John Acres aims to transform casino management systems from their “Band-Aids and glue” era into technology as adaptable as a smartphone.
His latest offering, CMS+, initially works alongside a casino’s existing CMS to provide new capabilities, such as notifying managers when a machine requires repair or shows signs of a problem ranging from a malfunctioning bill validator to potential overpayments from a programming error; configuring slots automatically when they are added or moved; and generating regulatory and management reports. When the casino determines the old CMS is no longer needed, the old CMS can be removed, saving annual maintenance fees.
“The plus part is all about using mobile devices and real-time data to detect problems and fix them in the moment, to reduce the amount of paper and management overhead required to keep a casino running,” said Acres, whose laurels include inventing the first player-tracking system, devising progressive jackpots, and being inducted into the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Hall of Fame.
His company, Acres Manufacturing, expects CMS+ to be installed in the first half of 2023 in casinos operated by Maverick Gaming, pending regulatory approval. Maverick, based in Kirkland, Wash., has eight casinos in Nevada and Colorado plus 19 cardrooms in Washington state. Maverick also plans to install Acres’ Cashless Casino technology.
Acres said the meaning of a casino management system varies from operator to operator. “Our industry is one of Band-Aids and glue,” having grown from electromechanical machines to early microprocessors to simple configurations to sophisticated organizations that require data analysis, cashless operations, and more.
“Nobody’s really evolved the CMS for many, many years,” Acres said, and systems from major vendors are more or less equal.
“We’re defining ‘casino management system’ as the tools and solutions that address improved casino operations,” he explained. “We create a whole separate product for loyalty.” One problem with a typical CMS is that it lumps those two jobs together, he added.
“Loyalty addresses emotion, while (systems) address fact. The machines don’t have emotions. They just need to be fixed and moved and modified,” he said. “We have to always be making (players) feel like they have a renewed chance to win, that they are appreciated, that they’re loved. And we have to do that in a way that keeps them satisfied even as they lose.”
CMS+, Cashless Casino, and other applications run off Acres’ Foundation software, introduced in 2021.
Maverick, Penn Entertainment, and Eureka Casinos are among the first companies to deploy Foundation. Acres noted that each has a different focal point for what it wants. “We develop a CMS application that they can pioneer. Once it’s worked out, we can take those finished modules and use them at other places.”
He believes casinos must offer continual improvements in the player experience, such as lowering the cost of services, offering new emotional gratifications or helping guard against overspending.
“There’s going to be one thing after another after another after another forever,” he said. “I’ve never seen, in my 50 years in this business, innovation stop.”
Toward that end, Foundation offers other software developers – “one of our competitors or any two girls in a garage,” Acres said – the opportunity to come up with ways to improve an operation or to find a new method of using the data a casino collects. The casino operator, not Acres Manufacturing nor the original CMS provider, grants permission for a developer to proceed.
Acres compared the process to the iPhone App Store. “Apple never saw Angry Birds or Twitter or Facebook or any of those applications coming along. But they all were able to use (the process) to create a multi-trillion-dollar business,” he said. The Acres website lists more than 20 apps that work with Foundation, from providers including Everi, FABICash, JCM, and TransAct as well as Acres and smaller companies.
“We don’t care if we get the whole pie or not,” Acres said. “We just want the pie to grow, so that whatever share we get is bigger. If we can help bring innovation to the casino, if we can make those operations more efficient, if we can make those customers happier, we’re going to have more revenue. That’s the kind of future we want to build.”