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Tracking Beyond the Casino

How non-gaming activities are rewarded, as well as traditional gambling

Tracking Beyond the Casino

Player tracking strengthens the gaming-hotel bond.

The rating of non-gambling casino patrons, once considered the low end of the revenue spectrum, changes the assessment mechanism of this multibillion-dollar business. All customers, not simply the classic player, may warrant a profile.

MGM Resorts indicates that 70 percent of its revenues originate from non-gaming sources, and G2E will host important seminars next month on the integrated resort experience, what the non-gaming patron is worth to properties, and how casinos track customers to optimize revenue management.

Witness the proliferation of spas, theaters and restaurants in casino properties. Or how customers are marketed. Limos pick up businessmen whose “gaming table” unfolds within a restaurant. Patrons who sip expensive wine become a new form of high roller. “Vino” has met “Tito.”

Industry Teacher

Roy Student champions the “non-gaming side of gaming.” He introduced server-based gaming to the industry, advises casinos on cutting-edge trends and founded Las Vegas-based Applied Management Strategies, which he runs. Student also helped enable the U.S. market entry for companies from Asia, Europe and South America, in a six-decade career.

The intersection of gambler and patron continues to solidify, he says. Student endorses the integration of player and patron tracking into one resort management system that rates players and spenders.

“Some people think that time is already here,” he says. “It is not perfected yet, but people know it’s coming.”

Student knows what’s coming and what’s gone. He recalls information about big players in the 1960s being contained on index cards in the pit. A decade later, Student says, he designed the first automated casino management system. The innovation directed properties in maintaining customer time on device.

That was only the beginning.

“All of a sudden, in 1989, here comes Steve Wynn with the Mirage and there is a different baseline,” Student recalls. “Now there are shopping malls, restaurants and many things to do that are non-gaming-oriented.

“The casino operator is asking about the people coming in who are not gamblers. Who is using the spa? Who is in the gourmet restaurant? Who is watching the white tigers and using my cabanas? I know I am making money off these people, but I don’t know who they are.”

Money indeed. Student thinks casinos can reap rewards from a non-gamer’s portfolio.

“Why not create a theoretical win for the non-gaming patron?” he inquires. “That would give you a whole new marketing base to figure out which people are coming in, who spends a ton of money, and how to predict them. As a casino, I want to market to that patron as if he was a player. I can send him a limo, book him in a mini-suite, do whatever I can for him because he is so predictable. And he is not going to beat me at the table. I am at no risk.

“I may know that he is going to rent the cabana for three or four days, and that his wife always goes to the spa. I have a dossier on this customer and have created a whole new data warehouse.

“Some of these cabanas can be rented for $250 to $5,000 in one day. The margins are way up over a casino (typically 17 percent). This cabana is an asset you already have; it is sitting there. The margins can be 30 percent to 40 percent.”

Student says Las Vegas must continue to know the types of people it serves. The index card group were army veterans who specialized in jewelry and scrap metal. They had worked in the ships and trenches of wartime locations and “had nothing to do but play craps in the Army,” he asserts. When that group died out, they were replaced by the yuppies. And then when the Great Recession came, nothing was sacred, he maintains.

“We got murdered,” Student says. “But now, as we are coming out of it, we’re seeing many people from the Midwest who come out for a show, the restaurant and they buy $5,000 bottles of wine. They aren’t classic gamblers, but we have to track these people.”

Established forces like Scientific Games and Konami can show hotel and resort entities how knowledge is power. They turned information into a gaming play station.

Product Potpourri

For Scientific Games, one of the industry’s premier forces, player tracking involves several realms.

“It has evolved into a wide range of marketing,” says Tom Doyle, vice president of product management for Scientific Games. “You are combining the player club with the social media. A player now can sit at the machines with the social media services and have all their secondary wagering, too. The machine turns into a kiosk.”

A number of new products convert player tracking information into games people play through Scientific Games’ Bally systems. One is Multiple Buckets, which allows players to have multiple accounts for varied offerings. They can have a bucket for player dollars, comps, club levels, etc. This enables operators to target offers to their customers’ area of preference.

And how’s this for an event that goes looking for a gambler? Bally’s Elite Bonusing Suite (EBS) is a set of bonusing tools enabling operators to automate, strengthen and personalize their promotions and player-loyalty programs. BetVIEW is a new application for EBS that enables guests to wager on secondary games without leaving their machines.

“You are on a gaming machine, going along and playing and here comes a pop-up asking if you would like to participate in a casino lotto, casino keno or virtual horse race,” Doyle says. “You say, ‘Sure, I’ll bet $5 of tickets.’ We take $5 of tickets off the game, or apply the same formula to a horse race. You indicate what you want to bet and then we can show you the race. We take over as much or as little of the screen as we want, you watch the race and the screen returns to its original size.”

This floor-wide technology can be offered by operators with EBS and Bally’s iVIEW Display Manager (DM) player-user-interface. Scientific Games has taken the concept of iVIEW, once associated with ordering show tickets and drinks, to a heightened revenue stream.

Another tracking innovation is Bally VIP. It features a built-in contact management module that tracks all host communications, enabling hosts to market to existing and prospective players. A host, for example, can greet a customer at check-in or at a gaming station.

Doyle believes Scientific Games’ next push will occur in the big data area. Player information will be tailored not only to specific games, but to the preference of play. He cites Take ‘n Play, which recently hit the market, as an example of industry flexibility. Players can continue their action even at a restaurant.

This innovative technology streams the game content to the tablet screen, which replicates all aspects of game play. The game still takes place on the original machine, but is unavailable to other players. A customer can take his favorite game to any approved site on the property.

In Synk

Las Vegas-based Konami Gaming, Inc. is a subsidiary of the Konami Corporation. The company is a leading designer and manufacturer of slot machines and casino management systems for the global gaming market. Its prize contributions include the award-winning casino management system Synkros.

