In this installment of our casino recovery series, Ben Keller tackles trends: what’s really worth the investment and what’s not?
Last week, we shared the first part of our interview series with INTELITY’s resident casino expert and SVP of Sales Ben Keller. During the interview, he answered questions on safety measures, guest and player satisfaction, and driving revenue as 2020 comes to a close. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.
This week’s questions cover an even more important topic: the products and strategies that are delivering real value during COVID—and which of those will continue to gain momentum long after COVID is over. Here’s what he said:
1. Obviously, contactless service has become a phenomenon in hospitality during the COVID window. But is it even worth it for naturally high-touch environments like casinos to invest in a contactless strategy?
Ben Keller: Look, traditional table games are not going away in the next 10, 15, or even 20 years. I just don’t see that, based upon why people like to go to casinos. They like to interact, it’s a social environment. Throwing the physical dice down the table—that’s never going away. When the pandemic is over, high-touch table games will likely return without issue. A fully contactless casino would never be an ideal environment for players.
However, I do see things other than those core games becoming electronic and contactless. Think about placing a sports bet. In the past, you’d typically go to the counter, you’d get a ticket, and then you’d go home or you’d go to a sports bar and watch the game. Now, everything can be done on your phone. You have a sports betting app and you place your bet on your phone from anywhere. You’re not touching anything or talking to anyone, but you’re taking the same action to place a bet.
The casino environment of the future is very much going to be a combination of traditional and mobile. It will have more and more touchless options, but that won’t happen overnight, especially with the traditional table games, where the mystique of it is very much what I said before: throwing the dice yourself.
2. Other than contactless, what are the biggest trends? Are there any you see being a waste of money? Any that you think are here to stay?
BK: The one mega trend that we haven’t really talked about yet is gaming on your phone. Do you really need to sit at a machine if you can log in and start gaming on your phone? With mobile gaming, you can deposit money and play virtual slot machines whether you’re at the pool, the sportsbook, or anywhere else. You can even decide, “I’ll actually go watch a craps game, but I’ll just place my bets on my phone.”
Regardless of trends, the sentiment that’s has gained the most momentum is, “Why can’t I just do everything on my phone?” It all ties into that single experience. It all ties into, “I have all my hotel and casino information in one app on one phone, where I can literally control my stay.” Guests don’t have to interact with anybody if they don’t want to or they can still interact with everyone, but have unbeatable convenience on their phone. They have full control of their experience.
And that’s just the guest perspective. From a staff or security perspective, they also have a level of control that’s both comforting and empowering. They can decide who has access to what. Maybe they want the guy who’s coming in for the first time to stop at the front desk and check in. They want to verify his ID and credit card in person to make sure he truly is who he says he is. Then, he can access a mobile key if he wants and head to his room.
But the guy who’s been there six times in the last year and is part of the loyalty program? The hotel knows him, and they can provide him the option of mobile check-in while knowing he’s not a risk. The same mindset could apply to almost anything: customers who book through an OTA vs. directly, guests who have comped stays vs. those paying with cash or card.
The list goes on, but it really boils down to this: what and who makes the property feel secure? How do you avoid chargebacks? How do you avoid fraud? With technology, you can divide and conquer. The staff can allow different procedures for different guests and truly create the best overall environment for everyone.
Want to hear more about how casinos can prepare to drive recovery and revenue in 2021?