This month’s Gaming Technology Conference at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas (March 17-19) is one of those industry meetings you’ll be hearing more and more about as the years progress. It’s also something you could benefit from attending right now if you can.
Some context: Gaming has moved fairly rapidly from an industry that thrived on limited supply and latent demand to a knowledge-driven, marketing-intensive business in fully-supplied environments. That’s a pretty brutal transition when you think about it; if you’ve been in the business for awhile, we’ve gotten there logically over time. But how many industries move from a difficult-to-consume forbidden fruit to a fairly easy-to-obtain product in a little over a decade?
However you answer that question, the fallout is obvious, as evidenced by the recent release of the 2013 Fantini’s National Revenue Report. Revenues were flat in the macro sense, rising .02 percent last year to $39.7 billion in commercial casinos and those tribal casinos that file public reports. On a same-store basis, however, revenues were down 3.1 percent last year; 13 of 25 jurisdictions suffered revenue declines; and, of the 12 jurisdictions that grew, only Nevada and New York did it without increased supply. (See www.FantiniResearch.com if you’d like info on the full report.)
With these realities in mind, it’s refreshing to hear executives not only acknowledge reality but spell out a vision for how to confront it. One is Ramesh Srinivasan, Bally Technologies’ president and CEO, who, happily, will be delivering a keynote address at the Gaming Technology Conference. In an earnings call summarizing second quarter FY 2014 results last month, Srinivasan encouraged listeners to think about the story behind the numbers.
There were a few quotes that jumped out at this listener:
• “This industry is well on its way to being as much about technology advancements as it has been about product investments.”
• “The general discourse in this industry will soon be at least as much about overall technology spend as it is about replacement rates.”
• “We all know that the casino operator environment is more competitive today than ever before. That also means that the need for operator competitive advantage-enabling modules is currently higher than ever before.”
Bally’s Systems division has set revenue records (including sales of $85 million for the quarter) for four consecutive quarters. It was the firm’s best quarter in many years in sales of systems hardware like iView and DM and systems revenues are expected to grow by 20 percent this fiscal year compared with FY13. But the more interesting point is and will continue to be the underlying strategy that is driving the numbers.
“We realized a few years ago that to do well with systems, we needed to build scale,” said Srinivasan. “Now with revenue levels arguably more than all our competitors combined, and with an approximately $100 million annual run rate maintenance revenue stream, we believe that we have given ourselves the kind of systems scale and R&D strength required to deliver ever increasing service, innovation and value to our customers."
Keynoter Srinivasan’s message lines up nicely with the Gaming Technology Conference, which kicks off with a three-hour workshop from analytics pioneer Andrew Cardno on how to see and understand your data using best practices in visualization software and is followed by 18 breakout sessions on IT, executive leadership and marketing as well as two more keynotes from Bill Schmarzo, EMC CTO, enterprise information management & analytics practice; and Tim Huckaby, Microsoft RD & MVP, CEO - Actus Interactive Software and founder/ chairman – InterKnowlogy. Full info is at www.gamingtechnologyconf.com. Hope to see you there.