Casino operators continue to ask for more functionality from game management systems, and vendors are responding with increasingly sophisticated solutions
Compared to other casino technologies, game management systems have come a very long way in a very short period of time, according to many industry observers.
“At first, game management systems were designed for slot accounting; then player tracking was added so that an operator could see how much was played at each machine by each player,” said Ted Keenan, senior director of product management for systems at Scientific Games. “Player reinvestment or point systems were added to create loyalty. Bonus games and offers were added to deliver the reinvestment funds to the player. Displaying bonus games and offers at the point of play increased the awareness of the bonuses and offers. Analytics were added to measure the increasingly complex player reinvestment strategies. The innovation and evolution will continue.”
And as game management systems have improved, they have become an increasingly vital adjunct for successfully running casinos throughout the U.S. and around the world. “IGT has been in the casino management systems [CMS] business for more than two decades,” said Eric Lancaster, director of systems product management at International Game Technology PLC (IGT). “In this time, we have seen the CMS evolve from a ‘nice to have’ technology leveraged only by some of the largest operators in the world, to a ‘must have’ technology for nearly all operators.”
Game system providers are doing all they can to make sure the latest versions of these technologies remain a “must have” for casino operators, adding capabilities such as data mining and analytics. “Our industry has seen substantial growth in connected integrations with non-gaming features, touchpoints and amenities,” said Jay Bertsch, senior director, systems sales at Konami Gaming. “There are more new opportunities for data and analysis than any other time in history, and operators of all sizes are leveraging this information to help drive strategic growth.”
“Operators are asking for better and easier integration with the data available in core game management systems,” Keenan added. “Better access to the core system data enables new solutions and new ideas for better player experiences and more efficient operations. Operators are also asking for a solution to the growing pain point of using a physical card for player identification in loyalty programs.”
Cardless play and advanced analytics only scratch the surface of what operators want from next-generation management systems. Many are also seeking cashless solutions in which players can manage their gaming funds through an electronic wallet to create a simplified managed player experience. Others are looking for cashless solutions that can both create better player experiences and increase loyalty to a property, while also lowering operational and transactional costs.
And let’s not forget about mobile solutions. It should come as no surprise that casino operators are asking for mobile capabilities that are better integrated with the on- and off-property gaming experience. Player account balances, property information, way-finders with smart navigation to favorite games, offers, promotions to drive return play and other mobile solutions are increasingly becoming commonplace in game management software.
In summation, casino operators are generally looking for management systems that can create better experiences for players while at the property, attract players to make a return trip, and, of course, work more efficiently to reduce costs. Below is a look at a few of the top gaming manufacturers and their latest game management system offerings.
Scientific Games owns long-standing brands that have pioneered game management systems. Brands including SDS, ACSC, CMP and more have maintained leadership positions by consistently innovating with value added features. Bonusing, offers, analytics, player services and more have all become proven solutions that are built on the core system platforms owned by the company.
Scientific Games has a complete suite of products to address a wide range of gaming operator needs. Highly-configurable solutions with multiple content options enable a unique resolution for each customer. Branded bonus game content from Hasbro, Buzztime, Skee-ball, NASCAR and more elevate the player experiences, and the highest compatibility of on-game displays for system content ensures the most consistent player experience across all machines. Game management system offerings include:
- Slot accounting systems such as SDS, ACSC, MCC, BMC, and Power Venue, offering configurations that run on Windows or AS400, single or multiple properties, large or small properties, traditional casinos or route operations. Scientific Games has slot accounting solutions for all segments of gaming operators.
- Player tracking systems including CMP, CMS400 and ACSC provide player tracking features also capable of running in a variety of configurations to meet casino customer requirements.
- Table game management including TableView and Shufflink enable player tracking and game operation analytics.
- Bonusing and progressive systems including Elite Bonusing Suite (EBS) and Bally Enterprise Progressives (BEPS) enable bonus games targeted at individual players and progressives across the casino floor.
- Player displays including iVIEW and iVIEW Display Manager present game management system content to players at the point-of-play.
- Digital display networks like CoolSign and SG Live enable a network of displays for marketing information to be presented around a casino property or across disparate sites using a cloud-based solution.
- Analytics solutions including Business Intelligence (BI) and Praxis Analytics enable visual presentations of data, automated targeted marketing campaigns, and integration with external data sources to more effectively target marketing investments.
In other Scientific Games system news, Hub was recently introduced to a number of casino operators which have disparate casino management systems but would like players to participate in a common loyalty program. With Hub, players can earn and redeem loyalty points at any of the casinos under a common ownership regardless of the casino management system at each property.
Also new in 2017 was iVIEW 4, the next generation of in-game hardware designed to create the best player experience. The iVIEW 4 introduced web-based content using HTML5 supported by a full-featured web content management (WCM) system. Casino operators can now change the look and feel of content, target specific content to specific players and push new content immediately. As well, new bonus games that run only on iVIEW 4 have also been introduced.
