Online casino and sports betting are the bare minimum of the foundational work at Wondr Nation, according to its President and CEO, Anika Howard.

Recently known as the Mashantucket Pequot Interactive, Wondr Nation is set to “expand the tribe’s footprint” into the digital vertical, in which the company aims to do three things – build expertise, introduce young people to the sector and reimagine gaming entertainment.

Speaking at SBC Summit North America, Howard stated: “Wondr Nation is the tribe’s newest venture and the goal is to really expand the tribe’s footprint into the digital space. 

“Wondr Nation is the licence holder for the online gaming and sports betting licence in the state of Connecticut but we have designs well beyond Connecticut, the goal is to really look at this opportunity to do three things. One, build expertise within the tribe. 

“A lot of work that we’re doing is really focused around creating training programmes so that tribal members and other Native Americans can be part of this industry and we’re very proud of that. 

“The other part is to really introduce young people to the industry. We have several partnerships that we’re working on with local universities in the state of Connecticut to educate but also create opportunities and to explain all the things that this industry has to offer. 

A big piece of this is saying they have all this technology but how do you apply technology in meaningful ways and not just for the sake of technology

“Finally, it is really about reimagining gaming entertainment. What are some of the things that we can have lessons learned from the post four years and, as a new tech art is emerging, what are some of the things that we can do to create a deeper, more engaging player experience as we roll out new products into the market?”

Explaining what the firm is delving into, Howard reiterated that she sees the foundational work as online casino and sports betting, but views these verticals as “the bare minimum”.

She explained: “One of the things that we’re looking at are, for example, esports, what are opportunities to create this online and on property kind of integrated experience for esports, so that you have some experience to have on property but then there are things that you can do online and how can we do it from an entertainment standpoint, not just from a pure sports component. 

“We find a lot of these opportunities to not just focus on the gambling piece but more on the experiential piece. What are things you can do? How you layer on things like VR and AI to create a richer and more engaging experience for the player.

“A big piece of this is saying they have all this technology but how do you apply technology in meaningful ways and not just for the sake of technology. A lot of what we’re doing is really just exploratory. If we want to expand to metaverse what are things that we can do if we are wanting to? 

“More engaging social gaming products and, for us, innovation is in rethinking how things are done traditionally and taking the technology and understanding the technology exists today, then creating additional layers onto the experiences that we have.

“Our goal is to work with partners, because we can’t do it in the vacuum, and then to reach out to upstart and start-up companies that have creative ways to think about things and give them a platform and an opportunity.”

“The great thing about tech, there’s no wrong or right answer”

When looking into the metaverse and how Wondr Nation will target the igaming audience, Howard stressed that, the company itself, will not be “looking exclusively” at the aforementioned audience but see it as an “extension” of what the firm is doing in esports. 

“I do feel like when you look at some of the products that have been successful outside of the gaming industry, in terms of creating these immersive experiences, there is an audience that may not be igaming and probably is not your traditional casino player that has an interest in this and so really it’s doing the research,” it was added.

“I don’t feel like it’s as simple as creating a version of boxwoods in the metaverse or creating an igaming product in the metaverse. It’s really about curating that experience and understanding what’s worked with some of these other metaverse worlds that have been successful. 

“The great thing about tech, there’s no wrong or right answer. It’s really what are the things that you can do and how do you do something that connects with players.”

Howard also went on to explain how the Connecticut market has performed since its launch in October last year and its potential for the future, lessons learned when it looks to expand into other states and delved more into African-Americans in Gaming, which she Co-Founded.