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Safe and Sound

Innovative products promise to take the casino industry safely into the post-Covid era

Safe and Sound

Here’s a new twist on safety in numbers.

For the casino world, it means that without safety, there are no numbers. The gaming industry, aided by sharp vendors, enters a safety age exceeding hand-sanitizing stations, Plexiglas shields and social-distance markers.

At relatively breakneck speed, vendors have unearthed products integrating safety and finance. The advancements look so creative they may also help the country leave the Covid-19 era. Other innovations are psychological, as in the engagement between companies and patrons via social casinos and their marketing vehicles.

Once the Covid-19 era recedes—and it will—analysts may recall this time as the industry embracing unprecedented ingenuity.

Bet on Safety

HBG Design is well-known for building great structures, but when the pandemic hit, the company geared efforts toward protecting them.

Enter SafeBet, a solution geared to the epicenter of the casino economic engine, the slot floor. From a health standpoint, it’s almost a luxury super box.

A Plexiglas component, which can help prevent someone from being sneezed upon, is joined by an air-filtration system that catches small droplets. There are also partitions between stations. A player can be in the middle of the action while retaining personal space.

Rick Gardner, AIA, CEO, principal and practice leader for HBG, says the company began designing this solution last April, as the pandemic was closing casinos and halting projects. Its solution targets both the current and perceived post-pandemic environments.

“We immediately started thinking about making casino gaming safe in the face of Covid-19, but a few months into the spring we quickly realized this is a different kind of pandemic, with a lasting impact unlike anything the world has experienced before,” Gardner asserts.

“I’m an optimist at heart, but there will be something else post-Covid affecting public health even after we get vaccines in arms and achieve herd immunity. Even if we’re just talking about the human psyche, we are forever changed. Will anyone want to sit shoulder-to-shoulder at a slot bank ever again? We don’t think so. Human behavior pre-Covid already favored physical separation between individuals.”

Why not embrace it? The safety measures enable people to play, but the concept can also be used for exclusivity, especially for high-limit games. Any operator able to manage this may turn survival into revival.

Here’s how it works:

Air from the indoor casino environment enters SafeBet through the intake grill, designed low to draw less smoke-laden air than air found in the upper reaches of a typical casino floor. As the indoor casino air enters the SafeBet intake grill, it is propelled by a recirculating fan through a patent-pending, ultraviolet-C lamp fixture custom-designed for SafeBet.

The indoor air is cleaned via two proven filtration systems. They are UVC radiation, designed to kill any viruses, bacteria or mold spores by exposure to ultraviolet light; and needle point bipolar ionization, which attracts air particulates like a magnet, stopping them in their tracks before proceeding to the supply air in the breathing zone.

The distribution of ionized air is introduced evenly into the breathing zone at a low velocity into the SafeBet station at the approximate height of an average person’s head/nose/mouth, providing a clean, particulate-free air supply to the guest.

“I think one of the key differentiators of SafeBet as a Covid product is that it’s not what you typically think of first,” Gardner says. “When I think of Covid products, my mind goes to jumbo-size hand sanitizer pumps, face masks, washing hands, etc., more in the PPE realm. I also think about the Plexiglas partitions that were initially installed as temporary fixes.

“So, when I think of SafeBet as a Covid product, it represents more of a design enhancement that solves customer safety challenges, but you honestly can’t even tell it’s a Covid product. That’s part of the beauty and ingenuity of it.”

Gardner says HBG wanted to create a long-term solution to innovate, adapt, research, design and build a product that not only addressed the critical needs of its customers now, but anticipated the future.

Gardner says SafeBet will be a difference-maker between casinos. HBG is collaborating with its manufacturing and distribution partner, KGM Gaming of Philadelphia, to take the product to the market, initially through existing casino clients who represent first adopters. A prototype is available to explore and experience in KGM’s Philadelphia showroom.

HBG expects to have initial installations in place in the first quarter of 2021.

“Casino customers have a choice in where they want to go and play, and by and large they gravitate to slot machines,” he says. “When a customer experiences the choice of gaming in a SafeBet station, we believe their time on machine will actually increase, and the stations themselves will generate more play.”

In the Clear

Aristocrat Technologies has also been at the forefront of addressing Covid-19.

When the coronavirus shut down the gaming industry, Aristocrat ramped up its efforts to help gaming customers. The global initiative called “In the Clear” is a comprehensive set of solutions for operators of all sizes. One part of In the Clear is Reel Clear, a system-driven solution that automates social distancing, eliminates player confusion, gives players greater control and saves operators time and expense.

This solution uses a combination of customer awareness messaging, automatic “social distancing” slot machine modes and integration to mobile channels to create a safer casino environment.

Customers can trust the machine they are playing has been cleaned and prepared by viewing the In the Clear stopwatch on the nCompass display, which indicates when the last sanitation was performed. If the stopwatch is not to their liking, customers can request cleaning on demand before starting the game session.

Customers can visit their favorite casino by checking the casino’s website or social sites to see how many machines are available for play versus total occupancy. Reel Clear enables clients to keep their floors safer.

When a player begins a gaming session, the slots on either side of the chosen machine are automatically placed out of play. And when the session ends, the adjacent machines automatically become available when the chosen slot is placed in Cleaning Quarantine Mode.

Company reports assert that Reel Clear benefits the operator in several ways. First, the system automates social distancing management, taking any awkward burden off floor staff.

