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Signs of the Times

In the Covid-19 era, digital signage has enabled businesses to stay in constant touch with customers.

Signs of the Times

Delaware Park, which operates a casino and racetrack in Wilmington, became the industry’s first sporting facility to allow spectators on June 17, with limited capacity. Five days later, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia, another casino-racetrack combination, followed the measure.

The Atlantic City casino industry opened July 2, with specific limitations. So did Monmouth Park racetrack in Oceanport, where New Jersey’s first legalized sports wager was made and where a William Hill sportsbook now operates. The track opened to bettors on July 2 and its live race meet began July 3.

In all these cases and many more, patrons relied on signage to adapt to changed gaming environments. Several thousand patrons entered the casino and racing premises, all needing guidance on new, abruptly changing rules.

Signage reminded people of personal safety requirements like masks and temperature checks, as well as:

  • Where the 6-foot social distancing markers are
  • Where entry lines start
  • That, in many cases, two of every three slot machines or horse-betting terminals are disabled
  • Which entrances and restaurants are open or closed (Delaware Park, for instance, allows indoor dining, but at press time, New Jersey casinos did not)

‘Stand There, Not Here’

Digital signage keeps everyone in a jurisdiction on the same page, even as regulations vary throughout neighboring states.

“The racetrack example is one of the best aspects of digital signage: operators can use them for whatever messaging they need, wherever they need it,” says James (Smitty) Smith, product manager, audio visual for JCM Global. “That could certainly include messages about where to stand or simple wayfinding signage.

“There’s also a new product JCM represents that solves the current social distancing and capacity-limiting needs of our customers in the Covid-19 period,” he adds. “It utilizes a camera and LED display to manage the inflow and outflow of customers. The camera is connected to an indicator that flashes a green light when it is OK to enter and a red light when a certain area reaches capacity.”

Smith says JCM is continuing to roll out new signage products.

“We offer flat, curved and cube displays, and the applications are only limited by your imagination.”

Some recent installations include Desert Diamond West Valley in Glendale, Arizona, where the company installed digital signage solutions in the sports bar, poker room, bingo room and stage; MotorCity Casino in Detroit, with an 80-foot curved ceiling above the promenade; Resort World New York, with a 21-foot diameter (67-foot circumference) double-sided 2.5mm Direct View LED digital signage above the recently expanded electronic table games area; and a new installation at Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma.

Each of these installations required JCM to collaborate with a range of contractors to meet the customer’s unique goals. Many of these innovations reflect what was already unfolding in the gaming market, Smith adds.

Unfolding? Yes, the sector has been evolving for a long time.

Signage Evolution

80-foot curved ceiling at MotorCity Casino in Detroit

In the gaming world, signage was initially used for wayfinding, messaging, show information, menus and casino specials. Through varied forms, it was a well-lit, brightly displayed advertisement, a digital casino host with constantly shifting information. Signage served as a de facto employee, and its influence grew.

Signage now dominates lobbies, helps to brand establishments, directs customers and even boosts employee morale when used in-house.

“This has been an interesting journey for properties, and one that has had positive results for them and for their guests,” Smith says. “Casinos have migrated to digital signage from a backlit Duratrans (printed sign) that may have been at the casino entrance or at the end of a slot bank. That migration has allowed operators to communicate with their guests in more meaningful and entertaining ways.

“What was once a still, static image in a box is now a fully realized video that can communicate several different messages, rather than just one. As a consumer, imagine the difference between seeing a still image of a show and seeing video for that same show. The video is significantly more impactful. What started with the first big sportsbook screen at MGM sparked a trend that has grown into a mix of different signage types at properties of all sizes.”

The re-emergence of businesses compounds the signage role. JCM has utilized several partners in recent years. One of them, Analog Way, has made quite a footprint in this space.

A Strong Presence

JCM Global and Analog Way joined forces to bring cutting-edge LED video displays to casinos across the country, the latest being at the new Desert Diamond West. JCM engineered a digital signage solution utilizing two fully loaded Analog Way Aquilon C+ 4K/8K multi-screen presentation systems and video-wall processors to drive displays in Desert Diamond’s Winners Sports Bar, bingo room and poker room.

Analog Way’s Aquilon C+ is a fully modular and scalable 4K/8K multi-screen presentation system and video-wall processor with up to 24x 4K60p inputs and up to 20x 4K60p outputs. Like all the products in the LivePremier series, Aquilon C+ combines industrial-grade reliability, unrivaled ease of use, versatile 4K digital connectivity, unmatched real-time 10/12-bit 4:4:4 video processing power, best-in-class image quality and pure 4K 60p on each input and output with ultra-low latency, the company says.

The Winners Sports Bar features a four-sided hanging LED video display comprised of JCM’s MAX-S 1.9mm LED panels plus a separate 19.7 x 11.5-foot MAX-S 1.9mm LED video wall. The bingo room has a wall-mounted 16.5 x 9.8-foot MAX-S 2.6mm LED video wall, while the poker room is outfitted with four 2×2 Samsung monitor walls.

