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Remote Control

Kiosks have become the go-to device to better service customers

Remote Control

What a difference a decade makes.

Automated kiosks have grown from a cash-dispensing convenience into an army of gaming weaponry. The days when ticket redemption and bill-breaking comprised most of their functions seem as remote as the Pony Express.

It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago kiosks primarily gave customers a chance to redeem slot tickets without standing in lines at cages. That was considered a breakthrough; kiosks helped casinos go coin-free, tying in with ticket-in/ticket-out (TITO) functionality.

That kiosk function has since become an appetizer. The main course concerns services like player enrollment, card printing, customized offers and mobile interactions. Kiosks reveal demographic information, increase signups, reduce congestion at players clubs, and allow players to check points, view rewards, and redeem points without leaving the floor.

Today’s kiosks enable gamblers to peruse the special-events playing field, view restaurant specials and decide whether one’s points can purchase a given activity. Sure, the kiosks still dispense cash, but their functions and placement have grown.

Companies scramble to anticipate and build for the next customer-demand wave. They are, in effect, betting on what people will want in a couple of years.

One might set loyalty kiosks with loyalty sign-up and interaction upon deployment, for example, but provision later for loyalty card or offer printing. In this instance, a card printer would be integral in the design—but may be simply be a design blank installed in a “next-gen” phase.

Many ideas affect kiosk deployment, but one thread runs through most properties: maintain church-and-state separation between gaudy kiosks and ATM dispensing. Casinos don’t want the gambler seeking funds to wait behind a club member viewing his special-event options. Each area requires its own kiosk.

Properties also want separate cash statistics to determine whether money is dormant in the ATMs. Industry estimates place “idle” cash in a property at $300,000 per day.

Kiosks have become a sophisticated, well-thought-out vehicle, tied to the goal of keeping players on property.

Remember when they played a simple, one-dimensional role in gaming? Few do.

KIS: Well Positioned

Kiosk Information Systems is an industry heavyweight. The Colorado outfit offers products used in government functions like airport screening, etc., and it services gaming.

The name of the game? Speed and convenience.

“The kiosks benefit the casinos in a number of ways,” says Rick Freeman, the company’s sales manager and gaming industry specialist. “The casinos are able to engage those loyalty members and bring them back to the casinos. They also obtain demographic information that provides valuable statistics.

“For instance you know that Carolyn is 15 miles away and it will take $10 to make her drive that distance to your property. She scanned her loyalty card through the kiosk, and you know when she came there, how much she spent on food and beverage and what your return on investment was.

“You can do the same thing if you decide to say, give $10 of free play to everybody over 65 who lives within 10 miles of your property. You can send out bar-coded promotions, or (with a younger group) send specials via mobile phone.”

Properties with sports books observe another benefit, according to Eric Olmsted, the company’s vice president of sales. Using the same rationale for customers looking to avoid redemption lines, consider the bettor. Casinos lose substantial revenue when wagering traffic overwhelms their ability to accept bets at sports books. Self-serve machines can handle the overflow.

“We talk a lot about the loyalty aspect, which is important, but they are also great in the area of self-service wagering,” Olmsted says. “When you have high-traffic events like the NCAA tournament, the Super Bowl or even the Breeders Cup, you need a self-service wagering kiosk. How many times do you see a situation in which you go to one casino in which the betting lines are so long that you can’t bet, so you go to another one that has the self-service kiosks to get your bets down?”

NRT: The Long Financial Pass

Toronto-based NRT, which has 450 worldwide gaming clients, has been an automated kiosk innovator for the last 15 years. It is a recognized global leader for cash-handling kiosk solutions in the gaming industry, with the reputation for thinking big.

Real big. A football analogy describes its game-changing ambitions for 2013.

In recent years, the company had fundamental, good “running plays,” a two-pronged kiosk setup to service the casino industry.

Its Quick Jack program already serves as a versatile, cash-handling kiosk system. Quick Jack provides patrons easy, fast and reliable means to redeem slot machine tickets, break bills and conduct ATM transactions. Behind the scenes, NRT’s QJ2 Cash Handling System (CHS) arms casino staff with sophisticated tools to capture, manage and report on both the transactional activity and the “health” of the machines.

Quick Touch, a different kiosk format, handles some marketing functions. Michael Dominelli, the company’s vice president of marketing and a leader in its product-development function, says a typical casino floor might have 30 Quick Jack kiosks and 10-15 Quick Touch units. The setup is sensible, enabling the kiosk functions to avoid interfering with each other.

