Transparency and honesty in the gaming industry
by Randy Gingeleski
5 minutes to read
The "smoke and mirrors" that seem to dominate the gaming industry, before challenging casinos with actionable advice.
Anyone who has been involved with the gaming industry can agree that there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors.
I’m not just talking about that mysterious loyalty program - the one where nobody quite understands how points are earned. There are all kinds of theatrics and things going on behind the scenes constantly in casinos.
Surveillance and security - a guest might wonder, is there somebody watching every feed all the time? Where do those guards that just seem to pop up out of nowhere come from? Some sort of spawn point a la 1985’s Gauntlet, no doubt.
Then you have things right in front of the guests’ faces that are deceptive - two slot machines right next to each other, same credit value, same theme, different paytable. The machine has 1 cent on it in huge font, yet you have to play 40 cents - 40 credit minimum.
Are there any guests out there who 100% trust the casino? Like who will enthusiastically stand on top of their chair at the Three Card Poker table and shout their trust in you?
But why not? Why do things have to be this way?
Dennis Conrad, a man who needs no introduction in the gaming industry, had a thought-provoking article in this month’s issue of Casino Journal. Appropriately it centered around the question “Why Not?” and if you have time definitely check out the full article.
From Conrad’s aforementioned piece The Value of a Good Question:
Why not share with gamblers the mathematical odds and probabilities of all available bets in the casino? Wouldn’t that build some trust in a typically low-trust environment? And do you think many players would change their betting habits anyway?
This is easy to implement in an online gaming environment. Put a button or link off to the side of games, that when clicked will show players the mathematics of what they’re playing.
Better yet - walk the player through how to play the games if they need it. Sure you can guess around with the online “practice plays”, but a guided tutorial would be superior and make sure the player knows all the intricacies and points of the game. Naturally written instructions should be available too if a guest just wants to look up something. Why not disclose odds in the tutorials too?
So, in “i-gaming”, those are three things that should be made available to the player off to the side of their games -
- Detailed odds/probability data for all bets
- Guided, interactive tutorials (also disclosing odds)
- Written tutorials (with odds)
In an offline environment, I could see the creation of pamphlets that detailed odds for all available table games. Upon request, floor supervisors could grab one for a guest from a pit storage area. On the machines, again, a button with corresponding table would do.
Also from the article:
Why not have players’ clubs where players know every single benefit (comps, cash back, free play, points, etc.) that they have earned, and what they can spend them on? That seems far superior to having some secret, discretionary, “I’ll bestow them on you when I want to” benefit buckets.
This is another situation that might be best accomplished in brick-and-mortar environments by just making up detailed pamphlets. Naturally one would distribute them to players when they sign up for the player’s club, and also make them available from the player’s club desk at all times. Lastly all the information should be posted to the casino website.
Shortly before I dealt table games at Turning Stone, all machines were changed to TITOs and the player’s club also got overhauled. Fairly regular table players would constantly mention how they preferred the old rewards program, or just didn’t understand the new one. From the Turning Stone website:
Ideally the player’s club should be a winning situation for everybody, not just a source of guest confusion.
Last point I’ll quote:
Why not create a revenue stream and have back-of-the-house tours of those “mystical” casino areas, like surveillance, count rooms, entertainers’ dressing rooms, buffet food prep, and other uniquely casino areas?In the physical casino, this would be pretty easy to implement since typically these programs are already in place - for employees. At Turning Stone I believe at least one comprehensive property tour was given a week, to boost employee knowledge and therefore improve one’s ability to inform guests. By letting guests come along on your property tours, you can further ensure there’s nothing to hide.
If a casino doesn’t want to set this up, they should at least create an extensive “behind the scenes” tour for their YouTube and other social media. What’s the harm in having a professional video crew make everything transparent for the guests? Wynn has produced a video tour for their resort. If applicable you might want to have a video focusing on your gaming, shopping, dining, and lodging separately.
Can’t we go even farther?
Release specific financials for the whole casino operation, whether physical or online. The players already know the house has an advantage, and that they make more than they give out. I doubt full financial disclose on all fronts would do any harm. Make even individual game revenue available.
In i-gaming it’s relatively easy to implement cryptography in such a way that players can prove the fairness of games. Ensure your online players know how to check this too - just saying it’s possible is not enough.
Actively ask players for feedback, whether positive or negative. Post both publicly along with an appropriate response. If there was an issue, disclose how you’re going to improve.
In most businesses, you’re dead in the water if those you serve don’t trust you. In the gaming industry, a lack of trust has been settling in as normal. Let’s clear the smoke and break the mirrors.