The emergence of igaming bred fears that it would cannibalize brick-and-mortar casinos. Especially during the pandemic, operators worried some players wouldn’t return to physical casinos if they got comfortable playing at home.
That hasn’t happened. Reasons include the fact that igaming is legal in only six states, along with a natural desire by many for other amenities offered by land-based operations.
But during the May 11 SBC Summit North America session “Omnichannel & Igaming: How Marketing Can Add True Value When Your Audience are Tech-Savvy?,” panelists noted there are still issues, especially for smaller operations.
Firekeepers Casino Hotel Vice President of Marketing & Sports/Online Gaming Jim Wise said his Michigan operation doesn’t have a natural integration between its platforms.
“It certainly is a barrier for us for growth,” Wise said, “but we can’t surrender that as well. We don’t have a natural integration that says Tom is a $200 ADT (average daily theoretical) with X number of trips to the casino, but he also plays X amount in sports. We could pull it separately, but it doesn’t blend all together. It’s a little trickier to create point earnings and things like that and I still think that’s one of the evolutions that’s happening, to get the brick-and-mortar tracking systems to integrate with the igaming systems.”
Another issue faced by smaller operators is storing data. Everi EVP Digital & Strategy Tim Richards said it can be challenging to tie together operations that are cloud-based versus those stored on the premises, not to mention how to secure that data.
“There are a lot of challenges beyond that integration to ensure it’s happening right,” Richards said, “and how to coordinate it. That sounds like it’s an insignificant effort. I don’t think it’s exactly high tech. But there are certainly a lot of things to think about when you go through that with your vendor.”
Integration is not only dependent on systems. Bobby Soper, CEO of Sun Gaming, said customers also need to be kept abreast of how such features as players awards are affected by the integration of igaming and land-based gaming.
“While the points mean the same, have the same monetary value, and are redeemed on property even if they’re earned from a mobile device off property, there’s a different calculation that’s commensurable with tax rates and other variables that change,” Soper said. “Players have to learn, especially cross-players, land based and online, what those adjustment are. Naturally, that requires a little education and sometimes it’s a bit of a challenge.”
While the panelists agreed that igaming can complement gaming at brick-and-mortar casinos, it can also open up new avenues for operators. Seth Schorr, CEO for Fifth Street Gaming, said he spent about 10 years trying to introduce esports wagering and skill-based gaming in Nevada through land operations.
“Which, in hindsight, was a mistake in Nevada,” Schorr admitted. “We don’t have igaming. But I do believe more innovative unique styles of betting can be introduced online for a lot of reasons. It’s a lot cheaper introducing a game online and trying to create a skill-based slot machine and it’s much easier to target our customers. It’s very hard to target a customer in a land-based casino.
“But online there are certainly clearer ways to do that. And once we capture that guest online, bringing them back to our property is the second piece. We all know creating that 360-degree experience is the ideal one for the operators.”