Robert “Bob” Hamman: Casino Marketing Technology Conference Lifetime Achievement Award Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports · August 5, 2019 at 2:45 pm During his acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 16th annual Casino Marketing & Technology Conference in Las Vegas last month, Bob Hamman, CEO of SCA Promotions, said all the credit for the honor goes to his prized collection of baseball cards. But he went on to explain that his entire collection consists of just one valuable card. First, some background. Hamman is an insurance guy. But rather than covering the risks of car accidents, illness or death benefits, he indemnifies the risk of unusual events happening. We’re talking about large payouts if things as varied as “will someone find Big Foot,” to “will the Mir Russian Space Station splash down at a certain spot in the ocean” or “will someone hit a major slot machine jackpot or promotion.” Bob Hamman It’s this later area that qualified Hamman for the gaming award. He started his promotional firm while working as a “reluctant” insurance agent. Today, SCA has 90-plus employees with offices in Dallas, London, Calgary and Las Vegas. The firm has paid over $200 million in prizes to his clients. But Hamman, just like casino operators, wins a lot more bets than he loses. (The Mir didn’t hit that spot in the ocean and, despite the claims that one man found a Big Foot nest in Palm Desert, California; SCA didn’t have to pay off that claim either.) You might think that Hamman is the ultimate high-rolling gambler with his frequent million-dollar bets, but he staunchly denies the description. He says that neither he, nor the casino owners he serves, are really gamblers. “They simply manage risks based on statistics and reasonable rates of return.” Sometimes, just like all of us, he backs a loser. He once took on a client that wanted SCA to “insure” that someone couldn’t grow a pumpkin by Halloween that weighed at least a 1,000 pounds. Someone did. He said with a chuckle, “we served pumpkin pie in the office every day for almost a year after that one.” The reason he described his early employment as a “reluctant” insurance agent was that he only took the job as a way to support his passion of playing Bridge. He was a college chess player when he discovered the card game and quickly became addicted. It wasn’t long before he began a rapid rise in the standings. He has earned the No. 1 ranking 21 times and won 15 World Championships. If you’re a Bridge player, you might enjoy reading about his career in the book, “At the Table” that he co-authored with Brent Manley. A few of his colleagues at the Casino Marketing event joked that he only showed up to receive the award in Las Vegas because he was also entered in the North American Bridge Championship, being held nearby at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. In addition to this new honor, Hamman was inducted in the American Contract Bridge League Hall of Fame in 1999. Former IGT Chairman Chuck Mathewson, a member of the Gaming Hall of Fame, introduced Hamman at the ceremony. Mathewson is also an avid Bridge player. Mathewson told of their friendship over the years and joked that this was the first time he’d “been on a stage to do anything other than sell slot machines.” Staple of the industry SCA Promotions, and their sub-division SCA Gaming, have been a staple of casino marketing promotions for years. They supply everything from scratch cards to giant electronic displays. One of their most popular casino games consists of three giant hand-spun wheels. Each is like the “Price is Right” bonus spin. Depending on the variation selected, participating guests can win hundreds of dollars, or even a million, for a winning spin. SCA also works behind the scenes with slot manufactures managing the risks of their largest jackpots on wide area progressive machines. Hamman said his largest gaming contract was covering $450 million of present value for Scientific Gaming and their “Willie Wonka” games. That was just one of many “bets” he’s covered for the industry. Just like casino sportsbooks, which lay off action across the country, Hamman is seldom alone when assuming risk. Rather, he is instrumental in putting together groups of insurers to “spread the risk.” He’s found his Bridge connections can also be helpful there as fellow card-playing enthusiast Warren Buffet happens to own some of the largest insurance companies like National Indemnity and the well-known consumer brand GEICO. Buffet often joins Hamman in his bigger ventures such as sharing part of a $1 billion risk on behalf of Pepsi a few years ago. Big Bet But what about Hamman’s valuable baseball card? He told the audience last week that very early in his career of insuring promotional risk, he put together a group to cover a $750,000 promotion that Texas Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan wouldn’t be able to throw his sixth no-hitter that year. Hamman assembled five other partners, each putting up $125,000. While that amount seems small today for SCA, it would have virtually put him out of business in 1989 if Ryan accomplished the feat. But Hamman felt good about the risk. Ryan had just been traded from the Houston Astros, who played in the air-conditioned Astrodome, to the Rangers who played outdoors in the heat of Arlington, Texas. And Ryan was 42 years old. No pitcher had ever had a no-hitter past the age of 40. Warren Spahn pitched his second just a few days after his 40th birthday. The great Sandy Koufax could throw only four and legendary Cy young had just three. Hamman felt confident. At least until a friend called on April 23rd to tell him a Rangers game was in the 9th inning, and there were all zeros on the Toronto Blue Jays side of the scoreboard. Ryan was on the mound throwing heat. Hamman quickly turned on the TV and watched the first batter pop up for an easy out. Not good. Then Nelson Liriano came to the plate. He hit a line drive 13’ over the heads of the infield into right field for a triple. SCA survived. A few years later, Hamman attended a minor league game of the Double A RoughRiders in Frisco Texas, near his home in Dallas. There he met Liriano, told him the story and got him to sign the card. He considers it among his most prized possessions today. He got a good laugh when he told the audience that Liriano, and that card, were the only reason he was around to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. PS – Nolan Ryan got his sixth no-hitter in June of 1990 and his seventh in May of 1991. Fortunately for Hamman, he passed on covering the risk of those milestones.