Automation for the Cage: Save Money and Increase Productivity

Remember these blasts from the past?

Microfilm machines
Wiz machines for pit fills/credits and slot credits
Brownies (openers and closers)
Front money, safekeeping, marker and RCC logs
The win and the need formula

It’s hard to believe that 20-plus years ago the vast majority of the cages in our industry were operating under a completely manual system. Manual markers, manual pit fills and credits, manual microfilming of the checks, manual table games openers and closers, and way too many other manual functions to mention. And even now there are many cage and credit functions that are still manual—and outdated. Cage automation has been somewhat slow, but every year at G2E and NIGA I see a much brighter light at the end of the tunnel.

I remember a day about 12 years ago when I had to review the microfilm machine to search for a check that was missing from our bank deposit. Once I found the film and managed to load it into the viewer (and that was no easy task), BAM! Guess what? The film was bad, and I was not able to locate the missing check after all. Because of this, the property took a $5,000 loss. This situation made me really upset, and that’s when I said to myself, “There has to be a better way to do this.” That’s when another search started. It was a long and tedious journey, but I got lucky and found exactly what we needed.

There is technology out there to replace those old-fashioned microfilm machines; it’s referred to as “optical images.” This technology is very safe and sound. You can scan the checks, markers, traveler’s checks, etc., capturing an optical image (front and back) of any negotiable instrument. And you can view the document at any time. In addition to the obvious advantages, you can also negotiate with your armored car carrier a very significant discount due to the fact that you would be able to re-construct your bank check deposits if something went wrong. In other words, you can increase your liability coverage for cash deposits at no additional cost. Your CFO and GM are going to like that!

While you’re at it, also check with your commercial bank to see if it has the ability to do electronically deposit checks via the Check 21 system. If it does, I urge you to consider this new state-of-the-art check deposit system. Basically, under Check 21, you just scan a check (the scanner will capture the front and back) and then transmit that image to your bank. Is that simple, and it will save you lots of dollars on your bank monthly account analysis. Also, it will cut in half the amount of time that the normal in-transit process takes—a check that would take five days to clear could clear in just two or three days with Check 21. And if you deposit your markers electronically, you could reduce that in-transit hold time, too. If your current in-transit hold for markers deposited is 10 days, Check 21 could reduce that time frame to four or six days, and your credit customers could have the available credit much faster. It’s a win-win situation.

Pit Fills and Credits
I remember the old Wiz machines like it was yesterday. Do you? They required a lot of writing and, of course, they would jam at the worst time of the day, making us wait for security to unlock them and re-load the manual forms. I am sure many properties are still using the Wiz machines for manual pit fills and credits, and here is the great news: You don’t have to rely on this old dinosaur technology anymore! There is a revolutionary program out there that will automate the manual process—I call it the automated manual pit fills and credit program. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it works.

In summary, when your casino system is down, table games personnel switch to this program, which is totally independent of the casino system and controlled by its own server. Table games submit the transaction and it prints in the fill/chip bank. I was pricing the cost of a new Wiz machine: approximately $1,300 each. Plus, the three-part forms are quite pricey. The return on investment (ROI) for this new system is 12 months!

As you can see, this form is much easier to read than the Wiz machine’s manual forms. This is a no-brainer.

Scanners That Can Count TITO
This is a good one! When TITO invaded the market 10-plus years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the first casino that opened its door with 100 percent TITO. The cage manager gave me a tour of her new cage, and when she showed me the main bank, these words actually came out of my mouth: “Oh my God, is she doing what I think she’s doing?”

There were four main bankers verifying the tickets via a 10-key calculator machine. There were thousands of tickets, and they were footing each one by hand. No surprise, they were out of balance 50 percent of the time.

Then it was my turn. The property that I was working for at the time went 100 percent TITO and I found myself in the same situation, verifying tickets by hand. Once again, I told myself, there has to be a better way to do this.

The good news is that, yes, there is a high-speed scanner that counts TITO tickets at a rate of 750 tickets per minute—and it generates a tape similar to a 10-key tape. What used to take a minimum of 12 hours per day now only takes about one hour per day.

Manual Markers
You might know this scenario: The system is down for an upgrade and the anticipated time of completion is four hours (well, they say four hours, but it will probably take six). So off we go, grabbing the manual markers. The process is tedious and the guest has to wait longer than normal—and some guests just don’t want to wait at all and leave the table.

More good news. There is a manual marker program that runs independently from the casino system. It runs from its own server, the marker prints on a regular laser jet printer, and the only thing the guest has to do is to sign the manual marker, which looks just like a regular marker. This program is so simple and so effective that, when you have to go manual, the change in productivity and customer service is barely noticeable.

Ladies and gentlemen, the moral of this story is that the technology is getting there and that the cage no longer has to do everything the old-fashioned manual way. Automation is not just a nice thing to have to make our jobs easier; it is needed to provide superior customer service and to benefit the bottom line, translating to higher profits and better margins for your property.

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