When you think of card games that could be associated with successful gaming entrepreneurs, what most likely comes to mind is poker, blackjack, baccarat or some other casino-based game.
But for Robert Hamman, founder, president and CEO of SCA Gaming, a Dallas, Texas-based provider of promotional solutions for the gaming industry, his card game of choice is something a little more esoteric—bridge.
“I played tournament chess when I was a kid and I got to be a pretty good player,” Hamman recalled. “One day I got a call from a friend asking if I wanted to get in on a game of bridge. With my chess background, I was pretty sure that if they tossed me a rule book, chances were by sundown I would be able to beat them at bridge… it did not turn out that way. That made me obsessed—I had to master bridge. That was the start of the long and checkered tale…”
Suffice to say Hamman became a very good bridge player—finishing second in his first World Championship participation in 1964, six and three quarters years after he started playing. Eventually, he went on the win the World Championship title a total of 14 times, holding the position as the number one ranked bridge player in the world 21 times. He has even penned a book: At the Table—My Life and Times, recounting his experiences as a professional bridge player, which has included playing in tournaments throughout the world and against such luminaries as the actor Omar Sharif, who was a renowned bridge player in his own right.
“I went on a seven-city tour with Omar Sharif in 1970, where part of the gig was that we had to put in some department store appearances, in which Omar was always the centerpiece for obvious reasons,” Hamman said. “The story I still tell people is that I couldn’t believe it when 3,000 women showed up to see me and Omar. That was truly an entertaining experience.”
Unfortunately, as Hamman discovered, while a person could make a living playing bridge professionally, it was hardly lucrative. He would need a full-time day job, and the field he ended up gravitating toward was insurance. But even in this occupation, he was able to apply the lessons learned from bridge and chess game theory.
“One of the most important lessons from bridge that you can apply to business is that you can’t get yourself distracted by a good or bad result that has happened in the recent past,” Hamman said. “You need to concentrate and plan for what is coming up next. If it was a mistake or bad result due to a bad decision, you need to be very clinical in your analysis… ask yourself what you would think of the decision if it was made by someone other than yourself. You need to check your ego at the gate, which is a very hard thing to do.”
An example of this mindset in action was the formation of SCA (Sports Contests of America) in 1986. Hamman had been working for a wholesale insurance business that was providing coverage for promotional events such as hole-in-one golf contests. Tasked with finding new businesses to cover, Hamman brought in a potential client with a contest that the company considered overly risky. “I communicated that we should take it, it was a good customer, the risk was not that great and it was not a big deal even if we had to pay off. But this was too traumatic for them, and it became clear that working together was not in the cards. But I liked what I saw, so I decided to go my own way, take this business, and that’s how SCA was born.”
According to Hamman, since SCA’s business revolved around the notion of risk and prizes, branching out into the gaming industry was a natural progression, and the casino-dedicated SCA Gaming was formed. The company had the fortune of falling in with Gordon Graves of Multimedia Games fame, which allowed it to get its foot firmly lodged in the casino industry door.
As a gambler himself, Hamman has always relished the chance to play the odds, and it is this unique prospective about what motivates people to take part in a promotion that offers the possibility of life-changing prizes has made a difference for casinos worldwide. This insight has allowed SCA Gaming to become a promotional one-stop shop for casinos and gaming manufacturers. Its end-to-end products range from on-floor promotions, to game shows and boards, to scratch cards, to digital kiosks for loyalty clubs. SCA Gaming also offers large prize coverage, secure game technology, sports promotions and a gamification platform to extend a customers’ marketing reach. It can help attract, acquire, engage, entertain, retain and reward audiences of all interests and demographics.
A list of company milestones includes:
- Paying out over $200,000,000 to its clients in prize coverage, which correlates to over 120,000 effective promotional events;
- The first $1 billion promotional prize in history;
- Supporting clients’ transition to digital and mobile promotions;
- A patent portfolio that includes random number generation for games of chance;
- Formation of unique relationships with the risk management community, providing SCA with capacity for the largest promotions;
- Multi-national scope to support promotions on six continents; and
- Setting industry standards for gaming industry promotions, contingent prize coverage, over-redemption coverage, and athlete incentives.
For all these and other reasons, Hamman is a worthy recipient of the prestigious Casino Marketing & Technology Lifetime Achievement Award at the 16th annual Casino Marketing & Technology Conference, which will take place later this month at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Hamman, who will receive the award at a luncheon on Wednesday, July 24, joins a distinguished list of casino executive recipients who include Jim Allen, Staci Columbo Alonso, Virginia McDowell, Lyle Berman, John Acres, Ginny Shanks, Bill Harrah and Phil Satre.
Hamman credits SCA Gaming clients as the inspiration for the products and services that continue to make the company a leader in the casino promotions marketplace. “A number of our new products over the years originated with our clients,” Hamman said. “They come to us with an idea, and often we can tweak it to create something that will economically work for both of us.”
Hamman also points toward the company’s employees as a reason for continued growth. “I think what also sets SCA Gaming apart is that we have a great team of designers and account managers who work closely with casino properties and gaming manufacturers to understand their promotional needs and target markets,” he said. “Our designers then take that information and use it to develop new products that not only meet our customers’ immediate needs, but take them to the next level of promotional engagement.”
As for what the future holds for SCA Gaming, Hamman said the company will continue to focus on technology solutions that help casino operators better market and meet the digital and mobile demands of modern customers.
As for Hamman himself, he plans on being at the helm of SCA for some time to come. “I am going to stay in the game as long as I can and play as well as I can…”