AML, FINCEN, Casinos, International Banks and Intrigue

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Steve Karoul is a recognized casino consultant with 35 years of hands-on experience with the best casinos both within the United States and internationally. He is also an authority on all aspects of casino marketing. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in well over 100 countries around the world.   He is an author, a lecturer and an educator who often injects his own hands on experiences and openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow industry executives. Telephone +(1-860) 536-1828 or [email protected] or see www.euroasiacasino.com

What do AML, FINCEN, Casinos and Banks all have in common?  It is not intrigue but unfortunately the intrigue element comes into play because of Compliance.  Compliance is the new mantra of both casinos and banks today.  Unfortunately there have been abuses within both systems and both industries handle large amounts of cash.  Cash used to be “King” but not any longer.  Today cash generates concern.  That concern translates across many industries today besides just casinos and banks.

For example, FINCEN falls under the US Department of the Treasury.  This is the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and they have both casinos and banks in their sights among other industries. This not only affects casinos in the United States but also affects western casinos conducting business in Asia or elsewhere around the world. FINCEN’s charter is as follows:

“FINCEN’s mission is to safeguard the financial system from illicit use and combat money laundering and promote national security through the collection, analysis, and dissemination of financial intelligence and strategic use of financial authorities”

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Private Label your own “Casino” Energy Drink???

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Steve Karoul is a recognized casino consultant with 35 years of hands-on experience with the best casinos both within the United States and internationally. He is also an authority on all aspects of casino marketing. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in well over 100 countries around the world.   He is an author, a lecturer and an educator who often injects his own hands on experiences and openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow industry executives. Telephone +(1-860) 536-1828 or [email protected] or see www.euroasiacasino.com

Casino innovation is rare these days in the casino industry.  Unfortunately our industry has been labeled as a copy cat industry since we tend to copy more than we create.  There is nothing wrong with that as long as it is legal and everyone benefits.  However, there is still plenty of room for creativity and innovation in casinos.  This month’s kudos for casino innovation goes to Gianfranco Scordato, CEO of Gran Casino Costa Brava in Spain.  Gian and his team at Gran Casino Costa Brava are the first casino management team that I am aware of in Europe to make an innovative decision to private label an energy drink for their casino.

It is an intriguing concept which required further investigation because they focused on their Poker Players.  It is quite interesting when one considers that the beverage industry in the United States alone is now a U.S. $60 billion per year industry.  Energy drinks are the fastest growing segment of this market.  Ten years ago energy drink sales in the United States were only $12 million for the year.  Last year, energy drink sales topped $12.5 billion and are increasing rapidly.  That represents phenomenal growth for any industry and a good opportunity for casinos around the world.  According to the “Energy Drinks and Shots: Market Trends in the U.S.”, sales of energy drinks and shots will grow to a value of $21.5 billion by 2017.

So, why a private label an energy drink in a casino?  According to Gianfranco their casino currently gives away or sells a huge number of cans of energy drink every month to either customers playing Poker or playing on the casino floor as well as in their various restaurants or lounges. His investigation revealed that the energy drinks were being consumed by younger casino customers and also by their Asian casino customers.  Both of these market segments are very high on their list of priority markets in their strategic marketing plan.  They want to increase the percentage of younger players and have started to vary their entertainment as well in an effort to be more appealing to them.  Gianfranco also commented:

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Asian Casino Marketing: Lucrative but not Easy

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Steve Karoul is a recognized casino consultant with 35 years of hands-on experience with the best casinos both within the United States and internationally. He is also an authority on all aspects of casino marketing. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in well over 100 countries around the world.   He is an author, a lecturer and an educator who often injects his own hands on experiences and openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow industry executives. Telephone +(1-860) 536-1828 or [email protected] or see www.euroasiacasino.com

Almost every casino around the world understands the value of Asian Casino Marketing but most do not understand what Asian Casino Marketing really is.  Therefore, many casinos seem to make the same fatal error and then wonder why their Asian casino marketing program failed.  One of my more popular articles was titled “I’m not Chinese, I’m Vietnamese”.  This article sums it up nicely because the first thing a casino needs to understand is that not all Asian market segments are the same or simply stated; one size does not fit all when it comes to Asian casino marketing.  It means the same thing when one considers that Asia is not Asia.  Asia consists of many different countries, many different cultures, many different languages, many different foods, customs, traditions, beliefs, holidays, etc.