“The casino needed to drive multiple narrow pixel pitch LED walls, which are very immersive and make a statement,” says Brian Smith, southeast regional sales manager for Analog Way. “It also wanted to be able to recall different presets at the touch of a button and have instant seamless transitions.

“Aquilon C+ was chosen to mix high numbers of inputs combined with a high window count: The Aquilon units process 24 inputs of video from a variety of sources, including satellite TV, local marketing content from an existing media player and still images.”

Using the same infrastructure, all outputs to the bingo and poker rooms had to cross the entire casino floor at around 1,000 feet, he says. “Lightware fiber transmitters and receivers were chosen to drive the signal to the far rooms and provide them with windowed content for ultimate flexibility.”

For Desert Diamond, JCM selected Analog Way’s Aquilon C+ for a number of reasons, “including its flexibility to manage high volume of inputs and screens,” according to Dave Kubajak, JCM Global’s senior vice president of sales, marketing and operations. “At the casino, our digital signage solutions help the property connect with their players through dynamic, original content. With Analog Way’s responsive equipment, the customer has the flexibility to display numerous custom presets with multiple live video feeds.”

Analog Way, meanwhile, found additional synergy within the sports-betting space. The Aquilon C+ Processor is a major component utilized in the DraftKings Sportsbook at Del Lago Resort and Casino in Waterloo, New York, a 6,000-square-foot space offering sports fans an innovative, high-tech sports betting experience. It features LED video walls driven by an Analog Way Aquilon C+ processor.

The installation, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, marks the first sportsbook with an Aquilon C+ for mission-critical, 24/7 365 operation of a large, multi-layered pixel space.

DraftKings Sportsbook at Del Lago Resort and Casino signage by Analog Way

The main displays in the DraftKings Sportsbook at Del Lago are 2.6mm Unilumin Direct View LED video walls. The largest screen measures 44.29 by 14.9 feet while an adjacent screen is 19.8 by 14.9 feet. Aquilon C+ performs all the scaling, windowing and seamless switching for these two-pixel spaces. Content sources include DirecTV and streaming platforms, which allow fans to watch live event coverage of myriad sports. Logos and graphics fill the video walls during event downtimes.

Force Technology Solutions, LLC (Force Tech) in Greenfield, Indiana recently completed one of the first Analog Way Aquilon installations in the U.S., and the first in the Midwest at the new Sportsbook at French Lick Casino. Aquilon drives two large LED video walls in the venue, where customers can place bets on sporting events or just lounge and enjoy the ultimate in big-screen sports viewing.

The new 3,000-square-foot space accommodates 100 guests who can wager on football, basketball, baseball and more.

Mixing Messages

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with health, safety, protection and wellness being at the top of everyone’s minds, Baltimore, Maryland-based Gable Company has developed a suite of protective solutions to help its clients get their properties ready for the new normal.

GableGuards Protective Solutions include custom floor and wall graphics, protective shields and protective dividers. Digital solutions include Wellness Scanners, Digital Display Sanitizing Stations, Digital A-Frame Displays, and Digital Window Posters.

Digital Window Posters deliver the ability to show dynamic content inside and outside thanks to the double-sided display. “Side A” faces outside and “Side B” faces inside, so operators can grab customers’ attention coming and going.

Digital A-Frame Displays show dynamic content on mobile hardware. The units can be accessed remotely and battery-powered to create a portable messaging center. The high-brightness display can show safety alerts, health awareness, paid promotions and brand advertisements, as well as any new procedures the property may implement.

Wellness Scanners minimize the risk of infection by checking the temperature of visitors at entryways. This unit uses automatic facial detection paired with a touchless temperature scanner to quickly recognize potentially healthy or unhealthy visitors.

Digital Display Sanitizing Stations deliver relevant information to guests while keeping their hands clean. The easy-to-use CMS allows operators to send the right message at the right time with day-parted content. Casinos can remotely deploy digital content from web browsers, videos, images, HTML web pages and scrolling text messages.

Other Uses, Other Venues

While businesses endorse safety products, they retain an eye for digital signage’s penchant to drive revenue. That’s why it emerged in the first place.

Several companies have noted casino use of signage and extended the concept to their own facilities. Large screens near elevator banks may display products employees worked on, instilling company pride. Wayfinding capabilities include group meetings and what’s on the employee cafeteria menu.

In the sports-betting world, PointsBet took the concept one step further in early July. It announced a partnership deal with the Detroit Tigers, becoming the first sportsbook to team up with an MLB franchise.

Among the benefits: live signage in Comerica Park for the upcoming season. PointsBet branding will be on the primary scoreboard and right-field wall.

The agreement has numerous facets, including sponsorship on all Detroit Tigers digital platforms.

But the signage, on the scoreboard, boldly defines the partnership.

The PointsBet and coronavirus-driven use of signage display its versatility.

On one extreme, it’s “Be safe.”

On the other, it’s “Play ball.”

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.