Few would argue that COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and an ongoing prohibition against large gatherings have had a tremendous impact on all aspects of the gaming industry.
Across the board, casinos, operators, slot machine suppliers and those that maintain them were all feeling the effects of a sudden and complete halt of gaming activity. These businesses were forced to reevaluate 2020 plans, and many turned to furloughing staff and other cost-saving measures. Many planned installs for casinos were reconsidered, and dollars devoted to them were reinvested into safety solutions and data collection.
Through all these changes, resort customers still expect the very best gaming experience, especially on the casino floor. For game manufacturers, this means reprioritizing development and doing more with less. Many are looking to expand partnerships that can help deliver innovation for the new normal.
Casino management should look for strong suppliers that can integrate the technology required into not only gaming machines, but into the casino as a whole.
ADDING TECH TO THE EXPERIENCE
Gaming needs to change to accommodate government-mandated orders and make players feel safe enough to want to visit casinos and participate. Implementing physical barriers between machines and seats and eliminating or moving machines to allow for social distancing is commonplace. Floor attendants are alert to ensure that each electronic gaming machine (EGM) is clean and sanitized between uses. Players are also likely to be looking for minimal interaction with both staff and physical items. Cashless and chipless play are also being explored and will likely become more common in the future, so too conducting monetary transactions directly from a player’s phone or other mobile device.
In addition to gameplay changes, gaming regulators are also evaluating ways to adapt innovative technologies into today’s modern casino. Technology is a fantastic way to address these changes and the needs of the industry. There are a few areas specifically where technology will lead:
Products—As casinos and operators work to stop the bleeding within their budgets, machine manufacturers will need to meet them where they are. Not only do casinos want a better slot machine with higher resolution, stunning graphics and dramatic displays; but right now, they need it at a lower cost. Instead of focusing on new development, manufacturers will likely need to show machines similar to last year’s models, but with more value than ever before for the player, casino operators and game manufacturers.
Mobile platforms—Connectivity options with tablets and mobile devices are on the rise, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. Due to the pandemic, players are more sensitive and aware of germs; and even after a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, handheld devices will likely still need to be equipped with a short-range sensor to eliminate the player from having physical contact with the actual machine.
To support the new gaming norm, cashless chip and ticketless options will become preferred. This will allow customers to take their mobile devices anywhere in the casino, enabling them to place bets from guest rooms, the pool and so on—entirely without touching a legacy machine.
Sensors—Not only will sensors play an essential role in how betting will take place, but they can also help keep the casino clean. Proximity sensors can alert staff when players have left an EGM or other high-use items to begin cleaning and sanitization procedures. Technology will help the casino staff stay on top of this vital maintenance step to ensure player safety.
- Telemetry and diagnostics—Thermographic camera technology can monitor staff and visitor temperatures. Staff can seamlessly monitor and comply with social distancing mandates by leveraging a 3D counting camera equipped with a capacity status display. With occupancy or social distancing rules programmed, the system will alert staff to address areas of concern. Meanwhile, as casinos often offer more than gaming, drones may be utilized to monitor outdoor spaces—pools, bars or other gathering spots—ensuring that the entire property is adhering to best practices, not just the indoor gaming areas.
Movement data can also show where players gravitate, how long they stay and what types of gaming activities they prefer in the era of COVID-19.
Success in implementing these changes—to meet gaming needs while maintaining staff safety—will depend on casinos and operators having the right partners. Consider the following when choosing a technology partner:
Engineering capabilities—Partners can help casinos and operators weather the COVID-19 storm, jumping in with an engineering team that can help diagnose a problem and offer a corresponding solution to address the need.
Flexibility of solutions—A great partner can provide flexibility for casinos and operators to modify and scale solutions according to their needs.
Supply chain strength—When picking a partner, be sure to consider risk mitigation in the supply chain; with so many delays occurring within the shipping world, a partner with a robust supply chain is a must.
Up-to-date offerings—Make sure the potential partner’s offerings feature the latest technology and capabilities designed to meet the high demands of gamers and casinos alike. A tech partner that features an outdated platform will have challenges running high-quality application workflows, integrating sensor technology and supporting various mobile connectivity options.
Meanwhile, as casinos often offer more than gaming, drones may be utilized to monitor outdoor spaces—pools, bars or other gathering spots—ensuring that the entire property is adhering to best practices, not just the indoor gaming areas.
The gaming industry has certainly changed due to the pandemic. To meet these changes head-on, casinos, operators and manufacturers all need to work together. Casino management should look for strong suppliers that can integrate the technology required into not only gaming machines, but into the casino as a whole. Manufacturers will need to address casino operator concerns by shoring up their supply chains and offering updated EGMs at lower costs. Player tracking systems will be critical in the coming year to capture how players are participating in gaming, and to accommodate their needs and offer tailored promotions.
Through all this, there’s one thing that the gaming industry can bet on: change is here and embracing that change will help it survive the era of COVID-19.