English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

Games Without Frontiers

Interview in Cairo by Glyn Thomas who chats to Scott Cowan, Managing Director, Inter Casino Management (EGYPT) Limited

Scott as you know Casino Life Magazine takes great pride in interviewing leading industry CEO’s and Senior Level Management to better understand both the companies that they work for or own, as well as what are the key attributes for their success. Please tell our readers about yourself and your role at Caesars Entertainment.

I have been in the gaming industry for 34 years starting in the homelands in South Africa and have since worked around the world in both land based gaming as well as a short stint in online and SMS lottery. My current role is Managing Director of ICM which is a part of Caesars Entertainment (EMEA), looking after the three properties we have in Egypt, developing those businesses and growing them year on year as well as looking for potential new opportunities in the region.

Creating an enjoyable fun and relaxed environment is an important factor in Leisure and entertainment venues. What kind of investment over the years has Caesars Entertainment made in the Egyptian businesses?

We continuously look at upgrading our properties - both in terms of facilities as well as gaming product. We embarked on a full upgrade and refurbishment of the Ramses Hilton Casino in 2015 including the creation of a VIP room with a Nile view. The Kings & Queens Casino at the Fairmont Heliopolis has just completed a full refurbishment and expansion and we are now looking at a full refurbishment of our Caesars Casino at The Four Seasons in 2017.

What would you say are amongst the many unique aspects that make the Casinos in Cairo so special?

We deliver world class service through our comprehensive Customer Relations Departments as well as Player Development teams. Our teams offer a very personalised service and are very good at anticipating player needs. Through our investment in people, our employees are some of the best and most professional gaming teams that I have worked with throughout my career.

Can you explain a little more about how Caesars Entertainment has developed its Casinos over recent years in Egypt?

Aside from the property developments mentioned earlier, the most significant area that Caesars has invested in recent years is in human capital. The local Executive team in Egypt has adopted CaesarsEntertainments’ global Mission, Vision and Values and have taken a very proactive position on being the market leader in terms of Human Resources, Reward and Recognition and treating employees fairly. As a result of this we are the preferred employer in the region and that enables us to deliver exceptional customer service.

Is it possible for the building to have further extensions to expand the gaming and or entertainment floor space of the existing Casinos in Cairo?

As I previously mentioned, with the projects already completed, we have expanded two of our three properties and in 2017 we will be expanding the third. We actively seek opportunities for expansion. We have very good relationships with all of our hotel business partners and they are very keen to see us expand and prosper.

What aspects of the parent company, Caesars Entertainment US, has the Cairo operation drawn upon to develop the Leisure and Entertainment aspects of the operation?

Having worked abroad for most of my career, often remotely for parent companies, the most encouraging thing working for Caesars is the closeness you feel with both the EMEA team as well as the US team. The support is incredible and all of their programmes are open to us. One of our real strengths is the cross marketing where we have access to Vegas and their programmes as well as the UK with its iconic brands of The Playboy Club and The Sportsman and also our property in South Africa, Emerald Resort and Casino.

Have there been many changes amongst the EGMs and what is your current replacement / upgrade cycle on slots - and which would you say have proven to be stand out performers over the last year at the Cairo properties?

The EGM dynamic in Egypt is somewhat unique with certain player preferences outside of the norm, so to speak. We have some very old machines that customers enjoy and we have recently upgraded some of those to a newer version of the same product. We have also introduced Electronic Roulette into two of our businesses as well as an upgraded slot product across all three. This is an ongoing process as we monitor our performance and customer feedback as well as new product offerings.

Money laundering is a problem in society, what are the procedures in place at the Casino to tackle it?

We are active in ensuring that our businesses are not used for money laundering purposes. We actively engage with our customers to make sure we know as much about them as we can, both for this reason and for marketing and loyalty purposes.

As you know, we are part of the Caesars Entertainment Group, so managing our businesses with ethics and integrity is a cornerstone of our values.

What are the most popular card games played at the Casinos and do you host tournaments?

Blackjack and Poker are both popular games in our properties. We have started working on a tournament format and those should be a feature for the year ahead.

What is your policy of trialling new games and EGMs in Egypt and what has been the biggest payout that the Cairo properties have made to date?

We are always looking at new games as well as new product in general and being part of the bigger Caesars family we receive a great deal of assistance and information on what works and what does not work. In terms of Jackpots we are the market leader with jackpots up to USD$250,000 and these are regularly paid out due to the volume of play that we get.

Promotions and incentives are an important mix for patron loyalty. What are the provisions like at the Cairo Casinos as far as prizes and rewards for patrons are concerned?

A lot of our reward and recognition programme hinges around rooms, food and beverage, special occasion parties and gifts and then the cross marketing incentives. As all of our business is fly in players on short stays, competitions and the like do not seem to appeal to them

Quality and affordability have been two key words associated with food and drink at Casinos catering for many of their local regular patrons. What is your approach to food and beverage.

As our casinos are based in hotels in the market, many of our customers utilize those facilities. We have a comprehensive player tracking system and a comping policy that runs in conjunction with that as most casinos do and we comp customers according to what they earn through play.

What impresses you most about living and working in Cairo?

Firstly, being an African, this is home and as some know having worked on the continent, it is very dynamic with a melting pot of cultures, beliefs and traditions, with many feasts and parties. The people are friendly, engaging and always keen to help you.

What do you see as the main issues facing Casinos in this region today and over the next five years?

Cultural and political uncertainty and instability is an issue in many markets around the world and Cairo has challenges here which are well documented. This is of course an area out of our control, but one which we regular monitor. We have seen our casinos prosper in recent years and the city continues to adapt and develop. Increased competition is also a factor which will continue to be on the horizon.

What have been the achievements at the Casinos that you are most proud of over the years?

Our casinos in Cairo have around 35% of the market which is an astounding achievement and is very much down to the highly engaged teams delivering exceptional customer service.

What is your favourite piece of business advice?

Be true to yourself and value human capital, as they are the very reason for success.

What is the percentage of patrons versus tourists at the Cairo Casinos?

Egyptians are not allowed to game and as such only foreign passport holders are allowed to play in Egypt.

Are there any plans for further Casinos in the region in the near future?

We don’t have any immediate plans that we can share with you, but we constantly evaluate opportunities in the region.

Thank you once again for taking time from your busy schedule for this interview.