Partnership is one of those words that gets noses too easily out of joint in business, which is a shame because it’s hard to think of relationships that don’t have a partnership aspect to them. Take the slot operator/manufacturer relationship, which we put on the couch last May at the Southern Gaming Summit, the results of which you can read in this month’s cover story.

To read the operators roundtable, one might think the list of complaints is long, but what the operators are really doing more than anything, it seems to me, is telling manufacturers how they can be more successful, because the operators themselves are seeking with a fair amount of urgency new paths to success.

As a case in point, one part of the conversation that didn’t make it into the story dealt with technology. Here are some excerpts:

  • Data and social media: “I’d really like to see them understand our customers a little better,” said Ron Nesbitt, vice president gaming, Wind Creek Hospitality. “With social gaming and social media, they’re all knocking on our door with new products. I’d like to see them use that to understand customers a little better rather than selling us stuff. They need to think about the whole social space to support us better and do a better job of partnering with us. There are some social games out there like Candy Crush that no one saw coming. Our customers are really their customers at the end of the day. We’re just a pass-through.”
  • Marketing: “I regularly complain to manufacturers at gaming shows about the kind of marketing they do,” said Warren Davidson, director of slots, Coushatta Casino Resort. “We’ve made huge strides on our Coushatta Facebook page growing membership and engaging people. That’s the medium I use to market my slots and it works very well. A lot of manufacturers don’t support that; how about helping us market to the direct end-user?”
  • Speed to market: “What concerns me the most is that we are just not a very nimble industry,” said Steve Ellis, vice president slots, Caesars Entertainment. “If you have a great idea and the manufacturer agrees with you, 18 months from now, you might see an iteration of what that looks like. As an example, Caesars bought this great company out of Israel called Playtika and we had this meeting with them and one manufacturer where we said, ‘You’ve got these great social games and we have a manufacturer here, how can we take those and get them onto the casino floor?’ The manufacturer was asked how long a game would take to get onto the floor and they said ten months. Playtika said we’ll give you the symbols, the math, everything and they said, if you didn’t give us that, it will be 13 or 14 months.  Playtika reacts on an hourly basis, they can find out by noon how players are reacting to new game features introduced that morning and we’re working on an annual basis. That’s got doom written all over it.”

Of course, that last point gets into the area of regulation, but it also touches on scale. The gaming industry is small, there is only so much capital to deploy and the price of failure for manufacturers is that much higher than it would be in a true mass-market business. One area of common ground is the need for both sides of the operator/manufacturer coin to understand the player, using data to increase the success rate of new games as they are developed.  Where that data comes from, who has access to it and how it can be jointly leveraged will be worthy topics going forward.