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Volume 13 Issue 107

Winning Deal in London Latvia wins European Dealer Championship 2017


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Editorial: Editor in Chief: Glyn Thomas Mob: +38 976 007 007 glyn@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: Jack Bulavsky

jackbulavsky@yahoo.com International Casino & Gaming Correspondent: JJ Woods

jjsilks@eircom.net Technology Correspondent: Rebecca Green

rebecca@ace123.com

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Publisher: Peter White

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Editor’s page Welcome to Casino Life...

It’s been a few weeks since I returned from G2E Asia in Macau but the memory still lingers. It was a great show, with a well-organised and transparent awards dinner (unlike the “buy a table and win a prize” cons) and also a good opportunity to drop in on the new casinos that seem to be making headway. Macau seems to be back on the up after a period of steady decline. For the exhibition it was interesting crossing the mid-point line from traditional casino-related products into the new world of on-line (still banned here I hasten to add) where the volume was pumped up to fever pitch and the hostesses gradually wore less in a more provocative style. It almost made me nostalgic for Moscow. Seriously, I can envisage many exhibitors on the business side of the industry more inclined to head away from the razzamatazz next year. Cosplay disco girl competitions are great fun but at some points it was difficult to think, let alone converse. We start this issue with a timely guest comment from Roy Ramm, Managing Director of Extra Yard Security Ltd., who is a well-known figure in the UK casino-scene and is ably placed to comment on the recent attack in Manila and how casinos should prepare. I remember attending the opening and wondered then if it would all last. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has had its ups and downs since conception but is now back from the brink and roaring louder than ever. Next up, Francisco Vidal Coo, Director of Operations at the Sortis & Golden Lion Casinos, chats to Bill Healey in detail about the five casinos in the group in Panama; Back to G2E Asia and over at Scientific Games, I managed to catch up with Derik Mooberry, Group Chief Executive – Gaming to see how the company is faring and preparing for the future. I also had the opportunity recently to talk to Aristidis Tsikouras, Managing Director GeWeTe, about the company and not least the staggering fact that it has 60,000 machines in operation. As if last month was not busy enough (there’s a successful Miami show in there somewhere as well) we also had the European Dealer Championships at the Hippodrome Casino. It was good to chat with Simon and Jimmy Thomas at the bar alongside Clarion, a key sponsor, and catch up with some old friends – not least European Casino Association Chairman Per Jaldung and Tracy Damestani CEO at the National Casino Forum. It’s a great event that showcases the best skills in the industry in one of the best venues and I’m glad we’re associated with it in a small way. Next up, Peter White chats to Stuart Armstrong, Founder and Director at SlotGuru which is taking a niche market by storm – advising players on the volatility and playability of key slots – all from their mobile. This is an area that surely will grow – mobiles are gaining traction in casinos on all levels – just look at IGT’s latest innovation; Further afield, David McKee, our man in Vegas, looks closely at South Korea where casino expansion is on the cards but questions whether its economic model is viable; Carl Sampson offers some timely advice in “Don’t go Prospecting for Gold in the Land of Gold”. Finally, Mark Wayman runs a very successful recruitment company and is placed perfectly to advise “Why nobody calls you back”.

Glyn Thomas Editor in Chief

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Contents 3

Editor’s page

5 Guest Comment Roy Ramm, Managing Director, Extra Yard Security Ltd 6 Comeback Story The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is back from the brink and roaring louder than ever by David McKee 15 Connected Entertainment Francisco Vidal, Coo Director of Operations at the Sortis & Golden Lion Casinos, chats to Bill Healey 24 Right Place, Right Time Glyn Thomas COO up with Derik Mooberry, Group Chief Executive – Gaming, Scientific Games, at the recent G2E Asia event in Macau 27 Quality Support Aristidis Tsikouras, Managing Director GeWeTe talks to Glyn Thomas 32 European Dealer Championship 2017 review Glyn Thomas reports back from yet another very enjoyable evening at the Hippodrome Casino 38 Educate and Empower Peter White chats to Stuart Armstrong, Founder and Director at SlotGuru 42 Two Systems South Korea wants casino expansion but is its economic model viable? By David McKee 44 To Vegas and Back Don’t go Prospecting for Gold in the Land of Gold. By Carl Sampson 49 Why nobody calls you back. By Mark Wayman, Godfather of Las Vegas 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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Guest Comment: Roy Ramm It’s not surprising that the initial response by the authorities in Manila to a rampaging gunman, setting fire to gaming tables in the Resorts World casino was to suspect an act of terrorism - especially as ISIS opportunistically claimed the attack as their own. As the investigation progressed, the authorities have dismissed any terrorist or political motivation. The attack was simply a someone with a gambling problem intent on stealing chips! Regardless of the motivation, the outcome was dreadful: 37 people killed and many more injured. There has been no such confusion in London or Manchester. In the recent attacks in two of the UK’s major cities, from the outset the motivation has been very clear. These were brutal acts of terror, intended to harm innocent people enjoying their leisure time and there is no indication that the threat is diminishing. Casino operators - like operators of all other venues of public entertainment or resort - should now be reviewing their contingency plans to ensure they do all they can to protect staff and customers in the event of a terrorist attack or any armed incursion, like a robbery. The first step is to conduct a proper risk assessment. If you don’t know how to do it, get help. And remember a risk assessment needs to be revisited and reviewed at least annually or whenever there is a change in the way terrorist or criminals are operating. Too often good plans are written and then lay on the shelf in the surveillance room unopened and untested for months. Test your response. Do a walk through with key staff and make sure you are confident they know what you expect them to do. Brief your staff regularly. Make sure that they know what you expect of them in the event of an incident. In the event of what the police call a ‘marauding attack’, like the attack in Borough Market, be prepared to lock your premises down to keep attackers out. It saves lives. Engage with your local police, join local business networks and ensure you have all the information

Roy Ramm, Managing Director, Extra Yard Security Ltd

locally available. Report any suspicions you have and be prepared to share your concerns about unusual behaviour. You’ll be surprised how much the police will share with you. Look to see what other similar premises in your immediate area are doing and don’t let your premises become the easy soft target. Protecting your premises need be not difficult or expensive: not to do so might be unimaginably costly. Roy Ramm Managing Director Extra Yard Security Ltd 123 Aldersgate Street London EC1A 4JQ T: +44 (0)20 7553 7960 M: +44 (0)7710 74874861 rr@extrayardsecurity.com www.extrayardsecurity.com

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Comeback Story The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is back from the brink and roaring louder than ever. By David McKee

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hen you consider Vegas success stories, few are more improbable than The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Conceived during the boom years leading up to the Great Recession, it suffered its first reversal of fortune when its entrepreneur, Ian Bruce Eichner, had to withdraw, having no equity in the project other than the land itself, an eight-acre parcel squeezed tightly around the Jockey Club timeshare complex. The project — and its unpromising location — fell into the hands of Deutsche Bank, which founds itself in the unlikely role of casino developer. It was a costly task for the bank: $4 billion worth of casino resort … and not just any resort. Where most Vegas casinos sprawl, The Cosmopolitan (as it quickly became known) was shoehorned into such a tiny footprint that gambling, restaurant and entertainment floors had to be stacked one atop the other. Condominiums were dropped from the business plan — as was a second-floor casino. (Now that would have been a break with tradition.) This made for some ingenious design innovations, like the multi-storey Chandelier Bar. But it also meant some early trial and error with the tortuously configured casino floor. From the moment The Cosmopolitan opened in December 2010, with Las Vegas still in the grip of a recessionary income, the casino-resort presented a topsy-turvy financial picture: hotel rooms and restaurants were driving The Cosmopolitan’s revenue performance, with gaming bringing up a distant rear. This remained a characteristic of the Deutsche Bank era and thenCEO John Unwin was much faulted for the casino’s underwhelming performance. Some of the major names in the hotel and gaming businesses sniffed around The Cosmopolitan as a potential acquisition but rescue did not emerge until May 2014, when Blackstone Group persuaded Deutsche Bank to take a $2.3 billion haircut on the property and the deal was done. With most of its debt burden (and interest load) removed, The Cosmopolitan began to show — not surprisingly — a profit. Credit also went to new CEO Bill McBeath, who is credited with making The Cosmopolitan a place to gamble, not just to get a good meal. He’s also been more willing to experiment with the entertainment and amenity offerings. Not everything has worked but the effort has been appreciated.

