It’s been a challenging time for the gambling industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But for an industry that relies predominantly on the land-based sector, the pandemic has hit tribal gaming particularly hard. It is estimated that in the height of it, as many as 40% of the more than 600,000 that are employed in the tribal gaming sphere lost their jobs as a result. When you consider that figures from the American Gaming Association (AGA) estimated tribes paid more than $15bn to the US in compacts required as part of the Indian Gaming Regulation Act, then it’s clear to see the knock-on effect damage to the tribal sector will have on the rest of the US market.
Eclipse Gaming knows the Native America gaming market more than most, with a core focus on the tribal sector at the heart of the company’s ethos. The supplier develops products tailormade for the tribal industry, including casino gamesand innovative solutions for its casino, social and casual gaming partners. Lead designer at Eclipse Gaming Jimmy Kowalski speaks to Gaming America about the challenges faced by the tribal market and what there is to look forward to as we start to turn the corner.
Big challenges await tribal gaming
Unfortunately, tribal gaming has not been immune to the challenges we are all facing with the coronavirus. Virtually all Indian gaming facilities had to temporarily shutter their doors in an effort to protect the health and safety of the public and their employees.
Through these obstacles, however, tribal gaming has effectively and efficiently pivoted, and has truly channelled its focus on the recovery of its community and industry.
While the pandemic has tragically and unprecedently affected the gaming industry, this time period had given gaming operators the opportunity to step back from the day-to-day and truly focus on innovation. I think post-pandemic there will be an increase in never-before-seen game features and improved hardware designs.
Class II gaming continues to grow
Eclipse Gaming has had a long legacy of serving tribal communities and we are uniquely positioned as one of only a few suppliers dedicated to Class II gaming. We strive to develop deep relationships to our tribal partners to create games for a bigger purpose, to generate powerful results that benefit our partners and directly impact the needs and objectives of their communities. We understand the central role gaming plays to fund the housing, healthcare, education and general welfare of tribal members. That’s why we make sure to strategically align the right products with the right partners using data-driven strategies to create exceptional experiences for their unique players.
The Class II gaming market is not only strong but is in fact growing. There are many states, such as Alabama and Texas, which are Class II only and thriving, and other hybrid jurisdictions that consider Class II to be an important part of their roadmap. Also, with many compacts actively being negotiated and extended, strong-performing Class II products help to ensure tribal rights and sovereignty.
Tribal gaming, specifically in California, has had significant expansion in recent years. Casinos across the state have turned into destinations, attracting tourists and competing with the likes of Las Vegas. This pushes us as game designers to create Class II content that provides the exhilarating experience these players are looking for, while also standing out from the thousands of other games on the floor.
With significant improvements in technology, new Class II products have faster game play, improved graphic capabilities and more sophisticated math models, which provide new and unique experiences for the players. As a result, Class II products are highly competitive and perform on par with or even better than Class III products. Consequently, our games are an important part of hybrid floors and we see many tribal customers mixing in Class II games on their floors.