When Karen Caporicci and I started a kiosk business in the mid-90s, most people didn’t even know how to pronounce or spell “kiosk.” If they did, they usually used the word to refer to a cart-contained store at a mall or an enclosed portable area from which street vendors sold their wares. We didn’t know what to call our company, starting as PC KIOSKS and eventually becoming NetBooth. When Karen contacted potential casino customers, she was rerouted to concessions, food and beverage managers, and retail managers. She got hung up on a lot and hardly anyone called her back.
At that time, touchscreens were predominantly being utilized on slots and almost nowhere else. Point-of-Sale was present, but it was thought of as an internal tool that customers were forbidden to touch, and even today, it is more classified as an advanced cash register. Because I was coming out of the 1980s from a world of personal computer components, where we built Novell and UNIX (Xenix) networks and developed statewide connected networks and security platforms, it seemed natural for all computers on the Internet to be able to access server applications based on rules and topology. With some understanding of networks and the early Internet, I felt that people would pay to get this service away from home.
In 1995, AOL was dominant and became a development partner, allowing us to install its software in our homemade web browser so users could browse the Internet publicly as an AOL member. This inspired me to write and design software that locked the regular Windows operating system down and offer Internet browsing as a vending machine, connecting all of the cash components to the methods. We spent many hours developing the portal, having it tested by kids, and even invited hackers to break into the kiosk software in the early days. Our error code list was so extensive that it scared me at first, but then I started to realize I had created Intellectual Property. We eventually embedded Electronic Arts as a partner and wrote their games into our interface. We succeeded by being the first-ever company to deploy Internet kiosks in casinos for public use, and we were the first to create a wireless kiosk on the sand in Huntington Beach, Calif. (“Surf and Surf” was the theme) — it was Wi-Fi on the beach for the first time ever. From that spawned InRoom Internet, an early hotel room Internet provider, and then contracts to build medical information kiosks, ticketing machines, advertising coupon kiosks, entertainment-on-demand kiosks, and then the new topology of ATMs, bill breakers, automated sports betting kiosks and server-based game technology.
A kiosk to me is a touchscreen enclosure and operating system that facilitates a property’s services through a self-service touchpoint station. The software application can be self-contained in the kiosk or it can be driven through a network, but overall the essence of a kiosk is a self-service, automated and un-attended machine. This application mitigates labor and develops accuracies and, most of all, extends service offering hours and access points. Its applications are still expanding.
I reached out to some of the top executives of proven kiosk applications utilized in casinos today for comments on how gaming kiosks have evolved and their impact on casino revenues.
What was the first year that you feel kiosks really started to impact gaming?
Safwan Shah, CEO/President, Infonox: I see kiosks as a form of self-service, so even slot machines are a type of kiosk. I would argue that slots are the earliest kiosks that entered the casino floor. Another example of an early kiosk is the cash advance pre-authorization QuikCash™ Kiosk from Global Cash Access, circa 1997. These kiosks are still present in practically every casino and have been proven and tested time and time again.
Craig Keefner, Kiosk Information Systems (KIS) and formerly of KIOSKS.org: I think it was 2004 when TITO kiosks started going out. They were very complex with expensive cash acceptors. These units had (and have) an ROI measured in days, if not hours.
John Prather, Marketing and Product Development Manager, Glory USA: The ticket redemption and bill breaking kiosk had a large impact on the casino market in 2004, and it grew increasingly larger in 2005. This provided casino patrons with more automated access points to redeem slot tickets. The automated redemption kiosk provided customers a service to redeem slot tickets without standing in long lines at remote/satellite booths and main cages. The impact of the redemption kiosk provided a service to casino personnel by mitigating the increased strain on the booth and cage personnel due to the ever-growing quantity of the slot tickets. This redemption kiosk provided a more simplified means of redemption and reconciliation process for casino management.
Mark Sutherlin, Director of Xchange™ Money Systems, Western Money Systems: The first year of impact would have been 2001 when Ameristar Vicksburg bought our first ticketXchange™ slot ticket redemption kiosk. This casino was the very first in the entire country to implement slot ticket redemption kiosks, and clearly impacted gaming by proving that the technology worked. That year most casinos were still very unsure of TITO technology, and were watching every installation closely. … If it were not for [that installation], who knows when and how the [technology’s] impacts would have taken place?
Where do you see kiosks growing today?
SS: Kiosks categorized as advanced-function ATM machines, hotel check-in kiosks, card and ticket purchase kiosks, TITO kiosks, and so on.
CK: Reward loyalty cards, betting kiosks at race tracks, automated betting sports books in casinos (like ISI iSports at Hooters), TITO redemption, valet parking systems and bill breaking with ATM dispensing.
JP: With states that previously supported only Class II gaming now moving to or also using Class III games, such as Oklahoma, demand and growth are occurring. … The addition of ATM functions to an already existing ticket and bill-breaking kiosk is growing in popularity. The sectors of the market with previously purchased redemption models is now creating a larger replacement market for the new redemption kiosk, cultivating the need for additional units and expanding the quantity of available access points.
