Long ago, when I invented player tracking, Nevada was the only state that allowed gambling. Tracking identified frequent gamblers, so casinos could form loyalty relationships with them. Everyone else was ignored.
Today, most of the people registered in your loyalty database gamble rarely, if at all. They took the time to join your club, so they were initially motivated. They just didn’t find your gambling product sufficiently appealing to become regular, profitable players.
Convert even a tenth of them into regular gamblers and your business doubles. That’s real opportunity, but you’ve got to move beyond player tracking to succeed. You must reinvigorate the experience that surrounds your games.
The mission of casino gambling is to help players feel better about themselves—to make them heroes in their own mind, even while they lose. That’s done by empowering employees to wrap everyday services with recognition, respect, celebration and consolation.
This is a lost art, as most of today’s casinos are devoid of human interaction.
Each of us yearns to be a hero, but life’s everyday burdens get in the way. That’s why we seek recreation: to recreate our self-image. To feel powerful. To be someone who matters. Casino gambling is a powerful recreation because it involves risk. And risk is an essential element of heroic action.
I’ve been flying out of Las Vegas for over 40 years, and make a sport of asking seatmates how they enjoyed the city. I used to always find myself sitting next to a winner who “hit a $200 jackpot” or “won enough to pay for the trip.” Further conversation inevitably revealed they’d lost more than was won, but they still felt like a winner—a hero in their own mind—and that feeling was well worth the cost.
Recently, a new trend has emerged—seatmates who enjoy visiting Las Vegas but don’t gamble at all, because gambling is “too boring,” or “too confusing.” I find this true across all age groups, not just the millennials. Gambling is in decline.
The problem is us. We’ve taken away clanging coins, booming bells and chatty change people. We eliminated enthusiasm and, in the name of efficiency, abdicate the responsibility for player entertainment solely to our electronic random number generators. No wonder gambling is in decline!
Make it Personal
Heroes are special, but it’s hard to feel special when you’re just another member of a loyalty tier. Your business will skyrocket if you greet each player by name, deliver favorite drinks without being asked, celebrate jackpots as they occur and provide sincere consolation and encouragement when losses accumulate.
All the data you need exists right now in your player tracking system: Just sitting there, wasting away.
Create a Culture
Every casino’s culture is defined by how employees are organized, trained and empowered. Great cultures deliver experiences that are both satisfying to players and profitable to provide.
Today, great cultures are hard to find because casino operations focus on efficiency instead of excitement. Staffers are rated by how quickly a service is provided, without concern of guest perception or satisfaction.
Your product isn’t wins, losses or loyalty points. Your product is enabling players to feel better about themselves—to make them heroes in their own minds—even while they lose. That’s only possible with an exciting, warm, enthusiastic culture.
Be Intelligent, Go Mobile
Player tracking was designed when desktop computers represented the future. Today those desktop computers—and perhaps even the desks beneath them—are artifacts of the past. Your employees either sit at one of those artifacts examining data or engage customers on the floor without information to guide them. Neither path delivers player satisfaction or revenue growth.
Mobile devices allow staffers to be with customers while accessing each player’s personal information. Data alone, though, isn’t enough. Decisions have to be made about what to offer and what to say. With hundreds of guests to serve each day, staffers can’t possibly select or interact optimally.
That’s where artificial intelligence comes in. AI technology has advanced sufficiently that computers can implement your rules, follow your regulations and construct meaningful, profitable, personal engagements to every player and situation. All at light speed. Staffers are instructed—through mobile devices—how, when and where to serve each customer.
The AI efficiently delivers direction while staffers effectively provide humanity. Players get consistently great experiences. You get persistently great profits.
Your biggest threat isn’t competition from other casinos; it’s consumer apathy to your gambling product. More people visit Las Vegas than ever, but only a decreasing percentage of them gamble. And what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, because that apathy is spreading to gaming everywhere.
My life in gaming began when the industry served customers as individuals and understood that gambling is a very emotional recreation. The industry was also small, and could never have expanded without electronic efficiencies. Unrealized was the damage those efficiencies inflicted upon the player experience.
Today’s technology has advanced sufficiently that we can once again provide the emotional gratification players seek while retaining those efficiencies you must keep.
Let’s move beyond player tracking and make the gambling industry grow again.