It’s the short word with mammoth, industry-wide implications. It’s the catalyst linking every casino department, from accounting and marketing to compliance and surveillance. This continually evolving asset tracks player spending, game performance, customer preference and time on device.
The short word is “data,” the priceless tool casinos covet.
Gaming operatives consider it magic, because data performs like a coach. The information it delivers can either determine decisions or merely guide them. Human beings can look intelligent, for example, by relying upon it to generally establish player tier levels. They can also look smart in a contrarian sense by upgrading a patron to another level in hopes of coaxing additional play.
That might be a borderline call, combining data with a gut feeling. Data is flexible, transparent and a valued wild card in the hands of casino executives.
Companies which serve this sector know the value of this tool.
Defining the Mission
The first rule regarding what data solutions are is deciding what they are not. There is more to the term than meets the eye, according to Earle G. Hall, the CEO of AXES.ai.
“The term data solutions is largely abused in the casino gaming industry,” Hall asserts. “First of all, for a data solution to be considered as such, it must provide highly available and integral data. Moreover, the data must be standardized and fine granular. Due to the lack of standardization of the SaaS protocol and the lack of implementation of the G2S protocol, the integrity of data solutions is hard to evaluate.”
Hall says companies claiming to provide business intelligence and data solutions rely on low-quality, unstandardized information sources from different machine types. Therefore, data solutions have a long way to go to claim quality and quantity found in parallel industries, he contends.
The second concept regarding this terminology is what it actually does provide.
“A data solution must drive customer engagement, loyalty and revenue increase to be valuable,” Hall says. “The same data points can be used to track potential problem gamblers and money laundering, and repel the negative while fueling loyalty, promotion and engagement to enhance customer satisfaction and casino profit.
“Knowing who the customers are, what they like, when they like it and why they like it is what a data solution must do. This all has to be
fueled by real-time information so that the solution can capture the player satisfaction during the gaming session.”
With that as the backdrop, Hall says AXES is first and foremost a data solutions company. It is focused on capturing all available data in real time from all makes and models of gaming machines.
“Our IoT expertise has created a data capture system that collects multi-game and multi-denominational data,” he says. “We also collect all player behavior information. This foundation ensures that we can get a 360-degree holistic view of the machine, the player and evolution of the gaming experience.”
Hall says data solutions are central to his company. They form the core of what it can deliver to clients. “Real-time data fuels everything we do, as a data solution is the core business of all companies today that consider themselves systems,” says Hall. “Without real-time, fine granular data, products are being fueled too late to be of any use in the now. The cashless, loyalty, promotion, reports and everything we do is fueled by KYC, multi-game, multi-denomination real-time data. This is why we are a true data solutions company.”
AXES has developed the first and only IoT-based real-time information platform where all functionality, apps and products use the same fine granular data set, Hall asserts. This means that compliance, accounting, operations, surveillance and marketing all have access to the same data, in real time.
AXES is cloud-driven, which means speed, scalability and security, he says. Gaming operations can manage all of their functions in real time anywhere in the world and take proactive, revenue-driving decisions in real time.
“AXES is present in more than 40 countries,” he says. “We have become the gold standard in the route and street market as we provide all the advanced functionality required by a complex casino chain in a simple solution that has no local server footprint. Therefore, cost is not an issue and scalability is infinite. AXES is currently targeting the Nevada market so the large casino chains can harmonize their data in real time to increase their speed of reactivity and learn to enhance customer satisfaction proactively.”
AXES is the leader in the casino and route operations system space for several reasons, according to Hall. They include speed of integration, adaptability and customization, as well as its open platform that automatically synchronizes with data warehouses to make information come to life inside and outside the casino environment.
“In the near future, you can look forward to AXES educating, mentoring and coaching the gaming industry to go cloud, to prepare for the reason why we started this adventure: artificial intelligence,” Hall maintains. “Our end goal at AXES with our cashless, engagement, business intelligence and other solutions is to prepare for AI to lead our clients to a new world in profitability and performance.”
Numbers Drive the Dream
The data solutions services offered by Irvine, California-based Imagine This take the company from a generic “product provider” to a partner-centric “program provider,” according to Craig Perkins, the senior vice president of data for the company.
The complementary tools are value-added services designed to “complement” the overall program, ROI and experience for the client. And although Perkins says the data solutions category is wide open for interpretation, it pertains to a specific solution area for his company.
“The term is rather broad, as it can mean many things to many people,” he indicates. “When it comes to Imagine This, ‘data solutions’ is specific to our signature Casino Continuity Program, which is designed to both predict the potential impact and analyze the actual results of the promotions we run for our clients. We also aggregate our data to provide added insight about national trends.”
Imagine This has developed a number of proprietary analytical tools that are specific to its Casino Continuity Program. Each tool serves a unique purpose, from predicting the quantity of products needed to support the program to analyzing the results of each promotion.
