The gaming companies to watch in 2015
In business as in sports, it’s the front-runners that tend to garner all the attention.
For the North American gaming product marketplace, where slot machines continue to be the alpha devices, a lot of time and attention is devoted to gaming machine suppliers, especially in a year that has not only seen a plethora of new concepts and technology but also an unprecedented amount of merger activity among the segment’s largest movers and shakers.
Lost in this shuffle is the progress made by many emerging gaming suppliers who have either introduced or improved cutting-edge products and technologies that have the potential to transform an operator’s business practices and bottom line. Here’s a rundown of some of the nascent gaming companies that made a splash over the past year and bear watching in 2015, organized by product category.
In an increasingly competitive gaming marketplace, operators are constantly seeking ways to both attract new customers and get more revenue from existing clientele. To accomplish these tasks, casinos are increasingly turning to analytics providers with systems that can parse Big Data into actionable information and actions that help overall profitability.
One such analytics provider that has made news recently is Duetto, a San Francisco-based firm that delivers dynamic, intelligent revenue strategy solutions to the world’s leading hotels, allowing them to maximize profits through superior, actionable data to better manage pricing, revenue and business mix decisions.
Duetto has established a toehold in the casino industry with its recently introduced GameChanger solution, a comprehensive revenue strategy application designed by industry veterans that meets the unique needs of casino resorts. Delivering unparalleled flexibility and control, GameChanger ensures casino hotels always select and retain their most profitable customers, accounting for dynamic demand, occupancy and segment volumes, independently assessed by each individual customer segment, room type, offer or discount. Ultimately, GameChanger is designed to provide casino hotels with the ability to price all room types, channels and dates independent of one another—a useful tool for hotels and resorts with a broad range of rooms and rates.
GameChanger evidently impressed Konami Gaming, which integrated the solution into its SYNKROS gaming enterprise management system earlier this year. Recent product placements include Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, which installed GameChanger last month.
“We are excited to work with Duetto to leverage the rich customer data provided by GameChanger, which includes gaming as well as non-gaming spend,” said Jared Saft, vice president hotel sales & marketing for Westgate. “Our resort has many different room types and a unique mix of customers, and GameChanger offers us the ability to price by customer segment and at the room type level, bringing us the benefits of ‘open pricing.’”
Another analytics-oriented company causing a stir of late is eConnect, a Las Vegas-based software company in the Big Data industry which combines financial transactions and behavioral analysis with visual verification. This is accomplished by synchronizing transactional data from point-of-sale (POS), casino systems and other disparate data sources with digital video surveillance, producing true business intelligence and advanced knowledge to help business operators improve profitability.
eConnect’s forte is its ability to detect both internal and external fraud, according to company literature. eConnect will associate a property’s surveillance video with POS data in the cloud and build exception-based triggers to alert the management team when suspicious transactions are occurring. Operators also have access to reports and behavioral intelligence that will show which employees need to be spoken to, retrained or terminated.
Recent additions to the eConnect portfolio give it capabilities beyond fraud protection. For example, the eCounter is a new people analytics system. It operates by using standard cameras to identify changes within video to tell operators how many people are in line and how long they’ve been waiting. The technology can be operated in stand-alone mode or in conjunction with the POS Connect system to improve revenue, customer service and optimize labor. Meanwhile, the Pace of Play add-on allows casino operators to improve revenue and table performance on nearly all table games. Again, using existing cameras, the system will conduct table game analysis in real-time, predicting and analyzing video data so gaming operators can make important business decision when they matter most.
“The software systems we unveiled at G2E will immediately increase casino and business profits through their ability to enhance pace of play and people counting,” said Chris Swanger, vice president of business development for eConnect. “Business owners who rely on customer service see the profit applications are enormous.”
The ability to crunch data from many different consumer touchpoints is core to many different analytics systems, but the ability to do this in a streamlined fashion is one of the reasons Cupertino, Calif.-based Opticityis making a name for itself in the casino world. Opticity provides its “Marketing-Ready Data” directly to managers, eliminating the need for expensive business intelligence programs, or SQL queries and Excel heroics. It joins player tracking, hotel, POS and kiosk data together, and enables self-service reporting and data analysis.
