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On the Move

Preparing for mobile technology and the impact on your casino

On the Move

Mobile devices continue displaying their worth. They enhance casino-floor management by minimizing disruptions, upgrading a property’s customer-cultivation arm and increasing the versatility of games.

They also expand the means by which properties lure customers to the floor. That’s increasingly significant as casinos and gamblers strengthen the link between brick-and-mortar and remote-location interactions.

Software funneled through iPads, tablets and androids mirrors the portable tendencies of customers. Patrons want access to reward points, specials, shows and restaurants, from the convenience of a coffee shop, home or office located off property. Industry projections of 1 billion smart phones shipped this year perpetuate that trend.

Players inside the property want quick attention to sudden problems, as do operators.

This combination propels a creative menu from casino vendors. Special text offers greet players who have just landed at an airport. An inoperable machine suddenly sports a technician, summoned via the world of software. And players can literally move off the slot floor to continue gambling on the same game.

Technology has struck again.

Mobile product manufacturers endorse their ability to cut labor costs. Some bemoan that, because it means a loss of jobs. On the flip side, these innovations allow employees to quickly address customer problems, greet players by name, and gain a friend. Or a tip.

Consider the advantage technology gives a motivated employee. A customer on a downed game is helped faster than the usual response time. The employee has a jump on the problem, the potential to solve it more quickly and the chance to enhance customer satisfaction. The casino has reduced time-on-device disruption and most likely will keep the player from seeking out the competition.

Customer Service

Bally Technologies respects the mobile revolution enough to re-brand a proven product.

The worldwide gaming titan is already renown. It is a leader in gaming machines, table game products, casino-management systems, interactive applications, and networked and server-based systems for the global gaming industry. And the company won’t rest on its laurels.

Servizio is the new name for Service Tracking Manager, which is a rule-driven automated dispatch and alert system. It creates and assigns tasks to eligible casino personnel by intercepting messages from Bally’s suite of systems products. The reactive computing solution uses system and customer data to enhance services for players by immediately making the tasks available to appropriate personnel.

Now it will do more.

“Service Tracking Manager is performing more tasks than that of a dispatch system,” says Tom Doyle, vice president of product management for Bally Technologies. “It is now doing jackpots, establishing a database for machine maintenance, looking up players and even registering them on the floor.

“If you have identified a hot player via Live Floor View (a new application developed to provide our customers with graphical and detailed information on current activity happening on the slot floor), you can go up that person, introduce yourself as a player’s club rep, take the person’s ID, scan it on a mobile device, and now you have a customer you can track and market to.

“Service Tracking Manager has grown from dispatching employees to slot machines or table games, and addressing issues or incidents that need to be resolved, into a full-fledged maintenance, jackpot and mobile-registration tool,” says Doyle. “We have expanded the product dramatically.”

Another mobile breakthrough unfolds via Take ‘n Play, which allows slot players to gamble from a remote location inside the casino. A player may wish to be in a VIP lounge, for example, socializing while engaged in slots. Smokers in casinos where smoking is banned typically interrupt their slot sessions to go to a smoking area.

Take ‘n Play allows them to sign out a tablet from a casino representative and continue the game somewhere else while the game streams directly from the slot machine to the tablet. When the player is done, he can sign the tablet back in. Doyle expects the product to be released internationally this month and domestically before the end of the year.

Take ‘n Play is one of the industry’s first technologies that allows the same slot machine game to be played in more than one location. The game still takes place on the slot machine, with the tablet replicating the game screen.

Take ‘n Play empowers operators to utilize the machines on their slot floor to generate additional revenue and improve the gaming experience for players who have the freedom to take their game to another part of the property.

The product is easy to use and works on any tablet, including Androids and iPads. Any casino with a Wi-Fi network can utilize Take ‘n Play.

Mobile Credits is another breakthrough product. It allows someone to download an app to a smart phone, insert the player card information and use a prepaid card routed through the casino systems to put money onto the game.

Doyle says product rollouts like this have benefited casino properties.

“It helps them out in three different areas,” he says. “One, it is economical; it allows them to cut 10 percent to 20 percent of staff in certain places. The second area is time on device. It is important for your players not to be waiting eight-10 minutes on a down machine when the machine can be repaired in three minutes because someone was dispatched to it more quickly.

“A third benefit happens because we have a maintenance app. We are able to determine that this bill validator has had 25 jams in the last month. Let’s pull it out, repair or replace it and put another one on the game. We are watching when they are having problems. This improves the slot floor.”

Some of Bally Technologies’ products are targeted for employees. Bally Mobile provides a broad range of tools covering an umbrella of scenarios.

Bally Mobile has external-facing apps for patrons, and internal-facing apps for employees.

The apps for patrons give operators the chance to attract new players, enhance their visit, and sell more to them via their phones or mobile tablets. The app can include popular casino games, show previews, room and restaurant bookings, feedback surveys, menus, interactive maps and offers.

The apps for employees enable the staff to access critical information and functionality directly from their mobile devices.

“It’s a mobile internet in a way,” says Aron Ezra, vice president of mobile products for Bally Technologies. “This can enable employees to access their schedules, ask a question of their supervisor, check their health benefits, etc.”

Using Bally’s patent-pending mobile technology platform, casinos can create and manage their entire portfolio of mobile websites and native apps for iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, BlackBerry, and other devices from a single content management system.

Further demonstrating its commitment to this area, Bally Technologies recently announced its acquisition of Dragonplay Ltd., a developer and a publisher of social games for smart phones. The deal is expected to close in July.

