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Beyond Billboards

Digital signage allows flexibility and fun

Beyond Billboards

Digital signage serves opposite ends of the casino operation spectrum.

It is freewheeling, yet functional. It reveals both panache and purpose. The gleaming signs, neat scripts and majestic displays throughout the property meet two goals. They enhance a casino’s identity while improving its customer service.

What began several years ago as a method to help patrons find restaurants, shows and open games has become an exhibit of new technology. Note the gigantic sports-book screens, flashing light changes, jackpot celebrations and the usage of curved walls. Signage is an adrenaline rush, a party in fantasyland, an intangible boost to the bottom line.

Put It On the Wall

JCM Global is one of the leading providers of cash-handling systems and printers to casinos worldwide, and it also supplies digital displays. The company’s signage lineup includes e-posters,  hi-def flat screens and in-floor displays that bend, twist and curve.

The Osaka-based outfit created a division, JCMedia, to handle digital signage. Giving JCMedia a wall to transform equates to handing an artist a blank canvas. The organization has not only enlivened lounges and sports-book areas with its video-wall products, but will soon use the wall as a company focal point.

JCMedia plans a fall unveiling of a major project at Tachi Palace in California.

A wall just inside the entranceway has evolved into a giant promotional screen. JCMedia combined its signage technology with NanoLumens, the Georgia-based company that puts flexible paneling on walls. The Tachi Palace wall is curved, high, wide and prominent. Perfect for anything the casino wants to put on it.

“You can see it from every corner of the property,” says Doug Fundator, the head of digital business development for JCMedia. “The wall itself is 38 feet wide by 21 feet high. It will be used to display everything from advertisements to live television, in-house messaging, gaming data, winners, celebrations, that type of thing. Done correctly, this brings back a lot of the wow, the pop, the excitement.”

The wall will have the brightness capability of outdoor signage, which is rare. Fundator says it will have up to 1,500 NITs (a measure of luminance derived from the Latin word “Niteri,” which means to shine), a capacity several times brighter than most indoor displays.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how they promote that wall,” Fundator says. “It is going to draw people’s eye to that space. This will really be awesome. They can make that wall a living, breathing piece of architecture, and they will also have  the capability to light up the whole property if they want to.”

The Tachi Palace innovation reflects what Fundator considers a shift in the technology industry. Many individual signs become obscured by the sheer volume.

“As the technology moves forward, people are trying to find a more intelligent way to utilize it,” Fundator says. “Look, I can  go into your property and flood it with displays and monitors, but everybody is getting used to that now. The displays all look good, but people are not looking at them because they become commonplace just like the old back-lit signs.

“We are trying to be more strategic, more creative.”

Another innovation is likely to occur in the near term, Fundator indicates. By wrapping the room with LED panels and adding video, an operator can essentially whisk a customer off to a dream location.

“Let us say you are having dinner in the VIP room and you say, ‘I wish I was eating at the top of the Eiffel Tower,’ Fundator says. “We can make you feel like you are there, or on a mountaintop, or underwater, if you’d like that. This is a huge target area for the casinos. They don’t want the customers to go away. They would like to go on feeding them and giving them the feel of getting away to a nice place.”

The Cool Perspective

Las-Vegas based Bally Technologies delivers innovative games, table game products, systems, mobile and iGaming solutions that drive revenue for gaming operators.

Among its innovations is CoolSign, the gaming industry’s leading gaming-centric media management tool that allows promotions, triggered by any gaming system, to be beamed onto any digital display. Through signage that integrates with lighting and sound systems, CoolSign helps create an experience that immerses patrons in a sense of winning.

And it just got better.

Using Bally’s newest CoolSign technology—the Video Wall Controller—casino operators have control and flexibility to manage content and messaging.

The Wall Controller provides a cost-efficient method of controlling video walls without expensive video wall control devices. It has been enhanced to a revolutionary 8K resolution. This has quadrupled the previous power of the wall controller by enabling unprecedented 4×4 video with multiple regions of content playback using any 1080p monitor—with no loss of resolution. Up to 16 individual screens cans be used for  8,000-by-4,000 pixel quality.

Company officials say this tool is the perfect fit for managing huge video displays that capture customers’ attention, whether it’s outside, in a concert venue, on the gaming floor or in a busy hotel lobby.

The CoolSign Video Wall Controller technologies link directly into casino-management and slot-management systems, and provide real-time alerts to players about promotions, winners and last-minute specials for items such as show tickets, dining, and even discounted rooms. The integration of CoolSign with other Bally systems products provides a significant competitive advantage for the hundreds of casinos currently using Bally systems.

Bally CoolSign’s 16-output video wall Player Node is powered by NVIDIA’s Quadro K5000 and K5000SYNC graphics hardware. This leading hardware is complemented with NVIDIA Mosaic technology.

CoolSign digital signage takes advantage of the features offered with NVIDA Mosaic technology combined with NVIDIA Quadro K5000. These  include Frame Lock, Genlock, Bezel Correction and application spanning.

RJ45 Frame Lock provides the power to synchronize multiple workstation display channels to create one single large display. BNC Genlock synchronizes the graphics output with an external source. Mosaic Premium technology allows the system to compensate for bezels in the video wall for proper alignment of content displayed across multiple displays. NVIDIA Mosaic technology creates one large, single display. This is a GPU-driven feature, which spans any content across multiple monitors as a unified desktop.

For years, the CoolSign program has been a cool deal for operators.