The product is best known for its reliability, innovative marketing and powerful analytics tools. It is a leading-edge casino management system, company officials say. And what is trending in this area? Synkros synchronicity.

“Synkros Progressive Management, or SPM, is one of our newest products this year,” says Michael Ratner, director of product management systems for Konami. “It’s a single interface within Synkros for defining, configuring, launching and maintaining system-controlled progressive games.”

Ratner says SPM allows casino operators to manage their property’s custom, owned progressives. SPM allows them to create, deploy and manage progressive bonuses across selected base games as an alternative to leased progressive products. All aspects of SPM are controlled within the casino management system.

The company also understands its needs for mobility.

“Considering the fact that more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers are carrying smart phones, mobile is trending,” Ratner indicates. “We want to deliver player-centric information to those smart phones. Promotional games, loyalty account information, special offers, exclusive rewards, point levels and available comps can all be delivered to players’ smart phones through Synkros, thereby providing that relevant and valuable engagement through their most frequent channels of communication.”

SPM allows casinos to provide real-time information on their owned progressive games for players to see, such as the current progressive values, the amount of time since they last hit, and floor maps indicating where each is located.

“All the mobile features—promotional games, account details, comp redemption, progressive jackpot specs and more—are available through our SYNKiosk mobile app for Synkros,” he adds. “SYNKiosk-Mobile is a player-facing mobile application that casino properties brand and manage as their central loyalty program app. Players essentially engage with the mobile app similar to how they interact with traditional on-site promo kiosks, but with a convenience and closeness that maximizes engagement and visibility.”

Synkros Progressive Management will be demonstrated at G2E. The product is slated for market release after an extensive beta test beginning in March of next year.

Another Side of the Casino Coin

Some companies don’t make the games, but crunch numbers to accommodate those who do. Rainmaker and Duetto, for example, focus more on customers’ stay than what they play.

The Rainmaker Group is a world leader in automated forecasting and profit optimization software and services for the gaming and hospitality industry. The Atlanta-based company deals with gaming powerhouses like Mohegan Sun and the Cherokee Nation with continual updates for its GuestREV solution. The product is cloud-based, enabling operators to view suggested room rates produced by its own player database and by probabilities incorporated into the software.

Mathematical algorithms, price suggestions and an updated view as to what types of players have been booked in which types of rooms is constantly available to an operator. Each guest’s past spending history is available for those deciding what room to offer.

“Our system has the flexibility to take in any type of revenue associated to your guests,” says Amar Duggasani, chief strategy officer for Rainmaker. “We can marginalize that revenue, look at the cost structure of that customer more holistically and come up with a rate recommendation.

“Let’s say a player base has 100,000 players,” Duggasani says. “We can segment them into certain value levels. You may have a property with 10 value levels, taking into account all the historical data regarding how how often players come in, what games they prefer, what they typically spend, etc. You have a forecast for each night based on what level they have and their value to the casino floor.

“Before a solution like ours was developed, either you are a gamer or a non-gamer. You might give the gamer a comp and the non-gamer a room rate. Now, the hotel can focus on making sure they allocate their rooms to the right customers, and protect their inventory for high-value guests.”

Duggasani says a big property may have such a demand for gaming space on the weekend that it won’t offer rooms to non-gamers, but may find other ways to nurture their business.

GuestREV provides information on where dollars are spent. It becomes increasingly valuable in resort areas, bringing spas, golf, entertainment and restaurants into the equation. So does a contribution the gaming world can offer the hotel side.

“We find that the casinos have an edge in knowing their players a whole lot better than the hotels do at this point. The hotels are learning tricks from the casinos.”

Duggasani says GuestREV went mobile earlier this year, giving operators hands-on information from remote locations.

Changing the Game

Operators see the increased significance of non-gaming customers.

Duetto offers GameChanger to help them improve revenue strategies for integrated resorts.

“We see enormous potential in every aspect of pricing at casino hotels and integrated resorts,” says Marco Benvenuti, chief analytics and product officer for Las Vegas-based Duetto Research. “For example, complimentary rooms: Legacy systems follow a simplistic ‘comp or no comp’ criteria. Isn’t it better to offer a valued guest, who would not otherwise qualify for a free night, a discounted room or some other incentive instead of nothing at all?

“The goal is to always get the right guests in the right rooms at the right times, maximizing all potential revenue. GameChanger empowers its users to achieve this.”

The product can also be used across departments to leverage valuable intelligence and collaboration to achieve better decision-making, he says.

GameChanger observes web-shopping behavior by looking at lost business regrets and denials, social review, air traffic, weather and more. The technology is then able to forecast far enough out that sales and marketing departments can target campaigns to address need periods and pull unnecessary offers.

Its smart alert engine also monitors, interprets and highlights areas of need so casinos spend less time collecting data and more time responding to market conditions that maximize potential revenue channels.

“The Duetto solution has completely transformed our revenue strategy,” says Kenny Epstein, owner and CEO of El Cortez Hotel and Casino. “Before implementing the system, we didn’t have the visibility to understand where we were giving up margin and profit, and in a competitive market like ours, we could no longer afford that.”

A cloud-based, software-as-a-service solution introduced last year, GameChanger is used at more than a dozen hotel casino properties in the U.S. and internationally.

Gaming device manufacturers and companies which specialize in data observe a growing market. They can help casino hotels use revenue management software to predict spending patterns, determine room-rate tiers and match a wealthy spender with a luxury room.

Vendors also provide game content to operators who show an advanced knowledge of their customers from years of loyalty cards and sophisticated software programs.

Slowly, but certainly, the worlds of gaming and non-gaming integrate. As they do, the definition of “player” widens.

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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