Driven by an increasingly younger guest demographic and the need for additional efficiencies in a post-COVID environment, advances in technology continue to effect change on the casino hotel segment.
From mobile check-in and self-service kiosks to automated labor solutions and digital systems within the guestroom, there are a number of platforms that continue to evolve, according to a recent panel discussion at BITAC Casino Live 2021. The panel— which was moderated by Larry Birnbaum, principal, XENIOS Group—was entitled “Going All In: Technology Takes On Increasingly Important Role For Casino Hotels.”
Given the depth of the ongoing labor crisis, the panelists were asked about how technology can help mitigate the need for additional personnel.
Seth Schorr, CEO, Fifth Street Gaming, assessed the situation.
“I don’t know that anybody has the answer as to why the labor shortage is as extreme as it is today. I think there are certain positions, specifically in the kitchen, that should be automated. There are some jobs out there that really aren’t great jobs and if we can replace some of those jobs with technology, labor robotics, I think that’s the future. It should not be as a way to save on operating expenses, but to reallocate those expenses so we can incorporate that high-tech, high-touch which we’ve all talked about as an industry for a long time,” he said.
Wendy Mertz, vp, IT, non gaming applications, Hard Rock International, also provided a few practical examples.
“We’ve done a few things, we have put in smart bars into some of our casinos so that way we don’t have a person running back and forth with drinks. We have also put in kiosks for our food and beverage ordering. In addition, QR codes at the tables are another example where we’re finding ways to actually get menus online again so you’re not impacting the labor. But it’s not easy, there are many areas to address whether it’s housekeeping or down in the restaurants,” she said.
Allison Morris, owner, All is On Consulting, touted the use of kiosks, specifically when it comes to check in, and believes that guests are generally receptive to it.
“Our industry is moving and changing and you need to be many things to many people. It’s almost an offering to the guest. I’m just allowing it to be there for them if they choose, but there’s still the front desk. We have a brand called Reverb where everything is kiosk, but there’s still a front desk just in case somebody has an issue and goes off to the side. I don’t know if it’s a matter of training them, it’s exposing them to it,” she noted.
Schorr specifically cited The Mirage—where BITAC Casino took place—as a prime example of how mobile check-in can work effectively.
“When I saw the way that this hotel is presenting mobile check-in I think it’s a perfect example. They have nice high tops set up, people are walking in they may have their luggage, they make it easy for the guests. Of course, they don’t need those tables it’s literally mobile check-in, it’s on your phone, but make it an inviting experience. Think about what they [guests] want to do, what they [guests] have in their hands…I’m certain people are taking advantage of it, especially when they get to the check-in on a Friday night and they see 500 people on line. They’re going to say ‘how hard could that technology really be? I’m going to give it a try,’” he said.
Meanwhile, Juan Zamora, IT product manager, Wynn Las Vegas, underscored the impact of technology intelligence within the guestroom. He pointed out that the property has incorporated technology systems like Amazon’s Alexa and DigiValet, which provides a tablet so the guest can manage the entire room.
“I think that what we did is we listened to our guests and we needed to create that environment for this new breed of people that are staying at our property. However, that need for the personal touch still exists very much and we haven’t moved away from that. That will be the core value of the company, but we have I think intelligently incorporated enough technology that enhances that personal touch. At this point we can say that we have succeeded based on the response we’ve been getting from our guests,” he said.
Finally, a pair of panelists shared their perspective on trying out new technology product and some of the more effective strategies for suppliers to incorporate.
“In general, I find nobody wants to be first. When I have a new product I try to find the most credible partner that I can work with and give them that technology, clearly for free. By free it’s just not only not charging them, but generally their time and resources are their greatest asset. So find a partner with which I’m able to deploy my technology or product into their organization in as painless a way as possible for them and then leverage the heck out of it,” said Schorr.
“We would go down the path of piloting first and there’s got to be skin in the game for the person that’s new coming in. We would be probably a little bit demanding, asking them to be on property and asking them to provide the resources. We’ll do it with them, but you know it’s about locking arms in a partnership so when it fails, or succeeds for that matter, you know we’re both there in it together,” said Mertz.