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All-Powerful Apps

Operators everywhere expand their brand, influence with the help of mobile apps

All-Powerful Apps

Two simple words—gaming apps—form one enormous catalyst.

They are a game-changing force, thrust into the hyper-connected social media culture that enables their importance. Linked primarily with phones and tablets, they have completely revolutionized the gambling experience.

Mobile phones, for instance, place round-the-clock casino and sports-wagering worlds in the palm of one’s hand. Texting and other social media forms provide a wildfire marketing bonus, as players boast of their hits to one another.

Capture the image, the winning amount and the game. Send it to your friends, see who hits more. What site has that game? What casino operates that site? This is priceless, word-of-mouth advertising that came with the mobile-phone innovation.

Casinos gain similar benefits from the apps. Advanced products help them form online wallets, loyalty programs and organizational features. They capture customer play, and perhaps more importantly, consumer preference.

No marketing mailer is needed to know what game an online customer played at 2 a.m. Study the customer’s habits long enough and, presto, a marketing strategy emerges.

The apps have created revenue winners and have subsequently become a battleground for high-level companies.

‘Vi’ ing for Big Market Share

Thirty-one-year industry veteran Tim Richards has guided gaming companies through several levels of innovation. They span system and fintech products, slots, table games and loyalty products.

The objective now has become helping people safely gamble faster with less friction, involvement and overhead from the property.

Richards, Everi’s executive vice president, strategy and digital gaming, spots another winner with Vi, an all-in-one, on-property gaming solution.

“In the simplest sense, Vi is a mobile gaming platform, utilizing our Class II and Class III content,” Richards indicates. “Besides offering popular Everi and third-party game titles on the players’ own mobile devices, Vi becomes a layer of integrated services and a player account management system (PAM) across the Everi product lineup, as well as the casino management system.”

Vi can tie in mobile products, digital gaming and sports betting, bridging the land-based and digital worlds together for the patron. The solution will drive more involvement from the player, spreading to activities with the property beyond the gaming floor, according to Richards.

“The player will be able to engage through our platform in their room, on the golf course, from an RV park, even from home,” he says. “That experience continues engagement with the brand, with the loyalty club, and with the products and services familiar to both the player and the property, enhancing the player’s trust and commitment to the brand.”

Richards touts the product’s omnichannel gaming experience for players, which needs to include consistency across branding, payment types, loyalty offerings, games, AML and KYC, etc.

“Each component of the strategy needs to transcend the brick and mortar as well as the digital space for players to truly have a cohesive experience,” Richards says. “By understanding and trusting who they’re playing with, players will consolidate their play, their loyalty, which includes their spend, demonstrating the total value they have to a brand.”

Besides varied integrations tying in with Everi’s products, Vi helps operators utilize their existing player database and knowledge, he adds. This enables a localized focus and the ability to grow their reach in new ways.

The Vi strategy accentuates Everi’s unmatched experience in the market, he asserts.

“We launched it at IGA in March and immediately had a great reception,” Richards says. “What excites us is that several tribes that want to get ahead and prepare themselves for sports betting and real-money iGaming are showing great interest in Vi. And what is key to the positioning of Vi is the fact that we are going to market with, effectively, a fully integrated and available product.

“It leverages the existing installed products from Everi, including our integrations to existing casino management systems and other products on the floor—AML, jackpots, loyalty, wallet, financial access kiosks, etc. All these touchpoints also tie back to the tremendous 24/7 service Everi provides as well.”

Foundation of Excellence

Blending the on-property and online worlds has become a gaming objective over the last couple of years.

Acres Tap WinThis is an opportunity Acres Manufacturing seized with its Foundation platform.

“The biggest difference over the past two to three years has been the deployment of sports betting, iGaming and cashless apps serving the land-based industry,” says Noah Acres, a principal of Acres Manufacturing. “Historically, apps serving the land-based player have provided very limited functionality due to the lack of data and interfaces available from the CMS providers.

“This means the experience could never be real-time like it is in online gaming. That’s the reason we created Foundation, to provide casinos a real-time cashless, data and bonusing channel outside of their very limited CMS solutions.”

Acres uses Foundation to enable cashless apps to modernize the player experience, providing key features like instant messaging, bonusing and funding options. The major ingredient is the ability to send a multitude of credit types to the slot machine such as free play, casino credit and non-restricted credits, Acres indicates. Without the funding options, players are less likely to use the app in the first place.

Acres cashlessOnce they have funding options, everything is on the table, including bonus games.

“We have special bonus games that can be earned and played over the cashless app,” Acres says. “When earned, the bonuses can offer players a point or credit multiplier during play, or make them eligible for a special ‘invite-only’ jackpot.

“These types of offers change the player mentality during the gaming session, and high-resolution data allows us to deploy the bonuses at exactly the right moment to earn incremental time and spend from a player who was perhaps growing bored playing the base game.”

Acres’ sentiment cannot be overstated. Online players have hundreds of games to select from numerous providers. Repetition has educated them about the cycle of results at various betting levels.

Online gamblers who wager extensively also catch on to the nuance of results. A bonus triggered early in a game rarely pays the same amount if hit later in that game. Players obtain the belief that if a machine pays a good amount of money on one spin, it won’t pay again for a long time. They become wary of going to the well too often and go to a different game.

These assertions may or may not be true, but players embrace this philosophy by always seeking new offerings.

Outside of the individual game experience, Acres says the company is excited in that applications are easy to integrate into Foundation. The company has a standard API that allows any app to consume real-time player and machine data and to issue credits to the slot machine’s credit meter, he says.

Once an app is interfaced to Foundation, it’s immediately scalable to any other casino’s Foundation environment.

