February 2013 saw Global Cash Access [GCA] introduce a new division to explore the interactive space and provide its expertise to the online world. It’s a natural extension of its experience in land-based cash handling, and when GCA formed a strategic partnership with Live Gamer, a leading e-commerce social gaming platform, and adapted it for wager-based gaming, it was the start of something special. Tim Richards, General Manager and SVP, Interactive Solutions at GCA, explains.
Casino International Online: Why did you decide to enter the interactive gaming space?
Tim Richards: GCA controls the lion’s share, or a very large portion of the cash access services in the land-based space in the US. Cash access includes ATM services, credit card, debit card, cash advance services, cheque cashing. In addition we provide kiosks for the redemption of slot tickets, and provide a boutique credit bureau where casinos share marker and credit information between themselves through Central Credit. With our background it’s only natural that we want to grow into the interactive space. We can easily leverage our networks of customers and of ATMs and kiosks, and the fact that we have software in each cage and bridge the gap between online and land-based players. The US is very different from Europe in terms of licensing. The states so far have determined that you have to have a land-based license in order to obtain an interactive license. Many of the interactive gaming or internet gaming folks coming in to the US don’t have a land-based presence. For that reason, and because of the slow start and folks looking at play for fun, or freemium or social gaming, they need to find ways to expand their brand and extend their brand when folks go home, and then be able to tie that back in via promotions, via other items, to the land-based space to figure out how to better monetise those people that they’ve now captured, and we think that we’re really in a natural position to be able to do that. Our Everi product is the hub to that and the key to making that happen.
CIO: Tell us about Everi…
TR: We’ve broken it in to a few different layers, where one, we can provide you with a simple payment wall; two, we can provide you with a wall or deck that will be fully integrated across all of your systems, right across your property. If you think about today, a casino operator has many disparate systems, and it’s just going to add to that with social games, wager-based gaming and just confuse the matter with the players. How does a player end up with different accounts with the same casino, funds in one account but not the other? When I go home I can’t play maybe on winnings I’ve had in the land-based space or vice versa. We believe that it’s very important that we have the ability to bridge that gap. And that’s where the Everi Wallet comes in. We can manage multiple currencies, we can manage loyalty and reward, and we can help the different disparate vendors and systems merge together for that reason, and that’s really the Everi Wallet level. It’s also a full white label product, so while we’re very happy with our Everi branding, we’re also very happy to make this branded after the casino’s loyalty programme and the casino’s marketing efforts. The casinos are spending millions or tens of millions of dollars a year on marketing their loyalty programme, marketing their brands, the last thing GCA’s ever wanted to do is to put ourselves between their good money and their patron. All we want to do is help them; we want to drive more transactions, greater loyalty for the properties.
CIO: So if somebody’s already running a loyalty programme this acts like a bolt-on?
TR: Exactly. We can integrate with a loyalty programme. It’s fully white-labelled and the Everi product will mirror their reward or loyalty programme. We can add in a pre-pay card programme. We can add in a gift card programme. There’s a lot that we can do today that extends the casino’s branding, extends the casino’s loyalty, and facilitates payments with one integration.
CIO: And presumably the end user will be totally unaware of it…
TR: Correct. A user won’t know the product is a GCA product, just like most customers don’t know the manufacturer of the slot machine. They just know the brand that they love, and that’s the same feeling they will have toward the Everi product.
CIO: So tell us how Everi works for the end user.
TR: From an end user perspective, Everi can be used in a few different ways. Users can go online and sign up for an account through a customer of ours. Our customer would create a wallet that is hosted by GCA for that customer. GCA manages their PCI data, and card holder data. That burden is lifted for the operator. Once the user has established their wallet they are able to fund their account using different forms of funding. They fund their account, we hold those funds and then, ideally in the casino environment, they would be able to access those funds via our kiosks on the casino floor. Once those funds are in place, from an igaming perspective, you’ve used them, you’ve won, you’ve funded that wallet, for whatever reason you’ve now been driven to the casino – maybe you’ve received an offer to play in a poker tournament because you’ve been playing online – that offer can all be handled through our product. That’s what you would see from an end-user perspective, how we’re managing the player, the offer, driving them to our devices on the casino floor, reducing the labour burden, saying here’s how you can manage the offer, they go to our kiosk, generate their offer, they can then turn around and can go and play, in this example, in a poker tournament.
They can load their fund back to their account at the kiosks, if they want to go home and continue playing; they can load their winnings, put them back on the account, take their slot ticket, load it back on to the account, go home and continue playing. So that’s how an end user would interact with the product.
CIO: Could the wallet be used as part of the casino’s marketing arsenal as well? For example, I go online, log in to my account, put $100 in there from my bank account, when the money hits my Everi account – or, to me, my Palazzo account – could you add a trigger in there that might set an offer off to incentivise them to go into the casino, so it can become another part of the marketing strategy?
TR: Absolutely. We were highly selective in our selection of a strategic partner for this product and we chose Live Gamer because they have so much experience in the social space, and in the play for fun space. In the social space, revenue is generated through marketing and our product will use the enormous amount of marketing tools associated with that to drive revenue for real money operators. When you think about the social gaming space, they spend a ton of time attempting to monetise customers who are essentially playing for free. A lot of those same principles apply to what we’re doing in our space. How do we encourage another visit? How do we encourage another load of the account so the person can continue playing? How do we drive that person towards the casino floor, or back to the property? The ability to display those types of offers is available in the analytics and tools that are all available through the Everi product. These tools are included with Everi. We aren’t worried about how to extend our GCA brand. We are focused on putting more money on your floor. The more ways Everi can do that, the more marketing opportunities GCA can give you to do that, the more successful you’re going to be as a casino operator, whether it’s on your floor or on your gaming site. That’s what we do in our core business today. We’re just extending our GCA philosophy to the iGaming business.