Interblock: Oh, how the electronic tables have turned

September 19, 2023

John Connelly, Global CEO of Interblock, talks M&A, R&D and how he hopes the company's new product could one day go from Table Game of the Year to ‘table game of the decade.'

According to the American Gaming Association's revenue tracker, sports betting and online gaming have overtaken traditional table games. How do you feel electronic table games (ETGs) and their potential differs from traditional table games?

I don’t think this should be a surprise. Going back over 15 years, we used to run analysis as to the propensity of online players to play table games versus slots. What we found was that, with the demographic aged above 40, 90% were playing slots. With 35 years of age and under, over 95% were playing table games online.

Even as online gaming was proliferating across the world, online table games definitely seemed to resonate with a younger demographic. Now those players are getting older and there’s millions of new players coming online that are 35; I don’t think those statistics have changed very much. Seeing online table games grow, for a lot of people, was a foregone conclusion. As a result, you see some very successful, powerful online gaming companies focused on table games.

Interblock originated from something similar. We looked a more antiquated way of playing table games and built a company predicated on technology, innovation and automation. We started our company close to 30 years ago and the past seven years have been double-digit compounded annual growth.

I think even in the traditional gaming space, there was a demand that people didn’t realize for alternative forms of table games. Many people are intimidated to go up to a table game; I think that pushed a lot of people online. A lot of traditional casinos were losing that revenue.

Fast forward to today: you now have tens and tens of thousands of ETGs positioned around the world, doing incredibly well, because they’re catering to a different demographic than in years past. I think they realize now that it’s an increased profit center; much more efficient.

The next step is: how do you take what Interblock has been extremely successful at creating in the traditional gaming sector worldwide? Do we start to see the online and traditional gaming spaces come together in a in a more unified, best-practices fashion, cross-pollinating both the players and product offerings?

The answer is ‘yes.’ We are going to be launching into the online space, if not the end of this year, probably Q1 2024.

Who do you see playing Interblock games the most? And why do you think they resonate with that demographic?

We talk about it internally on a regular basis. When I joined Interblock in 2015,the industry was predominantly a mechanical roulette with no live dealers. Quite frankly, if you asked what an ETG was, the majority of the industry would say a mechanical roulette.

We didn’t really understand who played it, why they played it or where to put it on the floor. From then until now, we have learned that the table game segment of our business is very similar, demographically, to the slot business. You need dozens of offerings to cater to dozens of demographics.

Today, if you visit Interblock at G2E in Vegas, we will have over 30 different products and 60 different features designed for different demographics. When you go down the Las Vegas Strip and look at each product, you can really tell there’s a different demographic playing different product offerings. We’re actually launching a fourth product category in our company.

The first, standalone, is more or less mechanical or video ETGs without a dealer, where multiple players can sit in a social environment and play. The second category was the stadium concept, a more social environment, to attract new players onto the floor who have been in a casino for a show, or for the hotel stay or nightclubs, etc.

We have close to 200 stadiums installed now and it's climbing on a weekly basis. When you sit at a product, you generally are playing a single game (roulette, blackjack or craps), whereas in a stadium you can be playing craps and in the seat next to you, they’re playing roulette.

Then we came up with the third product category called the Universal Cabinet; I really wanted to give ETGs the ability to compete with a slot machine. Prior to the Universal Cabinet, it could take a minute for a single game, whereas slot machines go every six seconds.

A slot machine had a huge advantage in generating handle and decisions per hour. Universal Cabinet can also go six seconds, so that product has taken off as the fastest-growing area of the company. Finally, this year at G2E we will be launching the fourth product category, catering to yet another demographic.

Speaking of products and exhibitions, how was your Pick 2 Win Craps received at IGA?

It’s actually gotten a lot of attention. Full disclosure, we are rolling it out in the 60 days before the G2E show, and are very interested in seeing the player reception to that product. It’s unique; it’s incredibly innovative. The team’s done an amazing job and the feedback from the industry has been overwhelming.

A lot of people that I respect feel that, whether you like to play dice or not, it’s a relatively easy game to understand and it’s relatively unintimidating and very fun. We’ll be launching tournaments, which has been one of the most sought-after components the industry has been asking for. I think we have three new games coming on the Universal Cabinet segment.

Interblock’s Smart Pit won Table Game of the Year at the Global Gaming Awards Asia-Pacific.

What are your hopes for the products in North America as well?

Well, you’re kind of stealing my thunder, because that is the fourth category we’ll be launching. It really was fascinating to me; I was in Singapore for that. We’re going to have it on the Strip and in probably eight casinos, before G2E. We think it’s going to be the biggest demographic growth potential in the history of our organization. We won the Award on a concept that, quite frankly, only 25% of had been launched.

The craps product had been doing incredibly well, but the roulette, blackjack and baccarat components had not yet been launched. To win the Award before people have even seen it in totality was very motivating and exciting for our company; because if people were impressed with just what they knew at that point, we think it could be literally revolutionary. And this doesn’t just come from me, this comes from the largest operators in the world.

The analogy I use is, when you check in at the airport today versus 15 years ago, it’s very different. When you think about live table games in the next 5-10 years, it will change dramatically, because of what I call a ‘technology umbrella’ that we’re going to put over live table games to empower these dealers to be more efficient, give better customer service, attract both existing and new players and increase profitability for casinos.

You’ve also recently acquired Aruze’s table game assets. What about their games made you want to acquire them?

We’re always doing competitive gap analysis inside our company. I wouldn’t have admitted this before the acquisition, but when I looked around the world at innovation and who myself and my executive team felt was heading in the right direction, we considered Aruze a company to keep our eye on.

They had a roulette concept which I’ve always loved. I always wondered, why didn’t they place more of those? After buying the company, I’ve realized they just didn’t have the capital. The products seem to be so synergistic we couldn’t have asked for more; their Sic Bo product fits perfectly in with our Sic Bo categories; their roulette product fits in very nicely with our roulette portfolio.

It’s incredibly complimentary and rounds out our portfolio, and probably gives us close to 80% market share in North America – probably higher percentage in Asia-Pacific. It took us to a level where we can consider moving into online gaming, continuing to invest in R&D and innovating at even a faster rate.


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