Tribal casinos are a well established and important feature of the country’s wider gambling industry, and Justin Barrett, Treasurer of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, believes this historic sector is now leading the way in tech usage.

In an interview with Payment Expert ahead of his appearance at the SBC Summit North America later this year, Barrett broke down the Eastern Shawnee Tribe’s approach to payments and tech innovation in its casino operations.

Payment Expert: Is integrating and emerging financial and payments technologies key to tribal gaming’s future development and sustainability?

Justin Barrett: The US market has been slow to adapt to new technology compared to the European market. This can really be seen in how we conduct sports betting where the European market is way ahead of us. 

Tribal nations are setting the standard in our brick and mortar casino and adopting new technology is how we will continue to set the standard against commercial properties. 

PE: How has the rollout of cashless gaming in Eastern Shawnee casinos been progressing and how has the reception been among your customers?

JB: Roll out has been good and our guests that are enrolled adopted very well. Our platform is very slick and user friendly. Our current group of players utilising the platform have had great responses and we are excited to keep moving forward. 

PE: The Eastern Shawnee Tribe made the move to the metaverse in 2022, what impact has this had on your operations in the years since?

JB: We didn’t make a move to the metaverse but towards an online presence in general. The virtual world component is one of the ways in which we are keeping ourselves relevant in the latest innovations and that include AI, AR/VR and understanding the trends of the next generation of players. 

We are currently in the process of launching our social casino platform to be followed by the virtual world. 

PE: How crucial a role does the metaverse play in the Eastern Shawnee Tribe’s igaming operations?

JB: Having a unique selling proposition when attempting to launch any new online social casino presence in a saturated market is crucial to growing our user-base outside of our current offerings. It also allows people to interact with our brand outside of brick and mortar. 

PE: Can you detail how you have worked with the NIGC on the launch of this product, and on other tech and/or fintech developments?

JB: We have not worked with the NIGC at this point. Our intent currently is to only offer a social casino platform because social is legal in all 50 states in the US. 

PE: As online gaming continues to grow, how can tribal operators develop a truly omni-channel payments experience between land-based and online?

JB: To elevate tribal gaming experiences we are focusing on seamlessly connecting online and land-based payment systems and making it easy for players to manage their funds across multiple platforms. It is all about making gaming more accessible, secure and enjoyable so players have a better experience.

PE: How can tribal gaming ensure it is at the forefront of evolving financial trends and consumer payment preferences?

JB: By investing in technology and embracing digital platforms such as online gaming and cashless payment systems. Both when added to the casino environment help cater to the customers preferences. 

How many customers have gaming apps on their phones? There is a need for entertainment away from the brick and mortar. This also allows the customer to engage with your brand even off property. We are seeing major entertainment venues move towards cashless such as BOK. 

PE: What do you hope audiences in New Jersey will take away from your panel on the future of tribal gaming?

JB: Tribal nations are sovereign governments with unique differences. It is important for any partner to remember that a cookie cutter approach is not the solution to enter the tribal gaming market. Tribal gaming is unique because we are here for the long term and not worried about short-term goals or earnings calls. 

Justin Barrett is one of many North American betting and gaming experts who will be speaking at the SBC Summit North America from 7-9 May, 2024. 

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