There was a time when the casino industry was considered something of a backwater when it came to technological innovation.

After all, in its traditional form, casinos primarily housed table games and mechanical reel slot machines—wagering concepts that were established decades, if not centuries, and had changed very little over time.

But then came the 1990s, when advancement in computers, software and consumer electronics were adopted by slot manufacturers seeking to create gaming experiences that were more expansive and entertaining for the consumer and cost effective for casino operators. From this seed blossomed the modern land-based casino resort, where the latest systems technologies are integrated into every business segment and all customer delivery channels.

Indeed, this embrace of all things technology is still very much alive throughout the gaming resort environment, as the following case studies will show.


Testing… testing…

UNLV and Caesars Entertainment create an innovative technology hub to test and showcase new gaming and hospitality concepts


University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and Caesars Entertainment have teamed to create “Black Fire Innovation,” a technology hub where new gaming and hospitality concepts will be created and tested in a 43,000-square-foot innovation space that will include elements of mock hotel rooms, a casino floor and sportsbook, an e-sports arena and virtual reality facilities.

Black Fire Innovation brings the university’s academic leaders and Caesars Entertainment, one of the world’s most diversified casino-entertainment providers, together in one space to advance current trends in hospitality and gaming technology to propel the industry forward. The complex is expected to open by the end of 2019.

Black Fire Innovation will be headquartered in a state-of-the-art research building in the UNLV Harry Reid Research & Technology Park located in southwest Las Vegas. This multipurpose space will allow UNLV, Caesars and partners to develop and test new concepts using a mock integrated resort environment. Elements of mock hotel rooms, a casino floor with slots and table games, presentation/exhibit areas, sportsbook, e-sports arena and virtual reality facilities will be used to host on-demand testing of new ideas and products and provide a venue to showcase innovations to current and potential industry partners.

“This collaboration with Caesars Entertainment will strengthen UNLV’s role as a research and innovation leader and further elevate Las Vegas as the global intellectual capital for gaming and hospitality,” said Marta Meana, president of UNLV. “Collaborations like Black Fire Innovation also give our students unparalleled access to experts at the forefront of the industry. It’s an experience unique to Las Vegas that we’re proud to offer at UNLV.”

 Research within the Black Fire Innovation space will focus on emerging technologies, which may include blockchain, artificial intelligence and virtual reality with interdisciplinary collaborations across areas such as architecture, psychology and fine arts. Additionally, there will be opportunities for participating startups, researchers and partners to examine how these new technologies are changing how resorts approach gaming, sports wagering and social spaces to appeal to new audiences.

“We intend to accelerate innovation in a way that is truly unprecedented within the gaming and hospitality space, bringing together top researchers and industry experts in a unique collaborative environment,” said Les Ottolenghi, executive vice president and chief information officer for Caesars Entertainment. “Working side-by-side and with emerging student talent, technology partners and the community through this technology hub, Black Fire Innovation is designed to spur the creativity and entrepreneurship that will shape the future of our industry for many years to come.”

 Although students and professionals from UNLV’s Division of Research and Economic Development and Caesars Entertainment will occupy the space, Black Fire Innovation is an academic incubator that will also be available to private industry partners who want to advance their research and test concepts. The space is expected to foster a collaborative research environment that will spark strategic partnerships and elevate student learning and entrepreneurship while training an emerging workforce that can excel in a rapidly evolving industry.

 Black Fire Innovation will be located within a four-story, 111,000-square-foot building at the master-planned UNLV Harry Reid Research & Technology Park that is currently under development. The park—a partnership among UNLV, the UNLV Research Foundation and Gardner Company—will serve as a catalyst to unite business, research and technology and advance economic development efforts throughout Southern Nevada.

UNLV is a doctoral-degree-granting institution of more than 30,000 students and 3,500 faculty and staff that is recognized among the top three percent of the nation’s research institutions—those with “very high research activity”—by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. For more information, visit


There’s an app for that

MGM Resorts’ new mobile app features mobile check-in and digital keys for resorts in Las Vegas and beyond


MGM Resorts destinations in the U.S. are making it easier and faster to get the adventure started with the new MGM Resorts mobile app. Features, including in-app reservations, mobile check-in and digital keys, will save time and enhance the overall guest experience. 

“We are committed to developing and utilizing technology to better serve our customers, and our company’s new user-friendly app does just that,” said Kelly Smith, senior vice president and chief digital officer, MGM Resorts International. “We know, for example, the arrival experience sets the stage for an entire stay, so we designed the app to expedite check-in and elevate the process to be quicker and easier. The app will continue to evolve, adding more value for our guests.” 

Prior to traveling to participating domestic MGM Resorts destinations, guests can book their room, discover dining and entertainment options available while in town, and then check in at their leisure up to 24 hours in advance through the app. Guests also can customize their stay by requesting room upgrade options. 

On the day of arrival, eligible guests will have the option to be notified as soon as their room is ready. If already an M life Rewards member, they can access digital key, where available, or head to a Mobile Check-In Kiosk to print a room key and be on their way. 

