Scientific Game

INDUSTRY PROFILE: Ken Jolly

Tuesday, 15 December 2015 12:49
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Kelly Jolly
 
IAG: Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little of your history with gaming over the years.

Ken Jolly: I have truly been very fortunate in my career and had a global experience in the gaming industry by working and living in different regions. My career started 36 years ago in New South Wales, Australia, involved in gaming industry technical operations then sales, followed by business development and senior management roles. Over the last 22 years my international market roles have included the General Manager of New Zealand, Vice President of Sales, Service and Marketing in the Americas (North, South America and Canada), General Manager of Sales and Marketing for all of Europe and General Manager of Asia Pacific for another global publically traded gaming machine and products supply company.

Before originally joining Shufflemaster I served as the Executive Vice President and General Manager for a global Japanese gaming manufacturer having responsibility for Australia, Asia, Europe and Africa. After joining Shufflemaster as a consultant initially I helped spearhead Shufflemaster’s Asian business through a period of growth and market expansion. In late 2013 Shufflemaster was purchased by Bally Technologies and then a year later by Scientific Games. During these periods I have managed the Asian business as we integrate.

IAG: How was the transition from Australia to Macau for you personally?

Ken Jolly: After eight years abroad and living in New Zealand, USA and London I was asked to develop and manage the business of my then employer Aristocrat in Asia. As the company didn’t have an Asian headquarters or employees living permanently in Asia then, I did this from Australia for the first two years with hundreds of hotel nights and many flights. When it came time to move to Macau it was easy as I had experience living away from Australia and had just spent two years and many nights here. Macau was just another place to call home. I found doing business in Asia similar to the rest of the world, an honest upfront approach rewards you similarly.

IAG: Any memorable stories from the early days of Macau?

Ken Jolly: Not so much stories but fond memories for those of us here 10 years ago, whilst staying at the then Mandarin Oriental (now Grand Lapa Hotel) with its nightlife (Embassy Bar, the only place then everyone went to meet and socialize) and watching Sands casino being built during visits to the hotel swimming pool. I learnt construction workers in this part of the world can sleep absolutely anywhere during breaks. Upon returning home to Australia numerous times I was asked by friends where I had been travelling so I had to explain where Macau was – it was basically unknown then. I remember landing one evening in Hanoi (for the first time ever) and finding myself in a taxi heading to a hotel in the pitch dark wondering why the car was on a dirt road and if I would survive past the visit. Of course the next day I discovered we were taking a shorter route on a road under construction that went around the outside of the city. One time I was going to local Macau Chinese restaurant and had to walk around inside the restaurant looking at everyone’s meal and pointing to what I would like to order. There were no English menus in those days. There have been many stories and great times over the last 11 years in Macau.

IAG: In your view, how has Macau changed over the years?

Ken Jolly: I can remember in the early days before Sands Casino on Macau Peninsula was built thinking they want to turn this place into another Las Vegas and wondering how that was going to happen. Casino construction and experiences in Macau are now amongst the best in the world – it truly has been a transformation from a sleepy village. Another change – traffic, traffic and more traffic, Macau is now one big traffic jam. There’s more variety in restaurants, new apartment living and more western faces since my early days. Another big change is international recognition of where Macau is and the role it now plays in the Pearl River Delta.

IAG: How do you think slots have developed in the Asian market over the last 10 years?

Ken Jolly: Asian slot development has seen Chinese language, Chinese themes, Chinese proverbs and Chinese culture being shown and told on the machines. The Macau slot market has driven volatility and jackpots causing manufacturers to offer more range in their development studios so as to cover Asia. Choy Sun Doa to 88 Fortunes and the Fa Fa Fa to Duo Fu Duo Cai links are all products of this.

The early changes started when I was at Aristocrat (where previously games developed and installed in Australia were brought to Asia), the request came in Asia asking how we make machines more suited to Chinese players. Firstly we changed the credit meter, bet meter and win meter on the screen to show in Chinese characters above the English. Additionally the game feature was translated to Chinese characters to better explain the game feature in the top artwork so players knew what to chase. Machines today are primarily Asian themed with Chinese characters and language appearing throughout. Manufactures use the tools at hand to produce better graphics, better mathematics and more aesthetically pleasing cabinets.

