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Drilling Down

Data collection has been around for many years, but the newest software technology is providing effective ways to use it.

Drilling Down

It used to be easy.

Casino presidents spotted premier players by walking the floor, conversing and determining informal data. It was “eyeball-itics,” an instinctive feel for player worth and comping tiers. Marketing? That was the art of placing slot machines in the path of a $1 breakfast buffet.

And then came analytics, an umbrella phrase entailing color codes, software, technology-driven market campaigns and predictive analysis. A favored pricing tool, it fine-tunes the human decisions governing comps, room rates and restaurant discounts.

Analytics can entail formulating a quick response for group bookings or determining the proper room-price level for several player groups. It can enable a property to predict a slow time period far enough in advance to launch a marketing program.

Data is gold in the ultra-competitive, multibillion-dollar gaming world, and anything that moves the revenue needle 5-10 percent is priceless.

Vendors must produce more than an avalanche of solid data, however. The information must be quickly accessible and connect with bottom lines. It must be easy to interpret, enabling operators to add their own creativity.

How about some administrative razzle-dazzle? An operator can tell a customer that his level of play may not justify room discounts or comps, but issue rewards anyway. The patron feels more valuable than what a formula dictates, and may gamble with renewed enthusiasm. Or make a return trip.

The combinations are limitless, as is the need to convert the data into action. Analytics are best used at the intersection of technology and psychology.

Duetto: Changing the Game

Marco Benvenuti saw an avalanche of information while connected with Caesars and Wynn casinos in Las Vegas for several years. At Wynn, he captured customer data on how much players spent on everything. That impacted decisions affecting what level of free room to give a player, including those who spent significant money on food and beverage.

Nearly five years ago, he went on his own, and now runs Duetto Research along with Patrick Bosworth and Craig Weissman. The Las Vegas-based company has amassed clients ranging from El Cortez to South Point and Westgate with its GameChanger product, launched in January 2014. Benvenuti believes several more properties may soon install the product. He says GameChanger helps casino hotels select and retain their most profitable customers, independently assessed by each individual customer segment, room type, offer or discount.

GameChanger determines the total value of each guest by their prospective gaming and non-gaming revenue potential.

The product is cloud-based, eliminating the need for IT personnel, storage costs and the maintenance of servers associated with having the product on property.

“Think of the cloud solution in the sense that you are a homeowner,” Benvenuti says. “And you outsource everything for people to take care of it. We can also provide general information and information that may be pertinent to your property. We have airline traffic demand, giving you an idea how many people are coming to McCarran (Las Vegas Airport) on a certain date. There is weather information that is practical, too. When the temperature goes above 120 degrees in Phoenix, many people from that area go to San Diego.”

That may become a future selling point for GameChanger in the Indian-gaming-rich Southern California market. El Cortez, meanwhile, has already utilized GameChanger profitably, Benvenuti says.

Using analytic information on customer requests, it fine-tuned the operation to maximize its three room tiers. If demand spiked in one area, the hotel raised prices in that segment without changing the others. This helped the company not only match the player to an appropriate room rate (low-tiered gamblers with low-tiered rooms), but to eliminate guess work. There could be a tendency, for instance, to misread the market without an analytic tool. It would be easy to lump a high volume of reservation requests made by low-tiered players into the idea of raising prices for all rooms and then perhaps losing mid- and high-range customers.

DataSpade: Profit Bounce

Kalkaska, Michigan-based DataSpade is an industry-specific software and consulting company that serves corporate and tribal gaming properties. Its chief gaming-industry role is providing decision support for gaming executives via data and software.

Owner Conrad Miller says the company’s small size—five employees—guarantees personalized service.

“Look, we’re in every gaming market but Atlantic City,” he says. “All my clients have my cell phone number. We don’t have automated phone systems. If you call us, you get us. We deliver solutions for a fraction of the cost you would have to pay a database employee.”

A couple of DataSpade’s main programs, invented by Miller, have been effective in the last several years.

