Cashing in on the Inevitable Migration

21 November 2001

A newly formed British company is targeting a segment of the gaming community that it hopes will dominate the landscape of online casinos in the future.

Muse Gaming bills itself as the leader for "addressing the specific need of land-based casino operators intending to grow their brands to the online market."

More and more land-based gaming companies are venturing online. Companies in the United Kingdom, Australia and Asia have all tried to merge their land-based brand strength with a powerful Web site, and now even North American players such as MGM and Park Place are warming up to the idea.

""When we start a project with a client, we will help to perform a full strategic review to see if an online casino is actually the right thing for them. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't."
-Andrew Caras-Altas

Andrew Caras-Altas, head of sales and marketing for Muse Gaming, said his company has the ability to not only take advantage of a company's brand, but also guide it through the process of going online. While some major players in the gaming business are starting to come online, Caras-Altas feels there are many more looking to follow suit. Muse had a soft launch of the company at the Global Gaming Expo show in early October, and the response from land-based operators was overwhelming.

"Off the back of our soft launch at G2E we have been stunned by the desire in the market for specialists in migrating land-based brands and for choice in the services offered," he said.

The launch of the company came after months of gathering a team of top-notch individuals representing a wide array of field. Caras-Altas said experts in a variety of relevant areas, including online casino design, casino admin, brand migration/exploitation, infrastructure, legal and 3D graphics were all brought on board.

"We now are building casinos and performing consulting projects for land-based organizations that value strategic vision, branding skills, proven technology and choice," he said.

There are a host of land-based operators working with the company, but Caras-Altas said they wouldn't be releasing the names of those customers until it is near the launch of their sites. He did reveal, however, that the company's reach is truly global.

"We are currently fortunate enough to have clients in four continents at the moment," he said. "Obviously there is a large demand in our domestic market of the U.K., but North America, continental Europe and the Far East are also important. I think that we will find South America catching up with these other territories soon, and eventually China."

Adding a company site for a land-based operator isn't as simple as some may think, and according to Caras-Altas for some it doesn't make good business sense to try and operate a sister online casino.

"When we start a project with a client, we will help to perform a full strategic review to see if an online casino is actually the right thing for them," he said. "Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. We believe that there must be a sound business reason and strategic fit between the casino and the land-based operation if it is to serve both in the long-term."

Although his firm is carving a distinct niche in the online gaming business by catering to land-based operators, Caras-Altas said the company has broad appeal because it also gives its clients freedom in choosing what kind of system they will use.

"We will not force them to take our approach or services within a 'walled garden,' we let them decide," he said. "So, if they want to source and design certain components of the backend technology then it is fine. They can choose exactly what they want from our suite of services and technology."

Muse Gaming's specialty doesn't end with the most modern technology either. Caras-Altas said the firm's Corporate Expansion Solution includes access to its consultants, which have extensive experience in online casino management and marketing, advanced brand management and eBusiness strategies. One of the other areas in which Muse Gaming is unique, according to Caras-Altas, is the level of brand migration, development and protection skills.

"These are greatly valued by our clients as strategic branding is essential to them and they need to be confident that any online activity will benefit their land-based operation," he said. "We help them with the horizontal and vertical brand positioning as well as building the most appropriate relationships between parent and child brands so they may be developed if necessary in the future."

Caras-Altas said the launch of Muse Gaming came at an ideal time. Nevada recently passed a bill giving the Gaming Commission the green light to regulate online casinos, and New Jersey is studying similar legislation. He doesn't expect anything to happen quickly in either place, however, and admits that other parts of the world are ahead of the United States when it comes to regulating online gaming.

"Changes in Vegas have generally benefited us, but I am not sure that some of the things on the horizon in the U.S. will benefit the industry as a whole," he said. "A symptom of this is the rapid expansion of activity in the U.K. This industry is nothing if not robust and it will overcome any obstacles that are presented to it."

Caras-Altas sees only one true way to make gambling on the Internet a viable and safe option, and he thinks more and more countries will look at regulating the industry once land-based companies and players get behind the idea.

"At the end of the day, we need a strong regulatory framework within which to operate," he said. "It provides a certain level of confidence to players and will prevent rogue operators from succeeding. As long as the industry can maintain open communications channels with the various legislators I am sure that the controls we need will appear, without stifling the industry as a whole. Land-based players migrating online can only help this process."