In 2018, Scientific Game’s game management systems plans to grow through: Improved player experiences available with iVIEW 4 and its web content management (WCM) system; expanded feature sets for mobile player experiences and operator experiences; a newly initiated partner program giving third-party system providers that can enhance the SG product offering more effective access to core system gaming data; and increased cloud and managed services to increase reliability and decrease cost of ownership.
Konami Gaming has been in the casino systems business since 2001, and today its core technology supports nearly 400 venues of various sizes; everything from large destination properties, to cruise ships, to local casino stops and entire multi-property portfolios.
As one of the industry’s leading casino management systems, SYNKROS is best known for its reliability, marketing tools and robust data. Whether it’s a SuperSeries floor-wide bonus, True-Time Tournaments, or individually customized player incentives, SYNKROS helps deliver the right reward at the right time to ensure patrons have an exciting experience.
“Casino properties of all varieties select SYNKROS to power their business because it has the agility and core strength to power leading-edge solutions across diverse competitive markets,” Bertsch said. “Konami’s SYNKROS casino management system is best known in the industry for its 99.9 percent high availability, player tracking at the game-level, innovative marketing tool kit, and robust tracking of gaming and non-gaming data. It allows properties to differentiate the gaming experience on their floor, while also providing the stable and reliable core infrastructure that is synonymous with Konami.”
Not all casino management systems are equipped to measure and analyze gaming and non-gaming spend in a single ecosystem, which prevents many operators from observing and implementing a cohesive floor-wide strategy. But through technology such as SYNKROS, comprehensive data is available in real time so operators have the most accurate and up-to-date information to identify and capitalize on opportunities.
Further expanding the power of the SYNKROS marketing suite, Konami’s SYNKROS Offers Management can send multiple loyalty offers to specific player groups through a wide range of touchpoints. Offers Management allows operators to setup, schedule and deploy a strategic mix of awards to targeted player demographics, with real-time tracking across the SYNKROS ecosystem. “Casinos can package a variety of awards—including comp vouchers, drawing tickets, bonus points, free play and more—for players to enjoy with optimal convenience, accessibility, personalization and targeting,” Bertsch said. “This helps ensure that patrons feel connected, and casinos, in turn, are able target specific player behaviors—rewarding and engaging players accordingly.”
In the past year Konami released its newest business intelligence tool: SYNKROS Dashboards. Developed for the SYNKROS systems environment, the new dashboards environment is capable of interpreting structured SYNKROS data to identify patterns and trends across the business.
“These and many other updates are made available to our SYNKROS customers at least once a year, to empower their business with the latest features and functions available,” Bertsch said. “And because SYNKROS is an agile single database, updates are enacted fluidly across the environment.”
Every new SYNKROS enhancement is accomplished through on-going collaborative feedback between Konami and its customers. “When we partner with a new SYNKROS customer, it is with the understanding that their business needs will likely evolve and we will be there to support them,” Bertsch said. “The need for multi-site capabilities has seen considerable growth, and several of our SYNKROS customers have leveraged our system to power a broad range of portfolio-wide operations, giving players a seamless loyalty experience from one property to the next.”
Operators are also looking for greater customization, control and fine-tuned accuracy with how they manage their systems environment; a trend that led to SYNKROS’s latest marketing and table games enhancements, including configurable comps, partial comps, side bet tracking, incremental average bet, automated decisions per hour (DPH) and more. Additionally, with the growth of non-traditional slot screen formats including portrait screen and HD games, Konami has released its next generation of True-Time Windowing technology with compatibility for these formats, so in-screen marketing and promotional communications can reach more games across the floor.
One of the top SYNKROS innovations this year is a hybrid at-machine card reader that combines Near Field Communication (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) through a card reader bezel so casino players have a variety of secure authentication methods to replace a traditional player loyalty card at the EGM. With this card reader, players can use a number of convenient alternatives such as their personal smartphone, a room key and others to card-in at the machine rather than being tethered to a traditional player’s card each time they visit the casino.
“Konami has always been a company focused on investment in research and development,” Bertsch said. “Innovations including SYNKROS Dashboards, SYNKROS Offers Management and True-Time Tournaments, to name a few, have all held the honor of being included in Casino Journal’s annual Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Awards. Konami is committed to continuous systems R&D investments to help drive a leading edge for our SYNKROS customers while advancing the future of our industry as a whole.”
“At the same time, SYNKROS has long been committed to open integrations and giving operators the freedom to pursue third-party solutions according to property needs,” Bertsch added. “Our system is designed to facilitate connections with best-of-breed third party vendors, and this allows casinos an open platform for innovation and integration as their business evolves.”