Designed specifically for casinos, Opticity offers an affordable alternative to the data warehouse offerings of larger casino software vendors, according to company press materials. The platform, developed by a team of leading experts in all facets of data science and business intelligence, is robust, accurate and highly secure. It has also proven popular with Biloxi, Miss.-based Treasure Bay Casino and Hotel, which selected Opticity’s data warehouse and customer relationship management service earlier this year. Having already achieved strong growth in recent years, Treasure Bay is looking to Opticity to gain a competitive advantage that will position the property for continued success in an increasingly competitive market.
“When we saw Opticity we knew immediately it was what we’ve been missing,” said Ryan Meister, director of marketing for Treasure Bay. “It combines data from several systems creating a complete view of our marketing efforts. It gives us the answers we need to make decisions based on facts and cumulative player data.”
The continuing evolution of both Internet and mobile technologies has forced gaming properties to become more flexible when it comes to marketing and communicating with customers. These advancements have also forced properties to augment the way they accept and handle monetary transactions, as casino patrons press for the ability to wager and settle accounts electronically through computers and iPhones.
Fortunately for casino operators, financial companies such as Vantiv Gaming Solutionsare offering products and services to help ease this cash handling transition. A 40-year veteran in the payments industry, Cincinnati, Ohio-based Vantiv offers comprehensive, scalable and customizable cash processing solutions that run on a single, proprietary platform and are built to enhance the overall customer experience beyond just traditional services such to include iGaming, mobile gaming, cashless gaming, prepaid and alternative payments acceptance. Indeed, Vantiv claims to be the first payments processor to enable a legal online transaction in U.S. gaming history; and have the experience and expertise needed to help gaming operators navigate the challenges of this market.
Over the past few years, Vantiv has taken steps to augment these cutting-edge payment channels, by acquiring companies and businesses such as Litle & Co., a Lowell, Mass.-based payment processor specializing in eCommerce and card-not-present transactions, and partnering with firms such as AT&T to offer an innovative suite of mobile products including Vantiv Mobile Accept and Vantiv Mobile Checkout—products that will deliver highly secure, integrated and speedy on-the-spot mobile transactions to businesses of all sizes.
Another payment service and technology company looking to break big into the gaming space is Atlanta, Ga.-basedFirst Data. The company, which made its bones providing secure and innovative payment technology and services to more than six million merchants and financial institutions around the world, from small businesses to the world’s largest corporations, launched its PayLucky Solution package for legalized online and offline gambling and gaming earlier this year. According to company literature, PayLucky Solutions offer an innovative package of comprehensive payment services, all in one place and all from one source. Proven solutions include check, debit and credit processing with emphasis on protecting operators by qualifying players and guaranteeing players’ funds through third-party validation and analysis on individual spending habits.
“PayLucky takes the complexity out of managing multiple providers and creates a streamlined experience for the U.S. gambling market with built-in risk management protections for all parties,” said Jonathon O’Connor, general manager, online gambling and alternative markets for First Data at PayLucky Solution’s launch last July.
DiTRONICS, a Las Vegas-based supplier of player-centric funding and cash access solutions, is also addressing current casino needs with innovative new products. The company, which offers an integrated suite of cash access products for casino operators who require multi-channel funding solutions for land-based, mobile and online gaming, has caught the eye of casino operators with its Transaction Rewards concept. According to press materials, the Transaction Rewards personalized cash access program is a “first of its kind” solution that integrates DiTRONICS Cash Access applications directly with the casino’s loyalty program. The patent-pending features of Transaction Rewards allows operators to personalize cash access transactions and extend player’s club rewards by providing player-centric check cashing limits, automatic discounted transaction fees, redemption of club points and/or comp dollars to buy-down fees along with the awarding of points and comp dollars for completing various transactions.
