Casino Life Issue 146 Volume 17

Page 1

The magazine for the owners and management of international casinos

Volume 17: Issue 146



WHERE THE GLOBAL GAMING INDUSTRY COMES TOGETHER Reunite with the global gaming industry at Global Gaming Expo (G2E). Set in Las Vegas, the heart of gaming, G2E is the premier event for commercial and tribal gaming professionals to reconnect, discover cutting-edge technology, and experience innovative content. Whether in-person or virtually, October 4-7, 2021 (Education: October 4-7 | Expo Hall: October 5-7) will be when G2E unites the community that is shaping the future of gaming.




Editor’s Note



Published by Outsource Digital Media Ltd

Here we go again. Just when 2021 was looking like The Year of Sports Betting, on comes the rampage of the Delta variant of Coronavirus, fueled by superstition and paranoia. Thanks to unvaccinated “Covidiots,” egged on by opportunistic media and political figures, a voodoo mentality has taken hold and experiences we once took for granted—like this month’s Global Gaming Expo—are imperiled. While it looked like the autumn and winter would be safe for the return of conventions, already Las Vegas has seen two of its tentpoles, the National Association of Broadcasters and the AVN Show (the Academy Awards of porn) collapse, making for a mighty shaky large-event ‘recovery.’ And things were looking so well, as American Gaming Association President Bill Miller discusses in this issue. Miller, no alarmist, is also taking no chances with G2E, mandating a belt-and-suspenders approach that requires attendees to be both masked and vaccinated. We applaud his vigilance. Fortunately for the casino industry, it now stretches far and wide beyond Las Vegas, and regional gaming is powering a comeback that’s far much stronger than anyone could have imagined. As Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli recently concluded, after crunching the numbers, gaming is out-performing the rest of the U.S. recreational economy by tens of billions of dollars. Would that were the case in some overseas markets. Stocks for Macaobased casino companies are still wobbly after losing $18.4 billion in value from newly proposed changes, undoubtedly handed down from Beijing. These include the imposition of a government overseer in every Macanese casino, federal approval of dividend payments, shorter leases and even a possible reduction in the number of casino concessions – very bad news for some companies that have put all their chips on the gambling enclave, especially at a time when it remains a shadow of its former self, thanks to Covid-19. One could say this was predictable. You don’t own a casino in Macao. The government lets you have it and, when your lease is up, they can come and take it. The industry’s complacency – and that of Wall Street – has been badly shaken by this dose of realpolitik. The worst apologists for the Communist system, Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn, are respectively dead and irrelevant. It is their more-responsible successors who must deal with the new reality. To close on happier notes, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Wild Coast Sun casino-resort in South Africa, take a deep dive into artificial intelligence (which may not be so artificial after all), visit MGM Resorts International’s hit property, Park MGM, and lead off with the success story and new vision of Century Casinos. See you at Global Gaming Expo!

The magazine for the owners and management of international casinos

Editorial: Editor: David McKee Associate Editor Asia: Bill Healey Associate Editor EMEA: Aydin Guney aydin.guney@outsourcedigital International Correspondent: Lyudmyla Kyrychenko lyudmyla.kyrychenko@outsource

Production: Designer: Stewart Hyde Accounts: Helen Holmes IT Director: Pasha Kuzminskiy Publisher: Peter White Tel: +44 (0) 1892 740869 Mob: +44 (0) 7973 273714 Volume 17: Issue 146

DMcKee David McKee Editor 3

Contents 3 Editor’s Note 4 Contents Page 6 Century Casinos Looks Westward Rebounding from the pandemic, the international operator eyes more U.S. opportunities. By David McKee



13 New Wine In Old Bottles MGM’s newest resort is a marvel of reinvention. By David McKee 21 Forty Years Young South Africa’s Wild Coast Sun celebrates a benchmark anniversary. By David McKee


26 From worst to first Record revenues in gaming spur optimism at the highest levels By David McKee 30 Shared Mission Per Jaldung, Chairman, European Casino Association, chats with Peter White 34 Responsible Gaming Interview with Christine Reilly, Senior Research Director, International Center for Responsible Gaming 36 Is Artificial Intelligence Really Artificial?

By Richard Marcus

40 Discover All That Is Possible Korbi Carrison, Event Director, Global Gaming Expo chats with Peter White 45 SUZOHAPP To Exhibit New Line Of Sports Betting Terminals At G2E



Editorial Policy: The views and opinions expressed in Casino Life remain principally the views of contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or publishers. The publishers wish to avoid inaccuracies and, whilst every precaution has been taken to ensure that information contained in this publication is accurate, no liability is accepted by the editor or publishers for errors or omissions, however caused. Unless otherwise stated, articles appearing in this publication remain the copyright of the publishers and may not be reproduced in any form without the publisher’s written consent. Printed in the UK by Severn Print.

Lead Feature: Century Casinos


Lead Feature: Century Casinos

Century Casinos Looks Westward Rebounding from the pandemic, the international operator eyes more U.S. opportunities. By David McKee

Volume 17: Issue 146


Lead Feature: Century Casinos


efying adversity, Century Casinos is firmly on the comeback trail from the Coronavirus pandemic. It recorded its best-ever quarter this spring, even without a full repertory of operational casinos, thanks to health-related closures in Canada and Poland. Century also did it without anything like a full cohort of international players. Fortunately, Century’s bedrock is a loyal core of gaming-centric local customers and they have helped the company rebound in record time, recording an all-time level of cash flow between April and June of this year. The two men steering the Century Casinos ship are the company’s founders and CEOs Erwin Haitzmann and Peter Hoetzinger, who have helmed it past the rocks and shoals of Covid-19, and set the course into the brave new world of U.S. sports betting, which is expanding as fast as Century. Shortly after Century’s landmark second-quarter earnings call on August 6, we sat down with Hoetzinger, who generously gave of his time to look back on Century’s recent successes and share his vision of the future. Congratulations on a great second quarter, including record EBITDA. How did you accomplish it? Century Casinos is focused on empowering the operational teams at each property to make decisions that best serve our customers, our team members and our business. The closure of our casinos due to

As a trend, we are currently observing a very strong

It’s early days yet for Canada and Poland, but what kinds of consumer trends are you seeing? Since our Polish casinos reopened on May 28, 2021, we can see that most of the local guests are visiting our casinos again. We are still waiting for the return of international tourists who are currently absent and for the resumption of conference tourism. But even without this additional business, the operating result is currently already at the level of before the pandemic.

Did the Canadian and Polish shutdowns materially damage Century? No, not at all. The shutdowns in Poland and Canada forced operational breaks but we were able to keep the economic impact very low through consistent cost control. At the same time we saw a strong performance from our operations in the USA. We look back on our second quarter as the most successful

Covid gave our management and operational teams a chance to re-evaluate our business model and make adjustments that would have been very challenging to do pre-Covid. Adjustments were made to our cost structure which have had a positive impact on margins, and we believe are sustainable long-term. We continue to evaluate promotional offers, marketing incentives and property amenities to determine what is truly important to our most valuable customers.


performance of slot machines, while the table game action has been starting up more slowly. Our Alberta, Canada, properties successfully reopened on June 10, 2021. All slot and table gaming seats are available for play with occupancy rates increasing steadily. Since reopening, guest visitations have been robust, and play volumes on both slot and table games have been great, with records being broken during the month of July and it seems to continue to be trending well into the third quarter.

Lead Feature: Century Casinos

period in the company’s history to-date, even though our operations in Canada and Poland were not allowed to operate most of the time.

