With the move from brick-and-mortar to digital gaming accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, Paul Sculpher, director of recruitment specialist www.grs-recruit.com, describes the process of a transferring staff and skills from one channel to the next.
Long, long ago, in a barely remembered time before the virus (three months ago or so!), the UK offline casino industry was facing hurricane scale headwinds. The impact of the AML regulation had snipped out a good proportion of high value customers, and staffing costs combined with player migration to online products made life difficult for operators. Fast forward through those last months, and it looks like some casinos won’t reopen, and we as a recruitment company have seen the number of offline casino managers enquiring about moving to the online sector transform from a trickle through a flood to a tsunami.
The most recent catalyst for this influx was a role we are in the process of filling for Future Anthem, a company providing Data Science services to online casino operators and studios. We were specifically instructed to seek candidates from the offline casino industry. Their CEO, Leigh Nissim, told us “in the 15 years I’ve been working in online gambling, I’ve always enjoyed working with people who have retail betting and gambling experience. They have an inherent understanding of the player and gambling products which is always helpful in the online environment.”
Speaking as someone who has worked in offline casino operations off and on for 25 years, I’d (obviously!) echo Leigh’s comments, and I think offline experience has other advantages too. The average offline casino shift manager spends more time having difficult conversations with people than just about any other job you could imagine, and experiencing that makes for a stronger team member and a colleague better equipped to deal with communication challenges. The key current headache for most gambling businesses, AML compliance, is also brought into sharper focus when you’ve had countless conversations, face to face, with customers about bank statements and the like, too.
The transition between sectors does have its challenges, however. I spoke with Richard Walker, Rank’s head of Digital Table Games, whose career has spanned offline (as a casino manager and VIP host at Caesars UK) and online, with Evolution and now Rank. When I asked him about the difference between the two, the first thing he said was “the change in working hours – fantastic! Moving to a normal schedule, with the flexibility I enjoyed at Evolution, was a very welcome change”. Richard went on to tell me how his offline experience helped his development in his newer roles. “It starts with the simple operational things – for example, seeing someone place a Tier bet on roulette – and recognising this and other playing styles as personal to players. The more senior I became, the more I found value in using my offline experience of speaking with hundreds of different players to help build relationships more quickly with both players and colleagues”.
The benefit of the experience of interacting with such a huge, wide ranging variety of people shouldn’t be underestimated, and the progress Richard has made from entry level to senior management makes him a great example for offline managers aspiring to a change. Change, however, is the operative word here – Richard himself pointed out that an appetite to deal with change is critical, and there are plenty of offline casino people who have had the same role for many years and may find it more difficult to adapt to a new world.
Dave Mills, head of Casino at a major online operator, has similar views. He told me the main difference in going online was “how large and how quickly the online sector had grown. The sheer volume of different types of games available to the consumers, along with variable stakes levels, and the many different types of bonuses being offered to attract and retain the customer. The offline side appeared to be so far behind in many respects”. He also pointed out “there was no more direct interfacing with the customers, so this meant a real change in how I communicated with the customers. I would really recommend the move, to anyone looking to go offline to online. Right now is a great opportunity to both channel your skills and develop in the online space”.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of very talented individuals in the offline industry who are ready to make a move into online, and their experience to date will help them up the learning curve. The roles they have undertaken have been tough enough to harden them for the challenge ahead, and increasing numbers of them will move over and thrive, in our view. We have a database of hundreds of offline casino managers (as well as compliance experts, slot specialists, and every other type of casino professional imaginable), and we’re looking forward to helping both them and talent-hungry online operators find the perfect match. That starts with understanding which candidates have the kind of attitude that will embrace a new environment, and having dealt with hundreds of potential candidates, we are in the perfect position to highlight those best suited to a career gear change.