Editor’s Note: This article is a follow-up to “Casino Management Systems: Understanding the Basics, Part I,” which ran in the October 2012 issue of CEM.
Many of the components of any casino management system (CMS) are very similar in nature, and it is therefore highly recommended that you at least understand the basics before beginning to shop for a software vendor.
Figure 1 shows a very high-level diagram of the most significant core CMS modules and additional “best of breed” software applications that work together to make up a typical casino management system.
Figure 1: CMS Core Modules
Figure 1: CMS Core Modules
Let’s take a closer look at the major modules that make up a good casino management system and some fundamental items that should be considered about these modules when purchasing or upgrading to a new system. They are highlighted below.
The patron database module is critical and at the very core of the patron loyalty system. It consists of a complete relational database of demographic and psychographic information. The ability to assign patrons a specific status is always a handy tool. Often, casinos will want to prohibit patrons with a specific status from gaming in general or from participating in coupon, sweepstakes or bonus promotions. This is especially true for employees that are allowed to enroll in the player’s club. In addition to extensive transaction detail display and search capabilities, the module must maintain an extensive system of historical transaction summaries by day, week, month, quarter, year, and any other user-defined contiguous periods desired.
Player’s Club Management
This module must include the ability to define and operate one or more multi-tiered player’s clubs. Based on a defined set of rules for promotion and demotion, the system should track a patron’s tier status points earned and have the functionality to automatically promote or demote players to the appropriate tier if desired by management. In addition, the system must have the capability to manually promote or demote patrons individually or using a periodic batch process based on the established club rules for promotions and demotions. The system also needs to have extensive capabilities to purge inactive patron points, merge accounts, and deactivate accounts and expire patron points based on the player’s club rules and a predefined set of internal parameters contained in the system setup.
ID and Picture Scanning
This module allows for the automatic enrollment of a patron into the database by scanning a multi-dimensional bar code (such as that found on many U.S. driver’s licenses) or scanning the magnetic stripe found on a patron’s valid identification card. Extensive logic should be included in the software to prevent the insertion of duplicate accounts or accounts with erroneous data. In addition, the system should have the capability to scan a patron’s picture ID and store it in the system for later display in cases where picture identification is either necessary or convenient. Also make sure that the software can print a patron’s picture on the player’s club card if desired by management. This can be a very valuable tool to make available to your customer-facing staff.
This module should be able to accommodate the issuance/printing, redemption, and accounting/analysis of in-house or third-party bar-coded patron coupons. It should allow the system administrator to define single or multi (book type) coupon promotions and the qualification rules for their issuance and redemption. Powerful logic is also needed in the system to provide for the definition of issuance exclusions by offer code, time of day and day of week, as well as “bounce back” redemption restrictions.
This module should be designed to accommodate the online or batch issuance/printing of paper or electronic sweepstakes drawing tickets. It should allow the system administrator the ability to define the rules for the qualification, issuance and printing of paper or electronic tickets. In addition, the module should include full capabilities to define and schedule the actual drawings, the related prizes and the winners. A random generator is normally included for selecting drawing winners for electronic sweepstakes.
This module should permit the system administrator to define and schedule patron point bonuses for all or selected groups of player’s club members. Bonuses normally are awarded for all patrons’ play or restricted to selected groups of patrons and types of play (e.g., table, slots, keno, bingo, etc.).
In today’s competitive environment, bonusing, along with coupons and sweepstakes drawings, will be very important to your marketing team. The more flexibility that these modules have, the more creative you can be in your marketing promotions.
Groups & Events
The groups and events module should be designed to permit the system administrator to define groups or events for a consecutive date range and time period. The group module should also be able to work in conjunction with the coupons, sweepstakes and bonusing modules to serve as a “qualifier” for promotions that include issuance qualification rules based on membership in a particular group or series of groups. This module normally includes an easy-to-use function for enrolling a patron into one or many groups or events at a time. It also needs to contain an advanced set of reports for auditing and analyzing patron play and costs by group type, date, patron, etc.