How long do you feel the stimulus-fed wave of play will last? Will this be sustainable long-term or will the current wave of gaming revenue crest at some point? While some properties saw significant increases in revenue immediately following the stimulus payments in the first quarter, our U.S. properties as a whole have demonstrated sustained growth in revenue. With the short-term peaks having normalized, we are confident our U.S. properties will maintain significant increases over pre-Covid levels. How have you revised your marketing and promotions for a post-shutdown world? Since re-opening from Covid, a focus has been made on higher-worth, high margin customers. Rather than Volume 17: Issue 146

structuring marketing offers and promotions around

bringing high volumes of guests into the casino, we center these marketing activities around our most profitable customers. In addition, the company has focused on shifting from physical direct-mail offerings to digital delivery. An app was launched in the first quarter at our Missouri properties and will be rolling out to other properties throughout 2021. What is “the right customer” for Century? Century strives to be the destination of choice for gaming-centric customers within each of our markets, providing the best selection of slot machines and table games in a friendly and convenient environment. Century properties draw most of their players from within a 90-minute drive. How does this shape the kind of games and amenities that are on offer, since these are not tourist-oriented casinos? Our regional markets allow us to focus on profitable 9

Lead Feature: Century Casinos

amenities which attract gaming-centric customers. Less profitable amenities, such as buffets, may be necessary in more tourist-oriented markets, but do not necessarily attract gaming-centric customers. What kind of amenities remain offline or are likely to be eliminated?

few years. We made good use of the sports betting licenses available to us in West Virginia and Colorado through market-access deals. These deals have initially been appealing to us because of the one-time fees and the guaranteed minimum payments we were getting. With future expansion of sports betting to more

Sports betting, Internet gambling and parimutuel winnings have just surpassed F&B as revenue drivers. How was this accomplished and what is the current scope of your online presence? We have been operating online and retail parimutuel horse betting for many years, thanks to the three horse racetracks in our casino resorts portfolio. Parimutuel betting is well established; and while it isn’t a dynamic business, it is an essential source of revenue for the horse racing associations, the horse racing regulators and us as racetrack operators. Online sports betting, as you know, gained momentum quickly in the last

What’s behind the decision to build a hotel and

Any amenities that are unprofitable and do not attract gaming-centric customers will remain offline. A prime example of this would be all-you-can-eat buffets, which tend to attract customers who are more focused on food offerings at a value price as opposed to gaming.


states, some of those providing untethered (to casino licenses) access to sports betting—like Tennessee— and our own future growth through potential acquisitions in more states, there could potentially be a time when our own branded sports betting offering tied into the Century Casinos loyalty program, may make sense. We also have an iGaming license through our Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia, and we have access deals for the three skins—which come with the iGaming license—in place. We also look forward to the State of Missouri legalizing online sports betting (and perhaps iGaming as well), hopefully in 2022. We have two licenses in that state and a very loyal customer base which could result in great revenue and cash flow upside for Century Casinos.

Lead Feature: Century Casinos

a new land-based casino at Century Casino Caruthersville? What’s the condition of the existing facility? The existing facility in Caruthersville is the last freefloating riverboat casino in Missouri. A riverboat casino presents multiple challenges, including the safety of guests and employees, the risk of high water and loose barges, and the high cost of insurance. The proposed conceptual design of the new, land-based facility will transform Century Casino Caruthersville to a premier gaming and hotel facility that will provide a first-class experience to customers. It will be modern, attractive, very convenient, much more efficient to operate and will be insulated from the operational and economic disruption that occurs during the river-flood stages. Casino smoking bans are a hot topic in the U.S. right now. What is your position on the issue? These are local issues which will be decided by local governments and voters. Does Century have any smoke-free properties in Canada or Europe? Although there are certain restrictions on smoking in our Polish casinos, it is possible to smoke in any Volume 17: Issue 146

of our establishments. All of our Century Alberta, Canada, properties are smoke-free as per provincialand municipal-government policies. Why are you choosing to sell your Polish casinos and when do hope to close a deal? We have decided to concentrate our business

activities on markets in North America. The sale of our Polish investments would be a step in this direction and we are talking to several interested parties. At the moment, however, we do not know if and when a sale will take place. What are your hopes for revised sports betting in Canada, now that single-event wagers are legal? In Alberta, Canada, the Provincial Regulator is responsible for the oversight of managing and conducting single-event sports wagering at our two casinos and two racetrack casinos. It would be reasonable but not guaranteed that the regulator will allow the gaming industry, including Century, to partake in retail sports book offerings within their establishments and potential mobile extensions. We should have more clarity in the first half of 2022. You’ve said you hope do an acquisition every year 11

Lead Feature: Century Casinos

to year and a half. What makes a casino a good fit for Century? We focus on stable U.S. locals and regional markets with predictable risk of additional competition. You’re building employee housing in Cripple Creek. Why? What will it be like? Are you likely to emulate

this at other properties? We are building workforce housing in Cripple Creek due to the critical need of both staffing and affordable housing in the Cripple Creek market. The plan includes three new buildings on property we currently own, a block away from our casino and hotel, and directly across the street from the community recreation center, picnic area, playgrounds, skate park and sport utility courts. Each building will have two three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath and two two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath for a total of 12 units. We believe the housing will attract both families and individuals looking to work and live in Cripple Creek, giving Century a competitive advantage in hiring and maintaining quality staff. Although there are no immediate plans to emulate this concept at other properties, we certainly will if there is the need and the opportunity to provide housing for our employees and communities we operate in. 12

Speaking to F&B, why are buffets a lower-priority item for Century customers than in, say, Las Vegas? Century’s core, regional customers are gamingcentric customers who are looking for a best-inmarket selection of slot machines and table game offerings. By comparison, a destination market such as Las Vegas is much more driven by non-gaming amenities such as buffets, unique food venues, or retail offerings.

Are you worried about Covid-19 making a comeback? Century has proven to be able to get through a Covid situation without sustainable economical damage and to come back even stronger. There is no reason to be worried about a potential comeback of restrictions. Where would you like to see the company a year from now? Our latest acquisition, which we closed in December 2019, pretty much doubled us in size and it would be great if we could repeat something like that in the next 12 to 18 months.


Feature: Park MGM

New Wine In Old Bottles MGM’s newest resort is a marvel of reinvention. By David McKee


ive years ago, MGM Resorts International realized it had a problem. Its Monte Carlo casino-resort wasn’t resonating with visitors. Opened in 1996, a joint venture of Mirage Resorts and Circus Circus Enterprises, it trumpeted “the era of affordable excellence,” replete with marble and wannabe Roman statuary. Both companies were eventually subsumed into MGM and the latter found that Monte Carlo didn’t translate for American customers. Out went the statuary, in went new restaurants and bars, defacing the façade, until then-COO Bill Hornbuckle decided Volume 17: Issue 146

something full-scale was needed. What emerged in stages, from 2016 to 2019, was Park MGM, a lifestyle-oriented resort. Its amenities included a showroom that quickly became a magnet for the top names in entertainment, as well as a dedicated Stay Well floor that promises guests “better rest, fresher air, personalized lighting, a nutritious menu and more.” To roll out this thorough remake of a tired property into the freshest thing on the Las Vegas Strip, MGM turned to three-decade company veteran Ann Hoff. President of both Park MGM and Bellagio, Hoff 13

Feature: Park MGM

has been the company’s chief marketing officer, its president of portfolio properties and COO of Excalibur. She’s also held high-ranking executive positions at Beau Rivage, Treasure Island and New York-New York. More recently, she masterminded the implementation of MGM’s paid-parking program...

