Canadian Gaming Summit: ‘No evidence’ online presence detracts from land-based entities

Light & Wonder's Byron Bridger has stated there's 'no evidence' that online detracts from land-based entities during his panel at the Canadian Gaming Summit.
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The ability to evolve to capitalize on burgeoning digital opportunities, as well as provide users with the ability to move play between digital and land-based environments, is the tough nut that many operators across the North American landscape have looked, or are looking, to crack.

In a 45-minute session at the Canadian Gaming Summit, Carrie Kormos, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Gateway Casinos, began by jokingly stating that “as a land-based operator myself I feel like I should be in the audience taking notes.” 

A packed session was taken on a land-based to online journey that closed with a belief that there’s “no evidence” of a cannibalization effect.

After being quizzed on the advantages, as well as key challenges and obstacles, facing brick and mortar entities looking to enter the digital realm, Byron Bridger, VP of Commercial and MD of Canada for Light & Wonder, stepped up to the plate.

To begin, the necessity of making players feel at home through replicating the land-based experience was shared, in addition to needing to create a reciprocal relationship across both sides of these gaming operations.

“I think first and foremost, from that perspective, your existing database and your brands are definitely core components of an effective strategy that gets you into the digital space,” Bridger noted.

“And my first recommendation would be to get there as efficiently as you can to take advantage of that player community, but finding ways to create connections between your land-based experience and your digital experience is absolutely paramount to create that seamless feel for players, they want to be able to experience your brand, as they do land-based, as much as possible in that digital realm.” 

As talk shifted across an array of elements that combine to deliver a digital gaming experience to players, Kormos asked the panel about best advice and practices that would be offered to partners and regulatory agencies to support land-based operators that are looking to enter the online space.

Andrew Crowe, SVP of Business Development for Sightline Payments, got things underway by underscoring the importance to engage early and often.

“Engaging early and often, and really treating it like a partnership with the regulators so they understand how to work with you and apply the right regulations to what we’re contemplating as we move forward,” he noted as guidance.

Crowe added: “Keep in mind your existing customers are one of your greatest assets. So while others are working to acquire customers, you’ll be working to support your existing customers in a new channel. 

“And it gives you the opportunity to now engage that customer when they’re off property as well. So I think there’s a tremendous amount of upside for you.

“And again, you have an asset, you don’t have to go out and acquire customers the way that other new entrants to the market do. So you’ve got to really, really work to leverage that component as well.”

Jason McCulloch, Director of iGaming and Analytics at Galaxy Gaming, offered his insight, stating: “I would just add that if you’re new to markets such as what happened here in Ontario, and you’re an operator in land-based, understand what was already available in the market before you start going down the regulatory way. For instance, the grey market here in Ontario still exists. It’s been here it’s not going anywhere. 

He added: “So understand what was there before so that you can understand where you know what your competitor actually is and where you fit in.”

Furthermore, Bridger looked at the matter from a regulatory standpoint, highlighting the necessity to be “conscious and deliberate in the outcome that you’re trying to achieve and respectful of the constituents that are part of the industry.

“Because I think some of the best areas where you can see value proposition is when you have balance across those who are there before, those who exist in grey spaces, and those who want to come into a regulated environment,” he noted.

As the sessions drew towards a close, the conversation naturally led down that familiar and well-trodden path of the cannibalization effect for a land-based entity upon introducing an online component.

“…there’s just no evidence that we’ve seen that having an online presence detracts from, or cannibalizes, land-based at all,” Bridger continued.

“We’ve seen much the opposite. We’ve seen an amplification of revenues. And we’ve worked with brands that have had the great fortune of owning the land-based and the digital ecosystems and being able to leverage both of those together, so maybe that context helps. 

“But, I mean, I’ve seen no evidence that launching a digital property has any type of cannibalizing factor on land-based, and to the player growth perspective, it gives you new ways to engage the player community. So, I think it’s extremely beneficial.”