What a 63-Year-Old German Company Has Learned About the U.S. Tribal Gaming Market

Insight Q&A with Merkur Gaming

David OrrickMerkur Gaming Americas was formed in 2015 after over 60 years of the Gauselmann Group serving 40 countries worldwide, as a market leader in Europe and a well-established and successful supplier across Latin America and the Caribbean.

We caught up with David Orrick, Director of Industry Relations, to get some candid insight about the unique challenges and opportunities of entering into such a competitive market, specifically the U.S. Tribal gaming arena.

David, what have you found to be the key differentiators working with Tribal gaming operators compared to U.S. commercial or even foreign operators?

We all know that gaming, in its global entirety, is a people business. In other words, a business dependent on relationships. I made my first ever visit to a Tribal casino, the Sky City Casino Hotel in Acoma, New Mexico, 18 years ago and I distinctly remember sitting in a rental car outside the property, feeling more than just a little nervous. In reality, I need not have worried. I was treated with nothing but courtesy and welcome. That indicated very clearly to me that treating people well, and with the same courtesy that I had received, was the access to successfully building relationships. The difference, I think, is that building relationships with Tribal operators can be a longer process than in the commercial sector, but I also believe, and have had proved many times, that relationships with Tribal operators are built on a long-term perspective bolstered by mutual trust.

One slogan that Merkur has used is, “Designed in America, by Americans, for Americans.” Share with us the research and insight you’ve learned about the U.S. slot player, and how your games uniquely satisfy this guest? What does an innovative and a guest-focused experience mean to Merkur for this market?

The slogan that you reference was used to counter the feeling that, as foreign – and new – market entrants, what we had in our product portfolio was “NIH”: Not Invented Here. Merkur Gaming Americas addressed that objection very directly with the creation of our own game design studio, Sunshine Games. Not only do the games that they have produced, and are continuing to produce, speak directly to American operators and players, but they provide what U.S. players are demanding today: greater gaming entertainment.

Coming into a well-established market as a foreign-owned vendor, what are your key selling points to get a trial on the gaming floor? Specifically, what have you found to be the most important “deal breakers” for slot directors at Tribal gaming properties?

This relates directly back to your previous question. We have worked hard to establish the Merkur Gaming brand to the point that today nobody asks, “who the heck are Merkur Gaming?” We have presented ourselves strongly at major tradeshows, such as G2E and NIGA, and seen that our games have steadily gained traction with operators. We have engaged directly with NIGA as Associate Members, and we are proud to support their aims and objectives. Operators are constantly on the lookout for “something new.” That is exactly what Merkur Gaming Americas offers, and that provides our door opener to gaming floor exposure.

What truly differentiates Merkur from the large and smaller slot companies that already have a piece of the Tribal gaming pie? Marketing? Support? Technology?

Truly, all of the above, and also the uniqueness of our offering. Merkur Gaming is part of Germany’s Gauselmann Group; a group that, as you stated in your introduction, will celebrate 63 years of innovation, success and experience this year. We are absolutely number one in our home country, a major supplier throughout Europe, well-established and successful in Latin America and making new inroads into Africa. What we are not, and this is where our 60+ years of international experience comes in, is to be so presumptuous and arrogant as to think that we can come into both Tribal and commercial markets, tell everyone how great we are and expect industry professionals here to simply tell us to open the order books.

Make no mistake, foreign vendors are made welcome here. They provide new ideas, fresh innovations and variety on gaming floors. What is not welcome here are new foreign vendors that have not taken the time or made the necessary effort to learn the specifics of the market, the vital “how things are done” here. As was said earlier, Merkur Gaming are new … but not newcomers. We have taken our time, experienced first-hand the various markets, done our research and built our contacts and our relationships. Now, this early in 2020 I am glad to report that we have achieved GLI approvals for many of our key, U.S.-designed products, and by the NIGA tradeshow we expect to have many more. That is our story to-date, but make no mistake that Merkur Gaming is here for the long run, and we have total confidence that we will be successful going forward. What I believe that we will find in Indian Country is that same courtesy and welcome that I first experienced those 18 years ago. Check us out: we are ready!

Christine Faria 29 Articles