I consulted for a very nice casino recently located in the United States and asked why they did not have any Asian casino marketing programs in place.  They told me that they had tried Asian marketing in the past and that they were unsuccessful so they abandoned their efforts.  Upon further investigation I learned that they had hired one Chinese speaking Casino Host and put that individual in charge of their entire Asian Casino Marketing efforts.  I also learned that they added a number of Chinese food items to their casino buffet because they did not have an Asian restaurant or an Asian Noodle Bar.  They also did not promote any Asian games on their casino floor such as Baccarat or Pai Gow.  I kept digging and finally learned that the majority of Asian players from the surrounding communities were all Vietnamese and not Chinese.  Their Asian Host was unable to communicate with these players in their own language.  The Chinese food items that they prepared were unappealing to Vietnamese players.  And they did not focus on any Vietnamese holidays or Vietnamese entertainment.  No wonder their “Asian casino marketing” efforts failed. Read More…

Casino Marketing 101: Very Unique Player Gift Discovered by a 14 Year Old High School Student

My 14 year old son and friends were working on a school project related to marketing.  Their goal was to develop a business plan and market a new product.  Their first task was to find a new product to market.  They actually did a great job and found a really unique product that almost everyone would have a need for.  It is a multi-functional new type of flash light that uses numerous LED light bulbs.  In fact, it has 54 LED bulbs built into it.  It is one of the brightest lights on the market today.  The only one brighter was designed for military use and is actually not that much brighter than the Safe-T-Lite.  The only big difference is price.  The military model costs about ten time more than this commercial model.

My son and his friends were looking for a niche market for this unusual flash light.  I told them that I thought it would make an ideal give-away gift for casinos.  Most casinos look for unique gift items that will appeal to their players and also offer high perceived value. The product is unique, the packaging and size are perfect and the price is fantastic ranging from $14.95 to $19.95 F.O.B. New Jersey depending upon quantity.  Their first task was to write their copy for their ad.

Remember my previous article about “Perception is reality and reality is perception in the casino business.  The casino business today is not about making money, it is about creating value for our customers. Create the value first and making money will be much easier.” Read More…

Casino Marketing for Dummies

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Steve Karoul is a recognized casino consultant with 35 years of hands-on experience with the best casinos both within the United States and internationally. He is also an authority on all aspects of casino marketing. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in well over 100 countries around the world.   He is an author, a lecturer and an educator who often injects his own hands on experiences and openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow industry executives. Telephone +(1-860) 536-1828 or [email protected] or see www.euroasiacasino.com

I recently took up digital photography and wanted to learn more about how to improve my photos.  I went to the book store to look for an instructional book.  I looked in the photography section and I purchased a book titled “Digital Photography for Dummies” because it was written for an inexperienced new user.  I have used the “Dummies” books before to learn about many new subjects of interest.  Having worked in the casino industry for thirty five years primarily in casino marketing I realize that most of what I know today came from “on-the-job”, hands-on experience.  I am currently self-employed as a casino consultant specializing in all aspects of casino marketing.  I have written and published numerous articles over the years about casino marketing.  Never-the-less, I still feel that I am always learning new things about casino marketing and try to share them openly especially with younger folks new to the casino industry.

I receive numerous requests every month for help from young people who want to break into the casino marketing field, learn about casino junkets, better understand Asian casino marketing or who want to learn more to improve their present skills.  As a result of this I now realize that there is not a great deal of information available for young people who want to learn about casino marketing.  Therefore I have decided to try to offer some helpful recommendations and suggestions.

First, I think it is important for people to realize that it is often very difficult and frustrating to break into casino marketing in one of the better positions unless you have some unusual skill set, past work experience or speak a desired foreign language.  Most of the larger casinos around the world usually try to promote from within in order to develop career paths for their own hard working, dedicated, loyal employees. Marketing seems to be one of the more glamorous desirable positions that many people want.  Consequently, one strategy is to just get hired first by your company of choice; hopefully for a lower ranked position within the marketing division, and watch for any postings or listings of new open positions that the casino wants to fill.  It is a great way to learn from within and to climb the corporate ladder to a higher, more desirable marketing position.  Read More…

The Mystery Behind Casino Mystery Shopping

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Steve Karoul is a recognized casino consultant with 35 years of hands-on experience with the best casinos both within the United States and internationally. He is also an authority on all aspects of casino marketing. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in well over 100 countries around the world.   He is an author, a lecturer and an educator who often injects his own hands on experiences and openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow industry executives. Telephone +(1-860) 536-1828 or [email protected] or see www.euroasiacasino.com

Mystery Shopping has been around for many years.  It is not a new concept. It is particularly prevalent in the retail and hospitality industries.  However, it is a relatively new concept for the casino industry.  I am now involved with a fair amount of casino consulting as well as lectures at various casino conferences.  I often stress to casino executives and casino managers that there are three important factors involved with success in the modern casino industry.  Years ago, I used to always use Conrad Hilton’s often coined expression that there were three key factors involved with success in the hotel industry and those three factors were #1) location, #2) location and #3) location.