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Senior Vice President of Resort Operations Simon Pettigrew

To gain further insight into The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (the lengthy name is a sop to the copyrightsensitive owners of Cosmopolitan magazine) I talked to the Senior Vice President of Resort Operations Simon Pettigrew. The transplanted Englishman is a 26-year veteran of the Four Seasons chain who joined The Cosmopolitan in 2013. Please tell our readers about yourself and your role at The Cosmopolitan. I’m from the United Kingdom. I grew up in a tiny little village of 3,000 people — Newnham, Gloucestershire — so that’s less people in my village than Costars at The Cosmopolitan. I left for the U.S. about 30 years ago and spent 26 years at Four Seasons, working at 11 different locations. And then I got the Las Vegas call. So I started with The Cosmopolitan four years ago. In my current role I’m senior vice president of resort operations. I work with 4,000 Costars in food and beverage to deliver world-class service to our guests.


A little bit about the property: we’re 3,026 rooms and 200,000 square feet of meeting space, a spa with 32 treatment rooms, three pools and 22 restaurants. So I’m keeping busy every day, working with the team taking care of our guests. The most exciting thing about The Cosmopolitan and working here is the great reputation for quality and the diversity of the offerings. It’s certainly the place to be in Las Vegas. You’ve served under two different ownerships. How would you say the style of management has changed over the years? I’m in a different role today than I was back then, so I can speak more about the current than the past. If you look at the things we’ve changed to unlock the potential in the property, it’s been a super-exciting two years. Blackstone have been unbelievable owners. The investment that they’ve put into the building and the guest experience that we’ve been able to embellish with some of the new offerings — highlimit slots, high-end gaming, Momofuku — it’s just an exciting time to be part of The Cosmopolitan. How much difference does it make not having such a big debt overhang on the property? [laughs] Well, not having debt is always a good thing in business. We’re just fortunate to have Blackstone

as owners and if you look at the financial trajectory of the property, there’s been positive strides over the last two years. How does working at The Cosmopolitan compare to working at the Four Seasons? Four Seasons is a great company. They’re certainly up there as one of the top luxury operators in the world: over a hundred hotels across the world. But it is a corporation at the end of the day and you’re working with lots of different owners and stakeholders. The great thing about The Cosmopolitan is the president of the company is 25 yards away from me. If we’ve got something we need to talk about and make a decision, we can do that very swiftly. So we’re able to be a lot more nimble as a result of being an independent. Again, having the support of Blackstone makes our ability to be nimble that much greater. What cutting-edge gaming or entertainment features might one find at The Cosmopolitan? The slot customer is where technology comes in the greatest. We’ve got a system on the casino floor called Fast Pace. The jackpot paperwork process typically takes about 10 minutes and this cuts it to about 10 seconds. So if you won a jackpot you’re able to process that much faster. You actually do that on

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G2E Asia Visit us at Stand 531


the machine itself, so it becomes a very great competitive advantage. Do you plan to install skill-based slots in the near future? It’s interesting. Listening to Kevin Sweet, who’s our VP of slot operations, he’s quite enthused about skillbased slots, so we’re always evaluating what’s going on. Kevin is very aware, in touch with what’s moving in the marketplace. So he’s keeping an eye on skill-based slots. Caesars Entertainment was in the news this week for having taken 21 skill-based slots off their gaming floors because they weren’t making their nut. Could that influence the Cosmopolitan’s decision? Honestly, each decision you make with the best of intentions, the best information available. In any gaming offering there’s some things you’re going to try and if it works, great, you’re going to build on that and if it doesn’t you’ve got to reassess and change it. You’ve seen that over the years: a the slot floor constantly evolving, with things that are working, things that are not working, trying new things. One

of the things that is exciting about a slot floor is those new games and innovations. But not all of them work, inevitably. What determines your mix of slot machines, both in repertory and denomination? It’s a living organism. It’s always changing. We want to make sure we have something for everybody, so some of those old standards — Pinball, that’d be a good example — we keep around because there’s always going to be a callout for them. But we reinvest in new ones and are keeping our ear to the ground, hearing what customers are saying and reacting to that. How did site restrictions affect The Cosmopolitan’s design and have any perceived liabilities turned out to be assets? Obviously, it’s before my time but we live and breathe these things each day. We’re built on a little more than eight acres, so we’ve got a very small footprint to base our operations on. What that lends to is a stacking effect, so opposed to a traditional casino

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where things are very much spread out, our stacking effect puts all of our restaurants right on top of our main gaming floor, so it’s very easy to navigate. Because of that density it changes the energy level in the building. We get much more of a Manhattan vibe because of that stacked nature and that leads to a lot of the energy that we see on the casino floor and the restaurant floor. In what ways is The Cosmopolitan unique among Las Vegas casinos? Wow. One of the biggest physical differences is the terraces. We were originally designed as a condominium hotel, so that indoor-outdoor living was a major part of that experience. Now, as the property evolved we’ve been able to harness the energy and the positive experience of the terraces. You can sit on the terrace, look at the beautiful views, look at the cityscape that we’re blessed with and do that outside, so it’s a considerable advantage that really sets us apart. Nobody else has that.

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The condo plan got dropped. What advantage is there in being able to market all those rooms as hotel product? If you look at our entire building, the guest experience is second to none. It allows us to move from peak to peak, from a business perspective — the high demand in the destination. All the rooms are occupied. We run one of the highest occupancies in the city, which again creates a tremendous amount of energy throughout the building. It’s a competitive advantage. Is it possible for the building, going forward, to have reconfigurations to expand either the gaming or the entertainment floor space? Well, we’d love it if Bellagio would sell us the entire property next door. Just kidding. Honestly, we’re a little bit landlocked in terms of the space we have but what we’ve done is we’ve grown in a vertical fashion. We’ve got four floors of boulevard penthouses, which is from floors 71 to 75 on the Boulevard Tower. So we’ve 21 completely unique penthouses which we offer to our highest-end gaming customers. And in


addition, we’ve added private gaming on the 71st floor, which we call The Reserve. How important has your location proven? We’re blessed with being right at the 50-yard line of the Las Vegas Strip. There’s nowhere more powerful a destination than Las Vegas and for us to be in the heart of the action is tremendously powerful. So I would say it’s been one of the major contributors to our success. Has the introduction of paid parking generated any pushback from customers? With new initiatives transition is not always easy. But we’ve taken a very different approach from the competition. All of the competition [Caesars, MGM Resorts] went to a paid-parking model and they contracted out their employees, so they then had a third party as the first face of welcome to their property. We looked at that after they went live a year-plus ago and said, ‘We’re going to do it in a different way and we’re going to retain all of those Costars to be our own.’ So all the guys who

valet-park your car or who are managing the car park, they work for The Cosmopolitan, which created new jobs in the marketplace. Food and beverage have been strong performers for The Cosmopolitan since Day One. Who are some of the standouts on

your restaurant row? We’re proud of each and every one. We’ve got 22 restaurants and we’re super-proud of each one that’s been here since Day One and then the new ones that we’ve added. Concepts that we’ve added in the last year form our biggest talking points because they’re new additions, so: Momofuku, which is a David Chang restaurant, his first West Coast venture; right next door to that is Milk Bar, which is Christina Tosi, who was Pastry Chef of the Year for James Beard last year — again, her first West Coast venture; we’ve added Zuma, which is contemporary, world-class Japanese cuisine … boy, the list keeps going on and on. Beauty & Essex, part of the Tao Group and a New York concept which is getting rave reviews since it opened in May of last year. And then our newest

