As of this week, Golden Nugget Atlantic City has a new partnership with slots developer Everi. The deal announced Tuesday includes the exclusive launch of seven of Everi’s real-money games for online play in New Jersey.
The property has also fully integrated its Golden Nugget online casino with Everi’s Remote Game Server (RGS), giving it ready-access to additional titles expected to launch in the near future.
Compared to other operators in the state, Golden Nugget is unique in how much focus it puts on its NJ online casino. Seeking out an exclusive deal of this sort is consistent with that strategy. It shows that the company plans to keep its foot on the gas pedal.
Golden Nugget’s online casino brought in $16.6 million in revenue in October — more than its brick-and-mortar property and a 62% increase year over year. October marks the first month that’s been true for any casino in the state. Total lifetime revenue since the site launched in 2013 now exceeds $400 million.
Those numbers make it the biggest online casino in the state, despite trailing most of the competition in other comparisons. In terms of brick-and-mortar operations, it is the third smallest casino and sportsbook in the state.
Golden Nugget will have to push for continued growth if it wants to hold onto the online casino gold medal, however. Its closest competitor, Resorts, brought in a personal-best $10 million in October.
While Golden Nugget still holds a sizable lead, its edge is starting to get a bit smaller.
Resorts doubled its online casino revenues from the fourth quarter in 2018 to 2019’s first quarter. Although its growth hasn’t been quite that explosive in the first and second quarters, it’s still been much faster than Golden Nugget’s.
If both companies continue growing their online casino revenue at the pace they have in the last few months, they’ll be in a deadlock by the midway point of 2020.
It looks as if Golden Nugget’s primary goal in striking this deal with Everi is to try to convert live slots players online. Because it has no online poker and only a small online sports vertical, it lacks the opportunities for cross-selling other types of online players.
Everi is a manufacturer of physical slot machines, first and foremost. It is the US market leader for mechanical reel games. The company has been making online versions of its slots since 2012, but until recently relied on third-party distributors to get them to market.
In late 2018, however, Everi introduced its RGS in order to serve its iGaming partners directly. It’s currently licensed for real-money play only in New Jersey but is working on obtaining licenses in other states and international markets.
Everi currently has 30 titles available through RGS, including the seven which Golden Nugget launched exclusively. It expects its library to expand to more than 50 titles before the end of the year.
Many of these titles are faithful adaptations of its land-based mechanical reel machines, also known as “steppers.” The press release announcing the deal makes specific reference to one such game, Triple Threat, as among those Golden Nugget is launching exclusively. Everi describes it as a “player favorite.”
Thomas Winter, Golden Nugget’s senior vice president and general manager of online gaming, mentioned the high performance of another title, Black Diamond, in discussing the deal. This, too, is an adaptation of one of Everi’s land-based stepper games.
It may seem paradoxical for either Golden Nugget or Everi to focus primarily on bringing old-school steppers into the mobile space. After all, such slots lack the complex animations and visual engagement of more modern video slots. Much of their appeal in a land-based environment is the nostalgia and retro aesthetic provided by the physical, spinning reels — something that doesn’t quite translate in a digital form.
However, both companies seem to be aware that stepper machines attract a different crowd from video slots.
The latter can be visually impressive, but confusing by the same token. Many modern video slot titles feature so many paylines and novelty mechanics that it can be hard to follow the action.
On its website, Everi has the following to say about its three-reel mechanical segment:
“Our distinct, compelling titles are the result of our deep understanding of the classic reels slot player and our measured approach in game design, creating themes with simple game play, enticing upside, familiar mechanics and clear pay tables.”
Given that Golden Nugget has to try to convert brick-and-mortar players to its online casino, it stands to reason that simplicity and familiarity would be priorities. In all likelihood, its clientele skews slightly older and less tech-savvy than competitors who are cross-selling players from their sports and poker verticals.
Exclusivity is probably also an important part of the deal for that reason. Players seeking novelty may care more about the variety of games on offer than the availability of any specific title. They may, however, be more inclined to video slots.
Conversely, those transitioning from a brick-and-mortar experience and hoping for familiarity may want to play their favorite machine from the casino. Being the only one to offer those games at first may be one way it can protect its market share from faster-growing competitors like Resorts.