Gambling Insider sits down with Konami Gaming Inc.’s Chief Administration Officer and Senior Vice President Tom Jingoli to learn more about the supplier’s insatiable desire to bring more entertainment to the casino industry
Outline your career in gaming and the specifics of your role at Konami.
Before coming to Konami in 2003, I was an investigative agent for the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and received a master’s degree from UNLV’s International Gaming Institute. Upon joining Konami as Director of Compliance, I had a pretty solid understanding of the industry ecosystem and the regulatory elements that hold it together, which was crucial to supporting a lot of the growth the company realised through the years that followed. Now, as Chief Administration Officer and Senior VP, I continue to direct Konami’s regulatory and technical compliance globally, as well as our QA lab and human resources.
Konami recently published some solid figures in relation to its slots division for Q2 2016. What do you put those results down to?
I would attribute our recent results to the strength of our core product. Our new Concerto video slot product has been an outstanding performer for our customers worldwide since its launch just a few months ago, and now we are seeing expanded placements based on its success. Even our classic Podium cabinet—a predecessor to Concerto—is still being purchased based on reliable performance in global markets. Our customers recognise a commitment to quality and performance in our games, so when it comes to placing a new product Konami has proven itself as a reliable go-to supplier.
The published results also recognised the success of our SYNKROS systems division, with recent installations for operators like Norwegian Cruise Lines, Barona Resort & Casino, as well as Golden Entertainment’s casino portfolio. Konami systems technology continues to expand and pioneer new development to support competitive growth for our SYNKROS customers. For example, our SYNKdot mobile dashboard is shortlisted in this year’s Global Gaming Awards and gives casino operators a simple, secure portal to view real-time property performance from their smartphone. It’s a practical tool that provides our systems customers a powerful advantage in day-to-day decision-making.
What is your overall outlook for the state of the casino games supply industry as a whole? Is the continuing slump of operator revenues in Macau seeping through and having an impact on suppliers?
From what we have observed across varied markets and seen demonstrated by our customers, the current state is cautiously optimistic. And even in some of the most troubled markets, they are showing semblance of stability. Our customers continue to tell us that they need to keep their floors fresh and that they will find a way to place products that perform. With fewer replacement units and more competitors each year, it won’t be easy but Konami is positioned to succeed.
Konami has a different historical background than many other slot machine manufacturers in that it also specialises in arcade games and console games. Do you think this gives you a distinct outlook on what constitutes a good slot game?
Without a doubt. Konami’s core gaming roots hold firm in entertainment, amusement, and arcades. The technology and development resources we have from our parent company in Japan are best-of-breed, and we’re thrilled to be able to bring those advancements to the casino gaming realm in the form of products like our Rapid Revolver hybrid machine, the Titan 360 multi-station machine, and even our SeleXion multi-game which is now available on Concerto. Whether digital or mechanical, we have the core creative power to bring new gambling entertainment styles to the market so diverse player groups have a variety of available gaming options. At G2E this year, those who come to our booth will see an unprecedented variety of these types of games.
What do you think will be the key differences between the slots we see in casinos today and the slot machines of the future?
There’s definitely potential for games to allow players to socialise, connect, and create shared experiences. You see hints of it on the casino floor today. For example, premium machines like our extra-large Goliath are even more popular due to bench seating – the players like to enjoy the experience and discover the game together. A step further, our Titan 360 machine is a multi-station game that has up to eight players all aiming for a jackpot chance with the game’s larger-than-life centre bonus ring. And at this year’s G2E we’ll have never-before-seen games that go even further to capitalise on community-style gambling experiences. So we’re able to offer a spectrum of shared gaming entertainment to our customers in order to appeal to different player types, but we definitely envision continued expansion in games that allow players to join in the excitement together.
In your opinion who are the biggest drivers of slots evolution on the casino floor, suppliers or operators?
It has always been the shared collaboration between suppliers and operators that helps drive future gaming product. Casino operators have a keen understanding of the needs of their player base, and manufacturers understand the opportunities for creative technology to meet those needs in new ways. Both are equally necessary for emerging products to transition to success and drive change. For example, attracting the Millennial patron will likely require the right new products in the right new gaming environment.
With Konami Holding’s experience in arcade and console game manufacture, are you interested in whether the concept of real money skill games becoming prominent in casinos develops? Do you think this is a realistic direction for casino evolution to move into?
Konami is uniquely positioned to make real money skill-based games a reality. With our roots in video game and amusement arcade development, the resources we have available in digital and mechanical gaming technology advancements are immense, with the infrastructure to back it up. I’m in my sixth year as president of AGEM, the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, and early on we’ve been active in our role of advising regulators on behalf of all suppliers regarding the creation of regulatory standards for skill-based legislation, because we believe the market is hungry for these next generation product segments. I would anticipate that attendees at this year’s G2E show will see new skill-based products from several suppliers. Konami will definitely present some amazing new products in this burgeoning category.
If a real money casino skill game market emerges would Konami Gaming look to be active in it?
As with any new market opportunity, we’re going to methodically evaluate our options to determine the best course of action for our customers and our business. At an immediate tangible level, Konami is exploring what it can offer by way of skill-based products, and during G2E 2016 visitors to our booth will be able to experience a few of these concepts first-hand.
Has Konami Gaming got any ambitious projects in the pipeline that you’d be able to share with us? And what are the overall aims for the company in the next few years? How will success in this period be measured?
One of our biggest focuses right now is the launch of our complete Concerto line-up. Last year’s G2E debut of Concerto was met with strong enthusiasm from our customers and now it’s one of the industry’s top performing standard video slot machines. This year, we are focused on expanding Concerto’s proven success to a complete line-up of new video slots. Concerto’s core attributes such as the sleek black finish and signature holographic attract lighting will be present in a slant machine, a multi-game, and two 43” singlescreen options, curved and flat. Even though G2E attendees will be seeing these new cabinets for the first time, they provide a clear visual complement to the original machine that’s been delivering outstanding results.
So without a doubt, Konami is working to pioneer future product segments as I mentioned earlier, and for our casino customers today we have a complete line-up of core video products that players love.
That’s our goal in action—to equip our customers with a diversity of proven games and technology so that they can get the most from their casino floors.
What are the primary objectives a company like Konami is looking to achieve from a show like G2E Vegas?
G2E Las Vegas is our largest event of the year. Thousands of gaming professionals walk through the Konami booth, and we enjoy meeting with our customers from around the world to show them our very latest products to help power their business and make sure they get the most from every space on their casino floor. Each year we command a central presence at the show but this year we have greater diversity and new development than any other time in our history.
What would you say has been the biggest change in the industry since you started in gaming?
The biggest changes would likely include advances in gaming technology and increased competition among manufacturers. Twenty-five years ago, there was IGT and Bally, and now we have upwards of 30 companies in the space—all exploring new slot formats, delivery methods, mathematics, art design, hardware components, and game play mechanics. Each year at G2E our industry encounters a huge influx of these new product innovations, and through programs like the Global Gaming Awards we’re able to pause to honour those with the greatest impact. We’re thrilled that Konami continues to achieve placement among the nominees each year for both the games and systems areas of our business, and do our part to help drive the market toward emerging technology.