Synergy Blue Q&A: HAWG® System, Post Pandemic Casinos & More
In this Gambling.com Q&A we spoke with Georg Washington, CEO of Synergy Blue, a leading provider of entertainment gaming solutions based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Georg tells us about his career to date in the casino gaming industry, the company’s patented HAWG® system, and what the future holds for land-based gambling post-pandemic.
Q: Hi Georg! Thanks for joining us. Tell us a little bit about your career background in the casino gaming space.
A: Thanks for having me! I’ve been in the IT and gaming industry for nearly two decades. Before Synergy Blue, I founded a company called Synergy Information Solutions, a technology provider specializing in casino and tribal gaming enterprises. But I’ve always had a passion for arcade games and I wondered why the engagement and fun of arcade games, as well as the plethora of other games surrounding us, couldn’t be brought into the gambling industry. As it turns out, it’s complicated and takes some time, but it’s definitely possible.
Q: Tell us about Synergy Blue. Who are you and what do you do?
A: Here at Synergy Blue, we make fun you can bet on! Headquartered in Las Vegas, we have a great team that combines gaming industry expertise with decades of casino floor experience. Our HAWG platform is one of our main differentiators, as it supports both skill-influenced (or interactive) and chance-based gambling, allowing us to add familiar elements of participation and challenge into our casino games.
Our game library currently has over 20 different titles, ranging from traditional styles like poker, to mobile-style connect 3’s, to arcade-style drivers. Our games combine the excitement of gambling with the engagement and interaction of video and mobile games to supplement traditional gambling options with something that more closely align with the plethora of modern gaming experiences around us.
So far, we have games and software applications placed in six different countries. Earlier this year, we were approved for statewide distribution in Nevada, so we’re excited to ramp that up and bring our games to more of our hometown players.
Q: What is Synergy Blue’s mission?
A: Our mission is to create wildly entertaining and innovative experiences that enhance engagement, attract new demographics, and increase net new revenue on casino gaming floors.
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Q: You mentioned the HAWG platform. What exactly is it? And what is it designed to do?
A: Our patented HAWG® (Hybrid Arcade Wager-based Gaming) platform blends regulatory approved chance and skill-influenced gambling with the uninterrupted entertainment of arcade-style game play. The current challenges of the casino landscape open the door for a new generation of games that bring a more engaging experience to players, most of whom grew up playing arcade, video, and mobile games.
Our certified HAWG® platform is designed to power the combination of traditional chance-based games with the skill-influenced (or interactive) experience that so many players are seeking. It also gives casino operators a new level of flexibility by allowing skill components to be scaled to regulations.
Q: Do you believe that the transition from gamer to gambler can be a natural one?
A: I do! Especially as new generations that grew up playing video and arcade style games rise up and become the new casino demographic. These folks are used to more engaging, challenging experiences. So I believe there is definitely an opportunity to bridge the gap between traditional gamblers and upcoming generations with skill-influenced/interactive games.
Q: What is it about “traditional gambling” that you feel may be off putting for Gen X/Y?
A: I don’t think I would say that today's players view “traditional gambling” as off putting. I think they view the more traditional games as a different experience — one that they value, but aren’t necessarily engaged by. The gaming industry has massively progressed over the past decade and Gen X/Y has gotten used to these more modern experiences. By supplementing the traditional gambling styles with more familiar, arcade-style game play, we can attract both gamers and gamblers to the casino floors and keep them engaged.
Q: How important is innovation in the gambling industry?
A: Gaming Innovation is important to us; however, we are not about tossing aside what’s worked in the past. We’re more about being inspired by the best, most successful elements from traditional gambling and reinventing those into new experiences for the next generation. Creating innovative products for the casino industry isn’t easy, but it’s rewarding, and we’re excited to see the impact of skill-influenced gaming.
Q: Synergy Blue recently released a report titled “The Path Forward for Casinos in a Post-COVID World”. In broad strokes, what does that report tell us?
A: The report revealed a variety of results, some that we expected and some that we did not. First, it describes consumer attitudes as to why they visited casinos before the pandemic and what it will take to get them back to casinos post-COVID. Obviously, meeting improved health and safety expectations was a top priority, but we found that this was more of a concern for the older generations than for younger. So casinos are once again challenged with attracting new and younger demographics that they haven’t previously been able to reach.
Q: What effect has the pandemic had on your business?
A: Working remotely has been a bit of a learning experience, but overall we’ve just been doing what we can to support the recovery of our industry. We haven’t stopped working, but we’re remaining as flexible as possible and taking it one day at a time.
Q: Do you expect the pandemic to have had a major effect on shifting traditionally land-based players to online?
A: Based on our most recent survey results, we think that this change is already happening. We found that 64% of respondents gambled online or played some kind of mobile games during the pandemic, even though 1 in 5 had not previously done so. But we wanted to look beyond the immediate situation, and we found that almost everyone who played online or mobile games during the pandemic (93%) would continue to play these games once stay-at-home orders were lifted. With these numbers, it looks like the online gaming industry will continue to flourish.
We don’t think it will overtake or replace land-based casinos — especially from the crowds seen at the first reopening — but it’s something that is and will continue to grow in popularity.
Q: What do you think will make land-based players continue to visit their local casino post-pandemic?
A: Obviously, the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the casino industry, as well as the majority of industries worldwide, and no one can tell what tomorrow will bring. Our survey found that gamblers will return to casinos, but only if and when they’re reassured by new, heightened health and safety standards. Younger gamblers showed the most interest in returning, with 62% planning to gamble in casinos once stay-at-home orders were lifted.
We found that slots are a top driver for people’s return, as well as rewards and discounts, but after being in a very unfamiliar environment for the last few months, it seems like some are just seeking the experience of something familiar.
Q: Lastly, what does Synergy Blue offer that other gaming solutions/platform providers don’t?
A: Well first and foremost, we offer fun you can bet on. In addition to the flexibility of our HAWG® platform, our games bring a brand new experience to the casino floor. With multiple levels and exciting bonus rounds, multiplayer options, leaderboard features, and familiar, arcade-style hardware — like our driving cabinet, complete with steering wheel and foot pedal — our games not only keep both gamers and gamblers engaged, they’re a unique marketing element for casino floor managers as well.
We also work with our casino partners directly to identify which game titles, math models, and floor locations will have the best success for each unique property. By taking their feedback and making quick adjustments to ensure success, we’re able to stay nimble and deeply involved with our end user’s experience. Through this, we can establish best practices and secure mutually beneficial relationships in the future.
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