A lot of people are very excited to learn more about these exhilarating interactive games by Gamblit Gaming. Do you want to know if you can win in these games the same way with the usual slot machine games?
This article is adapted from an interview between Craig Shacklett, CEO URComped, and Marcus Yoder, VP of Business Development Gamblit Gaming. The full video and transcript appear below the article. Click here to listen to podcast version.
The year is 1982. You and your friends swagger into the cool, dark arcade, decked out in your favorite Members Only jacket and loaded down with a pocket full of quarters. Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” blares over the sound system as you scope the room, adrenaline pumping, looking for one thing – PAC-MAN! Smiling at the memory, you see it on the casino floor, a grown-up version of the game you RULED! Pac-Man is now a SLOT MACHINE! As you pull out your player card and insert it, one thought comes to mind: “THIS IS SOOO RAD!!!”
URComped CEO Craig Shacklett had the opportunity to speak with the man behind the newest craze in slots, Gamblit Gaming’s VP of Business Development, Marcus Yoder. Yoder was excited to share how his company has taken the fun of the video games we grew up with and loved to play on our phones, to casino floors on land and sea. These are definitely NOT your grandma’s nickel slot machines!
Gamblit is innovative in that it not only brings our favorite games to the casino, but they have developed their own interactive games, as well. No surprise that the most popular of Gamblit’s games on the casino floor is Pac-Man (1:50). As Yoder demonstrates,
Even better, players have the opportunity to play the game solo or against others, with payouts determined by “slot math” (1:55).
Yoder admits that their machines attract a different clientele than traditional slot machines do, and that is not a coincidence. Yoder says that their average player is “roughly 10 to 15 years younger than an average slot player” (3:10). He explains that the “core” player is between 48 and 50 years of age – the Gen Xers and Millennials – who seek out these skill-based games. Yoder says that originally, they were seeing players on the Strip in their ‘30s, so it was a bit of a surprise when the age skewed higher. Even more interesting is how players view these games. Yoder says that players don’t consider them as slot machines in the traditional sense. Instead, players explain their play on these machines as “a way of being entertained” (4:13). Players see the Gamblit games as they would a traditional arcade video game, keeping their “slot budget” separate from the monies they are spending to play the games that they grew up on. Of course, with a gaming twist.
For the casinos, this separation mentality bodes well. Instead of replacing the games on the floor, Gamblit Gaming has created an opportunity for “more is more.” Yoder says the unique profile and set up of their machines creates a revenue stream where there wasn’t one. For the Tribal Casinos, approximately 75% of Gamblit’s client base, these new games have created a whole new tax base for the Tribes. These tribes, such as the Choctaw, have actually expressed their appreciation for Gamblit supporting their people (5:01) with these new games.
For Gamblit, the younger demo’s love for these games continues to grow, creating an evolving client base for the casinos. Shacklett had the opportunity to ask Yoder the question all of us former arcade kids want to know: “Is there a chance to win big?” (5:39) After all, playing out your quarters on the machines and making it to the higher levels was great when we were kids – but as gamblers, we are all looking for that “Big Win!” Good news for us. Yoder explains that the payouts are “just like any kind of slot machine that you could come across.” Yoder demonstrates their “Deal or No Deal” game (5:53), which is essentially a “Jacks or Better” game, with the added excitement of the “banker” seeking to entice a higher wager when the player has a good hand.
Some of Gamblit’s games boast bonuses of up to 5,000 times! These numbers create not only added excitement, but put the player in the midst of the action. For players looking for a more interactive experience than pressing the button and watching the wheels, Yoder’s games create a new element of surprise and, even, a sense of control, as players can use their skill to advance in the game.
While it may seem that playing these games is like a trip back to 1982, Yoder says people are “wagering $5, $10, $20” and even up to “15,000 coin per session.” (6:40) As Yoder explains, you still can win as you would on a traditional game, “it’s just a hell of a lot more fun.”
