Leading a Gaming Revolution

Fred Brown, CIO and SVP-IT, Mohegan Sun
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I love innovation. And as a Walt Disney enthusiast (both subscriber to his business and leadership philosophies and just a kid at heart…), I love innovation for the sake of a blow-away guest experience. The greatest story I have heard on this topic and one that I think about with just about everything I do at work – from walking the casino floor to planning our fiscal strategy – involves Bill Evans, the genius behind most of the beautiful gardens at the Disney Parks.

In short, one day Bill approached Walt because he was angry that guests kept cutting through one of his gardens and trampling the flowers. So Bill suggested that they build a fence around the garden to keep everyone out. Walt shook his head and told Bill there was no way they would build a fence. Instead, they should learn from their guests and build a pathway through the garden.

Walt saw that his guests wanted to go in a direction the he and his designers had not planned, so he changed the plans to meet what his guests were telling him and ultimately made it easier to get to where they were going.

We have taken this same approach with a lot of the technology and innovation that we have implemented at our Mohegan properties and what follows are some examples.

WIFI

In our Arena, we have recently revamped our wireless infrastructure. Some folks may argue that it’s a costly feature to have in a space where people should otherwise be occupied, but our guests’ patterns were telling us a different story.  They want to tweet updates of the concert that night, invite a friend to join them at the casino after the show or just check up on email in between acts. So we partnered with Ruckus Wireless to provide a solution that ensures that every inch of the arena is covered. We also increased our bandwidth to make sure they have a great experience once connected. Guest feedback and satisfaction since installation has been fantastic.

  ​Using an iPad as an in-room control device, the guest can access all room amenities without ever leaving the bed  

Based on that success, we are in the process of replacing our entire campus wireless infrastructure with this same architecture since we know that our guests have that same need for WIFI wherever they go. At the same time, we are designing a WIFI analytics solution to allow us to proactively capture guest information as they connect and track their movement throughout their trip. This will allow us to truly understand our guests’ patterns so we can continue to enhance their personal experience.

Cashless Technology

Cashless technology is everywhere. We use it to buy our coffees, we use it to buy our music…we even use it at Disney Parks for just about anything we need. But for some reason it hasn’t really made its way into gaming. Some have blamed regulatory agencies and others have blamed a slow technology adoption rate within gaming, but regardless we knew it was something our guests wanted and knew we had to think outside the box to get it.

So we partnered with a company called SightLine to pioneer a solution that makes cashless and ticketless gaming a reality. Through use of their Play+ product, guests can fund a special player card online, via app or at the cage and then use that card to transfer money to their machine. While they are playing, they can check the status of their card on the slot machine itself or via the app and continue to add funds as needed. When finished, relevant funds are moved back to the card from the machine so they do not have to print a ticket if they are not yet done gaming. They simply visit another machine and keep on playing. In addition, the underlying card is actually Discover so they can use it outside of gaming at any merchant that accepts that card.

Guest Room Technology

Despite the Mohegan properties having some of the nicest rooms in the industry, I’ve learned through focused research, guest feedback and some of my own travels that guests want more. They want their room to have the same or better technology as they have in their family room, to have everything easily at their fingertips when they get back to their room after a long day of business, shopping or gaming and even the ability to watch their favorite shows wherever they are. Bottom line is: they want to feel at home. But yet there was no clear program out there to adopt. So we created a technological vision to give our guests exactly that and more, and are in the process of implementing this in all of our rooms.

Using an iPad as an in-room control device, the guest can access all room amenities without ever leaving the bed. This includes things like TV control, thermostat, lighting, ordering extra pillows…even ordering room service. The large LED TV is 100 percent HD and allows guests to stream video from their own devices so they can easily catch up on their favorite shows. Power and USB outlets are conveniently located throughout the room, including bedside, to make it as easy as possible to charge the 2.5 devices that each guest carries. Finally, all of these systems are online for efficient operation and tracks guest activity so we can easily personalize their next visit without them even asking.

Again, some may argue that this kind of technology in these spaces is overkill since we should be focused on getting these guests to the gaming floor. But why should we ignore their needs within the room? Why shouldn’t the superior guest experience continue?

In today’s age, it’s critical to approach projects and challenges with the guest perspective always in mind as the end result can become a differentiator in a highly competitive market. Teamed up with superior guest service and a focus on the ultimate guest experience, technological innovation will always set a property apart from its competitors.

Trampled flowers are everywhere. Find them and make your own pathways.

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