Transaction Rewards found a home earlier this year at the Chinook Winds Casino Resort, Lincoln City, Ore. “We’re happy to partner with DiTRONICS to further enhance our guest experience,” said Eric Smileuske, director of marketing for Chinook Winds Casino Resort in a prepared statement. “DiTRONICS’ new Transaction Rewards allows our guests to safely access their funds and we can reward them even more during those processes. We love it and our customers will too.”
GAMES & SYSTEMS
Slot machines and table games have not been immune to the ongoing drumbeat of technological evolution. Bally Technologies, International Game Technology (IGT), Aristocrat Technologies, Konami Gaming, Aruze Gaming, Multimedia Games, GTECH, Ainsworth Game Technology, WMS and a host of other well-known, long-time casino game and system providers are constantly upgrading product lines to keep pace with technological trends. However, there are many smaller, relatively new casino game, peripheral and systems suppliers that are also upgrading products and services for the casinos of today and tomorrow.
Leap Forward Gaming (LFG) is one such company. The Reno, Nev.-based firm specializes in the innovation, development, design, manufacture and operation of the SaffariNet multimedia ecosystem for land-based wagering markets. According to company press materials, SaffariNet promises to revolutionize how gaming devices, peripherals, wide-area progressives, player-tracking systems, mobile devices and server-based systems communicate wirelessly and interact across casino floors.
A key to the SaffariNet package is Patron Display Interface (PDI), a scalable, low-cost, turn-key picture-in-picture solution that works seamlessly with all brands and generations of gaming machines and systems to develop, dynamically manage and present content to players. PDI offers targeted marketing and bonusing campaigns, progressives and seamlessly integrates with multiple player tracking and CRM systems. As part of the patented SaffariNet ecosystem, PDI agnostically provides operators with high flexibility, and agile content production and implementation utilizing the latest web-based technologies.
Among the casinos utilizing SaffariNet is Las Vegas-based MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, which tapped into the system in 2013. “We are very pleased with the strength, flexibility and agility of the SaffariNet ecosystem technology and the fact that MGM Grand is the first Las Vegas casino to utilize this game-changing system,” said Tom Mikulich, senior vice president of business development for MGM Resorts International when SaffariNet was installed at the MGM Grand. “MGM Resorts International properties have always embraced leading-edge technology that provides our players with added-value and improves operational efficiencies. We believe that the SaffariNet picture-in-picture solution has great promise, as it allows us to seamlessly customize real-time marketing campaigns without impacting existing machines and systems, all while minimizing operational interruption.”
Leap Forward Gaming’s growth plan is not limited to the U.S. market. Earlier this year, LFG inked a deal with eBET Limited to distribute, sell, market and support SaffariNet in the Australian gaming market.
Table games have also seen an uptick in revenue generating and cost saving new products. For example, Galaxy Gaming, the Las Vegas-based developer, manufacturer and distributor of innovative proprietary table games, state-of-the-art electronic wagering platforms and enhanced bonusing systems to land-based, riverboat, cruise ships and online casinos worldwide, recently introduced SpectrumVision, a new electronic security device designed to detect illegally marked cards and other fraudulent schemes. According to company press materials, one prominent gaming regulatory agency has already used SpectrumVision’s leading-edge technology to assist in the prosecution of a cheating suspect, and it is anticipated that the product will be widely used not only by gaming regulators, but by casinos and poker rooms worldwide as a tool to fight the increasing incidences
of unlawful card marking, not visible to the naked eye.
“Each of our products builds upon our capacity for creativity and our commitment to the cutting edge,” said Dean Barnett, sales manager for Galaxy Gaming. “The launch of SpectrumVision is not only a game-changer for Galaxy Gaming, but it can transform game security for the future of the entire industry.”
The company, which currently boasts an installed base of over 4,000 gaming tables located in over 500 casinos, also continues to develop traditional table games, debuting seven new premium table games at this year’s G2E. Galaxy Gaming also announced expansion into the French, South African and Czech Republic casino markets this year.