The media and content-management system links to all messaging devices throughout the casino property, and pushes content to each without the need to create multiple versions of the same information. This inexpensive option enables casinos to communicate information quickly to guests, and enables casino marketers to drive consistent messages throughout the property through a single output.

CoolSign lets casinos schedule both far in advance and down to the minute. Scheduled content can be played instantly based on external triggers like a jackpot hit. Alternatively, operators can schedule content to play only when preset conditions are met—for example, advertise swimming pool facilities only if the temperature is more than 90 degrees and the weather is sunny, or advertise a discount on the hotel rooms if the occupancy rate is below a minimum threshold. The discount can be stopped once the target is met or exceeded.

Building Upon Success

CastNET just completed its second decade of bringing varied casino functions into one system. It is a division of Alpha Video & Audio.

Lance Hutchinson, who co-founded the Minnesota company in 1994, believes its signage product lineup builds outward from the core. CastNET’s property-wide digital signage system is the main program. It brings functions like menu boards, in-room TV, video walls, cashier cages and employee communications under one roof. The company presents operators with an image of how different parts of the casino work together as one software-blended unit. Customers wishing to expand beyond this system can purchase additional products for specific needs, like mobile.

“A big benefit we give operators is the ability to eliminate the number of products that need infrastructure support,” says Hutchinson, the company’s vice president. “It is not uncommon for us to go into a property and find out there is a convention system, which is different from a slot system, which is also different than its hotel system. There is yet another system on table games. You have all these small islands of systems and nobody knows how to make them all work.

“Think of all the different types of files you need and then put in all the people who need to use them. We are efficient at uniting them.”

CastNET has signage installs throughout much of Europe and Asia, as well as in the United States. In the past several months, it introduced several additions to the core program. They have all been deployed, Hutchinson says, and mobile technology is paramount.

“Digital signage really took off in the 2006 and 2007 time frame,” he says, “and now it is definitely going more mobile. One of the things you are constantly asking yourself as a casino operator is how to engage with your customers. How can you relate more personally with that player through the smart phone? How do we establish a connection?

“Three or four years from now, anyone who is not using mobile technology is missing out on a significant play. The customers who walk up to your kiosk, for example, want to see more than an interactive map. They want to tap their phone and have a direct link to an open table with your restaurants.

“This is a unique way of  building a customer. You know who this player is and you know that he has not been here in 90 days, but the last time he was, he went to the steakhouse and had a massage. Well, there is an opening in the massage facility right now. Let’s send him a coupon.”

While the new programs allow companies to test the waters in specific areas, the main system is CastNET’s core presentation. Besides unifying communications between management and employees, it restores customer passion to the floor, Hutchinson says. The property-wide signage system returns some of the luster TITO (ticket-in, ticket out) took out.

“Not only does an operator seek to integrate with poker systems that show which seats are open on the table and where people are on their priority lists, but they want to show real-time jackpots and celebrations,” he says. “TITO has blocked a lot of that noise. It is well-known that if your casino is perceived to be luckier and it looks like more people are winning, the guests are going to be coming back. We give them the ability to trigger celebrations on all televisions.

“We can give them a safe over a bank, for example, and show it opening when someone wins. We can come up with a 15- or 30-second animated message about the latest winner and the amount they won. Hey, congratulations to Bill, who just won $49,000 on Lucky 7.”

Hutchinson says a major strength for CastNET is its ability to output it content as HTML 5, enabling it to get on smart phones, computers, tablets and “anything you can browse the internet with.”

The company’s highlighted new products include Casino View, a way-finding solution utilizing digital signage on a touch-screen display. Customers can find an on-screen map of the game floor, and a list of games, venues and events. A multi-column layout makes each game and event easy to find.

CastNET MobileView is a licensed app that shows a playlist of scheduled content from a CastNET Enterprise server. The app plays the same content that is published to larger CastNET screens as well as customized content created just for the iPad or iPad Mini. Users can update content by logging into the CastNET server using any web browser. Adding messages, photos, videos and websites is as easy as completing a step-by-step online form.

Any content that you add to a MobileView playlist can be updated to hundreds of iPads at the same time.

The Backup

One of CastNET’s premier partners is Gaming Support, which  was founded in 2000 in The Netherlands. It also has offices in Belgium and in Las Vegas, which opened in 2004.

Gaming Support has steadily grown over the years with products in every major casino market in the world. The company focus in the digital display market is on gaming-based applications: displaying progressive jackpot values, jackpot celebrations, etc. People love to see winners, and Gaming Support officials say their products make that happen. The lineup includes video screens and environmental effects that come alive during a jackpot.

Gaming Support’s digital display product is designed for both enterprise-wide solutions and bank-level solutions. There is a size that can be tailored for every application. When working with Alpha Video, it provides the gaming interfaces to progressive controllers and CMS systems. It then feeds that information to Alpha Video’s CastNET product for distribution to any display on the property through a content management system.

Gaming Support’s bank-level solution is a media player that is capable of connecting to almost all brands of progressive controllers in the market. It provides video playback of progressive jackpot values and jackpot hit celebrations for a single progressive link. This bank-level solution can be easily configured using its iPad Media Player App.

What’s happening inside the properties often matches the colossal presentation made outside of them. Customers can see casinos from the highways via spectacular visual displays. Once entering a property, they want the same magic that lured them there.

Digital signage allows casinos to entertain players without paying a headliner. This market component is a born winner. The pitch to casinos could be: it’s not just signage. It’s a signature.

Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.