DataAce software is a Windows-based downloadable player’s club analytic tool and mailing-list compiler. It is primarily used to analyze individual groups, segments and players’ key metrics. The product allows marketing mangers to extract and analyze raw data using a clean, precise interface compatible with all player tracking systems.

DataSpade’s BounceBack software offers a higher level of marketing power for casino properties. Its automated casino promotion software is used to issue free-play coupons and gain loyalty with players. The product is designed to bridge the gap between a casino’s player’s club data and the unrelenting marketing efforts needed to sustain player loyalty.

The BounceBack system has helped some properties increase revenues by up to 15 percent, Miller says. It outperforms ADT (average daily theoretical) and cumulative segmentation models alone by using a balance in conjunction with daily response, which eliminates the need for a period average or total.

With BounceBack, properties can send appropriate offers to all player segments without the risk of running a loss. By implementing a predetermined point threshold (that stays relative to each player’s value and trip frequency), offers are automatically triggered when a player’s point threshold is achieved. These offers can then be syndicated directly to the print house and/or kiosk redemption center automatically, and daily.

“One of the big things we offer is help in the timing, the ‘when’ this offer is triggered,” Miller says. “It’s a crime for some properties to have all this information in their databases and to know that a player has an offer coming, and for the information to sit there for 30 days.”

Casinos can see a clear picture with the data. In the four market-segmentation quadrants—high frequency, high value; high frequency, low value; low frequency, high value; and high-frequency, low value—there are some surprises. A low-frequency, high value player, for instance, may miss comps if the casino is using a cumulative segmentation model that measures only his total amount gambled rather than the per-trip average. Addressing that player, and prompting an additional trip in a quarter, can tap an overlooked source of revenue.

Miller adds that some gamblers have a psychological barrier at certain gambling thresholds.

“You might bet $100 next week, and $100 the following trip, but if I sent a limo to your house and wined and dined you on the property, you will still bet $100,” he says. “Nothing can move that number for you.”

Translation: Extra comping efforts won’t always produce additional revenue.

BounceBack not only determines the offer amount based solely on cumulative play, but also accounts for a player’s distance from the property and calculates their offers in relation to their travel time. Redemption windows are enforced using a shorter offer expiration period, effectively controlling player response pressure.

Casino Data Imaging: How Suite it Is

Las Vegas-based Casino Data Imaging continues to stay atop advancements in technology to deliver feature-rich applications. Late in 2014, the company released GlobalSuite 1.5, which added new drafting tools and enhancements to the application data control center, including Asset Master and Query Editor. Some of its recent installations include Belterra Park Gaming in Cincinnati, Valley View Casino in California and FireKeepers Casino in Michigan.

GlobalSuite’s Report Analysis, Application Control Center and Data Visualization components are utilized for managing slots, table games, player data and future add-ons for performance analysis. It has added Player Data Version 1, which can be accessed directly from GlobalSuite’s graphical interface. Clicking on a machine reveals who’s playing the device, along with trip histories and trip-session drill-downs. Player information is also brought into GlobalSuite interactive dashboards and report analysis component.

A key to good dashboard design is to avoid overpowering users with too much information, company officials say. How much is too much can vary depending on job roles. Casino Data Imaging has made dashboards interactive so users can get more information and customize data views. Theme Peer Group Comparisons, Distribution Utilization & Optimization and Lease Games Profitability (with adjustable data grids and graphs) are great examples of customer feedback and suggestions, CDI says.

Alerts can also be used to call immediate attention to information based on pre-defined criteria set by users. If already using other tools for dashboard analysis, customers can still access its interactive trending collection if desired.

GlobalSuite can be used to complement a property’s existing business intelligence assets as well as integrating applications that operate off the GlobalSuite data cube, like Excel’s PowerPivot and Power Query.

CDI continues to invest in and expand its data visualization component for single- and multi-casino operations. Features include high-level and drill-down financial color coding, group tracking, advanced printing and plotting features, MGMD analysis views and drill-downs, group tracking, search features, server-based casino layouts, and both 2D and 3D visual modes.

CIP Reporting: Self-Exclusion Analytics

Casinos have long urged customers to bet with their heads, not over them. Some enlightened patrons have opted for self exclusion, and technology aids their efforts.

