Technology helps Pechanga casino keep table games edge
This California tribal casino embraces the latest generation of marketing and surveillance products
That was the message from Mike May, vice president table operations, poker and player development at Pechanga, during the “Regional vs. Destination: Different Approaches to Table Games Operations” panel discussion at Global Gaming Expo (G2E), which took place this past September in Las Vegas
“Our tribe had the foresight to realize that you can’t just put a box out there with table games and slot machines,” said May. “We have an extraordinary golf course that was built on the property. A large part of our business comes from the Asian community; Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean, which in the Los Angeles area are in some of the largest populations outside of those countries. Right down the hill from us we have a number of Native American casinos and we have the card rooms.
“If I can go around the corner and play EZ-Bac, I’m probably going to do that. But if you don’t come to Pechanga, then you won’t see the multiple ethnic shows that we present in our 1,200-seat theater. We have to provide something that is comparable to Las Vegas. If you play at Pechanga and you’re one of our top players you get to go to a Lakers game because we have a box at the Staples Center which we can use for all different events, or use our box at the Angels game. It’s a Las Vegas model, a regional model, but the biggest driver for us is the relationship model. We have a partnership with a Vietnamese mall in Little Saigon. We continually invest in community events. The unique thing for Pechanga is there are things our players can only get if they play there.”
When it comes to player reinvestment, May pointed to two trends that are making it both easier and more difficult for table game operators to succeed: More and better technologies and less and less staff. “You walk around that floor out there and there are a lot of companies selling table game analytics products,” said May. “They are going to take all of your data and provide you the best information possible to make decisions. But the other thing that’s happening is we have fewer people watching more games.”
May said that when he started in the industry he watched one craps game and two to four table games along with another person. Now you have one person watching as many as eight games. “You have more companies selling analytical solutions and less staff providing the data,” he said. “Where is the future? It’s RFID. We need to get the same quality data that the slot department gets because, ultimately, we’re guessing about comps and what we do from a reinvestment standpoint. When you’re talking to vendors, ask them how we can get things cheaper on RFID; how can you get the readers on the table cheaper; that’s the solution. Who’s willing to go out and spend $2.75 a chip, or $5,000 a table? But if more of us are willing to buy it, then the price will go down.”
BETTER EYE ON THE PRIZE
Meanwhile, Pechanga is also looking to improved operational efficiency to drive more profit from the pit area and elsewhere in the casino. One of the operational areas that is undergoing increased scrutiny is the surveillance department, where the transition from analog to digital technologies and the ever-increasing importance of leveraging technological gains in the service of improved casino surveillance means closer relationships between surveillance and IT departments if they are to make the most of the opportunity.
“Surveillance professionals generally don’t have that great a relationship with outside departments working within our properties,” said Tony Borges, surveillance director at the Pechanga Gaming Commission, who spoke at G2E’s Security & Surveillance Institute. “When it comes to surveillance in general, we’re sort of secretive, we do our own thing and we don’t like to ask for help. Moving forward, what our technology is showing us is that we have to change. The IT philosophy has entered into our world. Some of us have dug in deep and said they’re not going down without a fight. And some of us have said we’ll learn about their field and, in conjunction, we’ll teach them about ours. That’s what we did at our property.”
Borges said that Pechanga introduced EMC Isolon, which consolidates surveillance storage. “It’s a very expensive product, but it performs,” he said. “It allowed us to do things like take capabilities such as 30 frames per second on analog or digital and store it in realms of 21 to 30 days. But along with that capability, you have to understand the product, be able to troubleshoot it and know if everything is legitimate or not.”
Borges said that when Pechanga’s surveillance department had to collaborate with IT, it was a “trust, but verify” relationship, sharing, “only what needed to be shared. It’s not that anybody was hiding anything; it’s just what was inbred in us. What you find out though is the more transparent that you are, the more productivity you’ll get.”
Borges noted that surveillance cannot verify unless it knows what is being done or supported. By having surveillance personnel understand the IT world on subjects like hacking or security level certifications helps move everyone into the future. By understanding the programs, how and why they are made and how they can be manipulated, only strengthens the unit, allowing it to watch for the red flags as they occur instead of after the fact. “Once you open up about your vulnerabilities, then you can address them with proper training.”
Pechanga Resort & Casino is the largest resort/casino in the entire western United States, according to property press materials. Nestled in Temecula’s picturesque Southern California wine country, Pechanga Resort & Casino features a 200,000-square-foot casino floor with 3,400 slot and video poker machines, 134 table games, a state-of-the-art, non-smoking poker room with 54 tables, a modern 700-seat bingo facility with LED screens and contemporary lighting, and a 14,000-square-foot high-limit gaming with upscale décor and a private dining lounge. The property also includes a 517-room hotel, swimming pool, spa, retail outlets, 10 restaurants, theater, golf course, convention facility and RV resort.