The MGM Resorts app also is like a “pocket concierge” with a tremendous variety of resort information and the ability to make reservations at the company’s venues with the touch of a finger. Consolidating the resort experience into one centralized location can be helpful since most travelers don’t plan the entire trip ahead of time, making last-minute decisions on where to go to dinner or what show to see. The app displays what events and shows are in town, what restaurants are nearby and allows for easy searches such as type of cuisine. With a wide variety of choices, guests can quickly narrow it down to find what’s right for them and then make reservations for dining, entertainment and nightlife at MGM Resorts destinations—all at the tap of a button.   

Parting is such sweet sorrow after enjoying days packed with excitement, fun, relaxation and/or business, but the parting process won’t be, thanks to mobile check-out. Check out is one-tap through the app on the morning of departure. 

In addition to enjoying all the benefits, offers and perks available through the M life Rewards program, members now can access member-only key features of the MGM Resorts mobile app including mobile check-in, digital key and mobile check-out. 

If not yet part of MGM Resorts’ premier loyalty program, guests can sign up for free and become a member at the same time they check in on the app. Once registered, they can utilize various member-only features of the mobile app and start earning Tier Credits for virtually every dollar spent on hotels, restaurants, entertainment, nightlife, attractions, spa, salon and more. In addition, a popular tab within the app shows the M life Rewards account, including Tier Level and Express Comps.

The app can be downloaded at the App Store and Google Play and can be used at the following MGM-affiliated Las Vegas-based facilities: Bellagio, ARIA, Vdara, MGM Grand, The Signature at MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Delano Las Vegas, Park MGM, The Mirage, New York-New York, Luxor, and Excalibur. The app can also be used at select regional destinations including  Beau Rivage and Gold Strike in Mississippi; MGM Grand Detroit; MGM National Harbor in Maryland; and MGM Springfield  in Massachusetts.

MGM Resorts International is an S&P 500® global entertainment company with national and international locations featuring best-in-class hotels and casinos, state-of-the-art meetings and conference spaces, incredible live and theatrical entertainment experiences, and an extensive array of restaurant, nightlife and retail offerings. For more information visit


Going with the flow

Rush Street Interactive becomes the first U.S. online sportsbook operator to debut IMG ARENA’s official live streaming service


Rush Street Interactive’s SugarHouse Online Sportsbook & Casino, which is available at, is the first U.S.-based sportsbook supplier and operator to launch IMG ARENA’s official live video streaming service in the U.S. market.

Through this deal, Rush Street Interactive becomes the only U.S. operator to currently offer players in New Jersey and Pennsylvania an opportunity to watch and bet on Roland Garros (the French Open), thanks to IMG ARENA’s comprehensive suite of professional tennis event content. Among the high-profile U.S.-based events also included are the ATP Masters 1000 Miami Open, Cincinnati and Indian Wells tennis tournaments. Available already on in New Jersey for the past couple of weeks, Rush Street Interactive will make this content available online in Pennsylvania as well. 

Rush Street is also an IMG ARENA data customer, enabling it to receive official data for some of the most prestigious tennis events in the world, including Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open as part of a package that includes the ATP, WTA and ATP Challenger Tours, providing year-round action. Data is entered directly from the umpire’s chair, meaning real-time, official, point-by-point data goes from court to fan in less than one second.

“Rush Street Interactive continues to focus on enhancing the experience of our customers,” said Richard Schwartz, president of Rush Street Interactive. “We believe that by offering players the chance to watch the action while they are live betting, IMG ARENA’s streaming service will bring greater entertainment-value and integrity to our players’ betting. We’re pleased that our focus on customer experience is driving our strong market share growth in New Jersey.”

“We are delighted to partner with one of North America’s top online gaming operators, Rush Street Interactive,” “Players at will now have a significantly enhanced wagering experience through the incorporation of our live streams.

“Bringing our official streaming product to the US is an important step for IMG ARENA and the market as a whole,” added Freddie Longe, managing director for IMG ARENA. “In the more mature European market, we have seen that one of the major complaints by fans is a lack of live streaming availability, and that it is a key factor in setting a tier-one operator apart as markets develop.”

Headquartered in London, IMG ARENA specializes in bringing sport and the sports betting industry closer together. IMG ARENA works with more than 250 leading sportsbook operators worldwide, providing always-on services including 24/7 live streaming and on-demand virtual sports products designed to evolve and inspire engagement by placing fans at the heart of the action. For more information, visit


Sound and vision

Soboba Casino Resort goes all-in with state-of-the-art HARMAN Professional Solutions networked AV system


Agility AVL recently equipped San Jacinto, Calif.-based Soboba Casino Resort with state-of-the-art HARMAN Professional Solutions networked AV and sound reinforcement systems.

Opened in February 2019, Soboba Casino Resort is a 480,000-square-foot gaming, entertainment and hospitality establishment operated by the Soboba Tribal Administration. The casino itself features a 90,000-square-foot gaming floor with 2,000 slot machines, 32 types of table games and a high-roller room. Attached to the casino is a Cabaret Lounge with a stage for live performances and a sports bar featuring two large video walls and numerous televisions. The complex also boasts a hotel with 200 guest rooms, an event center, and multiple dining venues.

