COVID-19 continues to devastate businesses, industries, and individual lives as it sweeps through the nation and the world. Social distancing measures, stay-at-home orders, and general fear over the spread of the virus have led to multiple business shutdowns and countless layoffs.
In the midst of all the chaos, casinos are facing prospects for particularly large losses, both to individual businesses and to the national economy. USA Today reported an estimated loss of $4.7 billion per each month that the Nevada tourism industry is shut down, and Bill Miller, president of the American Gaming Association (AGA), projected that mass casino closures for eight weeks would “rob the U.S. economy of $43.5 billion in economic activity”.
As of now, the game is one of waiting and hoping that each casino’s cash reserves will be enough to wait out the pandemic. Although most projections see major casinos being able to hold out for at least a good handful of months, each casino is projected to be burning anywhere from $300,000 to $6.4 million a day. Casinos have been laying off workers to try to mitigate the daily burn rate, but they can only layoff so many people, and for the most part it has been difficult to put even a slight dent in the daily burn.
What is perhaps even more daunting is the fact that many of these fears and closures will not be automatically remedied as soon as stay-at-home orders end and social distancing guidelines are lifted. It will be quite a while before the people feel completely safe in public again, if ever. COVID-19 has and will continue to fuel a paradigm shift that will force business and industries across the board to rethink their approach to hygiene and customer safety in order to re-capture their consumer base. It is imperative that casinos begin to think ahead to the changes they will need to make so that, when business reopens, customers will be ready and willing to come back.
TECHNOLOGY IN THE CASINO
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, casinos were looking for new ways to integrate technology into their business models in order to attract more customers, particularly targeting those from the Millennial generation who tend to see things like the slot machine as boring and for an older generation. Although studies have indicated that the average age of visitors to Las Vegas is becoming younger, the percentage of visitors who gamble has also dropped, which in turn has lowered the revenue for the 23 states that depend on taxes raised by casinos.
Casinos have been using big data collected on its patrons through loyalty cards to keep track of personal information, amount of money spent, times and dates a patron visited a location, and even a customer’s favorite slot machines. This information is then brought to the marketing department and is used to help target customers, and is even sometimes also used to help determine where to place slot machines, amongst other analytical advantages.
Moreover, there has been a heightened focus on online gaming and virtual reality gaming options. Online gaming also lends itself to big data collection through which a casino can take streaming data and have developers change the game in almost real time to adapt to and fit the needs and wants of the player. Virtual reality is also a game changing option. Innovative, high-end graphics, massive virtual interactivity, and an all-encompassing experience is bound to attract the attention of tech-savvy Millennials.
THE KIOSK ADVANTAGE
The hope is that one day people will return to the casinos in person, and that they will feel safe and secure in doing so. Another technological option to look to is the self-service kiosk, particularly in the food halls. Self-service kiosks eliminate the need for extra and unnecessary human interaction.
Even with business running normally, self-service kiosks are proven to improve the customer experience by 38 percent. Right now, kiosks are being widely deployed in the restaurant industry to reduce wait times, which corresponds to an associated cost of $0.05 per second of wait time, or an hourly cost rate of almost 10 times the average wage of $18/hour. Kiosks also create the ability to deliver a wider range of products and services, and allow customers to serve themselves when and where it is convenient for them. Kiosks aid the customer in their buying decisions by making information about purchases easily accessible and thus tend to increase the average ticket by 12-22 percent.
Moreover, self-service kiosks can play a unique role in casino food halls because they can help consolidate the different food options within the food halls to make the ordering process even more efficient, particularly for larger groups. An order can be placed at a single kiosk all at one time, and payment can be made by one person or split up amongst many, whatever the group desires.
Additionally, kiosks can be dispersed throughout the casino, and thus, instead of a customer needing to leave their slot machine or spot at a table to go over to the food hall to order and pay and eat, kiosks can further consolidate the ordering experience by bringing it to the customer, which would in turn increase the table time of the customer and thereby generate more revenue for the casino.
But beyond being a good business move, self-service kiosks will play an even more vital role in industries across the board because kiosks replace and limit human interaction while still allowing patrons to engage in business. Kiosks replace the need for cashiers, and thereby also work towards moving away from the dirtiest thing around: cash.
Self-service kiosks accept credit and debit payments along with a wide range of other payment methods that would circumvent the exchange of cash between hands. GRUBBRR recently integrated with payment innovator FreedomPay, and GRUBBRR customers will now have access to all the latest payment technologies, including Apply Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and contactless EMV.
However, given cashless bans, GRUBBRR kiosks are also coupled with cash recyclers. A fully automated payment system will dramatically reduce concerns over person-to-person exchange and excessive handling of cash.
For an even more hands-off option, GRUBBRR’s services also offer a QR scan option through which customers can simply open the camera on their smartphones, scan the QR code, and then the menu or catalogue will be downloaded directly onto their phones. This allows the patron to move freely while still engaging with the business. The customer can order from wherever they want at that point, and then simply pay through their phones using one of the payment methods described above.
THE VALUE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
In this waiting period before casino doors open to the public again, it would be helpful to use social media platforms to keep customers engaged and remind them that they are still the primary concern. Many people are starting to feel the effects of cabin fever creep up on them, and they need something to look forward to at the end of this long quarantine tunnel.
Social media is an excellent way to keep people informed and updated regarding changes that a casino is undergoing or planning on undergoing to prepare to receive customers again in the post-COVID-19 world. One of the key factors to bringing patrons back to casinos will be transparency between the casino and its customers—transparency in hygiene and cleanliness procedures, and transparency to demonstrate a real commitment to addressing the fears and the concerns that will inevitably linger after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Beyond social media, casinos should also take advantage of online social and for-money gaming platforms to give consumers just a small taste of the fuller experience that they will be able to come back to once the quarantine-era comes to a close. Casinos can also look to live-streaming platforms to create a more interactive environment for patrons to engage with, and also to act as a more immediate reminder of the casino environment that many will be missing.
The world after COVID-19 will likely never be the same. Incorporating technology—both into physical casinos and into plans to keep consumers engaged online—will play a key role in making sure that people will both want to come out to casinos and will trust casinos enough to come out again.