The Quick Touch product now enables the long pass, figuratively speaking. And it should produce a touchdown.

Dominelli says NRT has obtained approval to place kiosks in Nevada malls, gas stations and “just about anywhere people work, play and live,” on a trial basis. That will enable customers to wager on sporting events without stepping foot in a casino.

Eight months ago, Dominelli told GGB this concept would become real. From that time forward, his company worked on gaining the state’s blessing. Before 2012 ended, he says he obtained it.

“The laws indicate that a person must have a one-on-one meeting with a supervisor to set up an account (say, in a sports book),” Dominelli says now. “We have found a way to satisfy that law. You come to the kiosk at a mall, for instance, you put in some form of ID and you are able to engage the kiosk. You hit the start button and an attendant will automatically show up by way of a live video feed.

“There is a web cam right in the kiosk and so you can converse one-on-one with a live person. The law says you must speak directly with an agent, and you will be able to do it this way.

“You might have to put in a little more detailed information than if you’d been at the sports book, for example, but the agent can see you and the agent will register you. Now you can place that bet on the Lakers, win that bet and go back at some point and cash it out right there.”

Should any of the legal challenges to the federal sports betting ban ever bear fruit, the millions will become billions, with other states copying Nevada’s model.

Glory USA: A New Twist

Glory USA, primarily centered in banking, entered gaming in 2004. It offers top-of-the-line counters, large-batch table-top processors, coin sorters and wrappers for cashier booths or cash rooms, as well as advanced communication systems and an array of practical peripherals.

Glory’s third-generation products crossed over from cash-dispening services into the realm of issuing reports to casinos. The fourth generation, set to unveil this month as SK 100 C, conforms with Americans With Disabilities Act specifications. It has functions for Braille, a certain height and tilt.

“Most of the kiosks perform the same type of task,” says Rick Friese, president and COO of the West Caldwell, New Jersey-based company. “So you have your bill-breaking, redemption capability and in some cases the marketing player card functionality. But the major difference what between Glory has and what’s on the market is that we worked with the casino floor personnel to build a machine from the ground up.”

That meant producing a heavy-duty, durable kiosk able to handle thousands of daily transactions. This differs from a standard, non-gaming ATM that may have substantially fewer transactions.

Friese tracks Glory USA’s trek through the casino era. The original kiosk provided the most significant aspect of dependability. He agrees with industry estimates that 50-60 percent of money on the casino floor comes from devices after the patron arrives. The machines must dispense the cash, and, he says, they eliminate human error. The machines also help operators determine how much of their money is sitting idly. Kiosks generally hold up to 15,000 notes, with $20 bills taking the lion’s share.

Atrient: Versatile Kiosk

Atrient, based near Detroit, holds a sound foundation in government, retail and health care services. Application development for companies looking to automate a process remains its core business, but gaming provided an opening 10 years ago.

“We would look on properties and see that there was a promotional kiosk, and a way-finder, a TITO kiosk, and event-ticketing kiosk, all separate,” says Sam Attisha, Atrient CEO. “You have all these kiosks on your floor. Well, we built a kiosk that can accommodate all these functions. It’s promotional but it allows you to integrate with social media, way-finding, event ticketing, hotel reservations and food and beverage.”

The Power Kiosk, on the market about a year and a half, has already been placed at MGM Grand Detroit. Several other properties are about to deploy it, according to Attisha.

This device enables anyone to quickly scan information like show times and slot-machine locations, while letting a loyalty-club member insert his card and obtain deeper account information. Casinos benefit with simplified communication.

The kiosk can operate on several levels.

“You have to consider the psychology of the patron,” he says. “The first thing they want to do in a casino is see what offers and promotional things are available. That’s the great thing about our kiosk. You can access it without a card and that will give you general information. Do you want to find out what restaurants are open and what specials they have? Do you want to see where a slot machine is? Do you want to see a calendar of events? Then you don’t need a card. But if you want to access the promotions, you do need one.”

Among the benefits of Power Kiosk is its flexibility, primarily in promotions. It can be used in simple events like swipe-and-win or for events with more advanced rules. The kiosk can also tie into themed events like holidays, birthdays and sporting events. Operators can view them as versatile: set up the kiosk one way for slot tournament registration and then revert back to its normal use.

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.

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