Lee Davy sits down with the former General Manager of the no-US World Poker Tour business, Neil Barrett, to talk about his appointment as Managing Director UK at Living it Loving it, and the exciting changes due to be rolled out with Bravo Poker.
*Note: This is an abridged version of the audio interview. Click on the link above for the full version.
Neil Barrett was formerly General Manager for the non-US business at the World Poker Tour (WPT). He was instrumental in growing the WPT non-US brand from 2-3 events per year, to a roster containing over 30; a vital piece of work that resulted in the eventual sale of WPT, to Ourgame, in June for $35m.
Neil has recently joined the leading marketing and gaming agency Living It Loving It (LILI), as Managing Director in the UK, and he came prepared to talk about his new role, the goals and objectives of the company, and their exciting relationship with Bravo Poker.
You have come into LILI at a time of change, could you start by outlining the changes, both in terms of personnel and approach, and why they were made?
“I have known LILI for many of years during my time with the WPT. I have always thought that Dave Brannan and his team were a great outfit: entrepreneurial, hard working albeit a smaller agency than the one I used to work for. I was excited when Dave spoke to me about the new projects that he’s got on the go.
“Essentially, the business has been operating in Mind Sports and Gaming. Dave wanted to focus on Mind Sports, and is predominantly based in America, and he wanted someone to look after Gaming, from an international perspective, outside of the US. Pete Ramsey is the CEO, and is heading up the US operations, and I have been appointed as Managing Director (MD) UK, to look after the non-US international clients that we have.”
What on earth does a ‘leading independent gaming marketing solutions agency’ do?
“A lot of people will know LILI for working with online clients and moving them to live events. They facilitated a lot of logistical activity such as buy-ins, hotels and the A-Z of working around the event to make it smooth from the player’s perspective.
“These days we are also into software and hardware. We have an established relationship with Bravo Poker, from Genesis Gaming. It’s a big sizeable company with over 250 casinos fitted with their poker software and hardware. It’s utilized at the WSOP to give you the magnitude of how big they are over there.
“It fits in well with our strategy, to make sure we are not only positioned as a logistical company, but as an agency that comes up with new ideas, impacts the market and tries to improve the technological side of the business, which will help players and casinos in what is quite a tough market at the moment. The new Bravo product allows us to do that.”
What are LILI’s goals and objectives?
“We are involved in a huge number of events, all over the world. We are consultants to the Venetian Casino in Vegas; we have got numerous online clients all over the world as well.
“On the Bravo side of the business we would like to develop the installation within the Bravo network, outside of the US, internationally. The actual system implementation, and the ability it can bring to casinos on the international side, can increase their business and bring more players to the party.
“The Bravo system is unlike anything we have in Europe. Bravo is a tournament facilitator, but it also manages cash games. It’s essentially a huge marketing tool. The guys in the US have done an unbelievable job to get the installation that they have got across the US, but the live player integration and the website is where LILI comes into the equation.
“Genesis are extremely product-technically led people, and we are coming from a marketing and events perspective. Their website receives over 1.5m hits per month, at the moment, and that’s purely for the players looking at Vegas and at what games are available.
“The new product that we have available, and will be rolled out throughout the US in the next 6-12 months, allows players to pre-register via an app. This removes a lot of the logistical hassle, and the Nevada Gaming Commission has cleared these new functions. It allows players to use the data that they can see, and pre book their seats at the table via the app.”
Will Bravo address the registration issues that the WSOP experienced last year?
“It’s not the WSOP’s fault that this system wasn’t in place last year. These changes have to go through a large compliance process to ensure the product is approved at all levels. We got the approvals for the new Bravo system at the back end of the WSOP.
“We will be looking at all our US casino partners to move to the new system so that these issues can be handled much more efficiently. There may be certain nuances, state by state, with respect to how much interaction you will have to make at the cage. Whether we will get to a system where everything is controlled by mobile phone is uncertain, but we are certainly working towards a way to cut down the long lines and automating as much as possible to resolve these issues. We are excited about the new product and believe both venue and player will enjoy it moving forward.”
Are you in conversation with the WSOP to have this new system in place for 2016?
“Genesis have a good relationship with Caesars, and the WSOP, and they are having deep conversations about the new product. We are turning over the new product in as many places as possible, so we can road test it, and iron out the kinks. Hopefully, by the time we get around to next year’s big one we will be in a nice position and they will be ready for it. I can’t say that it’s a done deal, but there are conversations ongoing to find a solution.”