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venture is Blue Ribbon, which opened on the 8th June, which is really an American bistro. We’ve got the more casual concepts like Eggslut, which is fast becoming an iconic, legendary Las Vegas staple, and then the Juice Standard. Which of the original restaurants have survived? It sounds like there’s been a lot of turnover. We’ve still got a lot of the original collection … Scarpetta, Jaleo, Estiatorio Milos, STK, China Poblano, Holstein, Rose.Rabbit.Lie, the Wicked Spoon [buffet]. With regard to entertainment, how many facilities do you now have for hosting concerts and events? We’ve got a few different offerings. The primary one is The Chelsea, which is where we do the bulk of our concerts. We’ve had some residency from Bruno Mars when that first opened and we continue to have a very interesting selection of artists coming through there. We have boxing in that location, we do mixed martial arts. During the summer we offer a limited amount of pool concerts. We just concluded one a couple of weeks ago, in conjunction with a radio station, which

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had an amazing line up of very contemporary artists. And then we also have Rose. Rabbit. Lie, where we have a five-piece band, some great torch singers, a dance troupe that comes through. And last but not least we’ve got Clique, and we have acoustic sessions as well. On a personal note, why is your charitable work important to you? Just getting out there into the community and working, whether it’s with Ronald McDonald House or Three Square or helping people at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, it’s important to me personally. But, from a broader scale, every year we look at all the hours that we, the company, donate to those local charities and set goals with many of the organizations. And we have some Costars who literally will do 200 hours of community service or even greater. So we find it’s something that’s really tied our Costar community together. It’s something that we talk about a lot. It’s something that we focus on a lot and we’re just super happy to give back to the community.


Francisco Vidal Coo Director of Operations at the Sortis and Golden Lion Casinos

Connected Entertainment Francisco Vidal COO Director of Operations at the Sortis & Golden Lion Casinos, chats to Bill Healey

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e are fortunate to catch-up with Mr. Francisco Vidal, COO - Director of Operations at the Sortis & Golden Lion Casinos, located in tropical Panama. Bill Healey chats with Mr. Vidal about their three casinos located in the nation’s historic, cosmopolitan capital, Panama City. What are your responsibilities as COO - Director of Operations at Sortis & Golden Lion Casinos? This COO position is kind of a hybrid role. I am in charge of the day to day operations of the casinos (the casino managers’ report directly to my position), and at the same time, most of the support areas: Finance, Human Resources, IT, Marketing, etc., report to me as well. It is a very interesting position because you can see the business from many different angles with all the learning that this implies. One minute you are having a conversation about which are going to be the limits on Baccarat, the next you are running a meeting in which it will be discussed the marketing plan for the next month and you could finish your day talking with the IT manager about the

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possibilities of using wifi technology to connect the slot machines to the casino management system. In summary, a role in which you can develop yourself fully as a casino executive and learn a lot, which in the end is what keeps me inspired every day. How many casinos are under your direction? Are they all within Panama, or spread out geographically? At the moment, we have three casinos in Panama City, each of them in a different sector, the main one (Sortis) in Obarrio, and then the two Golden Lions, the first in El Dorado and the second in Marbella. The Sortis Casino is targeted at mainstream customers, and is the kind of casino that caters to a broad segment of players. Apart from the mandatory slots and table games, it has a very nice Bingo area and the best poker room of the country. We run the biggest tournaments in town there; this year in March we organised the Pokerstars Championship, for example. The Golden Lions, even though they have an offer that appeals to all types of customers, has got a special focus on the chinese community of the city.


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Could you give us a bit on your background in the gaming industry? Well, my career is divided in four stages clearly differentiated, the first as a casino dealer in both London and Las Vegas, after that comes a period as a floor manager in several casinos in Spain (up to this point I saw myself as a tourist in the casino business), in 2001 I was offered a management position in a casino in Dominican Republic, and from that point there was no coming back for me. It was the beginning of an almost 10 year period as a full casino manager both in the Caribbean and Peru. The last stage, is the current one, it was initiated in 2010, and I call it the “corporate” phase, in which I have taken several positions as COO and Country Manager in Panama, Mexico, Croatia and Spain for the main Spanish gaming groups (Cirsa, Codere, LGG). Nowadays, I am back in Panama (my first experience here was between 2010 and 2012), enjoying a new challenge in this beautiful city, surrounded by a team of brilliant professionals ready to disrupt the status quo of the industry. In summary, I have touched in my life around 40

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casinos, in eight countries and for eight different gaming companies. What are the sizes of the casinos; for instance, how many table games and slot machines? Are there particular favorite games for your casino patrons? Our casinos in Panama City have the standard middle size which is pretty common in Latin America, between 350-400 slots and 20-30 table games. Our new addition to the family (Golden Lion Marbella) is a bit smaller, 250 slots and 18 table games. If we talk about live gaming, without doubt Baccarat and Black Jack are the main games played in our venues. There is a big Chinese community in the city and all the casinos are chasing their action using all kinds of strategies (junkets, credit, refunds, tournaments, cash promotions) and we are no exception to that. On the slot product front, time on device players and gamblers are the main segments in the Panamanian market to attend, and they are served by the “usual suspects”: Novomatic, IGT, Aristocrat, and WMS with the new addition of EGT lately.


How does social media play into the marketing mix? In our case, we are very active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram; every casino has presence on the three social networks. That´s the strategy we are following at the moment, we prefer not to consolidate in broad profiles so we are able to target our messages to the specific customers of each location. Because most people nowadays have got a smartphone and some of them have profiles on these social networks, social media is without doubt our communication strategy that is growing the most, and we have people on the marketing team dedicated exclusively to handling our presence on this channel. Do the Sortis and Golden Lion Casinos have table tournaments or slot tournaments? Yes, but so far I see them as collateral marketing activities, the main ones being the drawings and the incentives through the fidelity program; those are the commercial actions that have the more impact on the customer base. Both table and slot

tournaments are more the kind of activity that creates a fun atmosphere between customers and employees, the perfect excuse to have a nice time and break the routine of regular gaming. Where do the casinos draw their players from? Are they mostly from Panama and neighboring countries? Most of the casinos in the city draw their players from the local population; there is of course a great number of people that come to the city for business purposes, but only a few exceptions are regular players in the casinos. I can honestly say, that even in the best hotels, not even 10% of the gaming revenues are made from their foreign customers. There is just one exception to this rule (one specific casino), and that is because they are very aggressive in their policies of refunds, mirror credit (players deposit money on the cage and the casino opens a credit line for the same amount) and commissions paid to junkets. If those kind of policies return a good profit or not is everyone’s guess, most probably their margins are quite tight if they have

