Gaming companies to watch in 2020
For the past nine years, the editors of Casino Journal have reserved space in the December issue for companies within the gaming industry that—through recent product introductions, improved performance, better strategy, key placements and a host of other reasons—have “emerged” from the vendor pack, making them deserving of notice and continued observation going forward.
Often, these emerging companies consist of nascent businesses that are relative newcomers to the gaming space and largely unknown to the operator community, which is the case with some of the companies profiled below. But some of the entities profiled here are long-established enterprises that bear mention because of noteworthy technical and strategic evolution, or because changing market conditions have given their offerings added gravitas and an economic boost.
So please read on to discover the new and established gaming vendors that have surged over the past year and look to continue forward momentum into 2020.
Facial recognition technology is becoming commonplace across a variety of customer-centric experiences, including casinos. Cognitec, a Germany-based developer of market-leading face recognition technologies and applications for enterprise and government customers around the world, has years of experience in this field and continues to evolve its product portfolio that includes facial image database search, recorded video investigation, real-time video screening and people analytics, border control, ICAO compliant photo capturing and facial image quality assessment.
The company believes its latest enhancements will dramatically improve the operation of casino departments that still rely on manual processes and human judgement to keep people on banned person and watch lists from infiltrating the property. Cognitec’s FaceVACS-VideoScan enterprise solution delivers intelligent technology with industry-leading match speed, sending watch list alarms to designated casino personnel within seconds. In addition to watch list notifications, gaming operators can use the system to notify staff when VIPs and valued customers come through the door, identify problem gamblers in self-exclusion programs, and perform initial age checks to spot underage visitors, according to press materials.
But the FaceVACS-VideoScan software alone won’t produce optimal results, Cognitec warns. Equally important to a successful facial recognition solution are the choice of cameras, how the cameras are positioned and tuned, the server, VMS integration, configuration, training, deploying and supporting the system. Making these elements work together requires a face recognition company with a proven track record in the gaming and entertainment industry such as Cognitec, which can do everything from system design to hardware and software setup, with an annual subscription covering licensing and services.
The company’s suite of facial recognition services help operators create a safe environment for customers and staff while helping the property become more profitable, making Cognitec worthy of inclusion on our 2020 emerging companies list.
Today, with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, casinos and other businesses are finding new ways to manage and leverage insights from the enormous glut of data. DataRobot was founded on the belief that there wouldn’t be enough data scientists to meet the demand for AI and machine learning and that it was possible to teach machines to do much of the work for a data scientist.
Automated machine learning is the key to faster, more accurate predictions that unlock the potential of data in any industry. DataRobot’s Automated Machine Learning Platform enables casinos and gaming companies to leverage AI in ways that previously weren’t possible, according to press materials.
The platform puts the power of machine learning into the hands of any business user, automating the data science workflow and offering pre-packaged expertise that enables users to build and deploy the most accurate predictive models in minutes. The use cases are endless: DataRobot can help casinos predict future player club behavior; determine which offer will lead to the maximum play by the recipient; identify risk when issuing credit; and identify suspicious behavior to stop money laundering or cheating.
In the gaming industry, casinos’ have massive amounts of information on their players’ behavior. Casinos need to be able to rapidly take this information and turn it into insights and decisions on who to market to, interact with and incentivize. DataRobot empowers the casino’s staff to combine the data they have with the power of modern machine learning and AI to rapidly deliver predictions on all aspects of the business to stay ahead of the competition.
A decade ago, it was believed that the Class II gaming space was on its way to insignificance; that Class III gaming devices were ascendant and would eventually swallow up the market. This has not come to pass, and the Class II tribal gaming marketplace is surviving and thriving, much to the benefit of Class II gaming suppliers such as Duluth, Ga.-based Eclipse Gaming.
To better capitalize on this Class II gaming opportunity, Eclipse has recently undergone a drastic change in leadership structure, which it started in late 2018 by naming Tim Minard CEO of the company. In turn, Minard has brought on Orrin J. Edidin to take over as president and chief business officer. Minard also hired Steven Slotwinski to the post of chief technology officer.
With this team in place, Eclipse went about refreshing Class II slot machine offerings, which include top performing games, local, mystery and multilevel progressives, and slot management systems. The fruits of this labor were unveiled at this year’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in the form of two new cabinets – the Impact 43 and the Impact 27. The Impact 43 features an upright cabinet with a 43-inch portrait monitor, while the Impact 27 contains three 27-inch screens.
“We are introducing 10 new game titles for this machines this year and have 20 more in the pipeline,” Edidin said. “These cabinets are well-built, solid and reliable, and will help operators differentiate their slot floors.”
GAMING INNOVATION GROUP (GiG)
Thanks to the recent repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), numerous jurisdictions across the U.S. are legalizing sports wagering, leading to more development of both land-based and online sportsbook facilities. This increased trade has been a windfall for companies such as Malta-based Gaming Innovation Group (GiG), which offers operators a fully-hosted and managed online sports wagering solution.
GiG has struck a partnership with Hard Rock International, and has announced it will help Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City launch online and mobile sports betting in Iowa. Hard Rock will offer a similar seamless and engaging betting experience for its consumers as it has already delivered in New Jersey, with an omni-channel sportsbook solution based on GiG’s modern and flexible technology, according to a press release.
