Amaya CEO Impresses At Gaming Conference

The keynote round table address given by CEO David Baazov of Amaya Gaming Group of Canada at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas was much lauded. The effect was considered even more remarkable because he was facing the chief executives of four major slot machine manufacturers, including International Game Technology CEO Patti Hart and Multimedia Games CEO Patrick Ramsey.

G2E audience members were hoping that Baazov would outline Amaya’s plans for bringing PokerStars back to the United States. The online poker giant has just been acquired by Amaya and is looking for ways and means to obtain a gambling license somewhere in America. However, Baazov chose to speak on other issues. He discussed PokerStars plans to expand into other legal online gaming areas in the European licensed market, including real-money casino and real-money sports wagering. Baazov said that 50% of online poker players also played online casino games and hence this was a natural movement.

Baazov also pointed out that it had been predicted that the gaming industry would consolidate and the implementation of that was seen this year. A combination of low interest rates and access to capital that had been sidelined facilitated this. An instance was Amaya taking on a debt of almost $3 billion to finance the PokerStars deal. Baazov also emphasized the casino industry’s need to attract millennial gamblers and how the slot machine industry needs to stay current. Baazov said, “Statistically, young adults are more likely to play slots. It’s an increased demand from the customer that is driving us to innovate.”

The last question posed to the G2E panel by moderator Bo Bernhard, executive director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ International Gaming Institute, was about any books the CEOs had recently read. Baazov referred to “Outliers: The Story of Success,” by Canadian journalist Malcom Gladwell, which examines how a person’s environment, personal drive and motivation affects his opportunity for success.

The same week, Baazov participated in the Deutsche Bank Global Leveraged Finance conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. There as well he was silent on the U.S. plans for PokerStars, though he did state that PokerStars and its affiliated Full Tilt Poker brand would continue to dominate Europe. Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Andrew Zarnett concurred by saying, “We note that, combined, these brands have approximately 10 times more liquidity than 888 Poker and are the leaders in Italy, Spain and France.” But Baazov knows that he will be judged on his ability to get PokerStars to deal its first hand in the United States after 2006.

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