Few gaming executives in the world today have had a wider range of commercial, tribal, domestic and international experience than Michael Silberling, CEO of Metropolitan Gaming. In 2021, when Silver Point Capital took over Caesars’ European, Middle Eastern and African operations to form Metropolitan, Silberling was tapped to take the reins, and he and his team are looking to take Metro to the top of a U.K. market that finds itself very much in flux. He spoke to GGB Managing Editor Jess Marquez from his London office in July.
GGB: Your experience touches every sector of the gaming industry—U.S., international, commercial, tribal. Could you summarize these experiences and what led you to this point?
Silberling: I’ve worked in New Zealand, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Canada, throughout the United States and South America. If you’re familiar with the gaming industry, you could imagine the licensing burden, be it Missouri or the U.K. or Nevada, any of these places. So, I’ve worked for, as you say, private and public companies. I’ve worked for family businesses, private equity and tribal government. And through that, it’s always been casino-centric, but I’ve had zoos and game parks and hotels and restaurants and nightclubs and golf courses and marinas, and you name it, I’ve done it. I’ve always asked myself with these different jobs, can I do the job and contribute? Will I learn and grow my skill set and will it be interesting and fun? And answering those questions in the affirmative has literally led me all over the world.
I have to imagine that even for you, the last two years in this role (as Metro CEO) has been sort of a whirlwind. What’s it been like for you and the team since taking over?
It’s almost like starting a new business. There were so many employees that had been furloughed. All the businesses were shut. So you’re really deciding how much money to deploy into this business. How many people do you hire back? How quickly do you hire them back? How much capital do you put into the business? In the last two years, I have to admit that throughout the world there have been some macroeconomic headwinds. But despite that, we purchased a new casino, Park Lane. We sold our South Africa business and we launched a new brand. We rebranded, refurbished and relaunched Metropolitan Mayfair. We built a new loyalty program. We have a new app, we have a new online site. But when I look back at the 24 months that I’ve been here, we’ve done a lot.
You are heavily invested in the London market—what is the state of the London gaming scene in 2023?
We have five licenses deployed across four venues with a spare license to deploy as well. London is such a dynamic place. I think Samuel Johnson said, “When you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.” But on the other hand, you have very fierce competition for the leisure dollar when you are here, between sports and West End shows and all the rest. So you really need to be on top of your game. London, I think, has several micro-markets. Mayfair has some of the top high-end, particularly table game play in the world with some domestic U.K. folks, but largely international visitors from the Middle East, from Asia, from India, etc. So the level of play in London is equal to anything that I’ve seen in Las Vegas.
The recent publication of the gambling white paper has sent shockwaves through the U.K. market. How has it affected your business, if at all?
Unfortunately, it’s all vaporware right now. They’re in what’s called consultation now, which means they’re consulting with the various interest groups, some of which have questions and concerns. What we’ve seen is very positive, and I like to take a customer-centric point of view. I’m loath to put a £5 blackjack table there because I have to pay for the electricity and the cost of a dealer and everything else. But if it’s just an electronic table game, I can put a £1 or a £5 blackjack offering out there and have customers having greater price flexibility.
Cashless is also being discussed. We’re not allowed to go currently into a cashless environment, which was in the white paper. The last topic I’ll mention is credit. As a casino, you have this economic importation of foreign currency and the economic multiplier effect of money coming across a border. And yet we can’t give credit to someone from overseas. So these are just a few of the items—more machines, random number generator, cashless, credit. There’s a few items that are under consultation that will all be positive for the business.
Speaking of expanding offerings, Metro just went live with its iGaming platform, Metgaming.com. How has that been going?
We were the largest land-based casino operator in the U.K. that did not have an online offering, and we have a large inactive database of players that we know empirically are gambling with online products. We’re with a great partner, Aspire, that has a platform with us. We think we have a nice product for people that are gambling online who aren’t brick-and-mortar customers. They can get this omnichannel relationship where we can take care of you when you come in. So, we have solid but manageable aspirations. We’re not looking for world domination in marketing spend or spend on tech, but it goes back to being customer-centric. This is an expanded offer for our customers that we think will be win-win.