Seth Young, Executive Director of Online gaming at Foxwoods, says European operators may have underestimated the challenge of cracking the American market
Connecticut has yet to legalize and regulate online gambling and sports betting, but that hasn’t stopped the Foxwoods Resort Casino from pushing ahead with its plans for both sectors.
The operator has been running a social casino business, FoxwoodsONLINE, for the last few years, and has recently struck a deal with Pariplay that will allow it to offer real-money gaming via mobile devices on-premise once live.
Foxwoods has also teamed up with Authentic Gaming to live stream play from one of its roulette tables to online operators in regulated European markets, allowing it to build brand equity with a new, global audience.
This concerted push into online is being overseen by Seth Young, Executive Director of Online Gaming at Foxwoods.
Young is considered to be one of the brightest minds in the industry, and below he talks to iGamingUSA about Foxwoods’ ambitions for the online space and why the Tribes are in the driving seat to capitalize on the PASPA repeal.
He also suggests European operators may have misunderstood the American market and that success will be far from guaranteed.
Q: What approach has Foxwoods taken to online gambling to date? What products do you offer your customers and how have they performed?
A: We have been busy. Earlier this year we announced a partnership with Pariplay to supply us with a technology platform that would enable real-money gaming via mobile devices on premise at Foxwoods Resort Casino, and more broadly to serve customers conveniently throughout the state of Connecticut once we gain legislative authorization to do so.
We also recently announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with Authentic Gaming to live stream a single-zero roulette table from our casino floor into regulated online gaming platforms throughout Europe, which will help expand the Foxwoods brand and drive new marketing opportunities.
For the last few years we have been operating a social casino business called FoxwoodsONLINE, which has allowed us to successfully drive new revenues, prospect for and acquire new potential casino customers, and allow our customers to take Foxwoods with them once they leave the property.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling that repealed PASPA, we are also working on the exciting new opportunity in sports betting, and remain highly interested in verticals like eSports and skill gaming, along with emerging verticals like augmented reality and virtual reality, just to name a few.
Foxwoods has a long history of being ahead of the curve with regard to innovation, and to put it simply we’re keeping our finger on the pulse of the market and executing on interesting strategic initiatives. It’s still early days for us, but we are building the foundation for something great.
Q: Your partnership with Pariplay is particularly interesting. Is the product live and are you taking real-money wagers online within the casino?
A: The product is not live yet. We are in the process of building out bespoke features and content that will make for the best customer experience, and taking a holistic approach to how we will introduce this new product to the market.
There’s an immense amount of behind the scenes work that goes into standing up a new platform and new business vertical. We’re developing every nuance of this program from scratch, and that takes time. We’re confident we will be launching with a world-class product, and that the product will continue to improve with time.
Q: How have these products helped you prepare for real-money online gambling if and when it is legalized in Connecticut?
A: We chose Pariplay as our technology partner for many reasons, not the least of which being their modern technology and ability to adapt. We will be prepared to operate state-wide in Connecticut with a strong product when authorized to do so by the state, and we are confident that online gaming will drive a number of great benefits both to the state and the brick-and-mortar operation at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Q: Your deal with Authentic Gaming is ground-breaking. Can you share a little more insight into the partnership and the benefits it offers Foxwoods?
A: We partnered with Authentic Gaming for a first-of-its-kind live streaming deal that will see a single-zero roulette table on our casino floor broadcast into the platforms of regulated online gaming operators throughout Europe.
We have essentially turned a physical table on our floor into iGaming content. This deal allows us to proliferate our brand into other markets, and opens the door for other interesting opportunities as we consider how our online gaming business will evolve. We are excited about the potential for this relationship as Authentic Gaming continues to grow its product suite.
Q: What progress is being made in Connecticut when it comes to legalizing online gambling and sports betting?
A: We have come out in support of legal online gaming and sports betting within the state of Connecticut, and to this effect I testified twice within the Connecticut legislature during the 2018 session to both express that support, and to provide education about the nuances of both verticals.
The legislative session in Connecticut ended May 9th, but with the repeal of PASPA on May 14th the Governor has shown an interest in calling a special session to tackle sports betting. Time will tell how this evolves.
Q: Foxwoods is owned and run by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Are the Tribes well-placed to succeed in legal iGaming and sports betting markets across the US?
A: Absolutely. Tribal gaming has evolved into a $30 billion per year market across the United States. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation has always been firmly ahead of the curve when it comes to innovating at Foxwoods, and have a level of sophistication that allows them to see how gaming could evolve in the future. Their public support for iGaming and sports betting – along with some of the other exciting projects happening on-premises – speaks volumes about their interest in innovation as a full-service entertainment destination, both online and off.
Q: Established European brands seem to think they will rule the roost in the USA – will this be the case or do American operators hold the cards?
A: The way iGaming is evolving in the USA is different than most other countries. iGaming is evolving on a state by state basis, creating a highly fragmented market tied to the existing land-based stakeholders in each individual jurisdiction.
Established European brands can’t simply apply for a license and operate across the country. They generally need to make deals in each individual jurisdiction in order to operate, and each regulatory environment is different.
There’s no doubt that we are witnessing the unlocking of a new online market in the US, but geographic diversity is important in order to leverage the full potential of the market, and there are very few major geographically diverse opportunities.
To many, there’s a gold rush happening right now. In reality, the gold rush started five years ago as groups began to position for this inevitable opportunity. What’s more, there are some operators that will be locked out from achieving the full benefit of the market.
European operators can’t operate without working through American operators. Some jurisdictions might have limited licenses which will naturally keep a market more closed off, while some jurisdictions will have too much saturation to make it attractive to operate anything meaningful, while some jurisdictions may have highly unfavourable regulatory environments, also making it commercially unviable to operate in a meaningful way.
Brand power is also highly subjective; in a place like the Northeast, the Foxwoods brand has been a fixture for decades and is trusted by customers in that region. In other places, brand power may matter less and create an opportunity for iGaming specific operators to launch their own successful brands – but that is premised on them making a deal with a land-based operator in the first place.
This market is highly nuanced, and often misunderstood.