Great Women of Indian Gaming

“The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.”—Charles  Malik. That saying has and still holds very true for Indian gaming. There is no question that the success of Indian country is due in large part to the great women of Indian gaming. From the humble beginnings of our bingo halls to the world-class resorts that tribes offer our customers today, strong Native American women have been there helping pave the way to where we are today.

In the early years of contemporary Indian gaming, a handful of tribal governments in the late 1960s and early 1970s grew tired of waiting on the United States to fulfill its treaty and trust obligations to provide for the general care of Native American communities. These tribes fully embraced the emerging federal policy supporting Indian self-determination. It was these tribes that took measures in their own hands to rebuild their communities by opening the first modern Indian gaming operations.

As a means to pay the utilities at the Oneida Nation Memorial Building, better known as the Civic Center, a group of women introduced the first gaming enterprise on the reservation just outside of Green Bay, Wis., in 1976. It was not long before Sandra Ninham and Alma Webster, “The Bingo Queens of Oneida,” were running a successful bingo operation. Bingo was not only keeping the lights on at the Civic Center, but it also financed vital health clinics, nursing home care, housing developments and other services for the tribal community.

As Oneida bingo began to take off, I remember playing basketball in the gym on our reservation. I remember the frustration as a young athlete having to share the gym and wanting to work out in our only basketball facility. The two ladies that ran the bingo, “The Bingo Queens of Oneida,” helped me through my frustration by explaining that bingo is providing the Oneida Nation with a source of revenue that keeps the lights on in our gym so that we could play basketball and participate in other recreational activities. Today we have a few of the most state-of-the-art gymnasiums that are fully equipped as a result of the success of our operations.

Back then, Ninham was the assistant director for the Oneida Civic Center under David “Sonny” King while Webster served as tribal treasurer. It was Webster’s pastime playing bingo in Michigan that gave her and others the idea to start a bingo operation at the Oneida Civic Center to help fund facility operations. It was not long after opening that bingo operation that many tribal members became gainfully employed and learned new customer service skills. Up until this time, many tribal members had to leave the reservation, their homes and their families in order to pursue employment opportunities. Today, not only do many of our tribal members have jobs available to them, but many people in Northeast Wisconsin also have jobs and outstanding benefit packages as a result of Indian gaming.

Another great Oneida woman, Irene Moore, encouraged these women leaders. Moore was an elder tribal community leader who recognized the strength in everyone. Fluent in the Oneida language, Moore proudly served as the first chairwoman of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin in 1963. She took the helm of our tribal government with a mission to restore and revive our great nation. In recognition of her work, bingo on the Oneida reservation is held at the Irene Moore Activity Center otherwise known as the IMAC Bingo Hall. This not only signifies the importance of Moore’s role in encouraging the women of our reservation to be leaders but also the importance of her role in identifying the gifts and talents that women brought to the future success of our nation.

Ninham and Webster have been role models for others in the industry as well. They dedicated themselves to being professional, ethical and hardworking and were among the first ambassadors in Indian country to welcome non-Native American customers to our reservation. This was not only groundbreaking—it was trailblazing! In those days reservations were not frequented often by outside communities and therefore misunderstood by the non-Native communities that surrounded them. These women broke those barriers down by extending warmth, cheer, friendliness and hospitality that was handed down from the generations preceding them. Many tribes from across the country came to visit Ninham and Webster and the Oneida Bingo operations to learn from the very best when they were investigating and completing their due diligence for entrance into the gaming industry. The “Oneida Bingo Queens” are the essence of great women of Indian gaming.

The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) and Indian country stand in awe of the hard work, dedication and many gifts that our Native sisters have brought to the Indian gaming industry. We honor past awardees and we offer our congratulations to all of this year’s winners of the Great Women of Gaming Awards, including two from Indian country. We are grateful, and our thanks go out to the many Great Women of Indian Gaming!

Reference: Mike Hoeft, (2014), The Bingo Queens of Oneida, 1st ed., WI Historical Society.

New Products, July 2015

DiTRONICS—DFS-500 Kiosk 
The DFS-500 Kiosk from DiTRONICS is an “all in-one” solution that optimizes the player experience directly at the kiosk, cage and via DiTRONICS’ digital wallet. The DFS-500 Kiosk maximizes efficiency through software enhancements for ticket redemption, bill breaking, ATM, cash advance and check cashing transactions. Features include dual bill validator (multiple ticket pay-off capability), greater bill-holding capacity (5 cassettes/3,000 notes each) and 17-inch touch screen with eye-catching, multi-color LED illumination. Proprietary DiTRONICS’ Vantage software options include Transaction Rewards® that integrates funds access applications directly with a casino’s player database; new SMART Dispense™ technology that reduces wear and tear on the kiosk while improving the player experience; and new JACKPOT Pay™ technology that makes jackpot pays a breeze—available on one, several or all of a casino’s ticket redemption kiosks—enhancing customer service by saving time and money while eliminating additional equipment. For more information, visit www.ditronics.com.

AGEM, AGA Join Forces Against Illegal Gaming in Texas

The Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers and the American Gaming Association (AGA) have embarked on a joint effort to call attention to the rampant spread of illegal gaming in Texas.

The unlawful gaming primarily consists of illegally operated 8-line games, or “8-liners” as they are commonly known, but also includes slot machines illegally brought into the state and mixed with, or disguised as, 8-liners. While 8-line games are not illegal in Texas, state law dictates that payouts must be limited to a value of $5 in non-cash prizes. Rogue operators in the Lone Star State are flouting the law with the games paying cash jackpots, according to a joint news release from the associations.

“It’s very important that somebody stands up and points out what’s going on in Texas,” said Marcus Prater, executive director of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM). “We just want law enforcement to enforce the law that’s already on the books. It’s out of control with these locations and machines.”

Estimates indicate as many as 100,000 to 150,000 machines are operating illegally in the state, Prater said in an interview.

The efforts of AGEM and the AGA alone won’t eradicate the problem, he said, “but if we can draw attention to the issue, a few higher profile arrests will go a long way toward stopping the spread of these machines.”

If nothing is done, the unlawful gaming will only continue to expand, something AGEM does not want to see happen. “AGEM represents the most respected licensed and regulated gaming suppliers in the world, and we no longer can remain silent about the current environment of widespread illegal gambling in Texas,” Thomas Jingoli, AGEM president and chief compliance officer for Konami Gaming, said in a statement. “On behalf of our 140-plus member companies who supply gaming equipment and technology to regulated markets around the world, we are asking for law enforcement in Texas, from the highest levels in Austin to the smallest communities, to enforce the state’s existing laws that forbid the kind of uncontrolled activity that continues to spread.”

AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman expressed optimism about the opportunity to address the issue. “Over the last several months, AGA has been shining a spotlight on the vast, dangerous, illegal gambling operations running rampant across the country, and few places exemplify the thriving nature of illegal gambling better than Texas, where hundreds of thousands of black market machines are currently in operation,” he said in a statement. “By partnering with AGEM and building off of the already strong support of law enforcement officials at every level, we will make real progress in shutting down illegal operators.”

Such law enforcement efforts will act as a deterrent, Prater said, noting landlords of locations where these unlawful operations are often found might think twice about looking the other way and leasing space to illegal operators.

The two associations sent a joint letter to elected officials and law enforcement in Texas, urging them to take action. Recipients included Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; Texas’ congressional delegation; state Attorney General Ken Paxton; and state legislative leaders. AGEM also has retained a law firm and public relations firm in Texas that will follow up on this issue, Prater said.

