Making the News

Press of Atlantic City

Originally Published:Sunday, September 13, 2009
http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/business/article_76c9cc56-1b5f-5473-81c8-73a461de27fe.html

For love of the gaming: Linwood-based group analyzes casino markets worldwide

By Kevin Post
Press of Atlantic City

LINWOOD - Gambling was legalized in Atlantic City to revitalize it and provide economic opportunity beyond what the fading resort offered. Many tens of thousands have found work at the casinos, and many more in supplying them and serving their workers and customers.

One of the best opportunities, however, appeared outside the industry, looking in - and was seized and developed by Spectrum Gaming in Linwood.

Today Spectrum is a global gaming research and analysis firm with its headquarters in the Cornerstone Commerce Building and a staff of 16.

The firm orginated in the 1990s with the efforts of two entrepreneurs - Fred Gushin and Michael Pollock - who started their own firms and then merged them in 2003 to create Spectrum.

Gushin was a veteran of New Jersey's gaming regulatory system, which was charged with keeping corruption out of the local industry and quickly established a reputation for being thorough and effective.

Gushin started as a deputy attorney general with the state Division of Gaming Enforcement in 1978, the year legal gaming debuted in Atlantic City, and in his 13 years with the agency rose to assistant director and assistant attorney general.

He left the DGE in 1991. Restricted from working within the state in any related industry for four years, he went to Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands (which include Guam) to act as a gaming adviser.

"I started to take consulting jobs on my own and found that I liked it," Gushin said this week. "The first year, I made $22,000."

But he found that with legal gambling spreading quickly around the world, there was considerable demand for help with various aspects of setting it up in Panama, Australia, South America and American Indian tribal territories.

Pollock was the chief spokesman for the state Casino Control Commission for five years starting in 1991; prior to that, he worked for The Press of Atlantic City for 13 years, becoming editorial page editor.

In 1996, he left the casino commission to start a newsletter, Gaming Industry Observer, to research and analyze all aspects of casino gaming.

Gush and Pollock merged their firms in 2003, launching Spectrum Gaming into new markets and lines of business. In 2008 and 2009, Spectrum made Inc.'s list of the 5,000 fastest growing private companies in the nation.

"It was a case of where we thought one plus one would equal three," Pollock said. "It's equaled a lot more than three."

Spectrum Gaming has an office is Las Vegas and a government relations director in Harrisburg, Pa., he said, and in 2003 helped start its sister company and affiliate, Spectrum OSO Asia. That group is based in Bangkok, and has offices in China, Japan, the Philippines and Guam.

Pollock said Spectrum's biggest line of business by revenue is doing investigations for government entities, "essentially the equivalent of what the DGE does in New Jersey."

Singapore, Maine, Maryland and Puerto Rico are among jurisdictions that have contracted highly sensitive background checks on individuals and companies, he said. In addition to Gushin, several staff members are familiar with such work through prior experience with the DGE and casino commission.

Another major line of business is feasibility and economic impact studies, determining in advance the likelihood a project will succeed or what effects are probable on a company or region from casino development.

Spectrum this year completed a study for Connecticut on the economic and social impacts of gaming on residents, and how government policies influence such effects, Pollock said. A similar study for Massachusetts looked at possible future impacts if gaming is approved, as expected.

Gaming Industry Observer, now in its 14th year, leads the publishing side of the business that provides reliable research and information to government agencies, corporations, suppliers and trade groups, he said. Spectrum is adding an Asian edition of Gaming Industry Observer, which will be headed by Joe Weinert, a former casino reporter for The Press who joined the firm in 2004.

Spectrum also produces trade shows. The biggest and best know is the East Coast Gaming Conference held annually in Atlantic City. Other annual shows are held in Florida and Pennsylvania, and starting next year, in New England, he said.

Pollock said the key to success in all of Spectrum's endeavors is its core principle of avoiding conflicts of interest and ensuring research is done honestly without regard to whether the findings are favorable or not.

"We've had a number of cases where the results didn't turn out the way the client expected," he said.

He said his favorite example was a study of a potential casino project for a large securities firm, whose investment bank division wanted to handle the financing for the project.

"We found that the project was feasible, but the potential return on investment was below what the investment bankers had been hoping and pushing for," Pollock said.

The investment banking unit challenged Spectrum's study and asked for revisions, "but at the end of the day, our numbers didn't come up to where they wanted them to be," he said.

As a result, the private equity company didn't make the investment, he said. "A guy who left the firm, I happened to have lunch with him a year later, and he said, 'You guys were exactly right, and we knew it at the time.'"

The example points to a problem at many Wall Street firms that contributed to the financial collapse of 2008 and that Spectrum is keen to avoid. If the people rating investments are rewarded for making deals happen, producing positive ratings becomes the goal, rather than accurate ones.

"We do an economic study on a project, and we're asked if we can also help with the financing, put them in touch with financial sources," Pollock said. "We explain to them that we can't do both."

The firm turns away a lot of business as a result, he said, but the integrity and credibility of its products are essential.

"We think it works," he said. "The brand has meaning to people in the industry."

E-mail Kevin Post:

[email protected]

 

Spectrum OSO Asia SPECTRUMETRIX  Spectrum-i 
© Copyright 2007-2017 - Spectrum Gaming Group. All Rights Reserved.

Spectrum Gaming Group • 1201 New Road, Suite 308 • Linwood, NJ 08221 • USA
Phone: 609.926.5100 • Fax: 609.926.5121 • [email protected]


Site Development and Hosting provided by
MasseyMedia