What are some of the biggest challenges with moving your business into the Canadian market and how are you addressing those challenges?
KA: I think the first challenge we have is creating the infrastructure so that we can really maintain a good customer support network in Canada. Obviously, as a new manufacturer we have little infrastructure in Canada but we’re doing a really good job of creating it so that as we continue to launch into new provincial markets we’re well suited to provide the superior customer service that the Canadian market deserves.
PS: Since this is our first foray into the Canadian market, simply understanding the rules and regulations of the market and learning customer preferences is the biggest challenge. We have a great compliance team, though, which has worked tirelessly to make sure our product meets the high standards of the Canadian regulators, while at the same time, choosing games we think will be most successful in this new market. For example, our Player HD® Gaming Cabinet is currently undergoing multiple field trials in Ontario, and early indications are that our games are being well received.
What are some of the main advantages of expanding into Canada and how do you anticipate they will help to grow your business?
KA: We’re currently in about 50 per cent of the market in North America. With the Canadian market expanding, that shoots us up to about 65-70 per cent of the market in North America that we’ll be doing business in. Naturally that gives us more overall market share and we’re very excited about that.
PS: Canada is a robust market that offers us a great opportunity to grow internationally. With over 4,100 TournEvent® slot tournament machines operating in the U.S., it makes sense now to cross the border and expand our offerings in Canada. Another thing we’re really looking forward to offering our customers in Canada is our National Tournament of Champions® campaign, which is run on our award-winning TournEvent slot tournament system.
There has recently been a great deal of consolidation and collaboration in the North American and international gaming industry. How do you see this affecting the Canadian gaming market and how is your company positioning itself for this?
KA: Of course, it’s hard to tell the future, but I would say the consolidations for us would be quite unusual in the fact that we are a single owner and we probably won’t be participating in any mergers or acquisitions in the foreseeable future. I think we actually have the advantage of being better prepared to address customer service while the other companies are busy pursuing the acquisitions. Sometimes it’s easy to take your eyes off the ball when you’re shuffling the paperwork associated with these kinds of mergers and acquisitions. For us, it gives us a unique advantage where we can really focus on what we do best and that is provide entertainment to our customers.
PS: Although we are seeing a lot of consolidation among the slot manufacturers, we have also seen growth in new companies entering the market. Competition is as keen as ever, with our customers benefiting from stable pricing and a greater variety of new and innovative slot products.
With legal and regulatory challenges unique to each province, state and country, what needs to be done by both the companies and regulators to help things run as smoothly as possible?
KA: Globally, I think we probably need to look at adhering to some type of standard regulation going forward. But I think in the North American market, we do a very good job of looking at the jurisdictions and regulators and making sure that everyone is on the same playing field. The industry’s done an excellent job at maintaining their integrity on these issues.
PS: Consistency and uniformity would be of a great benefit to us. We spend quite a bit of time completing gaming applications for multiple gaming jurisdictions that request similar information, but aren’t exactly the same. And although all jurisdictions work to the same goal of consumer protection, machine and game requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
What are some of the new developments for your company in terms of expansion into Canada? How will these benefit the Canadian customer and the communities in which your business will expanding?
KA: One of our fundamental philosophies that our chairman and founder Kazuo Okada instilled in this company is that we really focus on the entertainment value of what the Canadian customer is looking for. We look at things like time on device and engagement with the players, as well as some of the math models to make sure that their discretionary money lasts them a little longer than some other manufacturers would. We don’t do any branding of games, rather we brand within our own company. For example, we have Paradise Fishing — which we’re very excited about for the Canadian market — which is a communal six-pack game that encourages play with other players. We have another business sector that is focused on electronic table games that is a really good launching pad for novice players who are not familiar with table games. Usually from a younger demographic, they can come in learn and play a craps game by playing our (electronic) game and then graduate to the live table environment and have an entertaining experience. So we can be very confident that the Canadian market will be very receptive to our games as they are in the United States and we’re looking forward to it.
PS: We’re really excited about bringing our slot tournament system TournEvent to both casinos and players in Canada. We delivered our first TournEvent system to Casino Rama in Ontario and are looking forward to starting our field trial shortly. With this system, the ease in which an operator may switch from in-revenue gaming to out-of-revenue tournaments through our user-friendly control center allows for more frequent tournaments and provides players with more opportunities to participate in a tournament. The unique interactive features of our tournament games will also provide a new tournament experience to the players, which we think will increase return visits and business for our Canadian casinos.