Several Texas elected officials have expressed support, including state Sen. Lois W. Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball; and state Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin.

“I remain very concerned about the continuing spread of 8-liner machines throughout Texas and the lack of law enforcement oversight that would ensure cash transactions are not taking place,” Kuempel said in a statement. “Simply put, the current game room environment in our state is unacceptable and must be addressed to stop the criminal activity that is currently taking place.”

Where is the Money? Part 13 of 36: The Smart Casino Communication and the Tennis Analogy

Authors’ Note: In this article, we explore how, when providing real-time service, we need to be able to enable our service teams to play the communication game to the benefit of both the customer and the casino.

Service on the gaming floor is an invisible force that drives both value and customer satisfaction. Today, games are more sophisticated, bonus structures are more intricate, and service is more multifaceted than ever before. Plus, customers can now open multichannel communication directly with the property.

We believe this communication can be likened to a game of tennis, with sending an email or text message like serving the ball. What is critical in this communication game of tennis is the volley, where parties knock the proverbial ball back and forth.

In this game of communication tennis, there are three absolutely critical parts to a match:
1. Two players: Both players in a game of tennis are hitting the ball; both are engaged and both are playing actively. Applied in the real world, this means that the customer and the staff are both engaged in a constant communication.

2. Information: The game of tennis requires a ball, and in our tennis analogy, the ball contains information. As we serve a ball, we want to make sure it is loaded with good information, and as we return a ball, we want to make sure we are responding with new information in a complete and correct way.

3. Real time: In the game of tennis, if you do not return the ball, you’ll lose the game. You cannot simply pick it up, hit it later and expect it to count. Tennis happens in real time, as should communication with customers.

This communication as tennis analogy presents a real-time information-exchange game between the staff and the customers, and although we’re calling it a game, it is absolutely critical to the business.

Social Media and the Smart Casino
In a previous article on social media, we stated:

There is little doubt that every business that involves people needs to think about how social media is impacting their business. As described in our February 2015 article for this series, the social media numbers are staggering. Almost two-thirds of all Americans login to Facebook every day. This unstoppable force is changing the fabric of society and is altering how we live, work and play. Those in denial of this growth need to take a deep breath and look at the numbers again: Two-thirds of 320 million Americans login to Facebook every day, as estimated in 2015.1 Those two-thirds are often using Facebook as their window into the world. What is even more remarkable is that the social forces at play are invisible to those outside the network.2

With this in mind, let’s imagine a “smart casino.” In this casino, each interaction the customer has with the business is facilitated by an information-enabled application (but often delivered by a human). Let’s call this a “smart application.”

Now, to be smart, the application needs to see all the real-time data streams. To illustrate this, let’s consider three examples:
• Dinner Comps If the application that is used to offer dinner comps does not understand restaurant yield, it cannot understand the true cost and the likely customer experience resulting from offering a same-day dinner to a player.

• Luck If the player chooses to use a player’s card, we will be able to see how lucky they have been. How we interact with a customer can then be tempered by their current luck.

• Friends A gaming experience with friends is very different than a solo visit. Again, access to this knowledge can temper our interactions.

If the app can see real-time data streams from across the business, then it can be a smart app, helping us achieve smart communication. A smart app also can communicate directly with the customer and join the game of communication tennis, too.
(See below for details on how to best give a smart app access to the real-time data.)

Gaming Systems & Smart Apps in Application
Gaming systems are highly regulated, complex, real-time and high-availability engines that provide the tools that are used to run the casino. While these systems are an essential input to the data streams required for the smart app, there are numerous additional data streams that need to be tied together to deliver the smart app. One of the key challenges with regulated gaming systems is that they are inherently slow to change, as changes require regulatory approval. This slowness to change makes gaming systems a poor choice for the area of the consolidation of data streams. We authors would argue instead that the data streams need to feed into another layer of operational applications, and it is this new layer that would be used to build the smart apps that enable the smart casinos.

Two-way Communication
The tennis analogy implies that the casino and the customer need two-way communication, and we have already shown that this communication needs to be both loaded with data and relevant to both parties. We will now show why communication needs to be in real time and interactive as well.

A gaming business is a constant stream of real-time data, including tickets, hotel, point-of-sale, player tracking, jackpot events and machine tilts. This constant stream of events feeds a complex array of systems required to run a gaming operation. Some of these systems are highly regulated, some are outside of regulations. Furthermore, most operations are 24/7, and downtime is extremely expensive and hard to schedule.

Ten years ago these systems were the end of the story, but today they are just the beginning, as many players carry smartphones capable of communicating a huge amount of information and of talking to the world at large.3 One of us authors once heard of a casino that was notified of a system failure by monitoring Facebook. In short, smartphones have enabled us to play the communication game in real-time with our customers. Imagine a jackpot hand pays on a machine that is in communication with the player. The machine could tell the player how far away the casino staff is, letting excitement and anticipation grow as the player tracks their arrival. This illustrative example shows how the casino can move away from simply reacting to the events on the machine by instead engaging in a constant volley. Imagine how much happier a player would be seeing clearly that the property staff is on its way and that we know that they need help.

Personification of the Smart Casino
It is useful to think about the smart casino with all of its team members, marketing and systems, and how it interacts with the player, as being very personal. In thinking like this, we can personify the entire customer experience. Consider the following examples of personification of the smart casino experience that allow us to tune the personality of the customer experience to meet the needs of the customer.

Both Rhonda and James need to be well-informed about their customers, and both Rhonda and James possess styles of service and communication that are applied to drive the customer experience. Both Rhonda and James also require access to detailed data streams to be effective in meeting their goals.

Now, let’s take this simplified personification a step further and extend it to the mini casino,4 tuning to match the service levels of each area of the floor.

Mini Casino Marketing
In our past investigation of mini casinos, we discussed how the primary mechanism for slot analysis has transitioned from understanding the game to, in today’s world of highly configurable games, something much more complex. Today, “understanding a gaming floor is like trying to solve a 20-dimensional Rubik’s Cube. No matter how you twist the cube, there are always hidden dimensions that are the hidden drivers in analyzing the data.”5

This 20-dimensional cube can be quite daunting to marketers and slot operators alike. The mini casino strategy is a solution here, as it “allows the marketing department and slots department to speak the same language. Deploying a mini casino is often as simple as identifying areas of the gaming floor that have similar customer groups and similar products and giving them a name.”4

In our most recent article6, we explored the concept of mini casinos focused on price (as defined by theoretical win per hour). In this exploration, we posited that customer service could be improved for those customers paying a higher price. In a world of finite resources to meet variable customer demand, this concept is quite natural and indeed has been practiced to some degree in the vast majority of casinos that maintain high-limit rooms. In the next section, we will explore how slot service can be improved for all customers in a smart casino, but in particular, how the prioritization of this service can include concepts discussed above.

First, however, we would like to note on this point that we have considered feedback we have received from our most recent article disputing a straw man argument that hold percentage doesn’t matter. In fact, we authors agree that, at the game level, hold percentage potentially matters a great deal. It fact, it is one of the key components of theo win per hour, along with the two equally important variables of average bet and game speed. Furthermore, an exploration of our article titled “Hold, A Sacred Cow”7 shows how this importance varies with the number of games being considered.

Communication Makes the Smart Casino
Slot service is a critical part of interacting with customers. Consider the example of a hand-pay jackpot. The service time to reach the customer is critical. The customer has just experienced a positive, lucky event, and the smart casino needs to learn how to respond to that in a rapid way. Let’s think about Rhonda, the smart casino reacting to a customer (Andrew) winning a jackpot.

