One of the biggest challenges facing many businesses in any number of sectors and industries in the modern world is how to embrace change. This could be a change in the form of the industry redefining itself, or a change from legacy infrastructure to a new, more robust and agile IT architecture in order to adapt to a changing marketplace and client base.
The latter is a challenge faced by numerous organisations nowadays including Tigre de Cristal, the first casino, hotel and entertainment destination and the only area in the Russian Far East where gaming and casino activities are permitted.
The gaming industry is not immune to the changing world, but Paulo Moreria, VP of Information Technology at Tigre de Cristal, believes that the industry has remained very much the same over the years.
“Technology at the end of the day is the cornerstone of any gaming company,” he says. “Casinos are casinos and slot machines are slot machines. They’ve been around for more than 30-40 years and the game itself hasn’t changed. It’s the technology around those components that is the real changer and the way to redefine the customer experience.”
Born and raised in South Africa, Moreira has lived and breathed IT and technology in gaming since the moment casinos were legalised across the country. Having worked on the opening of close to 14 of the biggest casinos in South Africa, Moreira has significant experience in understanding the role of IT and innovation and ensuring how it becomes more aligned with any business strategy.
It is this experience he feels provides him with a key understanding of one of the biggest problems facing the IT function of any business worldwide and it is a problem of knowhow.
“There are very technically knowledgeable people from IT, but these people can lack the business perspective,” he says. “So, the key to the success of Tigre de Cristal is understanding the business wall to wall from a gaming perspective and being able to implement technology to either innovate, reduce operational expenses or more importantly creating a unique and memorable experience for customers.”
Creating that unique and memorable experience drives repeat visitation. Moreria, through his role of VP of IT, is exploring new ways in which technology can be implemented in order to drive that repeat customer.
Historically, gaming and gambling can be a controversial topic and this is a result of certain stigmas attached to it. So how does a business approach this, how does a business make customers feel comfortable in investing in an experience.
With an industry that dates back as far as it does, how does this apply to the millennial generation, a generation that is defined by instant gratification?
“Technology in gaming is essentially breaching an old environment and older generations of gamers and looking at millennials and the new wave of gamers,” says Moreiraa. “Millennials are not the most loyal of generations and so we have to adapt our gaming and our technology solutions to fit this new market. Millennials seek instant gratification, loyalty is not important and tend to frequent whats “in” and driven by technology.
This millennial generation is vastly different to the older generation of gamers. Where casinos could rely on the demand for slot machines, gaming tables, the casinos of today and tomorrow need to redefine how they incorporate this demand for instant gratification for a newer generation
For Moreira, two key trends have emerged over recent years – instant sharing of experience and social media.
“People spend a large portion of their time on social media sharing their achievements and their successes,” he says. “It’s all about providing the opportunity to “brag” and operations like ours are looking at Social Media integration.
This is part of what Moreira believes is a key differentiator from many competitors. He feels that technology is and will continue to be an enabler of added value out of existing gaming systems, which in turn adds value to the Tigre de Cristal resort overall.
“All hotel rooms are built pretty much the same, casinos and slot machines are a commodity,” he says. “So, it’s about creating that different experience, which is a continuous challenge.”
The traditional experience within a casino often tends to be a solitary one. A customer will sit behind a single slot machine for a number of hours. Tigre de Cristal looks to flip that on its head and, through social media and leader boards, turn that solitary experience into a communal one.
One way in which this is being utilised is through the way in which millennials can access the games themselves. Through leading mobile applications, such as Candy Crush, the slot machine mechanism has been brought to the palm of the customers hand.
Providing customers with the ability to partake in one of the casinos games on a mobile device and through a secured wi-fi infrastructure, will be a key differentiator for any casino operation.
This, Moreira feels, capitalises on the millennial generation’s multi-tasking mentality and instant gratification.
“They want to be able play our games but play them at their own time and with their own devices,” he says. “It’s just an example of where the technology is not brand new but the experience around it is. Customers can be on site, sat at the bar, in the lounge, or even in the restaurant with friends and still play on their favourite game, whilst socialising with friends and family.
With any technology, it opens a doorway to capturing and ultimately utilising data and information. As a business that is looking to create repeat business, the data that is captured will prove instrumental in understanding the customer behaviour and demands.
Moreira recognises as much but understands that it’s not about the quantity of the data, rather the quality.
“The question is how accurate and quick the data is available before it becomes obsolete? The habits of today are not necessarily you're habits of next week,” he says and in this fast pace environment decisions need to be taken fairly quickly.
“Tigre de Cristal has been incredibly successful on this front because we encourage mistakes as mistakes prove crucial in achieving success. The data allows us to recognise a mistake, act on the mistake and take learnings from that mistake in order to improve as we grow.”
A journey of this scope, embracing the future but respecting the past, is not a journey a business can achieve alone. This level of change brings with it an element of risk as it requires a change to a formula or a model that has proven successful for decades.
To that end, Tigre de Cristal can call upon key partners and IT vendors to successfully navigate this changing landscape and redefine the gaming customer experience.
One such partner is International Game Technology (IGT). The company works closely with Tigre de Cristal in the provision of gaming technology, but Moreira notes that the relationship is one that goes beyond simple give and take.
“To me, we measure partners based on the benefits we gain and the benefits the partners gain too,” he says. “We are all in the business of making money, but the true partnerships see both parties invest.
“We have partners such as IGT that invest just as much as we do along this journey and take the risk just as much as we do. That proves key.”
As Tigre de Cristal continues to embrace the future of gaming, a future that could include 3D and 4D capabilities and a completely redefined casino management system, Moreira is keen to stress that ultimately the business’ core focus is and will forever remain on one key component.
“Customer experience is key and we are in the business of selling a unique experience he says. “This will guarantee return business from customers and we will continue to innovate and drive change in order to achieve this.”