Aristocrat pokies

Aristocrat and Ainsworth reported contrasting fortunes in the pokies industry this week. (Image: AFP)

Ainsworth and Aristocrat continued to go in opposite directions this week after upheaval at both pokies giants.

Ainsworth shares dropped after the firm’s head of strategy and development waved goodbye. Scott Clarebrough’s retirement sent shares in Ainsworth Game Technology down 14 percent on Wednesday.

Clarebrough is seen as a pioneer in the company’s development lab and the brainchild of many of their recent pokie successes.

Speaking to Fairfax Media, Ainsworth chief executive Danny Gladstone lavished praise on the outgoing strategy boss:

“He’s [Clarebrough] been coaching for the last five or six years and he’s got some very good people who he has acted as a mentor to.”

Gladstone eased fears that Ainsworth’s current good run of development would be put in danger when he added:

“There is a solid plan for the rollout of games and we have a 45-strong design team who are working on that.”

Ainsworth Continues Move Into USA

Ainsworth has been churning out top pokies for decades in Australia, and enjoys a huge market share in pubs, clubs and casinos. Recently, the company has released some hugely popular games like The Sound of Music and Showgirls, both based on Hollywood material.

The news follows moves by Ainsworth to increase its pokie presence in North America. The Aussie company announced this week that is in the process of buying out Nova Technologies in a AUD53.5 million deal. If it goes through, Ainsworth’s North American presence will grow from 1,500 pokie machines to 2,600.

The move has been described by executive chairman, Len Ainsworth, as “an accretive acquisition and [a] highly complementary addition to our North American business.”

Ainsworth will be hoping that the acquisition halts a disappointing slide in revenue in 2015. In June, Ainsworth conceded Australian supremacy to their nemesis, Aristocrat.

“There is no growth in Australia,” bemoaned Mr. Gladstone.

“You’ve got no chance of the whole thing changing, so the way we look at it is that five years ago we sold 500 machines in North America and this year we’ll probably do 3,000 machines, so there is the growth story.”

Mobile Pokies Boosts Rival Aristocrat

Speaking of pokie rivals, Aristocrat Leisure reported a boost in North American sales for its machines.

2015 earnings for the Australian pokie manufacturer surged 79 percent to give the company net profits worth just over AUD236 million.

Aristocrat has also been busy in the US. Last year’s AUD1.8 billion acquisition of Video Gaming Technologies was partly responsible for the boost in earnings, boss Jamie Odell told media. VGT operates lottery-style, ‘Class II’ terminals in casinos across the USA.

Shares in Aristocrat leapt 4.3 percent off the back of the profits increase.

“Recent strategic investments, most particularly the successful acquisition and integration of VGT, together with increased, targeted design and development spend, have delivered ahead of our expectations,” Odell said this week.

Meanwhile, income from smartphone pokies play also contributed to Aristocrat’s good year. New Facebook apps like Heart of Vegas, released in 2015, helped digital revenue surge over 145 percent to a high of AUD123.4 million.

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