The past year was also very successful for Visualimits, the Henderson, Nev.-based pioneer and producer of intelligent table game signage. The company’s primary product is the VL-Focus, a unique two-sided 10.1-inch LCD display that features customer-oriented content on the front screen, and a suite of table game management and analytics options on the back screen that faces the operator. According to company literature, VL-Focus is smart enough to detect every hand played at card games, adjust limits to entice more game play, protect tables as well as communicate important marketing messages to players and pit staff. The product also offers an additional revenue stream in the form of mutually agreeable third party advertisements that can run between games or when the table is idle.
The customer-facing features include the ability to target market and set limit increases, limit drops and custom rules where allowed; show sports ticker and regular TV programing, publically post game closing and no smoking/reserve notices, and a relocation function that can direct players to an active table game if the game they are currently at is about to close. The back screen that faces the table game operator can include functions such as dealer tap in, table statistics, pre-shift notices, surveillance and the ability to playback the most recent games to settle customer disputes, dining and drink requests, incident reporting, rating systems monitor and dealer check-in and check-out.
Operators can also chose to install an analytics package that will examine data parsed by game type, shift, headcount, dealer and a host of other factors and categories. The analytics package also has the capability to generate customer reports.
Of course, technology is also having a profound impact on the non-gaming aspects of the casino resort experience as well. Not surprisingly, a number of new solution suppliers have come to the fore to help gaming properties cope with these challenges.
One such obstacle is the need to secure online channels from those looking to swindle casino customers. Portland, Ore.-based iovation aims to help, with products that protect online businesses and their end users against fraud and abuse through a combination of advanced device identification, shared device reputation and real-time risk evaluation. According to company literature, more than 3,000 fraud managers representing global retail, financial services, insurance, social network, gaming and other companies leverage iovation’s database of 2 billion Internet devices and the relationships between them to determine the level of risk associated with online transactions. The company’s device reputation database is the world’s largest, used to protect more than 10 million transactions and stop an average of 200,000 fraudulent activities every day.
One iovation product that has resonated with casino operators is Reputation Manager 360. Typically, identifying the device used to commit online fraud is an effective way to root out the crime—and one that iovation has offered its clients for years. What Reputation Manager 360 now offers in the fight against fraud is device reputation, a new layer of defense that builds upon device identification. It is the only solution on the market today that takes an in-depth look at not only the device but also its history when used online, creating a reputation score.
Reputation Manager 360 has won numerous technology awards and is constantly being improved upon by the company. Recently, the system was given the ability to accept compound business rules, allowing operators to create sophisticated rule combinations to adapt which fraud indicators they look for, allowing them to adjust at a moment’s notice to a dynamic fraud environment. The company also introduced new features such as mobile emulation detection, new device identification, a Tor detection service, and additional rules for Real IP, and TrustScore—a service that highlights trustworthy customers.
Meanwhile, in the land-based realm, operators are gravitating toward devices and services that can improve customer relationship building and tracking throughout the resort enterprise; an area Playersoft Technologies, the Raymond, Calif.-based provider of technology products and software proven to grow player satisfaction has lived in for years. One of the company’s most successful and popular product lines is Mobile Enrollment, a system that scans driver’s licenses and state-issued identification from the U.S. and Canada, allowing casino staff to enroll new guests into the player club from anywhere on the casino floor using a specialized Apple iPod Touch. According to company literature, Mobile Enrollment allows the casino the easiest avenue to enroll new members which equates to greater player retention and more profitability for the resort operator. The system also features an offline mode allowing staff to reach out to players at offsite events adding even greater reach and furthering the player’s experience to create a positive impression of the level of service that the casino is willing to provide.
Rocky Gap Casino Resort and Margaritaville Bossier City are two recently-opened properties that utilize Mobile Enrollment. Aristocrat Technologies also agreed to add Mobile Enrollment to the latest iteration of its Oasis 360 casino management system.
