Today's guest post comes from Robert Garity, the Senior Sales Director for Gaming for Oracle Hospitality.
The gaming industry has seen a remarkable transformation in the past 20 years. At Las Vegas’ major Strip resorts (those grossing more than $1 million in gaming revenue annually), 57.6% of 2017 revenue came from nongaming activities. Some resorts are seeing as much as 65% of revenue from non-gaming sources.
Today, it’s fine dining (often at restaurants of celebrity chefs), extravagant hotel accommodations, luxury retail, pampering spas, dazzling shows, and pro-designed golf courses that are the big money-makers. As these nongaming revenue streams expand, they bring about new challenges for the players in the gaming industry.
What are these challenges, and how can these gaming enterprises meet them by adopting new technology models?
Traditionally, casinos managed IT systems in-house, but with the growth and direction the industry has taken in recent years, it is becoming increasingly complex. In-house IT teams simply can’t keep up with the increased volume and complexity of the operations. For example, large fluctuations in volume for occasions such as a Thanksgiving weekend, New Year’s Eve, or Christmas week can strain the capacity of the IT stack and slow systems down.
Beyond the volume demands, staying current with system versions has become increasingly difficult and costly when managed in-house. That challenge becomes even greater when gaming enterprises can’t find and keep on-site experts—which is especially problematic for casinos in rural and remote locations. Managing the back-of-the-house infrastructure requires considerable expertise. If the enterprise has only one in-house expert and that person leaves the company or otherwise unavailable, finding someone to replace them may be an extremely difficult effort.
If all these challenges weren’t enough, gaming environments are a high-value target for payment thieves, including the food and beverage and lodging areas of the business. Casinos and resorts with gaming have massive amounts of credit card information, plus customer loyalty program information. For these reasons, they must keep payment and nonpayment customer information absolutely secure or face disastrous consequences. (Watch for a future post that addresses the data security issue for the entire hospitality market.)
Gaming operations struggle to manage a large data center full of servers and technology experts. Traditionally, they’ve had separate instances of their systems at each location. Offloading to third-party data centers doesn’t solve the problems of the labor to manage the systems (database and application-specific expertise) or the security, it simply moves it to another location.
Gaming enterprises see the cloud as an avenue to gain control of the complexity of the modern gaming environment. The bottom line is that the cloud allows these enterprises to centralize infrastructure and have it managed by experts so that their IT teams can focus on managing the operations that contribute directly to creating a world-class customer experience. How is this possible?
Traditional on-premises infrastructure management requires experience with the database, operating system, and applications, and can be challenging for gaming operators to manage. Why? Because often times the environment is comprised of commodity hardware from multiple vendors, cobbled together by a select few who have the type of knowledge to manage this kind of complexity. It is especially difficult and complicated to upgrade those environments with all the systems with which they need to interface: casino management, hotel operations, food and beverage management, catering, vendor management, customer loyalty programs, liquor-dispensing, surveillance systems, and more... All of these systems need to work together seamlessly and require testing and attention during the upgrade process—which is extremely difficult to pull off with a complex on-premises installation, and without outside expertise.
If, on the other hand, gaming operators move to the cloud, those integrations are much more manageable, far easier to test, and not nearly as difficult to deploy. The cloud also allows casinos to roll system upgrade costs into the monthly fees for cloud service, and have the third-party team of experts implement upgrades for them.
Casino operators are also able to bring the POS and property management systems (PMS) as well as other systems, into the cloud to centralize their management—a huge advantage from a security perspective.
The cloud resolves the problem of volume fluctuations as well. It allows casinos to increase capacity on an as-needed basis, and then drop back down when volume subsides, based on a monthly subscription fee.
With Oracle solutions in the cloud, there’s very little on-site hardware to manage and minimal database server-level product, removing the hardest part of the systems management from the IT department. In the case of Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Services (lodging) and Oracle Hospitality Simphony (POS), anyone—including food and beverage managers—can have the skill set to manage these systems on-site. The IT staff is freed to focus on the workstations, kitchen display systems, third-party integrations, training on applications, and all the other pieces of an operation that enable it to deliver a customer experience that exceeds expectations.
Contrary to what used to be believed, the cloud offers a more secure environment than what can be provided on-premises. Both Nevada and most Native American jurisdictions have come to the realization that casinos cannot provide a secure environment on-premises to host their database and applications. The cloud provides that level of data security that is a non-negotiable for these operations.
Many casinos have taken the first steps toward the cloud by migrating applications such as email. Comfortable with this, now they are beginning to move their POS (food and beverage and retail) and lodging systems to the cloud.
Realistically, it will be some time before they move casino management systems to the cloud. Many jurisdictions have regulations around deployment of these systems and some other applications in the cloud and how it must be done.
What we’ve been doing at Oracle is helping gaming enterprises understand how the cloud is beneficial to them, and why they need to make the move. Timing has been the biggest concern. But we are making sure that they understand that this is the most secure place to have your data, and this is the best way to have your system managed to be fault-tolerant and maintain a high degree of uptime.
Large deployments may require a different approach. With some resorts managing multiple large properties in many different geographies, taking those systems to the cloud will take time. But addressing on-premises issues like IT infrastructure complexity, application reliability, database performance, and data security while still keeping an eye on cloud is possible today.
OPERA and Oracle Exadata Database Machine are a winning combination. A resort’s reservation system is its lifeblood; if it were to go down, guest annoyance would be least of their worries. I mean, entire vacations could be ruined. Fault-tolerate design enables Exadata to deliver 99.99999% reliability for mission-critical applications like OPERA so guests will never notice if something goes wrong on the backend.
Exadata is able to deliver the performance and availability casinos and resorts need because it was co-engineered with the Oracle Database team, giving it a pretty unfair advantage. You can consolidate hodge-podge commodity systems onto a single Exadata system that was purpose-built to deliver optimal speed, performance, and security for the Oracle stack. Less systems to manage means less resource requirements, and a single stack architecture means more streamlined support and management.
Ensuring that your environment is ready to take on the cloud should be the a top, if not #1 priority, for the casino and gaming industry. Exadata is available in three consumption models: on-premises, in the cloud, or cloud at customer. With exact equivalents in the cloud, cloud migration is frictionless and happens on your terms. This type of flexibility allows customers to choose how and when they go to the cloud because it all comes down to this for the gaming industry: the guest experience. And cloud and cloud-ready solutions are changing the game in the gaming industry.
Learn more about how you can prepare your infrastructure for the cloud with Exadata and the entire Oracle Engineered Systems stack, systems purpose-built to maximize the performance of on-premises deployments of mission-critical applications like Oracle OPERA and Oracle Simphony.
Bob leads a very successful team of sales executives at Oracle Hospitality (formerly MICROS Systems) in the gaming group, working with all of the world's leading casino resort operators. Bob's background includes extensive experience in technology and product sales, management, hospitality and live entertainment and event production. He was awarded the MICROS Chairman's award for excellence in enabling digital transformation for many major gaming and resort brands.
He is originally from Sioux Falls (Brandon), South Dakota and currently resides in Henderson, Nevada with his wife Karmin. Connect with Bob on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/robertgarity.