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any. If we talk about specific countries that provide customers for the casinos here in Panama, probably the Americans and the Colombians are the biggest contributors. Are locals allowed into the casinos? Yes, of course and they constitute the biggest slice of the casinos’ customer base. Panama has had casinos for decades; till 1998 they were public (belonged to the Panamanian state) and after that came the time of the private operators, so the local population is very used to have a gaming offer right on their doorsteps, and they are very experienced

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and exigent, which is one of the things that makes this market so interesting from the professional point of view. The sentence “build it and they will come” does not apply to this city anymore...; and I love it. Do junkets play a role in the casinos? The international junkets, not so much, very few operators get their revenues using that kind of strategy. What we do have is the figure of the “gaming promoter” especially those focused on the Chinese community. This figure distributes credit both from his own funds or the casino´s and takes


care of the collection of payments. Very few people nowadays go to the casino with a big amount of money, they are the exception; so that´s why this figure is so important in this market. Lately, because of the decline in revenues, the tax of 5.5% on redemptions of tickets and chips, and several other reasons, some operators are trying to bring more foreign customers to their casinos; but the logistics and the costs of that strategy are very complex (the commission to the junket operators, the transfer of funds, the size of the credit lines, the collection of payments). From my point of view it is a low margin business and it has its risks, specially the

high volatility associated with the high limits they normally ask. What type of loyalty programs are in place? All casinos have a loyalty program, there is not even one exception to this rule; the main difference among them is both the basic math behind the system (how much coin in, to get X points, with a value of Y), and the kind of benefits they offer, which depends most of the time on the characteristics of each property. In our case, we have in Sortis a spectacular hotel, a 5 stars Marriott brand (Autograph Collection) so we have

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the capacity to give our customers all kinds of attractive benefits (entrance to the Spa, nice rooms, our restaurant Manabí, the pool area, etc.). What I have seen in the last years is a tendency to channel more and more benefits through the fidelity system, in the form of better exchanges, cash back and free play; because of the fierce competition, most casinos are cutting their marketing budgets, reducing advertising, cash incentives, and channelling their scarce resources (comparatively with the past) to social media and promotional play. Do hotel and leisure activities benefit from the casinos? Do the casinos benefit from the group’s hotel & leisure activities? Here in Panama City, because the casinos rent their premises to the hotels, this impact is limited; very few hotels have a real partnership with a long term view with their casinos. Many times the hotels see the casino only as a source of additional income through the collection of the monthly rent. Because of that philosophy, the synergies between both the hotels and the casinos are not developed the way that it should be. Fortunately here in Sortis, because the owners of the hotel and the casino are the same, there is a high degree of collaboration between both businesses, that translates into customers from the hotel playing and enjoying the casino (the hotel is proactive on this matter) and people that come to the casino and then stay in the hotel; this happens specially when the casino

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organises big poker tournaments like the Pokerstars Championship that we had in March, in which we received people from all over the world and the hotel was completely packed. Some say a director’s desk can convey a lot about their management style. For some, it’s organized chaos. What’s on your desk, and what will it say about your management? Well, as you can read in the flag of Brazil “Order and Progress”, I prefer my desk to be nice and tidy. For complicated issues I prefer to read from paper rather than a computer screen, that´s why from time to time you will see some papers on it, but that is the exception. Nowadays, any casino executive with several venues under his responsibility receives dozens if not hundreds of emails from Monday to Friday (a bit less on weekends), and the phone calls. Now you get the results of the operation every hour on a WhatsApp group (there is one for each casino). Gone are the days in which you could relax a bit on this kind of job; we deal with a much greater amount of information and data, so being organised is not just a preference but an absolute necessity, and the more competition there is in your market as is the case in Panama, the more organisation you need to have. Casino Life would like to thank Mr. Vidal for his time and contribution.


Right Place, Right Time

Glyn Thomas catches up with Derik Mooberry, Group Chief Executive – Gaming, Scientific Games, at the recent G2E Asia event in Macau

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hen you’re interviewing senior executives – whether they be on the operations or manufacturing side of the industry - the term “veteran” has a tendency to crop up at regular intervals. Let’s face it, unlike the online industry, there are few cherub faces charged with the responsibilities. After 16 years at Bally Technologies in a series of wide-ranging roles from systems, sales, service and engineering, Derik Mooberry fits the description precisely. He himself is fairly modest, ascribing his current position to being in the right place at the right time, but after the inevitable turmoil that arises from a series of mergers, having someone with his breadth of experience must be a godsend. Over a quiet coffee we caught up on all things Scientific Games – in Asia and beyond. Can we start back home and the recent contract Scientific Games won for for ilani, Washington State’s newest gaming and entertainment destination. I believe it encompasses the full suite of current innovations, so you must be delighted with the award? Yes, indeed we are very pleased. The contract represents 57% of the gaming floor and is a perfect example of Scientific Games being able to supply

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a full suite of products – from systems to engaging slots and table games. One common question we are asked about our merger is how we have assimilated competing products and services; our ilani win shows how we do this to deliver best-in-


class end-to-end casino product solutions. It was, as I understand, a very competitive bidding process. What do you believe were the key factors involved in their decision going your way? I think the robust nature of our technical products – we’re selling a tried and trusted series of products that fit seamlessly on a gaming floor. What plans do you have regarding the future development of the SG Universe mobile suite? I think the possibilities are endless. It’s a hot product and we are all aware that smart phones have permeated every aspect of our lives – gaming is no different. By applying Scientific Games’ technology, we think that the casino floor can be integrated into mobile applications offering wider choice and better customer service – from social gaming to checking your loyalty balance. It’s a great opportunity for casinos to increase their customer base and, legislation permitting, leverage online play. What have you brought to this year’s G2E Asia? This year we are highlighting new and innovative slot game content, proprietary table games, electronic table systems and casinomanagement systems solutions — designed to drive revenue and operating performance. We’re excited about our new Pro V27/27 dual-screen slant-top cabinets and the debut of 5 Elements Blazing Dragons® and Roaring Tigers, a five-level multi progressive link featuring 50 lines and rich bonus features. Players will find familiar fun during a classic Hot Shot®-style non-max-bet game-in-game feature, along with five free games, Dragon Bonus® Spins,

and Wind, Earth, Water, Fire, Gold and Dragon progressive bonuses which add anticipation and a richer play experience. On our No. 1-performing Pro Wave® slot cabinet, we are showcasing the highly anticipated third game in our Da Fu Da Gui near-area progressive link series — Eternal Happiness™. This game is rich in Asian imagery and features free games, mystery picks, multipliers, and free games retriggers. Also debuting on our Wave cabinet is Super 5 Treasures, the third standalone game in popular Fu Babies Super Series. From our systems portfolio, we are also excited to demonstrate iVIEW4, our new in-game display manager; and the Chinese language version of Elite Bonusing Suite, with four games featuring localized Chinese art – Pirates Gold, Spin-to-Win, Lanterns of Fortune, and HiLo. Visitors to our booth are also raving about our new high-energy Fusion Vibe player experience area featuring our electronic table systems. Is Asia your second biggest market and can you see it as being the company’s No. 1 market in the years ahead? We view all our markets as being significant – it’s not about the size, it’s about us delivering the right product to the customer whether EMEA, Australia, U.S., Canada, Latin America and the UK, for example – they are all important in their own right. What are your plans and expectations for Scientific Games in this region over the next 5+ years? Macau aside, we are keeping a very close eye on Japan, which we think has great potential. Cautiously that market may, in fact, be more than five years away, but Scientific Games is here for the long haul. We’ll be ready.