“We are pleased with the performance of the Playersoft devices,” said Barry Regula, senior vice president and general manager of Margaritaville Resort Casino Bossier City at the time of the Mobile Enrollment installation in late 2013. “These hand-held devices have made assisting our casino guests more convenient. The speed in which we are able to process a request has allowed us to reduce transaction times, therefore putting the guest into action quicker. We look forward to continuing to capitalize from the benefit of this product.”
In addition to finding more ways to drive revenue from existing customers, gaming resorts are also on the lookout for ways to cut operational costs throughout the facility. Electricity and energy management is one such area, and Atlanta, Ga.-based Innovoltoffers a potential solution. The company’s Intelligent Electronics Management (IEM) platform combines patented protection technology with comprehensive monitoring and analytics software to help companies safeguard and optimize the performance, productivity, and usable life of the electronics that power today’s digital world. Through the remediation of power disturbances and a cloud-based dashboard and management console, customers achieve improved equipment uptime, lower repair costs and increased revenue.
As the first company to provide complete power protection and asset management software, Innovolt solves a host of unique problems that most businesses and consumers are not aware of but are paying for through shortened electronics lifespan and decreased product reliability, according to company press materials. Innovolt solutions help customers of every size guard expensive and sensitive technology, while giving businesses the tools they need to predict, measure, and maximize the performance of assets across the distributed enterprise.
Another company looking to help gaming operators derive more savings from electricity and electronics is SurgeX, a Knightdale, N.C.-based manufacturer of AC power conditioning and surge elimination products, offering a complete line of AC power solutions for protection, power conditioning, and control of sensitive electrical and electronic equipment designed to suit every application. This year, the company unveiled its Axess Manager and Axess Manager Mobile, new desktop and mobile apps designed to let users monitor power conditions and control power functions of multiple installations from a single location. The new apps automatically discover devices on a network and can manage them remotely through an intuitive user interface on a desktop PC or mobile device.
The recent legalization of online wagering in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware has led to an explosion of new and emerging businesses offering technology and services designed to ease the brick-and-mortar gaming resort transition to an online world. Some companies and products to note include:
• Founded in 2012, Reno, Nev.-based Spin Gamesdesigns and develops premium and customized gaming content and smart solution technology for the online, interactive and land-based markets. On the technology front, the company has generated interest with its Robust Online Client (ROC), a remote gaming server (RGS) and a for-wager game content delivery system designed to streamline the delivery of for-wager gaming content for the interactive market. According to company literature, ROC is a content delivery system built for today’s interactive gaming markets using the latest state-of-the-art technology, featuring a development console that supports the ability to use HTML5 game engines. Offering a broad range of game content, the ROC delivers content on multiple platforms including IOS and Android as well as desktop applications, and has been approved for use in New Jersey.
Spin Games is also making a big play to become a leading provider of online game content. At G2E this year, the company exhibited over 30 new interactive slot titles made up of 40 to 100 lines, 243 ways to win, multi-level progressives and new IP protected concepts, all playable on mobile devices and multiple platforms. Spin Games also debuted new online game technologies such as Multi-Player Interactive Gaming (MIG) and 3D Gaming Technology (ML3). An industry first, the MIG utilizes Kinect technology as well as proprietary Spin technology that allows players to use their own mobile devices to play community-based games for wager or social gaming. Spin’s ML3, Multi-Layered 3D, offers players a depth of field illusion on the screen in real time, enhancing their gaming experience. This is the first HTML5 3D slot game technology that can be used within a browser without having to install a special viewer or program.
“We are delighted to showcase our new technologies at this year’s G2E, along with a broad range of new and exciting HTML5 products that I think will again surprise the industry,” said Kent Young CEO of Spin Games. “This is another key year for us as we have made a footprint in the interactive market and have become a key player in HTML5 development and interactive gaming technology space.”
• Los Angeles, Calif.-based CAMS is a multi-tenant Software as a Service (SaaS) solution powered by Verifi, Inc., offering gambling operators the ability to collect and manage player information, comply with regulatory policies, manage player account limits, allow players to self-exclude, as well as manage geolocation, payouts and taxation all within a single, centralized white-label platform customizable for each site. VGambling an Antigua-based developer of real money wagering in second-generation social video game experiences, recently turned to CAMS to provide global electronic payment and risk management solutions.
