When Self-Service Is the Best Service

Kiosk technologies have changed casino floors, hotel front desks, bars, restaurants, parking garages and more. Surprisingly, while automating once-human transactions, they have made hospitality more hospitable.

In the Jetson Age—i.e., the present day—it’s entirely possible for a resort guest to arrive at his destination, park, check in, play, dine, play some more, cash out and leave, all without a person-to-person exchange.

While such human-free visits are hardly the norm, self-service technologies, especially kiosks, now handle all manner of once-human transactions, like redeeming loyalty points, ordering drinks or exchanging currencies.

Are such technologies taking the personal touch out of personal service?

Not at all, says Jeffrey Hoss, vice president of product marketing for gaming giant Everi, which recently acquired Atrient and its kiosk assets and rebranded them as its Loyalty1 kiosk platform.

Far from crimping customer service, kiosks free staff from mundane data-capture and paper-pushing tasks so they can focus more on “a service-first culture,” Hoss says, “enriching the patron experience with face-to-face contact.”

So, not so inhuman after all.

 

Customers’ Choice

On their face, kiosks help by simplifying and speeding essential transactions, eliminating wait lines, and letting people manage the details of their visit without an intermediary. The machines never get tired, get sick, or have a bad day.

With data capture that’s quick and error-free, they’re preferred both by customers and operators, says Hoss. “More than 70 percent of card reprints are processed on Everi’s 1Enroll kiosk. Four out of five operators prefer to gather patron information via kiosks like 1Enroll, which can reprint cards 40 percent faster.”

Everi’s 1Promo lets operators move away from traditional drawing drums for a more user-friendly experience. “The experience is fully digital and can be displayed on any video device in a casino. A timer lets patrons know to claim their prize within a fixed amount of time. 1Promo can be used as a slot concierge, to promote restaurants, retail outlets and other amenities,” and even request W-2G forms.

“We believe it’s the hub of our ‘digital neighborhood,’ and allows other platforms, cash-access or compliance, to interact with our loyalty platform and make the guest experience frictionless,” Hoss says.

Everi’s mobile platform integrates the same functionality as 1Promo for hand-held devices—an essential these days, with more than 80 percent of Americans on mobile phones.

 

Play & Learn

Kiosks are an indispensable part of the sportsbook, too, as operators in emerging stateside markets have found.

Max Bichsel, U.S. director of Malta-based sports betting provider Kambi, says fully two-thirds of wagers at the company’s partner casinos in Pennsylvania are made via kiosk, and more than half of revenues at its U.S. sportsbooks are generated through the machines.

Not only are kiosks efficient, they “play a vital role in educating the novice player,” who can be intimidated at first by the OTC experience. “People can get a slick view of many more markets than over the counter or displayed on the large odds boards, as well as get to grips with the terminology.” A kiosk offers “an intuitive, pressure-free way for players to familiarize themselves, place a few small bets and get the ball rolling,” Bichsel says.

No queues, no pressure, no problem.

As for increased revenues, just do the math. For example, Kambi kiosks let customers re-scan winning tickets and recycle cash to quickly wager again. “The kiosks also lend themselves to the immediacy of in-play, enhancing the discoverability of new markets and making reinvesting winnings a cinch,” Bichsel says.

As players play, they’re kept up-to-date on special events and offers, all on the same screen—for example, the home screen can greet first-time bettors with offers like “Bet $50 and your first drink is on us.”

 

Strength in Numbers

In December 2018, Novomatic’s F-V830 full-service sports betting kiosk, outfitted with the Kambi platform, made its North America debut in Atlantic City, at the DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts Casino Hotel.

“Though the bets at kiosks are smaller and spread more compared to OTC, the first week we launched, about 75 percent of all handle was kiosk-driven,” says Kathleen McLaughlin, vice president of marketing for Novomatic Americas.

That ratio continues to hold, she adds, confirming kiosks’ popularity with bettors.