For players looking for comps – and who isn’t? (“Thank you, URComped!”), Yoder says the point accumulation is the same for their games as it would be for any other slot. This is good news for URComped members looking to try out these new machines, while seeking to increase their points for comps. Yoder says gamblers looking to check out Gamblit Gaming’s machines won’t have to look too far. Yoder explains that in addition to the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas and several tribal casinos, that the “Big Boys” like Park MGM, MGM Grand, Cactus Pete’s and Red Rock are all on board with the new games. For those on the East Coast, Yoder points out that Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina is actually one of their best locations. Yoder says the company has absolute plans to continue to grow and expand their reach, but with the COVID-19 crisis, those plans have slowed a bit.
While it could appear that Yoder and his company have quickly and easily infiltrated the competitive gaming scene, URComp’s Shacklett wanted to know if that was the case. Yoder assured him that it was not as easy as it sounds. In addition to extensive testing of the machines and technology, the licensing is exhausting (9:40). Yoder explains that he and his wife were required to submit more than 540 documents, including their financials for the past five years. As Yoder states, “it’s a heavy investment and not for the light-hearted,” in order to receive all of the necessary licensing.
For Yoder and Gamblit Gaming, this is just the beginning. Casinos are looking for that next “big thing” to attract new clientele and to retain current clients. As Yoder explains, their games attract that younger player. In addition, Yoder says they have created machines that are bar-tops. A perfect solution for the gamer who wants to chill with a cocktail and play a game with a potential payout, versus playing a game on their cell phone.
Gamblit Gaming has created more than a slot machine. What they have done is take gaming to a new level of entertainment. By adding in the nostalgia factor of games that their clients grew up on, they have created the ultimate video game. To find out where you can play these games, head to GamblitGaming.com. Who knows? You may be the next big winner!
Full transcript below
(0:00- 0:20) Craig Shacklett: Hello, everybody Craig from URComped here. We have a very special guest Marcus Yoder.He is VP of Business Development with gamblit gaming.They are provider of interactive games. Marcus thank you so much for being here.
(0:20– 0:22) Marcus Yoder: Thank you very much.Looking forward to it.
(0:22– 0:44) CS: One of our first videos in the series of just industry-insider conversation because URComped. We had a struggle or we had a long road getting into work with Casino partners,and I just love hearing other industry people talk about their products and what their experience is getting in the market and what they do. So Marcus, thank you so much for being here.
(0:44– 0:46) MY: Thank you for having me.
(0:46– 0:52) CS: Alright, so why don’t we start off for folks that aren’t familiar with Gambling Gaming. Talk a little bit about what you all do.
(0:52– 2:31) MY: Okay, great. So we produce games and gaming machines that are really an interactive way to play a gambling game.So many of the games are directly from our own game studio. But we also have, as part of our special sauce, the ability to take games that are popular. Let’s say, mobile-downloaded games and gamble-fi them. So basically take the game exactly how it is played on your phone for fun and put in the exhilaration of wagering into it.
And that’s really kind of the science and the art, if you will, of making that happen. Some examples of that are Cut the Rope, which has, as you know, 1.2 billion downloads. So now you can play that same game on the casino floor. Probably the biggest title is this one, Pac-Man. So we’ve got two different forms where you can play either by yourself against the computer or head-to-head against three other people. Basically playing for a pot that’s generated by basically slot math. And then we have a single player version of it as well going on our tri-station machine which hopefully we can show some images at some point. And that is, you’re playing Pac-Man and basically every time you eat a certain number of pellets or eat a ghost then that triggers a wager. And then you have to collect keys to go into a bonus round where you just gobble up dots to basically uncover what your your progressive or your bonus is. So it’s a lot of fun.
(2:31– 2:40) CS: That’s awesome.No, they are a lot of fun. Again, I speak from first-hand experience playing at G2E is a blast. And I understand it’s actually on a cruise ship now,right?
