The Internet of Things

Diving down into the details of players will give operators a better idea of what they want

Strange headline, right?

And what on earth has it got to do with iGaming? But as I will explain, it is something the casino industry has been pursuing for some time without knowing what to call it.

It started with CRM. We all do that: land-based casinos and iGaming sites. The “Internet of Things” is an extension of that concept, and allows you to get into the details of a customer’s experience.

You know when they enter your casino, how long they are there, what machines they play and for how long, and how much they wager. You know which restaurant they go to, what foods they like, what entertainment they prefer. Then you can view the player’s age and other demographic and socioeconomic traits.

What has been a regular practice in the social gaming arena using big data and intensive analytical techniques can now be brought to the casino floor, providing a 360-degree picture of the guests in real time.

Waze provides a good example of real-time Internet of Things application. This is a very popular, crowd-sourced traffic application providing information on traffic conditions, directions, speed traps and so on. For it to work, users must allow the program to obtain their location information from their phone. The phone sends data to the central site, which in turn shares that information with all users on a real-time basis.

So, for allowing the program to track your location, you in return get real-time information that will improve your experience.

In a casino situation, this could be used to find favorite slot machines, redeem offers made in real time, receive menu specials for the casino’s restaurants, notify guests of drawings and bar specials or offer free play for certain machines. Since this can be done in real time, guests can be enticed to spend more time in the casino, and therefore spend more money.

So how does this relate to iGaming? As I have espoused in recent articles, I believe that the near-term future for iGaming in the U.S. is through social gaming, and I have emphasized that the ability to apply the analytical techniques of social gaming in real time is a huge benefit to casinos.

This concept has been extended by the development of mobile social gaming platforms like the one recently announced by GameAccount Network. If a guest plays online at home and on his mobile, and also visits the land-based casino, then a whole world of possibilities open up. When that person enters the casino, you will know it, and you will have all his online and offline gaming information, and more, available to you.

Combine this with player tracking, and there is now the potential to push offers to guests who are already in the casino or even nearby, to lengthen visits and to even incentivize new ones. Importantly, these offers can be customized to that specific guest and to the day of week and time of day.

With the new push to incorporate skill elements in casinos, this approach could be used to update players on their position on leader boards even when they are not in, or nearby, the casino. This could then lead to more visits.

It does not end with the land-based casino visit. Ongoing analysis will show if these people went back to the social gaming site. It can track comments about the casino on social media, and customized offers can be made to encourage return visits.

Through this approach, we can obtain the “Holy Grail” of CRM by creating that 360-degree understanding of the customer that is actionable in real time.

Social gaming, in my view, is a necessary precursor to this form of analysis by providing the online part of the story, and through its mobile application and convergence with player tracking programs, this can be expanded to the casino floor.

Social gaming is, therefore, not only the precursor but the catalyst for this type of analysis. As social gaming takes hold in the U.S., this application of the Internet of Things then becomes a real possibility.

An issue that looms as a problem for the implementation of this system is privacy. I would argue that it is the older generations that will see this as a negative issue. Members of the millennial generation are used to apps asking permission to track their locations, and for this key segment, I see much less concern over privacy issues.

With increased adoption by casinos of social gaming solutions, several components of this Internet of Things approach are in place. The iGaming company that can marry itself with the CRM process and big data outlined above (social gaming companies being best positioned to do this) could prove to be the big winner with the casino and its guests, both online and offline benefitting. Individually, all the components are in place. They just need to be packaged together in a coherent and utile manner.

As the capabilities to provide these types of solutions improves and real applications are developed, the desire of casino companies to participate will increase exponentially, and this is turn will encourage the even greater uptake of social gaming by land-based casinos across the U.S.

The impending shift to games that are in part skill-based aimed at millennials will help to drive this change. Thus, the Internet of Things in the context of a casino becomes more likely and more valuable.

Paul Girvan is a partner and managing director of the Innovation Group, in charge of its New Orleans office. Girvan has been providing feasibility analyses to the gaming industry since the early 1990s and in the last five years has increasingly focused on iGaming. The Innovation Group is co-producer of the iGaming North America Conference held in Las Vegas each March.