Home Casino Management Systems: Understanding the Basics, Part I

Casino Management Systems: Understanding the Basics, Part I

During my many years of consulting, I have witnessed a continued evolution and growth in the casino management software needs of various casinos around the world. It is an area that is often overlooked in the development stages of a new casino or during a pending software update. However, this area should not be ignored. There are actually many different options available, but most suppliers only recommend a few of the larger systems to casinos. Sometimes this can be overkill, as well as extremely expensive for casinos that may be perfectly satisfied with a less-expensive casino management system.

A casino management system (CMS) serves as a focal point for the day-to-day processing and recording of operational transactions throughout the facility. Realistically, there is no single vendor that offers all of the software a major casino resort needs to operate and manage its facility. Consequently, there has always been a need for a central management system that is capable of interacting with and collecting meaningful information from the many “best of breed” operational systems commonly found in today’s modern casino facilities. Some of the basic applications that should integrate with your casino management software include slot monitoring/accounting, slot ticketing, cashless gaming, e-games platforms, RFID table monitoring, live point of sale systems for keno, bingo, race and sports book, promotional kiosks, hotel, food and beverage point of sale, surveillance and security, responsible gaming, Internet gaming, third-party check cashing, general ledger, and data warehousing—just to mention a few.

Making sense of this complex subject can be very difficult and often overwhelming for many casino operators or casino developers. I am reminded by some of my software friends of a few key items to remember when selecting a CMS for your property. They include the following:

• Develop a basic checklist of both the immediate and foreseeable future core functionality that must be present to implement any system. Itemize your “pain points” and ask vendors how their solution solves them. It is a given that, out of the box, a casino management system must be able to perform the myriad standard core functions that your organization or casino requires. However, many casinos do not do this and end up paying a premium to upgrade after their initial purchase.

• Carefully review the vendors’ available interfaces. Ask the vendors if they are willing and capable of developing additional interfaces in a timely and cost-effective manner.

• Remember that there is no one vendor or system that is perfect and that a CMS is never really complete. It must continue to evolve as your property’s needs change. All vendors will tell you that they are agreeable to customization or enhancing their core system to meet your specific needs. But will they really do it, and at what price? To determine if they can truly meet your needs in a timely and cost-effective manner, it is best to carefully evaluate the vendor’s track record and costs for delivery of customer-requested customizations and enhancements, training, and support services. Check references.

• Assess your actual needs before you buy. We have all experienced situations where a client has chosen a management system purely based on a vendor’s perceived image and size, only to be quickly disappointed during implementation. Do not be fooled by the old “we have 200 programmers and project managers available for your property” sales pitch. Not all casino operators’ needs are the same. Not all “big time” system developers are a match for every property or casino. Be realistic in assessing your organization’s IT and project management competency levels as well as your ongoing need for service and support.

On that note, I’d like to make the case for carefully considering smaller vendors as carefully as you would the industry giants, as some can provide the most flexible and cost-effective casino management systems available on the market today.

The particular system I have in mind, known as the Casino Enterprise Management System (CEMS), is a proven and tested multi-site casino management system that has been developed with the internationally acclaimed and recognized Lansa 4GL language and development platform. The use of the Lansa 4GL language and development tools has facilitated the rapid development of a single set of 4GL programming code that is multi-platform capable. Because of the design of the Lansa development platform, users of the CEMS are protected from rapid obsolescence as technology changes. This is another important point that one needs to consider before purchasing a new CMS, since replacing systems can very expensive and disruptive to most organizations. Consequently, most operations tend to retain their systems for quite a long time. Check to see if your new system will be multi-platform capable or tied to a single 3GL programming language and deployment model. These points are especially relevant to the growing number of domestic and international multi-site/multi-venue operators.

This particular smaller CMS is also one of the only systems in the world that can be deployed in a Microsoft Advanced Windows/SQL Server, Linux or IBM iSeries computing environment. This gives prospects and clients a variety of deployment options that can be tailored to meet their specific needs and preferences. Once again, you need to check on this in advance of purchase and also remember that the more flexibility a CMS offers, the better.

This system is a moderately priced turnkey system that can consist of hardware, software, networking, implementation and training, data conversion, customization and enhancement, and of course, includes world-class 24/7 software support and maintenance. I might be convinced, but once again, I cannot stress enough that a convincing pitch isn’t enough to justify purchase. You need to carefully verify all such details in advance of purchase from any vendor—otherwise you may be quite surprised to find that your costs can rapidly escalate during implementation and the conversion to the new system.

While you’re doing your checking, I also recommend that you see if your potential new casino software vendor will offer an option to purchase a license to use their source code. This option is for those casinos that are interested in or may become interested in developing their own modifications and enhancements for their own internal use in the future. If licensing isn’t possible, you may be held hostage to your vendor’s future pricing, scheduling, maintenance and support limitations for user customizations, as well as the high cost of custom enhancements and updates. I always recommend to most of my clients that they do purchase the license to the source code with their system even if they do not currently employ a computer programmer at the time of purchase. At a minimum, there should be a provision in your contract to make certain that the source code is deposited with a reputable escrow agent. For those multi-site operators interested in standardizing their IT environment, it is also wise to review and negotiate the vendor’s volume licensing options.

Finally, if you do not feel confident in evaluating and defining your needs or evaluating and selecting an appropriate solution, seek professional help.

Author’s Note: In part II of this article that will run in an upcoming issue of CEM, we will discuss the most significant core CMS modules in more detail to further empower you in your CMS purchasing decision.

Steve Karoul is a well-known and respected casino consultant. He has lived and worked in many different countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in more than 100 different countries. He understands both casino operations and casino marketing. He is also a gaming industry innovator who openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow casino industry executives. He can be reached at skaroul[at]comcast.net, or visit www.euroasiacasino.com.

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Comments
No more comments?
Submitted by Anonymous on Sun, 10/14/2012 – 23:34.
Steve,
I’m shocked there have been no more comments. I thought the article would have gotten more attention.
Dave McDowell

reply
Very good, objectively stated (for the most part) article
Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 10/09/2012 – 18:30.
Steve,

I found your article on Casino Management Systems to be well written, pretty objective, and refreshing. Even though I am president of a smaller (30-year-old) casino management software company, I will refrain from promoting it here.

I especially liked two of the main points you make in the article:
1. Do not just default to selecting a system from the “industry giants”. “Carefully consider smaller vendors as carefully as you would the industry giants, as some can provide the most flexible and cost-effective casino management systems available on the market today.
2. “If you do not feel confident in evaluating and defining your needs or evaluating and selecting an appropriate solution, seek professional help.”

Unfortunately, the sad fact is that the person assigned the responsibility of researching the “best fit” for the casino is often (if not usually) more concerned with the “CYA” aspect of the decision, and will look no further than the 3 or 4 “industry giants”. That way, no matter how badly it goes, his/her job is probabaly safe. Many times there are solutions from smaller vendors that not only provide more flexibility, but can also save the casino SO much money.

Thanks again for your article. I look forward to part II.

Dave McDowell
dmcdowell@LGSreno.com

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