Betting on AI and the Casino Industry

Disruptive and groundbreaking technology like artificial intelligence is sure to impact every industry, gaming included. Those with the foresight to learn and teach these tools, such as Brian Uran (l.), vice president of marketing for Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia, will inevitably find themselves ahead.

Betting on AI and the Casino Industry

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a hot topic the past several months with new advancements and programs seemingly appearing daily. Its sudden acceleration from obscurity to ubiquity highlights how fast – and disruptive – technology can be to our industry and society at large.

As the vice president of marketing for Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia, I’ve taken a keen interest in how we can leverage AI to help our organization and the overall gaming industry. If properly harnessed, this technology can be an extremely positive disruption. Ultimately, the future of casino marketing will be brightest for those organizations that embrace technological advances and perilous for those who decide to ignore them.

It’s important to note that AI is not new. It has been helping in the casino marketing space for some time, most notably in player marketing databases. AI’s current capacity makes it perfect for analyzing and sorting data. At Live! Philadelphia, we’ve been leveraging AI insights to identify new player trends and open new pathways to market to those players. AI integration into databases will continue to grow, and casino marketing will continue to move beyond the rigid internal marketing segments and into something more personalized for each player. Individual targeting will become more commonplace and effective.

A simple way to get involved in AI is by having your teams use free large language models (LLMs) such as the popular ChatGPT or Bard. These online programs provide coherent and conversational results in response to text prompts. They are helpful in brainstorming casino promotions, naming happy hours, and breaking through moments of writer’s block for drafting copy. One area in particular that we’ve experienced is using these tools to increase our email open rates by using inspiration from ChatGPT on suggested email subject lines. An important caveat to note is that even though our team is experimenting with these tools, we’re still reviewing and revising the work that it produces to proof for errors and incorporate our marketing touch.

There are current applications on the market that provide a glimpse into what’s to come. Synthesia is already making a name for itself as an AI video generator. Users can type in a prompt and within minutes it will produce a video of that prompt. It’s currently best used for developing presentations but given how fast things are progressing, these programs will likely be contenders for creating commercial video content in the near future.

As the quality and capabilities progress, it allows marketers the opportunity to turn projects around in shorter than ever timeframes. This speed allows for less of our human time to be spent on doing the work and more time on being creative and strategic about which work matters. As attention spans are getting shorter and brands are increasingly becoming a part of the conversation, these types of tools are necessary to keep up with what our guests are talking about and consuming.

An important part of my job overseeing marketing for a casino resort located in one of Philadelphia’s busiest areas, the Stadium District, means understanding the variety of events happening in the Sports Complex just steps from our front door. Live! Philadelphia cares about what our guests care about, and we optimize our plans accordingly. Guests could be in the District for a pop concert one night and a football game the next. With hundreds of events taking place annually, there are a lot of moving pieces. I envision AI will become an important tool in creating optimized marketing calendars.

AI can keep track of all the events, holidays, and revenue goals, balance all those priorities and develop an optimized marketing calendar. My team can come in and build upon that AI-produced first draft, incorporating the all-important human element into a plan’s creation. It will also prove useful when plans need to change due to cancellations or an unexpected opportunity. These time-consuming tasks are ripe for AI optimization to increase marketing efficiency.

While I envision AI building the foundation of marketing calendars, the technology today cannot execute plans without thorough human review. But one example where AI may be given more autonomy is new member marketing. New players enroll in our award-winning Live! Rewards program all the time. For new members, time is of the essence to provide a positive first impression to encourage repeat visitation. AI is ripe to help deliver speedy and customized offers to consumers all within parameters the team sets. It can also ascertain important player information and establish a guest’s evolving likes and dislikes within moments.

It’s very likely we’ll be able to get a player’s gaming trajectory within their first visit and adjust offers and promotions accordingly. That means the most optimized plans could be developed and carried out for the player before they even leave the floor.

Though with all the excitement surrounding AI technologies, there is also some trepidation. Concerns are especially understandable on whether AI will supplement the workforce or shrink it. Just like preceding technological advances, this technology will realign our workforce. AI is best for tedious tasks such as data mining. There have been days throughout my career where half of my working hours were spent sifting through data rather than creating and carrying out plans. I’m encouraged that upcoming innovations in AI will provide more time to accomplish marketing goals rather than prep work. This re-balance in working time will allow team members to think more strategically and creatively in their roles and develop ideas that weren’t possible before. For those worried about an absolute reduction in force, it’s helpful to remember that casino resorts are first and foremost a people business. We’re here to entertain and provide experiences, which is something that, thankfully, humans have a monopoly on.

Beyond the staffing concerns, there are also logistical hurdles. AI is only as good as the models it is trained on. The tech industry has faced criticism that AI training models can be biased based on learning models, intentional or not. They are taking steps to help rectify that, but those problems also require our vigilance as we apply AI to our plans. Additionally, training AI on our datasets takes time, as these models can take months, if not years to fully optimize. That means resisting the urge to deploy these technologies before they are ready and educating those on why it’s important to wait for maximum ROI.

With clear eyes about the opportunities—and current limitations—of AI in casino marketing, our industry should be excited for what’s to come. It has the possibility to revolutionize how, when and where we market. Ultimately, AI will affect us all, it’s just a matter of time. Given this revolution, I’m appreciative that organizations like mine are investing in these technologies as new programs seem to be released every day. There is too much at stake for those who adopt a wait-and-see approach. When it comes to AI positively impacting the gaming industry, you’re looking at a sure-fire bet.

Articles by Author: Brian Uran

As the vice president of marketing for Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia, Brian Uran oversees the overall development and implementation of strategic marketing initiatives at the world-class gaming, dining and entertainment destination. His main objective is to enhance the customer experience throughout the property with new and exciting promotion launches, gaming features and programs. Uran supervises the daily operations of the marketing department, including database marketing, advertising, entertainment, promotions, social media and special events. Uran holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Gaming Management from University of Nevada - Las Vegas. He currently resides in the Philadelphia region with his wife and son.