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Casinos Getting Tech Game Together

Turns out the casino floor is still antiquated when it comes to technology. The reason why may surprise you.

Thursday, June 28, 2012
Glenn Haussman
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If you think hotel technology is complicated enough, try adding a casino. Sure, the property will probably make gobs of money, but casino resort tech is both really advanced and potentially the most archaic. It’s a strange dichotomy that tech execs in this field deal with on a daily basis.

And boy oh boy does that lead to frustration and exasperation. At this year’s HITEC, topnotch casino IT pros provided some keen insight to what these gaming IT execs have to deal with. That’s because when your property is dealing with millions and millions of dollars in cash and credit, there better be a way to track that cash.

“If you think hotel systems are old and not updated you should see the Casino Management Systems (CMS),” said Scot Campbell, VP/CIO with Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns seven casinos and resorts in place like Biloxi, MS and Bossier, LA. “We don’t have technology on the casino side, we have archeology.”

Huh, that is exactly the opposite expectation most people would have. After all, casinos should have all sorts of sparkling new technology, but they don’t because the companies that provided it are not technology companies and never wanted to be technology companies.

Campbell said the problem lies with slot machine manufacturers who have traditionally been manufacturers of boxes and not technologists. Eventually the casino business became more sophisticated and casino executives needed more financial reporting tools to understand the cash going through the machines better and to keep tabs on the best players. So they asked slot manufacturers to create Casino Management Systems.

But like the old cliché says it was like putting a round peg in a square hole; not too effective.

John Bollen ,VP Technology with MGM Resorts said the complications continue: “As an industry we asked for this. You pick the system but it is the same problem. For years they were box manufacturers based on levers and pulls. Then we asked them write interfaces and integrate to other companies. This is a lot of complexity for a hardware manufacturer forced to be a software manufacturer,” he said.

“It’s like having multiple restaurants all running different PMS systems and they all have to be friendly with each other,” said Allison Morris, Senior IT Manager with Caesars Entertainment.

“[Slot manufacturers] are switching to software management products and some are having a hard time making the transition,” said Kris Singleton, CIO of Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Fortunately that is starting to change said Bollen, who noted that slot manufacturers are getting deep into technology and staffing up and competing with employees with industries like video game creators.

One major growth areas in recent years on casino floors is the introduction of Electronic Table Games. They’re growing in popularity in unrestricted gaming markets such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City. However, they first started appearing in jurisdictions that do not allow table games. By going electronic many jurisdictions allow them to fall under slot machine rules rather than table game rules.

“They are a piece in the puzzle,” said Campbell. “We deploy PokerTek in Mississippi and Indiana and now it’s a source for revenue. People like to interact with technology and you can see that [this trend is] happening and beginning to be something more interesting.”

“Customers are getting more and more into social gaming,” said Singleton regarding the general trend on people playing more games than ever before.

Games like Words with Friends or Farmville, for example are getting people more interested in not just playing games but also interacting with technology. And it’s paving the way for this new breed of casino games. Singleton said customers are enjoying them and not considering them the same way before they play as table games.
Credit
Glenn Haussman    Glenn Haussman
Editor in Chief
Hotel Interactive, Inc.

Bio: Glenn Haussman is Hotel Interactive's Editor In Chief, where he manages all editorial content for the hotel industry’s leading online information resource. Here he creates unique and in-depth content that stimulates and educates the publication’s ...
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