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Gaming panel says casinos must keep up with technology to thrive

Imagine sitting at a slot machine, hitting a jackpot and having your win shared instantly with friends on social media.

Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corp. is working on that.

“People love to share,” said Brent Rampmaier, senior vice president and chief information officer at Boyd Gaming. “We’re at looking at things where when you hit a jackpot maybe something comes up and — because you’re using your phone and you have your customer app — the customer app is tied to your slot machine and it gives you an opportunity to share your jackpot screen with a photo of yourself that automatically posts to your social media accounts.”

New trends in technology and innovation and how it can be used to keep casino revenue growing was discussed Friday, in the opening session of the four-day National Council of Legislators from Gaming States at Resorts World.

The organization’s winter meeting drew 24 lawmakers from 21 states with some form of legal gaming and Puerto Rico as well as educators, policymakers, regulators, industry experts and their staff.

The gathering includes committee reports and panels on 12 gaming-related topics.

Experiencing a casino from home

During Friday’s trend panel, Rampmaier also said he envisions technology that brings friends together at a casino, even when one or more of them stay home, as a means to let everyone enjoy the social experience of a casino.

“That is something we all need to talk about,” he said. “How does alternate reality and virtual reality fit into that online and in brick-and-mortar? How can you set up an experience where you have a group of friends that are going to the brick-and-mortar but one of the friends can’t? How do you join that experience together with someone sitting at home with a headset and feel like they’re actually in the brick-and-mortar with their friends?”

Casino companies are exploring new ways of engaging customers in order to entertain a whole new generation.

June Taylor, chair of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, said she looks at her 20-year-old daughter and sees the new type of customers casinos have.

“Look at how these people talk to each other,” she said. “They’re in circles. I say, ‘You guys are like wolves. You run in packs.’ You can’t hear what they’re saying because they’re whispering, and they’re on their phones. That’s not like anything that’s set up in a casino even when you look at what’s being built today.”

Taylor warned that casino companies must keep up with technology and the demographic characteristics of their new customers if they’re going to be able to continue generating the record revenue casinos have experienced in the last two years.

Panelists concurred that one of the reasons 2021 and 2022 have been banner financial years for the industry is because millions of people, who were cooped up during the pandemic, made their way to casinos because they opened faster than theaters and other entertainment options.

It’s an IT business

“The (gaming) business today is an IT business,” Taylor said. “If you’re going to get into this game, you need to understand it, and if you’re going to have regulators in it, the regulatory side is going to be your IT gurus. That’s an evolution that has occurred over time, and it’s only going to get greater. If you’re going to be as nimble and as malleable as you need to be, to do the work you’re supposed to do, especially when you have acquisition and so forth, you have to keep up.”

Taylor said Ohio will have its own industry challenges in the weeks ahead when regulated sports betting launches Jan. 1. She said the Ohio sports betting expansion will be the largest in history and there already are 3,980 licenses, as of Thursday, in three tiers, including one that will allow players to place bets at kiosks in grocery stores.

Panelist Stacy Rowland, general counsel for Genting Americas, which is affiliated with Resorts World, said embracing technology also means upgrading slot machines and table games with entertaining themes as well as being certain that other amenities within the casino are top-notch.

“We have a different type of customer out there than we used to,” Rowland said. “You have customers that want more than a machine, more than a table. They want to eat well; they want to listen to music; they want to stay in a hotel that provides all amenities, not just a place to sleep and get up and gamble.”

Boyd’s Rampmaier said his company also is looking to robotics, not because they’re trying to cut jobs.

“We’re trying to find innovative ways (to operate) where we can’t find people,” he said. “This isn’t about needing or wanting to cut labor expenses. We can’t find them (employees). We jack prices (pay) up to unrealistic numbers in certain states, and we still can’t find people. We can’t find dealers.

“We’re looking at craps tables that are completely digital and can be run by one person. We’re looking at robots that deliver supplies to hotel rooms or deliver food (in restaurants) and bus tables. We’re looking at a multitude of things to battle against this labor issue, and quite frankly, we just don’t see many answers.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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