Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Making sense of table data

Casinos around the world have access to a goldmine of data, from retail transactions through to loyalty programs, and are increasingly mining that information to improve operational efficiency and marketing.

However, until recently, operators lacked a solution to tap into the performance metrics of live table games in a cost-effective way. Casinos have been forced to rely on labor intensive old-fashioned manual counts during operational hours.

That can mean money left on the table. Identifying the exact mix of tables at any one time to maximize revenue is a delicate balancing act. For example, two roulette tables with 4 players each may generate more revenue than one with 8 players, even though the casino has doubled its staff cost.

Knowing elements such as spins or hands per hour and matching that against the dealer can provide information not only on staff performance, but whether the casino needs to immediately open more tables or not.

A small Australian company now claims to have solved this problem through its technology, which it showcased at the recent G2E Asia in Macau. The technology allows casinos to boost table yields, improve efficiencies and monitor dealer performance in real time, allowing for faster decision making.

SenSen Networks has developed what it claims to be a world first in its SenGame solution. It’s a patent-pending technology based on 3D Time of Flight (ToF) cameras that capture a multispectral, 3- dimensional view of all gaming tables.

"Casinos are running the table game operations some what blind - not knowing how many customers are actually playing, how much are they wagering, how long they are playing. The information that is captured by this system helps them serve their customers better, reward them better and deliver a more memorable experience to to their most loyal customers."

The colour, infrared and depth-sensing technology determines the number of players at each table, number and type of bets placed and the value of all wagers. The accuracy and stability of the solution has been established on live games of Blackjack, Baccarat and various kinds of Poker providing real-time tracking of player demand.

The technology is able to monitor table occupancy; bet count; bet type; bet value; game start; game end; time between games and hands per hour. It plans to add two further modules -- determining the value of chips in the float tray in real time and cash counting for events where cash is exchanged on tables -- before G2E in Las Vegas later this year.

“The above is obtained for every game of every table completely automatically without any human inputs,” CEO and founder Subhash Challa told AGB. “This information is then used for yield optimization, heat maps, player grading & ratings and many other business intelligence and analytics applications.”

“Traditional methods are all manual and are non-real time, error prone and fraud prone.”

SenSen is a spinoff from the University of Technology Australia, where Challa was the professor of Computer Systems Engineering.

“My research team came up with a few breakthroughs in video analytics that lead us to start the company in 2007. After a few years of investment into R&D and product development, we started offering commercial products for law enforcement agencies (speeding, tolling and parking), security applications, retail stores and shopping centres,” he said.

“Our reputation of providing people counting lead us to casinos where I got a call out of the blue from Crown casino to provide occupancy around table games.”

SenSen was acquired in April this year by Australia-listed Orpheus Energy. In a May press release announcing the development of the technology, Crown Resorts’ Group General Manager of Product, Strategy and Innovation, Tim Barnett spoke about how challenging it had been for casinos to gather accurate information from table games. The system is deployed on over 200 tables in Crown.

“Casinos have traditionally relied upon manual processes to capture customer demand to forecast future demand but as with any manual process, this has been an inexact science,” he said. “It is my strong belief that by filling these information gaps through SenGAME, Crown will continue to be at the forefront of gaming innovation. We are committed to further deployment of this technology across our gaming floor.”

Casino patrons around Asia have traditionally been wary of any form of capture of data technology. In a recent panel at G2E Asia Sudhir Kale, CEO and founder of Gameplan Consultants, pointed out for example that when he first became involved in gaming in Macau in 2003 the use of carded play was a “pathetic” 20 to 25 percent, mainly due to privacy concerns.

However, Challa says the SenGame technology does not raise such issues.

“While we capture data of every patron, we do not have any ability to tie it to a particular person other than when the property wants to award appropriate reward point for their loyalty customers who have already elected to voluntarily provide their information to obtain additional reward points in proportion to their spending.”

Challa said the response from attendees at G2E Asia had been highly positive, with industry also providing feedback on potential shortcomings.

“We are investing significantly into the R&D and are looking forward to working with properties in Asia, US and across the globe to role out our technology,” he said.

There are other systems that can perform a similar task using RFID chips inside chips and receivers under tables, but these are extremely expensive. Other companies are looking at using multiple cameras, which again are costly and may require new CCTV equipment to be installed. 

Challa said as far as he is aware, SenGame is the only system already deployed on a large-scale in a live casino situation, using only one camera. Others use multiple cameras and tend to be intrusive to the dealer, he says.

Although casinos are making increasing use of data to target marketing campaigns and improve efficiency, experts say there is still a lot that can be done, in particular if they are able to move from data analytics to data science.

On a recent G2E panel on the subject, Jeba Kingsley, Scientific Games vice president, used the analogy of ice hockey to explain the difference. Analytics he said was like using data to see where the puck had been, while the science predicts where it will go.

“You look at the data analytics and you come up with a solution or predict what data is going to do in the next six months, or whatever timeframe.”

He said casinos now are fairly expert in collecting data from clients, but are falling short.

“This is where data science comes in we should be able to run many spending models to predict what the patron will do and what will make a patron make an unplanned trip, would it be F&B or ticket to an event?’ he said. “With data science we can take these parameters we can really understand what the true worth of a patron is.”

The experts said this kind of modelling used to be prohibitively expensive, but advances in technology and software solutions have made access to data science far more affordable.

Challa, who was also on the panel, said there is still a lot of data available to casinos that is not being used. He pointed to the overhead security cameras mounted in all casinos.

“If you take a sample of cameras they don’t catch people’s faces, but they provide very clear information in terms of a heat map of how people move around the property, if you look at the time of day, different events and how the traffic flow actually changes you have an amazing amount of information.”

Using data science to analyze all of the available information should enable casinos to be able to develop much more individual marketing strategies than are currently the norm. Segment marketing strategies tend to have a 3 to 5 percent response rate at best, Kingsley said, adding that there can be considerable differences in spending power and hence value to the consumer between the individuals in any target group.

Though data science will undoubtedly become an increasingly used tool, Kale stressed that at the end of the day the main problem is that people are not robots and their choices are emotional not rational. “Otherwise why would they choose to keep coming back to a casino time and time again when they lose money!!”



Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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