Location is obviously a very important factor but in today’s dynamic casino industry I believe that three of the more important factors today are #1) communicate, #2) celebrate and #3) validate.  You can never over communicate in the casino industry especially with your staff.  Most staff are hard working, loyal and dedicated.  They want to be involved so I always recommend that casino operators communicate to the legal maximum allowed by law.  Casino operators that communicate well with their staff will reap the benefits and the rewards. Involvement from happy motivated staff is a critical success factor that will payoff handsomely for both large and small casino operators around the world. Neither location nor size matters when it comes to communicating well with your staff.  Improving upon this one factor alone can make a huge difference in your operation.

The second success factor that I mentioned is celebrate.  Celebrate both with your customers and with your employees.  Look for reasons to celebrate.  People want to have fun.  People come to casinos to have fun.  Celebration is a critical element of having fun.  Unfortunately it is an area that often gets overlooked or the almighty budget over-rules and the celebrations never take place with the casino staff.  What a missed opportunity.  I often advise casino operators to develop a new line item in their budgets called “Celebrations” and to budget an amount of money each year that you can keep in reserve to use for those “unexpected” opportunities that will always arise when you least expect them so that you can celebrate both with your customers and with your staff.  They will appreciate it. Read More…

Understanding the Basics about Casino Management Systems (CMS)

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Steve Karoul is a recognized casino consultant with 35 years of hands-on experience with the best casinos both within the United States and internationally. He is also an authority on all aspects of casino marketing. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in well over 100 countries around the world.   He is an author, a lecturer and an educator who often injects his own hands on experiences and openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow industry executives. Telephone +(1-860) 536-1828 or [email protected] or see www.euroasiacasino.com

During my many years of consulting, I have witnessed a continued evolution and growth in the Casino Management Software needs of various casinos around the world.  It is an area that is often overlooked in the development stages of a new casino or during a pending software update.  However, this area should not be taken lightly.  There are actually many different options available but most suppliers only recommend a few of the larger systems to most casinos.  Sometimes this can be overkill as well as extremely expensive for some casinos who may be perfectly satisfied with a less expensive casino management system.

A Casino Management System (CMS) serves as a focal point for the day to day processing and recording of operational transactions throughout the facility.   Realistically, there is no one single vendor who offers all of the software that a major casino resort needs to operate and manage their facility.  Consequently there has always been a need for a central management system that is capable of interacting and collecting meaningful information from the many “best of breed” operational systems commonly found in today’s modern casino facilities.  Some of the basic applications that should integrate with your Casino Management Software include Slot Monitoring / Accounting, Slot Ticketing, Cashless Gaming, eGames Platforms, RFID Table Monitoring, Live Point of Sale Systems for Keno, Bingo, Race and Sports Book, Promotional Kiosks, Hotel, Food and Beverage Point of Sale, Surveillance and Security, Responsible Gaming, On-line Internet Gaming, Third Party Check Cashing, General Ledger, and Data Warehousing just to mention a few..

Making sense of this entire complex subject can be very difficult and often overwhelming for many casino operators or casino developers.   I am often reminded by some of my software friends of just a few key items to remember when selecting a Casino Management System for your property: Read More…

Artificial Intelligence, Poker Bots and Wining at Poker

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Steve Karoul is a recognized casino consultant with 35 years of hands-on experience with the best casinos both within the United States and internationally. He is also an authority on all aspects of casino marketing. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in well over 100 countries around the world.   He is an author, a lecturer and an educator who often injects his own hands on experiences and openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow industry executives. Telephone +(1-860) 536-1828 or [email protected] or see www.euroasiacasino.com

Approximately ten years ago I was approached by a company from Israel that was working on some artificial intelligence projects.  The owner loved to play poker so he started on a new venture to try to see if he could develop a program based upon artificial intelligence to help him to become a better poker player.  This project involved the development and programming of the software, physics, mathematical analysis and a variety of gaming and casino marketing experts including myself.  All of this was before the current boom and popularity of both online poker and casino gaming.  Einstein was ahead of his time as well as the father of modern physics.  Einstein was a genius; Einstein was a curious type of individual who liked to question “Why?”  My poker enthusiast friend was the same type of creative, curious individual but whose passion was playing poker and gambling.  He was convinced that with the help of computers, proper programming and software development involving complex algorithms, etc. that he could learn the secrets and teach himself to be a great poker player and a great gambler.  I am still not sure whether he wanted to learn these skills purely for enjoyment or to make lots of money as a semi-professional, highly skilled player.  He never told me.

