AGA’s Miller looks to grow industry

Oct 30, 2019 3:00 AM

Another year, another Global Gaming Expo show has come and gone. But not before nearly 400 exhibitors showed off the latest in slot machines, sports betting products, table games and even the latest in casino employee fashions to some 27,000 attendees.

The future of the $261 billion U.S. gaming industry was on display from International Gaming Technology’s multi-channel sports betting offering, to Konami Gaming showing off facial-recognition technology that replaces loyalty cards for casino patrons.

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Along with sports betting and new slot technologies, payments and digital currencies were also another big focus at this year’s four-day show.

“The state of the gaming industry has never been stronger, never been more popular with the public, and never offered more exciting technology and entertainment offerings,” said Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.

This was Miller’s first G2E as leader of the trade group that represents the U.S. casino industry.

Miller quickly changed the subject to sports betting, which is now live in 14 states, with five other states having enacted laws but have yet to launch legal wagering on professional and collegiate sports.

This year alone, seven million Americans plan to visit a sportsbook to bet on an NFL game, a 20 percent increase over last year, according to the AGA.

A Morgan Stanley report predicts Americans will place more than $216 billion in legal sports wagers by 2025. But most Americans who visit retail sportsbooks will find that for the most part they all look pretty much the same and face strong competition from a growing mobile sports betting business.

IGT is looking to create a niche in the sports betting industry by offering brick-and-mortar casinos a new and more private way to wager on games. Known as IGT’s CrystalBetting Terminal, the company says it is designed to offer a more seamless gambling experience for sports bettors.

The terminal, which was on display at G2E, is a more private option for gamblers, allowing them in private to make bets before a game starts and after it has started without needing to use a mobile app or leaving their seat to go to the window.

According to IGT, the CrystalBetting Terminal offers patrons a personal 27-inch touch screen that allows gamblers to place bets, create parlays and watch the games they want in real time.

The booths come with so-called privacy wings, partitions for increased confidentiality, and even a built-in USB charging port to keep a smartphone or tablet charged.

Currently, IGT has the terminals on a 90-day trial at Mississippi Choctaw Pearl River Resort’s Golden Moon and Silver Star casinos.

Gaming Labs International has certified the terminals, and IGT has received regulatory approval from the Mississippi Choctaw Gaming Commission. IGT notes the terminals are expected to appear in Las Vegas in the near future.

Not to be outdone, Konami Gaming used G2E to show off its facial-recognition technology that connects to exiting slot machines. Once installed on the machines, the technology simply looks at a gambler and knows who is playing, eliminating the need to insert their loyalty card. All a patron would notice is a forward-looking camera attached to the slot machine or table game.

Tashina Wortham, a Konami spokeswoman, said the idea was for casinos to be able to capture greater information on their guests, while giving customers a better experience by not needing a loyalty card.

In other words, a player’s face is their QR code allowing for a frictionless experience for the player who might have forgot to use their rewards card or lost it and has to stand in line to get another card.

“Your identity follows you through your casino experience,” Wortham said.

If that sounds like big brother watching everything you do in the casino, Wortham assured skeptics that there is an opt in and opt out function for consumers who do not want to participate.

The system isn’t installed yet. Wortham declined to discuss if Konami’s facial-recognition technology is being tested or needs to be approved by state gaming regulators before it’s rolled out in mass in casinos in the U.S.

“We are very close to bringing this live,” she said.

Miller, of the AGA, said the gaming industry was the “embodiment of the 21st century hospitality industry with cutting-edge technology and world-class entertainment.”

But, Miller said, casinos are one of the last cash-only businesses on earth, right down there with garage sales and flea markets. He said that casino patrons are used to paying with their iPhones or debit cards for virtually all other transactions.

Gambling on slot machines or table games without cash or paper tickets is already happening at a few commercial casinos in Las Vegas and Reno, as well as tribal casinos in northern California. But some industry advocates are concerned that wider acceptance of cashless gaming will only occur if casino suppliers and financial technology (fintech) companies can ease the concerns of state gaming regulators and problem gambling advocates over the easy access to a customer’s money.

At G2E, IGT, Scientific Games, Everi Holdings and Mazooma all demonstrated the latest in digital wallets or mobile payment applications.  

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