Mark Bryant, president and founder of Micro Gaming Technologies, is the living embodiment of finding a need and filling it.
In the late 1980s as an employee of a small computer company, he began to get an increasing number of calls to work on computer issues for the Pioneer Hotel and Gambling Hall, then owned by Margaret Elardi and her son Tom Elardi in the Nevada-Arizona border town of Laughlin.
At that time, the casino, which had a lot of dollar video poker and slot action, had installed an Electronic Data Technologies (EDT) slot player tracking system. “It was my first introduction into the fact that you could analyze slot information and see trends and things that were going to be happening with the slots,” Bryant said. “There was information that he [Elardi] was getting, but there was always more that he wanted, and that’s why they just kept pulling me in there and pulling me in there and then just ended up offering me a job. I could go get him the information he was looking for.”
When the casino was sold to Sahara Gaming Corp., Bryant decided to return to his job working for the small computer company again. But soon the new owners of the Pioneer were calling him and eventually they hired him back and he worked his way up to chief information officer.
A few years later, Bryant went to his wife, Terry, to tell her of his plan to quit his job and start his own company in 1996. “Terry really surprised me and she really supported me in that decision,” Bryant said.
One of his first clients was The Pioneer. A year later, he incorporated the company as Micro Gaming Technologies (MGT) and made a deal with Gary Ellis and his Ellis Island casino in Las Vegas to generate slot tracking and additional information for Ellis. Harrah’s had started to do bounce-back offers where they were tiering the database and sending out offers, and Ellis asked Bryant if he could create something similar. “I started segmenting his database, and we started doing direct mail offers to players and the responses were really good. We had a great turnaround on those offers,” Bryant said. “That started a whole line of thinking and we started pursuing this more aggressively.” Bryant didn’t know it, but at that time he was already working with people who would become the nucleus of MGT, then Ellis Island employees Wright Wilson, now chief customer officer, and Travis Carrico, now vice president of marketing.
“Once we got me and Travis and Wright and Gary all in the same room lots of stuff started happening and lots of ideas started happening. We were trying all kinds of things and different variations of much of what we do today,” Bryant said. “At that point in time, I wasn’t really even a programmer; it was just kind of a hobby, but all of a sudden the code writing began to kick in and everything we could think of, I could write a program to do that.”
Both Carrico and Wilson left to join other casinos, but at their new properties, they would contact Bryant to create promotions for those new properties. “Travis and Wright were calling me every time they’d make a move, because it was a way they could immediately start making a difference wherever they were.”
Those early days helped lay the groundwork for Micro Gaming Technologies to take off and become a powerful force in creating software solutions for automating, tracking and reporting casino promotions.
Asked the moment he realized that MGT was really on the right track, Bryant and Carrico recalled a four-of-a-kind promotion at the River Palms casino to drive play on older, underperforming video poker machines. Bryant created a promotion on a touchscreen computer that would give players different four-of-a-kind winning hands, had a slot base company build a cabinet to hold it and put it on the floor at the casino. “Win per day was about $35, and we took the win to $72, so it was a big difference,” Bryant said.
“It was a hit with management; it was a hit with customers, and customers made a lot of comments,” Carrico added. “They really liked the whole kiosk thing—to go and get what felt like this extra bonus.”
From that out-of-the-park home run grew more business, and MGT soon had the Stratosphere and Arizona Charlie’s properties in Las Vegas doing kiosk promotions, and demand for new promotions skyrocketed, leaving Bryant busier than ever.
That marked the beginnings of the software solution Bryant created that would tier the database; analyze the players, determining what they’re worth; and automatically granting them an appropriate offer for the casino.
Today, the company’s MGT Promo Suite® gives the casino management the tools to create, design, qualify and schedule multiple promotions on a self-serve touchscreen kiosk. MGT software applications interface bi-directionally with a casino’s existing player tracking system (Aristocrat, Bally, IGT and Konami systems) and a touchscreen kiosk. The kiosk becomes an employee that knows every player in your database. It can evaluate the historical gaming activity and use the information to determine an appropriate prize based on the patron’s gaming value according to the company. The kiosk can issue prizes by printing a bar-coded voucher or electronically posting the prize to the player’s account. Electronic prizes include slot free play, ticketless drawing entries, points, comps, ticketless drawing entry multipliers, point multipliers and comp multipliers.
Today, 165 casinos use Micro Gaming Technologies’ solutions, and the company is adding about three a month, Terry Bryant said. “By the end of this year, we could be approaching 200,” she said.
Bryant attributes several reasons for the company’s success.
“We have taken our driving force for the direction of the product from our customers. Everything that the software does is really the result of what the industry has been asking for, and so that’s a big contributing factor. It was literally driven by the need to try to make life easier and solve those operational challenges,” he said. “The tool is highly effective at the job that it does, and if you put it in the hands of a smart user it’s extremely effective.”
Overriding everything that MGT does is the customers’ needs, Bryant said.
“When you get a call from a customer, there’s nothing else that matters. It’s a message we repeat continually to the whole staff,” he said. “Our customer base is what made our company, and our customer base is all that really matters to us.”
In addition, MGT has taken care not to limit its product’s capability to adapt to new needs and demands, Bryant said.
“One of the things this industry’s taught me, and our customers have taught me, is it’s a continually moving target, and we are continually evolving the product to try to meet the needs of the customer base every day,” he said. “There isn’t a frame around what you can do with our software.”
So for instance, he said, by using real-time data, MGT “can take what was a losing experience for a player and turn it into a winning experience at the kiosk.”
That ability to not only use information collected from past behavior by the player but also behavior happening right at that moment is a distinct advantage, he said. “It’s absolutely amazing how they can change player behavior and the kind of fierce loyalty to the brand they can generate by using our kiosk solution.”