay away anyway as they mostly understand the way diseases are transmitted. Most expect the situation to last several months, so some casinos lobby to have restrictions lifted, and there are countries, like Hungary for example where most restrictions don’t apply to casinos strangely. The bottom line is to be prepared. Panic is the worst enemy of a business and of organized processes in general. This probably comes late as an advice but could serve for the next crisis if human memory wouldn’t be so painfully short. When things are going well, the last thing people want to think about is problems and crisis. But only by being prepared for those periods of difficulties can a business ensure continuity and ultimately survival. Have a plan.

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Last Word: Damien Connelly

Use ASMR To Engage + Extend Your Brands’ + Customers’ Wellness

T

o help pay my way through my second Masters degree, I worked tech support for Microsoft’s Internet service. This was EARLY Internet — we had people phone up asking what the foot pedal was for (they were referring to their computer’s mouse). Consumers had dial-up modems at home that were a maximum 56kbps. You couldn’t stream anything complex. One of the most popular consumer videos to watch on the Internet during those early days was a fireplace with logs burning. Another was a mountain pasture with bird and wildlife noises. Another was a stream burbling over rocks. These weren’t created by the Internet, or even TV. Humans have always been drawn to such relaxing ‘content’. So there we sat in our Microsoft office during the early days of the Internet watching videos of logs burning, mountain pastures and burbling streams while solving customer queries worldwide. How quaint, you might be thinking. What’s this got to do with your operations today?

Keep Calm

…and help your customers keep calm. In doing this,

you can maintain and extend brand engagement with your customers and help them through these challenging times. What’s the exit strategy for government’s with this novel coronavirus pandemic? What’s the desired endgame? Find a vaccine. Gain herd immunity. Change human behaviour. I’m not a medical specialist, so I will only discuss changing human behaviour as I’ve successfully done this in multiple industries during my career. Changing human behaviour is the tactic we have seen used by governments with their quarantines, border closures, travel bans, business shut-downs, etc. While these ‘lockdown actions’ are not sustainable, your business’ SWOT analysis should have as your #1 Threat government-specified behavioural changes. While not sustainable, these ‘lockdown actions’ are causing very serious issues for your operations. Other than the short-term challenges — which will hopefully be offset 50

by speedy government support — the biggest challenge facing your operations, I think, is the potential for long-term behavioural changes by your customers. If these government-specified behavioural changes create psychological de-conditioning in (some of) your customers, you’ll have to win them back or find replacement customers. What will ‘normal’ mean for your operations once this pandemic is over? Will all of your customers return? Will you be able to attract new customers? Will behaviour have changed so much that people avoid your operations in the future (de-conditioning)? Resort casinos are, after all, full of people in close proximity to each other.

Play With ASMR

A lot of your (future) customers are currently facing constraints they’ve never faced before. In particular, they have to maintain physical distance and isolate themselves — no work, no sports, no church, no eating

out, no traveling, no live entertainment, etc. Maintaining physical distance and isolation will create loneliness and anxiety, adding to the stress and uncertainty they’re facing because this coronavirus is such an unknown for everyone. Can you in some way reach out to your customers and help them get through these anxious, uncertain times? I’m a marketing/commercial specialist who tries to use their external viewpoint to see what changes and innovations could benefit the casino gaming industry. I think now is the time to introduce you to something I’ve had my eye on for a few years. It’s a tactic that is omnichannel = it can be used in your digital and physical assets. It’s called ASMR = Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Check it out. It’s what those early Internet videos showing logs burning were all about — but we didn’t have a cool name for such videos back then. If you need my help, let me know. www.casinolifemagazine.com


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