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Scientific Games’ VP and Managing Director of Gaming – Asia Ken Jolly (center), accepts the 2017 Asia Gaming Award The other significant news for Scientific Games at G2E Asia was their ‘2017 Best Table Game Solution’ award. A panel of independent judges selected Scientific Games for the top-place honour in this annual awards competition designed to recognize significant

achievements within the Asia gaming industry. The ‘Best Table Game Solution’ award recognizes the product that has played a key role in enhancing the casino table games experience, factoring in added value, reliability, service and support. Scientific Games was vying with six other companies for the top award in this category. Ken Jolly, Scientific Games’ Vice President and Managing Director of Gaming — Asia, accepted the award during the Asia Gaming Awards’ gala dinner and award ceremony at The Venetian Macao. “We are honoured to win this prestigious Asia Gaming Award for our innovation in table game solutions. This recognition is a testament to our investment in developing ground-breaking table game solutions, which include our Shuffle Master line of engaging proprietary table games and table game progressives, as well as our leading-edge utility products such as card shufflers and chip sorters,” Jolly said. “Our focus on creating pioneering table game solutions is driven by our mission to deliver the world’s best gaming experiences and our commitment to excellence in providing the highest level of safety, security and reliability in the industry.”

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Aristidis Tsikouras, Managing Director GeWeTe

Quality Support Aristidis Tsikouras, Managing Director GeWeTe talks to Glyn Thomas With the half way mark nearing for 2017 what have been the highlights for you so far this year and what excites you most about the second half of the year? Let me start by saying that we started the year on a truly exciting note. GeWeTe is the redemption and change machine provider within the Gauselmann Group. Our expertise originates in serving the street market – for example in our home market in Germany we enjoy over 75% market share. This continued success brought about new responsibilities. The board of the Gauselmann

Group decided that we at GeWeTe should also serve the international casino market. The GeWeTe name is becoming more familiar in casinos and the ICE in London was the ideal opportunity to introduce our latest inventions. The local European shows in Ireland, England, Spain and Italy were all very successful for us at GeWeTe. Now coming back to your question: We naturally aspire to bring all the interest from these shows to new orders – so I anticipate that our production department will be kept very busy. Naturally we are placing our emphasis on the next major shows in the USA – the

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G2E Las Vegas. We will be exhibiting at the BEGE in Bulgaria and the EAE in Romania as well to serve the Eastern European market. So as you see – we have lots of work ahead of us until the end of the year. What are the main reasons do you think behind the unrivalled success of GeWeTe cash and banknote solutions that have brought the company to the position of market leader in most if not all European markets? We have been in business now for over twenty-four years and there are over 60,000 GeWeTe machines in operation around the world. These facts underline our longstanding success. We offer every solution for all applications. That is why we have such an extensive product range. We work very closely with our customers to ensure that have exactly the change or redemption machine they require. Our quality speaks for itself. We control the entire development and production process ourselves. 100% of each GeWeTe machine stems from our factory. What effect does the team at GeWeTe have? The team at GeWeTe plays the most important role in our success. You know, we have many long-serving colleagues. The team spirit is fantastic and every one can rely on each other. The team leaders know exactly what is expected of them. We ensure that the responsibility is shared amongst the management team so each member plays a critical role. Communication is immediate as we are all based at the HQ in Mechernich in Germany. We can give our market feedback directly to

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the development team that then works closely together with the manufacturing team. The service team plays an important role as well – not only supporting our customers but sharing the customer feedback when necessary to ensure that any problems are solved quickly. This has brought about an extremely strong product range. Our customers appreciate the fact that GeWeTe machines are so reliable. This is so important for operators – customers often need to be able to change their money to play and naturally our machines host a wide range of features. We actively advise our customers which GeWeTe machine best fits their purpose. This service is also much appreciated. What structure do you have in place to support international growth? We believe in having local teams in the individual countries where we are based. Mark Edmundson heads up the UK and Ireland office, Salvatore Caserta is responsible for our Italian office and Enrique Navarro runs our Spanish base. We are in a fortunate position as part of the Gauselmann Group that has many offices around the world. This will facilitate our further growth strategy. How extensive are the testing provisions involved with the various components as well during the assembly processes of GeWeTe Machines? It goes without saying that in Germany we have a very good reputation for quality. This is what we work to every single day. As just stated, we control the entire process from our HQ in Mechernich. The work environment means much to us all – employee


fluctuation is very small – it is much more common that an employee leaves us due to retirement than to go to another company. That means we know each other well and trust each other – the team spirit is very special. This gives us added impetus to ensure we continue to focus on top quality. Developing, designing and producing change and redemption machines are all our focus. We make use of the best components in the market. We enjoy an excellent reputation for reliability. Our solutions keep on working. That makes us excellent value for

money – taking our machine uptime and durability into account – our pricing becomes even more competitive. How customer friendly are your solutions? We understand how important it is that our machines have to be as intuitive as possible. Here I mean that customers know more or less immediately what to do. Money access points are clearly marked and most of our solutions are equipped with a touchscreen. The user software has

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been developed in such a way that customers can quickly find what they are looking for. For the benefit of our readers that may have change machines that have proven reliable but are now getting on in age, what key advice would you provide them as to why they should invest in a new GeWeTe change machine? There are many reasons to choose GeWeTe: • GeWeTe has over 24 years of experience with well over 60,000 change machines and redemption machines built and sold • We have the right solution for every application • We control the entire product cycle from our HQ in Germany – from design to after-sales • Thus, we offer ‘made-in-Germany’ technology • We have a long-serving staff – so you as customer will normally have the same contact(s) not just today but for years to come • We have an extremely successful parent company behind us – namely Gauselmann • We are independent in our business strategy and so have been able to build up such an impressive product range that is second to none • We are the number one in the German street market and undertook the responsibility for the casino market two years ago • We have already equipped over fifty casinos in a

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very short time • Our great and professional after sales support • We enjoy a great reputation for quality and security • Our solutions are extremely customer-friendly • GeWeTe machines are well know for their uptime and longevity • That means that investing in GeWeTe provides the best value for money in the market • And last but not least – our team is very friendly and professional – you will find working with GeWeTe a pleasure – we are here to support you and ensure you get the most out of our products So does that mean you serve all market segments? Indeed it does! Whether for casinos, VLT, arcades, bingo halls or sport betting shops – to name just a few – we have the right solution. Please feel free to get in touch with us at any time to see how we can help your business.


European Dealer Championship 2017 review

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Glyn Thomas reports back from yet another very enjoyable evening at the Hippodrome Casino

espite the fact that the European Dealer Championships was an inaugural event for the Hippodrome Casino it was like an old friend returning home. In between hectic schedules and anxious dealers Glyn Thomas caught up with the three keystones of the event - Per Jaldung, Chairman ECA, Tracy Damestani, ”ECA-host” of the championship and Vice-Chair of the ECA along with Simon Thomas, the Chairman of the Hippodrome.

