By Andrew Cosgrove - slots manager at the Hard Rock Casino Punta Cana.
This could easily be the shortest article ever written and I could end this right here and right now by using one of any number phrases such as, “I could be wrong but this is just my opinion” or “your thoughts and comments are welcome” or even “thanks for the memories” because the title says it all doesn’t it?
Fortunately, (and for the continuity of this article) there is much, much more to the title than just a bold statement and there are many valid factors that need to be considered both for and against the argument. I believe that there is no such thing as the perfect slot machine for three simple reasons, which are: “every Casino is different “, “every player is different” and “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. As a simple example a slot machine that makes millions in Las Vegas might be a complete flop in Macau and the customer that frequents the average UK high street betting shop might not feel uncomfortable with the dress code at Monaco’s “Casino du Monte Carlo”. Therefore it’s essential that operators know what their customers want, know which slot machines best represent their customer’s needs and understand the importance of promoting them in such a way that the customer experience is exceeded on a consistent and sustainable basis.
To start with we’ll take a look at the main reasons why the perfect slot machine doesn’t exist followed by what every operator needs to consider to get as close to utopian slot perfection as possible.
Every player is different - A lot of what a slot player is searching for in a casino “slots” experience is essentially the same (does that make sense?). However, the ingredients of the “slot” experience may be similar but other factors such as player demographics and availability make a big difference. Below is a list of some of the essential components of a slots experience that the player of today demands on a more personalized and intimate level. A casinos ability to deliver such a personalized experience further supports the argument that the perfect slot machine doesn’t exist.
· Machines that pay
· Time on device
· Popular and recognizable game themes
· The thrill of the “ life changing Jackpot” chase and the fun factor
· Competitive and personalized players club benefits and promotions
· Excellent customer service and feeling like part of a family
· A secure, clean and well-designed facility with value driven amenities
Every Casino is different - It’s safe to say that a casino that caters to a regulars market depends much more on repeat visits than one that’s located on a cruise ship. Even in the same town Casinos operate differently. A Casino on the Las Vegas strip might have much tighter slots than a locals Casino on Freemont Street. Below is an essential list of what makes a casino unique
· Location, location, location
· Transportation infrastructure
· Gaming technology innovation
· Knowing their customers demographic
· Brand differentiator
· Growth potential
· Customer service delivery
You can’t please all of the people all of the time - (said the famous poet John Lydgate). Some players might not like where you placed your wheel of Fortune slots while others may not like the name of the Casino, the colour of your carpet, and the name of their host or the fact that your Michelin star restaurant was actually a spelling mistake. What is possible is to please some of people all of the time by knowing your customers and their gambling habits such as, age, average bet, machine affinity, visit frequency and any other piece of relevant information will help you deliver the ultimate slots experience. Below are some of the main reasons why you can’t please all the people all of the time:
· Slots never pay
· Somebody is paying my favourite machine so I’m leaving
· Your slots promotions are rubbish
· The competition promised me five extra dollars in free play if I sign up today
· Not enough free drinks
· I’m offended by the colour of your carpet
· I demanded more free play even after using up all my free play…. so now I’m not coming back….ever!
Now that I have presented the key factors in favor of the argument in question it’s time to tip the odds a little and explore some of the factors that can bring you closer to the utopian dream of the perfect slot machine.
To begin with it’s essential that the company’s vision, values and business strategy are reflected on every level of the organization and communicated effectively to all employees on an ongoing basis. Without this your casino will be average at best, so now might be a good time to ask yourself, “Do I want to be part of an average operation or part of something great”? Knowing your market and having a solid, consistently evolving slots marketing plan are also essential parts of moving closer to creating the perfect slot machine as is having the necessary tools in place to make valid decisions regarding the customer in real time with the intended end result of maximizing their experience, increasing the customer value and ultimately the bottom line. There are other factors that directly impact the slots experience such as a Virtuoso leader and an engaged and happy staff but to keep on topic I’ve put together a list of some of the very basic factors a slots director needs to consider to get as close as possible to the perfect slot machine…. that doesn’t exist!
· Customer demographics – factors such as geographical location, age, gender and income are all basic factors that help a casino identify and understand their different customer segments. If you add other basic factors such as visit frequency, spend per visit, average bet, ADT and time on device a whole new world of opportunities open up that will help the slots director put together the pieces of the “almost” perfect slot machine puzzle
· Traffic flow and machine location – A slots floor layout is influenced by the flow of customers and where you, the operator, want them to go. For example, if a hotel guest has to go through the casino to get to their room you might want to strategically place some of your new and high hit frequency slots product along such a high traffic route. Another good example of optimum placement might be locating your most popular slots at the end of traffic patterns as customers will put in the extra effort to be able to play what they like and are familiar with. There are many other considerations such as where to place your loose slots, your high denomination and your progressive machines, but equally important is the space between banks in relation to traffic volume.
· Game type and different manufacturers – The majority of players prefer video reel slots but it’s essential to offer other game types such as video poker, stepper slots, progressive banks and electronic table games. Having only one manufacturer would equate to almost certain disaster as would having only one model so it’s important to add a good variety to your slots floor. The optimum mix of game types and manufacturers is determined by a mixture of key performance metrics analysis, knowing your competition and simply listening to your customers
· Denomination mix – Some casinos don’t like to go above a $1 denomination because it could hurt their bottom line while others consider a $1 slot to be a low denomination. Other casinos prefer multi denomination slots because they see it as an extra convenience for the player while others operators see multi denomination as a bad investment because they slow down play and therefore generate less income. Denomination demand changes with the market so it’s important to make sure these changes are reflected in your analysis.
· Payback percentages – Every Casino should have machines with high payback percentages strategically located throughout their casino but having a casino full of loose slots is not always a guarantee of operational success or meeting revenue targets. There are many different tactics that are used such as programming popular machines to pay out more and keeping your 5c keno slots as tight as possible. With quantifiable metrics in place and a good market knowledge an operator must adjust accordingly before the competition starts to bite and gobble up your market share.
· Slots marketing and the competition – Some operators prefer to keep marketing and slots as separate departments but a key function of a slots director is to increase slots revenues so that they meet or exceed those of the competition. In order for the slots director to successfully execute this key function the marketing department needs to collaborate directly with the slots director and be held accountable for results. Knowing your competition (hopefully better than they know themselves) is also a critical contributing factor towards the creation of the “almost” perfect slot and failure to do so can only lead to a “slot of” disaster!!!!
· Staffing and the technical side – Having a well-trained, engaged and happy team is an essential part of running any successful operation and employees should be considered just as important as customers. The technical side of running a slots department is also important as machine downtown costs a lot of money and has a negative effect on customer service. Having an efficient and well trained technical staff will decrease down time, cut costs, increase revenues, enhance the customer experience and strengthen the image of your brand.
Although the perfect slot machine doesn’t exist the good news is that you can improve your chances (and slots revenues) by having a clear vision, strong values, a great team and a strong strategic marketing plan. From a strictly slots perspective an optimized floor layout, the right slot machine mix and strong analytical capabilities will bring you closer than ever to the perfect slot experience. It’s also important to not forget to practice your ability to adapt to an ever changing market which includes taking calculated risks, doing whatever it takes to stay competitive and having a whole lot of fun along the way.
I look forward to reading your comments and hope you enjoyed the article and feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com