New WONDR NATION CEO Pledges Diversity, New Gaming Experiences

New WONDR NATION CEO Pledges Diversity, New Gaming Experiences

WONDR NATION is the rebrand, relaunch, and re-imagining of Mashantucket Pequot Interactive that oversees Foxwoods social casino, FoxwoodsONLINE, and partners with DraftKings for the on-site and virtual sportsbook.

The organization will be led by industry veteran Anika Howard, who was vice president of brand marketing and digital for Foxwoods.

She’s previously worked at International Game Technology (IGT) and helped launch the first US iLottery site for the Illinois Lottery.

WONDR Nation will focus on expanding the Tribal Nation’s digital footprint and seeks to partner with other tribes and companies to create unique experiences for players.

Howard, now president and CEO of WONDR NATION, spoke to PlayUSA virtually about how WONDR NATION will work.

Diversity and technology at heart of new WONDR Nation

PlayUSA: WONDR NATION promises to reimagine the online gaming field. How will it differentiate itself from other platforms in the market? 

Anika Howard: Native American gaming generates almost half of all gaming revenue in the US and is a critical driver and economic force. As a growing and thriving part of the overall casino industry – Tribal Nations are well-positioned to take a leadership role in how gaming evolves.

WONDR NATION expands the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s offering beyond traditional retail and online gaming experiences. Focusing also on using emerging trends in technology to create new experiences first for their tribal entities and then more broadly for other Tribal Nations.

We are building a business with diversity at its core. In addition to diversifying the offering of the Tribe, we recognize that in gaming – now more than ever – diverse voices are critical. We are building a team that ensures the people sitting around the table and making decisions have diversity of thought, experiences and reflect the communities and customers we aim to serve.

What type of UX will WONDR NATION provide players? (How accessible will it be, on what devices, etc.)?

AH: Platform usability, accessibility, and responsible gaming controls are core requirements of any successful offering in this space, not differentiators.

Our plan is to offer products that will be available on a variety of digital devices, mobile to desktop, with a best-in-class UX. We will issue an RFP for a platform provider and partners to build our gaming ecosystem accordingly. We see the biggest opportunity in content and experiences.

Putting the interests of diverse customers and their preferences and experience front and center is key for WONDR NATION. Investing in content that authentically connects with specific audiences like women, Latinx+, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and LGBTQ communities will fill a gap in the market. We have ambitions to change the industry from this perspective.

What’s the next step, the next technology about to emerge in online gaming? Is it voice control? Alexa-synergy, that kind of thing?

AH: We have our sights on the metaverse and virtual and augmented reality experiences. There is a natural crossover between gaming, eSports, and social – that makes this an interesting creative opportunity.

The COVID effect made much of the adaption of this type of technology more mainstream, and many technology companies are over-investing in this space and looking for partners to help define what it becomes.

How do you plan to reinforce smart gaming habits among WONDR NATION players?

AH: Responsible gaming is good business because, from a revenue perspective, the focus is on sustainable play. The primary way we plan to have a sustainable and long-term relationship with our players is to educate them on how to play safely and responsibly on our platforms.

Technology allows us to provide advanced predictive models – we can create personalized player direction. This requires a commitment from not just WONDR NATION but the partners we select, how we market, and the way we integrate support when the need is identified with treatment and awareness facilities that have the direct relationship with the community.

Are there any specific games or content that will be available on the launch date?

AH: We are establishing ways to get more women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) creators and developers excited about technology and gaming.  We want to create more representation in this area, and we have some interesting partnerships and concepts brewing, so you will need to follow our journey and see what’s next.

What’s the main goal of WONDR NATION?

AH: Beyond what every new company wants – strong revenue and engagement – the main goal of WONDR NATION is to really to reimagine gaming entertainment and the role and impact Tribal Nations can have in this space.

We are dedicated to supporting local communities and empowering tribal members and young leaders with learning and development areas in this space to build out the innovators, influencers, and driving forces of the future.

Author: Tyler Gutierrez