1. Rhonda first communicates directly with Andrew, congratulating him on his jackpot. If Andrew has a host, then the host is notified and encouraged to immediately communicate with Andrew.
2. Andrew is offered a Facebook link to share his lucky event with the numbers scrubbed.
3. Security is notified of the location of the jackpot and that Andrew won this jackpot. A nearby security officer is asked to keep an eye out.
4. The casino staff required to pay the hand-pays are dispatched, and the efficiency of this dispatch leads to reduced wait times for Andrew.
5. Andrew is notified that casino staff is on the way, the name of the team member and the estimated arrival time.
6. Rhonda recognizes Andrew’s preference for the steak house, and Andrew is offered a special table at his favorite restaurant to celebrate the win.

Now, clearly, Rhonda the smart casino has changed Andrew’s experience. Some of her actions are unknown to Andrew (such as security’s watchful eye), but others involve immediate communication. Finally, the restaurant offering is specific to Andrew’s preferences. Rhonda has changed the customer experience, turning a good experience (winning a jackpot) into a truly special memory.

And it does not stop there. Each of the actions that Rhonda undertakes generates data streams. These data streams become management metrics that help to train new staff, measure existing staff and further refine the smart applications that drive the smart casino.

Service, Communication and Revenue
Let’s now explore the ways that improved service and communication can lead directly to improved revenues. In this simplified example, we examine four types of customers and look at the influence of reduced wait times for jackpots and improved direct marketing as a result of the increased data flow into the smart casino.

Now let’s take a look at how the smart casino can make these four very different gaming experiences the best they can be for these four very different players.

Eddie
Eddie is operating in the fast lane, and time is precious for him. Immediate communication engages him and, quite simply, makes him want to play longer. Furthermore, Eddie saves three minutes from the improved service of the smart casino. With those three minutes, he has extra time to gamble. In fact, since Eddie only has one hour per visit to play, three minutes represents a 5 percent lift in gaming.

Jenny
Jenny doesn’t play any more or less due to slot service, because she always just plays her $100. However, her experience improves with reduced wait times and two-way communication, and Jenny is provided marketing offers that immediately reinforce the positive feeling of winning a jackpot. This experience leads to increased retention of this important loyal and consistent gambler.

Robert
Robert’s date is really impressed by the targeted marketing offer Robert receives when the jackpot hits. The smart casino notes that Robert was playing at the bar and measured a high velocity of play from Robert (he was max betting $5 video poker and hit a minor jackpot). Therefore, the casino staff that paid the hand-pay jackpot offers Robert and his date a free bottle of wine. Robert remembers this trip well and is sure to take his next date to the same casino. Thus, from this casual gambler an extra trip is gained.

Kim
The smart casino recognizes that an entire bank of games came into action at the same time and is being played at roughly the same speed and average bet. When Kim hits a jackpot, the dispatcher is informed that the bank may be played by a group of friends, and the casino staff issuing the hand-pay asks if the girls are all playing together. They cheer when informed that dinner is on the house for the entire group. Their next girls’ night out is celebrated at the exact same casino and in fact at the exact same slot bank. As above, from this group of friends an extra trip is gained.

Communication Makes the Casino
Our tennis analogy provides a great structure for thinking about how the smart casino needs to constantly communicate with her customers. This smart casino can give the customer a feeling that she has a personality, and she can both understand the importance of two-way dialogues and ensure that the team is all consistent in all of its dialogues. Of course, underpinning this communication is data that enables these dialogues with the customer to be informed and correct. Without this real-time data the smart casino is just not possible.

Footnotes
1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States
2 http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/march-2015/where%E2%8…
3 Reference: http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/newswire/andrew-cardno-shares-…
4 http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/december-2010/gaming-…
5 http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/may-2009/turning-mark…
6 http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/june-2015/where-money…
7 http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/april-2011/gaming-flo…

Card-Marking Strategies Cheaters Deploy to Gain Edge on Table Game Play

Editor’s Note: In the third part of Bill Zender’s series on The Future of Marking Cards on Casino Games, he discusses some of the common casino games in which players touch the playing cards and the card-marking strategies cheaters use to gain unfair advantage.

Cheaters mark cards to gain card information that gives them an advantage over other players at the table. They then use this information to make betting decisions, additional betting and possible hand playing strategies. What follows is a list of some of the common casino games in which players touch the playing cards and are able to mark the cards to gain future card information.

Hand-pitched Blackjack; Single and Double Deck
A number of casinos in North America still spread blackjack games that allow customers to touch the playing cards. Game rules are the same as the shoe-dealt version of blackjack; the object is to beat the dealer’s hand total or stand pat when the dealer busts his hand. In hand-pitched games the players are allowed to touch their first two cards plus any face down double down cards. Note: Don’t rule out marked cards in face-up shoe games. The cheaters don’t daub the cards; they “punch” the key card faces with a chip or their finger. The dent punched into the face also appears as a dent on the back of the cards.

Card marking strategies: With blackjack there are three schools of thought on how to mark cards and attack the game:

The cheaters will mark 10s and aces. This is known as playing the “top card.” Once a majority of the cards are marked, the cheaters position a person in the first seat (or an early seat position) so that person will always receive the first card off the top of the deck (or shoe). When a marked card is on top of the deck, the cheater spotting the card will signal to the person in first seat to wager close to or at table maximum wager. If the top card of the deck is not a marked card, there is no signal transmitted, and the person in the first seat wagers close to or at table minimum. This is also accomplished by using a minimum wager player in first position and a higher limit player wagering in second position. When the marked card appears on top of the deck, the player in first position sits out the hand, driving the 10 or ace into the big player’s hand. Whenever the cheater receives a 10 or an ace as his first card, he is playing with a 20 percent advantage.

The cheaters will mark the 9s and 10s. This is called “playing the anchor” or “playing third base.” The object is for the cheater sitting at the last seated position of the table to watch to see if the dealer has a possible busting hand made up of a 2 through 6 up-card and a marked card (9 or 10) as the dealer’s hole card. The cheater seated in the last position controls the approximate value of the card delivered to the dealer. If the next card on top of the deck will bust the dealer, the third base cheater stands regardless of his hand total. If the card isn’t marked, the third base cheater will draw the card even if additional hits are unnecessary. The cheater at last position is sacrificing his hand (wagered at table minimum) so that the dealer will bust more often. At the same time, his associate playing table maximum limit bets in the center of the table. The cheater wagering the big money in the center of the table plays close to basic strategy and flat bets. The cheater sacrificing his hand at third base allows his partner in the center of the table to win more often.

The last method is a card marking strategy popular in the ’60s and early ’70s. The cheater marks the small cards (2s through 5s ) with one pattern, and all 10s with another pattern. The idea is to provide the cheater with top-of-the-deck information when he is making hand playing decisions. The cheaters who “played paper” in the ’60s and early ’70s relied on this approach as their “bread-and-butter” strategy, but they would run into a brick wall in 2015. Today’s game protection personnel are more basic-strategy savvy than they were 40 to 50 years ago, and it wouldn’t take long for them to see a pattern in which the suspected higher-limit player was making hand decisions based on the top card of the deck instead of making decisions based on the dealer’s up-card.

