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ONLINE-OFFLINE GAMING

For land-based casinos, the explosion of online gaming is an opportunity rather than a threat, the CEO of Harrah’s Interactive tells Casino International

All to play for

M

itch Garber is blunt: “We as a company are looking at the future of gamers. Those who today are under 20 are living their lives on the Internet.”

The CEO of Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment,

who previously held the same position at PartyGaming, is a firm believer that for land-based casino operators, moving online should not be seen as a flank-covering adjunct to their main business but as the first step on a long journey toward a gaming world where online and offline not only co-exist but complement each other. The firm has a powerful suite of brands – including

Bally’s, Caesars, Flamingo, London Clubs International (LCI), Planet Hollywood and World Series of Poker as well as Harrah’s itself – which it is now leveraging online, where it has already launched Caesars Online (www.caesarscasino.com and sister site www.caesarsbingo.com) and www.WSOP.com, which are only available to UK residents. Garber makes the point that Harrahs has an extensive offline database of players, which they can access to attract new visitors to their online presences. Most online gaming sites don’t have the benefit of being affiliated with a casino operator in the countries they are targeting. Harrah’s can utilise the extensive player databases from its London Clubs International portfolio of casinos in the UK. But Garber’s objective is not to see off the Internet

pure-play competition. Instead, he is looking ahead a decade to a time when the online and offline brands “will absolutely coalesce more”. Harrah’s wants an online relationship with its offline customers, and vice-versa, he says. “We’re attracting a new customer who has not

visited one of [our] physical properties” but may nevertheless be familiar with the famous brands,

24 JUNE 2010

according to Garber, who points out that it’s even possible to use offline assets to enhance the online offering, for example by offering casino visits as player incentives. He dismisses fears in the sector that online gaming

will cannibalise land-based casino revenue, observing that when online was legal in the US, that didn’t happen – and that playing patterns are different. Online gamers make more frequent visits to their

favourite sites, but spend less money each time, with cash coming from a nightly or weekly entertainment budget rather than out of the money they’ve saved for a big annual splurge like a week in Vegas. The implication is that both for the industry overall

and for individual land-based firms going online, the new channel should add to total revenues rather than just carving up the same pie in a different way.

Equal opportunities?

For land-based casinos, going online may seem

like a relatively straightforward way to extend a brand’s gaming offer, with plenty of specialist firms ready to hold hands and none of the headaches of building hotels and hiring thousands of staff. But could it work the other way too – could the best- known online brands be tempted to move into bricks and mortar? Unlikely, says Garber, suggesting that the huge

capital costs of setting up a real-world casino as opposed to a virtual one are likely to be a strong deterrent. Yet he believes that as well as branded online developments by the land-based operators there could be outright mergers or acquisitions, bringing together gaming titans from both camps. So ten years from now, as Garber’s new generation

of gamers who have barely known life without the Internet comes to the fore, the casino business could look a lot different – both on the ground and on the screen. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62
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