John Connelly Global CEO, Interblock. Bio:
John Connelly is a highly respected and proven leader, with more than 30 years of experience in gaming and a distinguished track record of business development, innovation and M&As. His extensive background within US and international markets has played a pivotal role in increasing Interblock’s market share, development and profitability within the past seven years.
Caitlin Harte Director, Product Management, Everi. Bio:
Caitlin Harte joined Everi in January 2022 as Director of Product Management, and brings to the role more than 10 years of extensive product management and marketing experience. Harte oversees the organisation’s product roadmap to ensure it supports the goals and strategy of the business, as well as market and customer needs. Harte was part of the 2018 Class of 40 Under 40 which represents the best of the next generation of leaders in the casino and gaming industry, and is produced in conjunction with The Innovation Group and G2E’s Emerging Leaders of Gaming programme. Harte earned a Master’s in Business Administration from DePaul University and a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Eastern Illinois University.
Thomas Schmalzer VP Product Management & VP Global Sales, Novomatic AG. Bio:
Thomas Schmalzer studied economics in Austria and the Netherlands. Prior to his career in the gaming industry, he worked as a senior lecturer and research manager in higher education, running large-scale R&D projects in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Since joining Novomatic, he has managed turnaround projects in software engineering companies within the group and has worked as Managing Director in different group subsidiaries.
Renato Almeida Director, FBM. Bio:
Renato Almeida grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, and, after finishing his academic path, pursued an internship at NEC Brasil. He continued his professional journey at a bank automation company. In 1995, he joined Fabrica Brasileira de Máquinas Automáticas (FABAMA) as Electronics Technician and worked at FABAMA for several years. After this experience, it was time to embrace a challenge at FBM as a Technical Director, being later promoted to Vice President. Today, he is part of the Board of Directors and takes part in decisive matters that define the future of FBM as a global gaming brand.
HOW HAS LAND-BASED GAMING EVOLVED IN RECENT YEARS
“Hardware has not only become bigger, but displays have become brighter with 4K video becoming more of a requirement”
The best practices we have grown accustomed to over the years are being challenged. Analytics, combined with data-driven decision-making, have both evolved and revolutionised the way we evaluate casino floors. This is a direct result of the utilisation of new forms of technology within the gaming industry
and our desire to remain competitive against a growing number of entertainment forms; to attract the next generation of players, as some define as anyone under the age of 55, which is a much larger player segment than one would anticipate. The casino industry is evolving quickly, and data vs historical experience and intuition are influencing decisions more than ever.
Products in the land-based gaming space have significantly advanced technologically over the last several years. Hardware has not only become bigger, but displays have become brighter with 4K video becoming more of a requirement. Games continue to offer players more flexibility in terms of bet structure and player-facing multi-denominations, and more configurability for operators that enables them to tune bet structures and progressive reset values to cater to different locations on the casino floor.
Much of this advancement is being driven in part by players, who are accustomed to engaging with advanced technologies on their mobile devices that look hyper-realistic. Players are drawn to that same experience on the casino floor through monitors and game design.
The gaming floors have seen increased levels of diversification: above all, a growing jackpot offer with increasingly complex linked progressive offers, a broadening variety of thrilling jackpots as well as other game features and new jackpot offers, even for the ETG segment. Modern casino management systems provide operators with the most powerful toolset for real-time floor monitoring and reporting, as well as customer relationship management. For the players, all these developments are reflected in a significantly expanding range of entertainment offers, personalised promotional campaigning and improved amenities.
More recently and partly fuelled by the pandemic, there has been a massive trend of diversification among land-based operators to enter the online segment, depending on the respective regulatory framework, of course.
It was a fast and impressive evolution visible in the different regions of the globe. We saw cabinets and games incorporating technology, and changing their configuration several times to provide the highest levels of comfort and entertainment. From video bingo to slots, we saw incredible innovations in the product’s feature set, changing the way players interact with the game. The pandemic added a boost to this fast-paced evolution by introducing unpredictability in player behaviour. This context brought new challenges that game providers and casino managers are still trying to understand to create adequate solutions for them.
WHY IS LAND-BASED GAMING STILL POPULAR AMID THE GROWING POPULARITY OF IGAMING
”With the reopening of land-based gaming after Covid-19, we have seen an unexpectedly strong and rapid return to pre-Covid revenues”
The majority of people still crave social interaction in a manner online wagering is unable to provide. With this said, the overall wallet and spend of the player base is quickly allocated across multiple distribution channels vs the monopoly casino once had on the US gaming sector. It is hard to envision casinos being replaced by the online segment. However, it is causing a real impact on the overall strategy we see the casino industry beginning to implement in North America. Casinos are establishing a bridge between the online space and the casino floor to provide players with the best of both worlds, while creating a strategic advantage for those casino operators in the land-based arena. Casinos have also evolved their offerings within the land-based segment to provide infinitely more options and value for players to enjoy.
Casino destinations now provide considerably more entertainment options than an online site can provide and the ability to play casino games in a compelling, real-life environment.
Because there are new technological advancements in hardware, there will always be diversity in game offerings in a land-based environment. Players can enjoy a game on a mobile device, but being able to play that game on a 55-inch curved screen with optimal audio is something players can only experience in a casino on a physical gaming cabinet. There is also a social element of being able to sit with friends and play games together that one has a harder time doing via mobile.
