The coronavirus pandemic has brought changes to numerous industries and gaming is no exception. For instance, Marina Bogard, CEO of Playport Gaming, has told Gaming America the fact many people no longer wish to touch cash has actually been a boon for the company.
Bogard says even with a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, she does not believe “normal” will ever return to what it once was.
“The lottery and casino industries will continue to look at cashless solutions and digital mobile solutions,” Bogard tells us in an exclusive interview. “Everyone is looking for additional sources of revenue as well as to offer new, safe, touchless, mobile solutions that players are demanding. The pandemic is putting digital solutions in conversation more so than at any other time over the last several years in the US.”
To meet these changing priorities, Bogard says Playport offers a touchless mobile solution for the purchase and redemption of instant win tickets, allowing purchase with loyalty points and integrating into an eWallet solution – enhancing the player experience and adding additional revenue opportunities to both tribal casinos and lotteries. The company brands its offerings as “Games-2-Go.” Bogard says the solution is regulatory compliant as the purchase and redemption take place at the establishment, whereas the gameplay and reveal can be done anywhere.
“We have digitized the instant win gameplay process,” she explains, adding it is a white-label app that carries the name of the establishment. “Our content includes various entertainment reveal and slot-type play that is similar to a scratch-off lottery ticket.”
Players visit a casino to register and verify their age. Once signed up, they download an app onto their mobile device. If the company has an app Playport can support it, or Playport can build an app to suit. Players put games into their shopping cart, scan a barcode and then play the game on their device wherever they want.
“The players can reveal the winner of various games, and then go back to the establishment to collect – where they can either redeem their winnings or purchase new games,” Bogard says. “We have the ability to integrate with a third-party e-wallet provider and we follow state regulatory requirements.”
Many technology companies received a boost from coronavirus shutdowns that left people stuck at home and searching for entertainment. Many of Playport’s clients are tribal casinos, which – like so many businesses – were shuttered.
Bogard states: “Until we get things under control with the virus, it will be a fluid environment for casinos and other retail businesses. Some of our clients shut down, then opened, then had to shut down again.”
Because of the nature of Playport’s business, Bogard expects it to be able to thrive even in these uncertain times. Players can drive up to a casino’s valet or convenience store window, for example, scan and purchase a game without having to so much as roll down their window. They then can reveal the outcome of those games anywhere.
“It is similar to curbside pickup at a restaurant or retail store,” she adds. “So if a casino or lottery retailer is shut down, they can still communicate with players and keep them interested, generate revenue; and players can continue to engage with their favorite casinos or lottery retailers and play games with real money winnings.”
Playport mostly works with tribal casinos because their game outcomes are generated through a Class II bingo-math-engine. The tribes are looking for opportunities to introduce on-premise Class II mobile gaming that is regulatory compliant and easy to install, Bogard explains. “We can deliver these solutions today, and easily integrate to the casino’s back end system provider to also allow the casino to take advantage of marketing and loyalty programs.”
The lottery market uses random number generators but the game experience is similar, according to Bogard. For example, at a convenience store people can purchase individual instant win digital games at the Point of Sale, so the store does not have to keep paper tickets on inventory or reduce their paper inventory. The player would come back to the establishment to redeem their winnings. Playport’s solution drives players back to the casino or lottery retailer with added revenue opportunity.
“We have had an increased interest in our touchless platform and much of this is in states that do not yet allow internet gaming. This allows players to get used to playing games on their mobile devices for real-money, while looking forward to the day other states allow internet gambling – even if that is years away.”
Biggest accomplishment of 2020
Asked what Playport’s biggest accomplishment has been in 2020, Bogard says she was proud to be nominated for the Digital Product of the Year Award at the Global Gaming Awards, powered by Gambling Insider and Gaming America.
“We are an early stage company and were recognized with global industry leaders. That was a proud accomplishment for our organization,” she explains. “In addition, we listened to the needs and requirements of our customers and have rolled out additional features, and functionality that allow for new game content experiences and payment options.
As for what did not work well this year, that will be applied to the business going forward, Bogard says the COVID-19 pandemic really emphasized the work-at-home environment. She says many businesses now realize they do not need as much office space as they traditionally have had.
“Our organization has been remote from the beginning, so our productivity was not impacted,” she declares. “Going forward, I think people are going to find a middle ground – not going back to the office 100%, not working at home 100%.”
The most difficult part of building connections with customers when everyone is working remotely is building relationships, Bogard asserts. She says using a video call versus a voice call is “hugely important”for building connections.
“If we can’t travel due to the pandemic, we use live video presentations as much as possible. If you can’t be there in person, video at least gives you an eyeball-to-eyeball connection.”