In the digital world, casino chips still are a big business

Gregory Gronau, CEO of Gaming Partners International, Friday Sept. 28, 2012.

Gaming Partners International

A view of some of the products developed by Gaming Partners International, Friday Sept. 28, 2012. Launch slideshow »

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Greg Gronau is one of the few gaming CEOs in Las Vegas who isn't jumping on the social gaming and Internet poker bandwagon.

That’s because his company, Gaming Partners International Corp., is focused instead on the bricks-and-mortar side of casinos.

The company is a leading supplier of table game equipment and accessories worldwide. Its products include chips and plaques, cards, dice and gaming tables.

GPI has about 750 employees with manufacturing plants in France and Mexico. About 70 of the jobs are in the United States, at Las Vegas headquarters and regional sales offices.

During the first half of this year, GPI generated $28.5 million in revenue.

Gronau and Kirsten Clark, senior vice president and chief operating officer for GPI in the fast-growing Asian casino market, recently sat down with VEGAS INC to discuss the company's operations.

You’re known for focusing on table games, but is there a plan to enter the electronic side of the market with slot machines or other devices?

Gronau: We’ve looked into that from time to time. There are some big players there. There’s a lot of competition there.

It’s a good market, but at this time we’ve not found the right solution for us.

As you work to increase sales, do you encourage casinos to devote more space to table games and less to slot machines and other electronic games?

Gronau: We don’t have to get into that argument with customers. They pretty much know their clientele and their market. We’ve seen a resurgence in table games during the past few years. You had the poker surge.

Even though you’re not into social gaming or Internet poker, are they driving interest in play at physical casinos that ultimately will benefit GPI?

Gronau: It helped with poker. You saw a lot of online poker houses, and that drove tournaments. And there were more and more younger people coming to these poker tournaments. It did drive volume into the casinos.

Clark: If you look at how technology drives so many things, social gaming is a positive thing for casino operators to look at because, let’s face it, gambling is everywhere. It’s just another way to deliver the medium in a play-for-fun manner.

And it seems you don’t want to compete with your customers.

Clark: We are a one-stop shop when it comes to the table side of the business, and we are focused on that. We’ve refocused our development efforts on developing collaborative relationships with core customers around the world to make sure we address needs they have, whether it be coming up with new products or coming up with new security features.

Some of the casino chips you design and manufacture are quite elaborate with embedded security features, including radio frequency identifiers, to prevent counterfeiting and assist with inventory control. How does customizing chips for casinos prevent fraud?

Clark: If you’ve got a busy table, a player could be introducing a counterfeit chip into a stack of chips. So they need to have a good quick way to identify them, and that’s why going to a more intricate chip mold has become so significant.

Gronau: The dealer can quickly see the features of the chip. It speeds up their process of moving chips, and it’s their first line of defense. It’s visual. It’s tactical. It’s the weight of the chip. It’s the feel of the chip. It’s the colors and designs that they know should be there. In the decal, there are certain holographic or certain design features they’ll look at.

How are chips used by casinos for marketing?

Gronau: When you look at the design features, it’s becoming more and more of a brand-recognition tool and tying it into their table layouts and tying that into other products in their casino. They spend a lot of money on the design of their casino, and they’re starting more and more to integrate everything.

Wynn is one of the best in branding. There’s a certain level of sophistication there. You think of Wynn versus Arizona Charlie’s. They’re going to have different needs for chips. They’ll have a different need for branding and the value of what they’re putting on the table.

Clark: It’s also part of the player experience. If you have an attractive-looking gaming chip, chances are players might souvenir it and take it home. If it’s a $25 chip and the player walks out with it, there’s $25 the casino is keeping. A lot of casinos will introduce commemorative limited-edition chips to not only present their brand or a special event, but to make some money and recoup their investment in chips.

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