By Tom Nightingale
The last seven months have been a testing and unprecedented time for all corners of the gaming industry, from operators to customers to regulators. On the supply and technology side, too, things have never been quite like they are in 2020, and that’s necessitated resilience and adaptability perhaps like never before.
International Game Technology (IGT) may be a multinational gambling technology company that has established itself as one of the industry leaders in gaming supply and providing stellar player experience, but that doesn’t mean the effects of COVID-19 have been felt any less keenly.
Canadian Gaming Business recently linked up with IGT’s Vice President of South America & Canada, David Flinn, to find out how the company has weathered the challenges of the pandemic, maintained its support for gamers and operators, and learned the lessons of an evolving industry landscape in 2020.
Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.
How did IGT look to confront the effects of the pandemic during the early stages?
David Flinn: IGT’s main priorities over the last seven months have been protecting the health and safety of our employees and finding ways to position ourselves and our customers for success in these uncertain times. We recognized the global impact and seriousness of the pandemic early on and adapted quickly, in some cases with fewer resources than before the pandemic, so that we could cater to those priorities. Our teams never wavered from the customer commitments that were established pre-COVID-19.
What are some of the key measures IGT has taken to help and support its customers throughout COVID-19?
Since casinos have begun to reopen across Canada, we’ve worked even more closely with our customers to help them maximize the value of their IGT investments and optimize their casino floors in a manner that helps players feel safe. Despite closures, our teams never stopped innovating. Our development teams continued to create new hardware and deliver on promises made pre-COVID-19 while our sales teams routinely worked with customers to create customized opportunities to drive and sustain value where they needed it most.
What are some of the most prominent trends IGT has noticed in customer habits and demands during this period?
The pandemic has accelerated the relevance of and customers’ interest in cashless gaming solutions across the sector. IGT’s proven Resort Wallet solution is the most comprehensive, market-ready cashless gaming offering available in the industry and provides three options for offering cashless gaming. There’s Carded Cashless, which lets players use their existing casino player card to access cashless accounts; Cardless Cashless, where players use their phone as a player card to access cashless accounts; and IGTPay, our proprietary gateway that allows for external funding of cashless accounts. As players and casinos adopt these digital and easy-to-use technologies, we see the benefit of increased in-casino safety while providing a modernized player experience.
While cashless technologies present advantages for players and operators, our customers can also benefit from IGT’s Mobile Responder system solution, which provides alerts to casino floor staff for quicker and more efficient assistance to players. It also sends service calls that indicate when a player leaves a machine and the EGM needs to be sanitized.
How tough has it been to pivot IGT’s approach to reflect the unprecedented climate of the gaming industry in 2020?
Like many companies around the world, IGT had to adjust nearly every aspect of its operations seemingly overnight. We took quick action at the beginning of the pandemic to implement work-from-home practices, split manufacturing shifts to comply with CDC guidelines, and executed various other strategic initiatives to protect our employees and customers.
Throughout all of this, we continued to help our customers navigate new challenges and opportunities. In some cases, customers were powering down systems technology for the first time or modifying shipment schedules. In other cases, we were educating customers on our vast portfolio of solutions that can help them adhere to social distancing protocols, reduce cash handling, and limit the need for in-person interactions.
How is IGT ensuring it stays connected to its customers?
While we certainly miss some of the in-person interactions with our customers that we enjoyed pre-COVID-19, we remain are committed to finding new and meaningful ways to stay connected. For example, we have implemented some new strategies and leaned on some existing ones to ensure that our customers are informed of the latest and greatest IGT products and understand how and why they can drive growth.
We recently completed our first-ever virtual Gaming Showcase: a one-hour, web-based program that highlighted our latest gaming innovations. Our IGT Road Show, which is a traveling innovation showroom that literally brings our latest solutions to our customers’ doorsteps, has also had a very busy itinerary in 2020. This custom-built, 40-foot trailer is outfitted with a portfolio of our newest slot games, ETG products, systems solutions, and more, and drives around the country visiting customers.
How did IGT leverage its PlayDigital solutions in the Canadian gaming industry to navigate these difficult times?
The pandemic has shone a new light on the importance of offering players digital gaming options and illuminated how digital content can be leveraged to complement our customers’ land-based gaming businesses. Fortunately, Canada is a relatively mature online gaming region, so when the pandemic hit, our customers were already equipped with IGT’s best-in-class PlayCasino content. Additionally, IGT’s Powerbucks, the world’s first omnichannel wide area progressive, continues to achieve tremendous performance across numerous provinces.
Offering players the Powerbucks game while they stayed home during these pandemic-impacted months served our customers and their players well as multiple life-changing jackpots were awarded to online players in this timeframe. In May, a player won more than CA$2.2 million on Powerbucks, the largest jackpot ever won on the link in Canada. In the last six months, Powerbucks has awarded nearly CA$6 million in jackpots to players primarily playing on their computers or mobile devices.
As much as anyone is able to look ahead right now, what are IGT’s current plans moving forward?
This year has been unprecedented in so many ways, but we’re optimistic about what’s still to come in 2020 and beyond. IGT’s VLT footprint is still the largest in the country, and we will continue to support those deployments with the latest VLT content and systems technology. Additionally, we have a full pipeline of casino systems and slot products that can help our customers differentiate their floors and modernize the player experience.
In terms of recent releases, IGT has launched two new cabinets – PeakSlant49™ and PeakSlant32™. Our PeakSlant49 is a premium cabinet that features a progressive 49-inch curved ultra high-definition display that maximizes the viewing angle. The PeakSlant32 is a core video cabinet that features three seamlessly integrated 32-inch high-definition displays and advanced convenience features that players appreciate. We’re also excited about many of the new games that these cabinets will feature, including Fortune Coin Boost!™ and Bubble Blast Link™ on the PeakSlant49 and Wu Dragon™, Treasure Box, and Wolf Run™ Gold on the PeakSlant32.