Competition is fierce in gaming. Many markets have become so oversaturated with casinos that they cannibalize the same customers in a market, over-investing to drive new players to sign up.

For example, a major tribal multi-property casino group has seen a dramatic reduction in new signups over the recent years (down to 30 percent carded play). Meanwhile in California, tribal casinos have offered as much as $50 in free play for new signups to the players club. 

In casino markets around the country, the decision to expand the base of patrons means attracting younger and more technology savvy clientele than the current slot player. The transition from the traditional casino to one that can provide a seamless online and offline sensory experience is more than just a marketing challenge, it’s a transformative journey for both marketing and operations.

Fortunately, new opportunities to attract players are on the horizon. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to overturn a lower court decision involving the NCAA and New Jersey by June, allowing sports betting in all states. If this happens, it’s likely that 18 additional states would have legal sports betting by 2019 (sports betting is already legal in Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana). This creates a new opportunity for some casinos to get their piece of the estimated $150 billion sports betting market.

Let’s look at some stats that show us what is happening in the gaming and hospitality world:

  • Forty percent of rideshare users earn $71,000 per year.
  • Fantasy sports bettors are primarily male age 25-40 who deposit/wager $20-$750 monthly.
  • Casino mobile loyalty app users are worth 80 percent more than non-app users (theoretical value calculated on a per-patron basis for a casino that has 9,000 app users who have connected their players club account). These same casino mobile loyalty app users made 50 percent more trips to the casino as well.
  • There are 900 million mobile gamers worth an estimated $37 billion; over 44 percent of gamers are over the age of 36.
  • Half of Hilton’s portfolio will be equipped with digital keys by the beginning of 2018; 450,000 hotel rooms by the end of 2018 and companies like Marriott are not far behind.

What does it all mean?

With roughly 13-15 percent of casinos having a mobile app (and this number is on the rise), the market is slowly meeting the demand for the type of experience that a younger player expects. The average casino will get 15-25 percent of their active players to download their mobile app in the first year with proper marketing. The player that downloads the casino’s mobile app is skews male age 25-40. Response rates are much better because a player who downloads a property’s app is very engaged (or they likely wouldn’t have downloaded it). With casino-specific loyalty app providers and e-mail platforms in the space, there are many options for having core casino systems fully integrated into the player’s mobile app experience. CRM, casino management systems, slot systems, valet systems, hotel systems, POS systems, business intelligence platforms, social media, casino promotional kiosk systems, social casino systems and gamification platforms are all now enhancing the player’s mobile experience by bringing these disparate experiences to the mobile device.

TRANSFORMATIVE THINKING

This transformation from a primarily slot-focused casino to one that embraces new skill-based machines, fantasy and traditional sports betting and eSports to attract a younger, male segment is not an easy one. Casino operators that have fallen behind will need to spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to create an infrastructure that will support this digital revolution. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the capital expense budget, it’s important to start this change now to remain competitive. 

The steps to digital transformation are already available. You must do these steps in sequence because each player experience that is positive will drive them to adopt the next marketing channel:

  1. Get your e-mail program under control and maximize the value of it for both the casino and the players. Too many programs are one-sided and don’t enhance the guest experience when off property.
  2. Rebuild your website to be mobile friendly, integration friendly and content friendly. Engagement analytics are a must; automation is key to efficiency allowing more digital programs to be layered on top with your website at the heart of your player’s digital world.
  3. Get social content flowing because content is king. Younger players need to be engaged with your social channels and photos of slot winners are not enough.
  4. Implement gamification and promotional programs and/or social casino games to enhance the casino’s e-mail loyalty program and increase website visits. Reactivation programs using games to educate and drive offer redemption can produce 100 percent ROIs for casinos.
  5. Adopt a simple SMS program. Text messaging, when used properly and in accordance with the Federal law, can be a great tool to create convenience experiences for players and guests while also allowing recapture of lost player e-mail subscriptions.
  6. Implement a chat bot. Although new to the scene, chat bots are enhancing online customer service and allowing hotel guests to engage with a property to order room service or facilitate requests.
  7. Build a mobile app for loyalty and guest experience. This is the goal of integrating all the systems of the property and a mobile app brings all the player and guest experiences together in one place.
  8. Make your direct mail interactive. Through coin beacons, direct mail can now interact with a casino’s mobile app enhancing event mailers and offer redemptions.