Artificial Intelligence or “AI” can replicate or mimic many of the human brain functions.  Computer programmers have often played with new software applications to try to match or improve upon human brain functions.  This became very evident with the game of Chess. Deep Blue was the name given to a chess playing computer developed by IBM. On May 11, 1997, the machine, with human intervention between games, won the second six-game match against world champion Garry Kasparov by two wins to one with three draws. Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and demanded a rematch. IBM refused and retired Deep Blue. Kasparov had beaten a previous version of Deep Blue in 1996.  IBM used one of their faster computers in 1997 but that was sixteen years ago.  Computer chips, RAM and software have been improving dramatically and geometrically every year since 1997.  It is amazing how powerful some of the new computers for gaming are today compared to just a few years ago. Read More…

The Old Annual Casino Budget Dilemma

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Steve Karoul is a recognized casino consultant with 35 years of hands-on experience with the best casinos both within the United States and internationally. He is also an authority on all aspects of casino marketing. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in well over 100 countries around the world.   He is an author, a lecturer and an educator who often injects his own hands on experiences and openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow industry executives. Telephone +(1-860) 536-1828 or [email protected] or see www.euroasiacasino.com

Casino budgets are an annual process that seems to come and go without too much ceremony or celebration. Depending upon your casino’s budget process, it can be a productive activity or an activity of futile frustration. I have researched the budget process in many different casinos looking for common denominators as well as common helpful hints to ease the pain. However, one common denominator that was heard was “I wish we could change all of the B.S. that goes along with the budget process”. So, you are not alone out there in casino land. It was the same comments from many different locations and many different kinds of casinos. Financial people view things one way, operations people view things another way and marketing people view things in an even different way. Further investigation did however divulge some common denominators as well as common complaints.

Everyone agreed that the budget process was in fact necessary and everyone agreed that some form of financial planning and record keeping is also necessary for every casino. Most individuals surveyed also felt that the casino business is different from the hotel industry, restaurant industry, manufacturing, etc. but do share certain commonalities. They also recognized that the accounting process must basically conform to certain pre-established standard accounting practices for record keeping and budgeting. Never-the-less, many casino executives felt that the overall process was in some ways counterproductive and could be improved upon. This common denominator or comment was intriguing.

Further investigation revealed that many casino executives felt that the budgeting process found in many casinos today is not always helpful since it sometimes may actually hide or hinder growth opportunities. It may mask the truth when market conditions change unexpectedly such as what we are experiencing today with gasoline prices in the $3.00+ per gallon range or higher in some States. Budgets force people to still try to “make the number” no matter what. This can cause undue stress throughout the casino organization and create a very serious and stressful atmosphere that oftentimes is conveyed to the customer in the form of poor customer service or an “un-fun” atmosphere. Remember, customers come to casinos to have FUN whether it is from gaming, entertainment, dining, etc. Read More…

Value – A Simple Word that all of your Players Understand Well – Do you?

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Steve Karoul is a recognized casino consultant with 35 years of hands-on experience with the best casinos both within the United States and internationally. He is also an authority on all aspects of casino marketing. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in well over 100 countries around the world.   He is an author, a lecturer and an educator who often injects his own hands on experiences and openly shares his ideas and thoughts with fellow industry executives. Telephone +(1-860) 536-1828 or [email protected] or see www.euroasiacasino.com

One of my favorite sayings is, “The operation was a success but the patient still died.”  Oftentimes, in today’s highly competitive casino industry, balancing common sense with value or perceived value in a highly regulated environment can make the difference between success or having your patient (the customer) die (or disappear).  This may sound strange but one of my friends named Dennis Conrad who I think is one of the better casino marketing consultants (besides myself) in the casino industry today, also has a favorite expression; “Doing business today is not about making money, it is about creating value”.  I totally agree with Dennis.

One time, I received a telephone call from a small player that I knew quite well on a personal basis.  He called me to tell me that he was sorry but that he was going to have to cancel his reservation at Foxwoods.  I asked him why, and he informed me that he was offered a better deal from another casino.  He told me that he received a discount coupon in the mail and that he could use that extra savings for play in the casino.  The $20 difference in room rates represented value to him.  I was also intrigued because this customer was own brother.  So much for loyalty in the casino industry today; value won.  This made me think for a moment about what else do we take for granted that we often see day in and day out that may be perceived as “value” by our customers.  Every casino in the world has either direct or indirect competitors depending upon their location.

Foxwoods was rapidly approaching its annual strategic planning sessions. Therefore, I decided to issue a challenge to all Foxwoods management throughout the organization to first take a good hard look at our own operation within each of their own operating divisions and then to make at least three personal visits to our direct competitors or any other competitors on either a local or a regional basis.  I discussed this with our CEO, who immediately recognized the thought process, and issued a personal memo to all management to support our new Value Project and to accept the challenge. Read More…

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