John Acres is already in the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Hall of Fame. He got there by inventing several breakthrough technologies that today are widely used in the industry, such as the first player tracking system, progressive jackpots, bonusing, and more. He sold his previous companies to major manufacturers, but now he’s back with another idea and founded Acres Manufacturing Company (AMC) to promote Foundation, a system that reports data from every slot machine in real time and can change any slot machine’s credit meter on command, allowing executives to reward players immediately. AMC also has other products that make the way a casino interacts with customers easier and more transparent. Acres spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros from his offices in Las Vegas in July. See below for a Zoom podcast of this interview.
GGB: What makes the new company, Acres Manufacturing, different from EDT, Mikohn, Acres Gaming, and Acres 4.0?
John Acres: Well, it’s very different and very much the same. We’ve always been about creating fantastic experiences for players, that are simultaneously profitable for casinos. And there’s always opportunity to improve that, especially as technology improves. We’re technologists; we create hardware, and write software, that connects the equipment and the systems to the player, for the casino’s benefit. And as that technology changes, we come up with new opportunities.
There is a whole lot of data coming in through all the systems, and it’s difficult to know how to interpret that. How is your new Foundation system able to do that better than anything else in the past?
We started with the premise that it’s not enough to do a weekly email or a monthly email; we needed to know in real time what’s happening with that player. So existing systems were designed to measure your total play, and then report in descending order, by theoretical win, and call the top group the platinum, and the middle group the gold, and the bottom group the silver. And what we found in the age of Amazon and Google is that people expect a lot more personalization. We have opportunities to deliver bonuses in real time, but part of what we need to know is, “Are you almost out of money or do you have a lot of money left?” Because when we deliver a bonus, it’s very contingent upon that.
We also need to know if you are winning in the moment, or losing in the moment. If you just won $100, it’s probably not a very effective thing to give you another $10 in a bonus. On the other hand, if you’re down to three credits left, a $10 bonus might well be appreciated at that moment. So, we wanted to have this very careful timing of the delivery of what we call free play and things like that right now.
We know that there’s a lot of inefficiencies in how players are bonused. That seemed very reasonable 25 years ago, but that needs to be updated. And our system Foundation is designed to collect literally 100 times more information per game play, including the timing of each button pressed, if you pressed bet one or bet max. Are you starting with a $20 bill or a $100 bill? And to report all of that, within half a second of the time that it occurs.
Is Foundation designed to replace the legacy casino management systems?
Over time. But right now it’s meant to supplement. Foundation is first system that can be installed alongside another system.
Let’s say the casino wants to implement cashless wagering. They can take Foundation and put it in, and keep everything that’s running on the existing system. Everything. And then have cashless on top. Then they can move one application at a time from the existing system, over to Foundation. And the other difference with Foundation is that the whole thing is designed with mobile in mind. All the other systems were designed in the desktop era. Our view of the world is that’s all going to be handled on a mobile device. We already have our Kai mobile dispatch system installed in almost 40 casinos around the country. So we’ve got a lot of experience with that; we know that it works.
How scalable is Foundation? Can you get it in a small Indian casino, versus a huge corporate entity?
The smallest installation that we could do reasonably is two machines, and the largest… well, there’s no limit. We’ve got sales going on with casinos with 4,000 to 5,000 machines, no problem. We’ve got sales going on with casinos that have 20 or 30 properties that are all connected.
A lot of the issues with the previous casino management systems have been training of the casino employees. How are you helping the casino employees to really understand how to use Foundation?
One of the first steps is to stop presenting raw data to the employee, and saying “make sense of this.” Instead, we have these intelligence agents embedded in our system, that will assign a problem to the nearest available qualified person to do that task. So, by turning it into specific directions, instead of a bunch of information from which they have to absorb, we get rid of a lot of that training problem.
So, it sounds like Foundation has some applications for responsible gaming as well, right?
Yes, and you can also give players the opportunity to set their limit before they even arrive at the casino. Just like, “I only want to be able to transfer $80 from my bank account to the casino in one night.” The player can control his own spending at that time.