Casinos Embracing the Cloud- Slowly but Steadily
By Kirk Golding, VP-IT, Silverton Casino
The casino industry’s core competency is gaming and entertainment and it is finally starting to bounce back to pre-recession levels as people have more discretionary income. Silverton Casino is working hard for that entertainment dollar and IT is supporting that mission by leveraging new trends, and being more agile and flexible to provide the business what it needs.
The Cloud Move
In casinos, a heavy portion of dollars invested in technology is for security. But the gaming industry in Nevada is highly regulated and as such, IT and security are two separate departments; they cannot be comingled. Security includes technologies such as surveillance, facial recognition, and people counting and tracking to ensure protection of customers, games, money, and team members. As a whole, the casino industry is moving slowly to SaaS and cloud-based solutions, starting with non-gaming related departments. Silverton has moved data warehousing, facilities management and time and attendance to the cloud so far. Also, vendors are offering more and more cloud-based solutions, such as point-of-sale systems or property management systems and as vendors move more and more to the cloud, the industry will move as well.
As the entertainment industry integrates mobile technologies, social media and now the Internet of Things (IoT), there are more touch points and more and more big data opportunities. It’s conceivable that eventually offers to customers could be customized to their individual needs and wants, i.e. one-to-one marketing for everyone.
That requires collection of a lot of data and many people are still sensitive to data collection amid concerns about security, personal attacks, and identity theft. Also, while Silverton collects as much data as possible about their customers’ preferences, it is still a labor-intensive function to collect structured and unstructured data and analyze it for a smaller casino that caters more to local clientele and is not drive-market or fly-market oriented.
The Digital-savvy Customer
Another area heavily impacted by changes in technology from social media and IoT is advertising, which is broadening. Improvements in technology are happening frequently and something as simple as digital signage has to change rapidly to stay trendy and interesting to digitally-savvy customers, the Millennials. To do that, Silverton works with multiple vendors to avoid being locked into a relationship and more importantly—a style or technical capability. Cloud-based solutions are used at Silverton for digital content on signage and that has been advantageous, though with limitations.
New trends such as interactive gaming or “i-gaming” heavily impact technology decisions and are very important for the industry today. As a smaller land-based casino operator, Silverton currently shies away from Internet based gaming, but recognizes it is inevitable. Gaming is one of the entertainments Silverton provides to its customers and if they don’t adapt to i-gaming, they will be left behind as online gaming becomes more popular. Some vendors are beginning to provide methods to support their customers through fake dollars like bitcoins. Bitcoins can be fed into Silverton’s casino systems without impacting revenue—allowing them to gain intelligence on how their customers like to play and what they like to play. Silverton relies on their vendors to create solutions and as regulators permit more i-gaming, vendors will provide solutions that allow smaller casinos to enter that market with minimal capital and minimal operating expense.
Customer Experience will be the Differentiating Factor
At the end of the day, the casino industry is a commodity market. When something new and cool arrives, there will be those that have it first for a short period, and then every casino will have it. The casinos of the world aren’t creating games—there are six-seven big vendors that create those games and the casinos use them. For a casino to differentiate itself from its competitors, it comes down to a customer service issue from any perspective. Silverton customers are treated like family and the workforce is composed of top notch team members who care a lot about customers. Customers have a lot of choices in the highly competitive Vegas market. The better you know your customer, the more you understand their needs, the better a business like Silverton can satisfy them and keep them coming back.