From Teradata Partners Conference: Small Casino Gets Big Results from Data Warehouse

Ann All

Teradata has an image problem, it occurs to me. This insight hits me after several folks I see at this week's Partners User Group conference in Las Vegas tell me, "People think that Teradata is really expensive and can't scale down. That's just not true." (Or words to that effect.)


While many of Teradata's customers are big companies like Wells Fargo, McDonald's and Overstock.com -- all of which are presenters this year -- Teradata also works with smaller companies like the Silverton Casino.


About three miles from the Strip, the property caters primarily to locals and to regional guests from places like California. While the Mandalay Bay, where conference attendees are staying, offers six pools, a spa, more than a dozen restaurants and shops selling everything from trendy fashion to high-end pet accessories, Silverton stays closer to its gaming roots. Its flashiest attraction is a 117,000-gallon aquarium just inside the front entrance -- cool but not in the same league as Mandalay's Shark Reef.


Silverton is making a bid to become more of a "destination," however with an ambitious $150 million renovation/expansion. A Teradata data warehouse, along with several business intelligence applications from gaming specialist Compudigm, are playing a key role.


The system generates daily, weekly and monthly reports, helping Kirk Golding, Silverton's VP of IT, review the performance of the casino's 1,500 slot machines, as well as its table games, by showing how they stack up on a list of 30 key performance indicators (KPIs).


During a "field trip" for several members of the media, Golding shows us a Compudigm application that presents the data in "heat maps," a cool visual interface that displays a view of the casino floor that helps the casino tweak the product mix and placement of machines and alerts it to under-performing machines. Machines that aren't being played lose money, so technicians are dispatched to visit them to ensure that technical problems or physical issues such as bad lighting aren't the problem.


Golding can also run reports that show a time-lapsed view of activities on the casino floor, which helps the company's marketing team design effective promotions. Noting that gaming activity tends to ebb during dinner hours, for example, Golding says Silverton could design a promotion that would offer free munchies to patrons who continue to play the slots during that time.


A specific example of how Silverton uses the system: A bank of six slot machines may feature three with a 10 percent hold level -- the amount the casino retains -- and three with a 12 percent level. Though the anecdotal theory is that the machines with lower hold levels are played more due to higher payouts, the system may show no difference in activity. Says Golding:

We might want to make all of the machines 12 percent. That would amount to an additional $20,000 to $30,000 per machine over a year, so you can see how that could add up pretty quickly.

The system also compiles data on members of Silverton's Players Club, loyal guests whom the casino rewards with special offers. While the casino is still learning the data warehouse ropes, about a year-and-a-half into its deployment, the eventual goal is to create a centralized view of data not only from the casino but from Silverton's hotel and restaurants. Explains Golding:

We want to know every guest better. The reservation agent should be able to bring up the information that tells them whether they should comp a room or not. If a guest has a steak dinner every time he comes, then we never want to offer him chicken.

Though the casino has the "vision and enthusiasm," says Golding, "we aren't there yet data-wise." It should be within the next few years, he predicts, noting that scheduled upgrades of other systems include budgets for getting their data into the data warehouse.


Golding is also interested in an active data warehouse capability that could feed data to the casino floor in near real-time, where hosts equipped with handhelds could act upon it. His example: The system could make hosts aware of highly active players that are not currently enrolled in the Players Club. "We'd obviously like to build a relationship with them," he says.

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