vanilla. It didn’t connect in a meaningful way with our customer base. We had to do something to redefine what that Monte Carlo experience was. We especially had an obligation based on the fact that we’re in the middle of this very dynamic neighborhood. We had CityCenter on one side, we had just introduced The

CEO Bill Hornbuckle once told us that Monte Carlo had the lowest brand recognition of any MGM Strip casino. How have people taken to the Park MGM rebranding? First of all, Bill is correct. Monte Carlo did have a couple of things working for it. One of those is location, location, location. It had the right foundation of a great resort. The right size: about 2,900 rooms. You could navigate it, it was well laid out. But the brand identification was a little weak. It was a little

Park MGM took a very brave step by going smoke-free. Are you getting a positive response to that? Is there a market for a smokeless casino in Las Vegas? I would agree with you that, yes, it was a brave step to be the first. We believe, as a company, in offering options to our guests throughout our portfolio. We also found through our research that there was a

not a move that endeared her to customers. But her accomplishments at Park MGM have been unquestionable, in addition to her continued stewardship of Bellagio, the sole hotel in the country with two AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star restaurants (Picasso and Le Cirque). She took time out of an understandably busy schedule to discuss the rejuvenation of Monte Carlo into Park MGM.


Park and T-Mobile Arena on the other side of us. So we took a look at every element of the property. We decided rebranding as Park MGM and NoMad to be the best option. We’re the final component in this neighborhood MGM Resorts was also creating. So here we are. Visitors, I would say, love what we’ve created in the neighborhood. Entertainment is a key driver of visitation, not only to Park MGM but also to Las Vegas. Our design and decor are beautiful, and really feel aligned with the neighboring Park.


Feature: Park MGM

Lady Gaga performs

significant market of people out there who were looking for smoke-free options, specifically a smokefree casino. Fortunately for us, that has been very, very well received. Going back to that whole notion of optionality, anybody who prefers smoke on the casino floor still has a large number of options throughout our company and throughout the city, although at Park MGM we do offer a dedicated smoking area outside for those who really like the notion of a smoke-free environment inside but an option to smoke outside. So all in all I would say we have received incredibly positive feedback from our guests and also, being the first entirely non-smoking casino in Las Vegas, it’s a very positive differentiator.

Not to overlook NoMad, what has it brought to the mix? NoMad is an extraordinary brand and for us it serves as a hotel within a hotel at Park MGM. It provides a completely different experience. It’s just shy of 300 rooms on our top four floors. What’s really special about it is it has European touches. There’s a sense of French romance and a residential vibe that NoMad is very well-known for. What I think is such a great juxtaposition is that it offers a balance of luxury to the Volume 17: Issue 146

lifestyle options that are found within Park MGM. Is it driving room revenues? Well, sure. Both Park MGM and NoMad have been well-received by the Vegas tourist. We’re currently exceeding our projections and the great news is that the casino consumer in particular really likes NoMad. How would you describe the non-NoMad room product at Park MGM? It’s modern. It’s a little more cutting-edge, so Park MGM has its niche: more of a lifestyle brand than residential. NoMad has that residential feel. You have a wide range of restaurants. What considerations go into choosing the dining options at Park MGM? We actually consider ourselves very fortunate with the dining options that we have. There is a lot that does go into choosing the whole suite of dining. When creating the dining program at Park MGM there were a couple of things that we wanted to do. One is to have primarily concepts that were brand new to the market, things that had never been seen in Las Vegas. We wanted to introduce chefs, we wanted to introduce concepts and we also felt that, in this whole 15

Feature: Park MGM

Eataly Las Vegas

rebranding notion, we really needed to represent a diverse selection of offerings, things that were wellplanned, finely executed, would attract new guests and probably even our prior guests might follow to check it out. Eataly, by all accounts, is a ‘wow’ destination in

every market. It is a huge draw. So in that regard, we were thinking about it for Las Vegas. For Park MGM it’s perfect. It’s social, casual. There are diverse dining options within. It’s fun. It’s energetic. The quality of the experience is top-notch. Then when you look at what a brand like Roy Choi offers, Roy Choi has a huge following in Southern California. That’s one of our key markets, obviously. His Best Friend concept hasn’t been done in the city of Las Vegas and it was a good decision. It was packed from the moment we opened our doors. We have concepts like LaLa Noodle that has Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai all under one roof and Primrose, which is one of my personal favorites, next to the pool. It has a cool, patio breakfast and lunch, which really makes that venue special – not only the dining options but the charm and comfort I’ve never seen in a café-style restaurant before. I’ve especially not seen that in Las Vegas, so it’s very neat. 16

One of the biggest draws is your theater. How state of the art is it? You’re going to test me here. The facility is state of the art, it’s true. It opened at the end of 2016 and was immediately loved by artists and guests alike. The capacity is just over 5,000 but it’s flexible. The

feeling’s very intimate. The farthest seat from the stage is only about 145 feet. And when I say it’s flexible, it allows for multiple configurations. If we want to sell it for conventions it’s very flexible. There are about a thousand seats that are located on a cutting-edge [movable] system. If we use that, it frees up about 14,000 square feet if an artist wanted to have general admission. I don’t think we’ve ever done a mosh pit but if we wanted to there’s an area for it, or if a convention wanted an area for displays. It’s really unparalleled, with state-of-the-art audio. We have an immersive projection surface with 3-D motion-graphic capability, almost 160 feet wide, and one of the signature features is a first-of-its-kind proscenium arch which can feature projections also. All of the projections in the room are customizable to what the artist wants. Which headliners are appearing there currently

Feature: Park MGM and who do you have on tap for the near future? We had a tremendous lineup of talent from the time we opened. So this weekend, for example, we have the Jonas Brothers performing and we’re thrilled to have them back. Bruno Mars makes his Vegas home at the Park Theater and he’s a huge draw. He sold out to worldwide audiences with every performance. And Lady Gaga, she’s been really been one of our key headliners prior to the pandemic. We even have a boutique dedicated to her called The Haus of Gaga. We hope to have news to share around her engagements soon. We recognize the value of entertainment and especially right now. It drives visitation to Las Vegas. What differentiates your sports book from others on the Strip? Our sports book is called the BetMGM sports book and when we designed that, it was the first of its kind on the Strip. The reason for that is what we did is we took the traditional sports book to a different level. We created an environment where food, drink, entertainment and viewing sports were all integrated. We transitioned it into something much more experiential, much more fun. People can immerse themselves into a comprehensive experience where they stay for much longer. What we’ve found is the energy that creates is really unparalleled. It’s been the model for other sports books of ours as well. Does the acceptance of legalized sports betting across the country have any benefits for a book like yours? Are players getting savvier? I would say that the players are most definitely getting savvier with the preponderance of sports betting across the country. But we’re excited about that. We’re excited about the expansion of legalized sports betting. As you likely know, BetMGM has quickly become the number-two sports betting app in the country, thanks to the incredibly talented team that we have. Sports bettors are very knowledgable, they’re very passionate, so for that reason we love the ability to take an interest in them, as we recognize that BetMGM affords us a tremendous opportunity to stay connected with players, keep them in mind of our brand and keep them in mind not just when they’re in Las Vegas but throughout the year. You’ve got a fair amount of convention space. Volume 17: Issue 146

