Monday, March 12, 2007

IGT Systems helps casinos play for keeps

Recognizing a high roller at a casino used to be part art, part science.

The art came in training employees to identify when a player is spending a certain amount of money at the casino. Then, reward him or her with the perks that come with being a preferred customer: free drinks, complimentary (or “comped”) rooms, or dinner on the house, to name a few. The science was typically even more rudimentary: a back-office system that did an effective job of tracking the casino’s earnings, but had a difficult time following the playing habits of guests.

Now the science of determining and rewarding high rollers is making a major advance. Thanks to the IGT Advantage Casino System, a suite of products developed by IGT Systems in Reno, Nevada that is based on the Microsoft platform, casinos can follow the play of all of their guests—and single out the best ones for preferred treatment.

“Leveraging technology to better enable the gaming industry to maintain pace with the lightening-fast demand for products and services is one of the most important movements in the industry today,” says Michael Coppert, director of advanced software development for IGT Systems. “Considering this need, it was only natural that we team up with Microsoft. Their technology has allowed us to continue developing the rich feature-function systems that guests have come to expect from IGT.”

Rewarding guests to keep them coming back

Rewarding guests is critical to ensuring they return to the casino to play again. When patrons leave a loyalty or rewards program, according to a 2004 poll conducted by Maritz Loyalty Marketing, the primary reason (cited by 70 percent of those queried) is because of the length of time it takes to build up points. Among the other reasons customers had for taking their business elsewhere were not being rewarded properly (23 percent), disliking the reward options (20 percent), and poor customer service (16 percent).

The IGT Advantage Casino System helps companies such as MGM Mirage and Wynn Resorts address these customer concerns as well as identify top players—so they can keep all their patrons coming back to play again and again. And IGT Systems does this by incorporating Microsoft SQL Server technology, a comprehensive database platform that provides enterprise-class data management with integrated business intelligence tools, into their solutions.

No more waiting for recognition—and rewards

Before the IGT Advantage Casino System, it took an astute floor manager or employee to spot a hot player and react accordingly (the aforementioned “art” of recognizing a high roller). Not anymore. IGT products include a Bonusing module and a NexGen multimedia player tracking panel, which integrate the play data being tracked with the marketing efforts surrounding that information. This helps enable casinos to identify and adequately reward their most valuable players—including delivering customized messages and instant player rewards to patrons right at the slot machine.

SQL Server manages the data that is used by these applications.

For example, IGT’s new Configurable Rewards Program feature enables a casino to reward players with points that are in addition to those accrued through dollars spent gaming. These additional points can be earned and redeemed during casino-determined time periods, thus driving incremental trips and increased revenue. And the casino can choose to reward all or select players with this kind of “bonus” feature based upon a percentage of points the players have already amassed, and/or to reward a specific group of players using a special file-load feature.

Faster payouts

IGT’s EZ Pay Ticket System is an innovative ticket system that eliminates the need for coin hoppers. This means players experience little or no downtime for machine refills and jackpot payoffs, which results in more play time and reduced labor costs. The system works by using the SQL Server 2000 version of Transformation Services to provide export and archive data packages, helping to tie slot machines with wireless terminals and automated ticket redemption devices.

Increased reliability

When you are a company that has 400-player tracking, cashless gaming, and security systems—with the need to maintain them all across a total of about 300,000 machines—you want to be double-sure of your technology. That’s why the latest versions of IGT Advantage Casino Systems products built on the Microsoft platform incorporate SQL Server technology.

Coming soon: IGT harnesses SQL 2005

IGT Systems is continually moving their technology forward, advancing the solutions they can offer their casino clients. Among the developments made possible by new technologies include those enabled by Microsoft SQL 2005, such as online indexing and data partitioning for maximum uptime during data preparation and upgrades, as well as improvements to reporting services for seamless delivery. (Online indexing means that a casino would not have to schedule downtime in order to maintain high performance index structures.) Plus, the new system will use SQL Server Service Broker for faster asynchronous internal and third party communication. This will allow for the recording of interface-related data while reducing the impact on the production system.