AGS GameON: Panel touts slot transparency, influencers, smart marketing to draw players

June 16, 2023 8:15 AM

AGS GameON: Panel touts slot transparency, influencers, smart marketing to draw players

Photo: Taking part in a panel discussion on increasing player engagement and excitement are, from left, Grant Stousland, developer of the Slot Check app; consultant Timothy Wojnar, who doubles as YouTube slot influencer TheBigPayback; and Christopher Abraham, senior vice president of marketing at Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
June 16, 2023 8:15 AM

Sports fans relish stats such as quarterback passer ratings, a baseball slugger’s on-base-plus-slugging percentage, or a basketball player’s efficiency rating when deciding how to bet.

Slot players would increase their action if they could access comparable numbers about a casino’s machines, contends Grant Stousland, who developed an app that would provide such “insights,” based on information from the casino.

“Knowledge is power. It empowers and engenders trust,” Stousland said Thursday during a panel discussion on ways to enhance player engagement and excitement. He said that despite industry reluctance to release such data, the Slot Check app can attract players “in a way that’s different than anything that’s been done previously in the industry.”

Joining him onstage at the AGS GameON conference at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno were Timothy Wojnar, president of gaming marketing and consulting firm Priva, who is perhaps more widely known for his YouTube role as slot influencer TheBigPayback; Christopher Abraham, Grand Sierra’s senior vice president of marketing; and moderator David Lopez, CEO of AGS.

Stousland said his app includes information that some might consider “unimaginable” to reveal to players: which machines are the hottest and coldest, based on return to player over various periods, from the past hour to the past 30 days; which have paid the most jackpots in those time frames; which have been played the most; which have been “underpaying” and are starting to pay out. App reports are updated every five minutes or so. Slot Check also helps players choose their games, based on preferences such as high or low volatility, video poker or regular slot, progressive jackpot or not; then it maps where the machine is on the floor.

Stousland said the app rests on the “three pillars” of providing knowledge to players, a “my play” component that allows users to document their favorite machines, how they did, and jackpots won along with a leaderboard competition among users with everyone adopting an alias so no actual names are exposed.

Slot Check, launched in March, is in one casino now, Lake of the Torches in Wisconsin, and Stousland said a second installation is underway at Eureka Casino in Las Vegas, where the app will interface with the Acres Foundation system. Initial reports from Lake of the Torches say users are higher tier players, and they increased their spend by 83 percent, with visits up by 28 percent.

Wojnar said slot influencers introduce untold numbers of potential customers to games and the properties that offer them. He said the top 10 YouTube slot channels together account for more than 1 billion views  a year. He noted that meet-and-greets during influencers’ visits to a casino attract hundreds of fans, with many pitching in money toward a “group pull” and then staying around to play on their own. He said his fans kicked in a total of $70,000 for a group pull in Atlantic City. “Live streams allow us to become ambassadors to your property, to show why your property is fun, what makes your property unique.”

To illustrate the impact slot influencers can have, Wojnar told of participating in a $70,000 influencer slot tournament held a couple of years ago. Next month, it will be a $150,000 tournament, with the casino bringing in VIP guests to be on the teams. “This is growing and growing and growing,” he said, adding that the interest attracts players who develop long-term loyalty to a property.

Abraham wondered whether influencers might be more effective at developing fans for slot manufacturers and specific games they provide. Noting that Grand Sierra gets less than half its revenue from gaming, he said the resort sets itself apart by marketing its many amenities. “Everyone has gaming, and we have so much other stuff,” he added. The resort’s Infinity Rewards Programs gives visitors club points for every retail purchase, adding 200 cash registers that accept players club cards as slot machines do.

The big difference in marketing now versus five to 10 years ago is that offers now go out so quickly. Many are based on visits just completed and “from a value and behavior standpoint,” he said. He said about 40 percent of Grand Sierra visitors are older – or “over the hill,” as Lopez phrased it – but they account for 60 percent of revenue.

Stousland’s previous firm, Gaming Informatics, brought the Integrated Regulatory Information System for casinos and casino regulators to market in the United States. He said players would reward casino transparency about their slot offerings.

“Players will be fighting for the hot games, while the hot games are always changing because they’re random,” he said. “I don’t think you care what games people play, as long as they’re playing a game on your floor.”

Mark Gruetze is a veteran journalist from suburban Pittsburgh who covers casino gaming issues and personalities.