“We’re commissioning a study. The entire tribal council needs to weigh in. We’re waiting to see what the competition does. We can’t make a move until the new GM comes on board. We’re still evolving our online strategy. We’ve hired an outside consultant to help us decide. We’re going to put out an RFP next month.”

Yup, these are actual quotes from casino decision makers: GMs, CMOs, IT managers, tribal council members. What is this indecisiveness that seems to have placed a shroud of uncertainty over the casino industry? It’s the introduction of games, more specifically, social games—i.e. the poker game that your aunt Bertha plays on Facebook. These games are now starting to show up on websites run by land-based casinos, but slowly, very slowly.

George Zaloom
George Zaloom

Why would a casino operator want to add games to their website in the first place?  The answer is threefold: appointment-driven games make websites stickier; as a platform to offer promotions to drive customers back to the brick-and-mortar facility; and to establish the operator’s web domain as a future destination for real-money online wagering.

Most providers of these gaming platforms offer their services for free and even share the profits.  So it would seem that adding something that enables operators to generate short-term revenues and increase player lifetime value would be a no-brainer. But this is not the case. 

So, why the hesitancy? Will online games cannibalize relationships with existing customers?  Will they stop casino visitation because customers want to stay home and play online? Actually, they already have the option of playing social games on Facebook—so apparently this hasn’t had an adverse effect on the business. 

The real reason is likely that no one wants to lose his or her job for deploying something untested. Consider the paranoia of the manager who has had this innovation sprung upon them.  Online is something that’s a whole new world to most operators. The typical GM, 50ish in age, probably has had limited exposure to online technology. Many don’t have Facebook accounts nor have they ever even played a social casino game. More likely they are still on a Blackberry. Well people, its 2013 and “I don’t trust that Facebook thing,” is no longer a valid excuse for being unfamiliar with tech. Remember, you dictate corporate culture. If your team senses an aversion to innovation, they’ll develop similar mistrust. Create your own internal innovation team and empower them to “sandbox” the latest technologies. In doing so, you become an innovator.

Welcome innovative presentations from your providers. As with online social gaming, you may be presented with multiple platforms from multiple providers. Don’t just settle for spiffy PowerPoints from a sales rep; take whatever they are offering home for a test drive. If they refuse such a request or demand a commitment, there may be issues with their offering. Take that as a sign.

If the provider is able to accommodate your request for a test, have your webmaster/IT department set up whatever platforms you are considering on a dev (development) server. This closed environment will enable you and your team to best assess how the new system you are considering integrates with your existing infrastructure.

If you want be really be sure of your decision, run a live split-test. (Split testing, aka A/B testing or multivariate testing, is a technique used by many Silicone Valley web companies to compare iterations in their technology—i.e. will changing the color of the purchase button from blue to green cause more customers to click—the resulting data doesn’t lie and it is the ultimate litmus test.)  If considering two different gaming platforms, try running a split-test and sending equal amounts of traffic (during the same time period) to each of the platforms—the ensuing data will tell you which system to use.

 So challenge yourself, your team and your providers.  Don’t be afraid to deploy new technologies—but do it in an informed way.  Test and review the data with your teams. Be willing to take chances, be willing to fail and be understand that you are running a process; success takes time but it must be given a chance. It’s easy to say no; you’ll be right 95 percent of the time, but it’s that rare breed of individual that is willing to take chances—just do it smartly. Now get to work!