Professionals from the gaming industry gathered in-person once again at the Venetian Convention and Expo Center in Las Vegas October 4-7, 2021. The show took place virtually in 2020. Exhibitors and educational sessions highlighted innovation and growth.
On the technology front, the gaming industry is moving in similar directions as the LBE (location-based entertainment) markets, with trends accelerated by the COVID pandemic. More systems are becoming touchless, relying on a guest’s own device to complete many transactions. As InPark Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman points out in his Issue #89 editorial (November, 2021), many casinos on the Las Vegas strip allow guests to book a room, check in to the hotel, unlock their room, pay for food and drink, and schedule entertainment within a single app.
New systems will take that functionality to slot machines next. Once loaded with coins that would pour out into trays, slots largely transitioned to paper vouchers years ago. Now guests will be able to transfer money directly from their phone into the slot machine to play (and ideally transfer back into their phone when they win). Similarly, loyalty player club card info could also be transmitted to the slot machine via a guest’s phone.
Thinking about AI?
From G2E’s Innovation Lab, Kiran Brahmandam, Founder and CEO of Gaming Analytics spoke about the use of AI (artificial intelligence) in casino operations, though his observations are applicable to other guest-facing facilities. According to Brahmandam, AI is poised to become the fourth industrial revolution, promising that “it’s easy to make a sale when you can predict what your customer wants.”
His studies show that AI can increase profits from 3%-16% per year and that 69% of routine work will be fully automated by 2024. Instead of eliminating staff, he suggests, businesses should shift personnel into more customer service roles to provide better and faster service.
Brahmandam says there are milestones to look out for. He predicts most direct mail will transition to digital mail in two years. Within three years we will have moved almost entirely away from cash. By five years all payment terminals will disappear and facial recognition will be the tool people use to pay for things. The technology is here now, he says, it’s just a matter of implementation and acceptance. [InPark issue #89, set for digital release in Nov 2021, will contain some interesting parallels to this for theme parks, museums and attractions.]
The China effect
Also of note for the attractions industry is the effect of Chinese visitors on gaming markets throughout the world. In Brendan D. Bussmann’s article “Dragon Policy” (Global Gaming Business Magazine, Vol. 20, No. 10, October 2021), Bussmann points out how Beijing’s distaste for gambling has impacted China’s travel policies. While the government has controlled access to gambling in the SAR (Special Administrative Region) of Macau for years, increasingly Beijing is exerting its influence by not allowing Chinese gamblers to travel outside its borders to gaming destinations. A reported government blacklist of destinations that lure gamblers from China has successfully impacted overseas gaming revenues and threatens further hardship for the industry.
Bussmann ends his piece with advice: “The lesson for [gaming] operators should be, and continues to be, not to rely on these tourists as a primary source of revenue to sustain operations and diversify their product.” But what business wants to push away tourists from the most populated country on the planet? Instead, there is great opportunity for the LBE industry to help gaming destinations increase their entertainment offerings and offset the loss of Chinese gaming revenue while increasing their appeal to even larger audiences. One need only look to Macau neighbor Hengqin Island as a perfect example of how diversified entertainment offerings can help soften Beijing’s dislike of gambling even in its own backyard. Savvy developers and vendors are already taking note.
The Global Gaming Expo returns to Las Vegas October 10-13, 2022.