(2:40-2:46) MY: Yeah, we’re on Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas.
(2:46– 2:57) CS: Alright. Well, I know we’ve got a lot of URComped members that have sailed on the Harmony. So if you’re watching it, put in the comments what you guys thought. And I think I’ll be back in the Harmony a couple months. So I’m going to try it as well.
(2:57– 3:01) MY: Okay, great. It’s the big tri-station, you can’t miss a big, goofy, redhead-like that guy.
(3:01– 3:10) CS: Okay, perfect. So what’s kind of target market? Who’s playing these skill-based games?
(3:10– 5:20) MY: So we’re seeing that our players are roughly ten to fifteen years younger than an average slot-player.So it seems like the core is right around forty eight, fifty years old. Somebody who didn’t necessarily grow up with slot. Somebody grew up with Atari. Grew up playing games. I turned fifty a week ago. This is the kind of game that I would play. I’m not I’m just not into slots. I just don’t play it. On the strip, however, we see anywhere between thirty and thirty five as the core player. So originally we came out and we thought, “Okay, this is going to be for the Millennial.” And we actually are seeing that it’s really Generation X. It’s a young generation. I’m sorry. Younger Generation X or an older Millennial. Somebody has some disposable income. But we see players across the board. Interestingly enough when we talk to older players, we asked them, “Okay, how did this affect your slot play?” And the answer has always comebacks like, “Oh this isn’t a slot game. My slot budget is over here and I play that. This is something else. This is just for me to stay entertained so it’s been kind of interesting.” So part of the purpose of Gamblit is to create this new revenue stream for the operators and basically, for the communities that they serve, whether that be a commercial community or a lottery. One of our biggest customers is the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission which runs the lottery and all the casinos. So we’re actually creating tax revenue. And then I’d say around 75% of our operators are tribal. And so we are able to. Actually, we’re creating additional revenue for the tribes. Much to the point where like the Choctaw will come back and say,” Thank you for helping support us and helping support the people.” Because part of the premise is that as people get older, either they stop going to the casino or younger people are coming into the casino already there and to make sure that still a gambling revenue stream. That’s what our games are there for.
(5:20-5:30) CS: It’s excellent.And I’d love to guys come out with a game where I can actually be the ghost instead of Pac-Man, because I would love to be that ghost to try to eat Pac-Man.
(5:30– 5:31) MY: Okay. We’ll talk to Bandai Namco and see what we can do.
(5:31– 5:42) CS: Okay. Thank you. Alright, so the gambling aspect of it, is there a chance to win big in any of these games or what? What’s that like?
(5:42– 6:58) MY: Yeah, the payouts are just like any kind of slot machine that you could come across.
I’ll give you an example. The Deal or No Deal Video Poker which is basically a jacks or better game, but with a twist that if as you start to create a good hand the banker will call you with a deal. That is more than what your minimum is. And somewhere on the range we actually show you what the winds are. So you have to sweat it and decide, “Okay, we’re here to gamble, you’re going to take the deal or not?” But because we have multipliers on that if you get the 5x multiplier and you’re wagering like at five, ten or twenty dollars hand, you could wind up in $40,000. A lot of our games have a five thousand, you could win up to five thousand times your wager. We see a lot of what I would call VIP play where people are wagering five, ten, twenty dollars. Some individuals, we got a couple of guys who are wagering fifteen thousand coin in per session. So it is truly still gambling. You truly can win the same way that you can win in terms of slot. It’s just a hell of a lot more fun.
(6:58– 7:11) CS: Now, so our business URComped, you have a lot of customers that want to get comped.
Do you have any insight as to how maybe points accumulate on one of your games versus on a video poker or slot machine or something else?
(7:11– 7:36) MY: Will be equivalent to a slot machine. Basically, just like with any other slot game. The operator sets what the return to player is going to be and then based on that, based on what you’re wagering and all the criteria that they have, we slot in, not to use that word, but we are deemed as the same as a slot machine. So you can utilize URComped and you can create comps and just the same way.
