Technology has become increasingly important to all gaming enterprises, but from your perspective as head of IT for a locals casino operator, is there more of less of a need for technology innovation from your end?
Technology innovation is
nothing new to Station Casinos, and it will continue to be a critical part of
the company’s strategy as we look for other long-term competitive advantages in
the coming years. One of our best examples was when we developed and rolled out
the Boarding Pass Player Rewards system back in 1999. Our success on the
technology front begins with our executive management team which provides the
direction, sets priorities and then provides the support and commitment to
allow us to bring innovative initiatives to the guest and to our team members.
Our management team understands that technology is a critical part of the
Station Casinos has been very active with beta testing, becoming almost a proving ground for new games and innovations on the casino floor. Is there a key factor as to why Station properties are valuable in this regard?
executive management believes in and supports the investment in technology to
help drive business initiatives. They have shown their willingness to assume
risk on new and innovative concepts in order to achieve sustainable competitive
advantage. Good working relationships with our key vendors and suppliers and a
centralized approach has ensured a common direction and enabled our speed to
market and ability to be a beta site for several projects. Being a
multi-property environment allows us to be a good candidate for a beta test
site. There are, of course, other advantages of being “early adopters” to new
technology such as financial advantages and incentives.
Let's talk about some of the fresh technology approaches you and your company are taking. You have some new developments with sports betting, correct?
undertook a very challenging project a few years ago, developing our own race
and sports system based on Microsoft.Net technology. Having our own system
would allow us to better market to our guests, while, at the same time, provide
an infrastructure for future betting opportunities - kiosk betting, remote sports betting from
home PCs and phone via secure intranet. It would also give us the ability to
add new features and functions to the system to help drive additional revenue.
We are currently in field trial and hope to fully deploy this summer.
You've also undertaken adding additional CRM functionality with kiosks...
are currently looking into improving our marketing techniques and providing
more efficient and effective ways to understand our guests’ preferences as well
as provide real-time value based on their profiles. Several other companies
have undertaken these initiatives, many with mixed results. We built an
advisory team of key senior management from every area of our operation. We are
moving forward with a phased implementation approach which will provide
deliverables and benefits at each stage of development. In addition, we are
increasing our ability to communicate with our guests via kiosk and Internet
and provide them the opportunity to receive products and services without
having to stand in long lines at a food outlet or promotion centers.
Server-based gaming is the new technology buzz word in the gaming industry. Newer Station properties like Red Rock were built with server-based in mind, but what are you doing to prepare the rest of the company's properties for this imminent change?
We are working closely with
our key slot vendors to understand the features and benefits of server-based
gaming and what it will provide to the company. Again, being a multi-property
environment with centralized control gives us the advantage being a good early
adopter of the new and exciting technology. We are trying to understand the
status of server-based gaming development, product deliver timelines and the
changes needed to our existing technical environment - networking, server
hardware, redundancy and security. At the same time, a critical part will be
the integration into our key systems such as player tracking, table games and
our casino system. There will be a lot of technical meetings and time spent in
our quality assurance lab in the initial stages of this project.
There are advancements off the casino floor as well. Explain what you're doing with front desk operations and hotel reservation systems.
to our current growth and future planned expansions, we have recently
implemented a central call center for our hotel reservations. There are plans
to enhance the benefits of the call center for better guest services and
ability to do more cross selling and promotions throughout our entire enterprise.
This will continue to be a “work in progress” over the next few years.
How important is it for you to stay ahead of the technology curve?
serve on the Microsoft Hospitality Advisory Board as well as the advisory
council for (several trade magazines). This gives me exposure and insight into
what’s new and on the horizon for products and services which can be applicable
to our industry. The challenge is to understand the benefits which can be
realized from new technology, and the costs to implement. Which new technology
provides real value is what everyone should be asking. I recently had the
opportunity to visit Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Wash. and saw its new development labs. There are
several products which will be made available in the next few years which will
definitely have an impact on our industry.
What are the key mistakes casino operators make when it comes to new technology?
There are several
opportunities for mistakes when selecting and implementing new technology. A
company should ask some key initial questions, such as: What are the benefits
to the company? How will it fit into both your technical environment and
company culture? And lastly, how do I select the right vendor? We also require
all vendors to run their products through our quality assurance lab to help
minimize risk before going into live production.
What are some of the potential technologies coming down the pipeline that have you excited? And what areas of the resort-casino are in need of better technologies today?
I see several technologies
available today or within the next five years which I feel will have a dramatic
impact in the gaming and hospitality industries. The first is server-based
gaming. The ability to download games and communicate to and from the guest at the
slot machine has very strong benefits. eWallet, or the ability to go entirely
cashless across the gaming floor, as well as in retail outlets and restaurants,
has strong possibilities and applications.
Wireless communications will improve for remote betting, reservations
and guest information channels. The fact that our industry spans across gaming,
hospitality, entertainment, retail and food and beverage leaves the door open
for all the technology available to these specific industries. The key to success
will be what we decide to implement to enhance the guest experience, and our
guests will be the final judge of which technology is successful.
Marshall Andrew is vice president of IT and chief information officer for Station
Casinos. In his positions with the Las Vegas-based locals casino operator, he
has been on the forefront of many new technology and innovation initiatives for
the company. Andrew has a degree in engineering from Purdue University and started his professional career as a cost engineer with Crown
Zellerbach, a Fortune 500 paper company. He was responsible for computerizing
the cost estimating process through manufacturing there. “So you might say this
was my introduction to computers as a systems analyst and project manager,” he
said. Andrew’s career took him into a variety of industries and gave him the
exposure to many facets of both business and technology. Some of his career
stops include: manufacturing and retail at Esprit de Corp in Germany; software development with INGRES, a relational database company; and
hospitality with Hotel Information Systems. As vice president of engineering at
Hotel Information Systems, one of his responsibilities was to link to Las Vegas and the gaming/hospitality industries. Eventually, he found his way to
Station Casinos in 1994, about one week after the opening of Boulder Station.
“The growth of the company since then and its ability to make contributions
through development and implementation of technology has been a most rewarding
experience,” he said. Andrew recently spoke with Casino Journal Editor Andy Holtmann about some of the unique things he’s doing with Station
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In this issue of Casino Journal, Casino Marketing in the new normal, incentive programs help determine who plays and stays at post-COVID Casinos, a near-term challenge with long-term impacts, and much more!