CEO tells G2E panel: Track gaming, nongaming spending to figure a guest’s total value

CEO tells G2E panel: Track gaming, nongaming spending to figure a guest’s total value

  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
October 15, 2018 12:01 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

Casino operators could pick up a few tips from digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, the head of a data analysis firm says.

The Echo device featuring Alexa not only makes peoples’ lives easier but also learns their preferences on a wide range of purchases. Casinos could use similar technology to assess the total value of player by considering spending on amenities as well as gaming losses, said Az Husain, founder and CEO of Casino Science.

“Knowing overall player worth is about understanding preferences,” he said.

“Although gaming profitability can outstrip the nongaming profitability, a richer profile of player spend can be created if you look at (their spending) holistically across the two,” said Husain, who moderated a Global Gaming Expo panel discussion titled “Holistically Evaluating Player Worth Across Gaming and Non-Gaming Activities.”

Panel members were Michael Ka’ahanui, director of marketing for Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn, Wash.; James Snead, chief financial officer of Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino in Coarsegold, Calif.; and, at times, Alexa, speaking from an Echo at the panelist table.

Snead and Ka’ahanui noted that some casinos already track players’ spending on nongaming activities. At many casinos, the gaming and nongaming operations use different computer systems, which can make tracking an individual player’s total purchases difficult. Many vendors now offer systems, so the task is easier, but just having access to the data is not enough, the two said.

“In addition to understanding customers from play and data, it’s very useful to spend time on the floor to talk with guests. They’ll give you loads of information,” Snead said.

He and Ka’ahanui gave examples of moves that appeared logical based on data alone but bombed with players.

Ka’ahanui told of a decision to remove a free-room offer from players who had never redeemed one and instead offer an amenity they had a history of using, such as food and beverage or a spa treatment.

“It was a crisis,” he said, as guests rebelled at the switch. People said they enjoyed having the option for a room even if they didn’t use it. Snead told a similar tale of stopping a free-room offer for players who lived with 20 miles of the casino. The guests rebelled, saying that even though they seldom used the offer, they liked having it as just-in-case option.

“Knowing guests’ preferences is great, but that doesn’t mean they are always looking for you to mirror what you think they want,” Ka’ahanui said. “The conversations you have on the floor with guests on every level – not just front-line team members but supervisors, managers, directors, vice presidents and CFOs – getting their perspective is huge.”

Asked to consider how players and casinos might interact in the future, Snead noted potential side effects of new technologies, such as the possible reduction of drunken-driving incidents from the popularity of rideshare programs. “These changes in technology bring big improvements to our lives,” he said.

Ka’ahanui said customers’ expectations increase as technology improves. “Most people are going to open their smartphone and will do as much as they can as quickly and efficiently as possible. They expect that. That will be the competitive difference between properties, those that can execute and those that can’t.”

Alexa also chimed in: “The worth of a player is derived from their ability to spend on product and services. Knowing the player’s amenity preferences is a big part of that. Imagine the guest being able to ask a PDA to book a dinner reservation or a spa appointment. Or imagine that the PDA can make these recommendations based on amenity history. That is the compelling guest experience, and (artificial intelligence) and natural language processing technology are at the forefront of that.

“But,” she added, “I might be a little biased in my opinion.”

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