The Innovation Group (TIG) was excited to reconnect with clients and colleagues last week at Indian Gaming 2021 in Las Vegas. Based upon our team members' conversations with tribal gaming executives throughout the week, as well as the dialogue driven across their three education sessions, following is our analysis of the trends coming out of the industry's first, major post-COVID gathering:
From operations to marketing, casinos are rethinking how they do business
Operational changes during the pandemic produced immense efficiencies, allowing operators to achieve, in some cases, record earnings despite reduced volumes. The success of these measures is causing operators to reevaluate their approach to post-COVID operations. We expect to see reduced hours of operation per day in buffets (if not full conversion to food halls or other concepts), a more concerted approach to entertainment profitability, fewer open table games and higher table minimums, particularly as staffing levels present new challenges. The gains from highly selective marketing during COVID also raise questions about the effectiveness of large swaths of marketing spend, and we can expect an increased focus on data science and analytics driving marketing decision-making in the near term.
Sports betting remains the topic du jour, but look out for iGaming
The industry continues to discuss all aspects of sports betting - which states will legalize sports next, potential changes to IGRA, compact negotiations and challenges to the recent Seminole compact, partner selection, consumer preferences, and product differentiation in the marketplace. But, discussion this year also focused on whether mobile sports betting is a gateway to online casinos, and how tribes can protect their sovereignty and self-interest as the sports betting floodgates continue to open.
Data-driven technology is increasingly relevant and advancing quickly
More than in recent years, we heard questions about how data and artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to streamline and automate processes in several areas of the floor. True applications of AI are seen today in flagging suspicious transactions for SARs and AML compliance, along with facial recognition and AI calling attention to abnormal behavior of people on the gaming floor or in other public areas of the resort. We expect AI to flag suspicious activity on slot machines and even point-of-sale systems in real time soon, where this technology can detect abnormalities ranging from fraud to slot settings issues and failing bill validators. Today, precursors to some of these applications are being built into existing reporting suites, but real-time detection is getting closer.
Our expert team can support a strategic analysis of your current marketing or operations plan, provide business planning around your unique position in the sports betting marketplace, and help evaluate use-cases for automation and AI at your facility. Contact Brian or Chris via the channels below to start a conversation.