Connecticut’sMashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation(MPTN) owns and operates the Foxwoods Resort Casino, a property I remember fondly as it was a popular late-night destination for us Bostonianswhen the bars closed in the city.
Well-managed 24/7 gambling and entertainment have made Foxwoods Resort Casino one of the most popular and recognized casino properties in America. The MPTN take pride in their leadership of American Tribal casino management with Foxwoods and wish to maintain this leadership position when it comes to online gambling offerings.
In an effort to lead American tribes in online gambling, just over a year ago, The MPTN inked a deal with the London based GameAccount Network and in February 2014 Foxwoods launched FoxPlay, the first Simulated Gaming(TM) online-casino experience in America. This was big news for Indian Gaming in America, a country where 43 percent of the gaming industry falls within tribal grounds.
I wanted to speak with Foxwoods to learnthe motivation behind launchingthe free-for-play FoxPlay and hear about some of the finer details of the website. My friend Frank Pracukowski of Foxwoods Interactive was happy to share their story.
Becky Liggero: Welcome, Frank. Thank you so much for carving out time for our readers. Can you start by telling us the main reasons why Foxwoods Interactive launched FoxPlay?
Frank Pracukowski: The main reason for launching FoxPlay was to prepare the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and Foxwoods Resort Casino for the eventual legalization of internet gaming.
We wanted to be a leader in offering our patrons a play for fun solution with the opportunity to purchase virtual currency, if they choose to do so. We also set out specific goals prior to launch. We wanted a site that would give Foxwoods the ability to acquire and attract new players who don’t currently visit the facility today; we wanted to extend the Foxwoods brand online so that when players leave the gaming facility they can still experience Foxwoods by playing familiar games. We also wanted the ability to reactivate players’ rewards accounts for those players who haven’t visited the facility in a while.
Our casino management system is integrated into the FoxPlay platform. As a result of this integration, we know which players are playing on the site as well as the last time they visited the facility allowing us to send an offer to reengage them. We also wanted to build a database of players whom we knew might be interested in online gaming if and when internet gaming is legalized. Every player who plays on FoxPlay is age verified—meaning (with the exception of existing patrons who hold a Foxwoods Rewards Card and have an established PIN).We have a database of players who are confirmed 21 years or older and we have the opportunity to market to them. New players to the site are asked to fill in information which we then process through our know-your-customer software which has the ability to confirm that the individual is 21 years or older otherwise they are not allowed to play on the site.
Becky Liggero: So you’re setting the stage for when iGamingis regulated, extending brand awareness, engaging new customers and reactivating old customers. What kinds of promotional offers will these customers find on the site? Can you give me specific examples?
Frank Pracukowski: Upon initial set up of their account, a customer is given $5,000 in virtual credits. Their account is then recharged $500 in virtual credits daily. If the customer runs out of virtual credits, they have the opportunity to purchase additional credits for cash. For every purchase of credits, the customer is rewarded with points equal to 10perent of the cash purchase. These points are redeemable for goods and services at Foxwoods. Over Memorial Day weekend, the offer was increased to 25 percent of the cash purchase in points for all three days.
Becky Liggero: Sounds good to me but of course the proof is in the pudding- how is the project going so far? What do the results look like?
Frank Pracukowski: We are very pleased with the results thus far; we continue to meet the objectives that were set prior to launching the site. Our customers love the content on our site and we are seeing growth in visitation month over month.
Becky Liggero: That’s great news and sounds like your customers are poised for real money iGaming offers. Speaking of, seeing as Foxwoods is sitting on Indian Territory and can make their own rules, why not offer real money gambling right now?
Frank Pracukowski: Tribal sovereignty refers to tribes’ right to govern themselves, define their own membership, manage tribal property and regulate tribal business and domestic relations; it further recognizes the existence of a government-to-government relationship between such tribes and the federal government. As part of that relationship, the Mashantucket Tribe operates their casino under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Tribe and the state.
Offering real money gambling has not been contemplated by the tribeat the moment. Although, part of our responsibility is to keep an eye on what is going on at both the federal and state level so that if or when real money internet gaming is legalized the Tribe is ready to capitalize quickly.
Becky Liggero: Okay, so when do you think will we see regulated online gambling in the state of Connecticut?
Frank Pracukowski: I don’t have a crystal ball; I wish I knew the answer to that question.
Becky Liggero: Me too, Frank, me too. So seeing as it could take ages for iGaming to be regulated here in Connecticut, what are the benefits of launching a free-to-play site well ahead of real money online gambling regulation?
Frank Pracukowski: There are many benefits to launching a free-to-play site, you are able to essentially do a dry run of operations, marketing, banking transaction and system support for the site. I believe one of the biggest benefits to operating a free to play site is learning how to market to and attract new players. Keep in mind, what works for your typical casino promotions may or may not work for your site. Play for fun players from your existing casino database are likely to react differently to internet gaming offers versus a player that never visited your facility or played your site.
You want to focus this time on learning a variety of established online-marketing techniques to see if they work for your player using a free-to-play site. Remember, a marketing decision could cost your company time and money once you move to real money. In play for fun, the worst that can happen; you rewarded a player too much in virtual credits?
Becky Liggero: Yes, sounds like Foxwoods has launched the perfect testbed. Thanks again Frank for your time today and please keep us posted on how things are going.