Which company do you think has most impacted kiosk growth?
SS: This is a fragmented market for sure. NetBooth was certainly a pioneer, so was Global Cash Access. The role of Infonox in powering the GCA systems is a true example of successful kiosk strategies.
CK: I have to be biased and say most of the new kiosk implementations I have seen have come from kiosk Information Systems out of Colorado. The individuals that have impacted kiosks in gaming would include you (Tony Caporicci), Bill Stearns with ISI, and Bob Connelly at QuickPlay (now known as Innovative Funds Transfer).
JP: The decision by Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas, upon opening for business, to purchase the 3-in-1 capability for a redemption kiosk implemented by Global Cash Access, really demonstrated the advantage of providing convenient multi-functional touch points for customers to easily access funds for their entertainment needs in the casino environment. This capability enhanced the casinos’ abilities to provide more cash to the casino floor for gaming and non-gaming activity.
MS: The first company that truly impacted kiosk growth was Western Money Systems. We were the first company to have a working kiosk, and the first to market with installed equipment. We had kiosks in many states well before any other company. There was also a point where the Canadian company NRT impacted kiosk growth in terms of numbers sold in the United States when they contracted with IBM’s service centers nationwide to service the kiosks. … We set up a system of dealers across the country in the many gaming jurisdictions, as needed, when and where we could find cash handling specialists, who like us, were already respected in this unique casino cash handling industry. In most cases, the companies we decided to work with in these various states were respected companies who were already working with the casinos in their territories, and the solution worked.
Where do you see kiosks tomorrow?
SS: I think the main new frontier will be “service automation” kiosks — check-in, loyalty card issuance, slot-ticket redemption, advanced-function ATMs, etc.
CK: More loyalty functions, benefits and longer persistence (remembers you from year to year). Also kiosks that allow more ways to bet (gamble) unattended.
JP: We believe that the ever-growing need for an automated kiosk will continue to expand. Glory is focused on the continued enhancement of the current ATM/Ticket Redemption/Bill breaking capability recently releasing our fourth generation SK-100A Casino Kiosk to the market. ... Other key kiosk needs with such functionality as player management (point redemption, point inquiries, etc.), casino properties amenities, entertainment tickets and reservations, hotel check-in, restaurant reservations, etc., will be the continued focus and need of casinos to provide a user-friendly casino patron kiosk that has easy-to-manage back-office functions.
MS: Kiosks will be everywhere, and where casinos now think they need five or 10, they will eventually find that they need 10 or 20. You will see kiosks at the end of almost every bank of slot machines. Kiosks will be the place where customers go to redeem Player Rewards, get cash from ATM services, Credit Card Cash Advance and Check Cashing Services. Kiosks will tell patrons where the quarter slots are and how to get to the high limit areas. Casino marketing departments will be far more involved than they have been in the past, ensuring that players don’t have to go very far to collect their casino comps. Competitive casinos are looking for such technology now, and our engineers are hard at work communicating with slot systems engineers and ATM company engineers to make it all happen.
How do kiosks impact casino revenue?
SS: Kiosks reduce service delivery costs and automate customer tasks like check-in, loyalty card issuance, purchase show tickets, etc. Casino hosts get more time to up-sell and cross-sell because the kiosks handle the mundane/routine tasks. Hosts can focus on customer service in good ol’ fashioned ways. Great examples are TITO, financial service kiosks and check-in kiosks.
CK: They are serving now as a strong secondary channel to help push value to customers.
JP: The addition of a comprehensive kiosk provides the casino patron easy access to other property activities and the ability to centralize and manage these patrons’ needs. They also streamlined casino management solution that reduces the need for an extensive focus on the reconciliation and purchasing components of the casino’s responsibilities, allowing casino management to refocus employees responsibilities to more hands-on customer support for activity needs and requests. Revenue is and will increase with the capability of streamlining these functions of the casino sectors, and vendors such as Glory have a responsibility to the gaming market to provide solutions that continue to enhance the overall customer experience with automated processing kiosks.
MS: When a casino understands that by providing kiosks, customers are happy (as they are getting what they want), their revenue is directly impacted. Customers like to redeem their tickets and go right back to playing their lucky slot machines. When casinos don’t have enough kiosks, it’s a customer service problem. Then, when you add ATM, or player reward services, like our Points to Cash™ functionality and Self Comping™, customers can access their cash and get back to play faster, not only introducing more cash to the casino floor, but extending play time as well. It’s really all about customer satisfaction. Casinos that adapt will need more kiosks as they begin to add more kiosk-related services for their technology-savvy customers.
Tony Caporicci is a business consultant developing ideas and platforms for gaming, entertainment and hospitality. He has pioneered several technologies globally and provided many hours of research and development for small to large companies.