New To Casino Ops? Here’s A Quick Guide To Dotting Your I’s And Crossing Your T’s When Implementing New Tech

March 9, 2021

Being a casino operations manager isn’t for just anyone. You need a combination of management skills, an attention to detail, be part regulatory maven, part staffing expert and part magician. One of the hardest jobs on the books is to vet and implement new technology. Having been on both sides of the aisle, on the casino floor and working in casino-focused tech, Andrea McCurry gives us a unique perspective of what you need to bring to the job.

By Andrea McCurry

Very few people who accept a job in casino operations probably have any real idea of the amount of work the job entails on a daily basis — until they’re actually doing it. Revenue projections, head counts, ownership and management concerns all vie for your attention while you juggle staffing headaches, budgetary limitations and updating floor infrastructure. In addition to all of this, operators must ensure that the casino is stocked with the best available products and that the casino floor is both pleasing, compelling, and in our current Covid-19 world, safe enough to lure customers away from the competition and keep them coming back. Unfortunately, that’s not all … the work doesn’t end there.

With all the seemingly endless tasks already in front of you, there’s still the need to review new vendor product offerings that come through your doors. Technology is uber cool and we all have a yearning to have the newest and best out there, however, that’s not always our reality. In my experience, it was not my reality. I worked in tribal casinos and when it came down to it, the technology I was purchasing with my operating budget, if saved could have been reallocated to other uses in neighboring departments for the better good of the facility. I always made sure to gather my team when examining new tech. We would brainstorm together while thinking outside of the box to see if we could dream up multiple uses for the product. When folks think of casino technology they primarily think of computers and software programs, and yes, they are correct, but it is so much more. Casino tech covers a vast range of products, focused on all aspects of operations. Slot machines: reel, video or even skill based, table games; traditional or electronic, financial software; customer facing and internal to the operators which includes cryptocurrency, and player tracking systems, predictive systems and protectionary systems, like our security and surveillance software, VisualCasino.

So how does this all work once you decide on what you need? First, you consider the following questions.

  • Will it improve your bottom line?
  • Will it reduce staffing needs and/or resources?
  • Will it fit into your budget? You know that you’re going to have to build a case for bringing in the new tech, one that will appeal to the general manager and finance officer if your hopes of deploying any new technology are to come to fruition.
  • Is the technology versatile, and can I get other managers interested in utilizing it?

Second, you make the actual presentation. Once you get approval, you then move on to Step 3, which basically entails spending long hours working with the IT Director and team to ensure the new technology is compatible with the current facility infrastructure and then working with the procurement staff to ensure you acquire all equipment necessary to deploy the innovation for use. I worked on lots of tech installation projects over the years and my best advice is to have weekly meetings, which include a representative from all teams that will be touched by the installation and/or implementation and follow up with meeting notes to the entire team. Be sure to include the vendor in your meetings as well. They are the expert on the product and the installation so do not be afraid to lean on them to assist in guiding you through the process. Your success as an operator equates to their success as well. 

After all this, you should be ready to place this new technology on your floor and make tons of money, right? Nope. The reality is, you are not even close.

The Devil Is In The Minutiae: The Fine Print Matters  

Next up is regulatory approval. Regulatory approvals can be a bit of a slippery slope in that each gaming jurisdiction and tribal gaming commissions have lightly different requirements. Be sure to check on the regulations and approvals early on in your project timeline to ensure that you have plenty of time to get required approvals prior to go-live.  

As an innovative operator, you have several more hurdles to clear even after the new technology has been approved internally and with the state or tribal gaming commission. The next step is updating the internal controls and the procedure manual. When new technology is added to our casino floors, it is necessary to produce a system of technical and regulatory standards that govern the product/software’s use.

That means the old manual must become new again in order to meet the requirements of our auditors, regulators and management. It also means that if there is to be any hope of staff buying into the new technology, you have to have a simple, yet detailed enough document that even the newest of employees can understand and follow. More pictures and fewer words seem to work best.

And that’s a tricky thing — auditors will dig through the documents to confirm the product information is valid and reliable, regulators will look closely to ensure the rules and regulations set forth by state and federal authorities are met, and lastly, management will demand a straightforward document that breaks down the product features to include operational guidelines.

The Crux Of The Problem

Many directors and managers put a great deal of effort into convincing their organization of the need for new technology, while assuring the management that the department can pay for the improvements required to deploy the product. Less effort is often applied to ensuring the property can afford the maintenance of the product over the lifetime of the technology, and even less effort is spent developing the internal controls that will accompany the equipment and mandate its operation throughout its life in your facility.

The dreaded manual and internal controls are the highest hurdle in the race and the most important to clear. Yet, ever so often, operators fail in this area. Providing adequate documentation for additions to your floor is the most vital, yet least compelling part of a project. Cutting corners in the documentation area is guaranteed to produce more regulatory and audit flags than answers and will only reduce institutional confidence in your work and the product.

All great competitors realize they can’t win the race without a great deal of training and preparation. The same applies to implementing new technology while providing complete and accurate documentation. It might not be the most glamorous part of the job, but prior planning, outstanding execution and proper documentation will certainly get you over the hurdles and onto the winner’s podium.

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