“What excites me most is the belief that after decades of CMS roadblocks have halted almost any new idea, the floodgates are beginning to open and soon we’ll be seeing a ton of new concepts flood the market, some of which are bound to deliver huge revenue growth,” he says.

Acres sees opportunity reminiscent of an era long gone by.

“Thirty years ago, you couldn’t get any Microsoft Office applications on a Mac because Apple was generally closed to outside developers, much like today’s CMS providers in the casino space,” he says. “But then Apple embraced outside ideas, created by their App Store to distribute them, and was quickly on the path to become the biggest company in the world.

“There are apps for everything, and anyone can make one. We want to be the platform for anyone with an idea to make their idea into a profitable reality.”

Mobility Stability

For Pavilion Payments, the implementation of an app regards money. Innovations in technology bring enhanced payment service options, helping operators stay competitive or forge an edge in customer service.

Christopher Justice, CEO of Pavilion Payments

Christopher Justice. CEO of Pavilion Payments

“While the payments industry as a whole has evolved rapidly over just the past few years, gaming payments have lagged behind,” notes Christopher Justice, CEO of Pavilion Payments.

“Many casinos still use outdated payments technology, while consumer expectations are shifting towards more advanced solutions.

“Cashless payments are still a relatively new innovation in the gaming industry. While its implementation is still uneven across the industry, one thing is certain: casino patrons desire a modern payments experience. Gaming operators are looking for solutions that meet patrons’ expectations and deliver a simple, enjoyable experience.”

Justice thus touts his company’s VIP Mobility as the industry’s premier cashless gaming app, giving patrons complete control over their payments. VIP Mobility makes the payments experience faster, easier and safer for casino patrons, he says.

VIP MobilityJustice calls it the industry’s first mobile solution enabling true cashless gaming. VIP Mobility allows patrons to access their balance through their mobile device on the game room floor. Users can scan QR codes on their favorite table and slot games and seamlessly transfer funds to and from their bank.

VIP Mobility utilizes Pavilion Payments’ industry-standard e-check/ACH network, VIP Preferred—which connects a patron’s checking account directly to their mobile balance—and creates the fastest, easiest and safest payments experience in the gaming industry, Justice asserts.

VIP Mobility’s capabilities extend beyond the game room floor, he notes. Patrons can also use VIP Mobility to pay for services across the casino resort at bars, restaurants and other non-gaming amenities. This creates a unified payments experience across a patron’s entire time at the casino.

Pavilion Payments is also committed to promoting responsible gaming through its technology and in the initiatives it supports, and VIP Mobility is no exception.

This product gives patrons complete control over their spending, helping patrons play responsibly. Features like pre-set configurable spending limits, cooling-off periods and voluntary self-exclusion are all designed to give patrons the tools they need to enjoy their play safely.

Pavilion Payments’ solutions also have industry-leading uptime statistics. Across the Apple App Store and Google Play, the VIP Mobility app enjoys an average 4.9-star rating with thousands of positive reviews, far exceeding any competing services, Justice says.

VIP Preferred, meanwhile, connects to more than 400 in-person and online gaming institutions after a one-time enrollment, allowing 3 million registered users to quickly and easily fund their play.

“VIP Preferred users can use their singular account at any and all participating gaming institutions,” Justice says. “It uses bank-grade security to ensure that all payments are conducted with the greatest safety and security possible. VIP Mobility takes all the convenience of VIP Preferred and puts it in the patron’s hands and directly on the mobile device.”

Seizing the Open Market

The rejuvenated online sports-betting sector opened the lucrative American market, which, to companies like Playtech, opened the financial floodgates.

The company quickly assembled a product lineup to meet growing demand, particularly for in-game sports betting.

“Within sports betting, there is now an increased emphasis on Bet Builders or same-game parlays,” says Eoin Redmond, Playtech’s director of sportsbook product.

“Combining these with both price boosts, and the ability to create pre-built bet builders for a customer, has really increased the appeal to both the causal customer and marketing teams as they are easy to understand and promote throughout sportsbooks.”

By combining data-driven segmentation with the company’s award-winning casino product within sports, Playtech plans to launch single-session Casino Side Games, Redmond says. This will allow customers to play at a casino table or slot game while seamlessly continuing their same sports betting session, Redmond says. All this is done while creating a safer betting environment via integration with the company’s groundbreaking BetBuddy software.

Redmond asserts that Playtech’s industry-leading sportsbook platform boasts the stability and scalability to handle major betting volumes and trading operations across Europe, North America and South America. Its trading platform and bonus tools—plus Playtech’s flagship IMS—delivers a premium offering for customers. “For the remainder of 2023 and 2024, Playtech plans to deploy its sportsbook platform to new operators across five continents,” he says.

While these innovations occur within properties, the growth for native apps and solutions skyrockets off the charts.

“One important fact tells the entire story,” says Asaf Bar Zakai, Playtech’s vice president of casino. “Five years ago, we had only two licensees with our app, while today we maintain more than 60, including software development kits (SDKs).”

The big bang in this area of the industry came in 2019, when Apple changed the rules for gaming apps, Zakai asserts. The main implication was that wrappers (of html5 links) are not allowed anymore. Playtech was already aligned with these rules because it had an app with more than 300 native games.

“Still, this change pushed us to promote the native SDK allowing licensees (that own their own apps) to integrate our SDK and add Playtech offerings in a way that is fully compliant with Apple guidelines,” Zakai notes.

“Our SDK is integrated with many apps, allowing quick integration (a matter of hours). In addition, the SDK solves the ‘size’ issue whereas it presents a very efficient way to use Apple on-demand resources. Adding the fact that we include Live SDK in the casino, native SDK makes it a full solution for licensees without any known competitor.”

Throughout the industry, companies like this compose a portrait of the gaming-app dynamic. Apps are the kindling that helps ignite a fire.

Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.