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Game Changing Technology

BITAC® Casino Panel Examines Latest Innovations, Features

Monday, June 10, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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At last week’s BITAC® Casino Resorts event executives discussed the continued evolution of technology within casino hotels and placed an emphasis on the importance of wifi, mobile solutions and the growing emergence of RFID technology, among other things.

The session, which was entitled “Game Changer: How Technology is Enhancing The Casino Experience,” included Oscar Lopez, hotel manager, the D Las Vegas; Brett Magnan, executive director/principle, CherryTree; Steve Neely, general manager, Rolling Hills Casino; and Saverio Scheri, COO, Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.

Tech executives framed the discussion by underscoring the overall importance of technology within gaming venues.

“This is a topic we’re all focused on when you think about how do you differentiate yourself from the competition when everybody’s doing everything almost simultaneously,” said Scheri.

“Technology is front and center in a lot of decisions that we’re making,” according to Neely.

Lopez agreed and offered some specifics. “I’m a big advocate of technology and for me one of the biggest things is data collection...It helps us make better decisions,” he said.

The panelists unilaterally acknowledged the importance of wifi both to accommodate the demands of guests and the various technology solutions needed to improve operations.

“Wifi is a given; everyone has to have complimentary wifi,” said Magnan. He went on to add, “we’ve been at properties where they have all this technology in play but it doesn’t work and that’s the kiss of death.”

Neely added, “I think it all starts with wifi but there’s so many more tools that you can take advantage of. We actually invested in new kiosks.”

Scheri, meanwhile, elaborated on how technology has evolved. “Many years ago technology was extremely limited in how it interacted with the customer. Now its completely different. It’s all about interacting with our customers on a mobile device. These are the kind of opportunities that we have for that differentiation. What can we do with technology that doesn’t make it cumbersome or hard but is intuitive and enhances the experience?”

For his part, Neely detailed his company’s outlook and approach.
“I think when it comes to technology we all get enamored by the sexy new toys. We started looking at taking a very tactical approach to things. At the end of the day what you really want to focus on is what’s the problem you’re trying to solve and than move into those areas,” he noted.

The panelists went on to detail some of the specific technology advances which they have been most focused on. For example, Lopez emphasized that connecting with guests on their phones is critical.
“That’s a big thing for us. For me the guest experience starts before you get into the hotel. It’s our concierge team sending you a text message or an email in anticipation of your arrival, [saying] ‘these are some of the things you can do in Las Vegas.’ And it doesn’t end when they leave your door. It’s that follow up [asking] ‘how was your stay? Any feedback?’ The better you can integrate with their phone, because that’s going to be with them 90 percent of the time, I think really helps out,” he said.

Neely mentioned there have been technology advancements in a number of areas, such as kiosks, mobile devices, and slot dispatch systems. He also referenced a “robust player development tool” his property has deployed with a license plate reader that can identify high-limit players as they arrive.

“As soon as a high-limit player crosses that threshold we get an alert to let us know we have a player arriving on property so that we can make that initial contact and be on the offense. We can be warm and welcoming and alert the staff that the player is arriving,” he said.

Magnan, meanwhile, talked about technology, as a means of retaining guests.
“There are technologies out there that extend their play as well as the amenities. When we say have great food and beverage service it isn’t necessarily because we want to have great food and beverage, but we want to keep them in the casino longer. If you get an opportunity to feed them and they have a great experience they’re more likely to stay at your property and frequent your machines. To that end we look at technology that says how do we improve our performance in F&B and other areas?” he said, specifically citing RFID solutions which can effectively track players.

Loyalty programs continue to gain traction within the gaming industry as well, according to Lopez.
“When I first started it was just the gaming side you would track to know how much they spent and go to the tables they track; now it’s everything you spend. It’s nightclubs, food & beverage, everywhere you’re going your player card is going with you and you’re being rewarded for expenditures...So you’re getting all that data back, I think it’s useful to you as an operator to know where they’re going and how they’re spending their dollars while on the property,” he stated.

Of course, ROI [return on investment] is always the most critical aspect of implementing technology. Scheri offered at least one example where the payoff wasn’t there.
“We’ve seen a lot of investment in things that don’t always pan out. My favorite example is server-based gaming. Tens of millions of dollars were invested in server-based gaming and I don’t think anybody even has it installed anymore, maybe a couple of properties. So we see this often,” he noted, adding there are plenty of “great successes as well.”

“I always like to take a look at ROI and ROQ [return on quality]. Does it have return on investment? Ok, then you try to figure out what the longevity is, but ROQ also matters. Does it make a big difference to your players or guests? There are lots of technologies out there that people attempt to do because it’s popular or it looks cool, but it doesn’t really make a big difference in their property,” Magnan commented.

Neely remains bullish on technology investments citing Moore’s Law.
“Every 18 months it’s twice as good and half as expensive. At some point you just have to bite the bullet and quit waiting for the price to go down because you’ve missed out on all those opportunities along the way,” he said.
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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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