By slashing wait times and lines, Novomatic’s ActionBook kiosk lets operators capitalize on high-volume betting periods. “Kiosks allow more bets per hour and multiple betting options that provide a quick-pick style of playing,” McLaughlin says. “Just by virtue of the increase in speed and the volume of the betting, the revenue increase is inevitable.

“I think back to working in the Las Vegas sportsbook and watching bettors rush the windows only to get agitated when there weren’t enough windows open, or they were shut out of their wager,” she recalls. “They don’t like to stand in a line, increase their anxiety, and question the decision as they wait for a race or event to kick off.”

Rick Meitzler, president and CEO of Novomatic Americas, sums up the appeal of sports betting kiosks for the end user: “Multiple games, multiple wagers, numerous ways to bet. It gets both operators and customers into action quickly.”

 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Las Vegas-based MGT develops software to automate, track and report casino transactions, working with other player tracking systems and touch-screen devices like slot machines and kiosks. Since 2001, MGT has grown from a single installation to serve more than 260 casinos in 34 states.

Its flagship product, the Promotional Intelligence Suite or MGT Promo, lets casino marketers easily create and install any type of promotion: electronic drawings, scratch cards, swipe-to-win, new member bonuses, bounce-backs, and promotions based on age or other demographic factors. When a player swipes a card at the kiosk, the system instantly tailors a reward for that individual. It can immediately print any prize; post points, comps or promotional credits back to the player’s account; and issue electronic drawing entries, drawing entry multipliers and point multipliers.

“Most players will stop at a kiosk three times during a visit: when they arrive, during a break in play, and before they leave,” according to Travis Carrico, MGT vice president of sales. “The kiosks literally become a habit for patrons.”

MGT’s creative team works with each casino to design a user interface that captures their brand while communicating account balances, tier status, and promotion and drawing information, all in a way that’s user-friendly. The latest animation technology engages customers with sight and sound to give them a truly winning experience.

 

MGT’s card-printing
kiosk has a userfriendly
touch-screen
and sleek profile that,
like all the company’s
self-service terminals,
is ADA-compliant

Inventing the Future

In 1993, Canadian inventor John Dominelli launched NRT Technology Corp. to build cash registers, scanners and other POS solutions for big-box retailers. Though Dominelli had never been to a casino in his life, he would soon create the first ticket redemption (TITO) and jackpot attendant kiosks for the gaming industry.

At the time, casinos were moving from labor-intensive coin slots to paper tickets, but with no way to automate payouts, players still had to line up at a cage to redeem their winnings. Tapped by Casino Niagara in Ontario, Dominelli was asked to develop a system that would dispense with coins, tabulate winnings to the penny, and time-stamp the transaction.

“He basically took an ATM foundation, developed a sidecar with two bill validators and a coin dispenser, and engineered it to not only make the bill validator talk to the ATM, but also to the gaming host who validated the ticket,” says John’s son, Michael Dominelli, president of NRT.

The system debuted in Canada at Casino Niagara and in the U.S. at Atlantic City’s Borgata. “It just took off—the industry deemed it a mission-critical piece of equipment,” Dominelli says. It’s no wonder: TITO reduced ticket redemption times from as much as an hour to about 10 seconds.

In today’s hack-happy world, machines such as NRT’s NEO cash-handing and payment kiosk are reinforced to foil any bad actors.

“As soon as you insert your card, the data is encrypted and tokenized,” says Dominelli. In case of a hacking attempt, from inside or outside an organization, “intrusion protection and hard-disk encryption lock down the machine and require two pieces of code from our support center” to reopen it.

In 2018, NRT acquired multiple companies to expand its capabilities over the coming decade, including VisuaLimits, a table-sign tech provider with more than 5,000 units deployed; OfferCraft, an award-winning software used by casinos to attract more players and encourage higher spend per visit; and NCC, one of the most effective credit management solutions in North America. Today, with John Dominelli still at the helm as CEO, NRT processes billions of dollars in payments each year, and serves the world’s top 25 largest casinos.

