November 15, 2021 Interview, Conference

Roundtable: 2021 In Review - And Looking Ahead to 2022

By

Laura Olson-Reyes, American Gaming Systems, VP of marketing and corporate communications

Laura Olson-Reyes has over 20 years experience in gaming. In her role at AGS she oversees various marketing initiatives, external and internal communications, and community relations. Previously, she served three years as the executive director, community and corporate Relations for Scientific Games, where she had responsibilities for external and internal communications, executive visibility and thought leadership, and corporate social responsibility. AGS are a supplier and designer of electronic gaming machines, table products, and interactive gaming solutions.

 

Chad Hoehne, Table Trac, CEO, CTO, president, founder

Table Trac develops a suite of casino management solutions, providing modules for guest rewards, loyalty clubs, marketing analysis, guest services and accounting. Hoehne is responsible for leading the Company’s technology initiatives. He has a BS in Business Administration and Finance from Minnesota State University. Prior to founding Table Trac in 1995, he worked for a Minneapolis-based electronics and software company.

 

Caitlin Harte, Incredible Technologies, director of product marketing

Incredible Technologies is a casino gaming manufacturer with video slots live 33 US states. IT provides video slots for the Class II & Class III markets, for HHR partners and has titles available online for both social & RMG via its iGaming partners. The gaming division of the company is located in the Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills, IL with a secondary office in Las Vegas, NV.

 

Tracey Chernay, TransAct Technologies, SVP global casino and gaming

Chernay joined TransAct in 2005 as senior vice president, marketing, bringing in-depth understanding and extensive experience in global marketing strategies to TransAct as the company expanded international initiatives and implemented growth strategies across its entire business. In 2006, she was named senior vice president, sales & marketing for the point-of-sale and banking business. In 2007, Chernay moved to Las Vegas and assumed responsibility for product sales and marketing for the Casino and Gaming industry. Chernay was promoted to her current position in 2010.

 

John Connelly, Interblock Gaming, CEO

John Connelly has an extensive background within US and international markets. During the pandemic, he made health and safety a priority for his workforce while methodically ramping-up R&D efforts to better serve customers and offer solutions that have aided in bringing players back to the casino floor safely. Interblock is a developer of electronic table gaming products. The company was founded in 1989.

 

What is a key shift you have seen happen in the gaming industry in 2021?

Chad Hoehne: Cashless, cashless in all of its variations.

Laura Olson-Reyes: Companies are coming out of the pandemic a little bit leaner and more laser-focused than before. They are focusing on their core business. AGS and our competitors are ramping up R&D, focusing on recruiting outstanding talent. This is pushing innovation forward faster than usual.

Tracey Chernay: One trend I noticed was having fewer games on the casino floor and really focusing on product that is going to return on investment. The casinos put out the most popular games that are going to bring players back.

Caitlin Harte: From 2020 into 2021, a lot of gaming companies thought about how they could diversify their offerings. Online gaming became popular, and they diversified into new markets, including Class II and historical horse racing. It is good if it keeps companies innovating and reshaping themselves. Competition is healthy for all of us.

John Connelly: Proliferation of online wagering and sports betting.

 

Likewise, what is a prediction you have for gaming in 2022?

Chad Hoehne: I see cashless will encounter its challenges, both in technology and with regulators across the various markets. Casinos will be adding cashless as an option to existing funding methods for their games, not yet replacing current currency acceptance at the games.

Laura Olson-Reyes: Things are going to return to normal. Now that we have vaccines and lately a good treatment for Covid, we are going to see casinos start reinvesting in their floors. Casinos after the pandemic came back pretty quickly because players had been at home and wanted to get back. Investments were delayed because people were waiting to see how it went. In 2022 there will be more confidence than ever. Casinos floors really carried casinos – not the hotel part, not dining – so they will be looking to invest.

Tracey Chernay: I envision many more casinos are going to adopt automation technology, such as offering promotions to players. Interest in Epicentral is way up because casinos are operating with less staff, but they want to make players feel valued and want to come back. Combine that with some interest in cashless – a very hot trend right now. We see people taking the cashout ticket and scanning it back into their digital wallet at the end.

Caitlin Harte: At this year’s show there is a lot of new content, but not a lot of hardware. In 2022 I expect a lot of new hardware.

John Connelly: I see an increased level of sophistication in the gaming segment relative to floor management. There seems to be an overwhelming momentum to find additional methods by which to optimize casino floors through the utilization of technology and innovation. An example would be the industry is quickly migrating toward the methodology of offering traditional live table games at $25 or higher, while anything below that denomination driving player behavior toward automated, electronic technology. This position is predicated on the fact electronic table games have advanced to create greater player acceptance.

 

Can you briefly outline your strategy for next year?

Chad Hoehne: We have built up our marketing and sales efforts, along with ensuring our product pipeline is open to be able to reach record sales and installations in 2022.

Laura Olson-Reyes: Continue leveraging our existing hardware, content and slot cabinets. We are coming out with our next line of slot cabinets, but they won’t debut until 2023. Obviously this means continuing to build our team, our R&D department.

Tracey Chernay: We are focused on creating demand at the casino level for our product. We do that by explaining the benefits the Epic Edge has over any other printer in the market, including a higher-resolution printer that allows for a higher acceptance rate in bill validators, the best firmware, and standard serial and USB communication built in. That is key for manufacturers that are integrating printers. Pair that with the Epicentral, the two types of printers give a value-add to the casinos.

Caitlin Harte: For the past 6 months we have been looking to keep our Class III footprint strong while we expand into new markets, while we look into Class II, online gaming and HHR.

John Connelly: First and foremost, Interblock will continue to scale our company internally toward our core products to continue to meet increased customer demands and incremental placements we are seeing on a global basis. In addition, we will be aggressively exploring how to utilize our global infrastructure and product segment knowledge to bring greater revenue synergies to the organization.

 

How do you see 2022 going for both the online gaming market and the land-based one, respectively?

Chad Hoehne: Land-based gaming will continue to be strong and to grow, along with the demographic they serve.

Laura Olson-Reyes: 2022 will be a great year for both. New online gaming jurisdictions will continue to open up and attract people. The pandemic prompted people to try online gaming and they liked it, and then when casinos reopened people came back because they wanted the whole experience. People will continue to support both.

Tracey Chernay: Clearly there is a tremendous amount of interest in online gaming, but it is not an area we are active in. In land-based I see casinos upgrading technology, especially automated technology, and those trends will continue on into 2022.

Caitlin Harte: I think we are going to see more of an omni-channel approach for the two segments. Instead of putting out a new game in land-based, waiting to see if it does well, and then releasing it online, we will see simultaneous launches.

John Connelly: I see the stakes as never being higher for the traditional land-based segment. We need to quickly adapt as an industry to both monetize and protect future and current revenue streams. There is a tremendous amount of advantages we have as a land-based gaming industry, which is going to enable us to have significant strategic advantages as the online gaming business evolves. With that said, there is a window of opportunity with online that we need to capitalize on before it closes.

 

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