Digital signs are fast becoming the sign of these times as casino managers seek to differentiate their property from competitors and call customers’ attention to other games and amenities on premises – or even other casinos they own.
Technologically advanced signage solutions now put casino marketing messages at the personal level. Some systems even offer the ability to target promotions to individual customers based on their known preferences (from past collected player card data) and encourage customer interaction (making restaurant reservations for later in the day).
And they are increasingly turning up on slot machine floors not only at the large casino hotel/resorts, but also at smaller venues and on Native American properties.
Among the innovative digital signage solutions is Bally Technologies’ CoolSign digital signage product, on which all sorts of information can be directed at players. These include slot promotions and promotions for other on-site amenities such as restaurants, shows, special events and the spa. At the periphery of the slots floor, CoolSigns also can be used to direct customers to their favorite games, getting them playing sooner by eliminating the walking-around time.
What separates CoolSign from other digital signage products is that it was developed for the gaming industry and thus can legally display gaming data, such as progressive values, in many jurisdictions, said Todd Sims, Bally vice president of systems operations. This includes providing players with the current size of progressive slots jackpots on the floor and working with player tracking systems to enhance the effectiveness of player bonusing.
Another advantage is that CoolSign can be integrated not only with any Bally System a casino might use but also most competitors’ systems.
Promotional and other content played on the CoolSign multimedia solution can be easily created in a casino’s in-house computer, Sims noted. This content can include text, photos, videos and animations. And each item can be played over the entire system (including off-gaming-floor venues) or targeted to specific areas of the casino, even to only the back-of-the-house area for employee viewing only.
Security protocols prevent unauthorized personnel from tampering with what goes out over the CoolSign network. But when required, content can be easily changed, he added.
“One thing I’ve noticed is that wayfinder systems used to direct players to specific slots games are often out of date,” Sims said. “This is due to slots managers constantly adding, subtracting and relocating games to keep the floor fresh and maximize player interest. With CoolSign one can easily revamp the wayfinder program to account for all changes as soon as they are made.”
The CastNET digital signage product from the Alpha Video & Digital Display Group, headquartered in Edina, Minn., is a fully Web-enabled solution, thus enabling casinos to add, update and manage displayed information through a Web browser such as Internet Explorer. Data also can be created and managed through any networked computer rather than a specific workstation.
Paul Medlin, the droup’s business development director, stresses the product’s ease of use. CastNET’s “fill out the form” Web page approach to information creation enables even nontechnical employees to update information, thus holding down operating costs. Users can further schedule video segments and events, and turn plasma screens on or off through the same easy-to-use Web interface, he noted.
While filling out a Web form, users can apply one of the many standard templates provided by CastNET, or select a custom template specially created for their needs. CastNET then automatically formats the information (using the built-in rules of the selected template) into an attractive presentation in vibrant colors with audio that can be sent to a single or group of screens.
All CastNET users are tracked and managed by the CastNET database through usernames and passwords. When the CastNET administrator creates the user’s account, he chooses what the user is allowed to do, and blocks all other functions. The user’s menu only displays choices the user is authorized to do, Medlin noted.
The JackpotJunction platform marketed by Las Vegas-based Gaming Support Inc. incorporates CastNET technology in providing such digital sign features as relaying progressive jackpot totals and serving as a slot or table game locator. But it also offers a way to present live video of broadcast sporting events to players at individual slot machines.
This is beneficial, said Dan Hanshaw, account executive/sales at Gaming Support, as casinos often experience a one-third drop in play during a major sporting event. Enabling them to glance at the game keeps them playing. When the big football or basketball game is being shown on the digital sign network, regular promotions are reduced to a text crawl at the bottom of the screen. But players have the option to reduce the video feed to a box in the corner of the screen, he noted.
JackpotJunction is offered in three versions: JackpotJunction Lite, a standalone media controller with two software components (Video Junction and Jackpot Data Exchange) that enables promotions at the slot bank level; JackpotJunction Pro is a venue-wide digital marketing system; and JackpotJunction XL is a multivenue broadcast management.
Panasonic offers an endless number of digital signage applications in casinos, both aesthetic and practical. Indoor digital signage includes LCDs on casino slot tops, plasmas at end-caps or even inside elevators, and video walls, projectors or plasmas for sports book areas and other large viewing areas. Panasonic plasmas also can be used as interactive touch screen kiosks for restaurants and way-finding.
Panasonic’s NMstage content management software offers programmable networked content management of all displays, allowing casino staff to manage their customized system quickly and easily from a central server over multiple media players.
“Digital signage makes the casino experience better for the customers, who will most likely share that positive experience with acquaintances. Word of mouth is a powerful influencer,” said Keith Hanak, systems integration group manager at Panasonic Systems Solution Co., based in Secaucus, N.J.
“Casino operators can increase overall revenue by drawing in more patrons to eat at their restaurants, buy tickets to their shows, and take advantage of their promotions. As such technology directly interfaces with patrons, it can provide casino owners with invaluable metrics in gauging the impact-to-cost ratio of their marketing and promotional dollars,” Hanak added.