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Per Jaldung, European Casino Association Chairman For Croupiers who would like to enter the EDC 2018 and their casino operation is a member of the ECA but haven’t yet participated, what advice can you provide them? Is it possible to expand the amount of countries and entrants for 2018? We very much encourage all our members to join the EDC and each country can send up to two


Simon Thomas with the fabulous and multi-talented moderator Miss Polly Rae

competitors, showing potential to grow. The dealers are our best ambassadors and the competition serves as a great opportunity to promote the casino industry and our members to a wide audience. Hopefully, after such a successful event this year and indeed the last years, more competitors and countries will join in 2018. The competition offers networking experience in a great international atmosphere for the coming stars of the European casino industry. This year we had 20 participants from 26 countries and thereby equalled our record number of participants. So, we are certainly on a good track to beating this next year! The ECA has nearly every casino operation as a member, what would you like to say to those that have yet to join? I am proud to say that the ECA has grown to become

Per Jaldung Chairman ECA with Joanna Matusiak from Casinos Poland, who came 4th overall in the competition

the voice of the land-based casino industry. We represent the vast majority of casino operations in Europe with 26 members from EU and nonEU countries. Being a part of the ECA carries real standing, putting members at the forefront of developments in our industry such as responsible gaming, tackling illegal gambling and anti-money laundering. As ECA, we are able to demonstrate the positive contribution of our industry at European and at national level in terms of direct and indirect employment, funding for good causes and local economic opportunities. We are, however, always keen to grow our membership further as we can have the biggest possible impact by working together. A lot of work clearly went into organising the European Dealer Championship tournament which was undeniably a major success. Your compliments

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Tracy Damestani, “ECA-host” of the championship and Vice-Chair of the ECA

to the judges in your speech during the awards were also very well received as they clearly did an outstanding job in what was a very high standard of entrants. The dedicated work of our organising committee led by Sandra Sturgess Persson (Casino Cosmopol Malmö) and Jaana Ruokoma (Veikkaus Casino Helsinki), Simon Thomas and the entire Hippodrome Casino team, as well as the competition coorganisers, the UK’s National Casino Forum and their CEO Tracy Damestani deserves strong recognition. The same is true for the judges, who helped make it a successful and thrilling couple of days for competitors and spectators with some tense moments. The standard of entrant increases each year which is impressive so the resulting winners’ achievement is significant. Have you got any tips for entrants in next year’s competition? The competition is clearly getting tougher each year and the standards we saw this year are certainly the highest we have ever had. In the end, the final was very tight and the finalists hard to separate, underlining the high standard. This year’s winner, Antra Gaike from Olympic Voodoo Casino in Latvia set a high bar for the coming years. For next year’s competitors, this means that practice and

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preparation are crucial. This clearly has been a major success, so do you have a message for the 2018 sponsors? The sponsors, many of whom have supported the EDC for many years, are the cornerstone of the competition that have helped it thrive and grow into one of the premier events for the gaming industry. We are grateful for their long-standing support that we value highly and look forward to building on this in the coming years. This year, we were also very pleased to get the support of our long-term partner Clarion Events as sponsor of the EDC cup. This is the first time the EDC has been hosted in the UK, which was much appreciated by all those involved, so can we expect a return in the not too distant future? As we saw with the Hippodrome Casino this year, London and the UK in general has a fantastic landscape of casinos. This year’s venue provided the competition with a stunning backdrop in one of London’s premier entertainment venues. It is no question that we would be very excited to return to the UK with the competition at some point in the next few years. Equally, there are many countries and casinos across the continent that have not


yet seen the competition and that will be just as exciting.

Tracy Damestani ”ECA-host” of the 2017 Championship and Vice-Chair of the European Casino Association These events clearly involve a lot of planning and organisation? The European Dealer Championships provide a chance for the industry to come together, showcase its most talented croupiers and shine a light on some of the best venues across Europe, such as the Hippodrome Casino. Events such as these involve a great deal of planning and organisation. This year the Championships brought together 33 participants and 31 judges from a record-breaking 20 countries, making it the largest in the competition’s 11 year history. What were the aims behind this event? Becoming a top croupier at a leading European casino takes a lot of hard work and training. A successful croupier needs to have strong mathematical skills, a high level of mental agility, an engaging personality and the ability to think clearly under pressure. The European Dealer Championships play an important role in enabling the casino industry to celebrate its most talented croupiers and recognise the best in the business.

2017 EDC winner Antra Gaike (Olympic Voodoo Casino, Latvia)

How would you describe the current state of the industry? Casinos are firmly established as a key element of the UK’s hospitality and leisure sector and there is a great deal for the industry to be positive about, particularly in London but also right across the country where casinos are permitted. But of course the industry wants to go further to meet our customers’ expectations in terms of the types of products available and access to them. We’ve long argued for an increase, for example, in the number of gaming machines allowed in our casinos to reflect customer demand, and also to be allowed to develop these machines to reflect advances in technology that are widely available in other jurisdictions and we are hopeful the government will come forward with proposals in this regard soon. But in the meantime we are

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seeing investment in many of our clubs across the country, offering not just an improved gambling experience but also wider leisure and entertainment opportunities as part of the mix.

Simon Thomas, Chairman Hippodrome Casino Have you any tips for the host Casino of next year’s Tournament? I can’t remember when I’ve had such positive feedback from an event at The Hippodrome. And there have been thousands. It meant a great deal that representatives from casinos throughout Europe - our peers - were so wholly positive about their experience. There was an extraordinary turnout and some incredible competing talent while everyone turned up intending both to win and also to have the best time possible. For the lucky casino that will host next year’s event, I’d advise building in the best party and entertainment possible. We did just that at the Hippodrome, and that’s where many of the memories and new friendships were made. From a spectator standpoint it was a fun and enjoyable event. Did you manage to find yourself being caught up in the excitement of the occasion? Of course, I was among those cheering from the sidelines. You can’t help but be impressed by the dedication and talent of those competing. Europe boasts some of the best dealers in the world camaraderie allied to an impressive determination to win. As host, what for you were the high points of the three days? Losers cheering winners. Old acquaintances rekindling friendships. The smiles on the Hippodrome organising team’s faces when they realised they’d done an outstanding job.

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Educate and Empower Peter White chats to Stuart Armstrong, Founder and Director at SlotGuru

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SlotGuru is a new and unique service that provides key information on casino slot games directly to a players’ mobile phone. Can you explain to readers what it does and how it works? Simply put, SlotGuru is a mobile app that gives slot players key information on a slot game before they commit money to playing it. Most importantly, it lets a player know the volatility of a game, so they can easily assess if the game is suitable for their personal preferences. The app also has a range of educational resources & social media tools to help players understand slots better and help them work out the best type of games to suit their playing style.

which games to play. 84% said the app was informative and useful and 79% wanted this level of information going forward. To receive endorsement from what is effectively four out of every five users that they want SlotGuru to be part of their future gaming experiences is simply fantastic. Aspers have also indicated that they’re very happy with the feedback from their customers and are fully supportive of the deployment.

Where did the idea for it come from? Essentially, from Casino operators themselves. Having spent many years working for slot manufacturers before starting SlotGuru and ‘The definitive global slot machine database built throughout our meetings with operators during that for players’ - that is a period, the one thing major claim to make. Stuart Armstrong, Founder and Director at SlotGuru that continually arose Can you explain to was the desire to our readership the provide players with facts that support more information the slogan? to educate and Well, the first empower them to thing about this is be able to choose that we’ve never games which were seen a single consistent with database anywhere their playing profile. that represents Of course, some this information manufacturers on games have already tried across multiple to address this manufacturers but with different and jurisdictions. terms, ratings and Our database is iconography being continually growing and we currently have over used, this was perhaps always destined to have 2,600 land based and online games from the world’s limited success. foremost manufacturers included. We are also We realised that the industry needed a simple working with manufacturers to ensure that we have and standardised way of communication that was the widest and most up to date information on their independent of manufacturers and operators. games included in the app. Only then would operators be sure that they could clearly and effectively get this information to their What has been the reaction from the Operator customers. Aspers and their patrons to the SlotGuru deployment at Aspers Casinos? Has SlotGuru any geographical limitations? Feedback from SlotGuru users has been No. SlotGuru’s database contains games from all overwhelming. In research Aspers carried out over the world and even those built for specific amongst their customers, 74% of users said using jurisdictions, like Australia. The casino industry is the app influenced their play decisions, helping truly global and SlotGuru is designed for similar them make more informed choices when choosing reach.