A junket module should enable the system administrator to define internal and external junket enterprise organizations and their related junket representatives. This module should allow patrons to be assigned to junket representatives in order to monitor a patron’s activity and play. A complete set of date-sensitive reports should be available for monitoring the activities of the patrons assigned to a particular junket enterprise or representative. This module will not apply to all casinos, but the ones that do use or rely upon junket representatives for incremental business will appreciate this module.
Comp and Rewards Tracking
The system should support the concept of comps as free goods and services provided to club members, to non-club members or to employees. Rewards are normally defined as goods and services provided to club members and their guests in exchange for their earned reward points or reward dollars.
The comp portion of this module should also support the concept of “discretionary comps” as those that are issued for free goods and services to club members based on an authorized comper’s judgment and the patron’s available discretionary comp points. Managing discretionary comps will require that this module has provisions for accruing and tracking discretionary comp points in a separate field apart from the patron’s normal earned point balance.
Also required of this module is extensive functionality to define comp and reward offers, offer locations, offer authorizers, offer dollar limits, offer authorizer dollar limits, offer exclusion rules for patrons with a particular assigned status, and so forth. Make sure that this module includes optional provisions for requiring secondary approvals for such functions as voiding a comp or reward, issuing comps or rewards greater than a predefined amount, and so forth. In addition, this module must also be able to enforce any daily patron cash back and/or free play limits that have been established by management for the property. These are the more sophisticated types of controls that are often found in a property’s written internal controls but are frequently missing from online systems.
Slot Accounting, TITO Ticketing or Cashless Gaming
Regardless of your slot floor operating environment, there are many different businesses that can supply complete systems, including in-game hardware, servers, player tracking interfaces, software, training and support to meet your precise needs. Remember that this system will need to interface with your casino management system in order to exchange a variety of information, not the least of which will be a record of each and every slot session for all patrons using their player’s club card. In addition, the system must also be able to accommodate whatever promotional play schemes that your property would like to utilize.
Customer Service Kiosk
The customer service kiosk module should link directly with the patron database, rewards, coupons, sweepstakes and bonusing modules. This module usually includes a simple touchscreen interface that can be configured to allow customers to perform any combination of the following five basic operations:
1. Check their account balance
2. Change their mailing and e-mail information
3. Print a reward voucher
4. Print coupons
5. Print raffle tickets
An advanced customer service kiosk may include the ability to view property-specific content related to your facility, such as restaurant menus and hours, entertainment schedules, promotions, and events. In addition, completion of surveys, online catalog prize ordering and advanced reservations are all examples of advanced functionality that should be considered as well.
Table and Cage Accounting
The table and cage accounting module is very important and needs to be designed to accommodate casinos with single or multiple chip sets and currency requirements. It should account for all gaming chips by set and denomination and track the movement of all chips between any defined cage location and the gaming tables. This module should support the tracking of computerized chip fills and credits, manual chip fills and credits, openers, closers, chip buys and sells, and chip transfers. Included in the module should be a flexible capability to input the multi-currency drop counted from all table games by day or shift. A complete audit trail needs to be maintained for all transactions as well as highly secured capabilities to perform chip transaction adjustment, voids and undos. In addition to daily and shift reports, the system should also provide a complete set of multi-currency reports of table win/loss by week, month, quarter and year. And don’t forget your accountants! They will love it if the system can export the journal entries needed to record your table games revenue to a .csv file.
In general, the system must include the capability to define all of the factors used to calculate a patron’s theoretical session win (theoretical hold by game variation, game speed and worth percentage) and assigned worth for the patron’s session of play. Handy features to have are provisions that can factor into the rating multiple bets, player skill and quick loss events. Strong audit trails and controls must be available that allow the system administrator to set limits and secondary override approvals for voiding and correcting ratings as well as entering ratings that exceed selected limits.
