In the increasingly commoditized world of slots, finding new ways to deliver value to players can be the difference between making your property stand out from the crowd or being just another indistinguishable stop on the road.
This has been the ultimate promise of networked slot floors; the ability to create unique, one-to-one marketing relationships with players using the full range of the property’s gaming and nongaming offers. The newest ticket printer couponing technologies are looking to be a powerful point of entry for those looking to achieve that goal.
“With over 6,000 slot machines on our property, we’re always looking for ways to differentiate Foxwoods and MGM Grand at Foxwoods from the competition,” said Lou Rosa, vice president of slot operations for Foxwoods, in a statement last fall announcing that his property would be testing TransAct Technologies new Epicentral print system on 300 machines. In February, the casino announced it was quadrupling its order for TransAct promotional-coupon printers and would place the printers on all 1,100 slot machines at the casino inside MGM Grand at Foxwoods.
TransAct Chairman and CEO Bart Shuldman said the company is thrilled by Foxwoods’ move. “We believe the Epicentral print system will be a significant addition to Foxwoods’ marketing program as it will enable the casino to reach out in real-time to its customers with multiple marketing and promotional messages.”
Promotional couponing solutions, which include Epicentral and FutureLogic’s PromoNet, which is now in field trials in several casinos, offer real-time responsiveness to player behavior and game events. They also build on the gains the industry has made on the road to the networked floor, leveraging connectivity and system interoperability via the Gaming Standards Association’s S2S (system to system) and G2S (game to system) protocols. And they bring the industry closer to the goal of using the total property to create meaningful, personalized rewards.
“Clearly, open systems has played a big part in this; and the ability to remotely download to printers within games has also been a factor here,” said Nick Micalizzi, vice president of domestic sales and marketing at FutureLogic.
Epicentral represents a systems upgrade for TransAct’s Epic 950 printers. “We wanted to build on the investments that our customers and allow them, since we’re in such difficult economic times, to be able to upgrade what they had in place and gain new functionality,” said Tracey Chernay, TransAct executive vice president, sales and marketing. “One of the key value propositions is to be able to upgrade not just in Epic 950’s, but in the existing systems that they’ve got in place. This is designed to be highly adaptable to existing casino solutions. The ability to provide new functionality without having to completely rewire your floor is also one of the key planks.”
Epicentral consists of four components; coupon layout generator, server manager, ServerPort and mobile host. The server manager contains a library of promotional coupons produced by the layout generator. It is loaded with the location or IP address of every slot machine on the casino floor, giving it the ability to deliver targeted or blanket promotional coupon messages to occur. Communication to the printer is delivered via the ServerPort, which is mounted inside the slot machine, which contains the game’s IP address, eliminating the need for any new programming if the printer is removed or changed. Coupons can be delivered to the point-of-play via Ethernet or wireless, or via the mobile host, which connects a floor host using a smart device such as an iPad or smartphone to the server manager or the ServerPort.
“We give the host the ability to reward players at the slot machine with a variety of different offers,” said Chernay. “What we showed at G2E was the example of an uncarded player. They could incent that player to go get carded at the player loyalty desk by issuing a coupon on the spot that can be redeemed for free play or something else of value. The host can choose, based on communication with that player at the device, without having to interface with the back of the house or leave that player, and give them a coupon on the spot.”
TAILORED REWARDSPromoNet delivers customized coupon rewards to FutureLogic’s GEN2 Universal and GEN3 Evolution printers via a four-step process. Promotional campaigns are designed from a workplace PC using a campaign development tool that incorporates triggers such as date, time of day, birthdays, incentives, frequency of issue, length of play and wagering activity. These are uploaded to the PromoNet server, which then downloads the campaigns to targeted slots using the S2S and G2S protocols. When a promotion is launched, the Promotional Server sends dynamic data related to the coupon to each printer via GDS (GSA’s Gaming Device Standard) protocol. The promotional server tracks, monitors and improves effectiveness of the campaigns across the casino floor. PromoNet also will support host assisted delivery of coupons through the use of tablet or smart phone devices.
“PromoNet tailors different reward programs to carded and non-carded players, rewarding casinos most valuable players, boosting club membership and reaching out to all players with promotional coupons,” Micalizzi said. “With promotional triggers based on real-time game play metrics and a Player’s Club card, slot promotions are directly linked to customer behavior. With PromoNet installed across the floor, casinos will be able to boost membership of their Players Club, raise the percentage of carded play, and increase slot revenues.”
Beyond the benefits to the players, these solutions have the healthy effect of potentially making slot operations more marketing-centric, as the link between play and promotions has to be nurtured instantaneously.
“When I first started in the industry, the marketing department had very little to say in what went on in the slot floor,” said Micalizzi, who joined FutureLogic in 2003. “Now they are part of the conversation, especially when you’re talking about promotional couponing. Their responsibility is to design coupons and campaigns and to make sure they get on the floor in an effective manner. They have a large stake in this now, where it used to be just the slot guys. IT departments are now part of the conversation as well.”
Chernay said TransAct sees the same trend. “We request that marketing departments are part of the discussion,” she said. “We’ve been contacting our regular contacts in the slot departments, but also reaching out to the marketing area, either through slot operations or directly on our own. Typically, the two departments work well together and come to the presentation together. Marketing departments are thinking about their overall marketing strategy and the slot people are really receptive to it as it adds value to what they’re bringing to the organization.”
Building rewards based on a 360-degree view of the customer, using all that a property has to offer, also becomes more attainable.
“We think that Epicentral is central to the gaming marketing and slot tournament campaigns that casinos have going, but also to entertainment venues,” Chernay said. “F&B is another area we thought about when it comes to driving cross-property spend. All you have to do is plant the idea with the marketing department and they come up with 100 ways that this could be used.”
Micalizzi held a similar view, with one familiar caveat. “You might want to promote a retail site or something that brings them off the floor, but the caution there is you’ll want something there that will bring them back to the floor, because the idea is you want to keep them on the games.” SlotManager