Modern player tracking programs not only collect player data to promote more visits but also to produce more play and provide better rewards inside casinos

Players can order drinks on demand through a feature on Bally Technologies' iView Display Manager.

Promoting customer loyalty has always been a major focus for casino operators. The more times a customer returns to a casino’s slot floor, the more revenue and profits can result.

In the distant past, casino management used eyes on the floor to identify their best players and to reward and otherwise cater to their wants and needs to make them feel important and thus open to future visits. But more recently, computer technology has been put to use to identify valued customers. Working through player card systems that are integral parts of casino management software packages, casinos were able to identify the quieter customers whose activities on the floor made them valued patrons. And to make them feel welcome (and thus drive additional revenue) these systems were put to use keeping minute kits of information on these players from the size of the average bets to their favorite cocktail.

But player tracking systems are evolving. Current systems, using ever more computer memory and transfer data on broadband links, are now paying attention to more than the high rollers. Records on medium to light players are being stored and searched for clues as to how these guests can be persuaded to become better and more frequent customers.

And while in the past the tracked data was used to promote more frequent visits, new systems have gone one step further in communicating directly with players as they play their favorite slots. This enables casinos to offer a more customized gaming experience and instantly reward players based on their current play, while promoting other amenities on their properties.

Examples of IGT’s Service Window screens, displaying just some of the options available with the IGT’s server-based products.

Player tracking systems are currently offered to fill the needs of different size casinos and even compact casinos aboard cruise ships.

While by no means an exhaustive list, here are some insights and trends from several developers of innovative player tracking systems.

Smaller casinos that need a full player tracking and slot accounting system are offered SlotMaster Smart module of the SlotMaster III system from Iverson Gaming Systems, Bala Cynwyd, Pa. This network-less system uses smart card technology to record and store player information in the form of accumulated points. Easily interfaced with all makes of slot machines, this system enables casinos to set up a player database to configure user levels, awards and player ratings. It further facilitates points redemption, view player activity reports, and enable programming of messages for display on the machines’ LCD screens.

“Our latest player tracking system measures the value of all customers,” said Millard Reedes, vice president of new product development at Iverson. “Customers are rated as good, medium and grind, and collect information on all. Data collected on the two lowest customer categories can be used to not only make sure that players who deserve a meal for their amount of play receive it, but also target promotions aimed at increasing their value to the casino. And a program in the system evaluates each promotion to tell a casino if it worked.”

Iverson last year upgraded SlotMaster III with the SlotMaster Graphics (SMG), which increases slot machine capabilities to deliver rich media content and other transaction capabilities that enables players to enjoy both the game and other amenities. Over SMG’s flexible touch-screen display, casinos can provide streaming video of sporting events on which they may also have placed bets through the sports book, Reedes noted. The video feature also can be used to promote membership in the casino’s players club and sign up at the machine by pressing the “request host” button, promote other casino amenities such as restaurants and shows, provide a countdown to closing so players can complete their play, and offer point redemption at the slot.

An additional advantage offered by SMG is the ability to communicate with players in multiple languages. Iverson currently offers casinos, especially those on cruise ships, the ability to have their screens’ content in six different languages, of which guests can choose the one they speak. Casinos can choose these from a list of 10 languages Iverson offers, including Korean, whose cuneiforms presented software designers with a real challenge, Reedes said.

Bally's iView Display Manager screen is shown on the left side of the gaming machine's screen.

Las Vegas-based Bally Technologies offers player tracking as part of its Bally Business Intelligence system, an advanced application that allows casinos to analyze and visualize the extensive data gathered throughout their business enterprise. Through the SDS function, the system measures gaming floor performance, player and game interaction, player behavior and trending, and player loyalty, which includes rating the player’s value to the casino. The system also provides a complete accounting of all activity on individual slot machines.

“Bally is moving its player tracking to the next level with an eye on keeping all players feeling happy and valued,” said Tom Doyle, vice president of product management. “By keeping track of a customer’s level of play, casinos can tailor rewards to the customer’s value, with the bigger players getting bigger rewards. Our Flex Rewards program also can target a player who has had a bad day an extra bonus to cheer him up. The size of this consolation reward is based on the coin-in the player made during his losing stretch.”

Bally is adding extra features that require a player card to participate, which encourages more players to seek cards and thus be subject to player tracking and the useful information it provides for marketing efforts and the makeup of the slot floor.

Using the Power Winners program, casinos can create chain reaction jackpots with the actual winner getting a big prize while other carded players will simultaneously have $20 added to their card’s bankroll. Platinum and Gold card holders can get higher chain reaction bonuses in such events.

With the addition of the iView Display Manager screen, casinos can not only direct streaming video promotions at players but also provide additional services. One such feature includes the ability to access a web page on which they can order a beverage or cocktail delivered to their slot machine position, Doyle said.

Casinos also can stage hourly tournaments, during which players turn to a video touch screen to play the tournament game for three minutes, which the high points winner getting a prize. At the Barona Resort & Casino in Lakeside, Calif., Bally has set up Virtual Racing, which enables slots players to bet on a virtual horserace and win prizes if their steed wins. As staged on weekends at the Barona, Virtual Racing is a floor-wide event viewed on the iView game screen that is even called by a professional race announcer.

