Video interview with Noah Acres

"We're planning an IPO for next year and getting acces to public markets will help us fund Acres' growth"

Reading time 7:21 min

It's safe to say 2023 is set to be a major year for Acres Manufacturing Company. Over the past five months, the casino technology and loyalty innovator has debuted a new ticket-based bonusing solution, participated in gaming expos and expanded its cashless efforts to new jurisdictions and properties, among other key developments.

But looking to the future, Acres' casino tech revolution is just beginning. As the company prepares for an IPO next year and readies for a new stage as a public firm, it also works on the next iteration of its Foundation casino management system, described as "the first CMS designed in the big data and mobile era."

Yogonet caught up with Noah Acres to learn about these exciting projects, the importance of cashless gaming, and more.

The last time we spoke was before Acres' participation in this year's Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention, where you showcased a new ticket-based bonusing solution. What was the reception like to the product?

TIBO is a ticket-in, bonus-out solution. It issues bonuses directly to the player at the slot machine via the ticket printer. This comes out of the ticket printer and you stick it right back in the slot machine and you get credit. It's a really cool tool and it's something that is very simple yet effective.

When we went to IGA, we debuted the technology and heard a lot of cool ideas from operators. One of the ideas was to use the ticket printer to issue concert and event tickets. If you're holding a concert and you require a minimum play level, the player can just start playing, and as soon as they reach that threshold, boom, the concert ticket pops right out of the ticket dispenser.

When you step back, every machine has a ticket printer. Casinos historically struggled to serve players real-time information at the game. Real-time marketing is something that's never really been done effectively in the casino industry. This ticket is something of value that the player can hold and redeem and appreciate. And so we're looking forward to deploying it.

IGA was the first convention where the product was presented.

That's correct. It was the first time we debuted the technology. We actually just posted to our LinkedIn last week a cool demo of it that shows how it works, using our card reader. There's an LED bezel on our card reader and it lights up like a progress bar the closer the player gets to a ticket coming out.

If the player is invested in the session and they're getting closer and closer to the ticket coming out, they're not going to leave. They're going to keep playing. These are some of the cool things that we can do with our technology that's never really been seen in the industry before.

Every slot machine in every casino has a ticket printer, so this is something that can be immediately repurposed to better target players. TITO is the original ticketing system and it just does cash out tickets: you hit cash out on the slot machine and the ticket pops out. Well, this is something different.

It does the cash-out function just like everybody expects. But even when you don't hit cash out now, suddenly you're going to get bonus tickets that pop out. These bonuses can be cash, it can be free play, and it can also be for merchandise and other things. You could put in a QR code, and scanning it gets you entered into a contest. TIBO is a really exciting way just to communicate with players.

Speaking of new technologies, Acres is currently developing Foundation HQ, described as "the CMS and loyalty software of the future." What can you tell us about this new development?

Foundation HQ is going to be our casino management system. It's going to be the first CMS designed in the big data and mobile era whereas everything else in the past is designed for the desktop era. So how are operators going to going to benefit from this? Let me just tease this: pretty soon we're going to show how Foundation HQ can process any jackpot in under four minutes. And we'll do it in a way that involves employees and helps them increase their tips.

Jackpot processing is something that historically casinos struggle with, and it frustrates players and operators alike because it oftentimes shuts down games for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. They have to find the employees to go line up at the cage, get the cash and bring it to the players, have them sign the forms... But we've developed a process that's just much faster and it keeps everybody informed, and it's going to process any jackpot, even the biggest ones, in four minutes or less. It's going to be something that people really need to have.

It'll be exciting to see how Foundation HQ improves the experience Foundation provides now because it already offers benefits such as managing real-time data, cashless gaming... Will it take these elements, let's say, to the next level?

