The Results Are In: A Seismic Shift Regarding “Big Data”

By Deana Scott, Raving CEO

You can't open an industry publication or attend a conference without seeing a discussion about Big Data or analytics. Now, that's good news! Have we finally given the "millennial topic" a rest and could we be on our way to recognizing the need for data-driven decision-making in our operations? It appears an operational focus may be underway.

According to Raving's 2nd annual Indian Gaming National Marketing Survey released this February, respondents were asked how they were handling big data – very large and complex data sets –  that require special analysis. According to researcher Deb Hilgeman, Ph.D., who conducted the study, there was a seismic shift in the results.

Last year, 54% of casinos did not have a plan for dealing with big data, and only 6% were actively working with it. This year, those numbers virtually reversed. Only 6% of casinos now are not sure what they're doing with big data, while 50% are actively working with it. See figure A above

According to Hilgeman, "It appears analytics, in general, is a top priority for casino marketers. When we did our preliminary field research this year to talk to practitioners about what we could add or change to make the survey more valuable to them, analytics was the number one topic."

These results were similar to a pre-conference attendee survey conducted during the Raving NEXT Conference held this previous January at Choctaw Casino Resort, Durant, Oklahoma. 76% of the operators listed analytics and analysis as the primary area they wish they had more time to devote to.

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Ghostbusters for Promotions Past

Five ways to help keep your promotional schedule generating incremental revenue

By Tom Osiecki, Raving Partner, Advanced Operations and Marketing

We all have ghosts.

Ghosts of promotions past we wish we never met.

After years in casino marketing, I have my own special ghosts.  I take full responsibility for my ghosts.

Take the Groundhog Day promotion. A brilliant concept, I thought.

We got our guests to swipe at the kiosk and select whether the Groundhog will see, or not see his shadow. A fifty/fifty choice.

Players who chose correctly were given a reward on the big day when Punxsutawney Phil did his annual forecast.

Even as company President, I was enthused enough to step into a ratty, smelly and scary Groundhog suit and hand out entries.

Did the promotion work? Did the guests care.


But, in true Groundhog Day form, we did the same promotion again. A Ghost Promotion.

This leads me to the question. Why do so many casino marketing departments hold onto promotional ghosts?

We’ve all done it.

We keep promotions going, sometimes for years, well beyond their usefulness, like walking dead or zombie promotions.

Maybe the Tribal Council likes the promotion; or the owner insists you keep running a promotion longer than it is productive. I get that.

Over and over I see casinos in a repetitive cycle of generating similar promotions. Sometimes it’s the same promotion and sometimes it’s the same promotion with different skins or branding.

How many times can a hot seat shape shift into a new theme and not burn out?

Five Ghostbusters

Let’s look at five ways to help keep your promotional schedule generating incremental revenue.

1. Analysis If you do anything as a casino marketer, insist on tracking all promotions. Tracking promotions gives you the opportunity to develop analysis that can reveal the difference between profitable and not profitable programs.
Comparing each promotion with a pro and post forma is a good start that can lead to comprehensive month over month, year over year promotional tracking.

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Are Your Table Games Underperforming? Let’s Take a Look at Yield Management


By Kevin Parker, Raving Partner, Casino Operations and Technology

Are you managing your table games to produce the best possible revenue results? As a break-in dealer in 1995, I recall the supervisors on my shift believing the best way to manage their table games was to kick the dealers in the ankles to keep the game pace where they felt it needed to be to maximize revenue. Besides the obvious issues with corporal punishment on the gaming floor, the abuse did not appear to produce an increase in either drop or win.

These supervisors had previously opened several properties yet they clearly did not understand yield management. Sure, game pace is essential, but it is only one in a series of factors that must be managed to obtain optimum results. In this piece, I’ll cover several variables that require managing.

Getting more butts in seats is the goal but how do we go about getting and keeping players on tables as long as possible? Have you considered utilizing yield management as a part of your procedure? Yield Management is the process of frequently adjusting the price of a product in response to various market factors, as demand or competition fluctuates.

Yield management variables at a casino:

  • Managing table minimums is necessary when it comes to maximizing your revenue. Minimum limits should be raised when your pit has high occupancy. As patron volume rises, a scarcity of betting opportunity is created. Raising the limits will increase opportunity by utilizing a pricing theory called the scarcity principle. This suggests that the pricing for a scarce good should rise until an equilibrium is reached between supply and demand.

