Indian Gaming 2014, the annual trade show and conference of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), proved tremendously successful and one of the largest events in its 29-year history, attracting nearly 5,700 attendees.
From May 11-14, participants experienced a non-stop whirlwind of activities, including a golf tournament, an opening reception on the USS Midway, continuing education, legislative updates, tribal member sessions, panel discussions, a sold-out exhibit floor, a fashion show, an awards banquet, a cultural reception and a myriad of private parties at locations in and around the San Diego Convention Center in the city’s exciting Gas Lamp district.
As in prior years, I sought to discover what many of the tribal leaders and tribal gaming operators in attendance were seeking from the annual event. I asked several representatives who were walking the exhibit floor what exactly they were looking for this year. I was surprised when most of the answers related not so much to gaming products or operations directly but to the technology driving the gaming and/or their administration of such. Time and time again, regardless of size and/or geographical location, tribal leaders told me they felt their facilities were not competitive with technology and that they were seeking the “latest-greatest” technological advances so their properties will remain cutting edge.
With that in mind, I perused the 2014 exhibitors’ booths and identified a couple of exciting technology providers offering products that I believe will interest tribal operators.
Sightline: This company is trending into the technological future of gaming by working toward a cashless system throughout the casino. A streamlined approach for both the customer experience and the operations—this saves time and money and connects all the points of sale within the property into one system. The company achieves this through a pre-paid debit card. An interesting fact is that only 10 percent of all transactions in businesses in the U.S. are transacted in cash; except for gaming, which still carries about a 90 percent cash basis. This is primarily due to regulations prohibiting direct credit card usage for the purposes of gaming. Sightline’s Loyalty Card Plus Discover® prepaid card is not a new way to get more cash—it is a new way to hold cash—that is more secure, safe and convenient than cash. Funds are deducted from the patron’s prepaid account, avoiding credit card debt and overdraft fees. The patron signs up online or at the casino for a prepaid account and, upon approval, receives the card instantly or in the mail.
Money is then transferred online or at the casino into the prepaid account and can be used for gaming transactions and/or everywhere Discover® is accepted. This program also links the existing casino loyalty card account to the prepaid account to allow real-time wagering account transfers in and out at the slot device. The prepaid card can be used at kiosks to print slot tickets (or redeem slot tickets to place value back on the card). The card also connects any i-Gaming or mobile site to the prepaid card account—providing the highest approval rates for patrons and the convenience of instant cash outs—no more waiting for a check or ACH to arrive. The streamlined process saves the gaming facility money because handling and storing cash can be costly and time inefficient. To learn more about Sightline, visit www.sightlinepayments.com/index.html.
Phunware/TapIt: Another technological “find” I discovered that seems to point toward the inarguable direction of the future, is this cutting-edge company’s mobile advertising and custom mobile application offerings for the gaming industry. It currently serves several large tribal casino customers for mobile advertising (which, unbeknownst to me, is completely different than even computer online advertising).
The company specializes in custom banners and pop up ads that are extremely cost effective and directed to a specific client base demographic for smartphone gaming promotions. Even perhaps more intriguing than the advertising is the company’s “location based services” whereby via smartphones it can “follow” customers throughout the gaming property sending ads and incentives based on where those players are located at that real-time moment. To learn more about Phunware/TapIt, visit www.phunware.com or www.tapit.com.
I had a chance to interview Harry Hagerty of Sightline and Ryan Driesbach of Phunware/TapIt on my NIGA 2014 recap show for the May episode of “Native American Gaming,” my CEM Audio Edge show. They provided some very good information about their respective services. The recorded archive of the show can be accessed at: www.cemaudioedge.com/episode/native-american-gaming-niga-2014-review.
Although technology was definitely the buzzword this year, there were also some important housekeeping items that occurred at the annual NIGA event. One that particularly caught my attention was the annual election of a new Associate Member Representative. The Associate Member program is designed for companies that work in tribal gaming to join NIGA as Associate Members and be involved in the planning, process and activities of the larger tribal body. This year there was an extremely talented and qualified pool of candidates, with the election winner being Jim Klas of Klas Robinson QED. Klas delivered a compelling speech to the capacity-filled room, noting that he has been a dedicated supporter and member of NIGA and is willing to spend the time and expense to attend all of the events to properly serve the constituents. Outgoing Representative Kari McCormick noted that although extremely fulfilling and rewarding, the position is very time consuming, and she now has more frequent flyer points than she will ever be able to use. We want to thank McCormick for a job well done and welcome Klas as the new representative. Klas will be joining Rochanne Hackett of Wells Fargo, who is the other Associate Member representative. For more information on the NIGA Associate Member program, visit: http://www.indiangaming.org/members/associate-membership.shtml.
As with any large, well-managed trade show—the planning for NIGA 2015 was underway even before the ribbon cutting occurred for the 2014 show. Be sure to mark your calendars for the largest tribal gaming event next year: NIGA’s Indian Gaming 2015 from March 30-April 2 once again in San Diego.