The main purpose of the tools is to take the guesswork out of the program, thereby minimizing the risk and maximizing clients’ ROI.
“In addition to the proprietary analytical tools such as Pro and Post Forma Analysis, Attrition Studies, Promo Comparisons and Reacquisition Evaluations, the data team builds a whole host of custom tools for each department within the company to both streamline and help execute the details required to manage the overall logistics of each promotion,” Perkins says.
“From Inventory Availability and Delivery Schedules to Accounting Reconciliation and CRM tools, all play a crucial role in the successful implementation of each promotion.”
Perkins believes the biggest role for data solutions is forming complex information into simple, digestible and actionable analysis for decision-makers. When data is immediately available and presented in a concise manner—tailored to the needs of the end user—it allows that user to pivot quickly and make revenue-generating decisions with more confidence.
“For Imagine This, it plays a critical role in planning out the required quantities needed to support each promotion, as well as insight into how to best optimize the promotion to maximize incremental revenue and profit,” he says. “This insight ultimately allows Imagine This to remove any risk that a casino might otherwise have to assume, such as purchasing excess product to satisfy the demand driven by each promotion.
“The data that is shared with us allows us to tailor each promotion to the specific needs of our clients, while providing transparency that was previously allusive.”
The company is harnessing its massive data collection to shed insight on national trends relative to local and regional properties, according to Pekins. It is also further refining its analysis process to automatically generate reports that previously were more time-consuming tasks.
“This evolution in the data process allows us to quickly generate and evaluate a client’s promotion history, which helps shed light onto the decision-making process for future revenue-generating initiatives,” Perkins says.
Providing Important Tools
Various data solutions enable Wipfli to help customers obtain their daily sales and business information more timely, according to April Bacon, senior manager of the company.
“The benefit of quicker data delivery through things like automated workflows, cloud-based approvals, data solutions, AI and machine learning is how the company produces a variety of benefits to clients,” Bacon says.
“This enables them to detect outliers more easily, proactively make business decisions before the month is over, assist in fraud mitigation, reduce month-end close time, reduce the risk of audit findings, and ensure tighter controls are in place for NIGC compliance to minimum internal controls.”
It’s all provided in the Sage Intacct cloud-based accounting software.
With the flexibility of Sage Intacct’s open API, Wipfli is able to automate data flow from its casino customers’ various front-of-house solutions on a real-time basis to the general ledger for faster reporting, Bacon says. This helps alleviate inefficient manual processes, standardize processes, create more reliable data with less hand-keyed information, and utilize technology.
There are several options available to help minimize data entry errors and speed up the data flow process, Bacon asserts.
Flat file imports are fairly inexpensive and efficient ways of extracting data from front-of-house solutions and importing into Sage Intacct. API integrations are even more seamless for solutions that automatically connect, such as Martus Tools, for budget comparison reporting.
One can almost say the sky is the limit when using middleware platforms to help map data for solutions that aren’t able to connect directly, according to Bacon.
“Middleware software is an iPass solution where data can flow from one system to the next without needing to be a specified format,” she says. “Typically, the middleware solution can ‘map’ data from various front-of-house solutions to the correct GL account and dimensions in Sage Intacct. Once mapped, the middleware software then pushes the data into Sage Intacct.”
But the process doesn’t stop there, according to Bacon. Companies can use artificial intelligence to quickly detect anomalies within Sage Intacct. This helps end users quickly visualize areas that are out of the normal posting range for that line item, enabling them to act fast.
Data is the foundation for this.
“The more accurate data we can gather, the more we can utilize machine learning to help the financial software ‘learn’ about data that typically is posted from each of these solutions and make accurate predictions of what should be posted,” Bacon indicates. “For example, machine learning can help us predict the GL account and dimension coding for a bill from a specific vendor.”
From its overall structural base, Wipfli can adapt to various customer needs. Bacon says Wipfli’s flexibility helps produce solutions tailored for specific needs.
As a member of Wipfli’s tribal organization team, Bacon focuses on change management and project implementation execution. She also has a passion for tribal projects and reengineering processes to match best practices for reporting performance metrics across her clients’ organizations.
“We assist tribal organizations such as tribal governments, EDCs, tribal housing authorities, tribal health care facilities, and tribal gaming entities through a finance transformation,” Bacon says. “Wipfli has put together a great team of individuals who have deep industry knowledge and are subject matter experts. In addition to having vast knowledge about the industry, Wipfli also takes great pride in learning current processes of our customers through detailed process walkthroughs per functional area.”
From that information, a detailed assessment report with areas for improvements noted to adhere to internal controls and/or industry best practices is provided, Bacon says.
“We work collectively with our customers to decide which areas of improvement they feel they are ready to incorporate into their future state finance transformation. Data solutions play a key role in turning improvement opportunities into a successful reality for them.”
Throughout the industry, data indeed drives bottom lines. Companies that specialize in it will continue being a valued asset to the gaming world.