    When the minimum on a table is increased from $10.00 to $20.00, or a full unit, the players advantage is decreased by 50%. If the house advantage on a game of roulette is .0526, your average theoretical win for a $10.00 wager is 52.6 cents per spin. When we raise our limit to $20.00 the average theoretical win increases to $1.05. Conversely, we should lower our limits during period of low play to ensure we are allowing our value player the opportunity to wager.

  • The number of decisions per hour is an important part of the equation. The more hands that are completed on the game, the more money the game will produce. Before you put the game on the floor, you will need to calculate the necessary hands per hour to achieve the hold you require from the game. Ensuring your dealers are maintaining the correct game pace will help keep your numbers on track.

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    Welcome to Reputation Management


    By Justin Shank, Raving Partner, Social Gaming and Marketing

    Whether you’re the only game in town or smack dab in the middle of a highly competitive market – reputation matters. Liken to the days when word-of-mouth ruled the marketing world, social media can be the all-mighty maker and breaker of your online reputation. By creating a culture at your organization that values online reputation management, you are essentially making a commitment to listen, learn, and interact with the customer.

    Our customers are still talking with friends and family on the phone and in person, creating that positive or negative word-of-mouth. They are also filling out comment cards, completing surveys, sending emails, and submitting feedback on our contact webforms. Additionally, your customers post videos and pictures, creating lasting impressions of your businesses online.

    What’s your strategy?
    Whether you receive the occasional post or thousands of new reviews, reading and responding to them can be an exhausting task, nevertheless an important one. Your organization should know what people are saying, why they are saying it, and be able to identify trends based on the analytics.

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    What David Bowie and Casinos Have in Common


    By Chris Faria, Raving VP of Marketing

    The other day I watched "David Bowie: The Last Five Years." At the end, I turned to my husband of almost 30 years and confessed. See, when I was in high school, I was really into modern-rock, and Bowie's album "Let's Dance" (1983) was a staple in my record collection along with Adam Ant, the Cure, Talking Heads, etc.

    Where's the shame?

    I didn't know that he was THE Ziggy Stardust and I had just “discovered” him on his FIFTEENTH album.

    This is almost as bad as thinking that Led Zeppelin was the name of a real person (I’m not admitting to this).

    Okay, sure, I knew he had been around "for a bit" – but for my friends and me, his current music was most relevant. He looked like us; we dressed like him and we loved that Robert Palmer look and his hair. Ziggy, just too weird.

    Go ahead, send me hate mail and tell me how shallow I was.

    So really Chris, you ask, what does this have to do with casinos?

    Well, we talk a lot about connecting with our customers now and those of tomorrow. Boss lady Deana wrote an article about how the 50-something woman is YOUR customer. We've talked and debated to exhaustion about how millennials are our future customers. Still, with this awareness, we continue to launch new brands that don’t exactly match up with our clientele. We build attractions that don’t fit the bill.

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    Asking the Right Questions About Variable Printing


    By Tami Jones, Strategic Raving Partner, Direct Mail and Director of Sales and Marketing, CSG Direct 

    As a savvy marketing director, your goal is to get your variable mailers printed for a competitive price and with a provider that gives you excellent service, right? And the more you know about your printing options, the more you can compare apples to apples on pricing, print time and flexibility from different vendors.

    That’s right, you may use a fully digital product (dry toner applied with heat) that takes a blank piece of paper and prints all your variable data and full color graphics in one print pass or you can print a static mailer on an offset press (wet ink on paper) and then come back in a second digital pass to apply your variable offers in specified locations on the mailer.

    Which is better, full color digital print or variable laser print on an offset shell? The answer is YES! Both methods create an opportunity for personalization and that is always better in direct mail. Let’s take a look at both options and compare.

    Print Quality

    Digital Print – Excellent photo-like quality on every piece.

    Offset Print – Excellent photo-like quality on every piece.

    Cost Comparison

    Digital Print – Typically lower in cost at low and mid-range quantities due to fixed cost of clicks at all quantities. The reduction in cost per piece at high quantities may be lost.

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    Seven Tips to Ensure Your Technology Investment Will Pay Off


    By Deana Scott, Raving CEO

    Keeping up with technology is a time consuming and expensive proposition for most businesses. We are inundated with new software programs, hardware and applications touted as the next big “must have” to improve our operations.

    From accounting and human resources systems to security, slots and not to mention the gaming commission, casino organizations are spending a significant portion of their capital budget annually on technology.

    Raving recently released the 2nd Annual Indian Gaming National Marketing Survey (request your free copy here), a nationwide study that collected data from more than 60 tribal casinos across the country. The annual study is designed to assess what casino marketers are doing and address the challenges that they face.