Park MGM President Ann Hoff

How are meetings ramping up these days? We do have a very nice convention facility. We’ve got about 77,000 square feet of space, broken out into two different types of experiences. All in all, we are pleased with the volume we are seeing for meetings and conventions. We expect to be fully booked in 2022. We recognize, not just Park MGM but all of our properties in Las Vegas, that it’s such an important segment of our business and I personally, ultimately believe that nothing displaces the benefit of a faceto-face meeting and human interaction. What kind of health measures are you currently taking to inhibit Covid-19? Since March of last year health and safety have been, and currently remain, the top priority for MGM Resorts. We work closely, I would say on a 17


Feature: Park MGM

Roy Choi

daily basis, with health experts and public officials to ensure that we’re making informed decisions, to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to best protect our employees, our guests, our communities, our families. We currently require that all employees and guests wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status and earlier this week [August 16] our CEO had announced a new policy around vaccinations for our employees which is pretty comprehensive. Basically all new employees, beginning August 30, will be required to be vaccinated. Then all salaried employees, effective October 15, must be vaccinated. While we recognize that decision may not be popular, we believe that we have to do our part to curtail Covid-19, to protect those people that we care about and to protect our livelihood as well. We’ve also introduced technology over the last year to minimize touch points. We’ve been able to come up with a mobile check-in app to minimize check-in experiences. At restaurants, of course, we’ve implemented QR codes for menus. Those changes have been welcomed by guests, expected by guests and they’ll be permanent fixtures in our operation going forward. They not only enhance the overall experience they make it easier for guests to have fun while they’re here in Las Vegas in a safe environment. What is your level of optimism for the future of Park MGM and the greater Strip?

By nature I’m optimistic but I will say that a high degree of optimism and firmly believe that we’ll see a full recovery in Las Vegas. Business has certainly rebounded more quickly than any of us had anticipated. There were record volumes in certain business areas. So I would say we’re fortunate that people from around the world absolutely love Las Vegas and I believe we’ll see a recovery as our international business is able to return, as our entertainment continues to make a robust rebound. But, as it relates to Park MGM, this property was really only completed at the end of 2019, so it’s just amazing: As we went into our first full year of business, the pandemic hit and it really impacted our momentum, which stalled. But despite that we are quite excited about this product, we’re excited to be back with a sense of normalcy and introduce the world to what is still a very new property right here at the center of the Strip. 18

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Feature: Wild Coast Sun 40th Anniversary

Forty Years Young South Africa’s Wild Coast Sun celebrates a benchmark anniversary. By David McKee


radled between the Mtamvuna River and the sandy beaches of the Indian Ocean

is the respite offered by Wild Coast Sun casino-resort. The gaming getaway, adjacent to the border of KwalZulu Natal, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. It was built in 1981 – back in the shameful era of Apartheid – at a cost of $1.7 million and opened on 18 September of that year. A young (18 to 25 years old) staff of novice croupiers had to be trained, living on-property while they learned the tricks of the casino trade – and had just five weeks to learn how to deal cards, clear tables, work wheels and run the math in their heads. At first the casino was only for staff members, concessionaires and business partners but it swung its doors open to the general public on December 1, 1981. The intervening three months were a sprint to complete the hotel, lay the greens, furnish the rooms, and finish the swimming pools and squash courts. Those were the days. A three-night stay cost just $9.45, breakfast included. With prices like those, Wild Volume 17: Issue 146

Coast Sun soon ramped up business to the point where it was averaging 309,851 guests a year. “Out of

season rates for sea-facing rooms are about [$3.39], and in season, as demand escalates, the price rises”... to $4.95, according to the October 25, 1981 issue of the Sunday Times. Even so, “If you’re not well-oiled, you’ll need some luck at the roulette wheel to keep you at this lap of luxury.” Wild Coast Sun was particularly popular in the Durban market, as busloads of city dwellers descended upon the coast to have a flutter, and take in some rest and recreation. It’s also a popular destination for tourists, being only 90 minutes from King Shaka International Airport and a half-hour from Margate Airport. It’s a dynamic that hasn’t changed, as Wild Coast Sun has become so iconic it even appeared on Transkei postage stamps. It is also home to the world’s smallest desert, the minuscule (200 meters in diameter) Red Desert, a protected nature preserve. For those looking to unwind, there is the 21

Feature: Wild Coast Sun 40th Anniversary

General Manager Peter Tshidi

Mangwanani Spa. Those in search of more strenuous activities have their choice of river cruises, horseback riding along the surf, canoeing, hiking, fishing (fly or spear), scuba diving, paddle boating, waterskiing, lawn bowling and Segway tours. At the water park, your courage is tested against such rides as the Aqualoop, Boomerango and Superbowl, where G-forces whip you up and down, and side to side – not for the faint of heart. After that, you’ll surely need to relax at the Aloha Village and quench your thirst at the Lagoon bar. Best of all, they can pit their golfing form against the rugged, 18-hole, championship-scale golf course that Robert Trent Jones built in 1983, overlooking the Indian Ocean, at a cost of $140,000. It included an expensive escalator connecting the twelfth and thirteenth greens. And if you ever wonder at the purpose of the antique ship’s bell outside the clubhouse...well, every time a duffer’s errant shot landed in a water hazard, a loud “clang” would be rung on the tocsin. A good hotel-casino is always a work in progress and Wild Coast Sun was revamped during 1986-87 to the tune of $1.7 million, as 136 more hotel rooms were added, along with another swimming pool and a solarium. 1990 saw the debut of a convention center. In 2010, a $31 million makeover saw the addition of Wild Waves Water Park, as well as a $27 million refresh of the entire room inventory. Fifty Vacation Club units became 150 rooms, bringing to total from

246 to 396, Not only was the main kitchen upgraded but the decor in Chicos restaurant – named after original general manager Chico Chiaranda – got a complete facelift. Eco-friendly Wild Coast Sun is contoured to blend in with the Natal landscape, obtruding on the natural vistas as little as possible. As Frank Lloyd Wright said, a building should be of the hill, not on the hill. The sixth casino to be built in South Africa, its only senior is now Sun City, pioneering Mmabatho Palms Hotel having recently been gutted by fire. Among the honors that have been bestowed upon Wild Coast Sun are the Eco-Logic Recycling & Waste Management Award, received in June 2018. The resort’s waste center collects, then segregates offal into discrete crates. Non-hazardous waste is recycled “as much as possible.” That which cannot be recycled is converted into waste aggreate, eco-blocks that are employed in construction and paving. Wild Coast 22

Feature: Wild Coast Sun 40th Anniversary

Sun was also the first property in South Africa to be certified by the Green Buildings Council as a Zero Waste To Landfill facility. Yes, Wild Coast Sun may be turning 40 but it’s still a pace-setter. In keeping with its anniversary – and perhaps with an eye to Baby Boomer clientele – General Manager Peter Tshidi encapsulates Wild Coast Sun’s appeal as “Life starts at 40.” Volume 17: Issue 146


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Feature: AGA Reed

From Worst to First C

Record revenues in gaming spur optimism at the highest levels By David McKee

onfounding expectations, the U.S. gaming industry is not merely recovering from 2020 but is on pace to set an alltime record, according to the American Gaming Association’s Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker. That’s merely private-sector casinos. Tribal revenues have yet to be modeled. Even so, American casinos will go from their worst-ever year to their best ever. (The revenue tracker was launched in August of 2020, during the darkest days of Covid-19.) “2020 was undoubtedly the hardest year in gaming history,” said AGA President Bill Miller. “The difference in the results from when we launched the tracker a year ago is truly astounding. Today [August 10], we’re reporting the highest gross gaming revenue quarter ever. The nearly $14 billion in Q2 beats the previous record set in 2019 by more than 20 percent... The strength of our recovery reflects our industry’s 26

resilience. Time and time again we have been challenged only to come back stronger.” Added Senior Research Director David Forman, “In the first quarter of 2021, the industry came within a few million dollars of its best three-month period ever and in second quarter we blew right past that, posting the best quarter ever for gaming revenue, surpassing Q1 and the previous record from Q3 2019 by more than 22 percent.” The narrative, he added, was that sports betting and Internet gambling buttressed gaming revenues during the fallow months of 2020, and helped set up a benchmark 2021. Also, casinos and racinos in some states were still operating with capacity restrictions, so the third quarter of this year could surpass the record-setting second, if present trends continue. Now, said Forman, “we’ve finally rounded a corner as an industry to a place where each vertical is now