• GameAccount Network, a London-based developer and supplier of enterprise-level B2B gaming software and online gaming content, launched its Simulated Gaming this year, an innovative Internet gaming service specifically designed for land-based U.S. casinos to launch in advance of prospective real-money Internet gaming regulation. Simulated Gaming offers a gaming-as-entertainment consumer website enabled with unique monetization features and a compelling portfolio of over 100 casino slot, table and skill-based games including poker, backgammon, gin rummy, poker dice and blackjack tournaments. Bensalem, Pa.-based Parx casino debuted Simulated Gaming this past July. “GameAccount has demonstrated its regulated gaming capability in New Jersey and the merits of Simulated Gaming when integrated with a casino management system,” said John Dixon, CTO of Greenwood Entertainment & Racing, the owners of Parx Casino. “By deploying their system on-property Parx Casino will have the opportunity to launch Simulated Gaming nationwide before year’s end and be well prepared in the event regulation of real-money Internet gaming emerges in the state of Pennsylvania.”
• Novamatic Group subsidiary Greentube, a leading platform and game developer for Internet-connected devices, unveiled Greentube Pro, a turn-key, private-label social casino marketing platform, this year. Designed to enhance player retention and boost new player acquisition for land-based casinos, Greentube Pro integrates proven loyalty strategies with the mass appeal of online and mobile play into a custom branded experience, according to company literature. The platform is fully customizable, allowing land-based casinos to choose from Novomatic’s vast library of respected games. Players experience the casinos brand anywhere they may be and on any Internet-enabled device they prefer. Greentube Pro was designed to engage with players after they leave the casino floor. Players are offered incentives to earn reward points by playing games on their computers, tablets and smartphones. They can then exchange points for various rewards including complimentary meals, hotel stays, tickets to events and more.
• New York, N.Y.-based High 5 Games continues to augment is VAULT remote game server, originally launched last year in New Jersey as part of Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s offerings in the state, and currently expanding to additional N.J. casinos in the near future. H5G is currently in the process of getting licensed in Europe to roll out VAULT products in European regulated markets by the end of the year. VAULT takes classic H5G content and offers it exclusively for real-money online wagering.
• Gamblit Gaming is a Glendale, Calif.-based technology provider of real-money gaming in video games, enabling a wide range of game genres to accommodate gambling experiences in online and on-site deployments worldwide. Gamblit’s platform provides all essential regulated technology, customer operations, and licenses; freeing up game developers, publishers, and casino operators to focus on making the best possible game experience for their players. This past year, Gamblit received GLI certification for its new Internet wagering platform, random number generator and first game for use in the United Kingdom. The company also was approved for a license to distribute and manufacture gaming devices by the Nevada Gaming Commission.
• PLAYSTUDIOS, the Burlingame, Calif.-based developer of engaging casual games for mobile and social platforms, scored a big hit with its free-to-play application, myVEGAS, which combines the best elements of popular social games with established gambling mechanics. Players enjoy an ever-growing collection of slot and table games, and the opportunity to earn an unprecedented selection of valuable, real-world rewards from leading hospitality, entertainment, and leisure brands. Currently, myVEGAS reward partners include MGM Resorts International, Wolfgang Puck, Cirque du Soleil, House of Blues, Sugar Factory and the Las Vegas Monorail, and the company is looking to expand its reward packages beyond Las Vegas and Nevada. PLAYSTUDIOS also recently partnered with Konami Gaming, a global leader in casino gaming and systems, establishing PLAYSTUDIO’s myVEGAS as a social and mobile channel for several Konami game titles.
• OpenWageris a San Francisco-based B2B social gaming developer and provider that delivers unparalleled branded casino-style entertainment to enjoy anywhere, anytime. Founded in 2013, the company develops, publishes and operates customizable social casino products for entertainment giants all around the world. Recently, USA TODAYused an OpenWager 3D Bingo game app as the launch product for its entry into casual games market.