As competition has rapidly increased, gaming has been forced to be better. No more are the days of opening the doors and a casino succeeding in spite of itself. We’ve had to adopt new business models and work to mimic the models that have contributed to successes in other industries. Technology and access to information have been two major driving forces that have us applying those critical thinking skills in the office each day.
Mobile applications should already be a major component of your guest engagement and rewards platform. Things will continually get more mobile-based, and the pace will increase exponentially. It’s imperative that we start thinking in that direction. The challenge is that we often look to our competitors or maybe friends we know and admire—the innovators—to see where the bar is being set, but that shouldn’t be the case. We’re not competing against one another in this space. We’re competing against every other industry as well. User experience expectations are set by the best in class. That class includes every mobile application, regardless of industry. You’re competing against Google, Facebook, Apple and each app available for download. It’s not the casino in your market that’s setting the expectation for load time, functionality and UI design; it’s groups and companies that have dedicated business units for mobile platforms. As a whole, the casino industry’s mobile offerings are considered basic and about 10 years behind.
eSports is approaching the billion-dollar industry level. Young players are making substantial money and retiring early by playing the games. The U.S. issues professional sports visas for participants. Advertisers are throwing money at the space. This segment is really setting the bar for games, and casinos ultimately will be targeting a market that has expectations and awareness of this level of product. It may even happen a lot sooner than you think. Most research suggests the average eSports fan is in their 30s. Our industry is investing only a tiny fraction of the resources and time dedicated to developing eSports games. Imagine what a casino would look like with a significant increase in the research and development of our product. Is it going to be forced upon us as these new markets with varying technological frames of reference demand more?
One of the buzzwords in tech is “disruption.” Tech that is disruptive either creates a new market or alters—and sometimes eliminates—an existing market. The surprising thing about gaming is while we’re criticized for being behind, we’re actually proven to be quite agile and fast following. Think of how quickly we converted from coins to tickets. We may not have a reputation of being innovative, but we do react and utilize a “fail fast and adapt” mentality. We should take pride in that and continually try new things to find the next disruption in our space. There’s certainly opportunity for a disrupter to come into table games and affect ratings and rewards. I suspect that will happen soon.
Gaming must use the skills it has acquired through being forced to pivot based on regulations, financial volatility, market changes, etc., and capitalize by eagerly adopting new technologies. Stadium seats can already be viewed through virtual reality experiences to help ticket buyers make better choices. Couldn’t we use VR to glean data on casino environment, traffic paths and decor? Doing better research on guest expectations could conserve a lot of money and allow guests to “experience” your ideas before you’ve committed the time and capital. As a customer, I think it would be cool to virtually walk through a hotel suite, check out the view and explore other areas of the property. We spend money on advertising and creative to showcase the amenities we’ve invested in to make ourselves competitive, but there are really interesting ways outside of that to consider as well.
Las Vegas is a great example of always being bigger, better and newer. There are always exciting restaurants, hotels and clubs opening. Many other markets are experiencing these same exciting expansions. It’s no secret, however, that Las Vegas has gone many years with gaming giving up more and more of its percentage of total revenue generated. Our business is segueing very strongly into an entertainment business. Just as we have to compete with everyone on a technological front, we must now compete with entertainment venues and traditional resorts. Again, we have to see them as our competition because as expectations of the market evolve, we risk our share if we can’t outperform in all areas and appeal to everyone.
Competing against these other businesses will take commitment from our industry professionals and willingness to explore creative initiatives in all areas. Acknowledgement of this new identity is the first step. Gleaning information from online gaming is an easy second step. They’re learning things about our players that we haven’t always had as part of player research or profiles. They’ve gotten so good at game recommendation that they’re now looking at how to do it without risking burn rate. These are great concepts to help us be the best business for anyone to work in.
With 14 years of Player Development and VIP Marketing experience, including nine years at Penn National Gaming, Mick Ingersoll joined VizExplorer as an Industry Specialist in 2015. In this role, he developed and manages Best Practices Training for hostViz™, greetViz™ and is VizExplorer’s primary Player Development Consultant. Recently, he has been named Director of International Customer Success and is focusing on growing VizExplorer’s footprint around the world. An early adopter of new technology, Mick aims to apply technology advancements from other industries to Player Development and to transform Hosting from a Customer Service position into a Hospitality Sales and Account Management function. Mick resides in Las Vegas, but escapes the desert heat to pursue his passion for skiing, which he has now done in 17 countries (and counting).