TribalNet: Privacy concerns raised over casinos’ data in light of recent hacks

September 19, 2023 7:00 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
September 19, 2023 7:00 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

The cyberattacks against MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment that potentially exposed credit cards, Social Security numbers, loyalty cards, and other personal information of guests is certain to raise privacy concerns going forward for the casino industry.

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Photo CDC Gaming Reports

That was one of the takeaways this week at the Tribalnet Conference & Tradeshow in San Diego as the topic of hacking against the two commercial casino giants made its way into panel discussions outside of cybersecurity.

The issue arose Monday during a panel on customer-relationship management (CRM) tools and how casinos engage, market and store information.

One of the first questions from the audience was whether marketing departments are getting pushback about privacy from customers who sign up as loyalty-club members. The information gathered from customers is used to better know and market to them.

Not yet, responded Ryan McGrath, vice president of digital innovation for the Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, representing the Minnesota tribe, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. “We’re one week into the MGM hack and I bet privacy and how to make sure guests are protected are on a lot of people’s minds. That’s something we need to be mindful of, because privacy has been a hot topic.”

McGrath said it requires flexibility, such as allowing guests to opt in to or out of how information can be used, making them feel empowered.

Mike Day, CEO of TribalHub, which hosts the conference, said anytime people submit private information, there’s always a concern and even more so with tribes that operate healthcare for their members. All of that has the potential of being hacked, with ransoms demanded for guarantee that the information won’t be sold to the highest bidder.

“It just hurts the organization that has to deal with it,” Day said Tuesday of the publicity about MGM and Caesars in terms of information gathering by casinos for marketing purposes. “It also hurts an entire industry, because people associate MGM or Caesars with gaming and hospitality. If they have less faith in sharing their information in this industry or any industry, that’s a problem.”

As for how to improve marketing using CRM tools, casinos have been collecting a lot of data on guests over the last 20 to 30 years, using disparate sources and systems. Operators need tools to blend that information for a player profile to improve marketing, McGrath said.

“How many of you have a booking engine, a different way to sell concert tickets, another way to book a spa, and another way to book a dining reservation?” McGrath asked. “I can keep going on and on. We have all of these applications gathering all of these data points. We need a tool to match up all of these identities, so we have a 360-degree picture of that guest.”

An acceleration in digital transformation over the last couple of years has been propelled by sports betting, igaming, and emerging media platforms that guests are consuming, McGrath said.

“They’re not just driving by a billboard and seeing a television spot,” McGrath said. “We’re having connection points among various social media platforms and we need tools to understand and blend them together.”

McGrath said consumers continue to grow savvier when it comes to the digital world. Only a decade ago, when casino-marketing people wanted their properties to build a phone app, all they heard was pushback from executives that their guests were too old for that technology and would never use it.

“We have a savvy consumer today who knows how to use a smartphone and a mobile application and we need a way to blend all of that data together.”

That’s being done today as casinos can build a “true customer 360,” where a team of casino hosts can log into a dashboard and see various offers and upcoming hotel stays, McGrath said.

“They no longer have to go into six different systems to identify what events they’re supposed to attend and what offers are available to them. Whether it’s Everi, IGT, or Aristocrat, our hosts actually have a central view of our players. We’re starting to create a holistic view of our guests with these tools that also make our hosts a lot more productive. The tools are helping us drive more meaningful engagement and enrich those relationships with the guests.”

McGrath said their guests, regardless of whether they’re hosted, all want to feel valued. They already feel that across most other channels.

“Personalization is across every single channel, whether it’s Amazon, Target, or other loyalty platforms, and our guests want to feel the same level they’re experiencing elsewhere,” McGrath said. “The less that we bring that experience to them, the more they’ll feel like we’re their grandmother’s casino. How do we change that perception? We know younger people value the whole experience. They don’t just want to go play a slot machine.”

McGrath said people see how the world is changing, especially with gaming, which has done a lot over the last five years. Most states have legalized sports betting and online gaming will only grow in the future.

“There might be six jurisdictions today, but as we allow more legalization of sports betting, the demand for online casino and live gaming is only going to grow,” McGrath said. “And our consumers are expecting flawless digital experiences. When they can download a FanDuel, DraftKings, or Candy Crush app, it’s simple and the app knows what they like to play. We — specifically tribal operators — need to find a way to remain competitive within this space. We’re no longer just competing against other tribal operators, but against large organizations that have invested millions of dollars in creating and crafting digital experiences that our guests love.”

Mille Lacs operates two large casinos in Minnesota and McGrath said modernization of technology is important for long-term sustainable growth for a tribe that looks to support its members for generations.

“We’re starting to think today about what that future holds for our organization,” McGrath said. “We have to compete against the entertainment dollar. We’re not just competing against other casino operators. We know younger people value a holistic experience and making last-minute decisions before they take a trip to the property.”