Hurdles of Being An Innovative Operator

Kevin Parker Andrea McCurry

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.”

– Stewart Brand

When you took your first slot director or slot operations manager position, we bet you couldn’t have imagined the amount of work you’d have on a daily basis. Revenue projections, head counts, ownership and management concerns all vie for your attention while you juggle staffing headaches, budgetary limitations and updating floor infrastructure. In addition to all of this, you must ensure that your casino is stocked with the best available products, and that your floor is both pleasing and compelling enough to lure customers away from your competition and keep them coming back. But the work doesn’t end there.

With all of the seemingly endless tasks already in front of you, there’s still the need to review new vendor product offerings that come through your doors. As you consider the benefits of adding a new technology – one that you’re sure will improve your bottom line, reduce staffing needs, and fit into your budget – you know that you’ll need to make a persuasive case to the General Manager and Finance Officer if your hopes of deploying the new technology are to come to fruition. So, you make the presentation, get approval, and spend long hours working with the IT Director to ensure that the new technology is compatible with the current facility infrastructure. You also work with the procurement staff to ensure that you acquire all of the necessary equipment to deploy the innovation. After all of this, you should be ready to place this new technology on your floor and make tons of money, right?

The reality is … you are not even close.

As an innovative operator, you have several more hurdles to clear even after the new technology has been approved (like updating the internal controls and the procedure manual). When we add new technology to our casino floors, it is necessary to produce a system of technical and regulatory standards that govern its use. This means that the old manual must become new again in order to meet the requirements of our auditors, regulators, and management. It also means that if we have any hope of the staff buying-in to the new technology, then we must provide a simple, yet detailed enough, document that even the newest of our employees can understand and follow.

And that’s a tricky thing – auditors will dig through the document to confirm the product information is valid and reliable. Regulators will look closely to ensure that the rules and regulations set forth by state and federal authorities are met. And lastly, management will demand a straightforward document that breaks down the product features to include operational guidelines.

This isn’t a sprint … it’s a marathon

Many directors and managers put a great deal of effort into convincing their organization of the need for new technology while assuring management that the department can pay for the improvements required to deploy the product. Less effort is often applied to ensure that the property can afford maintenance on the technology over its lifetime, and even less effort is spent developing the internal controls that will accompany the equipment and mandate its operation throughout its life on your floor.

The dreaded manual and internal controls are the highest hurdles in the race and the most important to clear. Yet so many times, as operators, we fail in this area. Providing adequate documentation for additions to your floor is the most vital, yet least compelling part of a project. Cutting corners in the documentation area is guaranteed to produce more regulatory and audit flags than answers, and will only reduce institutional confidence in your work and the product.

All great competitors realize that they can’t win the race without a great deal of training and preparation. The same applies to implementing new technology while providing complete and accurate documentation. It might not be the most glamorous part of our job, but prior planning, outstanding execution, and proper documentation will certainly get us over the hurdles and onto the winner’s podium.

Andrea McCurry