Aristocrat Gaming’s giant “A” logo was impossible to miss at last month’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, with many flocking to its interactive display — complete with a secret door to walk through and enjoy the visuals of the newly created “NFL Experience.”
Slightly more than a year ago, Aristocrat and the NFL reached agreement on a multi-year slot machine licensing deal, adding to the league’s embrace of the gambling space after it had given FanDuel, DraftKings, and Caesars avenues of exclusivity as partners for sports wagering, daily fantasy sports, and casino gaming. Fast forward to the present, and Aristocrat has moved notably closer to launching that NFL slots title. The G2E display was something of a coming-out party, indicating the machines will be available on casino floors before long.
“From a partnership perspective, it doesn’t happen overnight. It does take a lot of time to get it done right,” Aristocrat Chief Marketing Officer Mark Wadley told US Bets in Las Vegas. “The great news is after all that work, you’re now seeing the results of that on the floor today.”
Working with a new partner in the NFL
One of the more interesting aspects of Aristocrat working with the NFL is the gaming company being an outsider to the sports world. FanDuel, DraftKings, and Caesars have clear associations with sports. Aristocrat’s calling card is its license-titles for slots. Among its more popular titles are 5 Dragons, multiple incarnations of the Buffalo brand, and one based on the movie Dune — none of them in any way related to sports.
Wadley said the idea of creating a license-title with the NFL was something discussed internally among Aristocrat’s license-rights holders in the U.S. He noted there “was an opportunity for us to engage in this conversation” in a partnership with the NFL.
“Historically, you’ve seen some sports themes in the gaming industry, and we felt there’s no bigger brand, if you will, than the [NFL] on the floor,” Wadley added. “From our perspective, they’ve been really good to work with, [bringing] these products together.”
Putting together the product involves building off of what Wadley calls the “core mechanics” of other titles in Aristocrat’s library of more than 180 games. Innovations of varying levels lead to the unique experiences the gaming company is trying to create for gamblers. In the case of the NFL license-title, the defining feature is users being able to customize their experience by team.
“One of the most interesting things about this game today is the idea of a team-selectable game, where a player can work with the machine to render it in their favorite team,” Wadley said. “I think that’s a really innovative piece in how Aristocrat is bringing this technology to the marketplace. You think about 32 teams in the NFL, it’s a lot of art, a lot of branding to put together in this one machine, and then have the technology to press a button and adjust that is really interesting.
“Since the announcement, we have been communicating the awareness of these games, and you see some of that [at G2E]. The overall reaction has been very well-received. [We’ve seen] interest in bringing this new level of entertainment, and a new level of innovation and experience that Aristocrat brings, to their casino floors.”
A new market of players? A new vertical perhaps?
Wadley pointed out Aristocrat has no connections to the sports wagering space, but it sees the obvious marketing potential with the NFL, and he noted that slots generate the overwhelming majority of casino revenue. How the NFL license-title is received in casinos as it is rolled out nationwide in 2023 may offer some clues as to whether Aristocrat wants to pursue expanding more license-titles for sports themes.
“As far as the opportunity to communicate with a fan base as large as what the NFL has, it is substantial,” Wadley said. “The first thing we always say is that we like to give players a choice and they’re empowered to play whatever game they want to play. That’s a really important part of how we show up on the marketplace.”
He was somewhat coy on whether the NFL license-title offered a chance to create an entire sports-themed vertical.
“Right now we’re focused on this brand here, and that’s what’s right in front of us,” Wadley said. “The opportunity to bring additional entertainment is everything we look at as a company. … We’re constantly innovating in our engine to make sure we’re bringing the best product to the market, whether it be a licensed product or a proprietary brand.”
With a new license-title also comes the installation of proper responsible gaming guard rails, something both sides continuously strive for. Before the deal with Aristocrat was announced, the NFL had launched a league-wide responsible betting public awareness program, and Wadley said that responsible gaming on multiple fronts is at the forefront of each product Aristocrat releases.
“We’re very thoughtful in how we want to show up in terms of advertising awareness, promotion, showing up with responsible gaming as our core element as well,” he said. “It has a number of pillars about empowering players, complying with regulators, and informing players and people about how our slot machines work. That is a standard practice that we have, and we like to take an industry-leading position about that.”
Image courtesy of Aristocrat Gaming