Recent legislative and legal decisions have opened the Web wagering world to U.S. land-based casino businesses. Here are some of the emerging companies helping them with the transitions
If you were to write down the events/topics that dominated the United States casino marketplace over the past year, the list would likely include the legalization of casinos in Massachusetts, resort openings in Ohio and Maryland, the ongoing tribulations of the Atlantic City resort scene or maybe Florida’s rejection of integrated gaming resort development.
But if you were to compile the truly watershed moments of the past year for the domestic gaming industry, one item should stand out front and center: the embracing of online wagering by brick-and-mortar casino operators and equipment suppliers.
Indeed, thanks in part to the liberalization of certain federal laws regarding online gaming, the passing of pro-Internet wagering legislation in Nevada and other states and the growing popularity of mobile platforms and social websites and games, the U.S.-based wagering industry is diving into the iGaming realm at an unprecedented clip.
But they’re not jumping into the e-gaming pool alone. A number of new companies have been formed to help gaming operators with this move into the wonderful world of web wagering. Some of these entities have been spun off from traditional gaming product suppliers with the help of Internet-savvy companies. Others come from industries that have already undergone online conversions and are offering to aid the gaming industry in its transition period.
Here’s a recap of the companies that made Internet gaming waves over the past year:
ESTABLISHED SUPPLIERSFew products have been as quickly embraced by the gaming industry as DoubleDown Casino, an online social gaming solution for land-based casino operators offered by International Game Technology (IGT). Launched this past August after IGT acquired parent company Double Down Interactive, DoubleDown Casino is a revenue-share arrangement that allows brick-and-mortar properties to immediately offer their customers a multi-platform free-play solution for online poker, bingo, slots and additional casinoâ€style entertainment, according to company literature. Member casinos are provided access to DoubleDown-one of the largest social casino sites in the world-directly through a casino’s proprietary website, allowing the casino to have an advantageous opportunity to deliver targeted marketing messages to their customers. Once in DoubleDown, players have access to a wide variety of popular slot game options such as classic IGT slot titles Da Vinci Diamonds and Cleopatra, a newly released Bingo game, and multiâ€player poker directly to the casino’s website.
“IGT is providing a unique and highly desired service to the casino community, with continuous innovation and proven results in the social gaming arena,” said Robert Melendres, IGT executive vice president of emerging businesses. “The DoubleDown Casino is providing casinos with a solution that they can utilize today, having been made available to encourage and incent players to return to the casinos for even more exciting game play.”
According to IGT, 24 casinos have signed on for DoubleDown Casino as of November. In October alone, 15 additional partnerships have formed in California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, Minnesota, South Dakota and Virginia.
The allure of DoubleDown is not hard for operators to explain. “Offering our players this tremendous game suite online is defining a new level of entertainment for us,” said Martin Amba, marketing manager for Reno, Nev.-based Bonanza Casino, which inked a DoubleDown deal this past September. “Through the DoubleDown Casino, we are offering our players, both loyal and new, with fun, free-to-play social gaming entertainment, right on our website.”
IGT is not the only established casino supplier offering a social gaming solution for terrestrial casinos. Earlier this year, Bally Technologies formed a strategic alliance with SHFL Entertainment and Ongame Networks to create a unique poker and Internet gaming solution.
Bally’s openiGaming Platform enables casinos to deliver play-for-free and wager-based poker, table games, video slots, and sports betting and choose from best-of-breed content and a library of interactive games based on proven casino gaming content. With Bally’s iGaming Platform product, operators also will have integration to their core casino management systems that will ultimately deliver the ability to conduct marketing, bonusing, data tracking and collection seamlessly, enabling the casino to market to their players in a way that has never been possible. Players can play the same games, receive the same bonuses and offers, and earn the same points on the casino floor, at home, or on the move-for a single view of the player.
Bally is now providing its iGaming platform for the Golden Nugget casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City as well as for American Casino & Entertainment Properties’ Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower, Aquarius Resort and Casino, and two Arizona Charlie’s casinos.