(7:36– 7:50) CS: Excellent. You mentioned the Harmony of the Seas.You mentioned Choctaw at Alberta. Are there any other big well-known casinos where our players can find your games?
(7:50– 9:24) MY: At MGM. With MGM, we’re at Park MGM and MGM Grand with the Caesars Organization. We’re at The Linq in Las Vegas. We’re also at Harrahs Cherokee in North Carolina and that ends up being one of our best locations. We didn’t know that, but there it is. We’re also at Cactus Petes with the Penn Organization. We’re at Red Rock with Station. We’re at Texas Station in California. We’re at Barona, Chuckchansi, Jamul going into some of the smaller ones as well. In Oklahoma were with the Choctaws and two locations at Durant and Pocola. We’re also at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. We’re fairly spread across the country and part of that is, we wanted to work with first-movers, people who understood that some changes coming. And we need to provide a certain kind of gaming for the patrons who are going to be here in the next five, ten, fifteen years. And they’ve been great partners to work with, supporting us, giving us the opportunity. They pound on us just like all the other EGM providers, but frankly, that has made us better. We’re going to continue to expand. We’ve got a lot of basically pent-up demand. And once this COVID-19 situation relaxes and the casinos reopen, we’ll be putting more machines out there.
(9:24– 9:55) CS: Excellent. I know we spoke before we started the interview. URComped, We had a hard journey getting partnered with casinos. You have to prove yourself. And there’s a lot of regulatory issues. I can only imagine that it’s exponentially harder for a product that’s on the slot floor that’s taken in money to actually get in the door. Tell me about when did you come in with Gamblit and what was that journey of actually getting on in the casino floor.
(9:55– 12:54) MY: I started the casino industry 11 years ago coming in to work for IGT Interactive and my remit at that time was to expand online casino gaming outside of Europe. This was the time frame where New Jersey was starting to think about legalizing. There was a lot of hubbub about poker legalizing across the country. At the end of the day, only Delaware and New Jersey then Nevada had legalized and this is all prior to the lifting of the sports betting banned. We established the New Jersey business. We established the Canadian business. Actually opened up online gaming in Mexico with a company called Calgary, a large Spanish, public casino company.Then I went out on my own to do some Consulting. I found Gamblit. I consulted with them for a little bit. Got a chance to look under the hood
and really look at the technology. And thought, okay this is really something. That was five years ago. We had to develop the games. We had to develop the machinery. And then you have to take all of that through UL testing. They shock it with 30,000 volts of electricity to see if it doesn’t suddenly spit out money. And then we had to go and work with independent test laboratories like GLI, BMM. They serve as the testing facilities for many of the state regulators. We will give a game to GLI. They will test it, run it through millions of permutations to make sure that when the operator sets the return to player that that is what happens across the million spins, right? And then we have to actually get licensed by a state entity, and then potentially by a tribal entity. And that’s both the company getting licensed, and going through investigations and due diligence in us personally. I personally have a license to be part of an EGM manufactured in the state of Indiana. My wife and I had to submit 540 documents, not pages, of all of our finances for the past five years. Credit cards like Nordstrom’s cards, the car wash card. Three weeks later, the commissioner from the state and a member of the Indiana State Police show up and interview you. Nothing to hide, but it’s the police right? So it’s a little bit nerve-wracking. But that’s the kind of thing that you have to go through. We’re on the other side of those barriers now, right? I think we’re licensed in 40 jurisdictions. I’d have to go back. Don’t count me on that. Quote me on that. That includes for instance a temporary license in New York to do business. But then we also need the license from Seneca and so forth, right? It’s a heavy investment and not for the light-hearted.