The automation also allows operators to make the entire gaming floor available to players as the system takes care of temporary shutdowns. When a game is placed into Cleaning Quarantine Mode, the system delivers notifications to floor staff, enabling them to focus attention where needed, and a simple swipe of the attendant’s card makes the game available for play. Reel Clear uses Oasis 360 and nCompass, so no additional hardware or expensive Plexiglas is needed.

With Reel Clear, the choice is the player’s to make. Reel Clear gives players a greater choice of games, and its easy-to-read messaging displayed on the nCompass unit gives greater confidence in the casino’s cleanliness and safety. A display shows when the game was last cleaned and allows the player to request cleaning again before play.

Integration with Aristocrat’s Oasis One Link module further raises awareness of increased safety protocols using all existing signage.

The Sigouros Signature

It’s was a big 2020 for Yatra Med Supply. The company marketed the breakthrough Sigouros—a disinfectant door presented to it by America First Products.

The solution is similar to that of an airport security system. But instead of trying to prevent passengers from bringing unsafe materials onto a plane, this machine is set to eliminate germs.

This is an entrance defense system. The door prevents symptomatic individuals and RNA/fomites from entry into an operator’s building.

It is currently at the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Resort Las Vegas, at Kamu Nightclub. This has also been utilized at the SeatGeek Stadium just outside of Chicago at concerts.

The company launched an upgraded Sigouros 2.0 version in October. This door measures slightly larger. It has a ramp for wheelchair accessibility, and has footpad lighting for disinfecting the bottom of your shoes.

“We have been in the retail business since 2005, but once the Covid-19 pandemic hit we really wanted to help out, and partnering with America First Products as a value-added reseller of this product was a great way to do so,” company founder Yogi Sharda says.

“Sigouros was featured on Fox and Friends nationwide back in September. Since then, we have seen some further interest from manufacturing companies, casinos, meat packing facilities, airports, shopping malls and nursing homes. We are not a cure for Covid-19, but we have set a goal to minimize the spread of this awful pandemic.”

With the system in place, an individual will first encounter Sitis (a rectangular thermometer that sits outside the doorway). This can be sold with Sigouros or as a stand-alone unit. Sitis will detect a 99 percent accurate thermal body temperature, and alert if there is a fever present. There is an optional feature for facial recognition that some employers find to be a great device to oversee employee check-ins.

Once individuals pass this stage, they will walk through the door and encounter the overhead UVC ozone at three parts per million, the far UVC light, and the atomized disinfecting vents. In less than 10 seconds the individual will be sanitized and safe to enter.

This state-of-the-art sanitization doorway uses a three-stage system that takes 10 seconds per individual to walk through and have their body completely sanitized. It uses ozone, far UVC light, and an EPA-approved atomized disinfectant to kill over 99 percent of surface bacteria.

The price tag may not be in the range for small business owners, but the company offers the option to lease the machine. This would be a more affordable option for a restaurant or small business owner who was having an upcoming event and wanted to take that extra step in protection and safety.

Many of the innovations born from necessity during the Covid-19 crisis will be with the industry for years to come, helping players feel comfortable and safe long after the crisis has passed.

Keeping Clients Connected

Some vendors offer properties the tools to remain safety savvy. Others provide the route to dollars, via the social-emotional lifeline.

That became a prominent roll for GAN Limited over the past year.

The company has been on a longtime roll, with 18 years of experience as a B2B provider to the iGaming sector. The company has 15 simulated gaming partners worldwide, primarily in the United States. Its American partners generate over $9 billion in annual GGR and house over 125,000 slot machines across its floors.

GAN has a simulated, real-money and sportsbook component. With its differentiated platform, the company rolled in a new direction over the past year. It provided a lifeline to the gaming industry during the pandemic.

GAN’s products helped casinos maintain customer contact. It can’t be measured how many customers and dollars would be lost by the need to re-recruit brick-and-mortar players after the pandemic. Online casinos keep the economic ball rolling, even if that means slow speed.

GAN’s partners now see the online casino (social or real-money) change from a separate entity into a key function within their marketing strategy.

Company Chief Marketing Officer Meir Deutsch reviewed his company’s pandemic scorecard with the crisis approaching one year.

Here’s what he concluded:

GAN operated over 15 casinos (social and real-money) from California to Rhode Island during the casino shutdown (March-June). On March 11, when casinos started shutting down, GAN quickly sprang into action working with each individual property’s marketing teams to prepare players for the online play during the lockdown.

The company quickly implemented best practices during the initial shutdown in the spring, and immediately helped deploy a strong online marketing strategy to continue player engagement and revenue while the casino is closed with the on-property team.

The 12-14-week shutdown attracted educated on-property players to the online casino world, as this was the only thing enabling them to them to stay in touch with their favorite casino brand.

GAN quickly saw new registrations jump, daily active users increase from new, existing and lapsed players, and well as overall revenue. The company saw continued secular shift, combined with tailwinds from Covid, that resulted in strong performance of RMiG and Simulated Gaming offsetting declines in sports betting.

When the casinos started reopening, it naturally saw a pullback from players returning to the on-property casino, but a new baseline of online players/revenue was born from players new to the online casino environment. On-property players who found another means to interact with their casino brand.

GAN is working with all partners to understand their current player strategies and quickly implement them online. The company has helped properties offer additional loyalty points to players who made purchases using GAN’s patented technology.

Weekly leaderboards and virtual coins help VIP on-property players continue to experience/engage with the brand. Dedicated emails and social media posts to the on-property database educate their players of the online casino as well as the products and features they could enjoy.

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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