Casino Credit, Check Cashing and Front Money
The system should allow a casino to record a variety of patron bank account information and employment information, as well as requested credit and approved credit and check cashing limits. The system also needs to support a wealth of different transactions related to the administrator of casino credit, check cashing and front money. Transactions such as the issuance/printing of pit or cage markers, front money withdrawals, buybacks of checks and markers, consolidations, substitutions, redemptions, and so forth must all be a part of this module. Of course, this module needs to have strong and effective audit controls and, of course, a full complement of audit reports, deposit logs and trial balance reports.
Point of Sale Interfaces
Slots, Keno and Bingo
For player tracking and promotional purposes, this system should interface to your slot monitoring, slot ticketing and cashless gaming system. In addition, it is very useful for it to be able to interface with any other gaming-related systems present at the property, such as keno, bingo, off-track betting and the sports book.
Food & Beverage
The food and beverage point of sale interface should be designed to allow an authorized cashier to depress a “rewards” key to initiate a settlement transaction by swiping a patron’s player’s club card as payment. The interface should also support the settlement of paper rewards or comp vouchers by depressing a “manual reward” or “manual comp” button and entering the voucher number into the point of sale system. Make certain that the system includes extensive controls, such as the ability to prohibit the redemption of expired or previously redeemed vouchers. As always, this module must include a variety of audit and accounting reports. Another nice feature to have in the interface is the ability to redeem bar-coded promotional coupons by patron.
Multi-Site Communication Module
It is critical for multi-site operators to carefully consider their needs for a single card/single account player’s club in relation to how the vendor would propose to implement it. If you are a multi-site operator and are interested in a single card/single account system that would allow your patrons to earn and redeem reward points at any location within your brand, it is critical to make certain that this can be implemented with the system without sacrificing the ability to implement different marketing and promotions programs at each of the properties and forgoing the necessary accounting by site that is usually necessary. Beware—not all systems are capable of performing such a task. To accomplish this task, some multi-site operators have adopted a “decentralized” approach to implementing their one card/one account solution for their brand. They have recognized that, for a variety of reasons, it is best that each gaming site has its own autonomous system. To accomplish their cross-property one card/one account goals, they have utilized an intelligent central control module to cross publish and synchronize selected information, such as common setup tables and user accounts, patron name, address, tier level, and point balance activity. I must emphasize that the key to this type of multi-site structure is that it allows each property to have its own local database, implement its own unique marketing and promotions programs at each site, and fulfilling its entire site accounting mandates as well. You may never need this, but it’s better to be prepared just in case. The additional cost in the beginning is small in comparison to changing systems in the future.
Patron Data Warehouse
The patron data warehouse module should be supplied a wealth of data directly from the casino management system and other operational systems throughout the property. This will depend on the needs of the property. It is important to ask all prospective vendors if they have a pre-built data warehouse. If so, carefully examine the fundamental data available. Determine the specific programming tools that have been used to develop the warehouse. At a minimum, examine the tools used for extracting, transforming and loading the data from your CMS and other operational systems to the warehouse. Ask the vendors whether they support enhancement, modification and integration of other needed data to the warehouse. Review the presentation tool that is used to “slice and dice” the predefined presentations supplied with the system as well as the construction of new analytical presentations in the form of spreadsheets, graphs and reports. Do not be fooled by the salesman’s old “Hey, hey, step right up, and I’ll show you how many patrons in your database are over 65 years of age!” trick. Test the warehouse with the complex real-life analysis requests that you have always wished could be answered for your property.
It is clearer now than ever: The purchase of a casino management system is not a simple process. It really requires considerable advance thought and planning prior to purchasing and prior to implementation. Therefore, it is critical to at least understand the basics of what a CMS is and what a CMS is not. However, the time and effort put into advanced planning will more than pay for itself in the form of future benefits to any casino operator.