Over the past three years an inegenious online gaming system branded PlayAway has been increasingly accepted by land gambling casinos as a legal means of using the Internet to get more patrons into land venues.
Over the weekend the Boston Globe examined the system in an interview with GameLogic's CEO John Taylor, who opined that many land casinos have only used their websites and the Internet as one dimensional electronic billboards, with some additionally taking resort reservations.
"They're one of the last industries left that hasn't fully embraced the Net," Taylor contends, and his company set out to do something about it whilst staying within America's tricky Internet gaming laws, and turn a profit in the process.
GameLogic is a private company backed by venture funding from Bain Capital Ventures of Boston, General Catalyst Partners of Cambridge, and Maveron, a Seattle venture firm co-founded by Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, reports the Globe. It serves land casinos large and small, ranging from Trump Entertainment Resorts and Foxwoods Resort Casino to the Newport Grand slot machine parlour in Newport, R.I., Dover Downs Hotel and Casino and the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, N.M.
Taylor told the Boston newspaper that too many people play video games at websites run by companies like Microsoft and Yahoo when they could be hanging out at the websites of America's land casinos. His solution is PlayAway, a service that uses Web-based video games to steer visitors to land casinos.
With growing competition and the current economic crunch already impacting revenues in the land gambling industry, PlayAway may experience growing momentum because it circumvents the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which forbids financial transactions with ‘illegal' online gambling companies.
No money changes hands in the PlayAway system. Its value is principally as a marketing tool rather than a gambling process per se, and it uses Internet-based games to encourage players to frequent land venues.
Gamblers at casinos using the PlayAway system can use their loyalty cards on the establishment's website gaming area, which is run by GameLogic. The sites have a Fun Play or practice and educational area that's open to non-gamblers and offers no prizes.
Cardholders can also log onto Bonus Play and try for a variety of prizes. But nobody plays for cash here. Instead, winners can print out prize coupons which they can enter in a sweepstakes drawing….at the land casino.
Players can also win credits that entitle them to free play on the physical casino's slot machines. But to redeem the sweepstakes coupons or collect free slot plays, the gambler must go to the land venue.
Taylor revealed that his company has started to offer a third service through which casino visitors can purchase tickets for online games like slots and poker, then play the games on their home computers. The tickets are similar to scratch cards sold by state lotteries; some are winners, some aren't. But instead of physically scraping the cards to reveal a reward, the player goes online to find out whether he has won. And again, victorious gamers must return to the casino to collect any cash.
One casino marketer who speaks well of PlayAway is Chris Archunde of the Santa Ana Star Casino. Initially sceptical when the casino was considering the system, she has seen the value in practical terms. She told the Boston Globe that the Santa Ana Star mainly attracts Hispanic women aged 45 to 68, whom she at first suspected were not comfortable with computers. "Turns out they were," she said. "They responded very, very well to the product."
Archunde said PlayAway attracts new players to the casino. This year, it gave away thousands of promotional coupons for online play during a bowling convention. With previous coupon promotions, the casino was lucky if 10 percent of the coupons were used. But 30 percent of those who won PlayAway coupons logged in, played, and showed up later at the casino.
"It definitely drives their decision to make a trial visit," Archunde said.