CasinoFest 8 Tips the Scales

“I can’t explain to you the irony of speaking about something called the tipping point after what I’ve been through for the past six months. For those of you that don’t know, I kind of tipped off a snowmobile.” These were Bruce Rowe’s opening words to the audience on the first morning of CasinoFest 8. It is this type of candid, honest and intelligent communication that makes CasinoFest great.

After breakfast, Peter Mead listens to Ernie Stevens present the award for Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year.
Rowe, senior vice president of strategy and business development at Bally Technologies, spoke during his keynote address about lessons learned in his personal life during the last year and how they relate to where the gaming industry is at with networked gaming. “Whether it was a server crash or a snowmobile, they all happen,” Rowe said. The lessons applicable to both are: “Know where you want to go, survey the place you’re going, go slowly before you go fast, evaluate along the way and make adjustments as quickly as you can. Be prepared to fail fast, have the survival equipment you need in case you make mistakes, and make sure you have good team of people around you as you embark on your journey.”

CasinoFest was at its own tipping point this year. CEM did not hold an event in 2009 due to the economy and tight travel and training budgets. The Casino Enterprise Management team questioned how the industry would react to a return of our event.

Bally’s Bruce Rowe and Christina Abate present Tom LaVallee with one of the free iPads in a drawing, courtesy of AGEM.
As it turned out, the industry was ready and excited for CasinoFest 8. So much so, that we are already planning CasinoFest 9. Publisher Peter Mead says, “We are so looking forward to the opportunity to help you bring more value to your company. We promise to provide you with intriguing, compelling and informative content that will stay with you even after you return to your daily work routines.”

Attendees of the WMS Slot Machine University learn how to take apart and repair machines.
For three days, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif., discussion, debate and demonstrations inspired and energized attendees. Sessions focused on topics including slots and systems management, slot machine academy, casino marketing, table games management, and compliance, regulation and legal issues. Bally and WMS also hosted tracks of their own in which attendees were able to learn, hands on, how to work on machines.

John Roberts and Russell Witt answer questions as experts in the Compliance Panel.
Sessions throughout the week gave attendees the opportunity to discuss the importance of Class II gaming, the differences between small and large manufacturers, the future of technology, and how to attract and keep players. Presenter Douglas Florence showed attendees crime signals to watch for during interviews, mixed martial arts experts talked about bringing MMA events to your property, Peter Yesawich Jr. discussed digital marketing, and our own John Wilson was a big hit in the slot math sessions.

In the slots and systems room, in a session about casino management systems, conversation turned to G2S and S2S protocols. Raj Srivastav, CTO at Casino Data Imaging, concurred with the panel that it will probably be 20 years before we all have the same systems standards. He explained that it’s hard for CDI as a third party vendor for systems integration because all the big guys have different systems, not all on G2S and S2S protocols, and they’re always changing. To this, Steve Walther, vice president of marketing at Aruze, replied, “Well, that’s the sunny outlook for the day!” Noting the prediction is sad, but may be true. It was a thought we heard echoed through other sessions as well, though James Acres, president of Acres Bonusing, argues it will be here sooner. Walther is hopeful that it will come sooner as well.

The compliance, regulation and legal issues forum by far had the largest turnout. Attendees included lawyers, regulators and commission members. All the major testing labs were present, offering up their knowledge on game compliance. Some of the most highly attended sessions were large panels featuring impressive names from tribal gaming, like Jason Giles, Michael Lombardi, Jamie Hummingbird, Tracy Burris, Norm DesRosiers and more. They addressed topics like the recent shake-up in leadership in the NIGC and the viability and importance of Class II gaming in uncertain economic times.

At the end of each day, attendees waited anxiously to hear if their names would be chosen in the iPad drawing. Three lucky winners left
I. Nelson Rose gives his keynote address on day three.
CasinoFest with iPads, thanks to the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers.

After the drawings, attendees enjoyed a cocktail hour in the expo hall with drink tickets sponsored by VGT and distributed by the vendors. Incredible Technologies had a booth with three of its new Breeze HD Upright Gaming Cabinets. Dan Schrementi, director of gaming marketing and new media, said, “Being able to demonstrate our newest collection of Magic Touch games to some of gaming’s biggest stars was a tremendous opportunity.”

The CasinoFest cocktail reception, hosted by Aristocrat, was a big hit, with socializing and networking set to the music of Mick Roemer, senior vice president of sales at Multimedia Games. Roemer joked the next morning that he is also a “part-time piano player for Peter Mead.”

Kevin Parker, director of casino operations at Colusa Casino Resort, comments: “I honestly can’t think of a better opportunity during the year for a casino staff member to be able to exchange ideas and contact information with the various leaders of our industry. I can’t express the pleasure of my staff after meeting and discussing pertinent information with industry dignitaries such as Bill Zender, Ron Harris and I. Nelson Rose.”

For the second day’s keynote address, Ernie Stevens Jr., chairman of NIGA, presented Lynn Valbuena, vice chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, with the Indian Gaming Advocate of the Year Award.

On day three, Professor I. Nelson Rose addressed attendees. He gave a history lesson as to how we got where we are with gaming law today. Rose says this is the most exciting time in gaming history. After giving predictions for the future of gaming law, Rose said there is one wild card to be addressed: “Technology leads to unpredictable consequences.”

And so we return to the tipping point. At the end of Rowe’s keynote address, he said: “We’re at a really, really exciting time. This is now my 30th year in my industry, through a lot of different transitions. I think we’re getting ready to get into some of the most exciting times that we’ve ever seen in the next 10 years. But we are at the beginning; we’re at the early stages of adoption. We’re not at the end, and we’re not at general availability.”

You can count on CEM and CasinoFest to bring you the education, information and training opportunities you need to succeed in this exciting time. Parker says, “In my estimation, this is the one training opportunity of the year that should not be missed. We all know that training is essential to the smooth operation of our facilities and this is the best opportunity to have a one-stop shop of information, legal updates and technological aids to enhance both your property and your staff.”

We’ll see you for another great learning and networking opportunity at CasinoFest 9, details to be confirmed and announced soon. Registration required. Hawaiian shirts optional.

Go to www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com /video-library to see videos of keynote addresses, sessions, product demonstrations and more from CasinoFest 8.

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