Say Hi to Kai

Glance at your wrist and solve a crisis. It’s Kai, on Wi-Fi.

Kai, a mobile solution that can work in several ways, including by means of an iPad mini attached to the wrist, brings speed and efficiency to the troubleshooting department. It is being rolled out by Acres 4.0, the Las Vegas-based solutions company touted for its electronic pulltab gaming system and other player-centric products.

Goodbye radio. Kai helps casino operators connect employees to customers who need help, quickly. It automatically tells them which customers need service, who they are, where they are and what help they need.

Data transmitted via Wi-Fi can show up on an iPad mini device and quickly be converted into a dispatch.

“As a property manager, I determine how I want my floor to run, and with Kai every call is handled the same way,” says Roy Corby, COO of Acres 4.0 “It gives a consistency of service critical in our business.

“Let’s say, as a player, you have a problem on your slot machine. You are normally waiting for someone to notice, and that could take 20 or 30 minutes if you are not lucky and somebody happens to be walking by.

“Every machine in the country transmits a signal to the slot system when there is a problem. We take the signals and automatically tie it into the personnel database. We get the most qualified person available to fix the problem, and we also know who is closest to the machine.

“With Kai, nobody waits and we always know what the problem is. If your player’s club card is in, we will also know who the player is having the problem and we can say “Dave, we’re sorry you’re having the problem, and someone is going to be right there.’”

Corby says operators can save significant labor hours and improve customer service with this product. It is operational in several states, including Arizona, California, Washington, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Oklahoma. In markets yet to be reached, like New Jersey and Connecticut, the savings could multiply.

“Take any Atlantic City casino, and say you have 2,000 machines,” he says. “Every machine in the industry, on average, has one type of problem per day, whether that’s a jam, reel tilt, running out of paper, etc. Even if we saved you just one minute a day on each machine, that’s more than 30 hours in one day, or perhaps six people. But we could save you up to 15 or 20 minutes on one problem. Even if you figured the time saving to be in the midrange between one minute and 15 minutes, this is saving you quite a bit of time and improving your customer service.”

Corby says the technology also exists in food and beverage and promotional areas, and will probably be utilized there in the future. Housekeeping is likely to join this lineup too. A room attendant can notice a faulty toilet, punch in the information and automatically dispatch a repair tech rather than start the more-lengthy calling process.

Kai had a game-changing effect for Corby’s career, first as an operator for Casino del Sol in Arizona. He came up with Kai’s concept and asked John Acres to build it for him. Corby not only endorsed it, but came to Acres 4.0 in 2012 to propel it.

Finding Customer Choice

Joingo, a mobile engagement platform company based in San Jose, California, helps the casino industry embrace the future. It allows brands to create and deploy a revenue-generating mobile loyalty strategy with no coding required, giving them the latest technology to connect with customers.

Joingo’s Mobile Loyalty Program gains increased market share in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Nevada, among other locations. It can help players easily select a drink, be apprised of their reward points or indicate their preference to view certain entertainment.

“We put the patron in control,” says Steve Boyle, the founder and CEO of Joingo. “What we find is that everyone has a different view of what they want. Some like events. Some like tournaments. Some like golf. Some like spas. When a patron wants to be apprised of their preference class and can say to an operator, ‘I want these five things,’ the rewards can be focused on those needs and the marketing can be much more successful.

“What mobile marketing can do in Joingo is help an operator create a one-to-one relationship with a player,” says Boyle. “That’s hard to do today, unless it’s hand-in-hand with a live host. You can do all of this on a phone now.”

And as Boyle sees it, what better device could there be?

“The phones are going to be the center of the internet revolution,” he says. “It’s going to be a huge wave. People will eventually gain the majority of their internet access by phone.”

The ramifications may grow to include what physical properties look like, he says.

“Operators will one day move more of their labor force out on the floor and close the back offices,” Boyle asserts. “There will be no need for a VIP host station, front desk or servers to take orders. No more waiting lines at the buffet. All of these services will be provided on mobile host devices. The Apple Store is a great example.

“Marketers will be able to construct an incredibly precise view of their patron database on an individual basis, and be able to use that information to precisely target the patron with messaging and offers that are 100 percent relevant to the individual and their current context (time and space). Patrons will be in the driver seat, having access to a full set of services from the palm of their hand. The patron can guide the operator toward the offers and relationship they prefer.”

Joining the Gaming Party

Next-generation technology for the casino floor may come from new companies entering the market.

One such company, Motorola Solutions, sees key opportunities for adapting its mobility solutions already used in retail, health care, hospitality and government for the gaming sector. The company did $8.7 billion in revenues in 2013 and has a vision for how its extensive research and development of technology may be used within casino operations.

“We are talking with several gaming industry companies already about next-generation gaming operations and how they can leverage our technology employed by other verticals to enhance player engagement and the overall player experience,” says David Wolmetz, senior manager for OEM gaming at Motorola.

“We are looking to bring new levels of engagement and tracking to slot machines and table games using our data capture hardware and software, including bar code, RFID and MPact Bluetooth beaconing. Along with our OEM partners, we envision a more ideal solution for casinos to deliver personalized incentives for players to drive incremental spending, while also enabling casino operational efficiency.

“Our embedded enterprise-class mobile and fixed platforms, working with low-energy beaconing and Wi-Fi, offer opportunities to the to the casino operator they may not have considered before.

“It is new territory at this point—it’s a matter of who wants to drive a better customer experience, and in turn, positively impact revenue.”

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.