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Responsible Gambling is of major importance to both online and land based gaming organisations. How will SlotGuru help to determine when players need to cool off and take a break? Responsible Gambling is an extremely important area of focus for the industry and rightly so. By their very nature, most RG initiatives are primarily reactive in that they support those who have identified and acknowledged a gambling problem and they do a fantastic job in helping and supporting those people affected. SlotGuru is unique by virtue of its focus on proactively reducing the likelihood of players developing an issue. Through education and awareness, we aim to help prevent players from reaching that point. SlotGuru is about education from the outset. Slot games are designed to satisfy different player types, be they entertainment players, experienced players, or gamblers. We know that these different player types exist yet the one thing we don’t do is tell the player about the game. If the player is fully aware that certain games are designed to deliver certain experiences, they can then make an informed decision that aligns their game choice with their playing type or profile. This elicits two fundamental results. Firstly, the player is less likely to develop PG tendencies by playing inappropriate games for their playing style. Secondly, by equipping players with the right information to make the right decisions, they will enjoy a more tailored and personalized gaming experience, which is more likely to meet their expectations and increase player satisfaction levels. From a SlotGuru perspective, we are hugely keen to support Responsible Gambling and therefore we intend to contribute 5% of all revenues to local and registered PG charities, to be chosen by operators who partner with us. Have you found any statistics showing any emerging trends so far with the SlotGuru? Not yet. We’re still in our infancy in terms of deployment, so it would be inappropriate to suggest any trends based on our current user base. However, what has become eminently clear from the research carried out by Aspers is that players are leveraging the information to make more informed

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decisions and are enjoying more tailored gaming experiences more as a result. Is there anything else you would like to add? We believe the unique and independent nature of SlotGuru is a powerful value proposition in itself. The industry has long sought for a way to deliver this information to players and it is evident that the players want this information to be available to them. However, perhaps above all else, SlotGuru is beneficial to all with a vested interest in the gambling industry, from players and regulators to operators and manufacturers alike. Manufacturer content is more likely to be played by the right player profile groups. Operators can be assured that their players are optimizing their chances of having the best experiences every time. Regulators can be confident that the players have access to the information required to make informed decisions. Most importantly of all, players are fully educated and empowered to enjoy their play and gamble responsibly.


Two Systems

South Korea wants casino expansion but is its economic model viable? By David McKee

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ith Japanese casinos still somewhere in the hazy yon and the Chinese government turning the pressure on Macao up and down like the burners on a stove, South Korea and Singapore are where the action is. However there’s one significant difference between the two: if you’re a South Korean you can’t gamble in your native land. Almost. In remote, coal-mining country there is a ski resort with 200 table games and 1,360 slots. This is Kangwon Land, the only casino a South Korean citizen can enter if he wants to have a bit of a flutter. All other casinos in South Korea are strictly for tourists. Given this dichotomy, it is not surprising that Kangwon Land accounts for roughly half of South Korea’s casino economy. The government, which recently floated the idea of a second, locals-only casino, obviously doesn’t

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want its citizens gambling and makes it hard for them to do so. Nonetheless, it wants more casinos — and big ones — which raises something of a conundrum as to whether foreigners-only mega resorts could support themselves. As though to prove the point, Paradise Co. released February numbers that showed gaming revenues at its five foreigners-only casinos up by 13.5 percent — but amounting to a gross of less than $37 million. And when its Paradise City opened on April 20, it was between a rock and a hard place: a Chinese ban on travel to South Korea and tensions brought on by U.S. President Donald Trump’s saberrattling toward North Korea. A shipload of Chinese tourists even refused to disembark at Jeju Island, a popular gambling spot for tourists in South Korea. Two of the biggest players in the industry, Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International, have made it clear that they don’t think a tourist-only


casino is a viable investment for them … at least not at the scale they are accustomed to building. “A casino that allows local residents would be a necessary element for our business model, in the scale of the investment that we are proposing to make and the magnitude of the property that we would look to develop in the market,” said Sands Managing Director of Global Development George Tanasijevich. That’s a nice way of saying ‘Let the locals in or we won’t come.’ Sands promises “a truly iconic building” in Jamsil, near the site of the 1988 Olympics, although this would require dismantling a baseball stadium that sits on the land at present. Somewhat absurdly, Sands contended that tourists would be afraid to play in a casino from which locals were barred — an argument that falls flat on its face in the context of South Korea’s $2.7 billion 2014 casino economy. “They will be suspicious and the positive environment will not be created if Korean citizens are not permitted to enter the facilities,” Tansajievich said, absurdly. (To put this further in context, Sands runs a casino in Singapore where locals are charged admission but tourists are not.) Tourists certainly aren’t avoiding Korea itself, especially ones from the coveted China market. From 2013 to 2014 their visits grew 53 percent, as they sought everything from retail to plastic surgery. “South Korea already has got the gaming industry infrastructure. At least they are familiar and don’t have to go through the initial stages like Japan,” IGamiX Management & Consulting Ltd managing partner Ben Lee told Reuters. Unlike Sands and MGM, other firms have decided

to gamble on the Korean status quo. Paradise Co. partnered with Japanese company Sega Sammy to develop $1.2 billion Paradise City. A Caesars Entertainment project near Incheon International Airport has been inching forward but has been slowed by Caesars’ bankruptcy and the pullout of joint venture partner Lippo Holdings. Caesars CEO Mark Frissora vowed to soldier on with the $700 million project and begin construction this spring, turning to Guangzhou R&F Properties for help. But the acid test of the Korean market is being conducted by Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which has invested the first $1.6 billion of an eventual $5 billion into a metaresort called Inspire, adjacent to Incheon Airport. Forbes magazine enumerated the bells and whistles: “1,350 five- and six-star hotel rooms in three towers, a shopping mall, a Korean cosmetic and beauty hub … an indoor/outdoor Paramount Studios theme park, an indoor rainforest and adventure park, along with a 20,000 square meter casino with 250 tables and 1,500 gaming machines, all adjacent to South Korea’s first private air terminal and connected to the main airport.” That’s an enormous gamble on what is a casino economy half the size of Las Vegas’. Making Inspire pencil out is going to require not only bleeding off a substantial number of players from existing casinos but having an impact on tourism comparable to Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. Can it be done? Given the degree to which Inspire is upping the ante for Korean investment others will probably wait and see — and continue to pressure the government to let the locals play.

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To Vegas and Back Don’t go Prospecting for Gold in the Land of Gold. By Carl Sampson

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here tends to be an oasis in many deserts and Las Vegas is certainly an “oasis” within the Nevada desert for sure. Millions of tourists go there every year but the overwhelming majority sure aren’t going for the scenery. The temperature in Las Vegas, depending on the time of year, can be oppressive and downright uncomfortable. Perfect then for getting people off the streets and into the casinos. A few people might go and visit the nearby Grand Canyon but let’s face it, they go to Vegas to gamble….but why? There are numerous reasons.

