Technology advancements in the casino market

People may assume that casinos are buzzing with all things technological. When it comes to actual gaming, that has not always been true. Recent advances, however, may revolutionize how the industry operates and also how casinos can cater to their patrons.

Some of the new technology offerings making their way to the casino floor include radio frequency identification (RFID) poker chips, card shoe readers and handheld gaming devices. In addition, casinos have also jumped on board with other types of RFID tracking such as the Capton Inc. RFID-enabled pour spout, which is changing the bartending industry. The hotel and casino beverage market is a multimillion-dollar one.

According to Tricia James, vice president of marketing for Capton Inc., San Francisco, “Shrinkage within the beverage industry is a big problem. In the United States, it is a $7 billion-a-year loss, and that is a conservative number.”

By using the Capton’s beverage tracker, management can help reduce costs by about 4 to 8 percent, which translates into huge numbers for casinos and hotels.

The solution harnesses the inherent ability of RFID. The chip is embedded in the pour spout, which is placed on a liquor bottle. The activated chip communicates with back-end systems letting management know what type of liquor is being poured, if the bartender is pouring the right amount, if the sale was rung up properly, and what brands move best and when. The possibilities for data collection are almost limitless, since back-end systems can be tweaked depending on what information the user wishes to gather.

RFID poker chips operate in roughly the same manner. They use the basic tracking ability of RFID to account for players, so that the information can be used for a variety of marketing endeavors. Without RFID chips, casinos rely on pit bosses and casino hosts to keep track of players, so they can be monitored and rewarded for their loyal playing. RFID chips make that an automatic and more accurate function.

Kristen Clark, director of marketing for Shufflemaster Inc., Las Vegas, notes that Nevada mandates at least two types of authentication to ensure the player is who they say are. Clark noted that some of the security features can include biometrics such as thumbprint scans for verification.

Gaming, poolside

Perhaps the most talked about technology to hit the Las Vegas strip is the Nevada Gaming Commission’s approval of handheld gaming devices. Though not yet in use, they are slated to make their debut soon. According to Joe Bertolone, chief of the Technology Division for the Nevada State Gaming Control Board, “Prior to wireless applications, which led to handheld gaming, there has historically not been much technology in gaming beyond video poker machines.”

Handheld gaming is a relatively easy concept, according to Clark.

“A player goes to a cage in the casino, they secure a device with a credit card, they buy credits, and they can sit anywhere and make it a gaming space,” Clark said.

Because wireless is not restricted to a specific space, players will now be able to play while poolside, waiting at the bar or shopping. In addition, handheld games can be targeted toward player demand. Clark said that it is quite rare to find a $5 table on the floor in a casino, but handhelds allow casinos to offer 50 cent and $1 table games, which is unheard of in a traditional gaming setting. It all equates to more business for the casinos because, as Clark noted, a good player on a handheld can play more than 300 hands per hour. Even at $1 a game, that can amount to a nice extra revenue stream.

This move to wireless is twofold. According to Bertolone, “Wireless communication is much easier than traditional cable. Ripping out cable and laying new throughout a casino is much more disruptive than wireless.”

All this activity continues to fuel the sentiment that electrical contractors need to become even more skilled in and aware of emerging wireless applications, as they are all dependent on the back-end systems that support them.

Stong-Michas, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached via e-mail at JenLeahS@msn.com.