Feature: AGA Reed

generating more revenue than prior to the start of the pandemic and – barring any Covid-related setbacks – we’re excited to see where this new baseline will take us … Through the end of the second quarter, commercial gaming has generated nearly $25 billion in revenue this year. That is almost the same amount of revenue produced in all of 2020 and on pace to surpass 2019’s record of $44 billion in commercial gaming revenue. At the state level, all but three of the states [Kansas, Maine and Rhode Island] that had commercial gaming in Q2 of 2019 posted higher gaming revenue this year.” Citing the resilience of the Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, Iowa and Maryland markets, Forman noted that slot and table game revenues were up approximately 12 percent from 2019. (Comparisons with 2020 are essentially meaningless, given the capacity restrictions and outright closures that dampened last year.) That is almost completely driven by slot play, as table game revenues are roughly flat. “There you’re still seeing the impact of the Covid-related regulatory restrictions that continued for part of the second Volume 17: Issue 146

quarter and which had a bigger impact on tables. Many states established limits on the number of players that could be seated at any table game, with some states altogether suspending certain table games,” said Forman. According to a formal AGA statement, “For a second consecutive quarter, gaming outperformed the broader economy, as U.S. economic activity expanded at a 6.5 percent annualized rate. After a slow start due to lingering shutdowns and substantial operating restrictions early in the year, 2021 is on track to become the highest-grossing year in gaming industry history, having generated $24.8 billion in revenue in the first six months.” The AGA was able to track visitation in four states, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana and Missouri. What it found was that foot traffic was dramatically up, with play “significantly above pre-pandemic levels.” Even in states like Missouri, where visitor numbers are below 2019, fewer players are compensating by spending more per visit. Turning the page to i-gaming (formerly a forbidden topic at the AGA, pre-Miller), it’s up exponentially from last year, with additional states coming on line. Pennsylvania, a relatively mature market, is even a few million dollars from displacing first-mover New Jersey as the number-one market in the country. Michigan is also coming on rapidly, despite a comparatively late start. I-gaming alone engendered $901 million in the second quarter. As for sports betting, cabin fever during Coronavirus may have been the best thing that could have happened for it. With 10 states coming into play since the second quarter of 2019, sports betting revenues have rocketed 650 percent upward. In the second quarter of 2020 alone they were $889 million—and that was during a slow period for sports. Online sports betting has been particularly crucial, representing 84 percent of the marketplace. Twenty-two states plus the District of Columbia have sports betting at this point and 10 more states are on the verge. “I’ve said it before, but I’m hard pressed to come up with any issue that has been as resoundingly adopted by states in such a short period,” the politically experienced Miller observed.


But, he warned, “Despite this, the illegal market is still pervasive and continues to be the biggest challenge to our growth...We need to do more on the enforcement side and ensure that the legal marketplace can provide a competitive alternative.” “The hope and expectations are that we’ll see a slew of new sports betting markets go live in Q3 to coincide with the start of the football season, including Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, South Dakota, Wyoming and Wisconsin,” concluded Forman. However, there remain – as Miller put it – missing pieces to the casino-industry puzzle. For instance, international travel (one reason why the Las Vegas Strip has lagged regional markets in recovery). For another, conventions and meetings. Nor has the specter of Covid-19 gone away, although as Miller observed, “We have pivoted from serving as mass testing sites to mass vaccine sites. Across 30 states, nearly 130 commercial and tribal casinos have served as Covid-19 vaccination clinics.” But, he warned, “the Delta variant has reminded us that we’re not there yet.” For that and other reasons perhaps, the AGA refrained from making any forwardlooking projections about U.S. gaming’s performance in the latter half of the year, although the AGA says that – so far – the upward trend has continued into July. He applauded the continuing adoption of cashless gaming (a favorite Miller talking point), noting that it is congruent to prevailing consumer preferences, and an important anti-money-laundering weapon. “The industry’s not flipping over to digital but there is evolution.” He underlined the need for responsible-gaming education. To that end, the AGA is continuing to recruit gaming operators, media outlets and sports franchises for its Have a Game Plan® Bet Responsibly public service campaign. It “reaches new and seasoned bettors across digital, broadcast, and event channels with a common platform for educating fans on responsible sports wagering,” said Miller. “Getting sports betting right is a shared responsibility for everyone engaged in the sports betting ecosystem.” More topically, Miller said that Global Gaming Expo registration “was off to a strong start,” although it would be a hybrid live/virtual event, primarily due to ongoing travel restrictions. “As we all know, the state of the pandemic changes daily. We fully expect to be in Las Vegas this October and continue to explore all 28


Feature: AGA Reed

options to provide a safe show.” Companies, he said were “eager” to be in Las Vegas in October. The AGA prexy was asked how gaming might be affected by the reopening of other entertainment options. Noting that gaming had an early mover advantage, “because of our commitment to health and safety,” the industry’s strength would be sustained, Miller said, even if there is some diversification of consumer spending. He would not be drawn out on the OSB controversy in New York State, saying only that “Today the illegal market has the firmest and strongest hold” and whomever the state chooses to provide OSB, it “will be an important day.” Coincidentally, the state revealed the companies that have filed for New York State’s few available licenses on the same morning as the AGA presser. “It’s an important development to see legal sports betting gain a legal foothold,” Miller emphasized. Amidst an overwhelmingly upbeat press conference, one thing did stick in Miller’s craw: “the antiquated federal excise tax” on sports betting. Bipartisan Miller allies in Congress are pushing to repeal it, but progress has been minimal to date. That aside, Miller concluded, “I am a whole lot [more] optimistic than I was a year ago...our best years are ahead of us.”


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Feature: ECA

Per Jaldung, Chairman, European Casino Association 30

Feature: ECA

Shared Mission Per Jaldung, Chairman, European Casino Association chats with Peter White


an you provide details on the measures the ECA has taken to assist its members during Covid crisis? Unquestionably, the Covid crisis found us all unprepared. Faced with such an unpredictable situation, no one initially knew how to deal with a precarious present and an uncertain future, with the only certainty that the crisis would harshly impact the licensed land-based casino industry. In response, we mustered the full resources of the association and its members. The ECA began by exploiting the potential of its international reach and consolidated itself as a hub

for the exchange of information and know-how. Members actively discussed the local difficulties they faced within their countries. Social media groups were created, round tables and webinars were organised. The Secretariat developed and shared a hygiene handbook with best practices based on members’ experiences. Members exchanged helpful measures to be adopted within their casinos and discussed how to negotiate the reopening of locations with their respective governments. We also supported our members in gathering information through ad-hoc surveys and virtual networking. At the same time, we have been promoting casinos as safe places where trained staff are happy to work and deliver the best entertainment experience to guests. We used social media to inform members of the measures in place, gaining excellent media exposure at the European level. Volume 17: Issue 146


