Kelcey Allison has been here before.
Maybe not in the physical office that is the headquarters of the company now known as Aruze Gaming Global, but at the head of the Aruze slot brand that originated in Japan and distinguished itself in the U.S. as Aruze Gaming America.
Allison was formerly with Aruze Gaming America for seven years, ultimately as its chief executive officer, during a period of great innovation for Aruze. Aruze enjoyed successes ranging from the community-style Paradise Fishing and its successors to the Muso cabinet series, to Shoot to Win Craps, one of the most successful electronic table games on the market.
Allison left Aruze in 2016 and founded the consultancy firm GSL Gaming Group. It was at GSL that Allison first met Frank Feng, the owner and president of Empire Technological Group. In 2021, Empire acquired Synergy Blue, which specialized in skill-based casino games such as a virtual auto race and arcade-style shooter games. Empire rebranded as Play Synergy. The following year, Allison joined Play Synergy as senior vice president of sales and marketing.
In early 2023, it was announced that Aruze Gaming America was closing. Aruze’s assets were sold at a bankruptcy auction. Interblock bought the company’s ETG business, and the slot business was bought by Empire/Play Synergy.
The reborn supplier was rebranded as Aruze Gaming Global, and Allison was named global COO.
Allison marvels how circumstances led him back to the company he previously led. “I cannot think of another unique situation like this in gaming—ever. I almost feel like Steve Jobs, because he left Apple and came back as the CEO and revolutionized the world. Hopefully, we do the same in the gaming industry. That’s of our mantra—we want to be different.”
The company’s rebirth as Aruze Gaming Global—complete with a new and appropriate acronym, AG2—is well under way, as Allison has seen some familiar faces among his new colleagues. When Play Synergy bought Aruze’s assets, it hired the majority of the talent from Aruze Gaming America’s slot division.
That includes R&D centers in the Philippines, with 190 employees across two facilities, as well as a new facility in Tokyo, including around 40 former Aruze Gaming America staff, plus studios in Reno, Las Vegas and Sydney, Australia.
At the Global Gaming Expo in October, Aruze displayed the first products of the newly combined R&D staff. Top products include the Firestorm game series, the unique Monster series, and two new cabinets, the triple-27 Speed and the 43-inch portrait Hyperspeed. “Our strategy at Empire was to have a value-added cabinet, which nobody’s ever really done in the Class III environment,” says Allison. “People are selling boxes for $35,000—it’s gone haywire. So we decided to value-engineer two boxes and do what we call a true partnership with our operators.”
In the coming year, Aruze will offer more products from the combined team, as well as further developments on the legacy Muso series and choice IP from the legacy Synergy Blue skill games. Allison says Aruze will build upon concepts like the virtual car race and first-person shooter games.
Synergy Blue also had a Class II platform Aruze will now develop, says Allison. The platform will be combined with Aruze hardware and content, and offered in Class II markets where Aruze is licensed but Synergy Blue was not.
Meanwhile, the company will continue to service legacy Aruze products, and Allison will continue to build the culture of AG2, which includes not only the U.S. slot division, but operating entities in South Africa, Australia, and the Asia Pacific region, which includes the Philippines and Macau.
Further out, Allison says in five years, he hopes to build Aruze into the highest tiers of the slot supply sector.
“We are in what we call the tier-two market, and our product outperforms almost all of the competitors in that market,” Allison says. “We’re going to continue to strengthen that, and our goal is to eventually be in the tier-one market. It’s a long way away, but that’s our ultimate goal.”