Konami chairman tells Nevada regulators pandemic recovery complete; Caesars talks cybersecurity

June 5, 2024 9:05 PM
Photo: CDC Gaming Reports
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
June 5, 2024 9:05 PM

The chairman of the board of the Konami Group told Nevada regulators Wednesday that he’s confident the gaming industry has fully recovered from the pandemic. Caesars Entertainment’s chief information officer said the company is taking steps to prevent another cyberattack.

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Higashio Kimihiko has been president of the Japanese multinational Konami Group Corp. entertainment company since 2020. He appeared before the Nevada Gaming Control Board as part of the state’s licensing process. The Board recommended approval and that matter will go before the Nevada Gaming Commission later this month.

Kimihiko was last licensed by Nevada regulators in 2013. He doesn’t handle day-to-day operations in Nevada for the gaming manufacturer, which falls to COO Tom Jingoli.

“The industry has been impacted by the pandemic, but the market and industry have fully recovered,” Kimihiko said in Japanese through his interpreter.

In a question from Gaming Control Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick about what Nevada is trying to do to speed up getting gaming products on the floor, Kimihiko said he is aware and approves of this effort.

“Our governor challenged us speeding up entrepreneurs and companies like yours trying to get technology out to customers,” Hendrick said. “We’re putting a lot of effort, time, and government support behind it and certainly want to make sure the efforts are recognized by the industry.”

Board member George Assad called Kimihiko’s resumé impressive; he started with an MBA in engineering and has worked his way up through the company.

The Board also recommended approval for Rajendran Anbalagan for licensure as chief information and product transformation officer for Caesars Entertainment. He assumed the role 11 months ago, after previously working as senior vice president of digital and technology at Panera Bread.

A self-described computer geek, Anbalagan said he had no background in gaming before he assumed his role and relishes the opportunity.

Assad, who called Anbalagan qualified for the role, brought up the Caesars’s cyberattack last fall and reiterated that his responsibility is to familiarize himself with the state’s regulations on risk assessments, notification requirements to regulators, and record keeping.

Anbalagan said he’s been doing that and pointed out that Caesars has employed a lot of cybersecurity partners and is leveraging their expertise even more than in the past.

“We’re leveraging more and more of them and trying to see what more should continue to be done, because it’s a journey,” Anbalagan said. “The tactics and everything have changed and keeping ahead of everybody is the key. We brought in a new chief information security officer with plenty of experience in that space.”

The CISO reports to Anbalagan as CIO. He said there’s so much technology when it comes to cyber that it’s important to have those synergies to further strengthen against attacks. “We need to make sure security is given a top priority and that we mobilize all the resources of technology.”

Hendrick said the Gaming Control Board, whose computer system was also hacked in January, recently hired an information security officer to make sure it’s a 24-hour priority for the agency.

“It’s the ability to prevent fraud and hacking and do everything you’re talking about in a much smaller way,” Hendrick told Anbalagan. “The government understands that as well and is trying to protect our own systems. You have the CISO and CIO and everybody is thinking all the time of protecting everything that you do for customer and employee information. I’m glad you’re on top of it.”

Anbalagan also talked about his role with product transformation and how it serves employees and guests. Guests are coming to their properties to have a good time and it’s important that it has as little friction as possible by leveraging technology to enhance the experience.

“It’s great that you’re seeing things on the ground floor, so you can really understand what is happening at the company and bring about some transformative change,” Board member Brittnie Watkins said. “I look forward to seeing some of the changes you bring to the gaming industry.”

In a brief hearing, the Board also recommended approval for licensing of Siobhan Lane as executive vice president and group CEO of Gaming for Light & Wonder.