This year, the Gaming Standards Association is asking operators key questions, hoping to spark thought and dialogue about how operators can prepare for the future that is abruptly at hand, and how GSA can best help them. Let’s start with the primary question that is always at the forefront of every operator’s mind: How can I attract more players?

The answer seems almost too simple: Give them what they want across your entire operation. Simple answer to a simple question, but what comes next is complex. And, thankfully, suddenly possible.

Players want to play what they want, when they want. They want to be recognized for their play and reap the benefits across your entire operation. They want to get a drink when they want one, not when a cocktail server is available; they want to use their points to shop, dine, go to concerts, pay for their room, all without waiting in line for a host to write up a comp. In short – they want to experience everything you have to offer, in their own way and in their own time.

The good news is, because of the work of GSA’s global membership, you are closer than ever to being able to give your current players exactly what they want, and to attract new players because of what you can offer them. The G2S and S2S protocols are now operating on devices and systems from a wide range of suppliers, and we are seeing them come to life at various industry events. Of course, industry events help to raise questions, and at the recent IGE, we once again were amazed by all of the new devices, systems and technology coming online.

But, the wide range of new products at IGE (and G2E before it), raised more questions than they answered, and more often than not, surely sent operators right to their IT departments for answers. But getting the answers you need for your business starts with asking the right questions.

It started at midnight Jan. 1. When the bells rang in the New Year, they also tolled the final bell for GSA support of the SAS protocol, specifically meaning that GSA support for the SAS 6.02 protocol is over. Of course, a shift like this will leave operators in a sort of middle ground, hovering between the devices that run on SAS and the next generation of games and systems that will run on G2S and S2S, which allow for newer, more innovative functions than were possible with SAS.

To help operators who are caught in the wake of SAS’s ending, GSA is suggesting three important questions they should ask their IT departments in order to help attract more players. And of course, we’re also providing some answers.

Now that SAS is no longer supported, where do we go from here?

Support for SAS has ended, meaning that technological innovations will have to come from elsewhere, but where? Savvy IT people across the industry – both in the supplier side and in the operations side of the industry – know that innovation from this point forward will only be driven by GSA protocols, including G2S, S2S and GDS. Where we go from here is to prepare our gaming floors, now. All of the new innovative devices and systems that will enable casinos to remain competitive in the entertainment marketplace are driven by these new protocols, and casino floors must be upgraded to run them.

Which suppliers can provide us with non-SAS products?

GSA members have been building the open protocols and have been building their new games and systems on the new protocols. To make it easy for operators, a list of members is available on GSA’s Web site, www.gamingstandards.com.

Is our IT team up to speed on the GSA protocols?

Be prepared – your IT team may not be up to speed on the new protocols. Fortunately, GSA University has a wide range of courses available today to help your IT team gain certification.

Our “Certified Engineer Programs” offer in-depth technical training in the structure, features, implementation and testing of the GSA protocols. Equally as important is your understanding of the new protocols. Sure, no one expects you to become an engineer, but knowing the basics of what the new protocols will allow you to do (and what SAS will not allow you to do), will arm you with knowledge that will enable you to keep your competitive edge. To help you, GSA has created the “Executive Awareness” series, presented in a non-technical way to help increase your understanding. More information and registration for all courses is available at www.gsauniv.com.

GSA is going to be available at several upcoming industry events to help operators around the world find answers to their important questions at this time of transition. I will speak at the Gaming, Racing & Wagering Symposium in Sydney on March 22. Then, GSA will be at Asia’s GEM Gaming & Entertainment & Leisure Expo, which takes place March 24-26 in Manila. GSA will be in booth #S-52.

SAS’s ending has put the industry in the throes of transition, and now is the time to ask questions and prepare for the future, a future that starts today. Armed with answers to these key questions, operators will be on a pathway toward attracting more players and achieving an even higher level of success. GSA encourages operators to become involved by joining the OAC (Operator Advisory Committee).