Responsible gaming is finally taking center stage in our industry. The hard work of the tireless few—be it regulators, suppliers, digital gaming operators and associations—is being heard, and academics and lotteries, online gaming and sports betting are stepping up to the plate.
But where is the land-based gaming innovation?
Politically, it is good business to talk about responsible gaming. But in the real world, the land-based segment has accumulated a technology debt that just may be too big to overcome. The real problem is that the solution is simple, but the problem is complex. With the patchwork quilt of regulations across commercial and tribal jurisdictions, the industry has in turn developed a patchwork technology strategy to cope.
Look no further than the reticence of the industry to adopt cloud technologies. We live in a regulated world where operators face mega-jackpot level fines if they make a mistake—and that isn’t even considering the realities of the political environment or the litigious nature of the gaming industry. Everyone operates in fear, and that is an innovation killer. As such, everyone is paying the price.
In an era where knowing your customer (KYC) is king for personalized marketing, promotions and rewards—think Starbucks, Facebook, Uber, Marriott and the infinite list goes on and on—the land-based industry has been left behind. All these consumer brands have taken the customer experience and leveraged the heck out of customer data to do one thing really, really, extraordinarily well: Personalization. So why does this matter for responsible gaming?
Every player is different. We’ve built these big boxes to be one-size-fits-all. We send one marketing flyer a month. We have one approach to having staff engage players. We have one way for players to limit their play—self-exclusion. But there is no reason why we can’t adapt to leverage the massive amounts of data we have on customers to help create a customized solution based on their preferences and their play.
There are even studies that suggest the industry is leaving billions on the table with these personalization opportunities. Acres Manufacturing recently released a study that showed the industry is losing $5 billion alone with its legacy loyalty enrollment processes. This modest study does not even address the infinite multiples of value of real-time information, decisions, actions and feedback.
The solution is so simple and requires only two things: big data and KYC. KYC is the cornerstone of legitimacy, transparency and traceability. KYC and real-time big data empower algorithms that can predict and prevent illicit activities and addiction. Further, every operator wants to KYC customers, because carded players have a greater spend at the property and it helps identify those illicit behaviors, thus protecting them as well.
So, with KYC and big data, all our problems go away? Pretty much. The real question should be, why haven’t we mandated KYC by law to eliminate the bad and focus on the good, the fun and the profit?
Beats the hell outta me.
Please remember that being a regulator is the hardest job in our industry. They have to build the plane while they are flying it—and they have to deal with the myriad of political interests, industry interests, and the sentiments of the public. We as an industry often complain about regulators being behind the times, but it is really us that takes the blame for not helping them along the way.
So, with politicians sprinting from topic to topic, the window of change is tight and complex. Regulators are constantly trying to adapt to the political menu in their markets. And then to add to that, you have the gaming manufacturers who are entirely focused on games and not evolving their systems. Ultimately, I would call the operators the victims to this entire soap opera.
Most operators understand the cloud, the power of big data and would welcome KYC as an obligatory foundation to our industry. This would not only put the pin back in the regulatory fines guillotine, but the deep, rich, real-time data would get their operating budgets in the right direction with a much better ratio of marketing to profit per customer.
Well, the operator can’t. That is a given. An operator that mandates KYC will be run over by its competitors. The gaming system providers can’t. They literally can’t. They have bad, latent data in systems that need to be thrown out and started from scratch. The regulators can’t because special interests would stand in their way. Are you dizzy yet?
But wait, there’s more! (I have always wanted to say that).
Now, there are a few bright spots to point to. UNLV and the International Gaming Institute have done some great research understanding quantitative gambling patterns to better understand when a player might be exhibiting a problem. The online industry is leveraging big data to build real solutions to provide players help. But there is much work to be done.
At AXES, we’ve seen the success of how KYC and big data can help enhance the entertainment experience for a customer and ensure they wager responsibly in the 40 countries where we operate. To help understand how we bring these international solutions to the U.S. market, we’ve enlisted the help of UNLV via a $150,000 grant where we plan to study the impacts of real-time monitoring on responsible gaming. Learning how to predict player health empowers player fun and satisfaction in a safe space.
Again, the solution to this overly complex problem is so simple. If big data and KYC were our foundation, the land-based industry would be safe, fun and much more profitable. It would also lose the bad rap that we are “potentially” associated with criminality and addiction. Nothing but wins for all involved.
Why isn’t it happening? Beats me, but I will continue the fight with the brave souls that believe that if KYC does not become our cornerstone, our land-based industry will cease to exist as other segments will KYC, learn, influence and lure them away to be entertained elsewhere. Casinos and integrated resorts are just entertainment after all, aren’t they?
Well, without KYC and real-time big data, they are gambling. With a real-time data driven prediction and prevention foundation, our industry is simply the best entertainment segment you could ever dream of.
Dare to dream. I do.