“Why not do something crazy, like sharing your entire slot database with your players? They could see your hold percentages, jackpot frequencies and win/loss stats?”
Grant Stousland had been thinking about doing something “crazy” ever since his former company, Gaming Informatics, was acquired by Kobetron in 2016. He had always been a big fan of disruptive gaming technology and often cites the example of Class II slot machines. Early doubters said they were illegal and wouldn’t work. But they did. The “disruption” created by Class II slots became the reason that Native American operators in Florida, Oklahoma, and California are now some of the largest casino operators in the world.
Stousland also spent the last few years reflecting on the irony of what’s happening in sports betting. Just a few years ago, Major League Baseball and the National Football League wouldn’t even consider a casino ad anywhere near a ballpark or stadium. Yet today, almost every pro sports franchise has jumped on the bandwagon and is an active partner with some gambling organization. Legal sports betting is booming.
But it wasn’t just the explosive growth of betting that got Stousland’s attention. He couldn’t help but notice the incredible amount of analytics available about sports betting. When you hear the word “analytics” in gaming, you often think about software programs like “QCI,” “Tableau” or “Viz Explorer” that allow casino operators to fine-tune their marketing and product profitability.
While there is some of that in today’s sports (i.e. – “Moneyball”), most of the analytics on sports are produced for the bettors, not the teams.
You can buy “picks” from hundreds of experts or apps online. You can get access to raw stats from each of the leagues. And ESPN commentators today are more “oddsmakers” than they are play-by-play announcers. The business of sports analytics alone is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise and growing daily.
So, if providing more information about teams, athletes, coaches and tendencies has helped sports betting boom in such a short time frame, why not do the same for slot players? That became Stousland’s “crazy” quest. And so far, the concept may be quite sane.
His new product, which made a show debut at the recent IGA event in San Diego, is called Slot Check. Simplified, a casino shares and links its data to Slot Check, which then distributes it to players on an app on their mobile devices. The screens shown are some examples:
On the first screen, you can see nine of the different “insights” that Slot Check provides to top level users. They range from “POP” (essentially the Payback %) to Percent of Winning Spins. You’ll notice that an interactive CAD-like map of the casino floor is also provided. It acts like a wayfinding app for players to locate specific machines. Clicking on any machine will bring up individual stats that can be filtered by “Day,” “Last 7 Days,” “Month,” and so on.
Slot Check is free and also offers two different subscription plans for added “insights”. The Basic subscription, at the lowest fee, shows only five metrics, while the Pro level subscribers get all nine insights shown. Casinos often throw in a free subscription to their top tier slot players as a “comp reward.”
The second screen shown is an example displaying two jackpots (defined as ≥ the $1,200 IRS reporting level) that were hit on the selected time frame (the “Last 7 Days” on this example). The bar graph illustrates the date and amount of those awards.
While some guests visiting the Slot Check booth reacted with stunned disbelief, most were intrigued and a few said, “Wow”. But, the non-believers seemed convinced that Stousland had achieved his goal of doing something “crazy.”
Surprisingly, when slot players use the app, there’s an entirely different take. At his first installation, Stousland says gaming spend increased 83% among users; average daily trip budgets increased 55%; and visits grew by 28%.
Apparently, when players know more about machines they play more, not less. If a machine has been hitting frequently, some players think it’s “hot.” Other players are looking for machines that haven’t hit, postulating that they are “overdue.” It doesn’t matter either way, Stousland says, “as long as this information makes them want to play more. And it does.”
Stousland says that traditional property advertising like posting winners, or some limited paybacks, has only resulted in player indifference. “First, the source is biased. Second, when players are given half the story, they don’t believe it. Consumer studies have proven that we buy products from those who share the most, and who we trust the most. The same will happen in casinos if we are more forthcoming with our data.”
This concept seems both unexpected and obvious at the same time. Stousland quotes one top-tier player who told him, “Since subscribing (to Slot Pro), I no longer like playing blind at other casinos.” Stousland added, “Players can tell when you’re being transparent. In the future, when you go to another casino without Slot Check, it will have an impact.”
It certainly seemed to have had an impact on booth visitors at the IGA show, and that impact was anything but neutral. A few remained skeptical and scratching their heads. But many others were intrigued and wondered if this could be the future of slots? Stousland has no doubt it is.