Patriotic defence or nationalistic attack

Traditionalists moving with the times

R.Franco strategic focus shifts with Codere sale

Case Study: The Gala gaming platform

Anti-competitive and unhelpful

Hot Shot Progressive is  a thrilling performer in US

Fresh Zest

Right Result

Merit strengthening role in Italian games market

Cyberview signs major Italian systems contract

Aristocrat purchases EssNet

Russia redux

Nothing but blue skies….

Progressive wired into Macau

Bingo falling through the gaps in Italian legislation

EELEX set to deliver new products and surprises

Greek games oddity nears end

Market LED

Paralles with consumer World

 

 

TRADITIONALISTS MOVING WITH THE TIMES

Spanish slot machine manufacturing giant R. Franco may be viewed by many as an archetypal traditional slot machine manufacturer. 

Still a family-run business, the Franco brothers, Jesus and Joaquin, recently celebrated 40 years of having guided the company they founded to the position of being an international conglomerate.  In addition to being a huge presence in their home market, across all gaming machine disciplines, R Franco enjoys rich business in global markets, especially those of Central and South America, where language is no barrier. Having built success on such firm traditional foundations, some might assume that any radical changes to the core business model of the industry would be viewed with skepticism, or even as a threat.  Not so, according to Marketing Manager Alicia de Benito, who believes that long-term and continued success is dependant upon flexibility and the ability to move with the times.  “The trend of moving away from the traditional casino and towards the new casino of the future began as a result of the development of new technology, but also because of changing preferences amongst a new generation of players. 

Whilst we believe that the traditional type of casino will always have its place, although may be not as large as today, there will still be a certain type of players who enjoy a certain type of ambience, with an established traditional structure and routine.  At the same time, we will see growth in the area of multi-disciplined resort casinos, aimed at a wider family experience, and this may include electronic casinos. Another exciting possibility might be the ability, through the Internet, for players to remotely play within a live casino by being connected, for example, to the Casino de Madrid.”  In this scenario, according to R Franco, a ‘double channel’ could directly connect the player to the casino and at the same time a regulatory body or trade association, there by providing security and control to both operator and pokerplayer.

DIVEN BY TECHNOLOGICAL EXCELLENCE

Returning  to the comparatively ‘new kids on the block’, with their fresh approach that comes from starting something new absolutely from scratch, it is probably difficult to imagine an international gaming supplier that is further removed from the ‘old guard’ than Octavian International.  This is a company that totally embodies almost all that is new and exciting within the industry.

  Driven by technological excellence, Octavian is one of the world’s most innovative, experience and flexible developers of gaming systems and software solutions.  In casinos, arcades and AWP environments worldwide, their creative games and state of the art systems and solutions reduce costs, drive revenue growth and enrich the playing experience.  Octavian’s is a high-tech product range that includes games, gaming systems, electronic roulette, jackpot systems, multi-player systems, the ACP (Accounting, Control and Progressives) slot management system with integrated player tracking and loyalty facility and OctaWeb, their casino website solution.  Most pertinent to this particular ‘Blue Sky’ debate is the development of the portfolio of Dream Games, which includes video slots, casinos table games, video poker, bingo and keno.  Game updates are provided to terminals by simply updating the Flash module.  This is downloadable gaming in action, today, and issues such as customization of game logic and business rules according to local jurisdictions and needs are already being quickly addressed in the real world scenario.

ENHANCEMENT  NOT REPLACEMENT

Yuri Larichev is CEO of Unicum, Russia’s premier gaming organization in terms of equipment manufacture and supply.  Unlike the oldest of gaming markets, such as the UK, France or even the US, Russian political history has meant that this massive market has come a long way in very short time.  It has in fact come a very long way, exceptionally quickly and has been the most sought after market by western suppliers for several years.  But, as Mr. Larichev explains, Russia is not like most other European markets.  

It is not only casino gaming that is comparatively new, but the whole concept of capitalism, disposable income and leisure time is still something of a novelty to tens of millions of Russians.  Before these players can even begin to contemplate what some kind of utopian future might hold, they have to go through the stage of appreciating much of what we in the west have enjoyed for decades.  “it is important to understand that gaming in Russia is very different to gaming in Western Europe or in the US,” says Mr Larichev.  “In style, it is more similar to activity in Australia.  In Russia, players tend to go to casinos with one single intention in mind, to gamble.  Also the vast majority of threes players live locally to the casino in which they gamble.  This is the situations as it is today there is not a single casino in Russia that was not constructed and opened primarily to operate as a gambling venue.  However, if a new Russian Gaming Law were to separate casinos from arcades, then we might see our casinos moving towards a more western –styled model.”  As in any market, it is important to understand the psychology of the target audience. “Many Russian players actually feel uncomfortable in casinos with rich, luxurious interiors,” observes Mr Larichev.  But in terms of products, even the Russians seem unable to avoid the fact that technology is driving development every bit as much as it is throughout the world.  “Games will be played simultaneously by many players in many locations, with success depending on steps taken during game play.  Both modern hardware and Russian legislation provide many opportunities for these ideas.  At present, all developers and manufacturers are experimenting with ideas, but all gaming technology is moving towards networked gaming.  However, international developers should never forget that all markets are not the same and preferences will always differ from one market to another.  For example, US slots do not perform particularly well in Russia, and vice versa.”