(12:54– 13:24) CS: I know exactly we’re talking about with. Actually, I didn’t get a key. It’s a key license. Or if you’re a casino operator, it’s a key license where they were really dive deep. We got license in the Bahamas and that was thorough. That was like three years of tax returns and credit card statements. Thankfully, my wife doesn’t have a Nordstrom’s card or anything like that. I can imagine they’re like,”What is this 5,000 charged at Nordstrom’s? Yeah, that’s right, honey. What is it?”
(13:24– 13:28) MY: It spawns some very interesting discussions.
(13:28– 14:00) CS: So when you’re selling, just like every company had, your selling to somebody and you got to State your unique value proposition. What makes you different than IGT or Aristocrat or Williams or Valleys? How do you sell to a casino? What are they looking at? Are they just looking at how do I maximize the value per square foot on my floor and you have to convince them that this is a good use of that square footage? Or what kind of those conversation is like?
(14:00– 15:53) MY: It unfolds in a couple of different ways. One, is if you’re selling a game machine and a game, then it has to be able to fit into their capital budget. And that usually happens once a year. We prefer to do a lease and revenue share because, frankly, it provides the opportunity to shared risk and then shared return and reward. But operators are really, really tightening down on what was to be called lease footprint. And so when we are working with an operator we’ll say, “Okay, this is what our game does. This is who it attracts.That’s not your standard slot player. So we’re actually incremental Revenue to your slot floor.” Meaning that if they just put another slot where they’re going to put us then slot play transitions from one to the other, right? If they got an opportunity to put a new game on the floor then it adds in as incremental. We do work with them to say, “You know what, don’t take a game off the floor. Let’s just move this one over here, this one over here a little bit and we’ll put it right into this location.” And that seems to work out best for everybody. Some of these casinos actually have a lot of space we got to make sure that we got power and data, and then place it on the floor. We see that our games work best close to ETG’s, Electronic Table Games, because they tend to be a little bit younger as well and close to a bar kind of environment. Again, more younger people kind of socializing there. We actually just introduced our bar-top units and they’ve only been in market for about four weeks. So it’s real early on the data. But again, we’re seeing that people who would not be a video poker player sitting down and actually playing these games.
(15:53– 16:08) CS: That’s super interesting. I can see that working. I mean like, I’m not a Keno player, but if I’m in Vegas having breakfast at 9 a.m. I’ll play Keno. When I’m at the bar, I’d play that. That’s great. Where is that?
(16:08– 16:22) MY: We’re at Texas Station and at The Linq and we’re up until a couple of weeks ago. We were preparing to install about 14 other ones around in Nevada, but everything is stalled right now.
(16:22– 16:29) CS: Understood. Yeah, it’s a crazy time. Everybody stalled. We got a lot of time for things like this, right?
(16:29– 16:59) MY: Yeah, but it has been really heartening to see many of the organizations like when Station Salmon Well, the Choctaw’s still paying their employees, right? And it’s really heartening to say. It’s such a people business and so many communities rely on these organizations for tax revenue and employment. It’s really important that they continue to do what they’re doing and hopefully they can open up as soon as possible.
(16:59– 17:04) CS: Excellent. Barks is there anything we didn’t cover yet? You think we should go over?
(17:04– 17:24) MY: No, its just that we welcome player feedback as much as possible. We got social media streams where we get a lot of commentary. People will ask us where we can play. We actually have on our website, if you go to gambling gaming.com, a list of every Casino where you can play. We keep that very up-to-date.
(17:24– 17:31) CS: Perfect.Alright, I know we connected through LinkedIn. Is there any family wants to get a hold of you? What’s the best way to get in touch?
(17:31– 17:39) MY: So my email which is email@example.com.
(17:39– 17:50) CS: Awesome. Well Marcus, thanks so much for taking the time today. It’s fascinating to hear about Gamblit Gaming, about your history in the business. And we’re looking forward to seeing Gamblit on many more cruise ships, many be more casinos. Hopefully in the near future.
(17:50– 17:55) MY: Great. We appreciate the opportunity.