The American casino business has become a marketing game now that most everyone is within driving distance of one or two or more gaming facilities.

In order to win the customer-by-customer battles for market share, every interaction must be handled with care. It all starts with identifying which players are most potentially valuable; and how to customize your interactions with them to build engaging, profitable relationships. That brings technology and data into the equation in a big way, but the personal touch is equally essential; so the term “marketing” has become so sprawling as to mean many different things to many different people.

In our industry, there’s only one conference that explores every aspect of contemporary casino marketing in-depth, and that’s the Casino Marketing & Technology Conference (www.casinomarketingconf.com), which takes place next month at Bally’s Las Vegas. Since this publication is the producer of the event, that statement needs to be backed up with some facts, so here they are.

RAVINGS HOST DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE

Casino Marketing & Technology Conference kicks off July 17-18 with Raving Consulting’s popular Host Development Conference. The team at Raving has put together an agenda that delves deep into sales skills, database management, analytics and the math of player value. The program focuses on:

  • Developing and segmenting qualified sales leads from a database;
  • Creating compensation and specialization in a new player development model;
  • Managing reinvestment properly and measuring the sale;
  • Understanding the true value of a player through mathematics; and
  • Acquiring the skills to complete the sales cycle.

As always, Raving will offer a unique blend of the technical and the personal, and how to manage internal and external relationship in order to create successful real-world player development outcomes. A sampling of the session titles includes “The Top 10 Strategic Challenges in a Rapidly Changing Player Development Landscape;” “Compensation Strategies for Rewarding PD Executives;” “Success Stories in Player Development: The PD Operators Roundtable;” “Slicing and Dicing Your Database for Potential Hosted Players;” and “The Crazy Intersection of Direct Mail, Free Play and the Host World.”

All told, there are 14 sessions, including a luncheon keynote by Carol O’Hare, executive director, Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, entitled “PD and the Problem Gambler.” Attendees will also be treated to a player development (PD) tour at Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, where senior PD execs will lead a guided tour highlighting the PD function, the VIP amenities that serve it and how a casino company manages the process. Participants will be able to ask host-savvy questions to understand “how we do business around here.”

CASINO MARKETING & TECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE

The Host Development Conference runs straight into the main event, which starts with a welcome reception the evening of July 18, followed by two days of marketing management and marketing technology breakout sessions, two keynotes, a general session on slot marketing, industry awards and multiple networking opportunities.

 The conference will kick off with a keynote presentation, “Digital Marketing Technology: An ROI Perspective,” given by Shawn Rorick, vice president, digital marketing and ecommerce, Eldorado Resorts. Rorick, a leading interactive marketer, trainer and widely recognized as an innovative thinker in our industry, will discuss his approach to digital marketing ROI in the casino operations environment.

Rorick will outline, in case-study fashion, how marketers can think clearly about the return of potential technology investments, illustrating how an ROI perspective helps marketers on multiple fronts: Making a business case for the new tools they need, defining goals and moving forward while minimizing the potential for costly and time consuming mistakes.

“As marketers, we’ve learned a lot over the years about when and how to adopt new technologies and media,” said Rorick. “Remember Second Life?  It had a significant spotlight with advertisers around 2004/2005.  Companies invested millions of dollars to create virtual experiences designed to represent their brands. The medium, which required broadband and a whole lot of processing power to render back then, failed to deliver an ‘accepting’ audience.”

New digital marketing technologies also need to be supported by the proper allocation of resources within a company. “You have to ask whether the technology is stand-alone—set it and forget it—or if it’s something that requires daily management,” said Rorick. “Like proximity messaging, which sounds good, once you get it up and running. But who’s going to change those offers all the time? Who’s going to monitor them and see what kind of revenue they’re driving? That’s more than just a technology cost; it’s a resource investment.”

Marketing to new generations of players whose entertainment habits have been entirely formed in the digital age is a topic that will define casino marketing going forward. In “Marketing to the Future at the Downtown Grand,” attendees will hear from the CEO of a property that has much to share on this issue.

“Chance-based wagering isn’t something that today’s 25–year-old is all of a sudden going to like in 10 years,” says Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming, owner/operator, Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino. Under Schorr’s leadership, the Downtown Grand, via its eSports lounge which merges competitive and professional video gaming, has gotten a head start on understanding how to accommodate younger, affluent customers who will be looking for gaming options other than purely random slot play. In this keynote address, attendees will hear about Schorr’s professional path in gaming and hospitality, the Grand’s position in the vibrant downtown Las Vegas casino market, and what he and his organization have learned about marketing to the next wave of gamers.

Another session that merits highlighting is the “Slot Marketing Roundtable” led by Buddy Frank, former head of slots at Pechanga Resort & Casino and long known as one of the most forward-looking slot operators in the country. Attendees will hear from panelists such as Simon Farmer, executive director of marketing, Morongo Casino Resort & Spa; Michael Michaud, director of marketing operations, Grand Casino Hinckley; and Shannon Redmond, vice president, marketing, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh talk on everything from traditional day-to-day marketing concerns to the bigger picture. Topics to be addressed will include:

  • Measuring promotions;
  • Marketing new games;
  • Value: How do you deliver it and promote it;
  • Keeping VIP Marketing fresh;
  • Touch points: Balancing self-service and personal interaction;
  • Big Data: What it means and why it matters;
  • Leveraging vendor relationships for marketing gain; and
  • How to build successful slots/marketing inter-departmental relationships.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT, THE ROMEROS & NETWORKING

The Casino Marketing & Technology Conference is also known for its prestigious awards program. On July 19, Janie Dillard, executive officer of operations, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Division of Commerce, will be presented with the prestigious Casino Marketing & Technology Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dillard is a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and has served it since 1982, when she began her career as a secretary for Community Health. In 1987, she transferred to the newly opened Choctaw Bingo Palace as a floor manager, marking the start of an illustrious gaming career. Throughout the late 1990s and the early 2000s the Choctaw Nation, which presently operates eight casinos and 11 Casino Too! travel plazas, expanded gaming operations throughout its boundaries in southeastern Oklahoma, with Dillard heading expansion efforts as director of gaming. In 2001, she was named executive director of gaming, a position she held for 14 years, before assuming her current role. Dillard, has also served as an officer for the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association for the last 18 years, and received the 2010 OIGA Warriors Award for her lifetime achievement as a champion in the cause of Oklahoma Indian gaming.

“We are thrilled to present this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Janie Dillard, whose ground-up, hands-on management style and motivational leadership has been central to the quality and growth of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s gaming operations,” said Randy Green, group publisher, BNP Media Gaming Group. “She has had an enormous impact on the critical marketing areas of employee buy-in, customer care and service, and her sense of the greater mission involved with making tribal gaming a success serves an example for our entire industry.”

The conference also features the prestigious Romero Awards: Recognizing Excellence in Casino Marketing, which this year drew over 120 entries. The Romeros will be presented during a special breakfast ceremony on July 20, hosted by Toby O’Brien, president, Toby Talks Marketing. The winners of Casino Journal’s inaugural Marketing GameChangers contest, which recognize innovative marketing-oriented products and services and the positive impact they have had on a specific gaming property or operator, will also be announced on the 20th, prior to Schorr’s keynote.

New on the networking front this year will be a Pub Night and Cornhole Tournament the evening of July 19, featuring entertainment by Cali Tucker, a singer who competed on “The Voice” Season 6 and performs nightly for Station Casinos. There will be multiple networking opportunities on the trade show floor, which will feature over 50 exhibiting companies.

For up-to-date information on all aspects of the Casino Marketing & Technology Conference, visit www.casinomarketingconf.com.