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Kahlil Ashanti

Founder, Developer and Lead Strategist, SpendSight

Kahlil Ashanti

Kahlil Ashanti has blazed a unique path to the gaming industry. An entertainer, Ashanti spent some of his time with the U.S. Air Force at Nellis Airbase in North Las Vegas. There, he got to know the Strip and gambling, eventually getting a role in a Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas. He got to know casino entertainment bookers who were constantly trying to learn more about their customers. So, Ashanti put himself through a coding class and learned how to develop a program that would break down the habits of both gaming and non-gaming customers, with the help of other experts in his company. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at G2E in October.

Tell us a little about SpendSight and how you got where you are today.

SpendSight is software that gives casino operators a 360-degree view of their player. We do that by providing them with seamless access to the non-gaming spending behavior of each one of their players. We give them a profile so you can tell which one of your players is vegetarian based on their purchase patterns. Do they shop on weekends and pay with ApplePay? Do they have a social footprint and post reviews on Yelp? SpendSight helps casinos grow along with their customer base.

Do you rate the players and turn that information over to the casinos?

We don’t actually rate them. We just provide the casino with the methods to be able to segment that behavior. So, if a casino wants to know who their most valuable players are for a certain time of year for their coffee shops, or their spa, or their steakhouse, or even their showroom, we allow the casino to rate them based on their own criteria. We create a custom interface for each casino to view this information.

How did you build the SpendSight system?

I had the idea, and was looking for someone to build it for me but couldn’t find an exact fit, so I went to coding school and learned how to do it myself. So, being guided by people who were smarter than me, I built it myself. There’s no hardware at all. It’s all done in the cloud, so all casinos need to get the system is access to the internet.

Doing non-gaming ratings is much more difficult than simply rating the gambling of the player. Each different non-gaming offering has different profit margins. How do you balance that out?

We use measurements like lifetime value. How much has this person spent with you since they signed up for the player’s club? When you run a gaming promotion, for example, you can see side-by-side analysis of who spends the most at your restaurants or in your showroom. It’s never as clear and defined as the gambling rating, but when you compare them side-by-side you get a better idea of a player’s non-gaming value.

What we’ve found is that players want experiences, and the more we can tailor those experiences to their expectations, the more loyal the player becomes.

How do you make the data understandable to a casino executive who may not be very computer literate?

The SpendSight system is designed for people who don’t have a Ph.D in computers. Even before we introduced it, I spoke with casino operators who told me there was a lack of user-friendly, engaging options for them. The amount of training required to use some of this software is prohibitive. Our system is very intuitive and easy to use, and was built by listening to the operators tell us how they wanted the system to respond.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.