There are several apps available for the casino industry; most are oriented to traditional slot products and appeal to core casino customers. These social casino platforms available as apps also have a presence on social media channels and are an important revenue stream for the casino operators that have this offering.
There are not a lot of apps that appeal to the non-traditional casino customer – the eGamer. To help fill this void and to provide operators with a means of moving players to see new programming and product, we created Play the Field™. It is a mobile treasure hunt that helps players engage with more of the casino destination. Pilots of Play the Field™ will take place in casinos starting in April 2018 and we expect to see positive engagement in terms of frequency and customer spend on gaming and non-gaming activities. Casino Scouts, expected to launch in Q4 2018, is a mobile platform being developed in Las Vegas that describes itself as a “next-level B2C mobile marketing and engagement platform to the casino industry.” This platform will offer premium content designed to appeal to the eGamer.
New casino games
According to Blaine Graboyes, CEO of GameCo: “Casinos have a massive opportunity to support gaming innovation that attracts ‘net new’ casino gamers and generates critical new incremental revenue.” Graboyes notes that new products are not cannibalizing existing gaming spend from core customers: “Skill-based games and video game gambling present the valuable opportunity for operators to attract new audiences and generate new dollars for their businesses.”
To activate this opportunity, the industry has been working to create relevant options for a new generation of casino customers, as well as the more tech-savvy current players. Skill-based slot products that look like video games and offer collaborative and competitive play options are being pioneered by GameCo, Gamblit, and are also being offered by traditional manufacturers like Konami. There are new kinds of electronic table games that feature live dealers, some with “remote” dealers, and others that are completely automated being presented by a number of manufacturers. The industry hopes these new products will make destinations more attractive to non-traditional customers and remove barriers to entry for some gambling products. The expectation is that these products will convert entertainment customers into gaming customers, adding incremental revenues. It is worth noting that electronic table games reduce risk of dealer error and can help operators manage labour costs.
In addition to the new style products, manufacturers are taking established, successful casino products and applying new technology to them to modernize the player experience. The expectation is that this will keep the gambling experience relevant and fresh for those important core customers, many of whom are tech-forward. Examples of this new kind of product include slot machines that offers haptic feedback or 3D viewing (both offered by IGT).
The Downtown Grand in Las Vegas was the first casino destination to embrace eSports at its Bar and Game Lounge, open weekends. MGM’s Luxor is set to open a new eSports destination in 2018, the first on The Las Vegas Strip. We have seen eSports experiments in Canada. For example, Elements Casino in Surrey, B.C. tested eSports in 2017. We know other Canadian operators are investigating ways to get involved with eSports. The sustainability of eSports destinations, relative to the capital investment required, has yet to be demonstrated. Operators are still looking for the best way to monetize this new opportunity and it would seem the right business model has been elusive. Capital intensive projects may work in Las Vegas which has a high number of visitors, similar to the way in which Las Vegas can support resident Cirque de Soliel shows, but these projects will be more challenging in casino markets dependent on resident customers.
New channels on the horizon
In addition to products and experiences/programming, there are new revenue streams on the horizon. Some of these opportunities are contingent upon legislative changes, such as single event sports betting, now under discussion in several U.S. jurisdictions, and changes to allow online betting, also a live conversation. There is a lot of optimism in the industry, particularly among innovation leaders. Jason (Wolf) Rosenberg, CEO of American iGaming Solutions, a company that helps casinos assess and implement new technology offerings says:
“It's a very exciting time for us right now. The gaming industry as a whole was so resistant to changing the formula that has worked for the last 50 years, but we are finally seeing interest and adoption of new gaming verticals and technology.”
Wolf, who has extensive experience working in Europe and the United Kingdom, understands that some North American casino operators may feel threatened; but he encourages them to consider how they can augment their existing business lines with new channels:
“I think the biggest barrier is a lack of proper education of these new verticals that are already performing very well in regulated markets. . .Those operators that choose to ignore the technology trends that are coming their way will probably find themselves in a very difficult position in the near future.”
We have met with some disrupters that are working on brand new platforms that have the potential to truly revolutionize the casino industry. While we can’t provide any details due to confidentiality, these platforms could extend a casino’s reach beyond its building, through a highly secure (and legal) technology and/or change the experience to one of mass personalization.
Something for everyone
Of course, new types of products and experiences have to be introduced strategically, so they don’t alienate core customers. These loyal players are fundamentally important to the sustainability of the gaming business and their needs cannot be ignored in the quest for new business. Micro casinos, featuring different gaming environments at a single destination, are a popular tool for operators who are trying to serve customer populations seeking sometimes opposing experiences. The basic casino experience can remain comfortable and familiar to core customers, while the operator can offer something different for its new audience.
Lavo Casino Club at the Palazzo is a nightclub with live table games. The Encore Players Lounge at the Encore offers social games like shuffleboard and billiards next to table games, with a DJ booth and ample seating available for good measure. Level Up at the MGM Grand offers “interactive skill-based fun” and has a number of social game options. Many Canadian operators and Crowns have been exploring various types of options such as party pits, stadium gaming installations and ultra-lounges to name a few. The Zone at Casino de Montreal and BCLC’s Block concept, presented at various locations including Grand Villa, are two examples of acquisition-focused micro casinos. Product is one aspect of these spaces, but the other, critical element is programming.