THE FOUNDATIONS ARE IN PLACE

In one of his former lives, Unidesa’s Director of Communications David Orrick had to be totally on the money when it came to knowing what was coming next.  As the navigator and co-driver of the European Championship winning Peugeot 205 rally car, David had to have the keenest awareness of that which lay ahead  and the ability to communicate his conclusions clearly and immediately.  His ‘boss’ at the time was Jean Todt, who as everybody knows went on to guide the Ferrari Formula One team and one Michael Schumacher, a man who it is safe to assume knows when his boys are up to the job.  Who better then to ask to sum up what lies around the next curve in the road? Or even the one after that?  “In many respects, the so-called ‘casino of the future’ has already arrived, or at least it has made it as far as the drawing boards o the monolithic operating groups that increasingly control how emerging and developing markets shape up,” summarizes Mr. Orrikc.  “One of the key factors of the past 20 years has been the re-invention (not for the first time)  of Las Vegas and how the experience that has been gained in that ‘home’ of casino gambling has become a valuable export commodity as a business model for those areas of the world that are keen to pursue resort destination gaming.”

      As we all know, the Las Vegas of the 1990’s flirted for some years with the concept of becoming a ‘family’ holiday resort.  Who can ever forget all those theme parks and Disney-esque attraction resorts on or immediately adjacent to The Strip…?  That particular avenue of pleasure was closed because it failed, or at least failed to provide levels of income that could get close to the core business of casino gaming.  According to David Orrick, this failure was due to nothing more subtle or sophisticated than a simple mis-reading of what the true market wanted. 
      “The casino gaming lifestyle provides temporary relief and respite from exactly the family-value environment that typifies normal US or western society.”  This is presumably why gaming locations, and most typically Las Vegas, are such perfect ‘adult short-break’ destinations.  Vegas is not a place to go for your two-week annual vacations with the family, and it never has been.  In hindsight, the attempt to turn it into such was a mistake.  The valuable real estate used to house these ‘family’ attractions thus eventually gave way to extensions to the core casino proposition.

      As Mr Orrick sums up, “Today, this adult short-break (and conference and exhibition) model remains the inspiration for casino developers in all of the gaming ‘hot spots’ around the world.  In Britain, we continue to flirt around the edges of our first ‘regional casino’ in order that we can break ground for other similar developments once the politicians recover from their recent attack of conscience.  And as we have seen earlier, the tiny Asian enclave designated a Special Administrative Region by China is set to be transformed into a multi-billion dollar casino investment area.”  So the foundations for the future are clearly in place.  But in terms of operations , David Orrick believes that these new generation casinos will be different from those of recent times, and even those to today.
      “The two key historical elements of any gaming floor, slot machines and live games, now have a viable bridge in the electronic multi-player game genre.  The disparity between table games and slots has, broadly speaking, stabilized with slots in the majority.  But, there does need to be a link between the core gaming offers which can effectively add to the gaming experience and so allow socially orientated players from both disciplines to meet on equal terms.  Multi-player games provide this link.”
      Multi-players first rose to prominence in amusement arcades, gaming salons and electronic casinos.   However, there appeal has now spread to more traditional casino establishment; those that already offer live gaming.  Roulette provided the first line of attack for multi-players, both as stand alone games and as electronic games linked to a live wheel and a dealer.  But this products range as now broadened, and now includes virtual horse and greyhound racing, bingo, Sic Bo, Pai Gow and blackjack variants.  Due to their highly impressive video graphic presentation, these become a cost effective focal point for the gaming floor.  “Do you remember how slot machines developed exponentially through the 1990’s?  I expect multi-players to repeat this trick over the next five to 10 years, inevitably capturing a far greater share of gaming floor space as they do so,” concluded Mr. Orrick.

THE PRIZES ARE THERE TO BE WON

In summary, the current situation in the gaming market, both in terms of operations and equipment supply, resembles the early stages of an Olympic 5,000m Final.  Everybody involved has completed their schedule of preparations and although they are all still pretty much grouped together, the leading protagonists are jostling for position and considering their strategy for the vital next stages of the contest.  Whether any of them will burst out of this group, and race away from the remainder of the field, is difficult to forecast.  Maybe everyone will decide to pace themselves, conserve resources, watch each other closely and then make a sprint for the line.  But one thing is for certain, it will be a fascinating contest to observe and, as the 5,000m always proves, it may seem as if we are in for a long race, but it will be over sooner than we think. 

And there will be both winners and losers.  But nobody should be discouraged, antagonistic or fearful.  Evolution is how the world works and creativity and innovation are how we all stay ahead of the game.  This climate of change is not a threat, it is an opportunity.  It is a most exciting time for many years.  And as an observer, I can but hope that watching this scenario unfold will be the same as watching the final table at the World Series of Poker, when we always hope that fortune favours the brave, because they deserve it to. Nobody who has contributed to this articles has been downbeat or negative.  It is a testament to the buoyancy of this business that it is filled with such creative and determined people.  Apparently, in show business, it is always good to send your audience home with a song.  So here’s my exit tune.  According to the Electric Light Orchestra song featured on the soundtrack of the movie “Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind,  “The sun is shining in the sky, there’s not a cloud in sight… Mr Blue Sky’s up there waiting, today’s the day we’ve waited for…

 

 

 

 

 
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