Dispatches on ICE North America 2019: From the Publisher By Jeffrey Compton, CDC Gaming Reports May 15, 2019 at 12:15 pm Entries: May 15, 2019 – Industry Experts address the industry’s need to adapt and adopt technology to attract tomorrow’s players May 14, 2019 – Answering the eSports question – from someone who should know May 14, 2019 – Legal vs. Illegal Sports Betting in the U.S. May 13, 2019 – Welcome! May 15, 2019 – Industry Experts address the industry’s need to adapt and adopt technology to attract tomorrow’s playersBOSTON – The Millennials are coming – hopefully. Followed, with any luck, by the Gen-Zs, which are apparently those born after 1996 (give me a break, I just learned that term.) The real question is what they are coming to: the casino or the Integrated Resort (IR). On Wednesday morning at ICE North America, five industry specialists joined Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine, to discuss “Adapting technology to reinvent the IR experience.” In other words, how can the gaming industry use the same advances in technology that are changing the entertainment habits of customers to get that customer off the couch and onto the property. Sun Gaming & Hospitality CEO Bobby Soper began the discussion, saying that the industry has to address new technology – including on-line gaming, which is coming to the US eventually. The traditional casino model with its rows and rows of machines is going to have to give some ground to other entertainment experiences. Ryan Carrier, Director of Casino Resorts for Agilysys, discussed how technology, including predictive analytics, will collect more and more information on where how and why customers spend their money while at the IR. Walt Fales, the SVP of Strategic Development at Caesars Entertainment, is currently overseeing the design of new sports books at many of Caesars’ 40 properties that will give new and traditional sports betting customers a variety of options, including TV control, an emphasis on more of a social atmosphere, and even providing a “man-cave” setting for groups. Oliver Akinrele, Deputy Director of Platform Solutions at Panasonic, stressed that the key factor with technologies is to stress personalization over automation. And the entire panel spoke vigorously about how much customer education and involvement are the keys to technological evolution. We do not know how exactly how online apps, kiosks and human beings will exactly fit into the puzzle over the next then years, but we have to make sure we bring along all customers. So how does this 64-year-old player and industry observer feel about the casino of the future, with much of it aimed at a younger audience? For the most part, I am all for it, with some caveats. Aside from my thoughts on casinos, for the last few years I have been concerned how the rise in quality – and concomitant decrease in cost – of home entertainment technology will cut into traditional entertainment and travel expenditures. Over the next decade, properties Las Vegas and elsewhere will have to offer entertainment that I cannot duplicate at home – and that is becoming an increasingly tall order. The one caveat is that the main reason I do leave my home during my personal hours is to socialize (as in facetime) with friends, strangers, visitors and even service employees. I do not do bots well. So while I can see how valuable technology can be in attracting customers, personalizing the experience and controlling costs, there needs to be that human element, also. Without it, I can just as well watch Netflix. May 14, 2019 – Answering the eSports question – from someone who should know BOSTON – From Wikipedia: “eSports (also known as electronic sports, e-sports, or Esports) is a form of competition using video games. Most commonly, esports takes the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams.” How big is eSports? Worldwide over 450 million people watch eSports events creating a current market of $1.1 billon – with an expected growth to $3.2 billion by 2022. The average eSports enthusiast is 36 years old, with core players at 30 years of age and casual participants at 43 years of age. Seth Schorr, Fifth Street GamingThe gaming industry knows that Esports is big and getting bigger, the question is how can the esports juggernaut be best integrated into today’s or tomorrow’s casino environment. Seth Schorr Founder/CEO of both Fifth Street Gaming, which operates the Downtown Grand in Las Vegas, and KonekTV, a sports/esports streaming service to bars and restaurants, has investigated and tried esports opportunities over the last three years – and is probably the best person to answer that question. On Tuesday, Schorr discussed what he has learned running over 300 esports tournaments at ICE North America. “Events varies per type of event and where the event is scheduled. Even once you learn how to do tournaments including control of cheating and structuring the prizes you have to explore what else you can do to make each event a success. There is no silver bullet.” Among Schorr more successful efforts including timing tournaments around larger local eSports events or even festivals. He also has created special menus for eSports tournaments. “It’s the experience over gaming!” I get asked about eSports a lot. Do I think it has a future in casinos, especially Las Vegas, and my answer is a strong “yes.” eSports will not draw millennials to the current slot product (which is designed for folks 50-70 anyway), but it does draw them to casinos. Unlike slot tournaments which are “loss leaders,” eSports events should be structured to break even or better yet show a profit, but more importantly (to steal a line from Schorr) “they are an investment in the future.” Sports was not created in a casino. Fine dining, large suites, spas, golf courses and entertainment were not created in casinos – yet over the last 100 years the gaming