Year-end Review: Worthy Cutting-edge Companies

Throughout the regional and national gaming trade show conference dialogue in 2014 (especially at G2E, our industry’s largest show held in early fall) two themes surfaced repeatedly—how to reach millennials and how to augment nongaming revenue. Experts from both commercial and tribal gaming stressed the importance of each topic in terms of sustainability and growth for gaming operators.

With these relevant themes in mind, I was on the lookout during 2014 for any products or vendors that could augment tribal gaming operations specifically addressing either topic with an emphasis on increasing overall revenue. I have broken my most worthy “discoveries” into gaming and non-gaming categories.

Gaming
Gamblit: Gamblit Gaming unveiled its new gaming products at G2E and was able to generate a real buzz on the exhibit floor. Industry words such as “gamblify” and “gamification” surfaced around its offerings, and the ability to reach the millennial customer without cannibalizing the existing client base seemed to appeal greatly to the operators at the show. Gamblit is “gamblifying” the common play-for-free games most 18- to 30-year-olds already play on mobile phones and tablets. This innovative gaming company has created a mechanism to bet on individual play, and even though I am far outside the millennial demographic, after participating in the demo, I was hooked. Gamblit spent years developing and certifying its games before launching, and its senior management includes gambling, video game and finance professionals. In one G2E press conference, the question was asked, “If the most common gambler demographic at casinos is a 55-year-old female, when the current millennials reach the age of 55 will they suddenly be satisfied with slot play as it exists?” There was unanimous agreement among the expert panelists that the probable answer is no…even if the themed play and experiences are similar to slot games played today, the delivery method must change. The millennial generation is being raised on a digital experience, and mobile- and tablet- type delivery cannot be ignored. Add the familiarity of games that are popular in the play for fun sector (games the millennials are growing up playing) and Gamblit seems to have a winning combination. The implementation seems simple and can be used on bar tops or in café type settings so as not to steal room from existing gaming space. Gamblit is definitely worth exploring. Website: www.gamblitgaming.com.

Video King: Video King is among the world’s largest providers of electronic gaming systems, game designs and bingo hall equipment. A longtime leader and frontrunner in providing bingo supplies, equipment and back end systems, it now has launched digital tablets as well as new exciting games aimed at the younger generations. Video King’s bingo hall products run the gamut from state-of-the-art bingo consoles, integrated management systems, multichannel video flashboards, high-tech electronic handsets, tablets and other portable gaming devices, as well as an array of innovative computer games. Tribal gaming was built on bingo, and although some tribal facilities discontinued bingo operations in favor of slot play, many are re-launching, realizing benefits from the loyal customer base revenue, conversion to other play and general draw of the game. Many tribal and commercial bingo operations are now offering “cosmic” bingo, which is presented typically at later timeslots on digital electronic tablets with a DJ, music and hip lighting. Cosmic bingo is demonstrating an appeal to the younger crowd and reinvigorating many bingo halls. Bingo now offered on portable tablets also allows operators to convert bar tops, lounges and other nongaming spaces into bingo revenue producing areas. With cutting-edge equipment and fresh new products serving tribal, commercial and charitable clients, Video King has kept the traditional stalwart bingo game relevant and innovative. I recommend those gaming facilities not currently offering bingo to reconsider a launch, and those offering bingo to think about upgrading and refreshing their products. Website: www.videokingnetwork.com.

Nongaming
HouseBrew; Global Beerco USA: Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn’s quote at G2E probably received the most press of any in 2014: “Nongaming revenue isn’t just crucial to the success of casino/resorts now—in fact, it’s always been the story.” Wynn spoke about the history of his own prior properties, such as the Golden Nugget, Mirage and Bellagio, noting their successful nongaming operations including hotel, food and beverage (F&B), entertainment and retail generated more revenue than gaming. “You’ve got to give people something they’re willing to get on an airplane and submit to a body search for,” he said. “That ain’t a slot machine, friends, and it sure as hell ain’t a baccarat table.” Wynn has certainly delivered on this concept at every property. His current corporate enterprise, Wynn Resorts, typically reaps profits of approximately $200 million from food and beverage alone.