Definitely. It's all about intertwining all the functionalities that we've already introduced. Take, for example, TIBO, which is the ticket printer that we just discussed. We've also talked in the past about the video poker analyzer, which can determine a player's value based on their decision-making process. So let's combine these two ideas together and say, "Can we print tickets based on a player's mistakes in video poker?" And that becomes our marketing campaign. We can do this on any slot machine, on any video poker machine, where the rewards process is now going to become automated.

It's not manual, where casinos are looking through spreadsheets to determine what the offer of the month is for this tier of players. Everything is going to be personalized, data-driven, customized for a particular player. And it's going to be in real-time; not a mailer that goes to your house at the end of the month. It will be real-time. If you're in front of a game and it has a ticket printer, maybe you get the ticket to pop out. If you're using a cashless app, you get messages and bonuses in real-time on the app.

Foundation is blending all of these ideas together and automating the marketing and operations processes of the casino. We definitely will have more to share about that this year, probably in advance of G2E. Stay tuned.

Turning to another event, both you and John Acres will be attending and presenting at the B Riley Investors Conference this month, participating in a fireside chat. What can you tell us about this opportunity?

We're planning on doing an IPO next year. The B Riley Investors Conference is a great way for investors to learn more about our company and the opportunity that we present to completely remake technology for land-based casinos.

Getting access to the public markets helps us fund our growth and actually helps us manage the regulatory process as well because the burden of how to get licensed and how frequently to report to each jurisdiction actually diminishes for public companies compared to private companies like ours. To achieve all of our goals, I think it's important that we become a public company.

We're looking to sell a small part of our company just to get access to the public markets and get a little funding and diminish our regulatory burdens. The B Riley Investors Conference is a great way to hear our story for anybody who's interested.

Going public would be a really big change for the company. Where do you see the company headed once that occurs?

We're going to continue to innovate. We're going to continue to disrupt. Today we've got the platform out, we've proven it works, that it can get regulated and that it is successful. Today, we're in 11 states doing cashless, bonusing, data analytics and things like that. So once we become a public company, we can scale a lot faster. That's really what this is about because we have the ideas down. We just have to scale them faster and release them faster.

As for other upcoming events, the company also is attending the Northwest Indian Gaming Conference in June. What will you focus on for that event in specific?

We'll be there talking about TIBO, cashless, Foundation and all the different things that we've been working on. The state of Washington, which is where the Northwest Indian Gaming Conference takes place, has some really great Indian gaming operators and some of the most knowledgeable regulators in the country. We are excited to attend and make connections and reconnect with the different operators and regulators up there from Washington and Oregon; hear their needs and share our ideas.

Lastly, cashless gaming is a topic that we discussed during our last interviews. Since the last one, Acres has released a new position paper on this issue and we have almost finished the first half of the year. Is cashless advancing the way you expected? And what can be learned from this position paper?

I think that we are nearing the cusp of exponential growth in cashless. We have some momentum on our side. 10 or 11 state regulators have fully approved cashless systems. As for Acres, we are active in ten states, maybe 11. We're expanding to Rolling Hills in California this summer. That'll be the first tribal casino offering a true cashless solution.

What operators can learn is that cashless gets casinos access to more players and more money. That's what this is about. 70% of transactions in the broad economy are non-cash. Casinos cannot afford to stay cash-only because it's literally turning customers away; most people today do not carry cash anymore and fewer and fewer people even carry physical payment cards to go to the ATM.

Cashless just lets players get money easier. It's that simple. We fully expect virtually every casino in the near future, the next couple of years for sure, to have a cashless option. Every other sector of society has gone cashless and casinos have to follow suit.

The industry has been somewhat slow to catch up with cashless.

It's been slow, but to be fair, it's been approved in 10 or 11 states and regulators in gaming are notorious for moving very slowly. And I think before COVID, cashless was not even on the table for a lot of these regulators and a lot of these environments. So for us to be active in 10 or 11 states to have a 30 000 machine footprint, right now, we have the tender laid. As soon as there's a flame, the thing is going to explode. And it's just the way that things have to go.

Watch the full interview here.

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