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The Benefits of Cloud Computing In Gaming Industry
Van Baltz, SVP & CIO, JACK Entertainment
The gaming industry has been fairly slow to embrace cloud computing and/or software as a service option, especially as it relates to gaming system solutions. There are three primary reasons why cloud computing has not seen wide adoption in our industry; security, regulatory and financial models. The on-prem system solutions are better protected since the operator controls access to the data center, hires staff that must go through thorough background checks, regulatory licensing, and controls all system maintenance.
Having a gaming system located in the cloud is a non-starter for the operators and for many regulatory entities as well. Additionally, most gaming operators prefer a capital purchase for hardware/software and do not have the appetite to take on additional operating expenses. This approach negatively impacts monthly operating expenses.
We have not leveraged unstructured, semi-structured, internet social media, etc. given the wealth of data housed within our own systems. For our operation, the fundamental use of data analytics is to increase guest profitability by changing the behavior of our guests, our team members, and the technology and physical plant which they interact with.
It’s interesting how surprised some non-casino business leaders are when you share with them how much we change our guest engagements. Gaming companies are constantly changing incentives, promotions, direct offers, advertising, games, technology, and the overarching guest communication. Yes, we all have similar systems and processes; however, casinos make changes at a very rapid pace.
But in a world built on odds and understanding statistics, the drive to influence a slight change in behavior is prominent and analytics has allowed us to make that decision much more quickly. All this information being accumulated has finally brought light to areas within our business we never before would have even thought to understand…. and what’s incredible is to try and imagine a world where the data was not available and truly leveraged.
Innovation seems to be the new buzz word within the gaming industry and while there are some interesting things coming to market, there’s not much true innovation like we saw when TITO (ticket in/ticket out) was introduced. Because of this, many of the operators have turned their focus outside of the traditional gaming operators to fulfill their functionality needs. I’m fortunate to work within an organization here at JACK Entertainment that is laser focused on delivering relevant technology to our guests and team members. At our core, JACK is a technology company that just happens to be in the gaming business and this belief is shared across our entire Family of Companies; the center of which is Quicken Loans.
Technology for technology sake is a bad idea; innovation must be meaningful for the end user and enhance a great guest experience
Not long ago, we identified an issue that was an inconvenience to our guests– they had to leave the slot machine to charge their mobile device. Yes, many of today’s electronic gaming machines (EGM’s) have the capability to charge a mobile device but it’s not consistent across the manufacturers and often times they were located in odd locations. After doing our research, we decided to build our own software/hardware solution, GT Connect. This not only solved the charging issue, it also allowed our guests to use our mobile app as their Virtual Player’s Card at any EGM, eliminating the need for a traditional player’s card. The solution was launched at Greektown Casino- Hotel in Detroit earlier this year across all manufacturers/games on the casino floor. It was also an award winner at this year’s Global Gaming Expo, receiving the gold medal for Best Consumer- Service Technology from the 17th annual Global Gaming Business Gaming & Technology Awards.
In our business, you will see more operators focus on the overall guest experience and not just what happens on the casino floor. We continue to work to enhance the guest experience at every touch point during their visit to our facilities More than just the promotions they have available that day, it’s using our mobile app to access the parking garage and being able to pay for a meal using comps or points; whatever they would like. Leveraging the guests’ mobile device to give them the same conveniences they use it for in a home environment will be a big leap forward for our industry.
Advice to CIOs:
Often times I hear colleagues talk about “what the business needs and wants” but that truly confuses me. The role of a CIO has evolved significantly in the last ten years from a function that focused exclusively on the tech to be one of business leader and partner. The technology team is no longer that group of socially awkward folks tucked away in a dark room doing “magic” with a keyboard. The CIO and down through the technology org are now true business partners and agents of change for the business. Technology for technology sake is a bad idea; innovation must be meaningful for the end user and enhance a great guest experience, like setting out to solve a charging issue on a mobile device and getting that with the value add of a Virtual Players Card.
In today’s world, there is no major project/ initiative that does not leverage technology and I prefer to focus on guest convenience. Just as with GT Connect, we expect that technology enhances the guest time on-site and it does not get in their way of having a great time. We want them to have choices; do they go to a cashier for a food order or a self-service kiosk–their choice. Do they use a traditional player card or do they use the Virtual Players Card within the Greektown app–their choice.
From a JACK Entertainment perspective, the PRIMARY purpose of our use of Internet of Things (IoT) technology is to drive an improved guest experience. From the Team Members end user computer, TV displays, guest facing systems such as self-service kiosks, bill breakers, and even security cameras. Each system sending and receiving critical operational data in a timely manner allows us to improve our service delivery and improve our guest experience. As the casino industry expands the use IoT technology we have been focused on research and development of new IoT based technologies that drive innovation and efficiency.
Securing IoT devices continues to evolve slowly within the security industry itself and as a result there have been quite a few successful security compromises recently using IoT devices. In the past two years, we have seen attacks such as the Mirai and Reaper Botnets. This proves that the technology is still young in its evolution and security features, making it easily exploitable. Therefore, JACK Entertainment is moving cautiously as we leverage any IoT solutions to avoid negative experience.