IAG: What do you see as the major differences in the slots markets of Australia, the US and Asia?

Ken Jolly: The Asian slot market is still small in terms of world market, less than 100,000 machines. If you look at the North American market its about 900,000 and Australia 200,000 today. The US market growth was astonishing over the last 10 years as more North American states introduced casinos. Australia has been relatively stagnant in machine volume growth – it’s mainly a replacement market and Asia has slow and steady growth.

TV themes play a large role in the game themes of slot machines for the US market, Asia is very much about the Chinese theme today and games in Australia have stayed fairly traditional. Some Asian themes have even carried around the world in popularity, since every large city in the world has a Chinatown. Return to player percentages from the game maths and the additional promotions seem to be varying in the different markets. Recent reports from the US generally show higher house percentage returns.

IAG: There’s been a lot of M&A activity in the industry in the last few years, including with Scientific Games. What are your thoughts on that?

Ken Jolly: The M&A is offering opportunities for companies to become larger industry players and offer a greater range of products and services to their valuable clients. Scientific Games has been one of these allowing customers to partner in all aspects on their gaming requirements and to work with the company to bring products that entertain their players. It’s exciting to work in a company with many product lines and which understands both electronic and live casino products and environments.

IAG: The Duo Fu Duo Cai link has been a great success in Asia and indeed around the world. What factors do you feel have led to this?

Ken Jolly: Duo Fu Duo Cai is one of the most outstanding products in this industry I have seen in my 36 year history. Great games and concepts are derived from specialized teams focusing on good math packages. Duo Fu Duo Cai is one of the most complex game math design packages I have seen in my history in gaming. Volatility has rewarded players with fun and excitement on DFDC allowing more winners and greater entertainment for casino patrons. Game design is a real art!

IAG: Slots still only account for a small percentage of GGR in Macau. What needs to happen for that percentage to go up substantially?

Ken Jolly: Yes, slots are still a small percentage of GGR in Macau. However it’s been a growing segment up to recently. I strongly believe that the segment will have continuous growth over the many years to come, however steadily, as further innovation is introduced.

IAG: Given the strength of Pachinko in Japan, what do you think the slot industry would look like in Japan if say three medium to large scale IRs were approved for the country’s major population centers?

Ken Jolly: The Japanese market, whilst large in size by units for Pachinko and Pachislot today, would be affected with the introduction of IRs, allowing more traditional slots and table games. The question today is if and when?

Ken Jolly 2

IAG: Given the strength of Pachinko in Japan, what do you think the slot industry would look like in Japan if say three medium to large scale IRs were approved for the country’s major population centers?

Ken Jolly: The Japanese market, whilst large in size by units for Pachinko and Pachislot today, would be affected with the introduction of IRs, allowing more traditional slots and table games. The question today is if and when?

IAG: Who do you most admire in the industry?

Ken Jolly: The industry is made up numerous people on both the operator and vendor side, some of them great industry legends from all parts of the globe. It is a dynamic industry to work in which has giving me a career and Industry profile opportunity to work and live all over the world. I often say “I go to work where people go to play.” This dynamic casino industry has some real entrepreneurs! Look at the casino structures throughout the world.

IAG: Are you a gambler yourself? If so, what do you like to play?

Ken Jolly: I have played a little roulette in the past. I have my own system but doesn’t every player? It’s fair to say that I’m not really a gambler but more fascinated in understanding the games and outcomes that bring players to play.

IAG: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Ken Jolly: I travel extensively for work and on annual leave which I enjoy however I also enjoy a quiet time at home particularly on Saturday evening cooking some dinner and relaxing in front of the TV. I enjoy dining out to experience new restaurants and catching up with friends, some of whom I have made acquaintances with from my years of living abroad in different countries. I can often be found at a resort swimming pool or on a beach in the sun.

IAG: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Ken Jolly: When I moved to Asia 11 years ago I was unsure if I would like it here or not. I enjoy my time in Macau and recently became a resident. I’m staying here for now and don’t see moving any time soon. I do see this as my base however I would like to spend some time in island life on white sands and aqua blue water in the future. I’m a beach, swimming pool and sun person that enjoys time on the water.

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