Note: Both the “top card” and the “anchor” techniques are very deceiving. Remember, most surveillance and floor personnel look first at the player wagering the money and analyze his play. When playing the “top card” strategy, game protection personnel look to see if the variation in betting is due to card counting. When they rule out card counting, they usually fail to look for a correlation between the increased-betting pattern and the appearance of a 10 or ace as the first card in that hand. When playing the “anchor,” the person in the center of the table wagering table limit is analyzed. Generally, game protection personnel see that the big player winning the money does not vary his bets, nor does he deviate greatly from basic strategy, so they have a tendency to deem the play OK. What they don’t look at is the person playing in the last seat, using a strange hand-decision strategy and forcing “bust” cards into the dealer’s hand.

Mini Baccarat
Since hand-touched or squeezed baccarat games usually require that the cards be replaced after every shoe, the marked card attack can only be effective in the mini baccarat dealt format. Mini baccarat is dealt with the dealer being the only individual touching the cards. How are the cards marked? They are usually marked while key cards are sitting atop the discards in the discard holder. In baccarat, the best cards for the cheaters to mark are the 6s through 9s. Marking in this manner provides the cheaters with information regarding the best hand option on which to bet. When a 6 through 9 is the top card of the shoe, and top card falls as the player’s first card, the cheaters bet the player and gain an approximate 12 percent advantage. If the top card of the shoe is not marked, it would be a zero (10/picture) through 5. The cheaters can then wager on the banker’s hand and gain an approximate 5 percent edge.

Card marking strategy: Because the action of reaching into the discard holder and marking cards is considered extremely overt, the cheater will only attempt to daub the 8s and 9s. If an 8 or 9 is marked, and a marked card is the top card in the shoe prior the hand being dealt, the cheaters at the table will bet heavily on the “player” hand. By knowing the first card dealt to the player hand will be an eight or a nine, with any player wager the cheaters will realize a return of approximately 20 percent.

Card Room Poker
In most cases, attacks using cards marked at the table are very limited. The game structures for Texas Hold’em greatly discourage the use of marked cards based on the community cards “burn and turn” dealing procedure and that each player receives only two hole-cards (which they immediately attempt to conceal by placing the cards on top of each other). Seven Card Stud is a little more vulnerable in as much as the “river” card is dealt face down, as well as the first two player cards. Knowledge that the “river” card is a jack, queen, king or ace provides the cheater with valuable information, but this information may be useless if this down card completes a straight or flush. In these games, the cheater would need to rely on cards with more sophisticated markings indicating ranks and suits. This is beyond the practicality of the cheater who must mark cards during play at the table.

The games most vulnerable to daub card-marking attacks are structured around the game of Lo-Ball poker. Lo-Ball poker is a game requiring the player to make the lowest hand possible; straights and flushes mean nothing, aces are treated as the lowest card. The lowest possible five card hand is A-2-3-4-5, known as a wheel. The players receive five cards and then are allowed to discard and redraw the number of cards discarded. The players usually toss high-value cards since they hurt the value of their hands and redraw cards that they hope will be lower than the discards and at the same time not make a pair.

Card marking strategy: If the cheater were to mark all the big cards such as 10 through king (and sometimes 9), this information would be invaluable during the final betting round. The cheater would know if the other players drew to a poor hand based on them receiving a marked high card. A game similar to Lo-Ball draw poker is Razz. Razz is the seven-card stud version of Lo-Ball.
Common cards marked in this poker format are identical to Lo-Ball. In some instances, the cheater may mark 9s and 10s in one spot on the card back and jacks through kings on another spot. The “two-way” markings allow the cheater to know to what degree the unexposed card “river” hurts the player’s hand.

Conclusion
Because a marked card scam is only effective if a number of cards in the dealer’s hand or dealer control community cards have their card backs exposed and visible, the cheater will look for games procedures that provide opportunities to illegally gain as much information as possible. For instance, if the game of Mississippi Stud in one casino is dealt stacking or concealing the backs of all three cards until the cards are needed, the cheater will look for another casino that dictates that the community cards should be spread and the card backs evident.

The game of baccarat can be eliminated from this threat list by either installing a cover over the discard holder or mounting a slide or brush faceplate over the window in the shoe. In hand-pitched blackjack games, emphasis needs to be placed on the dealers to strive to protect the top and sides of the deck as much as possible from being exposed.

Be aware of what to look for in the customer’s hand play and/or wagering strategy. In traditional games, look for players making strange wagering decisions and then look to see if these decisions correlate to information gained from an unexposed card. For instance, you watch a player sitting in first position wager from near table minimum to maximum. Does this betting decision directly correlate with the appearance of a 10 or ace as the first card (top card) dealt? In alternative games, does the player stay in on hands he should have discarded when the dealer does not possess a qualifying hand? Is the player wagering during the previous betting turn when the only time it would make sense is that the cheater knew the value of the unexposed community cards on the layout?

The old maxim “forewarned is forearmed” holds true when protecting casino card games. By knowing how the cheaters attack the different casino card games, understanding the marked-card strategy cheaters use for different games, and by using a marked-card reading device such as Galaxy Gaming’s Spectrum Vision SV-1, you will be equipped to adequately defend your card games against anything modern card markers and daubers can throw at you.

We Will Miss the Large Presence of Jens Halle

Jens Halle, a native of Germany, savors a special cigar he had stashed away for the day that Germany’s soccer team won the World Cup in 2014.
Jens Halle, a native of Germany, savors a special cigar he had stashed away for the day that Germany’s soccer team won the World Cup in 2014.
The gaming supplier community is small and Jens Halle was large. Large in physical stature, standing 6-foot-2 (or 188 centimeters in his native Germany). Large in influence, forcing competitors to change the way they do business and altering the global trade-show landscape with a single decision. Large in personality, sometimes a bully, more often one of the most engaging people you’ll ever meet. And large in success, helping to build Novomatic into a gaming powerhouse few companies could challenge.

Jens Halle was large and now he’s gone, dead at 57, a frantic effort to save his failing heart on May 20 unsuccessful at a Florida hospital. The gaming supplier community is small and we will miss him. Many of you had a chance to interact with Jens over the years, but for those who did not, I will do my best to paint a picture of the man based on my experience knowing him for more than 16 years.

My time with Jens goes back to early 1999, when I started as the new marketing guy for Bally in Las Vegas while he was Bally’s top salesperson in Europe. He left for Novomatic within months, and so I ultimately came to know him more as a competitor and years later as a supporter and, ultimately, as a friend.

During those days when he was a competitor at Novomatic, he became an almost mythical figure as he made life miserable for anyone unfortunate enough to have to compete against him. I can recall many management meetings at Bally where the revolving door of European sales types would lament that, “Jens is selling his machines for half as much as we are and his machines are winning twice as much per day.” And yet management would chastise the Bally salesperson over his or her inability to compete on those terms. Who could compete with those dynamics at play? Who could compete against Jens?

I much preferred the Jens I came to know after leaving Bally in late 2007. First of all, because I was no longer a competitor, he was much friendlier, and I got to experience his animated and energetic happiness. Second, when I became executive director of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM), one of my initial goals was to broaden the company membership by reaching out to suppliers located outside of the U.S. The first person I approached was Jens.

After showing initial skepticism and insisting that the “A” in AGEM stood for American, Jens ultimately agreed with my pitch—I had sold the ultimate salesman!—and Novomatic joined AGEM at the Gold level. Over the ensuing years, Jens truly recognized AGEM’s value for Novomatic (and then Merkur), and he became a trusted confidant about AGEM issues. I remember sitting with him in the lobby of the Hilton Buenos Aires and listening to him explain his many views of the gaming industry. When I traveled to Vienna for holiday, Jens was nice enough to meet me and my travel companion for dinner at the Novomatic-owned casino at, ironically, the Prater amusement park.

