Viewpoints: Casino Management Systems

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For our inaugural Viewpoints segment, we take a look at the current state of casino management systems in US gaming.

TOM SOUKUP, SVP & Chief Systems Product Officer, Konami

Tom Soukup is responsible for the development of all components of the SYNKROS casino management system.
He oversees Konami’s systems product vision to provide accurate, robust, real-time casino enterprise management to properties of all specialties and sizes. Soukup joined Konami Gaming, Inc. in 2001 with more than 20 years of experience in the field of computer science.

RYAN REDDY, SVP Product Marketing & Payments, IGT

SVP of Product Marketing and Payments, Ryan Reddy is the lead on International Game Technology's casino central systems, video lottery terminals and central systems. Having spent 14 years with IGT, has held a slew of key positions throughout the company. Reddy is an expert in the field and has a Master of Science in Finance from Northeastern University in Boston.

ERIC CUNNINGHAM, Director of Training & Marketing, Table Trac

Having joined Table Trac in 2017, Cunningham has proven successful in developing learning strategies to reach all levels across multiple platforms in the casino management system space. With a focus on customer integration, ensuring strong familiarity with software through user guides and process alignment, he has overseen the CasinoTrac CMS in its expansion across the United States.

NOAH ACRES, of Acres Manufacturing

Playing a central role in the casino management system sector for a number of decades, Acres can be found in a variety of properties across the US. Its most recent product, Foundation, allows casinos to access real-time data from every slot machine in the property. With this, the company aims to help casinos adopt newer technologies and increase revenues by bringing in a new and younger generation of players.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FACED WHEN DEVELOPING A CASINO MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

TOM SOUKUP: In order to provide gaming operators with the tools they need to manage all aspects of player loyalty, slots and tables, integrations, comprehensive data capture and actionable reporting, casino management systems are often incredibly vast and ever evolving. Casino management systems are challenged to grow in lockstep with industry and player convenience innovations through advancements like cashless and countless other feature enhancements. Our Las Vegas-based SYNKROS R&D team is continually engineering new improvements, tools, features and product offerings to meet and anticipate these changes, while ensuring SYNKROS customers have access to competitive technology options. Recent releases include TITO support at table games, cardless login by player phone number, Mobile QR code login support and integration to third-party payment processor cash wallets.

RYAN REDDY: As the backbone to most casino operations, an efficient casino management system must seamlessly connect with a variety of other technologies from any number of suppliers. As a casino floor evolves, so must a casino management system's deployment. Although this process often requires R&D resources, IGT embraces opportunities to collaborate with our customers in the development, and prioritization, of our next-generation system upgrades and advancements.

ERIC CUNNINGHAM: There has been a significant shift in the adoption and acceptance of cashless gaming and sports betting in the last year. By anticipating this shift over the past several years, along with our vendor partners, we are able to meet this demand in a short timeframe.

NOAH ACRES: Without a doubt, the biggest challenge is overcoming the regulatory environment. Gaming is a highly regulated industry with hundreds of jurisdictions, each with different rules and procedures. Creating technology for the casino industry is extremely expensive due to regulation. As a result, startups are shut out and existing providers are insulated from new competition.  Unfortunately for casino operators, these suppliers haven’t invested in their systems products over the past 20 years and now our industry’s technology greatly lags behind other industries. Casinos have lost an entire new generation of players because of this and it has cost us hundreds of billions in missed revenue.

WHAT ARE THE KEY FEATURES OF A SUCCESSFUL CASINO MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

TOM SOUKUP: The most essential aspect is accurate and comprehensive data capture – at all times, across all touchpoints. For this reason, gaming operators trust in SYNKROS’ true 360-degree patron view, as well as its open integrations to a wide array of third-party systems, including point-of-sale, property management and payment processors.

Konami’s SYNKROS casino management system offers a stable, robust data ecosystem for the industry. This means player rewards, offers and points are actively displayed in real time; integrations with point-of-sale, hotel systems and payment processor systems are designed for fast, detailed data capture; and our customers enjoy a 99.99% system uptime. 

RYAN REDDY: There are many features and attributes that contribute to the success, and adoption, of a casino management system. From an architectural perspective, a leading CMS such as IGT ADVANATGE needs to be scalable, modular and adaptable. Each of our customers has unique challenges, opportunities, patron demands and regulatory considerations. For this reason, IGT’s ADVANTAGE CMS can be customized and optimized to meet our customers’ needs and scale with new market opportunities such as bonusing, cashless gaming and sports betting. Additionally, it’s critical that the technology is backed by an experienced and committed support team. At IGT, we view ourselves more as ‘growth partners’ than simply technology providers. Our team works closely with our system users to ensure they’re maximizing the return of their IGT system investment; and are knowledgeable of the system’s full capabilities, as well as its roadmap. Most recently, IGT introduced a cloud-based option for IGT ADVANTAGE. This future-forward innovation will bring our customers many benefits, ranging from cost-savings to more immediate access to critical information.

ERIC CUNNINGHAM: A successful casino management system in today’s market must be vigilant in anticipating the rapidly changing needs of our customers and the industry. We need to be able to provide the solutions many times before the need arises, and this can only be accomplished by talking and, most importantly, listening to customers. 

