Gaming Industry Presents Challenges for IT Professionals

Dan Wilson, VP-IT, Golden Entertainment Inc.
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The gaming industry presents many challenges for Information Technology professionals. Gaming has grown far beyond the days when gamblers slipped a few coins into a slot machine and pulled the handle.

Golden Entertainment operates casinos in Nevada and Maryland and almost 12,000 slot machines in Nevada and Montana through the company’s distributed gaming business model.

Embracing cloud computing for the multiple services inside the modern gaming industry can be a little problematic. Gaming is a highly regulated industry with oversight in multiple states and jurisdictions. As a publicly traded company, Golden also has to comply with requirements set forth by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Gaming environments represent unlimited business application needs–retail, point of sale, traditional slot machine play and table game activities. Also, there is the general back office applications, such as accounting, accounts receivable and accounts payable, just to name a few.

  ‚ÄčIT professionals have to plan for the costs associated with the product suites and additional planning has to take in account of talent acquisition  

For some applications, cloud computing provides Golden Entertainment and other gaming companies with a more cost effective solution for some of these applications, especially when the corporate offices are operated outside a gaming state’s borders.

An example of a few areas we have utilized cloud computing services is through Human Resources and Payroll systems. The company also plans to migrate from local solutions for accounting applications.

For other traditional services, such as e-mail, we have already started the migration to Microsoft 365. When possible, Golden Entertainment and other gaming companies will continue to embrace cloud technologies in order to leverage the robust infrastructure and ease of delivery.

The gaming industry has often been slow to take on new and emerging technologies. One reason is that gaming companies often stick with the technologies investments tied to the gaming systems.

One area where gaming could foster innovation and growth is when key vendors adopt new innovation in to their product mix. For example, most key systems in the gaming industry are wrapped around the slot machines system. If the slot vendor is using older and less innovative product mixes, the casinos are forced to support these legacy integration methodologies and systems.

Technology now allows casino operators to track the habits of their guests in order to offer awards for play and spending. Slot machines can award coupons for favorite casino restaurants and other entertainment options based on information gained through player tracking systems.

The gaming industry is populated with large companies that operate multiple casinos around the world, including the high-profile gambling jurisdictions of Las Vegas and Macau, China. But there are also smaller operators managing casinos in isolated regional markets.

Many gaming organizations have hopes for using large data analytics in their casinos but many have had challenges in deploying it. Products currently in the market in this area can offer a variety of benefits to the gaming world. However, costs often times don’t have the proper perspective for the smaller to mid-size gaming organizations, such as Golden Entertainment.

Additionally, local talent to support these types of products–for example SAS–is hard to come by in Las Vegas. IT professionals have to plan for the costs associated with the product suites and additional planning has to take in account of talent acquisition.

The role of the gaming industry chief information officer has changed dramatically as the technology paradigm continues to shift. The gaming industry has become aware of the issues in protecting personal data information of both guests and company team members. This  aspect is driving every day consideration and technology upgrades.

One of the biggest changes is in the adoption from the local supported systems to SAAS or Cloud based systems and learning to leverage infrastructure in order to cut costs and provide richer applications.

Another key element to being successful is the integration of security in every aspect of the information technology. The CIO can’t just accept the label of security on a product. Information technology professionals need to verify, and test all aspects of the software to insure security measures are in place. My counterparts in the gaming industry have become highly aware of the need for these procedures.

Information technology professionals should always have a seat at the table in discussions on how the business is operating. IT solutions can also help the business meet its professional and financial goals. This ranges from software applications to the analytics of data concerning both consumer and the products provided.

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