    According to Dr. Deb Hilgeman, Raving's senior research partner who conducted the survey, technology and data are still priorities with casino marketers. "A significant finding in this year's study is what casinos tell us they are doing with Big Data," she said. "In last year's study, 54% of survey respondents said they weren't sure what they were doing with Big Data, and only 6% reported actively working with it. Those numbers reversed this year, which is a huge leap," reported Dr. Hilgeman. "In our 2017 study, 50% of respondents said they were actively working with Big Data, and only 6% of respondents didn't know what they were doing with it."

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    How Big Data Shaped Today’s Casino and Why You Should Care


    By Azam Husain, Strategic Raving Partner, Analytics and Systems Integration Specialist and CEO, Casino Science

    Recently I spoke at the National Indian Gaming Association’s annual conference. I was a speaker and a moderator on several panel discussions related to analytics and Big Data along with other Ravers, including Raving CEO, Deana Scott. At these events, I'm often asked the question, "Why now? Why is gaming analytics more relevant today than ever before?" We are at the precipice of some of the biggest changes occurring in gaming. So, it’s worthwhile to recount the history of gaming analytics and why casino marketers need to pay attention now.

    If you go back into the annals of gaming history, the idea of "Big Data" in casinos may have originated with the measurement of slot play in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As the lore is told, Harrah’s in Reno ran a “Premium Points” promotion as one of the industry’s first player loyalty programs. Harrah’s employees watched players wager on slot machines and issued a paper coupon for every $20 played. Tickets could be exchanged for prizes such as toasters, transistor radios, and televisions.

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    What Research Is Your Casino Doing?


    By Deb Hilgeman, Ph.D., Senior Raving Partner, Market Research

    Raving recently completed the 2nd Annual Indian Gaming National Marketing Survey. One of the objectives of this annual study is to help marketing practitioners understand current practices and to see where their property falls on the spectrum.

    For example, a key finding of this year’s study is that 50% of casinos are now actively working with Big Data, compared to only 6% last year; this is a huge shift. Are you in the half that is now using Big Data or are you in the half that hasn’t embraced this yet? If so, you are probably going to be in the minority next year.

    One of the questions we asked casinos is to determine what types of research they’re conducting. Overall, more than half of all casinos are doing at least five key types of research: Database Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Guest Satisfaction Surveys, Employee Engagement Surveys and Feedback Surveys. The most often used type of research is Database Analysis, and the least often used is Branding & Awareness.

    There were no huge shifts in research patterns year-to-year but there were some changes as noted below:

    • Database analysis: 91% last year to 90% this year so basically unchanged
    • Competitive reviews: Increased from 61% last year to 69% this year
    • Guest satisfaction surveys: Decreased from 79% last year to 69% this year
    • Employee engagement: Increased from 41% last year to 53% this year
    • Branding & awareness: Decreased from 45% last year to 32% this year
    • Focus groups: 41% last year to 44% this year so basically unchanged

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    Supporting Indian Gaming – the Raving NIGA Wrap-Up


    A star-studded guest list including Notah Begay III, Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., A.C. Green and tribal leaders and casino executives throughout the country came together for a night of laughter benefiting the NB3 Foundation.

    The Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention (NIGA), the largest gathering of tribal leaders and casino executives in the country, was held for the first time in Las Vegas. This provided an opportunity for Raving to hold their 4th Annual Native Strong Comedy Slam at a spectacular venue: The Smith Center.

    Myron’s Cabaret Jazz was loud with laughter with over 140 guests. The night kicked off with a heartfelt welcome and message from Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. of NIGA and Notah Begay III and was followed by Native American comics, Ernie Tsosie, headliner Howie Miller and our long-time event host Larry Omaha. Each year Raving Entertainment Partner, Kell Houston, is tasked with the lineup instructions: must be Native American, incredibly funny, and oh yeah, work for peanuts as this is for a charity event. Once again, he nailed it!

    The event benefits the Notah Begay III Foundation and its critical work addressing obesity and type 2 diabetes amongst Native American youth. Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. announced “The message is clear. We have to have a healthier Native American community. It’s more than just getting away from alcohol, drugs and violence. We have to spread the message that we can do better.”
    Raving CEO Deana Scott shared, “The Comedy Slam is where it always comes together for me – there’s nothing like shared laughter. I leave more determined and more connected to why we’re in this business. This event brings together Tribal leaders and gaming executives that are so passionate and dedicated to the success of Indian gaming and to a better future for generations to come. I can’t thank our supporters enough.”

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