The casino floor: Time for a reboot?


uch of the evolution we can expect to see in casinos comes from technological installations, so what digital equipment could we see dominate the gambling floor in the near future? Gambling Insider asked Michael Jabara, industry veteran and founder of mobile casino game supplier OneLIVE Inc, what he thought we could realistically expect to see in the casino of the future

When will we see VR games located on the casino floor?

Onelive believes that VR games will first find a home in the millennial-focused lounges, bars and social gathering spaces now being planned by the leading operators. These "Gaming floors of the future" will look very different than the rows and rows of slot machines and tables that currently exist. Rather, they will be social gathering places where small and large groups can interact. In these "Cool" spots, we think that VR will work best for social gaming, tournaments and contests, where the players actually see each other in the game. This of course is old news for console game and esports players but a very new concept for the traditional north American casino operator.

Do you think physical chips will be replaced by digital casino currency on table games?

It's already happening with some of the shuffle master and LT games products. However, the jury is still out on whether the feel of the chip in the player's hand and the stack on the table will ever go away. And given the increasing focus on money laundering, I think it will be a while before north american regulators feel comfortable allowing block-chain currency such at bitcoin in regulated casinos, whether online or land-based. That could change if corporate America and governments embrace it as a method of payment.

Will some form of biometrics technology replace a physical loyalty rewards scheme card? Could biometrics also be used for security or social responsibility/self-exclusion?

Clearly, what apple and Samsung have accomplished with the thumb-print authentication on their recent phones is very impressive. Any technology that reduces the number of plastic cards will be welcome by the public (just think if you're an active player in Las Vegas how many different players cards that you have to carry!).

Once it's proven in and used for loyalty, expect that the digital wallet, being pioneered by MGM Resorts International – where money on account can be used for slot play, dining or entertainment – to be accessible with biometric ID.

I don't ever see cash going away. Some players just like the anonymity of plunking down cash on the table or putting bills into the machines. They don't have a player card and just like the feel of a big bankroll in their pocket. These are some of the best players in the casino and always will be.

Social responsibility and self-exclusion require many mechanisms to be effective in a land-based casino. These elements include exclusion from promotional notices and activities, no check cashing at the cage and so on. Biometrics can play a part, but only a part, in insuring that the goal – limiting access to gambling for certain individuals – works.

How will technology improvements help casinos to understand their customers better?

The more information that any organisation has on how, when and why their products are used, the better their products can deliver a superb customer experience. The online industry would be amazed how much technology, people, systems, processes and training it already takes to consistently create a wonderful land-based experience for the 45 million visitors that visit Las Vegas each year.

Is second screen technology something that casinos will make more use of, or is it too difficult to police customers using their own devices as aids to playing real-money games?

In situations where the odds can be shifted, like blackjack or poker, these devices and the computers connected to them will remain forbidden. But for sports betting, it's already happening. Mobile betting is the classic second-screen experience, where you watch the action on the big screen and use your phone to place in-game bets in real-time. Without giving future secrets away, expect our easyPLAY mobile tournaments to evolve and deliver fantastic and very engaging multi-media experiences for the contestants.

Will customer interaction become increasingly digital, or will it always be important that casinos manage customer queries face to face?

That is already happening today. It's just a fact – people demand and expect instant response and gratification. Think Uber. The gaming hospitality equivalent is the fully-enabled mobile property app. Instant mobile check-in/check-out, instant ordering of food and beverage and immediate arranging for show tickets... These all deliver a better customer experience while dramatically reducing headcount. This is truly a win-win for both casino and patron.

Will technology advancement inevitably mean that casinos will have to hire less staff?

Well run casinos do a superb job of managing their human resources because they are the face of the casino. A case in point: when TITO (ticket in ticket out) technology replaced quarters, half-dollars and dollar coins 15 years ago, the thousands of change clerks and runners didn't get fired, they were re-trained to become slot hosts, cocktail servers and so on. The land-based casino experience, particularly at large integrated resorts, will always be heavily dependent upon a welcoming and cheerful workforce to deliver an unforgettable experience to their guests and visitors.

Are there any areas that technology advancement is or could be slowed by regulatory issues?

Gaming regulations always lag technology. That is because regulation is the sum of historical laws on the books, the regulations to support those laws and the technical and financial standards required for casinos to operate within this framework. And remember, this framework was designed to protect the public and maintain the reputation of the industry for honesty, transparency and fairness – a job that it does very well. Having said that, every regulator in North America is actively engaged with the industry on a proactive basis to make sure that this regulatory framework always stays relevant in a time of breathtaking changes in technology.
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