MGS Review – Iverson Gaming Systems – ‘Lessons from sea – cruise liner gaming’

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Matthew R. Brown – Iverson Gaming Systems

Iverson Gaming Systems are one of the fastest growing providers of gaming management solutions worldwide. One of the niche markets in which they specialise is cruise liner gaming.

The company operate on over 69 vessels across 11 fleets globally, with clients including P&O Cruises, Cunard, and Carnival. Matthew R. Brown, a recent speaker at the Macao Gaming Show (MGS), and Director of Business Development at Iverson, discussed the potential benefits of understanding the ins and outs of this segment of the industry for operators in the wider industry. Matthew referred to the cruise industry as “an amazing laboratory”, in which “every cruise ship is a microcosm of the bigger picture”.

The talk revolved around marketing schemes, player acquisition strategies and the importance of comprehensive data which allows you to see the full picture.

Knowledge is power

The ultimate advantage that cruise liners have over land-based, or purely online gaming operations, is the amount of personal information to which they’re privy. It’s common sense that marketing becomes both more effective, and easier, the more information you have regarding your target customer base. Cruise liner gaming providers are in a privileged position in which they have a reasonably full overview of those playing.

Should a potential customer wish to play whilst on the cruise, Iverson Gaming Systems’ slot and player tracking system was designed to ensure that they have to complete a detailed registration which includes passport information as well as full details of their booking. This means that the gaming provider is aware of their age, gender, nationality, marital and family status, plus the room in which they’re staying. Furthermore due to the BYOD mobile device feature it is also possible to see which devices customers are using, their game selection, session time and average bet. From this, reasonable assumptions can be made on their income, for example the operator is aware of whether a particular customer is staying in a budget room or higher end suite, as well as the average bets they’re making and what they’re betting on.

It also allows the provider to see who’s playing, and who isn’t playing, which means patterns and clues can be detected as to the reasons for this. All of this collectively means that marketing strategy can be adjusted, and improved, accordingly.

See the whole picture

With on-site gaming (cruise liners must rely on an on-ship server due to an unreliable internet connection whilst out at sea) it is easy to see who’s playing and, equally importantly, who’s not playing. Matthew highlighted two guest profiles of different voyages on the same ship during the same season, one of which had a significantly lower percentage of eligible customers register for mobile gaming.

Guest profiles, same ship

  • Voyage 1: 67% of those eligible registered for mobile gaming
  • Voyage 2: 12% of those eligible registered for mobile gaming

Key difference:

  • Voyage 1: 2% of passengers were under 18
  • Voyage 2: 20% of passengers were under 18

Despite not being eligible to play, the under 18 demographic had a major impact on the amount of eligible players registering and thus the overall revenue gained. As such, the data revealed that a group ordinarily deemed unimportant due to their ineligibility, was actually vital to consider. Having this information to hand as a seemingly major factor in the reduced registration of eligible passengers, meant that marketing and player acquisition strategies could be altered to suit the needs of those with young families and children.

Similarly operators on cruise ships are able to take note of which nationalities prefer which games. As such, in the example mentioned by Matthew, on one voyage it became evident that the Portuguese passengers appeared to enjoy bingo games despite the fact that the marketing and information concerned was not available in their language. This was adjusted, and thereafter the bingo games saw a significant rise in Portuguese customer playtime.

What can land-based operations learn from cruise gaming

Land-based casinos are generally in agreement that social media is vital in terms of reaching a younger audience. Matthew explained how this is equally important in reaching their core demographic of older players, as the stats below highlight.

  • Fastest growing demographic on Twitter – 55-64 year olds
  • Fastest growing demographic on Facebook and Google+ – 45-54 year olds

Current player rewards programs simply are not leveraging the social aspect that these customers are looking for, just as casinos are not maximising the potential profit from the one third of revenue generated from the casino floor. The current player tracking systems in place are not efficient, and prevent a full social experience by tethering a player to a certain location.

Matthew discussed the latest solution created by Iverson Gaming Systems which “turns player tracking into a mobile, social experience, where the player is liberated from being tethered to a location by their player’s card, where the player can stay connected throughout the property – and can even stay connected at home.”

Iverson have already undertaken the initial development and are on the lookout for a land-based beta site to help pioneer the new technology.

A short history of cruise ship gaming

Despite being a relatively small portion of the market a whole, cruise ship gaming is still big business, and continues to grow. The origins can be found in riverboat gaming in the United States in the 19th Century. The traditional understanding was that the casinos could not open until the ships were three miles offshore in international waters.

Factors such as the Civil War, which put a stop to all but essential river travel, and and the emergence of railroads, seen as vastly preferable over riverboats, resulted in the death of this now romanticised industry

It was given the breath of life in the late 20th Century however with Bettendorf, Iowa becoming the first modern city to legalise riverboat gambling. It did not take long for the industry to enjoy a relative explosion in popularity with over 100 licenses issued in the following two years

The popularity continued to expand and due to the excessive amounts of revenue earned by local communities from these boats, many were allowed to operate whilst moored dockside.

Whilst cruise casino gambling players are still by and large leisure players rather than big time gamblers, the likes of Carnival now offer numerous high roller options with memberships, offers and rewards included to entice customers to return. These days the expansion of mobile BOYD gaming on board ships, provided by the likes of Iverson Gaming, will ensure its a sector that continues to grow, and becomes an increasingly significant part of a cruise liner company’s revenue.

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