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Anne Lindner

Q & A: Tobin Prior, SunOnline

20 December 2001

SunOnline is on the verge of launching its online casino, which was licensed by the Isle of Man in September. The group, a division of Sun International Hotels Ltd., has been led by Tobin Prior since the end of 2000, when he moved from his previous position as the CEO of Sun's international division. Before joining Sun International, he was a division director for the company's South African resorts. Prior spoke with IGN last week about the future of Sun Online and the relationships between land-based and online casinos.

IGN: I've read that the Atlantis online casino is going to be based on the land-based casino property. How will they be similar, and what are the advantages of making them similar?

Tobin Prior: Firstly, it's going to use the brand name, so it will be It'll take a lot of the brand imagery and the product imagery. Have you been to Atlantis? It's a really amazing experience, so it will borrow heavily from the land-based experience. A lot of the imagery, a lot of the architectural dramatic features will be taken into the Web site itself to leverage the credibility of the brand into the online environment. We want it to be a fantastic experience for the gambler, so it's got a lot of new player features on the site that make it very easy to navigate and very functional.

IGN: What do you think is important for land-based operators to keep in mind as they go to online sites?

TP: For us, we see this as an extension of our business. So really we've got to stay true to all of our core values and all of the things we try to achieve in the broader business context. I don't think it's a simple entry into a new market, I think it's an extension of how we reach our customers via a new medium. We obviously have to be very, very watchful of compliance issues, given our licensure in land-based environments. We want to make it a great experience for the customer, and we need to be very aware of what does make a good experience in the online environment for the customer. And obviously we want to deliver the kind of customer service that we pride ourselves on, in an online environment, which is not always that easy. So we've got to watch those things.

IGN: What features, do you think, make it a good experience for the customer?

TP: We think it's got some gaming features for one or two games that haven't been out before. We're offering side bets on blackjack, we're offering a 20-ball keno game, we're offering some very competitive slots, tables and so on. But we think that the experience is very unique, it's a very high-level of integrity in the site that's very, very jurisdictionally compliant so there might be one or two hoops for people to get through but it's going to be a rigorous environment for a trust and player protection point of view. So once people are in there, I think they're going to find it's a very safe environment to wager, they should be very comfortable wagering there, it's a good transition from land-based into Internet gaming, and it's amazing. It's got amazing new levels of graphic detail, it's got new features like you can load your own MP3 music while you're playing, it's got a very easy navigational way for setting up your favorites so you can get back to your table very quickly without a lot of clicks and so on. We've designed it as a great experience that embodies a lot of the things we stand for.

IGN: How do you see the future of the relationship between online and land-based casinos? Do you think they'll work for each other or against each other?

TP: I think that they'll work with each other. I don't believe that Internet casinos are going to replace land-based casinos or vice versa, I think there's space for both of them. I don't think lots of retail or product categories have proven that. For some people it is a convenience to have the Internet facility, other people will want to go back to the land-based facilities for some of the other experiences that you can get at the land-based facilities. But I think they can be complimentary if marketed appropriately.

IGN: What are your goals for SunOnline and where do you see it three years from now?

TP: It's very difficult to say. What we've done is, we've set a new kind of standard for an online casino. The levels of compliance that we've built into our casino make it quite a different product than people are typically used to, in terms of verification processes that people need to go through to get the site and so on. So it's quite a different experience, it's early though at this stage to say. What we'd like to become is a serious player amongst the legitimate players in the industry, those who are taking a fully legally compliant approach and so on.

IGN: What impact do you think the economic fallout from the Sept. 11 tragedies will have on the industry? Do you think there will be a long-term effect?

TP: It's difficult for me to assess, and I'll tell you the main reason why. The impact on Sept. 11 was really an American impact, and we don't take wagers from America. So, it cancels out a large part of the world that was impacted by the events of Sept. 11. We're about to launch our major brand, so I have not seen the impact of us operating in the marketplace with a brand with a before-and after-Sept. 11 model to answer you on.

IGN: When will the site be launched?

TP: We're hoping to launch as soon as the Isle of Man government gives us the go-ahead. So we're hoping to launch this month.

Q & A: Tobin Prior, SunOnline is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner