Make it seamless, effortless, even cardless.
Make it safe, accurate and fast.
Gaming has entered the age of facial recognition and instant player identification. Properties that utilize these technologies can enhance customer service and get a marketing edge on competitors.
Vendors offer cutting-edge products that either connect gamblers directly with games or store funds for quick deployment. Other elements of the new facial recognition age include player tracking, bonusing, management systems and ratings.
On all fronts, vendors and operators recognize the value of this new, opportunistic technology.
Konami’s Synk Vision, part of the Synkros casino management system, officially debuted last fall, and is scheduled to undergo market trials in early 2022. Konami’s SynkConnect player mobile app was first revealed in 2018 during G2E in Las Vegas, and is currently operating live with select Synkros customers.
Synk Vision and SynkConnect are fully integrated into the Synkros player tracking module and are available exclusively to customers using the casino management system.
“Synk Vision is the first solution to give operators the ability to automatically track all guests who play at the property,” says Tom Soukup, senior vice president and chief systems officer for Konami Gaming.
“For years, casinos have leveraged loyalty card systems to track player activity, which requires a high level of ongoing consumer adoption and operator maintenance and doesn’t offer a way to incentivize uncarded players,” he says. “Synk Vision effectively opens automated loyalty tracking so casinos can start reinvesting in and understanding every on-site player.”
New opportunities are created by this type of data capture. It can make people feel special, provide an individualized experience and keep them coming back, according to Soukup. Slot and table game players experience more in-game reward opportunities, relevant marketing touchpoints and potential service enhancements.
Konami’s SynkConnect helps transform how players connect and engage with casino loyalty programs, using the technology conveniences already interlaced through their daily life, Soukup adds. SynkConnect gives players a secure online interface to manage their loyalty accounts without the need for traditional player’s cards.
Through the app, players can tap into their benefits, rewards and promotions anytime, with real-time updates in the palm of their hand. For mobile cardless connection, players can use their personal smartphones to log in by tapping the card reader bezel or using the app to read a QR code displayed on the player tracking screen. The card reader changes color: blue for an inactive/uncarded connection, green for a successful active connection, and red for a misread/failed connection.
Once players use their personal smartphone to connect to their account, it remains active until they tap off to disconnect or the session times out from inactivity. Players can use SynkConnect offsite to review their offers and other promotions, which encourage them to make another trip to the casino.
Soukup believes facial-recognition technology, still in its early stages of adaptation in the industry, will have a substantial effect on the market. Part of its role will be to help protect problem players from themselves.
“While this application of biometric technology is fairly new to the gaming industry, it holds considerable momentum across other consumer sectors,” he says. “Today we’re seeing similar technology in mainstream business arenas used to streamline purchases, personalize offers, reduce wait times in lines and facilitate airport check-in.”
Synk Vision specifically centers on the needs, considerations, options and interests of casino operators. It operates with the Synkros casino management system to provide frictionless player loyalty promotion for both known and unknown players.
Synk Vision enables casinos to automatically detect self-excluded and/or casino-barred players and take the appropriate actions, whether that be locking a slot machine or notifying the pit manager to withhold service.
Pressing the Advantage
Sophisticated technology embracing this sector has only begun tapping its potential.
Ryan Reddy, IGT vice president of systems and payment products, sees a big upside. There’s ample room for U.S. casinos to offer far greater convenience to their players through systems-driven features such as contactless loyalty, payments and real-time promotional capabilities, he says.
“We’ve developed the IGT Advantage Player Experience Suite of modules to deliver the same effortless experience to casino patrons that they currently enjoy elsewhere in their daily lives,” Reddy says. “Together, the three components in this suite—Cardless Connect, Intelligent Offer, and Resort Wallet with IGTPay—enable a player to enter a property and immediately engage in play while accruing loyalty points and receiving targeted offers.”
Cardless Connect transforms a player’s smartphone into a loyalty card, which significantly streamlines the card-in process at the slot machine. Since most players carry their mobile with them everywhere, Cardless Connect eliminates the problem of players forgetting their physical cards and diverting to the player’s club desk to print new ones.
Resort Wallet lets players digitally transfer funds to and from gaming machines and pay for casino entertainment. Players can conveniently maintain slot, sports and online balances within the same digital wallet.
When players use Resort Wallet with any Cardless Connect-enabled gaming machine, their smartphone becomes a secure digital wallet. They simply tap their phones to card in, then easily and quickly transfer funds. Balances in the digital wallet can be redeemed for cash at a kiosk or the casino cash desk, or securely maintained in the wallet for the next play session or property visit.