Last November, as he departed Novomatic, he issued the following statement: “Fifteen years ago I was honored by the invitation of President and majority shareholder Professor Johann F. Graf to join the iconic Novomatic Group as Head of Sales. Later, I was appointed Managing Director of Austrian Gaming Industries GmbH and, assisted by a loyal team of true gaming professionals, was able to see Novomatic achieve notable success not just in Europe but around the world. However, although I now feel the need for new challenges and new directions, I will always be grateful for the experience of working together with colleagues and friends and for the satisfaction that I gained from being within one of the gaming industry’s true leaders.”

What Jens did for Novomatic can’t be overstated. Because Novomatic is privately held by Graf, the company’s revenues and overall operating performance are not easy to pin down, but when you combine the machine division with the casino operations, you have a gaming powerhouse that, when compared to the supplier group, only IGT at its peak could rival. The rapid growth from 2000 until the present—including the acquisition of more than a dozen smaller companies, the expansion of its casino operations and a move into the online space and other emerging technologies—was led by Jens as he circled the globe, first from the company’s headquarters in Austria and later from Florida where he moved to lead Novomatic’s efforts to attack the U.S. market.

When he decided to leave Novomatic, I sent him an email asking if he would be staying in gaming: His reply: “Thanks and no worries: I will stay in gaming. Don’t know how to sell cars or washing machines.” Soon, he signed on as CEO of Gauselmann Group’s Merkur Gaming subsidiary, meaning we would continue to see Jens at various global trade shows, and he would continue to exert his influence over the supplier sector.

All of that ended May 20 in a most unexpected and shocking way. A celebration of his life took place on May 30 in Hollywood, Fla., attended by more than 120 friends of Jens. In a true display of his large global presence, they came from six different continents to pay tribute.

The gaming supplier community is small, and now sadly smaller still without Jens Halle.

Finding Your Virtual Voice In the Mobile Age

Social media represents the most powerful communication invention of the new millennium. It’s only 2015, granted, but go with me, here. Leveraging smartly, a single social media manager can effectively reach millions. Done right, that clever manager’s work may convert a good percentage into profitable customers. Casino marketing can embrace social media to cultivate loyal friends and followers. Let’s examine the structure of Facebook as an example. Then we’ll explore some strategies to leverage social media in general to drive new player acquisitions, return trips and goodwill. Afterward, we can take a picture of lunch and show our friends.

Gone are the days where you can think about your marketing as a single channel of communication. The new mobile world has many devices and there are many social media platforms to leverage on those devices. You need a strategy. There are many good social media companies that would be happy to help you create a content strategy. Ironically, the place to find one is probably on social media… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

What is Social Media Anyway?
Social media is an array of communication tools above all else. For a new generation of young people, social media has become the normal mode of communication. Let that sink in. Using a website, mobile application or other visual interface, registered members can access content that they subscribe to and interact with that content in the form of commenting and sharing. Registered members are not only the consumers of content, but they are creating content for others to consume. This is why the right content can be so powerful, sometimes dangerously so. A very popular person can be quite influential with their audience, simply by making a recommendation. We used to call this the “Oprah Effect,” referring to Oprah Winfrey’s book club, where she leveraged her fame to drive a recommended book from obscurity to the best-seller list. These new tools have made it such that one does not need a talk show to hold court with an audience. Simply sign up for a free account and start engaging with your content. Like all things, it takes time, skill and a little luck to develop a position of true influence, but rest assured, people are listening.

Consider Facebook
Let’s examine Facebook. The numbers are pretty staggering: As of March 31, 2015, Facebook reports more than 1.4 billion monthly active users, and 1.2 billion of those users were on a mobile device. Stands to reason, many of your existing customers are on Facebook. The customers you haven’t met yet likely have Facebook accounts. There are connections waiting to be made. Let’s look a little closer.

On Facebook, think of the two main types of users as personal or business. A personal Facebook page is used for making friends with other personal users. Each personal user registers their name, birthdate, gender, orientation, preferences and any other defining demographic minutia volunteered (from a favorite television show to music preferences). Users mutually agree to connect their personal pages and to be listed as your friends. If it’s your Uncle Steve, he may ask you to confirm him as family and that he’s your uncle (in addition to his friend status). These are called connections. In this way, Facebook has created one of the most comprehensive databases in the world. Using the billions of active users, the social media structure is a map of the nuances of the relationships and the behavior inherent in how people interact. Moreover, Facebook (and other platforms) continually experiment with algorithms that curate the most relevant content in front of each type of user. Think about your Facebook presence as a business page. Rather than friends, you are attracting likes to your business page, which are unlimited. Fans are subscribing to your news feed, and when you post new content, it will populate into the respective news feeds of your fan base. Facebook friends become your third-party referral audience. Sometimes just by liking a photo you have posted or engaging in a contest on your business page, other friends will see this activity and follow suit. This is the magic of making new connections on social media. Compelling content is king.

With this type of “hive mind” interaction in mind, here are some ways to drive new player acquisitions, return trips and good will by using social media as an extension of your current marketing mix:

Use a Clear Call to Action
On Facebook, people are asked to like, share or comment, and in each case, the more interactions, the more eyeballs will see your content. On Twitter, your fans can re-tweet your tweet. Regardless of the social media platform, your goal is to make your content as sharable as possible. The best way to do that is to keep it simple and direct.

Find Your “Voice”
The voice of your business is the flavor of your content and the way it is perceived. Are you light and whimsical? Direct and serious? Flashy? The type of customers you are trying to attract will respond reflexively to the voice you use to communicate. Have a look at “Mr. Clean” on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll get a sense of the playfulness they’ve injected into cleaning toilets. Imagine what you can do with gambling and compelling offers.

Post Often and Be Consistent
People respond well to businesses that can deliver a consistent experience. This is true for drink service as well as social media messaging. Your aforementioned voice and the frequency of the content you’re sharing should be as reliable as the service on your casino floor.

Have fun exploring your identity on social media and don’t get too locked into routine. Listen to your audience. Let them guide you in the areas you need to improve. Each interaction as a way to reassure your customers that you care about them, and an invitation for them to tell their friends that they like what you have to offer.

Patent Litigation in Nevada—Advantages for Gaming Companies

As many gaming companies know, patent litigation tends to be more expensive than other forms of litigation due to the high stakes and sensitivity of the confidential information involved. Indeed, although most cases do not make it through to trial, litigating a patent matter tends to cost substantially more than general business litigation. Moreover, because patent cases involving the gaming industry often address essential technologies, the repercussions of a loss can substantially impact the gaming company’s ability to continue business. As a result, these companies are placed in a no-win situation. They are forced to spend millions of dollars or risk the loss of their businesses. To add to the complexity of patent matters, these cases were often handled just like any other matter in federal district courts and rotated among judges, some of them lacking experience with patents and technology.

With this backdrop, companies emerged that acquired patents solely for the purpose of targeting well-established businesses with specious claims that some element of something for which they held a patent had been infringed. These entities, colloquially referred to as “patent trolls,” pursued cases of dubious merit simply because they could extract large settlements as the cost of a significant settlement was only a fraction of actual litigation costs.

In response to this problem, Congress adopted the Patent Pilot Program in 2011 to establish a program in certain federal district courts to encourage enhancement of expertise in patent cases among district judges.1 The pilot program was intended to evaluate whether focused patent experience among particular judges would decrease appellate reversal rates, result in the timely disposition of patent matters and help address the expense and uncertainty of patent litigation. The United States District for the District of Nevada was one of 14 jurisdictions selected for the program.

