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Betting On Technology

Casino Resort Executives Detail Digital Gaming Strategies During BITAC® Panel

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Dennis Nessler
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The second annual BITAC® Casino Resort event kicked off earlier this week with a technology-focused panel, which addressed a handful of key gaming issues including the recent changes to sports betting laws as well as the continued evolution of mobile technology and casino loyalty programs.

The recently concluded event—which took place at La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs, CA—featured the discussion entitled “Enhancing The Casino Experience Through Technology.”

The panelists began by addressing the potential impact of legalized sports betting since the Supreme Court overturned the existing law effectively allowing each state to govern its own laws going forward. Seth Young, executive director of online gaming, Foxwoods Resort Casino, sees a lot of upside but cautioned that while the sports betting market has been estimated at roughly a $100 billion that number can be misleading.

“The revenue opportunity is significant, but perhaps not as large as you might read in the paper. At this point, the way that sports betting is likely to evolve is with the existing gaming stake holders in each state…and every state is going to be different. So we’re in a time now where the importance is really on lawmaker education, allowing the policy makers and legislators to understand exactly what this means in order to craft good policy to put the best product out there in the market,” said Young.

Darrel Kammeyer, executive director, customer engagement, Wind Creek Hospitality, noted his company also is taking a wait-and-see approach. “Initially some of the tax situations are unfavorable. You have to look at it by each area [jurisdiction] so we’re evaluating it,” he said.

Michael Bonakdar, general manager, North Star Casino Resort, expressed optimism about the potential. “It’s definitely pretty exciting for us…With sports coming online, even at a low percentage, it’s just another way to have fun and create customer engagement. You can [enhance] the customer experience with more things to do. On top of that I’m always looking at the marketing aspects, what else can I advertise and sell? So it’s not just the sports piece for me and for the industry I think it will bring a lot more to the bottom line for us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Young addressed the evolution of mobile, hand-held devices as they relate to online gaming. “I think that there are some really interesting things that you can do with mobile…Gaming has been resistant to the Internet for so long—whether its moral issues or whether it’s technology issues that haven’t caught up with regulations—those have all been solved at this point so there’s really no strong argument against using mobile to enhance the gaming experience today,” he insisted.

Bonakdar acknowledged that his property has developed its own app, but emphasized that execution is key. “I see a lot of properties that are enhancing their digital footprint and that whole experience starts as soon as you walk in. If you can’t book a hotel on an app you got problems because most people are using their mobile devices now so that’s really key, but do it slowly and do it the right way,” he urged.

Kammeyer also touched on how mobile technology can be utilized.
“We’re spending most of our time at Wind Creek on social casino marketing and we’ve been able to prove through our own platform that we can drive bricks and mortar sales and extend the brand experience through technology. By sitting on your iPad or your android and playing games for free you can rack up your points. You get comps, free play, rooms, all the good things we do as casino operators,” he said.

Young, meanwhile, pointed out that Foxwoods is also developing a social casino business of its own which involves free gaming. He also noted the company is working with the state of Connecticut on trying to eventually create a real money online gaming platform.

Young went on to cite some of the hot gaming trends in the market now.
“We’ve been looking at how eSports fits into the casino experience. When you have a huge property it lends itself to being able to run festival style events or what have you. There are also the new skill-based gaming games that have come to the market. The jury is out on whether or not they’re going to work. It’s kind of like putting a video game in a slot machine box. I’m not going to play it and a lot of people aren’t, but the next iteration of gaming surely will be different,” he stated.

Kammeyer, who spent years in the airline industry, emphasized the importance of loyalty programs in casino properties by noting “everybody’ got a Player’s Club.”

He further added, “I really think there’s power in numbers so I see the evolution of groups forming alliances just like the airline industry did and then not cannibalizing your customers, but taking your customers to experiences…Give the power to the people. Give them the ability to redeem their points. I think that’s probably where I see the trend eventually going. Block out your competition, but keep it open and you’ll get more store sales by putting more equity into those points,” he noted.

Young provided some tangible evidence of the gains in online gaming. For example, in 2013 online gaming was .3 percent of total gaming revenue in New Jersey. Last year that number grew to nearly $250 million and 10 percent of total gaming revenue in the state. He added that Atlantic City, specifically, reversed a decade long slide in gaming revenue over the last two years.

Young was asked whether or not online gaming has had a positive effect on the properties themselves and he answered emphatically.

“The answer is yes. Some of the executives from these properties have testified in public hearings, whether it’s in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or other states that are considering legalizing the activity, that they’ve engaged a new type of customer,” he said.

Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
Hotel Interactive®, Inc.
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