G2E – Showcasing game changers

October 04, 2016 3:00 AM
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Given the size and breadth of the Global Gaming Expo (G2E), I thought I would start by looking for the products I thought were breakout ideas at last year’s show to see what progress and success they’ve had since then.

I was intrigued by a brilliantly simple idea at last year’s show. A small company, New Millennium, had placed a clear felt over essentially a big screen monitor to create a table game that allowed the casino operators to virtually instantly change the game from blackjack to baccarat with a flip of the switch without losing the traditional look and feel of a table game.

At the time, as Wynn, LVS and MGM were going to be facing limitations on the number of tables they would to be allowed in their new Macau properties, I believed one or more those operators would jump on the ability to instantly change a live table game to suit customer traffic and maximize their limited floor inventory in Macau. Alas, the company was not to be found.

While looking for them though I kept coming across young companies with interesting pieces to the puzzle of the future cashless casino, where the customer’s buy-ins and cash-outs are all digital and protected in a form of electronic player recognition and where the customers are in continual interaction with their favorite casino through incented reward programs.

The notion of a cashless casino table game like blackjack may seem strange, particularly as normally a customer gets in action by either bringing cash or chips to the table or by signing a marker and getting chips at the table. Simple, easy, why change it?

The reality is existing customers and the coming millennial customers do not care to go to an ATM machine and they just do not get why they cannot use their debit cards at the point of gaming. Enter ACS PlayOn, founded and headed by Stephen Warner, a former Caesars’ credit exec, offering a device that facilitates the casino customer buy-in from a debit card at the table itself.

When the customer wishes to buy in the dealer hands them a card stripe reader, the customer swipes their card, enters their pin, and requests the amount they want. The dealer receives a printed authorization voucher that identifies the amount the customer has requested; the dealer gives the customer the chips and drops the voucher in the drop box. Simple, quick and eliminates the ATM walk.

Eventually the chip issuance/table buy-in will not require a card at all but will probably use some form of verified link to your personal cell phone and e-wallet. Up to this time it always seemed that if cell phones were to be used as your player card and e-wallet in a buy-in, what was to stop someone else from simply using your cell phone?

CardLogix has come up with a great way to solve this problem by developing a system that combines a pin system with biographic and biometric data with the customer’s cell phone. That means it has to be you with your cell phone for things to work through the system, not someone else using your cell phone.

When CardLogix’s product manager, Diana Bartolme, demonstrated the system I was surprised at how effective and well protected it was to assure the match of customer with device, as well as how easy it was to use. Made me wish it was already in use as a replacement to ATM/debit cards. Perhaps using one’s cell phone as both player card and e-wallet in the casino is closer than imagined.

All commercial companies wish they were dominant when it comes to top-of-mind awareness among customers, as it usually translates to loyalty, increased repeat business and greater profitability. While there were a number of companies offering such promises, EngagedNation seems to be delivering on the sales pitch.

Raquel Rodriguez, a long time casino marketing expert, showed how their system effectively incents the casino’s customers through various forms of rewarded activities building loyalty and awareness on and off the casino property. Their system, while very sophisticated on the backend, was incredibly customer friendly and easy to use, yet compelling to the customer for continuous engagement, so compelling I immediately understood why they have a growing customer.

To get to the casino of tomorrow, the gaming industry needs pioneers like the above companies who have a vision about their piece of the business and are willing to invest and work toward it. Next week I will share my observations as to which gaming manufacturer seems to have cracked the code to entice the millennial generation with their unique casino games.