How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Casinos Deliver Better Results

Written By Matthew Lomon on March 10, 2023
Casinos using artificial intelligence

Las Vegas-based data activation enterprise, OPTX is using artificial intelligence to improve the future of casino operations.

Through its diverse menu of solutions, OPTX offers operators real-time insights and actionable recommendations to maximize human time and efficiency.

While their cutting-edge data processing services are yet to reach Canadian casinos, vice president of data science Steve Bright said it won’t be long before the ever-growing analytics firm ventures north. 

“We’ve had talks with entities in Canada, but that’s about all I can say,” he said.

Until then, the focus remains on pairing a transformative service with a steadfast belief in continuous improvement. 

Steve Bright from OPTX
Steve Bright from OPTX

Two overarching principles guide OPTX’s operation

1. AI isn’t the autopilot, it’s the co-pilot

While the ‘sentient killer robot’ trope plays well in Hollywood, it doesn’t accurately reflect the kind of AI OPTX deploys. In fact, the relationship between humans and AI is harmonious, with the former being the clear beneficiary.

Essentially, humans can delegate monotonous or difficult tasks to AI algorithms because that’s what logic dictates.

Bright explained that computers are more equipped than humans to tackle complex math at a quicker rate simply, “because that’s what computers do.

“There’s immense value in having complicated math done in an automated fashion that can adjust itself as more data comes in and then present these findings to the user,” he said.

That said, there are certain variables that the OPTX team must account for.

“We always want to keep in mind that the AI model is only going to be as good as the data it gets,” said Bright. “There’s always going to be context that just isn’t in your database schema.”

Bright offered the example of an underperforming slot machine located below a dripping air conditioner vent. The AI model generally doesn’t know about the leak, but it can identify that the slot machine isn’t doing well. Therefore, it might recommend the game be swapped out for something better. In this hypothetical, there’s nothing wrong with the game itself, all that needs to be done is a vent repair.

“In that case, we always want to give the user an opportunity to override the AI and when they do, we want to know why.”

2. Get feedback on everything 

For OPTX, client feedback is the key to perpetual growth.

“When the person disagrees and overrides the AI, we make sure that we gather that information to make our AI smarter,” said Bright. “We’re trying to build this virtuous cycle where the AI is constantly learning from the decisions made by the person and the AI is helping the person become more efficient.”

Operational efficiency translates into success at casinos

For casinos, which deal with high volumes of clients and currency exchanges, operational efficiency is paramount for success.

According to Bright, most slot analytics departments have a few employees with a massive spreadsheet containing 30-plus tabs of data. Their analysis process will mostly be semi-manual and culminate in charts that don’t produce any obvious result or recommendation.

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is automate and take the tedious stuff off the plate of the actual human employee.

“I don’t view any of this as taking away jobs. It’s about taking away the parts of the job that are annoying and tedious,” he continued. “We want casino operators to focus on making player experience better rather than having to deal with the minutiae of data manipulation.”

Slot Swap Calculator critical for casino success

Among OPTX’s abundance of operational solutions, Bright identified the ‘slot swap calculator’ as the single most important feature for casinos.

“With this, the operator can go into the casino floor map, pick out individual machines and say, ‘What if I take this machine that has theme A and switch it out for theme B, what’s going to happen there?’”

For example, if operators add another copy of a high-performing theme, it will most likely cannibalize gameplay from other existing copies of that theme. It’s also important to examine the theme being taken away. Bright proposed the following considerations:

  • Is that the only copy of this theme?
  • Are there available substitutes for the game being removed?
  • Are those substitutes conveniently located near what already exists?
  • Does the addition of another copy to a theme impact the floor layout?

“Those are things an operator would have to go through multiple Excel tabs to figure out,” he said. “Our slot swap calculator sends the data to our server, it does the math, applies our algorithm, and sends back the answer.”

When developing the slot swap calculator, Bright’s team looked at historical data. They found, when making any kind of floor change, operators got it right about 50% of the time. But, if they apply their model, that 50/50 success rate jumps to 60/40 in favour of the operator.

“That whole feature allows an operator to evaluate what a slot floor change is going to do before they do it and that’s incredibly powerful,” he said. “It can do all that math in the fraction of a second, push it back to the user, and give the user a concrete recommendation with a fortified prediction as to what that impact will be.”

Exciting new projects are on the horizon

Currently, OPTX  is working on revamping the reports they administer to their clients across the United States.

“One thing on our roadmap is an AI script that will comb through the reports, find out the two or three most important things, and bubble them up to the user.”

And, when AI is brought into the equation, there are concerns over the influx of data that algorithms process and return.

“There’s very much a danger with any analytics platform of information overload,” said Bright. “There’s usually a dollar amount or impact value that we can use to sort information and highlight what the end user needs to really care about.”

Regardless of the endeavour, efficiency and efficacy remain the bottom line for OPTX.

Additionally, OPTX is also considering an anonymized data pool that allows clients to learn from each other.

“We’re also looking at creating a program wherein individual users can opt-in to anonymized data sharing with other OPTX clients,” said Bright. “This allows for benchmarking, peer comparisons, and the discovery of new games present within the system.”

Of course, data sharing is a highly sensitive topic regardless of the context.

And Bright and his team take that very seriously.

“Obviously, right now, every client’s data is completely siloed from every other client’s data. It’s very important they know and believe us when we say that.

“We would only do this with explicit permission from those individual clients, strictly using the data for the stated purpose. Data privacy and data governance is something that we take very seriously.”

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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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