If our industry has any chance of utilizing cutting edge technology to reinvent our casino floors, we need to moderate the control and influence of the information technology departments within our casinos.
During a time when secure information leaks by IT professionals seem a common occurrence, we must rethink the IT department dynamic and the almost unlimited influence it holds on our everyday operations.
Much like the soothsayers of the Middle Ages, too many of our IT experts continually prophesize gloom and doom for virtually any emerging technology solution the casino executive champions. If it has power, a USB port or an Internet connection it is automatically suspect.
When the operator pushes the issue, the IT professional often warns of the potential for compromised databases, system hackers and hardware failures. These concerns send shivers of fear down the spines of the risk-adverse investor, legal counsel or regulatory advisor whose buy-in is essential for its implementation. Suddenly, property-level innovation has stopped in its tracks, and the IT professional increasingly becomes the antagonist to the operational professional’s protagonist.
While I have certainly had differences over the years with IT personnel regarding the adoption of new technology, I always believed it was limited to individual properties and chalked up the inflexibility to the idiosyncratic nature of the IT directors I happened to work with. However, after gaining some insights on the vendor side, I have found it’s not isolated behavior, but too often the norm.
During a recent meeting with a well-known casino operations company, I was absolutely taken aback to find the majority of the apprehension related to the adoption of new technology did not center on functionality, feature sets or regulatory concerns; it was how to convince their IT staff to adopt new products at all!
These particular corporate executives represent the best and brightest our industry has to offer and yet they must spend their valuable time strategizing how to get obviously beneficial products past their IT infrastructure.
Similarly, while speaking with a major system provider’s rep I was informed that this same casino company’s corporate IT organization delays equipment servicing at their properties by requiring service techs to wait for both a security and IT escort before accessing the server room. While this sounds reasonable and prudent on the surface, on weekends or holidays this delay can be between 2-4 hours and there are no contingency policies that consider reduced staffing concerns.
Lest you think, as I did, that the delay would only be on non-essential equipment, it must be pointed out this policy is not dependent on the severity of the situation, only the availability of the personnel. Once the escort has been detailed and the technician gains access to the server room, there is no additional requirement to monitor the keystrokes of the technician, which is the true stress point to any access of a critical system.
I understand the concerns of the IT personnel very clearly; thousands of individuals wake up each day in this country with the single goal of taking casinos for anything they can. New technology has the ability to aid them at every step. Each casino operator in this country has exactly the same concerns but must weigh the risks against the benefits in order to increase revenue streams and keep the operation viable.
These same operators spend a great deal of time identifying the inherent business risks and probabilities of financial loss associated with the new technology and base their decisions on the calculations. Included in these computations are cost, return and revenue projections.
The simple truth is that technology will continue to evolve and gaming operators need upper management to moderate the concerns and behaviors of their IT personnel. Enticing a new generation of players to our casinos with new technology cannot be limited simply to mitigate potential risk.
If we continue to allow the IT department, whose strength is system security and compatibilities, inordinate say in new technology purchasing decisions, it’s a surefireway to lose whatever edge we have left in the entertainment industry.