“We’ve built flexibility into the solution to ensure that operators can offer multiple funding options to players, enabling the most seamless adoption possible,” says Reddy. “Players who prefer their physical loyalty card can use it to create a Resort Wallet account at the casino cash desk, and use their card to easily and quickly load funds either at the cash desk or at the slot machine, then transfer funds between machines and sister properties, redeem them at the ticket redemption kiosk or casino cash desk, or maintain them for the next session.”
IGTPay takes the contactless mobile experience to the next level by integrating seamlessly with Resort Wallet for an effortless and secure cashless gaming experience, he says.
It connects the player to secure external funding sources such as credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts and e-wallets. This enables the player to safely and easily move funds electronically in and out of the Resort Wallet casino player account, then use the funds to make cashless transactions at gaming machines, Reddy says.
“With IGTPay, IGT is the merchant of record and manages the external funding function from end to end, providing a fully turnkey solution that lets the operator focus on the rest of the operation,” he says.
From a promotional standpoint, Intelligent Offer enables operators to factor real-time player behaviors and events in the evaluation and awarding of bonuses. This enables the venue to define the win criteria based on its specific campaigns and objectives, then notify players on the game screen—via IGT’s Service Window or the player tracking display—when they have met the criteria, according to Reddy.
Intelligent Offer also amplifies operators’ real-time responsiveness by using beacons. These small USB dongles can be activated at a location on the gaming floor, such as near a bank of new machines or at an entrance.
The beacon can transmit a specific offer to players who have the casino player app open on their mobile phone and are moving within a designated range, enabling the operator to deliver relevant, highly targeted promotions to them in real time.
When integrated into an operator-branded loyalty app, Cardless Connect, Intelligent Offer and Resort Wallet with IGTPay can together increase carded play, player loyalty, time at property and velocity of money, while reducing loyalty card printing and labor costs and improving the effectiveness of promotional offers, Reddy says.
“Notably, operators don’t have to worry about developing their own casino player app to enable these mobile features,” he adds.
“We’ve been working with forward-thinking properties to introduce our IGT Advantage Player Experience Suite modules at their sites, and many other operators are eager to learn more. Each module in the entire suite—Cardless Connect, Intelligent Offer, and Resort Wallet with IGTPay—is tightly coupled with the IGT Advantage system, which makes it a turnkey, end-to-end contactless solution that can deliver these capabilities seamlessly and yield significant benefits.”
Scientific Games anticipates a probable 2020 debut of part of its SG Vision technology package.
Last year, the company showcased the revolutionary technology at G2E. It unfurled its object recognition technology across tables for chip and biometrics, EGMs and new form-factor gaming devices providing protection for players and the most accurate player tracking data solutions for operators.
“We’ve taken it from an advanced concept to nearly a production release,” says Jeff Allen, senior director of product management for Scientific Games. “A great idea is very close to being deployed. There’s been a lot of work involved in this. We’ve talked to regulators and operators. We believe the time is right to introduce this foundational technology to the masses.”
The technology could have a game-changing effect on table games, management systems, slots, bonusing, marketing, responsible gaming and anti-money laundering efforts. Scientific Games has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) in this endeavor. AWS says it is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering more than 175 featured services from data centers globally.
Chip recognition would appear to be the first area that will be enhanced by SG Vision, followed by slot machines, provided current plans hold.
Allen says SG Vision will provide the data, enabling each casino department to integrate new features into its products.
Current plans call for cameras to be mounted atop table games and inside slot machines. The cameras can help reveal how many chips are out, what cards are being played, how many bills are on the table and the customer’s playing history, thus providing instant reward opportunities. They can also show how well a game is performing.
The technology also frees supervisors to mingle with players rather than being preoccupied with recording information. The facial recognition component also will aid slot-play convenience.
“Players will often forget or lose their loyalty card,” Allen says. “But using a camera mounted in a slot machine, we can use a form of facial recognition to ID each player by the uniqueness of their face.
“Remember that a large fraction of the play is happening from uncarded players,” he adds. “These are players you haven’t been able to market to yet. They might represent half of the market.”
SG Vision can become a bridge product, connecting modern convenience at a table with the time-honored, personalized customer interaction.
There’s always a place for reminding customers of their status, as shift bosses did during the age when they eyeballed potential rewards players. It was an informal process that created a bond with major players, but was considered hit-or-miss for low- and mid-level gamblers.
The new technology can make overall ratings more exact. Allen says the demos have generated strong response throughout the industry.
“We’ve engaged regulators, operators, the players, the systems people, etc., and gathered their input. Most of the people looking at this say what we’re attempting to deliver is incredible.”
In effect, the new technology will act as a hub, with each area of the casino deciding how to connect with it. With new tools come new ways to enrich customer relationships.