Marlon Ortiz, VP of IT, American Casino and Entertainment Properties
The history of the modern casino and gaming culture dates back to the early 20th century where slot machines were predominant, and a gambler put in a coin and pulled a lever. The wheel spins, and when three identical cherries matched, there was a winner. That isn’t the same anymore. It is too bland for the new generation that plays with Microsoft Xbox and Sony PS4. The new-age guests and players are more tech-savvy—they look for social interactions as well as more creative and interactive ways of playing casino games. The American Casino and Entertainment Properties is trying to unify technology as we try to reinvent ourselves and appeal more to the tech-savvy generation. The age of technology has improved in all aspects and we are trying to provide a more customized and technology-age experience to our guests.
Having worked in the hospitality gaming industry for over 21 years, I have witnessed a lot of changes driven by technology. For example, there is a drive to board the cloud bandwagon. Technology partners move their applications to the cloud which we use to provide our services. Social media is another factor that is a driving factor which is changing customer expectations. Customers expect their presence to be acknowledged as soon a game is played or form is filled and they wish to be rewarded and encouraged to be our loyal customers. We are in a constant state of change, trying to identify technologies that will benefit our internal processes and making sure that we deploy them accurately. The only constant is change.
When we discuss technology with upper management, the discussion is about trying to figure out how to strike the right balance between what we believe to be the next generation of technology and what we already have. We are trying to gradually implement technology that is going be appealing to the customer.
The new-age guests and players are more tech-savvy—they look for social interactions as well as a more creative interactive way of playing casino games
The gaming hospitality business covers multiple verticals—food and beverage, hospitality, gaming, and all these by itself are moving at a faster pace. It is important for us to ensure that all these verticals and their respective technologies are brought together co-efficiently for best results.
We have invested millions of dollars in the existing infrastructure such as, Microsoft, which is a key partner in our business. We are going to deploy CRM on the cloud which will enable our employees to reach our customers on any platform—laptop, tablet, smartphone which will enable us to respond to customers faster. Apart from this, we look for potential partners who work with better and more attractive games. In the first week of October 2017, at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Vegas, we witnessed companies coming with very interesting products in the gaming space. Smaller enterprises tend to react faster in the software development process and bring to market innovative games more quickly than the bigger companies. When there is a huge range of games, pricing is very important for people to respond quicker. These games are developed, tested and put on the market. If they don’t work, they are taken off the market and redone. This is the kind of new games and potential partners we are on the lookout for.
There are a lot of thoughts flowing on what the hospitality gaming is going to be in the future. We have just touched the surface of what Social Media can do for us, which is a very impressive channel of two-way communication. Previously, we were exploring one-way communication to our customers and hadn’t seen how they can talk back to us as soon as they want. It could be anytime—sitting at a slot machine and requesting for another game or driving to the facility and booking a reservation. Every person carries a mobile device with social media on it. With the presence of social media, our customers can interact with us more efficiently, enabling us to respond to them faster. On the hospitality front, we wonder why a customer needs to stand in a line to check into a hotel or casino when they have a mobile device at their disposal. The front desk requires a complete makeover. With geofencing, the guest can be identified through their phone. The idea is when e-commerce works on a phone, then why not e-check in from the phone. Imagine you want to book a room or a game and this gets done on the phone, so you will have to just get off the taxi and go to your hotel room or the gaming arena directly.
Staying ahead of competition
It is very important to communicate with the peers in order to stay ahead of the game. Only by communicating with others in the same landscape we get to understand the problems. This way we can get software companies to hear us out and develop technologies that will help us. As a cluster, we can understand and solve issues and hence, stay on top of the game.