Authors’ Note:In this first of a 12 article series themed on where the money is now for casinos, VizExplorer executives Andrew Cardno and Dr. Ralph Thomas explore the impact Big Data is having on casino staffing and labor, and how properties can use it to make sure that the proper team members are present at the right times to match the customers at all points on the gaming floor. Please note these articles are meant to stimulate thought and that we are using some deliberately provocative metaphors which should be taken with a grain of salt.


In his book Big Data at Work, Tom Davenport states Big Data is “perhaps the most sweeping change in what we do to get value from data since the 1980s.”

When first introduced to Big Data we were, like many, skeptical that this was a marketing buzz word for business intelligence. But after much experience and research, we have come to the strong view that Big Data is here to stay and it will shape the future of the world.  Companies will be defined by their ability to apply it fruitfully.

Big Data companies like Uber, Fedex, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon are leading and reshaping the world. These Big Data companies collect and utilize massive volumes of information but even more remarkable is how quickly they seem to evolve their business model. Consider the example of how Facebook changed to move into the mobile world or how Amazon changed from a book seller into the shopping juggernaut that it is today.

Like all new hot terms, Big Data has become a kind of catch all for many kinds of analytics and reporting. To fully understand this we need to dig deeper into the underlying problems that face the world as it is not just size of data that matters, it is also diversity of sources.  A Big Data survey by NewVenture partners concluded: “The most important goal and potential reward of Big Data initiatives is the ability to analyze diverse data sources and new data types, not managing very large data sets.” 

This survey has serious implications for the casino industry.  Consider the diversity of traditional data sources in the casino industry today, with systems like slot and table player tracking, slot and table accounting, cage accounting, bingo-poker-sports, hotel, food and beverage, employee tracking, valet, spa and many others.  New sources abound such as social media, VIP player communications and preferences, and many others as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more and more relevant to our business.

To say “we don’t have Big Data” just because your data volumes are below some threshold like 10 terabytes doesn’t cut it anymore.  It’s not the size of the data that matters, it is the diversity.  The question is: Do you have a strategy for dealing with and taking advantage of the strong diversity in your data?

A NEW THING

The current big shift in the world is the movement to the Internet of Things. Quite simply, the IoT is connecting all manner of devices to the Internet. For example, Google Nest is a smoke and carbon dioxide detector designed to replace the simple but annoying when-the-batteries-run-out lifesaving device. But the Nest is not so simple; it is a fully-connected product that links to other devices in the house, such as the air conditioning controller, and it is fully manageable through your smart phone.

Behind the Nest detector is a massive computer system that constantly monitors data from all these systems. The system side of the IoT is called the Internet of Systems (IoS) and this IoS is a sea change for the casino world that enables the Smart Casino. In the case of the casino, the connection is not necessarily to the Internet, but to the Intranet of the facility or perhaps the Internet of Things.

SMART STRATEGY

The most significant technology change of the last 10 years is the mobile device, which allows people to connect and stay constantly in touch with the world. The next stage in the evolution is that the things we interact with—everything from smoke detectors to air conditioning, from hotel check-in to valet—will be connected and become smart.

This transition will be far from problem free however. As we start planning for the growth of IoT/IoS, the list of issues to overcome include dealing with new vendors, new systems and an environment that is changing so fast that just keeping up with the change is a full time job. Also, to create the Smart Casino, we will need to combine the traditional data in the operations systems with the IoS data streams. Though challenging, this combination and integration of data with IoT or IoS can yield impressive benefits for a gaming property, as we will show below where we explore how the Smart Casino can be more intelligent in how it handles labor and its deployment.

LABORING FOR CHANGE

A vast crew is required to operate a gaming property and this staff sets the tone for how the facility interacts with its customers. To understand the size and importance of the casino workforce, let’s look at the rough breakdown of labor based on a real (but unnamed) property.

These 1,000 employees are responsible for the health of your business, and have countless interactions with your customers each year.  In the IoS, your systems have incredible knowledge about your employees and your customers.  Knowing what these employees are doing and optimizing their interactions with your customers is just one aspect of the Smart Casino.

In the Smart Casino, all staff members are continuously connected, streaming data and communications to enable the facility to act in a coordinated and consistent way. To picture this, think about a table games dealer. This is one of the largest areas of staffing in the facility and their interactions with the patrons, in many ways, can define the customer experience.

Currently, the optimization of the labor associated with table games is based on volume of players. But in the Smart Casino, we not only know about the dealers, we also know about customers. We know about their valet arrival, their hotel check, we know about their movement on the gaming floor, we understand their entertainment behavior, we know about who dealt for them last time and we understand their gaming wallet. Now this is a massive diversity of data about how players play and interact with the property.

At the Smart Casino, this vast amount of Big Data can be analyzed and used not only to optimize labor with the goal of maximizing revenue, but also to improve customer satisfaction, which is a drastic departure from traditional table game models. Let’s tag along with Jack the blackjack player as he visits the Smart Casino to see how this labor optimization engine works:

Valet: Jack enters the valet and they offer to take his bags to his room and automatically he is booked into his favorite steak house. The system knows that Jack does not typically play on his first day after arriving so the labor analysis recognizes it does not need to accommodate him.

Restaurant: Jack is in the restaurant and a casino host knows that he is on property and meets and greets Jack at the restaurant. The host has complete information available about Jack including visitations, patterns and previous communications.

Next day: Chances are (this is an optimization not a guarantee) that Jack will find a table at his preferred table minimum of $50 in the room within the property he prefers. Furthermore, the optimization engine will try and find a dealer that Jack likes and was “lucky” for him in the past.

For Jack the experience was seamless and consistent, he feels lucky to find the same dealer and that the property offers the kind of experience he enjoys.

Another way to explain the labor optimization engine is to personify it. This personification is a nice way of thinking about the labor model as it allows us to characterize the behavior.  To do this lets consider three personalities for the labor optimization engine: Rude Randy, Considerate Charley and Happy Harry.

Rude Randy does not care about customers, only about profit. Rude Randy works hard to make sure that staff never works longer than needed and that the tables are at the maximum limits. Rude Randy is quick to close a pit if the numbers are low.

Considerate Charley is a softie; he tries to keep the pits open longer and is even prepared to run a $10 minimum in slightly off peak times.

Happy Harry works hard to make happy customers; he understands each customer and their preferred level of play, and works really hard to help them find the gaming experience they love.

Now there is no right personality for the labor optimization, it quite simply depends on your business model. The critical part of this optimization model is that each of the models are fully informed about the operations of the property. There is a massive amount of Big Data that sits behind each decision the labor optimization engine makes.

The casino of the future is flooded with data and the combination of this data will touch nearly every part of the gaming operations. Labor analysis is an example of the complex area of Big Data analysis, and leveraging this data to incorporate labor optimization as part of your Smart Casino can yield big results.  Unlike traditional labor optimization, the smart casino optimizes the customer experience as it pertains to the interaction between team members and customers.

Is your casino ready to leverage Big Data to take your customer experience to another level?