Transform your Business Model into what Customers seek

George Cvek, VP-IT, Thunder Valley Casino Resort
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Casinos are, without a doubt, heavily regulated industry. Many believe regulation hinders innovation. I believe that it is the lack of understanding that puts us at a standstill.

There was a time when the job of a CIO was to keep systems operational and maintain an optimum uptime. Legal concerns were the job of the General Counsel. As technology has become ubiquitous among all areas inside the casino, the role of a CIO is no longer simply to “keep-the-lights-on.” There are multiple games of chess rolled into one.

“Keeping-the-lights-on” has become an increasingly complex task of defending your core against ever-changing business requirements and technologies while also looking ahead and planning for the next big thing. This is why we must be well versed with the rules and regulations we are bound under. The game could very well be over after an unfortunate mishap.

  â€‹When we know the rules of the game, we can reinvent the game   

I would not believe that any one of us is willfully reckless – but failing to make yourself aware of the rules before sitting down for a game of chess presents a foreseeably grim outcome. There will always be those who take risks and those who make moves that are known to be safe while finding comfort in keeping the status quo. 

Technology ubiquity has forced executives of all areas to be at least comfortable talking technology. Likewise, the role of a modern CIO has shifted dramatically over the years; we need to be comfortable talking all areas of business. Such knowledge is the foundation of technology innovation for a casino. When we know the rules of the game, we can reinvent the game. The thought of reinventing our game understandably doesn’t sit well with some, but it is necessary that we carry the knowledge and optimism to continuously invent and reinvent new possibilities.

The conventional conception for “creativity and innovation” is thought to come from a specialized and closed group of individuals, sometimes in a remote office labeled Research and Development. In the past, we solely relied on this group of geniuses.

This could be true in the eras of Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, or Henry Ford – creative innovations in the modern world truly stem from our consumers. Consider the two viral examples of recent disruptive technologies: Uber and Airbnb. They would not be successful without the support of a group of passionate consumers who help them push traditional bounds of the transportation and lodging industries.

In the casino industry, we must take proper strategic moves to deploy new tactics to suit the wants and needs of our target consumers. There’s now little place for traditional campaigns where we engage our competitors in a war on prices and comps. The days of utilizing advertisements to generate additional demand on our existing business model are counting. In an economy where information is almost perfect, consumers will search and seek what they want and there is little that your marketing dollar can do to stop them. There’s no need to mold new consumers to like your business models. Instead, it is imperative that you transform your business model into one that they seek. When there is sufficient market force that demands a change, regulations will soon follow.

Casino technologies are dominated by an oligopoly of system vendors. Our business models are, nonetheless, restricted by the technologies that they offer. Implementations of the radical changes that we propose are then rested on the hands of a selected few. And that should not be a bad thing for the industry as a whole. Once our system partners recognize their new customer demands, which came from the industry’s true consumers, they will then be motivated to deploy new features and functions that benefit the industry as a whole. Casino system vendors should not seek the short-term benefits from charging extra fees on specialized features that are truly revolutionary. Their returns will be multiplied when they can help sustain and grow the entire industry. Imagine when the entire market grows, individual casinos can then focus on reinventing their businesses instead of engaging in price wars. The less the businesses are forced out by business Darwinism, the more casinos there are left using their products. Sounds like Blue Ocean Strategy? Perhaps, it is.

I truly hope, in the not so distant future, when we put the words “Innovations” and “Casinos” onto the context of our industry, panic will not set in. It has been my glass-half-full optimism that CIOs can rethink the way we understand our boundaries, regardless of our job duties or external forces alike. It is with this new mindset that we can influence changes within our organizations. These organization changes will then be the driving force for products and services innovations. With the help of our savvy system providers, these innovations will be the antidote to a variety of challenges hindering the growth of our industry as a whole.

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