Feature: ECA

What is the outlook for the next 18 months and how are land-based casinos reviewing their business strategies? We are relieved to see the light at the end of the tunnel. All our members’ casinos are now operational and there are even new casinos opening. Our members are revising their business strategies and trying new approaches to offer a broader entertainment experience. The new casino in Venlo,

the Netherlands, is an excellent example of this. It aims to create a casino in harmony with nature combining sustainability, technology and architecture focusing on diversifying the entertainment and F&B offer. Our members continue to integrate digital into their business strategies. On the one side, technology will help increase efficiency, especially in procedures such as client registrations and data processing. On the other side, our industry is aware of the potential of online gambling, and many members include this offer within their product portfolio. The live casino experience remains at the heart of our business. This social activity is our heritage and unique selling point. We are seeking to combine the digital experience with the classic casino experience, protecting the tradition and culture of the live casino, and the skills of the amazing people working to make each casino visit a memorable event. 32

Has it been possible to confirm yet a date and venue for the ECA Industry Forum 2022? The previous Forum was June 2019 – I guess it will have packed agenda? We are looking forward to the next Industry Forum, one of the ECA’s most successful and distinctive events, since it has unfortunately been postponed twice. The only detail we can share at this time is the month in which it is due to be held – September 2022.

The date and venue will be communicated at a later stage. The Forum’s agenda will include the ongoing fight against illegal gambling, which is always a clear and present threat to the regulated market across Europe. The upcoming European Union anti-money-laundering developments are also drawing our attention, particularly regarding their impact on our industry and the preparations we need to make. Another crucial topic is the role of new technologies, including cashless payments and crypto assets, and their implications for our business and our guests. The Industry Forum is a great place to discuss, at the international level, how to balance the current intense digitalisation of the industry in relation to General Data Protection Regulation requirements and the challenges this presents to our compliance teams. Additionally, there are also two significant topics we

Feature: ECA always keep on our radar: responsible gambling and sustainability. The ECA is a long-standing member of the UN Global Compact and we want to intensify our engagement in this respect. There has been concern that many patrons are remaining with online and may remain online and not return to brick-and-mortar casinos? What can casinos do to attract patrons back? There is no doubt that the pandemic has boosted online gambling. It is also true that many ECA members already offer their products and services online. However, we also know that the demand for land-based services is undiminished. Customers have returned to our premises, drawn to the unique casino experience we offer. Online play and land-based play are not mutally exclusive. Customers play both, and they do so to enjoy different experiences. We are also focused upon improving the landbased customer experience through digitalisation. For example, we want to have digital and efficient registration processes, to simplify the purchase of chips, the ordering of food and drinks, payments via smartphones, and other helpful technology-driven applications. We should always aim to deliver the best service we can and meet our guests’ expectations, and we accomplish this thanks to our well-trained and qualified staff. The UK casino industry does not appear to be a member since the industry move to the Betting & Gaming Council. Is their any discussions at present with that organisation? Since its foundation, we have been in contact with the Betting & Gaming Council, and some of the most prominent UK casino companies are working very closely with the ECA in their capacity as ECA Observer Members. The Observer Membership was introduced by the ECA in June 2021 and is open to entities conducting business with and on the behalf of the European casino industry. For instance, we have been working with the well-renowned Hippodrome Casino since it became the first ECA Observer Member. Hippodrome Chairman Simon Thomas, has been a great help as a liaison person in the UK during the pandemic, participating in the different functions organised by the ECA. It is definitely a mutually beneficial relationship. Volume 17: Issue 146

How is the build up to the 2022 Dealer Championships progressing? Can you provide details for those casinos that are yet to register for the event next year? It is with great anticipation that we look forward to the European Dealer Championship 2022. The organising committee has set to work upon what will be the highest-attended edition so far, set in a glamorous location after two years of postponement. It will be a fantastic edition that will be marked out in the competition’s history forever. We can’t wait to gather in Monte-Carlo in May 2022, where we will meet friends and colleagues from all over Europe, and see the incredible talented dealers challenging each other in this fantastic and historic venue. Have you anything else you would like to add? Now in its fourth consecutive year, the European Casino Association continues to promote gender diversity and education through its scholarship program. Sponsored by the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, Clarion and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the ECA participates in the internationally recognised Executive Development Program, a demanding course organised by the Universities of Nevada. The ECA Scholarship Program is a crucial initiative to enable talented women working in the European casino industry to achieve their full potential and maximise their career opportunities.

Additionally, the ECA continues to support its long-standing partner Clarion, which, despite the cancellation of its outstanding events, has reinvented itself through the pandemic and provides premium content with ICE 365 and ICE CONNECT. We are actively participating in content creation thanks to the expert input of our members, who provide a unique hands-on perspective. Finally, we look forward to ICE London 2022, an in-person event at which we can gather, reconnect, discover new products and discuss the industry’s future. Exciting times ahead! 33

Feature: Christine Reilly

Responsible Gaming Interview with Christine Reilly, Senior Research Director International Center for Responsible Gaming


hat can you tell us about the ICRG and the services the organisation provides? The ICRG was founded in 1996 as a non-profit corporation. The ICRG mission is to help individuals and families affected by gambling disorder through rigorous scientific research on gambling disorders and evidence-based educational programming for health professionals, industry professionals and the public. The ICRG awards grants on a competitive basis to universities and research centers focused on understanding, preventing and treating gambling addiction. Educational programs include webinars, an

annual conference and publications designed to translate scientific research for a public audience. The ICRG is funded by corporations in the gambling entertainment field. Can you provide details on any research studies currently underway? Current research projects are exploring the effectiveness of responsible-gaming programs Christine Reilly, Senior Research Director, for lotteries and casinos; using virtual reality International Center for Responsible Gaming to reduce problematic gambling among youth; I was hired by the ICRG (then the National Center for clinical decision-making in the treatment of Responsible Gaming) in 1997. It was an exciting time gambling disorder; gambling disorder and suicide in because this was the first time the gambling field was India; gambling problems among homeless veterans; infused with a large amount of funding. and a geospatial app designed to prevent problematic gambling.

When and how did you first become interested in the gaming sector? 34

What is the history behind the setting up of and can you explain to readers and how it benefits students and colleges?

Feature: Christine Reilly The ICRG funded a series of research projects at Harvard Medical School to examine college gambling. A national survey revealed that even though college students gamble, only a third of colleges and universities have a gambling policy. To remedy this situation, the ICRG created to inform school administrators and health professionals and students about the risks of gambling. Access to gambling in the U.S. has never been as high as it currently is in its history. How is the International Center for Responsible Gaming, reacting to what will clearly be an increase in participants whom have now easy access to gamble? One of the most important initiatives is to support prevention efforts, especially responsible-gaming programs offered by gaming operators. We are currently funding research projects that are evaluating the effectiveness of responsible gaming strategies.

any changing gambling trends during the last 18 months and are their statics for accessing the impact over the years ahead? The major change has been the expansion of gambling to online operators and, in the U.S., the advent of sports gambling. The ICRG established a Sports Wagering Research Fund to support cuttingedge research on sports betting. The award of a grant will be announced in fall of 2021. Other areas are of interest but are still too new to study, such as betting on esports. And finally, how can readers find out more about the ICRG? Readers are welcome to learn more by visiting

Has the ICRG any research findings showing


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Feature: Richard Marcus

Is Artificial Intelligence Really Artificial? By Richard Marcus


ntil the advent of Artificial Intelligence, about the only common usage of the word “artificial” in front of a noun, at least for me, was a lake. Or maybe a food sweetener. But nowadays, if you were to be a contestant on the game show Password and you wanted to clue your partner to the word “intelligence,” you’d probably do best by leading with “artificial.” 36

Simply put, “artificial intelligence” has become so commonplace in our everyday lingo, perhaps even more so than “cryptocurrency,” that you’d have to be living in a soundproof enclosure not to have heard it. But what exactly is artificial intelligence and should it really be called artificial intelligence? Even though I have little knowledge beyond the basics, I am not so sure.