For GiG, this means the company will be able to leverage its platform in the U.S. adding more scale to its network and revenues to the business. GiG already has the groundwork done in New Jersey after a successful proof of concept suitable and relevant to the American audience.
Iowa is one of the 12 states in the U.S. legalizing sports wagering since PASPA. In August this year, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) authorized the 19 casinos in the state to offer statewide retail, online and mobile sports betting to consumers aged 21 or over. Iowa has approximately 3.2 million inhabitants and should also benefit with visitors from neighboring states such as Nebraska and Minnesota. It has an estimated mature sports betting market valued at revenues of around $160 million based on the total amount of money wagered by consumers.
“After a successful launch in New Jersey, I am delighted to further deepen the relationship with Hard Rock, delivering on our strategy to grow with our partner by entering a new state in the U.S. with our sportsbook,” said Richard Brown, acting CEO for GiG. “The agreement is both a testament to our know-how and prowess to lead a land-based casino into the digital world of betting, and a strong validation of GiG’s commercial and product delivery capabilities. We are looking forward to growing with our partner long term.”
The rapidly expanding U.S. sports wagering scene continues to attract Europe-based suppliers, some of which are already making a significant impact on the marketplace. One such newcomer is IMG ARENA, a leading sports betting service and content hub.
Earlier this year, The PGA TOUR and IMG ARENA expanded their multi-year agreement to allow for the distribution of The PGA TOUR’s official scoring data to betting operators within North America. In 2018, IMG ARENA was appointed as the PGA TOUR’s official data distributor for media and betting purposes across all events on the flagship PGA TOUR schedule. The expanded relationship includes betting sector exclusivity for the delivery of live, shot-by-shot match and event data to global operators.
This deal paid immediate dividends for IMG ARENA, with golf becoming the centerpiece of its partnership arrangement with SG Digital. Under this deal, SG Digital’s OpenSports platform will offer access to IMG ARENA’s state-of-the-art Golf Event Center starting in 2020. The Golf Event Center will deliver fans and sports betting operators fast and comprehensive shot-by-shot data, live streaming and interactive course visualizations from both the PGA TOUR and European Tour. It is designed to revolutionize betting on the sport by opening more markets and truly enabling in-play betting, according to press materials. SG Digital will also take IMG ARENA’s golf trading feed—its first odds property—as part of a wide-ranging deal that includes IMG ARENA’s virtual sports portfolio and best-in-class tennis and badminton data services.
Capping the year for IMG ARENA was an announcement at G2E that the company has entered a partnership with the UFC mixed martial arts organization and will launch UFC Event Center, a ground-breaking sports betting product that will provide a host of new opportunities for live betting during each fight of every UFC event. Both the UFC Event Center and UFC’s official data feed will be made available globally through licensed partnerships with sportsbooks and gaming operators, including IMG ARENA’s existing portfolio of more than 300 operators.
“The UFC brand is extremely powerful and already resonates strongly with the key demographics of global sports betting consumers,” said Freddie Longe, executive vice president and managing director of IMG ARENA. “Through this partnership with UFC, we have been able to develop official products that will help unlock significant value for both UFC and our global sports betting partners.”
It’s no secret that gaming operators would like to convert Millennials to land-based casino resort patrons. To accomplish this, some forward-thinking properties are starting to integrate skill-based slot machines—wagering games that feature arcade/video game-like elements of skill into the play experience—into the casino floor game mix.
One skill-based slot provider that notably rode this wave of interest over the past year was Las Vegas-based Synergy Blue, a producer of arcade-style, skill-influenced games built on the company’s hybrid arcade wager-based gaming (HAWG) solution. This allows the company to blend regulatory-compliant, skill-influenced, Class II and Class III gambling with the uninterrupted entertainment of arcade and mobile style play, providing unique entertainment offerings for a younger demographic, according to press materials.
Earlier this year, Synergy Blue announced that it has been officially approved for statewide rollout in Nevada and will go through field trial phases at two Stations Casinos properties—The Palms and Red Rocks Casinos. The trial will debut a variety of Synergy Blue games to the Las Vegas market via an initial placement of real-money, arcade gambling machines.
“We’re very excited to introduce our games to the Las Vegas market and to be working with Stations Casinos,” said Georg Washington, CEO of Synergy Blue. “This agreement marks a key milestone for our company and the Las Vegas market, as we work together to progress the industry with engaging new experiences.”
More recently, Synergy Blue reported an agreement with Caesars Entertainment, placing their games at The Linq in Las Vegas, where they will go through field trial phases. The agreement places multiple Synergy Blue gaming cabinets on the floor of The Linq, including both single title and multi-game configurations.
“We strive to exceed expectations and provide today’s casino guests with new, entertaining, technology-driven experiences,” said Paul Breci, regional vice president of gaming for Caesars Entertainment. “Caesars has been looking for companies like Synergy Blue, who are creating new and different gaming experiences for our guests and we’re excited to offer their games at The Linq.”
Golden Race also displayed a unique suite of virtual sports and betting solutions specially prepared for the North American market. These included Virtual Football and Virtual Sports, the company’s top revenue-generating solutions that combine the latest in 3D visualisation with an extensive betting offering. Golden race also announced they were developing anew game based on American football that will feature new coverage, real athletes, professional voice-over and the latest odds from professional in-house bookmakers.