NOAH ACRES: A successful casino management system must provide features that players find fun and exciting. Consumers using Amazon, Facebook or Google receive messages and content that is highly personalized and accurate. Casinos need to provide the same, but the management systems that dominate the casino landscape today are incapable of doing much more than measuring a player’s actual and theoretical loss. The demographic of slot players has rapidly aged in recent years. While other industries have been quick to adopt modern computing and mobile technology, casinos haven’t been able to. As a result, we’re stuck in a pre-iPhone era where the monthly mailer is king and an email or kiosk is considered cutting edge. 

WHAT INNOVATIONS DO YOU BELIEVE WE COULD SEE CHANGE THE CMS MARKET IN THE YEARS TO COME?

TOM SOUKUP: Cashless and the integration of payment provider cash wallets holds a great deal of promise for advancing guest convenience and reducing physical cash and/or ticket handling. Casino players want to have the same payment options as they have in retail, such as tapping their credit/debit card or phone on a payment device to pay for the merchandise or service. Interest in touchless, cashless and payment provider cash wallets has exponentially increased, unlike any other time in the industry’s history. Stakeholders at every level see the advantages for both the player and casino staff alike.

RYAN REDDY: As an industry, I think we’ll see a continued focus on creating a casino environment that more effortlessly flows between land-based experiences and mobile experiences. Much like we see in the restaurant industry, where patrons make reservations on their mobile devices and then dine in a physical restaurant, the casino ecosystem will likely be much more tightly integrated with the mobile experience. Cashless gaming solutions such as Resort Wallet and IGTPay aim to be transformative technologies that are moving the industry in this direction. But in reality, this movement has been taking place for quite some time. For example, IGT supports the “Mobile Employee” product, which bundles six, mobile-focused apps: Mobile Host, Mobile Jackpot, Mobile Responder, Mobile Notifier, Mobile Dashboard and Mobile Voucher Redemption. Each of these solutions helps streamline operations, improve the patron experience and bridge the land-based and digital environments.

ERIC CUNNINGHAM: In the coming years, I see more properties moving to an integrated resort model where the player can use their player card for everything property wide. The casino management system and player card will become the central point for everything from gaming to retail purchases, to accessing the hotel room. This enables the properties to adopt a more holistic approach to marketing based on the player’s interests while on property. We see it today in a limited capacity at destination resort properties. The adoption of mobile apps also assist in making this possible by allowing for a digital card that can be accepted everywhere on the property.

NOAH ACRES: In the years to come casinos will greatly benefit from the ability to scale around a common platform. This actually takes pressure off of suppliers and operators by allowing them to quickly deploy and scale applications that have been proven successful elsewhere. If you look at the smartphone space, R&D from companies like Apple and Google exceed the revenues of all casinos combined. Entire economies are built around iOS and Android, and the owners of these platforms have provided development tools to outsiders who want to create and monetize content. But in the casino space, the predominant system providers have taken the exact opposite approach. They want to be a one-stop-shop – the only vendor a casino can even buy from – and outside developers are forcibly locked out and chased away. This has to change.

HOW IS THE EVER-EXPANDING SPORTS BETTING AND ONLINE CASINO MARKET ALTERING WHAT IS NEEDED IN A CASINO MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? IS IT A CHALLENGE OR AN OPPORTUNITY?

TOM SOUKUP: Sports betting is another new and opportune touchpoint for patron loyalty, rewards, analytics and reinvestment. A good example is our collaboration with Bet.Works and Elite Casino Resorts in Iowa. We launched an omni-channel solution for validating age eligibility, automatically enrolling online sign-ups into the casino loyalty program and seamlessly awarding casino loyalty points for all wagers. Overall, It’s an opportunity for casino management system developers, casino operators and casino patrons. Konami’s SYNKROS casino management system offers a robust real-time interface that allows operators to treat online players the same way they treat those who visit their land-based properties. This allows casinos with both land-based and online operations to create a single view of the player; by accessing a single-player loyalty account and payment processing cash wallet account, tracking play, managing loyalty point earnings and redemptions, and enabling channel-agnostic marketing.

RYAN REDDY: We’re working closely with our IGT PlaySports team to secure approvals for an IGT ADVANTAGE-PlaySports integration. Some of our customers place more of an emphasis on this integration than others; but as the US sports betting market matures, I anticipate sports betting casino management system integrations will be standard in the industry. The rise of mobile casinos is another opportunity for operators to better understand their players and to have meaningful interactions with them beyond the confines of a casino’s four walls. From a development perspective, connecting land-based and online play is a complex process, but will become industry standard over time; as the end user will come to expect congruent rewards and personalized offers across platforms.

ERIC CUNNINGHAM: Sports betting has not had a significant impact on casino management systems providers due to how properties and jurisdictions propose its implementation. The most significant hurdle is capturing and quantifying player data for these properties, to use in targeted marketing for those distinct customers.

NOAH ACRES: Sports is making gambling more mainstream and is fueling a new segment of players to either visit a casino or download a mobile sportsbook and enroll in the database.  The same can be said of iGaming and social casinos. All are great acquisition tools that can be used to convert people into casino players, which only happens with the right technology. The problem we have today is that acquisition costs have gotten out of control and there is no magic tool to convert a sports bettor into a casino slot player. A successful casino management system needs to be able to deliver exciting, low-friction offers to players throughout the ecosystem. An example of this would be a mobile cashless wallet that can transition between slots, tables, sports and iGaming, and includes loyalty and bonusing capabilities. Online and mobile gaming presents a huge opportunity for casino management systems developers. We know virtually all consumers are present online and on mobile. Adults in the US spend over four hours per day on their smartphones. If our industry is going to create new players and maintain relevance in the years to come, we have to embrace online and mobile platforms.

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