Technology knocking at the door

Jun 20, 2006 5:02 AM

During my undergraduate days, I completed a course entitled "Technology and Social Change." The basic premise was that social change is a derivative of technology. In retrospect, that is a pretty simple construct for the approximately seven grand in tuition that the course cost.

Still, I like to think I garnered from the class an appreciation for what an integral part technology plays in advancing a field such as gaming. The point was proved recently at the Gaming Technology Summit sponsored by Ascend Media and White Sand Consulting.

Held at Green Valley Ranch Casino Hotel on May 23-25, all of the best and brightest hospitality and gaming technology was formally presented to gaming and hospitality operators and vendors.

About 300 individuals including Mike Linenberger, director of slot operations for Gold Rush Hotel & Casino in Cripple Creek, R. Williams from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and Robert J. Sousa of Bowne (nee Vestcom) attended to learn about advents in the field.

Even the Maryland Lottery was there. The East Coast lotto crew receives a mention because at the end of their presentation on new lottery technology, they handed out scratch off tickets and I won $5. I subsequently lost the five bones at the Barona Casino playing Texas Tina. (Dear IGT, if you are reading this, please cut me a check for $5. Be better people than Bally’s.)

The top 20 most innovative products (out of 57 submissions), as determined by a distinguished group of five judges for Casino Journal (disclosure: I was a judge) were voted on by the attendees to determine the three most popular systems or devices the crowd felt would affect the industry in the near future.

Along with some innovations that did not make it on the list (but should have) such as Turning Stone Gaming’s in-machine interaction unit that assists with visually and audibly impaired guests as demonstrated by Susan Kesel, vice president of operations and some smart bingo tools, the big winner was Venture Capital’s Mariposa’s "Scorecard" utilized for Customer Relationship Marketing. Expertly demonstrated during the show by Jim Parker and Michael Lynch, I could hardly wait to see the Mariposa system in action.

Since I spare nothing to bring you a story, I visited Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino in Lakeside, California to witness the cutting-edge technology in practice.

Yes, located in a rural area just outside of San Diego, the setting of Barona is beautiful. The two private gaming salons with attached garages are also stunning and an amazing amenity for high rollers requiring privacy (thank you Jim Gibson for the private tour), and an associated high-roller serving heliport all make this property exceptional.

Yet, the integration of all recordable revenue streams (e.g., hotel, food and beverage, retail, spa, golf course, and gaming) into the Mariposa system that provides the property’s analysts with weighted average player worth (i.e., equity) is what makes this property exceptional.

While waiting to meet with my hosts for the day, Troy Simpson, executive director of casino marketing and Jeffty J. Connely, executive host, I dutifully signed up for the Club Barona loyalty card.

With the "classic" tiered card in hand (there are four levels), I tinkered with the Mariposa fueled integrated kiosk. The usual features of being able to check points and time played were present, but the cool kicker was a directory of the casino floor that provided visual cartographic representation by query such as show me all nickel games, Spanish 21 tables, or even a specific slot game such as Texas Tina or Fortune Cookie (my favorites).

The interactive touch screen display was incredibly intuitive, allowing even the least technology savvy individual useful information.

Even more impressive was Jeffty’s demonstration of his capabilities of seeing in real time all of his coded players, their respective histories, outstanding and redeemed offers, and even what they were doing and where they were doing it on the casino floor.

The system even allowed for access to a "cheat-sheet" with the player’s photograph, lists of interests (e.g., golf, wine), and relevant dates (e.g., anniversary, birthday). This system is indeed a viable tool for the emulation of intimacy.

Over a delicious root beer milk shake, Troy explained that the direct mail campaign management system has about 73 evaluation groups and produces thousands of personalized offers employing variable data for their direct marketing efforts.

Barona has set the benchmark with their embrace of technology (i.e., for goodness sake, they have an IT team of 60 people).

Of course, it would not be practical for Colorado casinos to have private high roller areas or a heliport, but the marketing results and respective lessons learned from this property’s integration of a pioneering system are scalable to a limited stakes gaming market and should be adopted by some of the major players.

What is occurring at Barona, and what could be instituted in Colorado, is comprehensive, more efficient means of marketing.