Only three months have passed but 2023 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for casino loyalty and technology provider Acres Manufacturing Company. As it keeps expanding its cashless gaming capabilities to new US states, the business concurrently works on new solutions set to revolutionize the land-based casino experience.
With that goal in mind, Acres announced earlier this month the launch of TIBO (Ticket-In Bonus-Out), a new ticket-based bonusing solution enabled by Acres’ proprietary Foundation CMS technology. The product, which promises to update the decades-old Ticket-In Ticket-Out (TITO) technology by leveraging real-time data, is taking center stage at Acres’ showcase in the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention, to be held March 27-30 in San Diego, California.
To discuss this novelty and the manufacturer’s plans for the major tribal expo, Yogonet held an exclusive video interview with Noah Acres of Acres Manufacturing. In addition to detailing what sets TIBO apart, the expert discusses innovation in the casino floor, cashless expansion and why the industry is failing to attract younger audiences, among other takeaways.
What are TIBO’s main features and how does it improve the casino player experience?
TIBO, or “ticket-in, bonus-out,” is the next evolution of the existing TITO, which is the “ticket-in, ticket-out” system that’s been around for 20, or 25 years now. TIBO can do all of the functionality of TITO, which is to print cash-out tickets, which can be redeemed at another slot machine or a kiosk, or a cashier terminal. But it can also create new bonus tickets for whatever reasons, driven by underlying, real-time player data.
That ticket could be cashable or for free play to be redeemed at any other slot machine, a kiosk, or cashier terminal. And then we also have the ability to print coupons or other offers that can be redeemed at a retail outlet or somewhere else. And we do this by interfacing not only with the slot machine and the cash-out kind of meter through what’s called SaaS. But we also establish a direct real-time interface with the ticket printer itself. So with Foundation, when we get that real-time data about a player, we can just instruct the ticket printer: “Hey, Rodrigo just lost a little too much, so let’s give him a bonus and keep him happy and keep him playing.”
Acres calls this a groundbreaking product for TITO technology, which is currently a staple in casinos all over the world. What makes this novelty so relevant?
It all goes back to personalization and giving somebody the right incentive or the right bonus at exactly the right time. And those are the experiences that people, especially younger people, are used to getting on their phone or on the Internet when they go to Amazon, when they go to Netflix… They’re used to getting this high degree of personalization that’s reactive and creating an experience that’s tailored for them.
And so we did TIBO. The casino can communicate with the player because we have this ticket printer that’s there, and we can print out a message that’s highly targeted to the player. But I think that the important issue is players are bored, right? Players are bored with the same old casino experience, especially younger players. Slot and table revenue has grown only 1% in the last 15 years when you adjust for inflation. We’re in a no-growth industry.
In the last 15 years, there’s been a ton of new casinos and new slot machines and new jurisdictions brought online. But the revenue growth is almost completely flat. And then on top of that, we are failing to attract players under the age of 50. We’ve really over the past 15-plus years not gained any net new players in the industry. And if you look at TITO, I think it’s indicative of the problem. It’s a 25-year-old technology that’s never been improved and never had new features added. So we look at it as using the ticket printer as a communication tool with the player where TIBO can print out any ticket of value at any moment, whether it’s a regular cash-out ticket, a bonus ticket or a coupon that can be redeemed at retail.
Based on your conversation with industry stakeholders, was this something that casinos were looking for, and that they were asking to have on their casino floors?
I think the casinos are pretty outraged. A lot of the operators are outraged that they don’t have access to real-time data and that the interfaces available with the data that they have are completely minimal and unreliable. The first time I talked to one of the ticket printer vendors, they told me that the quickest data they can get out of a system is 59 seconds. So when you’re dealing with something that’s a minute old, that player is gone or whatever underlying trigger event is already a distant memory.
TIBO heightens the player experience by giving just another outlet for casinos to deliver incentives based on real-time data. So like with casino management systems, technology has been at a complete standstill for over 20 years. The four primary system vendors still use decades-old hardware that can’t process real-time data and they can’t target players in-session. So we think that TIBO and other technologies like it that are enabled by Foundation’s real-time data are really important to casinos as they look to modernize and begin to attract new players because you can’t get new players if you don’t throw out new ideas.
What can you tell us in regard to the expected deployments of this new solution? Have casinos already shown interest in adding it?
Virtually every slot machine that’s out there has a ticket printer. So the interest is quite high. This is something that can be deployed basically immediately. And we’re actually expecting to deploy the first phase of TIBO early this summer, perhaps like May or June. TIBO is really easy to install. You got the ticket printer there already – just put Foundation in, and now all of a sudden it works. It’s compatible with any CMS. It’s just like our Cashless Casino solution where we work alongside the existing CMS, but give the operator a new channel into the game. And Cashless Casino is highly successful. It’s on over 31,000 machines in ten states right now.
Shifting our focus to the Indian Gaming Trade Show and Convention, what are your expectations for this event?
We’re very excited and thankful to be there. We love IGA and we love working with tribes, and we try to make ourselves the perfect partner for tribal operators. Tribal operators are the longest-term investors in our industry. And these tribal communities have been let down and even betrayed by the traditional legacy providers. They haven’t reinvested at all in their systems in decades, which has caused this flattened revenue growth and no net new players being made in the last 15 years.
But to make matters worse, we see these same vendors being heavily involved in the direct competition of tribes, which is a lottery and iGaming. Vendors come along and take the money from tribal communities and then spend it to fuel their direct competitors. But we want to be the perfect partner, so all of the money that we receive is going directly into enhancing the player experience and enhancing the casino’s profitability.
So we’re very excited to be back at IGA showcasing solutions like Foundation and TIBO, Cashless Casino and the Video Poker Analyzer. That’s our product lineup at IGA. And we fully expect that tribal communities are going to profit immensely from a relationship with Acres.
Cashless Casino in particular was something that we discussed in interviews last year. And in the first few months of 2023, the company has already seen its cashless gaming technology approved in Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri. What can you tell us about the roadmap for cashless this year ahead?
We are live in ten states and 31,000 machines. We expect California to go live in the next month or two and Nevada over the summer, so our growth will continue. What this has proven so far is that Foundation works. There were a lot of naysayers when we first announced Foundation and its architecture. But the real-time data works. The ability to continue operating the legacy system works. The product passes regulatory muster so we can get licensed in basically any jurisdiction we go to. And then once it’s live on the casino floor, Foundation can fuel tremendous customer experiences.
Obviously, the success of Cashless Casino is in direct contrast to other cashless systems that are extremely complicated to even bring up and operate. So as for our future expectations and our product roadmap, I think that we’re going to continue to gain market share as the demand for cashless gaming increases. We’ve laid over the past year a tremendous infrastructure within Foundation where the velocity of our development of new ideas is going to greatly increase.
A lot more new ideas such as TIBO are going to be coming out soon. Ultimately the real-time revolution is going to begin, where players are carrying around a cashless app or just an app that’s connected to the game. And they’re going to be able to leverage their personal real-time data to get all sorts of messages, offers, bonus games delivered directly to them on their mobile app. Foundation is going to fuel a dramatic change in the player experience, a change for the good in the very near future. And for the first time in a long time, the industry is going to begin to attract new and younger players.
Watch the full interview here.