Responsible gaming and self-exclusion programs are a duty of all gaming operations, but the tools available for enforcement have offered little more than a transition from a paper book to databases with photographs, according to Jason Riffel, who founded Massachusetts-based CIP Reporting in 2006.

CIP Reporting’s Self-Exclusion Enforcement Analytics utilizes self-exclusion data with features that include customizable geographic analysis and dashboards.

Self-exclusion data can be captured from any data source, including ad-hoc documents in folders, email, spreadsheets, databases, or manually entered and tracked in CIP Reporting. Real-time analysis is performed on the self-exclusion data, including demographics, background, history and the all-important geographic proximity to the gaming establishment.

“With problem gambling well-known as a compulsive behavior, the geographic proximity of a person to a gaming establishment is a key indicator for the likelihood to violate at a specific property,” Riffel says. “Geographic proximity may include not only the place of residence but also place of employment. The higher the frequency a person is near a gaming establishment, the higher the likelihood that gambler will make the compulsive decision to gamble there.”

CIP Reporting’s Self-Exclusion Analytics creates an unlimited number of specialized lists based on customizable criteria such as geographic distance, number of violations, violations at a specific location, or other custom criteria. The lists feed into analytic dashboards designed for display on large screens in prominent employee-only areas such as surveillance, security, employee dining, etc.

The analytic dashboards protect the individual’s personally identifiable information by only displaying photographs and demographic information. The analytic dashboards rotate through various layouts in a randomized carousel to create a visually stimulating, alternating training tool to help employees be aware of the most important information, Riffel says. Mapping technology also is used to display proximity overlays while mapping to their closest post office.

Rainmaker: Speed is Money

The Rainmaker Group, a world leader in automated forecasting and profit optimization software and services for the gaming and hospitality industry, has “REV-ved” up operations.

About 18 months ago, the company, based in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Singapore, extended its customer measurement philosophy. It added GroupREV to help casinos use analytics to determine price and meeting space considerations. The solution is cloud-based.

GroupREV is a stand-alone group pricing software solution enabling group sales and revenue management teams to quickly respond to leads with optimal prices. This helps improve conversion rates about 11 percent and increases group revenues approximately 8 percent, the company says. This innovative system delivers intelligent pricing, compliant with revenue management policy, optimized to capture the sale in seconds, not hours or days.

The name of the game? Speed.

This dynamic occurs on two fronts. One, 70 percent of first responders to group inquiries obtain the business, Rainmaker contends. Two, it eliminates layering.

“Hotels are getting bombarded by requests for multiple room blocks on a given date,” says Amar Duggasani, chief strategy officer for Rainmaker. “That creates more opportunity but also more competition. Normally, a salesperson would have to go to the revenue management team and also the sales director for pricing guidelines. This creates friction in the process. The salesperson who is compensated on commission wants to close the deal and move on to the next one, and the revenue director wants the best possible revenue for that block of rooms.

 “GroupREV has taken into account a casino manager, sales and revenue management standpoint. It will give you, within minutes, a suggested negotiating range for that product. The information can be given to the salesperson who immediately knows what he or she can negotiate for a block of rooms. There is no going back and forth with the manager, or sales director, in a process that may lead to you losing that business. The salesperson has the freedom to negotiate within a certain range.”

The suggested negotiating range also helps companies identify their top salespeople.

“If you see that Mike is closing deals at the top of the suggested range and Bob is coming in at the bottom of the range, you can make a determination about the sales effectiveness of each,” he says.

GroupREV has gained installations throughout Las Vegas. Duggasani says revenues jumped 7-10 percent in most cases. The product helped customers predict soft periods in their market and campaign accordingly.

Late in 2014, the company announced that Seminole Gaming Corporation will implement a related product, GuestREV, at its recently renovated and newly expanded Immokalee property in Florida.

For decades, casinos have had various tools designed to gather data on players and casino operations. Technology has finally caught up, and products such as those provided by the vendors above are teaching operators the most effective ways to use that data.

Now more than ever, data is king in casino operations.

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.