Thinking Inside the Box
by Steven Marlin
Thinking Inside the Box
Today’s kiosk applications allow for everything from ticket and loose change redemption to full-blown marketing and promotional endeavors
Back before ticket-in/ticket-out (TITO) systems appeared on the scene, casinos provided bill breaking and coin redemption kiosks. When TITO came along, most of those machines were replaced. But something interesting happened.
Even though customers no longer use coins to play games, they still carry coins on their person, sometimes a lot of them. For casinos, it makes a lot of sense to give them a way to redeem their loose change.
Kiosk manufacturer Cummins Allison certainly agrees, and has brought out a line of coin redemption kiosks for the casino market. If supermarkets and banks provide coin redemption, the thinking goes, then casinos should, too.
“Today, we sell self-service coin redemption machines to banks and retailers, so we thought, ‘Why not re-invest into the casino space with this technology?’” said Curtis Hallowell, vice president of product management.
Cummins had sold self- service coin and token redemption to casinos back in the early-90s, but as coins and tokens were replaced by TITO, the need for this equipment diminished as well.
“A consumer’s need and desire to redeem loose coins hasn’t changed, but the avenue to redeem coins has,” Hallowell said.
Because coins are considered “free money,” consumers typically spend this cash on impulse or nonstaple goods or services. In casinos, converted coins get pumped right back into gaming machines. Coin redemption machines also attract new customers, much like they attract people to supermarkets. And, of course, casinos can charge a fee for such transactions, or alternatively waive the fee for loyalty customers.
“We find the average transaction to be around $75, and with a busy location processing between 50 and 70 transactions per day, this adds up quickly,” Hallowell said.
Coin redemption is but one of a number of innovative uses for kiosks that casinos employ. While ticket redemption was the primary function of transactional kiosks at their inception around 2000, they have grown into multifunction platforms. Some of these functions can be selected a-la-carte depending on a casino’s requirements, including ATM/cash access, bill breaking, loyalty points lookup and jackpot payout.
Genesis Gaming’s BRAVO system for poker and gaming room tracking also utilizes kiosks. The system uses the player’s card to track time and roll over comp time into player account points.
Players use self-serve kiosks located outside the poker or pit area to place themselves on the wait list for any of the games offered in the room. Once they’re seated, the dealer swipes them into the system, allowing podium staff to continually monitor a master layout of the room with tables and seats, said Genesis Gaming President Randy Knust.
A wealth of functions
Transactional kiosks can also provide check cashing, money transfers, employee bank balancing transactions, advertising opportunities, loyalty points redemption and purchasing of show tickets. Eventually, as tickets are replaced with electronic funds transfers, these same transactional kiosks should be able to support this technology as well.
Casino management must decide which of these features are most important and actually add value. Similar to the multifunctional ATMs in the financial market space, casinos need to determine where to draw the line on functionality. Too many functions interfere with a patron’s ability to perform basic redemption or bill breaking, while not enough may fail to provide the user experience the casino hopes to offer.
“There is a balance that must be considered when making your decision,” Hallowell said.
Equally important are the functions offered to the casino and its employees. Cummins, for example, offers a Web-based browser that provides visibility of the status of each kiosk on the floor, as well as reporting and balancing capabilities. This enables preventative kiosk management and optimizes uptime of the entire kiosk footprint. Maximizing uptime reduces the interaction time needed by employees and keeps patrons happy.
Multifunctional kiosks can raise customer awareness of promotions by having LCD flat panel screens on top or touch screens to promote events or advertisements, as with Western Money Systems’ Xchange line. The company’s CX2 kiosk provides ticket redemption and bill breaking on one side, and ATM functionality on the other side.
“Our customers have found that when casino patrons go to redeem a ticket, it might mean they’ve run out of money and want to go to an ATM, so we put both functions in the same kiosk,” said Mark Sutherlin, director of Xchange product sales at Western Money Systems.
Several types of monitoring software are available. Xchange Manager lite quickly assesses the status of all kiosks on the casino floor, and can create detail or summary reports for printing or exporting to a spreadsheet. The full version of Xchange Manager handles all the duties of the lite version, with added marketing capability such as full motion video for in-house advertising, points-to-cash, points-to-voucher and comps-to-voucher. Xchange Explorer has the latest improvements in monitoring capabilities, including the ability for a single operator to monitor kiosks located across different properties from one central computer.
Casinos are also using kiosks to host promotions that increase revenue by automating incentives for player rewards based on casino spending and visits, ensuring that players are rewarded for their loyalty. DataCom Software’s Kiosk Management System provides a platform for player promotions that award bonus points based on the amount of wagering, which can be redeemed for rooms, meals, etc.
“The goal is to increase slot revenue and player convenience while building loyalty with exciting and interactive promotion,” said DataCom CEO Tim Pudwill.
Among its features are: user-intuitive interface with state-of-the-art graphics; ability to work with player club systems; security controls with bar-coded verification; and a management system for post-analysis reporting.
The Kiosk Management System comes equipped with a selection of promotions designed to maximize player spending and increase operational efficiency. Examples include daily and weekly promotions for which players qualify by earning a certain amount of points, according to preset criteria. For example, players may receive one entry for every 100 points earned on the players club card throughout the designated qualifying dates. On the day of the promotion, the qualifier will visit the kiosk and print one ticket that will let them know how many entries they have in the promotion. The kiosk will then enter their name into the database with the number of entries earned.
A Win Wheel rewards players with up to 10 times their bonus points, and a Slots Gone Wild promotion automates the slot tournament experience from initiation to payout. Slots Gone Wild allows players to compete using any machine on the gaming floor, whereas previously they would have had to wait their turn for a specially-designated tournament machine. Player’s club members simply register at the kiosk, and KMS compiles real-time scores while they compete and allows them to continue to play throughout the tournament without interruption. Scores are automatically tallied and payout is quick and hassle free.
Casinos can stage tournaments across multiple properties, enabling players throughout a casino chain to compete against each other, thereby intensifying the action. There is also a football challenge promotion that lets players log on to the system each week to pick their favorite pro or college teams. The system keeps track of all statistics throughout the season, eliminating the need for staff to manually enter new information. KMS also keeps a running total of all entrants weekly, so players can see their ranking anytime throughout the season.
The system automates the redemption of vouchers for bus packages, birthday packages, and new player packages, freeing up staff that formerly had to process them manually. During the month of a new player’s enrollment into the players club, he or she receives complete new player package inclusive of cash, meal, drink, concert tickets and gift shop vouchers from the kiosks. Players can redeem new player packages 24 hours a day.