As of July 1, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, David Flinn expanded its previous, exclusively Canadian-focused scope to include oversight of IGT’s Gaming sales, P&L management and customer relations across South and Central America. "The transition has been rather unique. I've had a few Zoom calls, I've had a few phone calls with some of the customers, but it's been very difficult to get a good feel because everything's been closed," he tells Yogonet in a video interview.
Flinn sees several similarities between the different jurisdictions he oversees at IGT. He finds both regions "very multi-vertical," with VLTs, casinos, PlayDigital or interactive gaming, and he believes they can actually learn from one another. "Canada is a very strong interactive market for IGT globally, not just for North America. And I really see the potential in Central and South America as well. I believe that having omnichannel solutions between land-based and interactive is the key to our future. I believe people should be able to move seamlessly between those channels and we're doing that now in Canada with Powerbucks and MegaJackpots."
Despite the recent casino reclosures in different Canadian jurisdictions amid a global second wave of COVID-19 cases, Flinn notes that when the venues were open there was a pent-up demand for gaming, and the attendance and revenues were strong. "But the overall winner out of all the verticals has undoubtedly been interactive," he adds. "The growth in interactive is in multiple hundreds percent in Canada since March. It began growing in the middle of March and has continued to grow every month afterward. So interactive remains incredibly strong in the Canadian marketplace. Alberta just opened up their online space. Atlantic Canada opened up their online space this year, and they're doing above average and ahead of their projections thus far." Between 50% to 55% of the interactive revenue IGT currently generates comes from Canada, according to Flinn.
"I think the interesting question will be how many people retreat from the online space and go back to land-based. And it'll be really interesting to see how that plays out as the casinos begin to reopen," Flinn says.
In terms of the new settings for the land-based business, from a performance and product perspective, Flinn says electronic table games are the clear winner. "Since March, I would say easily of the machines we placed, 80 percent of them are ETGs. So you're really seeing the casinos move towards electronic table games, because configuring traditional table games has proven to be a little more difficult and, to be honest, harder to be profitable by spacing people out on a table, so ETGs is an easier way to do that and a safer way to do that."
In October, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis launched the province’s only legal and regulated online gambling website. "Whenever we launch a new market like Alberta, the key is not to flood all of our entire catalog out at once. You start out with a significant amount of games, probably in the 20-25 game range, and then the key is to make sure that you have a reasonable cadence of launching new content every month," he explains. "Our blackjack is incredibly strong, it's the number one blackjack game in all of Canada. We have the two number one progressives, one is Powerbucks, which is not launched in Alberta yet, but we hope to launch it in Alberta at some point. That's being able to play the same progressive at the land-based casino and online as well. Nowhere else in the world does that as far as I know."
Furthermore, Flinn says cashless technology has always been in IGT's roadmap, and the pandemic accelerated it. He notes that one of the innovations that IGT launched this year is IGT Pay, which integrates into Resort Wallet, allowing players to fund their wallet via their bank account, credit card or any other funding mechanism so they don't have to wait in line at the A.T.M. "It becomes completely contactless. This is something that we've launched in the US, I expect it to continue in Canada and I hope the same for Central and South America as well."
The Canadian Federal government introduced a bill last month to legalize single-event sports betting in the country. "This is really exciting," Flinn says about that potential new market. "From a sports betting infrastructure platform perspective, IGT is incredibly positioned to take this on. We've been very successful in the US with the states that have legalized sports betting. We are by far the largest provider and handled the most transactions in the US. We've just started our own trade house in Nevada to set odds which is part of the infrastructure. We have a land-based portion of it with kiosks and a couple of other products. So I think we're really in a great spot to do very well in the Canadian marketplace. And hopefully in Central and South America as it becomes legal there."