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Parx has struck an online content partnership deal with Everi Holdings to expand its catalogue of online slots offerings. It has already integrated its platform with Everi’s remote game server (RGS), which will facilitate the addition of more new games down the road.
The deal includes some titles which will be exclusive to Parx, including Star Magic and Sapphire Spin. At the time of the announcement, however, only five non-exclusive titles were available:
Parx additionally plans to add live-dealer table games to its online casino library under a separate partnership with Evolution Gaming.
Everi is first and foremost a company specializing in physical, reel-based slot machines known as steppers. It is the US market leader for such devices, and has been developing digital versions of its products since 2012.
Until recently, Everi’s online strategy involved licensing its physical slots titles to third-party distributors for use online. As US online gambling has expanded, however, the company has shown an increasing interest in pulling that side of the business back in-house with its RGS.
While other companies are focusing on complex interactive experiences, Everi’s strategy sticks to basics. Its steppers are popular with land-based casino-goers, and its goal is to convert that experience as directly as possible to the online world.
Parx is in an unusual position at the moment. Among its fellow land-based Pennsylvania casinos, it is the market leader for revenue across both slots and table games. That lead has not converted into similar dominance in the PA online gambling market, though.
When online gambling arrived in the Commonwealth last summer, Parx was among the first to market. In August, the first full month of operations, its revenue was in a competitive second place to SugarHouse.
As the state’s biggest casino, Parx has a well-known brand. Online, however, its technological and experiential shortcomings put it at a disadvantage to its competitors.
Whereas smaller casinos like Mount Airy are seemingly happy to partner with major online brands like Stars and share in their revenue, Parx wants to build its own business from the ground up. The challenges it’s facing in its infancy are a largely unavoidable part of that plan.
Parx launched its online casino in New Jersey in October under the license of Ocean Casino Resort. There are now 22 online casinos crowding the NJ market, though, and Parx’s November revenue was just over $500,000.
The next-smallest licensee, Hard Rock, made over $2 million that month in partnership with Unibet and bet365. The largest, Golden Nugget — with Betfair, BetAmerica, and SugarHouse — made nearly $19 million.
While it’s a major player locally, Parx has a steep hill to climb if it wants to compete in the national online market.
Even in 2020, steppers remain an intrinsic part of casino gambling. Digital screens may outnumber physical reels these days, but the classic machines still feature heavily in the public imagination.
Ask someone to picture a slot machine, and their mental image will likely feature three spinning reels with cherries, bars, and the number 7. Walk into any casino and you’ll probably spy such a machine within sight of the entrance.
The appeal of such classic machines is not merely nostalgic. They’re also fundamentally easier to understand.
Modern video slots often feature 15 or more paylines, wildcard symbols, bonus rounds, and so forth. While their gimmicks provide novelty value, it’s not always obvious why a given spin did or didn’t result in a prize.
It stands to reason that different types of slots players gravitate towards different types of machines. It’s also logical that many who prefer steppers prefer them because they’re easy to understand. In the section of its website dedicated to mechanical steppers, Everi stresses their “simple game play, enticing upside, familiar mechanics and clear pay tables.”
That, in turn, makes exclusivity important. The sorts of players who choose stepper titles when playing online are likely to be seeking familiarity. They will often be regular casino-goers looking to play their favorite machine from the comfort of their own home.
Such players won’t select an online casino based on the breadth of its offerings, but rather on the availability of their favorite title. If the only site featuring the game happens to share the brand of their preferred brick-and-mortar destination, even better.
Parx is at a considerable disadvantage in terms of visibility with an online-first audience compared to competitors like DraftKings or Stars. It needs to press the advantage it has with local casino-goers to succeed, and convincing its live slots players to try their luck online will be pivotal.
In that light, the exclusive deal with Everi makes a lot of sense.
Parx isn’t the first operator to strike such an agreement with Everi. Golden Nugget announced a similar deal back in November.
Just like Parx, Golden Nugget’s deal involved both the adoption of Everi’s remote game server and the exclusive rights to a few specific titles. That included Triple Threat, described as a “player favorite.”
Golden Nugget’s situation is a bit different than that of Parx, though. It was among the first to go live with its NJ online casino and has leveraged that into market dominance over the past six years. It never launched an online poker site, however, and its online sportsbook is the state’s second-smallest.
What Parx and Golden Nugget do have in common, then, is that they’re primarily known for the brands associated with their brick-and-mortar properties. In striking these deals with Everi, both are establishing themselves as providers of an authentic, old-school stepper slots experience. Whether or not that translates into online longevity remains to be determined.
In the short term, however, there’s still a valuable niche for Parx and Golden Nugget to carve out by catering to the industry’s traditional clientele — even as their competitors strive for novelty and broader appeal.
Live dealer products are becoming increasingly popular, and Evolution has been the sole provider of such games since purchasing its only competitor (Ezugi) in 2018. Its deal with Parx covers New Jersey for now, and will extend to Pennsylvania once Evolution opens its new studio there.
There is no known timeline at the moment, though Evolution secured the necessary regulatory permission to ply its trade in PA back in September.
Just as with Everi’s faithful adaptations of its stepper machines, the main appeal of live dealer games is the way they replicate the brick-and-mortar casino experience in an online environment. Although Evolution offers some proprietary games, the Parx press release stresses the importance of live dealer blackjack first and foremost.
Parx’s Senior VP of iGaming & Sports, Matthew Cullen points out that Parx was the first online casino in the state to offer RNG blackjack. Partnering with Evolution to offer the live dealer version of the game, he said, is the logical next step.
Blackjack is, as you might guess, big business for online casinos. When Rivers launched online blackjack in October, its gross table games revenue quintupled. Table games are taxed at a much lower rate than slots in the state — 16% vs. 54% — so it’s easy to see why everyone is so anxious for Evolution’s new studio open.