However, most tribal casino operators, often with single assets in rural markets catering to local customers, argue that hiring expensive famous chefs and charging high end prices for F&B doesn’t bode well for their space. I found what could be a nice alternative to high-end F&B but still offers something unique, affordable and interesting for the gaming operation. House Brew by Global Beer Co. provides the casino operator with its own self-contained craft microbrewery and allows the facility to showcase the brewing operations with sleek state-of-the-art equipment. The gaming operator can offer beer tasting as well as a variety of unique and proprietary beers crafted as a house brand line. (According to the Beer Institute’s economic impact study and the Brewer’s Almanac, beer has remained a very poplar and steadily consumed beverage nationwide. Currently the U.S. brewing industry employs 2 million Americans, earning nearly $79 billion in wages and benefits.) Chances are this could be an interesting and popular nongaming amenity. Website: www.globalbeerco.com.

Safe & Sound: A respectable follow-up to the recommendation to explore a unique alcohol offering, Safe & Sound provides a nongaming product that all casinos should consider. Statistics from the Department of Transportation show that more than 17 million people in 2013 reported they probably drove while under the influence and over the legal limit and yet really had no way of gauging. One analogy would be trying to determine your speed in a car without a speedometer. Safe and Sound is a one-time-use, inexpensive breathalyzer that casino facilities can sell or provide for free at their bars, restaurants and valet stations. It instantly reads a person’s alcohol content and determines if one is able to drive legally. Most operators appreciate the fact that this takes away any guesswork. Safe & Sound’s attributes include 99.9 percent accuracy, patented technology, FDA approved, portable, compact, disposable and affordable. This new product is a great idea for all casinos, but perhaps even more essential for those tribal casinos that are located in rural areas where driving to and from can be dangerous and treacherous. It is simple, efficient and can save lives. The management of Safe & Sound also has linked a charitable program in which portions of proceeds are donated to assist those families affected by drunk-driving incidents. I highly recommend all gaming operators consider using Safe & Sound. Website: www.safeandsoundproducts.com.

Carlisle Preservation Project: This project has no gaming application, but when we consider our tribal roots in American history, I am including this as something I believe worthy of support. Carlisle Indian Industrial School located in Pennsylvania was the first federally funded boarding school for Native Americans, and from 1879 until 1918, more than 10,000 Native American children from 140 tribes attended the institution. Perhaps the most famous Carlisle alum was football star and Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe. Although the boarding school system as a whole is controversial for its “Anglicization” principles, Carlisle launched and encouraged its Native American students in sports, with its football program credited as establishing some of the very early roots of Pop Warner football (Warner served as a coach there) and the American game in general. In 1907 Carlisle had the strongest football team in the country, competing against Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale. The Carlisle Indians have been characterized as the “team that invented football.” Recently, following the efforts of the school’s descendants to halt demolition of a Carlisle landmark known as the Old Farmhouse, Native American-owned Osage Manhattan Builders of Oklahoma has decided to refurbish the old boarding school structure. The process is currently underway, led by construction manager Randall Anoatubby, who is also diligently leading fundraising efforts. The goal of the project is to convert the historical landmark to The Carlisle School of Industry Heritage Center. According to Anoatubby, the most significant aspect of the project is rescuing a valuable piece of history from demolition. “We are preserving the history and our past.” For more information on the Carlisle Preservation Project contact: Mindy Standley; Project Pre-Design Reporter and Carlisle Descendent; (405)760-8053 or standleymr[at]att.net.

As a longtime veteran of the gaming trade show circuit, some years I feel as if there is just nothing new; but 2014 proved to be pleasantly surprising, with innovative products and cutting-edge offerings that surfaced in both gaming and nongaming. Staying competitive, fresh and relevant is always a priority for gaming operators so investigating these vendors should be a worthy use of time.

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