IGT enables players to experience games across all channels and regulated segments, from gaming machines and lotteries to interactive and social gaming, with a well-established local presence and relationships with governments and regulators in more than 100 countries. IGT’s casino management systems supports business processes and gives operators the tools to provide personalized player experiences, streamline operations and leverage efficient technologies, according to company literature.
“IGT customers truly understand the value of their investment when they deploy an IGT system solution,” Lancaster said. “Our customers understand that they can leverage our technologies to optimize their casino floors, gain valuable business intelligence, entertain their guests in unique ways and cultivate world-class, casino-patron relationships. IGT’s flagship casino management system is IGT Advantage, which features a modular design, making it convenient for operators to create a semi-customized system that meets their specific business and player needs. IGT Advantage is also scalable and can grow as our customers’ needs evolve.
“IGT Advantage integrates with many of IGT’s other award-winning solutions such as Cardless Connect, PlaySpot, Spin-Ferno and Spin-Splosion!. IGT’s CMS portfolio also includes products such as Casinolink, System2go and GALAXIS—solutions that are widely used by many of IGT’s international customers.”
Among the advantage provided by IGT game management systems:
- Personalizing Player Experiences: The IGT Advantage system has a unique suite of tools to create personalized experiences, from campaigns with unique offers to player communication at the game that resonate with players and create anticipation every step of the way. Advantage’s Patron Management is a player profile database, with information not just on visits and gaming behavior, but on non-gaming interests as well. Combined with Patron’s multiple outreach options, like coupons, drawings and gifts, offers can be tailored for each player segment to bring them back for more.
New guests get the personal treatment as well through the operator’s host and IGT’s Mobile Host. Uncarded hot players are immediately flagged to hosts, who then can sign up a new player direct from the app. Instead of going to the players club, the club comes to them. This same concept was behind the Mobile Voucher Redemption (MVR) app. Instead of searching for a kiosk or waiting at the cashier, floor staff can now redeem and cash out vouchers for players anywhere on the floor for a more memorable, personal experience for the player.
Operators can combine personal offers with the Intelligent Bonusing suite to extend a player’s time played or incent them back for an additional visit. The Intelligent Bonusing suite is a new concept in bonusing that uses real-time qualifications and enrollment to engage active players and motivate them to continue playing to receive their personal prize. Operators can choose from a number of fun and engaging game skins to match a current promotion or to target a customer profile.
Cardless Connect by IGT allows player to use a smartphone in place of their loyalty card. However, online exclusive players aren’t left out when it comes to IGT’s management products. The IGT Advantage system integrates with the DoubleDown Casino product, which allows operators to cross-promote their property online and on-site. Players can earn points and receive offers based on their online play as an extension of their on-site experience.
- Streamlining Operations: Streamlined operations give employees more time to create that amazing player experience that’s crucial to differentiating a property. The IGT Advantage system’s flash list of accounting tasks leads users through tasks and ensures that operators won’t never miss a step. With a host of features to make operations easier, like auto-complete banking information and direct access to Central Credit, managing banking and credit data is easier and more cost-effective.
IGT’s Mobile Fills and Jackpots (FJP) and Mobile Responder apps streamline a variety of workflows, from fills and jackpots to printer jams and open doors. More than just a text notification, Mobile Responder allows operators to set up the routing rules, adapting to business needs. Front-line employees get all the details of the issue, including player information and a photo if available, to offer fast and friendly service from the start. Another benefit of this integration is the ability to prioritize events based on player tier, ensuring that best players get the best care.
Looking to the table games, IGT’s Table Manager automates player ratings and provides real-time inventory and management data to keep tables running optimally. This automation can save money and lets employees focus on the player experience at the table.
IGT also adapted some of its most popular progressive slot bonuses for table games. The Lucky Chip feature, a “must hit by” progressive, and Table Hot Seat, a time-based mystery jackpot, attract players and build excitement in the table area.
- Leveraging Efficient Technologies: Improving with technology is IGT’s Advantage system. Its CMS integrates with Microsoft’s latest Windows and SQL updates, for operators to stay supported through server and operating system updates.
Remote downloads through Floor Manager also simplify device software updates and maintenance. Floor Manager and IGT Analytics can be combined for true, real-time multi-denomination, multi-game (MDMG) performance data. With access to the industry’s largest game theme library, operators get the data and insights to optimize their floor.
Media Manager organizes content for overheads, on-game messaging and more in one spot. With an HTML5 base, Media Manager’s newest version has become more accessible and easier to use. Media Manager’s Service Window shows bonuses, content and on-game apps that bring kiosk functionality, like managing entries for drawings, on the gaming machine itself.
Tournament Manager also remains a highly sought after tournament management solution. Operators can choose from IGT’s turnkey tournament solutions, including Spin Ferno game themes on award-winning S3000 stepper cabinets and rip-roaring Spinsplosion game theme on CrystalDual cabinets, or operators can design their own tournament with a variety of video poker and video slot game themes and personalized leaderboards.