Slot machines are still key
Could you start by telling our readers how you got into the gambling industry?
I knew I was going to be in gaming since I was in the first grade. At the time, I thought everyone knew what they wanted to do. However, since having three children, I realise that is not the case for everyone. But, for me, it definitely was. I worked towards it my whole life. I went to Georgetown Law and the only jobs I have ever had are in the gaming industry. Here I am today.
I remember a trip I made to Reno as a small child. I loved everything about it; the energy I felt, the sound of the slot machines and, most importantly, that feeling you could walk into a casino and change your life forever.
When I came to Aruze, having come from the operating side of the industry, running slots for the Las Vegas Sands Group, I really wanted to stay focused on the customer. Now that means two things; first, the customer who uses slot machines; second, the customers who buy slot machines. That focus which I have brought with me from operator experience has really paid dividends so far.
That reflects in our sales growth. We are up over 50% in sales year over year. A lot of that has to do with the focus I have brought back to the company. We are back to our roots of electronic table games. I have experience with that, having grown the market in Macau with Sands.
What’s your management style like?
I am a person who thinks of the direction and the aspiration of the company. As a result, I surround myself with top talent and make sure they are paid well, have freedom to grow the business and that they are well supported. That’s my style. I’m not big on meetings. I’m big on having the best talent there is around me.
You recently expanded into both Greece and Cyprus. Which other regions are you looking to expand into?
Europe is up around 500% for us year over year, so it’s definitely a huge market for us. South America is pretty similar. Truth is, North America is still a big opportunity for us. There are still about 40% of the jurisdictions available to us, which we are currently working towards. There are also new markets in Asia, new markets in Europe, some in South America and even some in North America. For us, the globe is our focus right now. That is one of the fun things about coming to a small company; to help them mature and see that growth. It’s pretty exciting.
Which countries or regions which you are currently positioned in do you believe offer Aruze Gaming the greatest revenue opportunities?
The greatest revenue opportunity is going to have to be North America, just because there are some very large jurisdictions such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey. However, that doesn’t mean continents like South America and Europe don’t offer us huge opportunities, as well. Even a lot of countries in Asia offer great opportunities. But the truth is, for most manufacturers, North America is the region where they generate the largest number of sales. That's the case for Aruze, too.
When developing new cabinets, do you attempt to focus on an individual demographic, or do you go for the largest possible target audience, in terms of gender, age and location?
The roll to win craps will be a big deal in North American casinos, as it takes a quarter of the amount of labour time to construct as a traditional craps table.
At the same time, we are starting to think about flexibility and how we are going to apply this new hardware we are building to the rest of the world. What you will be seeing coming right after its release will be the first ever live table sic bo, where customers can throw three dice down a craps table, although it won’t be a craps table. It’s a sic bo table. When we build things, we do think about the different markets, and then within that, age ethnicity etc are also considered. We absolutely think about markets. Our development team loves being nimble; we are very quick to market.
We use our size to our advantage. Anytime we sell hardware, it has a two-year software guarantee. No other manufacturer I know is offering that or is able to offer it. We are confident our products will perform. Being a small manufacturer has a ton of advantages.
Are gaming devices still more popular with older gamblers, or have you begun to see an increased interest from millennials?
I’m in a minority position. My perspective is, as our customers are for the most part above the age of 40, I’m not that focused on millennials. What I care about is people who play slot machines. What we are seeing is some migration of younger players to our electronic table games. I believe that is a result of the bet minimums which are associated with those younger players. Basically, when you play in either a baccarat or roulette stadium, you are playing for a much lower minimum bet than you would be able to find in, for instance, a traditional Chinese table game in Macau.
For me, I have our team focused on our core slots customer and we think that is what can make us the most amount of money. It's not to say some day we won’t want millennials, we just need them to get money then we will see them playing slots. It’s not to say the slot product won’t evolve - of course it will. Take a look at the video product.
Its evolution will last 25 years. When Jackpot Party came out with Williams, it was awesome. But if you were to look at that game today, it wouldn’t look like any of the products we have available.