Sunday October 21, 2012 : WILLIAMS INTERACTIVE SPEAKS ON FUTURE DIRECTION
New online gambling supply company has a multi-pronged strategy
The Chicago Tribune gave WMS online subsidiary Williams Interactive a good run over the weekend, exploring the future intentions of the recently created company, which is at the centre of WMS plans for legal internet gambling involvement.
Williams Interactive achieved Nevada online poker licensing as a supplier earlier this year and plans to operate online poker for existing, land-based casinos in Nevada, perhaps as early as the end of this year.
Initially the offering will be confined to the Silver State due to the still unresolved legal problems surrounding online gambling in the United States.
In the meantime, the company is building interest through the launch in July this year of a free Facebook app using its now established UK online gambling casino brand Jackpot Party. The play-for-free Jackpot Party Social Casino exploits the social gaming trend, raising revenues through players coughing up for extra virtual currency.
Jordan Levin, the chief operating officer of Williams Interactive, told the newspaper that in its first 13 weeks, the app shot to Facebook's fifth most popular casino game, delivering about 2 million monthly active users.
"I'll be honest with you; the pace of growth of the app has exceeded our expectations. Pleasantly," said Levin.
Orrin Edidin, a WMS president who heads up Williams Interactive, explained the background and troubled history of online gambling and poker in the USA.
"There was a proliferation of online wagering as early as 1999, but as a licensed, land-based slot machine provider, we were very, very careful about touching the space and compromising those land-based licenses," said Edidin. "The legality was very muddled, particularly in the U.S., so we decided conservatively to stay away from it."
Edidin said he made his first presentation to WMS executives on online gambling in the late '90s. Not until 2008 did the company start building the "Jackpot Party" website, WMS' legal, online casino in the U.K. That site went live in November 2010.
"But more recently, [online gambling] has been evolving so quickly and moving so fast, we're learning together at the same time," Edidin said.
It's still early days for the interactive operations, with the WMS most recent annual report commenting that the financials of its interactive business were "not material" to the parent company's balance sheet.
Edidin predicted that individual states will continue to put more liberal internet gambling laws in place, following the examples of Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.
The American Gaming Association, which favours a federal solution that would initially only allow online poker, continues to press Congress and plans to submit legalization during the upcoming lame-duck session, said Judy Patterson, the trade association's senior vice president and executive director [presumably supporting the Reid-Kyl bill].
Edidin shared with the newspaper his multipronged plan for making money online.
First, the consumer isn't going to see WMS or the Williams brand on any online casino or game. Instead, Edidin plans to draw from WMS' inventory of successful slot-machine concepts, such as "Jackpot Party," and adapt them for online casinos.
He says that Williams Interactive will adopt a tailored approach for each jurisdiction. In the U.K., for instance, Williams operates an online casino outright. In Belgium, the plan is to operate online casinos for existing land-based casinos that can't afford or don't have the technical expertise to do so on their own.
And soon Williams will deploy a third strategy in Europe, licensing its slot programs to online casinos and taking a cut of the profit those games make.
The field is competitive; Levin commented that Williams Interactive typically faces six to eight competitors on each bid to license a game to an online casino, and there are substantial software engineering resources required, which has resulted in Williams acquiring Iowa-based video game developer Phantom EFX and online game developer and distributor Jadestone Group, based in Sweden.