With the successful launch of its online JackpotParty.com casino in the UK and Lucky Cruise social casino on Facebook, WMS Gaming is developing a comprehensive suite of products and managed services that will enable its casino customers to stay connected to their players, wherever and however players find it most convenient to seek gaming entertainment today and in the future. The company also formed an alliance with 888, one of the world’s most popular online gaming entertainment and solutions providers, which will enable WMS to offer an online product to all its customers utilizing 888’s poker platform. By combining forces, WMS and 888 will provide an end-to-end solution that will enable land-based casino operators to leverage and aggregate their respective customer databases, aiming to build large-scale player pools. WMS will market and distribute 888’s online poker solution to land-based casino customers in venues in the United States, initially with a play-for-fun offering. The agreement will allow the launch of a real-money offering immediately as either federal or state regulation is finalized and upon licensing by gaming authorities.
Other well-known gaming suppliers offering online wagering solutions includes Cantor Gaming, which is developing a world-class intrastate Internet poker platform, capable of offering online poker wagering to registered players in California pending legislative approval. GTECH G2, a full service provider to the iGaming and sports betting industry, is also marketing an online playâ€forâ€fun poker platform.
NEW BLOODIn addition to established gaming vendors, a number of online/mobile-oriented companies are offering products and expertise to make the transition to online gaming more palatable to brick-and-mortar operators. Once such company is Joingo, a San Jose, Calif.-based mobile and social technology firm. Recently, the company launched the Joingo Game Network, a program that will provide an ever-growing catalog of mobile gaming content to casino operators and the infrastructure to deliver those games to mobile devices, according to company literature.
In addition to fulfilling the needs of casino operators, the Joingo Game Network supports developers who wish to make their games available on mobile devices. The program allows developers to utilize Joingo’s infrastructure, effectively removing the challenges inherent in mobile game distribution, including player and handset authentication, verifying location, managing account access, and driving user adoption. The Joingo Game Network API provides a plug-in architecture that eases adaptation to the mobile world, guarantees exposure to multiple casino operators, and opens this existing operator channel to reach known players.
“We’ve launched the Joingo Game Network in response to a customer demand for an easy way to introduce and manage third-party game content,” said Brenda Boudreaux, Joingo’s vice president of sales and marketing. “This program provides a medium for all game developers, large and small, to participate in a vibrant gaming experience that is delivered to players via the most popular consumer technology today-their mobile phones and tablets. At the same time, it gives the casino operator the ability to control and manage games on their virtual casino floor just as they do today on their physical floor.”
Swinomish Casino & Lodge, Anacortes, Wash., has already signed up for the service. “The exclusive features and functionality available from Joingo made them the clear choice as we look to create our brand’s mobile presence,” said Mike Wootan, Swinomish Casino & Lodge general manager. “The Joingo Game Network in particular is very exciting, as it is a springboard into the mobile and social gaming arena.”
Geolocation will likely play an important role in the U.S.-based online gaming industry, especially if legalization occurs on a state-by-state basis. To help operators navigate the potentially difficult requirement, GambleID, a provider of accurate verification on customer age, location and proof of identity, and Locaid, a Location-as-a-Service (LaaS) provider, have formed a new online service for verifying player identity and meeting mobile location compliance requirements. The GambleID service provides accurate, real-time identity authentification services on customers for the merchants in the online poker and casino industry that facilitates the mandatory state regulations for customer accounts. By using the merchant provided customer information, GambleID can rapidly validate and provide value & risk assessments that meet and exceed the state regulated verification standards.
Earlier this year, Facebook UK, a division of social network giant Facebook, entered the Internet wagering space with Bingo & Slots Friendzy, a Gamesys Group application that will allow UK-based users aged 18 and over to play games for actual cash prizes. Bingo and Slots Friendzy will reportedly be the first real-money wagering app ever offered on Facebook.