Some additional features for carded players include the ability to reserve their machine while they go outside to smoke a cigarette. Press a button and the machine cannot be used for the next 15 minutes. When the smoker returns, he picks up where he left off on the machine.

IGT’s sbX system allows casinos to easily manage the content they provide to their carded customers.

Player tracking remains an integral feature of the IGT Advantage Casino System management solution offered by Reno-based IGT. But according to Javier Saenz, vice president of network systems, IGT is taking the entire process into the new world of G2S server-based gaming.

“With all machines linked by a high-speed Ethernet to a central server, more detailed player information can be collected,” Saenz promised. “While the best players are not hard to identify, with the extra bandwidth to transfer data casinos can better identify the middle-ranked players, and those in the category that have the potential with a little promotion to be moved up in value.”

Some of this promotion can be made while the player-carded customer is playing. With the Personal Progressive program, customers can be informed when they are nearing a bonus and what they can do to earn it.

Bonuses also can be personalized for groups, Saenz noted. If for instance a 25th annual high school reunion is staged at a casino, management can create a bonus that can be won only by a member of the group, with the winner getting $1,000 and all others getting $5 in free play when the win occurs.

The latest evolution in the IGT Advantage Casino System is the sb NexGen II multimedia module, which Saenz said enables casinos to interact with their players to promote their property’s other amenities while strengthening the player club. This system adds to slot machines a touch screen LCD player that uses colorful animations, stereo sound and tracking displays to brand the casino and promote shows, dining and other on-premises features. The system also enhanced the player club by enabling carded players to easily access their point and comp balances, and to redeem promotional coupons. Coupled with Advantage Bonusing, sb NexGen II also improves delivery of exciting bonus games.

System 7000 Prime marketed from Aristocrat Technologies Inc., Las Vegas, offers an extensive program for tracking player activities and keeping records of them for marketing and other purposes.

Beginning with the easy player card registration system, this program maintains a photo of each player club member on file for security purposes. As the player hits the slot floor an inserts his card in his favorite machines, the program maintains a complete history of each player transaction, including coins per play, playing strategy, wins, losses, turnovers and accrued points. It assigned analysis codes to pinpoint player characteristics including individual likes and interests. And the system sorts these data to grade customers according to their value to the casino. These ratings can be upgraded or downgraded as player activity alters over time.

For marketing campaigns, System 7000 Prime groups player club members by specific characteristics so promotions can be specifically tailored to players in these groups. Among datum considered in the groupings are frequency of visitation, average bet, win/loss record and turnover. Based on these data, players can be assigned Gold, Silver and Bronze value groupings. The system’s Promotions module comes with built-in promotions designed to create player loyalty, though casinos can alter them to note special prize pools and other incentives for return visits. The system also includes a program to analyze promotions to determine their success, and perhaps fine tune some so they’ll work better in the future.

Just as player cards have almost done away with TITO (ticket-in/ticket-out) systems, Bally sees the twilight of the cards coming in the near future – at least for high-end players. According to Bally’s Doyle, biometric facial recognition systems can be added to slot machines that will recognize the individual player, allowing him to play off his bankroll stored in the casino’s server.

Atronic’s Systems Division also offers a robust complete systems solution designed to offer efficiency, flexibility, entertainment, and power, so operators can spend more time on strategic initiatives and less on downtime and operating costs.

Atronic states its casino floor network, built with proven hardware based on recognized industry standards, integrates seamlessly with Atronic’s software modules, such as the Star|Marketing player tracking module; the Star|Jackpots jackpot management solution; the Star|Cage vault, front cage; credit management tool; and Star|Tables advanced table management system.

Konami Gaming Inc., a subsidiary of Konami Corp., describes its Konami Casino Management System (KCMS) as an integrated, feature-rich casino management system that provides accurate, real-time, game-level accounting and player tracking information to casino operators, while enhancing the casino player’s experience through the True-Time player tracking touch-screen LCD.

Running 24/7 without a break, the Konami Casino Management System (KCMS) on the SGI and Oracle platforms is tracking carded and uncarded game play and constantly updating every gamer’s data trail, according to a news release about the company’s use of SGI. While Konami Gaming isn’t the only company making player tracking software, the company states it is the only company that can provide personalized real-time responses during every game. That capability is powered by the SGI Altix server and SGI InfiniteStorage TP9300 and TP9500 systems.

The combined KCMS, SGI and Oracle technology is so fast that casinos report players often see their points updated before the end of a spin, a serious achievement in the casino environment where players are almost always impatient. And, since most casinos don’t have a large IT staff, Konami also differentiates itself by linking the customer’s Altix systems by T-1 line to its Las Vegas headquarters, where administrators remotely maintain the server and the database.

Konami’s KCMS also is integrated with Waltham, Mass.-based PlayAway casino visit acquisition system with the Konami Casino Management System.