Consistent with that selection, the United States District Court for the District of Nevada adopted Local Rules 16.1-1 through 16.1-21 (the “Patent Practice Rules”) to specifically address patent cases with the goal of making patent matters more efficient and reliable.

The Purpose and Methods of the Patent Practice Rules
The purpose of the Patent Practice Rules is to force the parties, at the very early stages of litigation, to determine and disclose, in detail, both their legal theories and the evidence supporting those theories. In connection with that purpose, the parties are also required to participate in (1) three settlement conferences scheduled at strategic intervals; (2) expedited discovery; and (3) immediate claim construction. The rules and process are not intended to benefit plaintiffs or defendants, per se, but rather whichever party has stronger claims. In theory, this results in a quick and accurate resolution of the case. For gaming companies, which traditionally do not bring trolling lawsuits, this provides a distinct advantage at resolving patent enforcement and defense matters.

Initial Disclosure of Infringement and Non-Infringement Contentions and Documents
Within two weeks of the initial scheduling conference, a party claiming infringement is required to serve on all parties a document titled “Disclosure of Asserted Claims and Infringement Contentions,” which must include: (1) each claim of each patent that is allegedly infringed; (2) a specific identification of each accused instrumentality; (3) a chart specifically identifying where each limitation of each asserted claim is founded within each accused instrumentality; (4) a factual description of any indirect infringement relating to direct infringement; and (5) a factual description of any direct infringement. The party claiming infringement must also produce patent file history, documents regarding prior use, documents regarding the conception and design and documents evidencing ownership.

Within two weeks of receiving the Disclosure of Asserted Claims and Infringement Contentions, a party claiming non-infringement is required to serve on all parties a document titled “Non-Infringement, Invalidity and Unenforceability Contentions,” which must include: (1) detailed descriptions of the grounds for contentions of non-infringement, invalidity, unenforceability; (2) an explanation regarding whether each item of prior art anticipates each asserted claim or renders it obvious; and (3) a chart specifically identifying where in each item of prior art each limitation of each asserted claim is found. The party claiming non-infringement must also produce (1) documentation sufficient to show the operations of any aspects or elements of an Accused Instrumentality; and (2) a copy or sample of identified prior art that does not appear in the patent file history.

In cases seeking a declaratory judgment that a patent is not infringed, is invalid or is unenforceable, the Non-Infringement, Invalidity and Unenforceability Contentions must be served within two weeks of the Initial Scheduling Conference with the Disclosure of Asserted Claims and Infringement Contentions due just 45 days thereafter.

These disclosures may be amended for good cause without leave of the court at any time before the discovery cutoff. After the discovery cutoff, the disclosures become “final” and may only be amended by order of the court upon a timely showing of good cause. That being said, the parties have a continual obligation to supplement incomplete or inadequate disclosures.

This process greatly speeds up the process by providing a scope of general issues for the patent litigation matter at hand.

Claim Construction
Within 90 days of the Initial Scheduling Conference, the parties are required to serve on each other a list of patent claim terms they believe the court should construe. The parties are further required to meet and confer to narrow the list of terms. Within one month of exchanging terms, the parties are required to simultaneously exchange proposed constructions of each term and continue meeting and conferring. No later than 45 days after exchange of the lists, the parties are required to submit a Joint Claim Construction and Prehearing Statement, which includes (1) the construction of those terms on which parties agree; (2) detailed proposals regarding the construction of each disputed term; and (3) an identification of the most significant terms for resolution of the case, including any dispositive terms. The parties are then required to submit their briefs for the claim constructing hearing pursuant to a briefing schedule. The court may, but is not required to, conduct a Claim Construction Hearing.

This process also speeds up the patent litigation matter by further defining and narrowing the subject matter of the dispute.

Mandatory Settlement Conferences
The parties are required to participate in three strategically scheduled settlement conferences during this process: (1) a Pre-Claim Construction Settlement Conference within 30 days after submitting all initial disclosures and responses; (2) a Post-Claim Construction Order Settlement conference within 30 days after entry of the claim construction order; and (3) a Pretrial Settlement Conference within 30 days after filing the Pretrial Order or further order of the court. The goal of these conferences is to try to bring the parties towards resolution each time the matter is in a different stage of litigation as the parties narrow the claims, defenses and disputes.

Conclusion
As Nevada has many international gaming operators, gaming manufacturers, service providers and suppliers, it is a natural jurisdiction of choice for patent litigation for gaming-related patents. Additionally, the Nevada judiciary is comprised of judges who are familiar with the gaming industry and have presided over intellectual property matters involving gaming applications for many years. As a result, Nevada can be an advantageous forum for resolving gaming-related patent disputes. For gaming companies, the rules allow for a rapid assessment of the matter, construction of claims and an opportunity to resolve the matter. This reduces costs for both patent owners and those accused of patent infringement. It not only promotes settlement in matters with legitimate claims, but also allows a judge to more quickly dispose of frivolous and specious claims. Through the implementation of these special rules, the District of Nevada has provided gaming companies with a path toward mitigating the cost of patent actions.

Footnotes
1 Pub L. No. 111-349, 124 Stat. 3674 (available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-111publ349/html/PLAW-111publ349.htm).

Online Inroads: GameAccount Network Finds Path for Growth

GameAccount Network expects much of its growth opportunity to come from social and real-money online gaming expansion in the United States. Pictured from left are members of the executive team: Dana Takrudtong, vice president of sales and marketing; Kurt Hansen, vice president of operations, CEO Dermot Smurfit, and Simon Knock, chief operating officer.While real-money Internet gaming in New Jersey and the pace of regulation to open up online gaming in the U.S. has been relatively slow, GameAccount Network is confident in the long-term prospects for growth in for-play online casinos and real-money gaming.

GameAccount Network CEO Dermot Smurfit recently outlined his vision for CEM regarding the short- and long-term future of the London-headquartered company, which develops and supplies online gaming software systems as well as online gaming content.

“Our vision is to enable U.S. casinos to move online. Fast. In some ways they’re the last actors to enter the online race, but have the most powerful tools to compete against the social casinos proliferating on Facebook,” Smurfit said, citing key casino tools such as the casino loyalty program, the patron database and brand strength. “We think U.S. land-based casinos will inherit the social casino market over time, but not by running a social casino on Facebook. Instead, we believe in building an online environment where the casino can protect their patrons online from predatory advertising (unlike on Facebook) and operate in compliance with the needs of their regulator.”

Smurfit said the vision also ensures GameAccount Network won’t compete against its online clients. “Other companies may be out there offering their services, but retain their enormous social casinos. They’re inherently conflicted, and we’re puzzled how any casino operator might logically choose to work with a direct competitor in the online space. We are and will remain B2B only,” he said.

GameAccount’s product vision is slightly more complex, Smurfit said. Over the last few years, he said, the company has assembled a range of online gaming experiences that align with patron demand, including slots, tables, baccarat, video poker, poker, keno and bingo, and has extended that experience with progressive jackpots and real-time slot tournaments that are familiar to brick-and-mortar casino players. “Layered on top of that is a vision for taking casinos farther, into casual mobile skill gaming! Why shouldn’t casino operators have their own version of ‘Candy Crush’ as well as the obvious slots and table games offered by Simulated Gaming?” Smurfit said.

The company also recognizes that casino operators want to engage with younger, wider customer demographics, particularly the millennial group, and offers products to reach them. “By way of evidence, we invite anyone to play Foxwoods Solitaire on his or her smart phone and enjoy a compelling skill-based casual gaming experience perfectly wrapped in the casino operator’s brand identity and benefitting from the casino loyalty program,” he said.