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Some just go because it is something that they want to do in their lives at least once. Others go for the glitz and the glamour. Meanwhile a growing number of people go there for experiences that they simply cannot get anywhere else. Other resorts try to mimic Las Vegas but as yet nobody has pulled it off. There are other resorts around the world with a greater turnover than Las Vegas and Macau now rivals their US counterpart. However, what Macau cannot offer is the history, the mystique and the famous “strip” that Vegas has to offer. The rich and the famous either go or reside there.


the questions and give the answers that people want to hear.

Can you beat the Wheel?

Looking for Fortune Las Vegas is also home to the World Series of Poker. In fact numerous professional poker players ply their trade there. This all gets down to the fact that gamblers ask questions and they want answers. The main ones being can you beat the wheel, can you beat the slot machines and can you win a fortune? There is no law that states that you cannot make your fortune in Las Vegas. Just like there is no law that would prevent you from winning the National Lottery. The odds for winning large sums of money are just the same in Vegas as they are anywhere else. One thing that Vegas has to offer is its size and that is no different with slot machine jackpots. If you get stupendously lucky in Las Vegas then you can change your life forever. The flip side is brutal though because Vegas leaves more people broke than any other casino resort. Yet people still flock there in their millions each year. So let’s ask

The short answer is “no”. By “wheel” we are obviously referring to the roulette wheel. We could also be talking about any other game that you could wish to mention inside casinos. Roulette has an even bigger house edge in Las Vegas than in many other locations. This is due to the roulette wheel having a double zero and this significantly increases the normal house edge attained from single zero wheels. Years ago, blackjack was the game that everyone wanted to play. When Edward Thorp produced his famous book Beat the Dealer, the game of blackjack literally transformed overnight and suddenly people knew about card counting. The problem was, so did the casinos, and card counters were bounced out of Las Vegas sometimes akin to a scene from a gangster movie. The bottom line is that casinos take money, they do not give it. If you were lucky enough to win a million on some casino slot machine progressive jackpot then do not for one minute think that you have won money from the casino. In effect the casino acts in a similar way to a bookmaker. They simply pay out the winners from all of the money taken from the losers and they keep the difference. The money taken from the losers is a significantly bigger sum but gamblers being gamblers and most of them give substantial chunks of it back anyway. So the casino wins, end of story. Perhaps the only way to make consistent money from Las Vegas is to be a poker player. Even that has its misconceptions. Poker seems a ridiculously easy game to play because hey…how hard can a card game be? You may find that there is no “gold” at the poker tables either. The army of savvy local players many of which have been honed by years of experience both online and live could take your shirt faster than a dry cleaner. So people often go to try their luck at the conventional casino games like Craps for example. Funnily enough Craps is a game rarely played in the UK which is quite odd but why? The main theory is to do with the American psyche and Craps is fast, brash and loud. Players in England prefer the more serene Baccarat tables and Electronic

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gaming machines. Craps has never caught on in the UK but if the casinos thought for one minute that punters would want it and love it and play it in large numbers, they would have Craps tables in every casino in the British Isles. They don’t because the game has never been popular and it has to be a culture thing. UK players don’t go to Vegas to play Craps! They play Craps while they are in Vegas which isn’t the same thing. Craps just like American Football will never take off in the UK, if it was going to then it already would have. Is it Fair and are the Games Straight? It amazes me just how many people fly out to Las Vegas with the notion that casinos are crooked. Yet they still go onto the gaming tables. The previous analogy with bookmakers is striking because this is how casinos make their money. Let us say that you knew in advance that you were going to take $1 from every punter that came through your door. If you only ever got one punter then you are going to go out of business pretty quick. However what if 100,000 people came through

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your door every day? Suddenly you are making $100,000 per day. Let’s change the numbers slightly. Let us say that the average punter contributed $100 to the casino from casino losses (keeping in mind that people let their hair down in Vegas), paid meals, bar bills, variety shows etc. Now that figure is $10m per day. Some of the big casinos are hitting these numbers. If any casino in the world that was legally making this sort of money tried to cheat, their owners would be the biggest fools on the planet. Not to mention that professional watchdogs constantly monitor casinos anyway, then the casinos are 100% legit. They sure don’t need to cheat when people flock to Las Vegas, some in the belief that the casinos are crooked but they still play anyway. The bottom line is that the average punter doesn’t understand gambling and loses money as a result of that. Couple that with a chronic lack of discipline and we don’t need silly conspiracy theories as to why casinos make so much money. Millions of people can’t wait to lose their money, maybe I ought to go and open a casino in Las Vegas!


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Why nobody calls you back By Mark Wayman

P

eople that don’t return messages is a hot button for me. My Dad taught me to treat people with respect, which includes returning your calls and messages. It’s just the right thing to do. I personally return every call and email (several hundred a day), even if my answer is a simple, “No thank you.” So why don’t people call you back? In my business, Executive Recruiting, timely responses are critical to hiring top executives. If the hiring company is slow or unresponsive, a strong candidate will have three other job offers and be long gone. Here are a few possible reasons why your call was not returned. No Value Proposition – This is by far the most common reason: your subject is not important to them. It you have a great value proposition like free tickets to Bruce Springsteen or a job with a

Mark Wayman, Godfather of Las Vegas

25% pay increase, you will always get called back. Unfortunately, most people only call to ask for something. A job, investments, introductions. That is not a strong value proposition. Actually, that is you calling in favors, not offering value. Here is a great story that illustrates the point. I’m hosting a mixer at the Foundation Room and talking with the CIO of a Fortune 500 company. A sales guy from Cisco walks over and says to the CIO, “Hey, I left you a bunch of messages and you did not get back to me.” The CIO did not miss a beat and responded, “Do you know why? I’m the CIO of a $10B company, and I have a fleet of people that deal with buying routers. It’s not on my radar; buying hardware is not a priority for me.” The higher your value proposition, the more quickly your calls will be returned. Your Topic is Not a Priority – Most people are

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running on the treadmill of life these days. One long, continuous air raid siren. Too much to do and not enough time. The second big reason people don’t return your call because they have other priorities. Your topic is undoubtedly a priority for you, however it may not make their radar screen. No one is going to drop everything they are doing for a topic that is not a priority for them. They are not trying to be rude, just preoccupied with something more important. CEOs are Busy, Busy, Busy – Business Owners and CEOs are REALLY busy. Be patient. Getting your calls returned takes time. That is no disrespect to you, more a function of the CEOs schedule. My model is to email the person, then wait a week. If there is no response, I’ll follow up with a second email. Still nothing? Then I pick up the phone and call them directly. And for any situation that is HIGH PRIORITY, I skip the emails and pick up the phone. Understand that senior executives have their hands full, so give them a few days to respond. Health Issues – When you are down with the flu and a fever, the last thing you care about is checking your email. Or maybe they have a sick mother

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or child. Family health issues trump pretty much everything, including your email or phone call. Travel – When I travel, I only respond to high priority client messages. Too much work to write extensive emails on an iPad. Again, if it’s important, I can call them on the phone. And how about people that send an email, then call you ten minutes later to ask, “Did you get my email?” Well yeah, probably, but I don’t stare at my computer screen all day waiting for you to send me something. Personally, I check messages twice a day. Available by phone from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM, then the phone gets turned off. Nothing is so important that it won’t wait until the morning. Keep in mind that when executives are on the road, it may take a few days for your call to be returned. You are no Longer “The Man” – You find out who your friends are when you are unemployed. All the people that used to call asking for favors no longer return your calls. Why? Because they know you are looking for a job, and they either can’t help or don’t want to. Don’t feel bad, they were never your friends, just acquaintances. Your career situation is an emergency for you, not them.


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