 

Means to an End

Global Payment’s Christopher Justice says kiosk technology is “going to be more and more relevant. Operators need a clear strategy for using self-service to connect with guests, enable critical innovations such as consumer mobility, and provide a more consistent experience across the entire gaming entertainment experience.”

“Most customers will always take the shortest distance between them and what they want,” says MGT’s Carrico. “Our kiosks provide that.”

By liberating resort guests from long lines, letting them quickly complete needed transactions, and safeguarding their personal data, kiosks let them be about their real business: having fun.

 


Building the Perfect Employee

The family business now known as Olea Kiosks Inc. began in 1975 as a woodworking enterprise operating out of a rented garage in Downey, California.

Founded by master carpenter Fernando Olea, it first produced furniture and cabinetry, then large-scale trade show exhibits, and finally self-service kiosks, working in the early 1980s for companies like Ticketmaster.

Today, under third-generation CEO Frank Olea, the company’s kiosks fulfill multiple roles in the gaming space: loyalty, hotel self-check in, wayfinding, food and beverage purchases, and more.

“A kiosk is like an employee,” says Olea. Properly programmed and regularly maintained, it can perform its appointed task, glitch-free, day after day, possibly for years. “But designed poorly, it’s going to perform poorly all day, and never apologize once.”

For that reason, the company’s custom-built terminals go through multiple iterations, field trials and modifications to ensure they perform to each client’s specifications.

They are designed to stand up to constant use and even abuse—a must in the 24/7 casino world. “We’ve put kiosks at train stations, airports and even prisons, so we’ve seen it all—scratching and punching monitors, trying to break the glass, pulling the buttons off, things being poured on machines,” says Olea.

Olea kiosks are built to be liquid-proof, vandal-proof, and resistant to skimming devices that steal customer PIN numbers, raid their bank accounts and get their hands on personal information.

Today, Olea operates out of a 48,000-square-foot campus in Southern California, serving the health-care, education, retail and government industries as well as gaming.

The typical shelf life of a casino kiosk is five to seven years, Olea says, though 10 years is not unheard of. So he was recently gratified to visit the Pala Casino in San Diego, where the company installed a number of kiosks in 2005.

“There they were, working just fine,” he says with pride, “14 years later.”

 


Cash on Demand
Q&A with Christopher Justice, President of Gaming Solutions, Global Payments

GGB: Beyond speed and simplicity, why do customers use kiosks?

Christopher Justice: According to SalesForce.com, two-thirds of consumers prefer self-service. Our gaming cash access solutions accept multiple forms of payment and speak multiple languages. They generate data that support operators in their marketing and player development efforts. And they provide additional security for everyone.

By 2020, the kiosk industry could be valued at $13 billion. What’s driving that growth, and how does it affect loyalty?

Guests will continue to trust kiosks for increasingly valuable transactions and become increasingly frustrated by lines and poor human-centered experiences. But that doesn’t come at the expense of loyalty. Savvy operators are leveraging digital as a key component of their loyalty strategy and reallocating the efficiencies gained from kiosks to provide more high-touch experiences on the floor.

People are always looking at screens. What are their expectations when it comes to touch, responsiveness, image definition, etc.?

Guests expect the experience on a self-service screen to be the same as on a mobile device—easy, elegant and intuitive.

Clicks kill, and if it’s not an efficient process, guests will abandon it. We use a rigorous UX/UI approach to ensure the experience is great, and that everything from accessibility to screen contrast and font size is carefully crafted and aligned with best practices.

Where are gaming kiosks used most, and what will they do in the future?

It’s not uncommon to see kiosks for TITO, ATMs, player cards and event ticketing. Hotel front desks are working to make them a commonplace part of the check-in experience. We just launched VIP Mobility, a mobile cash application that enables guests to purchase and redeem TITO tickets, fund slots and table games, and get cash without leaving their seats, all from their mobile device.

We continue to invest in the guest and operator experiences—everything from enhanced UI to multi-layered security and predictive maintenance alerts.

And we’ve recently enabled digital currency conversion and multilingual capabilities for international guests, and are exploring alternative payments and currencies to meet consumers’ growing expectations.