Simulated Gaming™
GameAccount’s for-play online option called Simulated Gaming™ continues to present a compelling growth opportunity for GAN and its casino customers, said Smurfit, who called the offering “a green field market where both GameAccount Network and its client casino operators can carve out and develop a material high-margin and fast-growing business online for years to come.”

GameAccount also sees promise in regulated real-money Internet gaming in the existing New Jersey market where BetfairCasino.com, which uses the company’s online gaming system, has outperformed expectations year-to-date, he said.

Beyond that, the company will see more opportunity coming with incremental regulation of new real money intra-State Internet gaming markets, Smurfit added, noting Pennsylvania is the likely front-runner as the next jurisdiction to offer regulated Internet gaming. “In Pennsylvania we launched Simulated Gaming in March of this year for Parx Casino via ParxOnline.com, in order to start developing Parx’ online business well in advance of regulation and capture customer data likely to prove invaluable to Parx in the event their state ultimately regulates,” he noted.

Adding Simulated Gaming has been a positive move for Parx, according to Donald Ryan, senior vice president of gaming development for Bensalem, Pa.-based Parx.

“Simulated gaming gives casinos a way to engage their customer base off-property and build a deeper relationship with them online,” he said. “We have a broad spectrum of customers engaging with our simulated gaming offering today.”

Parx chose GameAccount because of the ability it offers to easily transition from a simulated to a real-money offering once regulation allows, said Ryan, who oversaw the launch of www.betfaircasino.com in regulated New Jersey when he was Betfair’s senior vice president of operations.

“GAN is a good partner with a solid platform. I am proud of what Betfair and GAN were able to achieve together in New Jersey and look forward to what Parx and GAN can build together here in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Whether online real-money gaming regulation expansion occurs or not, social casino operations should continue to do well, Ryan said. “These products emphasize entertainment value over wagering. Therefore as long as they keep engaging customers, they should continue to succeed,” he said.

Beyond the U.S. borders, real-money Internet gaming content opportunities lie in the many regulated markets, including Canada and Italy, where GameAccount delivers gaming content to more than three-quarters of the Italian regulated Internet casino market.

Currently, Smurfit noted, the company remains focused on the United States delivering BetfairCasino.com in New Jersey and Simulated Gaming for its client casinos operators.

Established U.S. Presence
Knowing where its growth trajectory was headed, GameAccount Network established a permanent Las Vegas office in the summer of 2013, and by November of that year was already generating income for its U.S. clients. The 13-year-old publicly traded company now has expanded its offices in Las Vegas, and Smurfit and his family have relocated to the U.S. gaming mecca.

That only makes sense, Smurfit said. “Overall, GameAccount Network has more active players online in the United States every day than anywhere else in the world combined,” he noted. “In just two years GameAccount Network has rapidly become a U.S. company with clients nationwide and technology development delivered in London.”

Three U.S. casino operators have gone live with Simulated Gaming and four more in various pre-launch stages, Smurfit said. “In New Jersey we have a fast-growth real money Internet gaming business in a challenging regulated real-money Internet gaming market with other markets reasonably expected to regulate over time,” he said. “In short, we’ve been delighted to see the substantial inroads already made here in the United States and feel our best days are still ahead of us.”

Parx Casino is enjoying more player engagement online since installing GameAccount Network’s Simulated GamingTM offering in March.

Evolving Perception of Internet Gaming 
That said, Smurfit said that real-money Internet gaming in New Jersey has started slowly as it has taken time for consumers in the Garden State to embrace real-money Internet gaming. He noted that recent studies show that most New Jersey residents are still largely unaware that Internet gaming is legal and can be conducted safely online, and in the early months of its operation, technical geo-location challenges often made the consumer experience less than optimal. In addition, there are other “natural brakes,” he said, such as trusting a website with your Social Security number, and payment processing issues, including U.S. banks denying attempts to deposit funds online. “All this means consumer adoption has and will continue to take time, and that’s why we believe there’s a surprising growth story yet to unfold in New Jersey,” Smurfit said.

Another story is unfolding for casino operators that don’t yet have intra-state regulation, he said. Casino operators are keenly aware of social casinos, including some owned by slot machine suppliers, and have long-sought for a path to compete credibly online, he said.

The company has been working hard to create that path through Simulated Gaming, Smurfit said. “Our success stories in making online relevant for U.S. casinos are becoming better known, particularly through executive word-of-mouth, which is a powerful force in this industry,” he said. “Perception has perceptibly changed, although it’s worth noting that for some casino operators the Internet will simply remain a challenge for others to tackle, which creates opportunity for those operators willing to extend their gaming experience, brand and patron relationships online.”

GameAccount has seen a rise in interest from casino operators considering pursing for-play activities, Smurfit said.

“Today’s operators are routinely smart on desktop, mobile web and native applications. They consume entertainment in the same way other consumers do across multiple devices and want to know how we can deliver the Simulated Gaming experience to them in the way they know their patrons will want it,” he said. “So yes, operators are more interested and willing to trial our Simulated Gaming experience. This means signing up on a website, playing the games, chatting with online players, downloading the Apps, buying virtual credits and sending emails to our customer services team. We expect this level of field testing and believe this is one of the reasons why Simulated Gaming has made so much progress here in the U.S. in such a short period—anyone interested can experience it anywhere online, right now!”

GameAccount Network has clients today with income streams generating multi-million-dollar amounts, despite minimal expenditure on advertising online, he said. Some casino operators will simply want to “sweat” assets, such as existing Internet traffic and patron email database, while others are seeking to prepare for regulated gaming or reach out to younger demographics. Each requires a different level of investment, he noted. GAN’s Simulated Gaming is flexible to casino operator needs and business objectives, Smurfit said, noting, “But in all instances is a material form of incremental income not currently being exploited by the operator and left to social casino operators on Facebook.”

But before they move to enter the space, casino operators tread carefully, asking a lot of questions, Smurfit said.

“Online gaming, whether Simulated Gaming or regulated real money, is uncharted territory for nearly every operator we speak to in the U.S.,” he said. “As operators approach the online space, there are numerous general questions about the technology that delivers the online gaming experience, the legal and compliance aspects and the day-to-day operational activities required to support an online business.”

Once an operator commits to GameAccount as a partner, the next set of questions determines the division of longer-term operational responsibilities, such as, Who will support the online casino? Who creates digital media content that can be used to convert existing loyalty players and drive sign ups of players from outside the loyalty base? Who will conduct acquisition and retention marketing online?
When it comes to real-money Internet gaming, the operators typically want one thing: to see the back office. “This is all-important and dictates their ability to adopt, internalize and manage a real-money Internet gaming business and the end-user players throughout their lifetime. Back office systems, reporting, management tools, integration layers and interfaces are all major components of any typical ‘show and tell,’ and we’re delighted to have a U.S. market-leading back office purpose-built for U.S. casino operators,” he said. Smurfit acknowledged that the comfort process of warming up to relatively new vendors takes time. “Our shareholders and the company’s leadership think long term, and every step we’ve taken demonstrates long-term commitment to moving U.S. casinos online,” he said. “With that in mind, we’re confident our specialist B2B nature, approach to product development, technology and support services will place us as a best fit supplier for tribal and commercial operators alike to move them online.”