Feature: Richard Marcus

Artificial intelligence is most commonly described as: intelligence demonstrated by machines, as opposed to the natural intelligence displayed by humans or animals. That point is easy enough to understand. But the further you delve into it, the more confusing it gets, as shown by this sentence: Artificial intelligence can be defined as the study of intelligent

agents. Any system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of achieving its goals. And finally, a third definition of AI is: a machine or series of machines that mimic cognitive functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as learning and problem solving. Okay, hold on a second! For those of you getting impatient with me and wondering what all this intellectual crap has to do with AI in casinos, I will get there. Just please hear me out on this first! In the above descriptions of what AI is and actually does, there are two words in those paragraphs that grab my attention. One is “humans” and the other is “machines,” and there’s nothing really artificial about either. And the reality is that humans create all machines, whether or not they’re “artificial,” if that makes any sense. That said, my biggest problem with the name AI is that if human intelligence is what creates artificial intelligence, then how can that Volume 17: Issue 146

created intelligence be artificial? Simply, it’s not, in my opinion. It’s not the same as an artificial lake, which is artificial mainly because it wasn’t there in the first place. But the intelligence in and around what is now called AI has always been there, albeit in a pristine state. The difference is that this original intelligence has been enhanced by the process of gathering and processing human intelligence. I think that this field, which is becoming so integral to the casino industry, or at least that seems to be what we think, might better be named “Enhanced Human Intelligence”, or maybe just plain old “Mechanical Intelligence,” although I much prefer the former. Okay, I’m done! Let’s go back to calling it Artificial Intelligence. So what do I think of AI effectiveness in casinos? Is it all it’s purported to be? I think it is. After seeing presentations by casino industry AI experts such as Malcolm Rutherford of eConnect, I am convinced that AI is capable of enhancing the surveillance and security operations of casinos. But does that mean AI cannot be beat by casino cheats and dishonest casino employees? Absolutely NOT! If you’ve been wondering why I went on with all that IC…yes, “Intellectual Crap”…now I will tell


Feature: Richard Marcus

you. Remember how I was stressing that artificial

intelligence is a creation of human intelligence? Well, you can’t dispute that. And as that is true, whom do you think is capable of beating, bypassing or rendering artificial intelligence useless in casinos to some degree? The answer is simply the human beings who created it, or human beings who didn’t create it but still have enough human intelligence to outsmart it to a certain degree. Now, don’t take me for someone who knows much about AI, but I do know a lot about HI…you guessed it: “Human Intelligence.” And I will be happy to use the cliché: The technology is only as smart as the humans who created it and as effective as those who are implementing it. In other words, you can take artificial intelligence, facial recognition and RFID technology and throw them all out the window, or the windowless casino, if you don’t have the human brainpower to analyze the data and make the correct 38

strategic decisions based on the “artificial” data given

to them. And that goes for all industries, not just casinos. I mean, if the world’s militaries had a bunch of unintelligent people working in Intelligence, what good would the data be if they couldn’t interpret it correctly and apply it where needed? You understand that, and to close I will give you some casino examples of how AI and other technologies associated with it might be skirted. Let’s start with RFID technology in casino chips. One of its security features is that it protects casinos against pastposting and other kinds of chip manipulations intended to increase or decrease wagers after the outcome is already determined. I was asked at one of my game protection seminars, “Isn’t RFID 100 percent effective in preventing a pastposter from increasing his bet after the outcome is known?” I replied, “In a perfect word, probably. In the real casino world, absolutely not.” And I went on to explain that all the RFID does is transfer the data of amounts

Feature: Richard Marcus

of money bet by the players at a table to a monitor

according to the RFID chips embedded in the casino chips. That part of RFID is pretty flawless. But….and this is a BIG but. What about the human minds that are using that technology? If the pastposting cheat has added a higher denomination chip to his bet that RFID says wasn’t legitimately bet before the outcome, does that mean the casino is going to deny the pastposter’s claim to be paid the higher amount? Well, it should but it doesn’t unless the casino employee empowered to pay or not pay the pastposter for the added chip properly reads the data and utilizes it effectively. And this is where the highly non-artificialintelligent human casino cheats go to work in order to compromise that proper employee performance needed to protect casinos. I cannot get into all those details here, but suffice it to say that through set-ups and behavioral psychology, skilled cheats are able to convince casino personnel that their large pastposted Volume 17: Issue 146

bets were actually legitimately placed even though the technology infallibly proved they weren’t. This does not happen often but it does when casinos let their human guards down and depend solely on the technology. What about facial recognition? Is it beatable or can it be skirted? I would give the same answer as I did for the RFID example. If the humans receiving the data are not up to par, then FR can become vulnerable as well. So that’s my mumble jumble on the subject. You know what? After writing this article, I’m only sure of one thing...that is that I’m not sure about everything I said here, but it all makes for interesting conversation. And speaking about what has been known as, and will undoubtedly continue to be known as Artificial Intelligence, three global industry experts in the field, eConnect Executive Vice President of Strategic Operations Malcolm Rutherford, Mirage Resorts Corporate Vice President of Surveillance Ted Whiting and SBK FanDuel Director of Surveillance Sam Kljajic, will be presenting must-see sessions on Artificial Intelligence at the first Global Table Games & Game Protection Conference in Las Vegas, February 14-17, 2022. I am hosting this event and hope to see you there! Conference website... 39

Feature: G2E Las Vegas Preview

Discover All That Is Possible Korbi Carrison, Event Director, Global Gaming Expo chats with Peter White


lease tell our readers about yourself, involving your background and your experience in the industry, and your role as event director of Global Gaming Expo? I have lived in Las Vegas and worked in the gaming industry since the mid-90s and have been fortunate to develop countless close friendships and garner priceless mentors over the years. The people I have met and my experiences wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the incredible people in the gaming community. Working for gaming technology developers, both large and small, gave me first-hand experience knowing what it’s like to be an exhibitor at G2E. Over the years, I have worked in marketing and promotions, conference development, trade show operations, and sales. What seemed like a random journey turned out to be a collection of experiences that uniquely prepared me for my current role overseeing G2E for RX. I remain connected through long-time friendships, and I meet new people every day. I tap into these relationships with the entire RX team as we learn, collaborate, conceive and create the ever-evolving G2E that the industry knows and loves today.

G2E Las Vegas is a vitally important exhibition for the gaming industry, given the massive amount of business deals conducted during and post-show, so there must be a considerable pressure on RX and AGA to get this show back this year? While there is some element of pressure, the overwhelming feeling is that of anticipation and excitement. This industry is strong, made up of passionate people that love what they do and are excited to reconvene in-person to reconnect and do 40

Korbi Carrison, Event Director, Global Gaming Expo

business at G2E. The time that has elapsed since our last in-person G2E hasn’t been easy for anyone. But this time has illustrated gaming’s incredible resilience and highlights our recovery story. G2E will no doubt reflect our industry’s vitality and excitement for innovations to come. What has been the process of evaluation that RX and the AGA have applied that has been involved in the decision to proceed with the in-person G2E Las Vegas show in 2021?

