ONLINE STORY: Our client, Jake Kalpakian, CEO of Jackpot Digital was interviewed by David McKee OF LAS VEGAS ADVISOR STIFF AND GEORGES
One of the products you’ll undoubtedly see at Global Gaming Expo is an 84-inch touchscreen, multi-game product called Jackpot Blitz. It’s an effort to bring fresh and younger players to the currently struggling world of the poker room. To wit:
We asked Jake Kalpakian, CEO of British Columbia–based Jackpot Digital (owner of PokerTek), to explain his new product to laymen.
When was Jackpot Digital founded and what is its specialty?
It was founded in 1999. We initially did online and wireless software but now we have transitioned to electronic table gaming, specifically electronic poker, where we’re the leading manufacturer in the world of such games.
What sets Jackpot Blitz apart from other ETGs?
First of all, we specialize in poker only. We have a special niche business in multi-player poker but it has other options and functions. If you’d like to play side games like blackjack and baccarat while you’re playing poker [you can]. You could order food or drinks from the table. You could bet on sports. Imagine a 1980s cell phone and now I’m giving you the iPhone 7. For the gaming operator it’s incredibly attractive and efficient as a business proposition, but also for the players it’s much more stimulating and engaging than any electronic table game out there. But if you’re a poker player it’s the only game in town.
Is it live in any casinos so far?
The PokerPro, which is the old legacy product, which we inherited from our acquisition of PokerTek is out there right now. There’s about 100-plus tables in the field. Jackpot Blitz is actually making its debut last week on Carnival Cruises. There will be more and more Blitz tables rolled out on the casinos and the cruise lines in the fall.
Is it adaptable to online or mobile platforms?
It is. It takes the benefit of mobile and online speed and efficiency at once but it is not an online game, It is adaptable but it’s set in that one specific server at the casino, so you can’t access it online. But it is built from a lot of the logic that we built from the wireless side — and it is adaptable if it were set to be, but the regulators don’t want that.
Just because of hacking. There’s no chance of hacking our system now because the server resides in the casino itself. You can’t do anything remotely.
Millennials are perceived as the growth market for table games. Is Jackpot Blitz designed to appeal to them or to more traditional players?
To both. We want the regular player but what has made it interesting to the casinos and spurred a lot of demand or order interest is that it is designed for Millennials and there are many other applications besides the poker — and the gaming, for that matter. There’s a lot of different things you can do with this product. It could morph into much bigger, universal applications but it is designed for the Millennial crowd and that has got people talking.
What markets represent the biggest opportunity? Would Macao be one, given the strict limits on live table games?
We’ve already enormous interest out of Asia and we’re very pleased with what’s going on out there but, to be quite frank with you, the United States is still the king when it comes to poker. What we’re seeing is an enormous amount of interest from racetracks, poker rooms … the racetracks want it because it augments revenue. The biggest customers besides the cruise lines are the race tracks. There seems to be a lot more demand from them. A lot of the poker call and tell me that a lot of the states that they operate in are having higher minimum wages gradually introduced. The operators tell me they cannot make money if they don’t cut back on the dealer costs. This product is perfect for that. A lot of mom-and-pop operators [too]. That’s what’s really interesting: Lots of casinos in the Midwest and far West states that just can’t house a poker table. They’d like to offer poker but staffing is an issue. They can do that now. We’re seeing an enormous amount of smaller to mid-size operators in the United States. There was an article a week ago in the Miami Herald. The next day we got an order from India. That’s how strong of a universal product this is. We thought we wouldn’t look at the Las Vegas Strip as a market for a couple of years but there’s enormous interest there, too, because several of the poker rooms have closed down … the staffing costs were not worth it. With this product we think we’re going to be in Vegas a lot sooner than we thought.
Are you going to be showcasing other games at Global Gaming Expo?
Just Jackpot Blitz. We want to be the best in one thing. We want to be the market leader, which we currently are and we just want to build on the product we’re currently manufacturing. Either be number one or two in the industry or just get out. We just want to be number one and dominate it. We have a great product and just want to keep building on it.
How would you describe the future direction of your company?
Continuing to be innovative while want to make sure the universe gets adopted by the player base. Sometimes we focus on what’s best for the operator but what we are concentrating on is what’s best for the player. Make it as clear and engaging as possible in the poker market. We’re never going to replace the entire dealer world. People still like playing with a dealer. But there is a segment of the market that we can capture and pretty much dominate, and if we have that we’re going to be a juggernaut in the industry. Poker will be forever changed by Jackpot Blitz. I’ve seen it with my eyes, I’ve been told it by many people, from operators to players.