Panasonic recently used these products to liven up the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Las Vegas by creating an environment of “fame and excitement,” he said.
An upgraded version of the InfoCaster digital signage solution has been introduced by Harris Broadcast Communications, based in Mason, Ohio. Version 4.0 still interfaces with Bally and Paltronics slot gaming systems to provide useful information and promotional messages to players. And it comes with a complete suite of systems for create, schedule, distribute, play and report live video and graphics on HDTV-quality screens throughout the gaming floor.
But Version 4.0 has an improved data stream system that provides faster updates of jackpot totals for progressive slot games and presents them in a more exciting manner. Grabbing rapidly changing data from each battery of linked slot machines, progressive jackpots increase in real time on odometer-type graphics with the numbers advancing at the speed of current play on multiple machines. Even when jackpot totals aren’t advancing, the screens still provide action that attracts attention and entices play.
When a jackpot is hit, InfoCaster relays the news on digital signs throughout the gaming area the size of the win and location of the winner’s machine. This information also can be relayed to other digital signs throughout the casino property.
Another improvement is the addition of the Punctuate system that enables casinos to better target promotions and advertisements not only throughout the property, but also to specific sister properties of the owner.
“A Las Vegas casino, for instance, can advertise on InfoCaster screens not only the shows and restaurants on premises, but also those at sister properties elsewhere in Vegas,” said Paul Schwantes, business development manager at Harris. “Or slots players can be promoted to visit sister casinos in Atlantic City or other locations throughout the world.
“And Punctuate enables casinos to sell advertising time for outside businesses and schedule their run throughout the day. For instance, a local steakhouse can buy promotional ads and have them run in the hours before lunch and dinner,” he added.
Users of InfoCaster can acquire or create digital content (from text to full video) and manage it throughout the entire delivery chain from a central site or multiple remote locations along the digital signage network.
Making digital signage possible on the slot floor are hardware components such as the MicroTouch DST System marketed by 3M Touch Systems, Methuen, Mass.
By adding a critical interactive touch feature to the screens, digital signs can not only help customers get information they want but also navigate to where they want to go, said David Henry, marketing retail business manager at 3M. On the gaming floor, interactive wayfinder screens can direct customers to their favorite slot machines and table games, and provide information about other on-premises amenities. With a few deft finger thrusts, slots players can schedule golf tee-off times or order a favorite cocktail while seated before their game, Henry said.
To aid these informational searches by players, 3M recently added a finger-control screen content scrolling ability such as that found on iPhones.
MicroTouch wayfinder screens offered in sizes from 32- to 46-inches wide, with no moving parts, thus making them almost maintenance free. But when maintenance may be needed, 3M in April introduced Command Strips for quickly replacing damaged touch sensors on LCD displays. With this product, after old touch sensors are removed by pulling at the exposed tabs, then replaced with a new sensor using Command’s peel-and-stick strips. Downtime is reduced to minutes, he said.
Another company offering a wayfinder signage solution is Casino Data Imaging.
The company recently released its new interactive casino games, amenities and retail locator system, iGuide, for North American sales.
“As a leader in data visualization technology to the casino ind ustry, over the last year we had the benefit of working with many of our CasinoCAD clients in reviewing iGuide’s development and product path,” said Rajdeep Srivastav, CDI chief technology officer. “We are excited about the industry’s reaction and the beginning of a great product rollout across the country.”
The principal concept for iGuide was to use dynamic mapping complementing all major categories of interest specific to each venue. Instead of getting confused or disoriented, customers will have a rich experience with many reasons to use iGuide again and again, the company said. Frequent updates, ongoing development, easy deployment, and low cost of entry will pave the way for great sales and brand recognition. In addition to easily guiding patrons throughout a property, the operator will be able to panel customers to specific areas and products within the venue.
Casino industry consultant Charlie Lombardo noted that way finder technology is challenging as a casino has only have a few seconds to capture the customer’s attention when the patron approaches the kiosk. “What impresses me with iGuide is a simple, easy to understand and fun presentation for the patron,” Lombardo noted.
Customized digital signs that casinos can use as part of a wall-to-wall marketing effort can be sourced from SignAd USA, Ocean, N.J.
“Casinos are increasingly stressing the importance of not only promoting play on their slot machines, but also getting customers to play longer and return in the near future,” said Ron Maletich, president and owner of SignAd. “For instance, we recently designed and installed a battery of 40-inch LCD screens for the Wheeling Island Casino, Wheeling, W.V., that not only promote game content and player rewards, but also market upcoming events, such as a band or comedian who will be performing within the next few weeks. In addition to text, these signs also can broadcast video clips of a performer’s act, giving customers an enticing foretaste of what is coming.”
SignAd also offers 16-inch LCD game toppers that advertising in moving text and animation (and in morphing colors) slot games, denominations, and jackpots, which also can alert players of upcoming tournaments and other special events.