Focus on eConnect: Deploying a ‘tracking system’ for uncarded players

August 12, 2022 12:00 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
August 12, 2022 12:00 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports

To casino hosts, some uncarded visitors are high-value players they just haven’t met yet.

eConnect’s latest use of facial recognition technology can arrange the introduction.

“We’re starting to refer to this as the Uncarded Player Tracking System,” said Chris Swanger, chief marketing officer for eConnect, which provides artificial intelligence, data, and video analytics for the gaming and hospitality industries.

The eConnect data-driven facial recognition system works by associating a face with an activity, in this case cashing out at a kiosk or the cashier cage. Even though a patron is uncarded and doesn’t need to show identification for most such transactions, the system assigns a number to the person’s face and then can recognize repeat visits and cash-outs – say, $300 one day, $200 the next, and $500 a week later.

When such a person, whose identity is still unknown to the operator, reaches a threshold set by the casino, the system can automatically notify a host the next time that player arrives, including a photo of the player and the entrance used. That allows the host to locate the player, initiate a conversation, and offer a meal or other comp based on their previous action – all with the player retaining anonymity if desired.

“(A host) can deliver that personalized service and make that particular individual feel wanted and welcome, which is everything in the casino industry,” Swanger said. He added that eConnect is the first to offer this application of facial recognition.

The threshold for notifying a host can be cumulative, such as $20,000 in six weeks.

Swanger explained that cash-out transactions provide the best opportunities to place a camera parallel to a face and capture an image that allows software to map the facial structure, such as the distance between the eyes or the space from nose to mouth. A person’s face has about 80 landmarks, known as nodal points. Facial recognition uses artificial intelligence to convert that data into the equivalent of a fingerprint. eConnect says its technology is 99.8 percent accurate overall and accounts for demographic differences including race, gender, and age.

While virtually every casino has a loyalty program, Swanger said 30 percent to 50 percent of players gamble without a club card. A handful might not use one because they’re cheating or otherwise breaking the law, he said, but most forget their card, feel it’s unlucky, or “simply don’t want to be on the radar.”

Many uncarded players are likely to visit multiple times a month, Swanger said. “As long as they are playing at a high level dollar-wise, cashing out large transaction amounts, it’s relatively good for the casino,” he said. “At a minimum, a manager or host just walking the casino floor can walk up and introduce themselves and at least develop a bit of a relationship and say ‘I appreciate you.'”

The idea of deploying facial recognition for marketing purposes came after eConnect developed its anti-money laundering system, which tracks cage and TITO transactions. The company’s facial recognition system also identifies people on banned or self-excluded lists who should be prevented from entering the casino.

“We found that the same data we’re capturing from the gaming systems was also going to be valuable for marketing,” Swanger said. The technology can be used to capture point-of-sale transactions at casino restaurants and gift shops, which he said provides a 360-degree view of an uncarded player’s spending.

eConnect, with headquarters in Las Vegas, says its products integrate with all major gaming, hospitality, and surveillance systems. Swanger said more than 350 casinos across the United States have installed eConnect’s facial recognition system, with dozens employing it for marketing as well as security.

“In this case, we’re giving casino operators something they don’t have now,” he said. “We’re delivering this technology to casino operators, and they love it.”