With the reopening of land-based gaming after Covid-19, we have seen an unexpectedly strong and rapid return to pre-Covid revenues. Players have certainly gained a new awareness of alternative offers online, but it became quickly obvious that they did not substitute previous preferences. The land-based gaming experience provides social, emotional and sensory stimulation. Operators give much thought to service and hospitality, soundscape and ambience, floor layout and customer journey; and even the haptics of the start button are the subject of detailed considerations. For their guests, winning in the company of fellow players is an emotional experience that awakens human altruistic instincts – as anyone who has ever witnessed a live jackpot win knows.
Social environment and entertainment are keywords to answer this question. Players love to sit on a comfortable chair at the casino or bingo hall and have fun while playing with friends or other players enjoying the same gaming experience. The noise of a jackpot or the feeling of pressing a button in each round are hard to transfer to other environments. This singular atmosphere explains how land-based gaming keeps prospering while iGaming is growing too. Moreover, land-based casinos can offer more than gaming entertainment by including musical and cultural programmes that allow for fulfilling different needs in the same place.
In 2022, we witnessed a positive impact on a casino’s ability to yield up their existing live table games, through the utilisation of technology, in a manner that was not possible only a year ago. ETGs continue to evolve in a multitude of ways, through the use of technology. The ability to automate the Live Table Game segment is an area we have not really touched since the introduction of Shufflers over 20 years ago. With player acceptance and technological advancements within the ETG portfolio of products, we are reaching levels no one envisioned just a few short years ago. The ability to integrate traditional casino land-based products into the online space is something players will demand in the near future. Specifically, a seamless integration from when they are present on a land-based floor to when they are in their homes/travelling. The integration of land-based gaming and online gaming will penetrate the sector in the near future.
We’ve seen a hardware evolution over the last couple of years with all manufacturers stepping up their game on video slots, in terms of display size and resolution, so this past year pushed us all to focus on our content offerings. Operators want cabinets that visually stand out from the crowd and provide greater flexibility to create unique floor configurations. Hardware design and its associated content ultimately come down to providing a premium entertainment experience that appeals to a variety of players, an experience that is engaging and emotional while, at the same time, comfortable to reduce player fatigue. Our goal is to provide a solid math experience that would be inviting for a player to return to play, regardless of the physical hardware.
One key trend was certainly the return of players in the venues. With the end of the strict Covid measures, normality also returned to gaming operations and with it came the return of guests. Depending on the financial impact of the previous months, the operators strived to offer their guests novelties on the gaming floor and have been particularly keen on attractively priced packages.
As players were returning to gaming floors and with gross gaming revenue levels bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels, even the most cautious operators found the confidence to invest again in their venues.
We started returning to normality in 2022 and saw old trends intensifying, and others emerging. The quality of graphics and sounds continue to be decisive in such a competitive industry, and an important factor to captivate and retain players. It is visible not only in the games but also on the cabinets. The quick change in consumer habits is recent but relevant because it obligates providers to build products differently in terms of game mechanics. They must find the balance between a appealing product that stimulates players’ curiosity without revealing itself too fast to keep players engaged.
WHAT DOES 2023 HAVE IN STORE FOR LAND-BASED GAMING
”The key will be which companies and operators can find the correct product mix, distribution methods, loyalty programmes and technology to make this as seamless/attractive to the players as possible”
At Interblock, we are working hard to support operators in a B2B manner, in both traditional casinos and the online space. Reduction of operating expenses and yielding up the performance of table games is at the core of our efforts. This, combined with attracting a new demographic onto casino floors, through a multitude of distribution methods, is our focus. Transformation integration between the online casino industry and the traditional casino space is a foregone conclusion. The key will be which companies and operators can find the correct product mix, distribution methods, loyalty programmes and technology to make this as seamless/attractive to the players as possible. We intend to launch several new products and mediums to support the casino sector in this initiative in the coming months.
Omni-channel is forever a buzzword in the gaming space, the idea of merging both online and land-based experiences for players, which we believe will continue to be an initiative in 2023. Based on what we have observed, online play can increase land-based play and vice versa. Operators are providing their land-based players with the opportunity to extend play beyond the casino floor at their leisure and regardless of platform. We’ll also see continued diversification within the mechanical reel space, a product that thrives in a land-based gaming environment.
This is a question that we will definitely see answered on the show floor at ICE in February. The year 2023 will see this major international gaming industry event return to its former significance as a show of achievement and as an outlook to future trends in the land-based segment, as well. What we definitely expect is that comprehensive casino management systems will become almost mandatory, not only in terms of regulatory requirements, responsible gaming and cashless gaming; but also for competitive and optimised floor management, efficient reporting and analysis, and the targeted marketing of the diversified amenities that a modern venue offers.
In the next year, we will see operators and casino managers keep developing interactive gaming systems together and favouring cross-channel gaming experiences. Besides that, we will probably see new countries regulating land-based gaming activities to benefit from industry growth. One of the most important, if not the most important, markets in this process is Brazil. At the same time, we will see different game types evolving by introducing new features and special game modes or bonuses, where players’ skills can influence the final output. This way, player engagement can increase, because clients will stay connected to the product challenge and eliminate predictability from their minds while evolving the skills required.