Social Gaming’s Rise
Smurfit also spoke to the increasing importance of social gaming to casinos. “U.S. casinos we speak to have heavily surveyed their patrons to uncover competing leisure activity,” he said. “Between one-third and one-half of U.S. casino patrons appear to be engaged playing online with many social casinos while also frequenting their casino property.”

So, Smurfit explained, a casino patron goes home, or leaves the casino property, and continues the gaming experience online but not with the casino operator, and often with a slot machine vendor who also operates a social casino online on Facebook. The loss of this relationship online is increasingly significant to a casino’s existing land-based gaming revenue, he said.

GameAccount knows this because when it moved two casinos online in 2014 each showed an average 28 percent uplift in gaming revenues generated on-property from patrons who had also engaged online with Simulated Gaming, Smurfit said.

“Once a casino launches Simulated Gaming, it increases the patrons’ engagement with the casino brand, the casino gaming experience and results in increased on-property visitation. More visitation results in more gaming revenue on-property,” he said, while noting that compared with the material uplift experienced on-property, the online incremental income is a relatively modest amount, but accretive and generally high margin.

A key to unlocking the value opportunity lies with Simulated Gaming’s patented framework for triggering rewards points instantly credited to a rewards account within a content management system, so if a player buys credits online, reward points are added instantly to the player’s rewards card, Smurfit said. “This creates the incentive to return on-property and also grants the casino operator an invaluable edge over the vast majority of social casinos on Facebook, which offer nothing other than the game experience,” he said.

Smurfit noted that the typical U.S. casino has already “lost” up to one-half of their patrons to social casinos operating on Facebook. “We give the tools to get them back, and to protect the rest of the casino’s patrons by offering them a better alternative online, which aligns perfectly with the patron’s existing relationship on-property,” he said.

Simulated Gaming also is proving instrumental in engaging with a younger audience online. “We also believe our casual mobile skill game reaches incremental demographics unreachable with slots or table games,” Smurfit said, noting that Empire City Casino in New York chose GameAccount Network partly to engage with a significantly younger demographic online.

“Having a wide range of gaming experiences and the ability to reach out into the consumer advertising market to address that younger audience is one of the major reasons why Empire City Casino chose GameAccount to deliver their business online,” he said.

Social casinos work to provide added value under difference circumstances, Smurfit noted. “They work when you want to support opening a new property. They work when you want to take market share in a newly competitive market. They work when you want to get online in advance of regulation of real money,” he said. “The success stories are out there, and we’ve helped many of the management teams write them. With Simulated Gaming we invite anyone with a pure free-to-play website to ‘upgrade’ to a monetized solution which delivers real value on-property and online.”

Looking ahead, Smurfit sees the company delivering online services to many more U.S. casino operators. “And supporting a massive online audience of players which will numerically dwarf the casino operators’ on-property patron visitation numbers (although on-property gaming will continue to dominate online income for many years to come).”

That said, Smurfit noted, the doors to GameAccount’s offices in Las Vegas’ Summerlin area are open to casino leadership teams seeking more information. “We’re holding open workshops for casino operators interested in learning how online works, and how Simulated Gaming will work for them today and in the future,” he said.

Looking Forward to NIGA’s Summer Legislative Summit

In late July, tribal leaders will gather in Washington, D.C. for the National Indian Gaming Association’s (NIGA) Summer Legislative Summit. NIGA hosts two legislative summits per year to provide a forum for tribal leaders to engage Congress and the administration on issues most important to Indian country. We have invited numerous senators from the finance, appropriations and Indian affairs committees, as well as representatives who are members of the Congressional Native American Caucus. Others from the natural resources, education and the workforce, judiciary, and ways and means committees also have been invited. Attendees will discuss key issues including Internet gaming and parity for tribal governments in the National Labor Relations Act. Restoring the land-into-trust process for all federally recognized tribes and implementation of the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act are topics also on the NIGA Summer Legislative Summit agenda.

Internet gaming is consistently on our radar and is intensely discussed at NIGA meetings. It is only natural that tribes are concerned when Congress considers changing the playing field. No other form of economic development has been as successful in Indian country as gaming. Indian gaming provides the revenue for tribal governments to operate essential programs and services in their communities and has helped rebuild tribal infrastructure. Internet gaming has the potential to significantly change the gaming industry in America.

So far in the 114th Congress, only one piece of Internet gaming legislation has received a hearing, House Resolution 707 Restoration of America’s Wire Act—a bill focusing on prohibition. While Congress is moving cautiously, we follow the issue closely and continue to monitor its progress. Our actions are governed by the Principles of Sovereignty for Internet Gaming Legislation as adopted by our member tribes. NIGA’s principles simply defend tribes’ rights as sovereigns and demand equal treatment. To date, there has not been a single Internet gaming bill to satisfy the requirements. Each tribal government represents an independent sovereign and will decide what is best for their community, but we all stand united in the defense of tribal sovereignty.

Defending tribal sovereignty, of course, extends far beyond Internet gaming. At our Winter Legislative Summit in February, we heard from Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana, and at the Tribal Membership Meeting in March we heard from Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas on bills they have introduced to provide parity for tribal governments in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The bills, both titled the “Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act,” amend the NLRA to specifically list wholly-owned tribal enterprises operating on tribal lands as employers exempt from the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

For nearly 70 years, the NLRB rightfully exempted federally recognized sovereign tribes from the application of the NLRA. However, in May 2004, the NLRB, in a ruling involving the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, ignored its own precedent and applied the NLRA to on-reservation tribal government enterprises. The NLRB’s 2004 San Manuel ruling was a direct attack on tribal sovereignty and the constitutional status of Indian tribes as governments. The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act would reverse that misguided decision to clarify that Indian tribes are governments for purposes of the NLRA. The legislation is solely about tribal government sovereignty.

Another key issue NIGA will address is the Carcieri v. Salazar Supreme Court ruling, which has led to uncertainty surrounding the ability of the Secretary of the Interior to place land into trust for tribes recognized after the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934. The uncertainty created by the Carcieri decision has slowed the development of housing, education, health care and other much-needed services on tribal lands and has prevented financing for many economic development projects in Indian country.

To directly address the Carcieri decision, Reps. Tom Cole of Oklahoma (a member of the Chickasaw Nation and Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus) and Betty McCollum of Minnesota (Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus) have introduced bills to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of Interior to take land into trust for all federally recognized Indian tribes, effectively reversing the Supreme Court’s disastrous Carcieri decision. Each representative has cosponsored the other’s bill and has urged the immediate passage of either version. Recently, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

Similar efforts have been slowed by some in Congress who equate the tribal land-into-trust process with Indian gaming. NIGA will continue to educate those members that the Interior land-to-trust process is completely separate from decisions involving Indian gaming, which are made in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and Interior regulations implementing that Act. The IRA involves the restoration of tribal lands for housing, health care, education and other essential government purposes.

As we look forward to this year’s Summer Legislative Summit, it is also a good time to reflect on the key issue we targeted at last year’s summit: the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act (TGWEA). Last July we were confronted with a Congress that many had consistently labeled as the least productive in history, but we saw opportunity and developed an outreach plan that targeted House and Senate leaders to urge a vote on the TGWEA. The unity of Indian country behind this historic bill lead to its passage in September 2014, a unity that we must replicate to ensure that the act is implemented by the Treasury Department as intended.

The unity created at last year’s summit led to the passage of a monumental bill for Indian country. This year, we must strengthen our unity and urge Congress to respect our inherent sovereignty by rejecting and Internet gaming legislation that does not meet our principles, and to pass the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act and a clean Carcieri fix. When we are united on our goals, we get a lot done.