Feature: G2E Las Vegas Preview

We understand the value of gathering together and sharing ideas – and we also appreciate that hosting a show in 2021 is much different than hosting a show in 2019. The G2E team, made up of RX and our show partner, the American Gaming Association (AGA), deployed a research study this spring to measure the attitudes of industry stakeholders. We didn’t know what that study would reveal, but when the findings were analyzed, we learned that the industry strongly supported the notion of holding an in-person event and that people would both attend and conduct business there. We then worked closely with key

The most significant difference you will notice is the implementation of the vaccine verification center and mask requirement, along with other health and safety enhancements. Once an attendee has their vaccine verification wristband and show badge, they can begin their G2E experience. One of the more memorable parts of G2E is networking with other industry professionals. This year, G2E kicks off on Monday, October 4, with G2E Connects, a very different, collaborative session allowing attendees to participate and learn from each other by interacting through facilitated discussions

This is going to be a very different G2E Las Vegas from previous shows. Can you provide details on the most significant changes visitors can expect to see at the year’s show?

Will there be a virtual option for those unable to attend due to travel restrictions? While we are thrilled to convene the industry in Las Vegas this year, we understand not everyone will be able to attend the show in person. We think it’s

stakeholders, including veteran exhibitors, and the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM), among others, to discuss the possibility of hosting an in-person event in Las Vegas this year. On June 1 we announced that G2E 2021 would be an in-person event with virtual components. The industry response to this announcement was overwhelmingly positive, and we have been full speed ahead with planning ever since. Health and safety are critically important factors in hosting a safe show. We’re preparing to deliver on our promise of safely reconvening the global gaming industry and plan to hold the show as long as it’s permissible by local, state and federal guidelines.

Volume 17: Issue 146

about what is most relevant in their professional development. G2E Connects topics will include promoting inclusivity in the workforce, building careers through mentorship, and adapting to customers’ changing needs. When the expo hall opens on Tuesday morning, attendees will notice that some of the booths may not be as large as in past years, but the energy and experience will be all they remember from previous G2Es. While the show will have a slightly different look and feel, attendees expect to make meaningful connections and have deep conversations.


Feature: G2E Las Vegas Preview important to still provide opportunities to connect with G2E, so we’ve incorporated virtual elements into the show. Attendees will be able to watch our keynotes, select education sessions, and have opportunities to connect with attendees and exhibitors through the G2E mobile app. After the in-person show concludes, the digital experience continues with an ongoing connection through G2E Insider Live and other G2E digital content. Are you in a position to provide details on this year’s conference program? Absolutely. We recently announced our keynote speaker line-up: Tuesday, October 5 • AGA’s Bill Miller will kick off G2E at 8:45 a.m. PT with a welcome address reflecting gaming’s road to recovery. Following his remarks, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (NV-1) will speak on navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, the dynamic role gaming plays across the state, and delivering for the state of Nevada. • At 1:00 p.m. PT, G2E will debut an afternoon keynote session, Gaming & Diversity: Pushing the Industry Forward featuring MGM Resorts International Chief People, Inclusion & Sustainability Officer Jyoti Chopra, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark, and Marriott

International Senior Vice President, Multicultural Affairs, Social Impact, and Business Councils Apoorva Gandhi. Moderated by CNBC’s Contessa Brewer, Chopra, Clark and Gandhi will discuss how gaming companies can and should prioritize diversity at all levels to serve customers, employees, and communities better.

Wednesday, October 6 • At 9:00 a.m. PT, Jim Allen, Chairman, Hard Rock International, and CEO, Seminole Gaming; Bill Hornbuckle, CEO, and President, MGM Resorts International, and Matt Maddox, CEO, Wynn Resorts, Ltd. will take the stage. NBC’s Contessa Brewer will lead the discussion, Raising the Stakes: Gaming Leaders Take on the Future of the Industry, asking these influential gaming CEOs on what will drive the industry forward.


Feature: G2E Las Vegas Preview • We’ll be making another announcement on the Wednesday afternoon keynote shortly, which is also shaping up to be very exciting. • Make sure to check out the “Schedule at a Glance” to help you plan the rest of your G2E experience. Will this year’s conference and exhibitor floor see a greater level of involvement from organisations involved in sports betting? G2E’s show floor is directly reflective of the industry’s trends and developments. The legal sports betting market has expanded rapidly since the last G2E. As such, you can’t miss content related to sports betting in all aspects of G2E, from the expo hall to the education program, in the keynote addresses and G2E’s Innovation Lab. How are the numbers of booths being taken at this year’s G2E Las Vegas holding up in comparison with previous shows? The pandemic has been a challenge for many gaming companies, and exhibitors have been balancing their business objectives with their commitment to participate in G2E. Having decided that G2E is an essential part of their success strategy, a few exhibitors opted to take smaller booths than in the past and we are pleased that the vast majority will join us again. We are forecasting over 270 exhibitors – and the current list is available. Have you anything else you would like to add? The support from the gaming community has been very encouraging as we plan this year’s show. A lot has happened since we last held G2E in person. Undoubtedly, 2020 was the most challenging year in our industry’s history – and each of us learned important lessons during that time. Reconvening is important, so gaming professionals can share their unique experiences, insight, and wisdom as we move forward on the road to recovery. We have adapted and learned, and we will likely continue to do business in a virtual setting. Still, there is no substitute for gathering together to connect and do business in person. We can’t wait to celebrate the resilience of the industry in Las Vegas with our colleagues from across the globe. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule for this interview. Volume 17: Issue 146


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G2E Preview: SuzoHapp

SUZOHAPP To Exhibit New Line Of Sports Betting Terminals At G2E


UZOHAPP will once again be exhibiting at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) from October 5-7 at the Venetian Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. G2E is the largest gathering of global, commercial, and tribal gaming professionals in North America and showcases the latest developments in gaming products and technology. A consistent presence at G2E for over 20 years, SUZOHAPP will be introducing its new line of sports betting terminals and showcasing its new partnership in the Cash Redemption Terminal (CRT) space with CountR. Both product lines set up SUZOHAPP for success in the post-pandemic era by helping them service the needs of sports betting platform developers looking to create an omnichannel experience, while also servicing operators and OEMs in the gaming and sports betting markets. “There is so much growth potential in the sports betting market,” says Sim Bielak, global president of SUZOHAPP. “As platform providers look to enter

into the retail space, SUZOHAPP is here to ease the burden and help design custom retail solutions for our customers using our years of expertise and knowledge of the industry, our flexible and fast design capabilities, and our globally renowned network of partners.” SUZOHAPP’s new global approach to the gaming and sports betting business provides all that and more. Leveraging the feedback of its massive international customer base that has been in the sports betting industry for years, along with its world-class engineering Todd Sims, Vice President Sales, Gaming & Amusement, Americas team, SUZOHAPP Volume 17: Issue 146


G2E Preview: SuzoHapp

As platform providers look to enter into the retail space, SUZOHAPP is here to ease the burden and help design custom retail solutions for our customers using our years of expertise and knowledge of the industry, our flexible and fast design capabilities, and our globally renowned network of partners.”

continues to bring customer-driven innovation to the market and has partnered with industry-leading platform developers to design the high-quality, effective terminals they will be showcasing this year. “We are extremely excited about the full range of capabilities we have to offer,” says Todd Sims, vice president of sales for the Americas. “We had ready-to-go terminals available in full kiosk format, tabletop and over the counter but our ability to create custom terminals suited to your specific needs that can work in any venue and be platform-agnostic is really where we have such great opportunity to help those new platform developers looking to enter a new market and allows them to stand out.”


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