industry have found a way to incorporate them into the casino environment. At times, especially with restaurants and hotel rooms, they were loss leaders or separate profit centers. eSports is a recent phenomenon that appeals to a group only 10-20 years younger than the core casino audience. I would rather get them to appreciate and enjoy casinos sooner rather than later. May 14, 2019 – Legal vs. Illegal Sports Betting in the U.S. In its efforts to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in Congress, the AGA annually issued two reports on legal vs. illegal sports betting – one during the Super Bowl, the other during March Madness – highlighting how illegal (mostly offshore) sports wagering drafted legal bets placed in Nevada. Add to the mix that nobody knows where those illegal profits are going (terrorism, Moscow?) and we were left with some excellent anti-PASPA spin that, in my opinion, played into the Supreme Court taking up Murphy vs. NCAA. David Henwood, Director, H2 Gambling CapitalSo, one year later, how are things going with the illegal sports betting market, as measured by H2 Gambling Capital, a highly regarded data research company? Surprisingly, the illegal market has actually increased, apparently – not by much, and certainly not anywhere near the 80% increase in legal betting, but due to the publicity generated by the overturning of PASPA, many more people became interested in playing wagers, especially around March Madness, and legal options were not available. According to David Henwood’s excellent presentation this morning at ICE North America, that increase is temporary, although he says it will take until 2030 before the legal market permanently overtakes the illegal market. While nothing except bettors’ ethics and legal concerns limits the illegal market, several factors, including the number of states that have legalized, the amount of legal mobile betting options, tax rates, number of legal available options (some states will offer only one option through their lottery), credit availability and finally aggressive player education regarding what is legal and what is not will impact the legal vs. illegal sports betting battle in the U.S. Henwood’s session offered extensive figures regarding the projected grown of US Sports Betting that can be found at https://www.igbnorthamerica.com/h2-us-to-become-8-4bn-sports-betting-market-by-2030/ May 13, 2019 – Welcome! Good Morning from ICE North America. A first-time gaming industry show, ICE North America, opens Tuesday and I – along with CDC Gaming Reports writer Buck Wargo – will attend the event in Boston through Wednesday. Boston Convention and Exhibition CenterThe ICE brand in the gaming industry is not new. ICE London has become one of the largest and most successful gaming industry gatherings over the last two decades. This is the first time that Clarion Gaming has organized an event on this side of the pond under the ICE brand. The company has presented many successful events in the United States, including ICE Sports Betting USA in New York City last November and the Juegos Miami, that takes place later this month. Clarion plays a significant role in the annual Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention in San Diego. So what is ICE North America? ICE North America ribbon cuttingWhile it is difficult to know exactly what any show is about (especially a first-time show) until you attend, I can tell you two things. ICE North America is not about slot machines or table games and the conference is not just discussing sports betting. For many years Clarion Gaming produced a show – held last year in conjunction with Juegos Miami – called the Global iGaming Summit & Expo, or GiGse for short, that focused on Internet gaming issues. With the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling a year ago that threw out the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, and Clarion and the industry’s increased interest in iGaming, GiGse evolved into ICE North America. The show covers all the bases: sports betting, iGaming, eSports and affiliate products, including payment systems, research, and big data. For me this is good news. Sports betting, as hot as the topic can be, was the central topic of the aforementioned Clarion gathering last November plus two recent events run by the American Gaming Association and SBC. There is another conference organized by Eventus in June. I am looking forward to hearing the latest sports betting developments, but alongside other issues of equal importance from a company that has a history of examining these topics (especially iGaming) well at their other events Glancing at the program I see several sessions of interest. “One year on from SCOTUS: How much has the U.S. eaten into a $200 billion illegal market?”; “eSports myth-busting: Combating common misconceptions when approaching the eSports market” that features Seth Schoor, CEO of the Downtown Grand in Las Vegas; and “Start-Up Launchpad,” for new businesses entering the industry. Of special interest are the “Counsel” section of the program featuring a series of discussions (or more properly Oxford-style debates) over industry issues including: “Motion: We need to redefine gambling vs. gaming” and “Motion: Sports betting and iGaming will under deliver on policy makers’ revenue expectations.” One criticism I have already heard is ICE North America’s location: Boston. Normally an expensive city to travel anytime of the year, ICE North America is happening in the middle of graduation season, a big deal in Beantown. How do I know this? I attended college outside of Boston (Babson College in Wellesley) in the 1970s. I thoroughly enjoyed Boston then and love having a good reason to spend the weekend catching up with some old friends and memories. But I will be curious if the show is relocated next year. Jeffrey Compton is the publisher of CDC Gaming Reports.