With new legislation regarding legal sports betting in California still undecided, the casino needed a flexible and scalable AV system that could adapt to multiple usage scenarios, including a sportsbook operation. The Soboba Tribal Government hired Agility AVL to equip the entire complex with a complete HARMAN networked AV system including JBL Professional loudspeakers, AMX SVSI control systems, BSS signal processors and Martin lighting fixtures.

“We used all JBL speakers throughout the casino,” said Kevin Hill, vice president of marketing and sales at Agility AVL. “We put VRX arrays in the entertainment lounge, as well as BSS signal processing. We used the SVSI 2200 series encoder/decoder system throughout the entire property to distribute various sources like DIRECTV and digital signage from SpinetiX.”

Soboba Casino Resort’s expansive AV system includes a total of 24 AMX NMX-ENC-N2122 encoders and 86 NMX-DEC-N2222 decoders. AMX N-Series controller units route television and digital signage data between the encoders and decoders via NMX-ENET-500 ethernet switches. Other AMX solutions used include NXA-WAP-R500 wireless access points and MSD-701 L2 wall-mounted touch panels for increased control and flexibility.

For audio distribution, Agility AVL installed a wide selection of JBL loudspeakers throughout Soboba Casino Resort. JBL Control Contractor Series loudspeakers make up the main distributed audio system, including a variety of in-ceiling Control C/T models. Other specialized JBL loudspeakers include Control 25 AV indoor/outdoor monitors and Intellivox DS18 Active Beam Shaping loudspeaker arrays.

“Having a multitude of different products to choose from for very specific areas without losing any sound quality makes it very easy, and most companies don’t have that,” said Art Martinez, account executive at Agility AVL. “Most companies have a couple of different models, but not a variety of speaker types that can be utilized to the fullest throughout the whole property.”

The Cabaret Lounge features a stage in one corner for live music and events, which is equipped with JBL VRX932LAP line array loudspeakers and VRX918SP subwoofers. The VRX932LAP’s 100-degree horizontal dispersion pattern provides adequate coverage across the entire room, while their 15-degree vertical dispersion ensures that sound doesn’t project onto the floor or ceiling. A BSS BLU-160 signal processor provides powerful DSP, specifically tailored to the VRX line arrays. JBL Control P/T pendant speakers hang from the room’s high ceiling, providing background music when the stage is not in use. The stage is lit by 12 Martin THRILL Mini Profile lighting fixtures.

“Since there’s no carpet, just a concrete painted floor, it poses a real challenge for any sound system,” said Martinez. “The VRX system is easy to tune, balance and focus, despite that factor and the lack of soundproofing in the lounge. That was one of the biggest reasons we went with VRX.”

“We love Harman, SVSI and the integration of everything,” said Hill. “We tend to use a lot of HARMAN products because of their versatility and the multitude of products available. You can pretty much find a speaker for any application out there that you could possibly need.”

HARMAN designs and engineers connected products and solutions for automakers, consumers, and enterprises worldwide, including connected car systems, audio and visual products, enterprise automation solutions; and services supporting the Internet of Things. For more information, visit


Just the facts JACK

JACK Entertainment launches ClubJACK Skill for Amazon Alexa in northeast Ohio


JACK Entertainment says “Alexa, welcome to the team,” with the unveiling of the new ClubJACK Skill for Amazon Alexa.

The new technology enables ClubJACK members to easily access their current promotional offers and casino promotions through the use of simple voice commands. ClubJACK members at JACK Cleveland Casino and JACK Thistledown Racino can link their ClubJACK accounts to any Alexa-enabled device to receive their information.

JACK Entertainment is the first casino operator to offer this feature to guests, as the brand continues to develop ways to provide its rewards club members with innovative and exciting technology. The new ClubJACK Skill for Amazon Alexa joins the brand’s award winning Virtual Players Card by GT Connect, which gives ClubJACK members convenient access to their player’s card, as well as exclusive services on their mobile device.

“We pride ourselves on continuously seeking to create fun new ways for consumers to interact with our brand through industry-leading advances and innovation,” said Darlene Monzo, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of JACK Entertainment. “By utilizing fresh technology to create the new ClubJACK Skill for Alexa, we believe our players will find the service both valuable and entertaining.”

ClubJACK members are able to ask Alexa various questions, such as “Alexa, ask ClubJACK what my offers are at Cleveland” or receive up-to-date information on property promotions by asking “Alexa, ask ClubJACK to tell me about the promotions at JACK.”

Guests can become a member of ClubJACK for free by registering at any of JACK Entertainment’s properties. As a part of ClubJACK, guests receive exclusive offers including free play, gift giveaways, special programming, and food and beverage promotions as well as discount opportunities with partner businesses throughout the community. 

Demonstrations will be offered by JACK Cleveland Casino and JACK Thistledown Racino to guests wishing to learn more about the Skill or how to access their ClubJACK rewards through Alexa.

JACK Entertainment LLC is a Detroit-based urban casino gaming company which owns and operates gaming properties in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Detroit and racing facilities in Ohio and Kentucky. For more information, visit


Casino Journal's June 2019 issue

See more from Casino Journal's June 2019 issue