So often in business we need to look at what to modify. In the casino industry this is a huge part of any casino job. Knowing what is working and why is how you make sure you give your guests the best experience they can have.
But part of that is deciding what is working and creating a narrative that allows you to convince others that those changes need made. How do you create that narrative? How do you make your choices and be comfortable they are the best choices?
Decide on a report you will use.
I like reports that have as much information as possible. I normally use pivot tables* and other methods to hide the unwanted information, so I like to know it is there encase I feel the need to eventually look at it. I normally never do, but we live in a time of big data, so I keep it hidden. Find the report you like and run it. A month, 90 days, a year, etc. I like to look at 90 days, with a secondary report of either longer or shorter duration to get a fuller picture. I combine all these sheets of raw data into a single excel document (rename your sheets so you remember them).
Clean up the reports you have ran.
If you are pulling large reports set them up as “raw data sheets” where you can then pull out only the columns you want/need. You can do this with pivots or by cutting and pasting the information you want in a new cleaned up sheet.
I often find myself creating average coin in by day* and the difference in hold vs. theoretical hold. I like this information and not all reports record what I need.
For multiple time periods on the reports make sure when creating cleaned up sheets you match them label for label and in order. This will make creating an averages page much easier and smoother.
Create a sheet named averages where you can input the overall averages for the time periods you have ran. Use the same table labels as the matching cleaned up sheets. This gives you a baseline for the machines you will be looking at. I like to include averages for Non-smoking, Manufacturers, and denoms. It helps to have this information going in.
Once you have created your base line sheets of information it is time to start looking at the information.
Look at the reports
This will be part of the process through out, but it is worth noting that you need to stop and look at what you have done. Compare games. Get a sense for what denoms are working. What Manufacturers you have that need help or need removed. What is working and what is not. Get a sense of your floor.
I cannot stress enough the importance of creating a sheet for notes. As you go through the numbers you need to make notes. The sheet will be a place for thoughts and considerations. If you glance at the data and think MFR A sucks, write that in your notes. It will remind you later to take a closer look. If it appears they only suck in non-smoking, it will remind you to look at non-smoking later.
Notes should be your internal narrative as you go through the information. You will also use it later to create your external narrative as you communicate your ideas to others.
This section will also help remind you why you did something, or answer questions about how you came up with the ideas you came up with. Questions by others is normal and expected. Be ready for that, expect it.
Make a goal
Again this sound silly, but make a goal. Figure out what you want. Do you want to bring in 10 of a new game? Do you want to increase a MFR? What is it that you plan to do? Keep the goal lose at this point. You want to be able to pivot if you have to.
Think about what other changes you have planned or want to plan.
No change is done is in a vacuum. What are changes others are making on the floor? What other vendors are coming in? What is being replaced or converted already? What would you like to see happen? If a single vendor is changing out all their games this will impact your analysis.
Taking all of this into account ensures that your suggestions are up to date. Plan for what will be, not what is or what was. You may need to do some leg work to get things like air conditioning changes, but these changes will have an impact on your decisions. A game might improve from other changes. How much time are you willing to let them go after the change? Decide that early so that you are not working on replacing a game twice without giving your first actions a chance to cause improvements.
Find a vendor
The first thing I look for is vendors that are doing the worst. I sort the fields by daily coin and daily win and highlight in red the lowest 10 or 20 of each. I also use excels subtotal feature (found under the data tab) or pivot tables to help separate into vendors.* Using a pivot table you can easily bring up the values you want then create rows of MFR, Bank, and Machine. This will let you quickly find a crappy MFR, and then the crappiest banks of that MFR.
The vendors that have the lowest coin in and win should become apparent. This might be caused by a few games killing the statistics or all the games combined. Having them separated by vendor will help spot this.
The hope is that one vendor has a lot of games you want removed. If not, find the ones with the most. Look at which vendors and games you really need to help improve.
Go back to your notes and what you might have planned already. If one MFR is sucking, you might already have a plan to improve it. Here you are getting an idea of what MFRs you want to target in your removal. Take that list of MFRs and their games and move it into a new Sheet. This gives you a further cleaned up set of data to work off of.
Find a bank
Looking at the MFRs and machines that suck you can now sort by bank. Changing entire banks at the same time is a good practice to get into. This alleviates bastard banks with mixed cab styles. Those are ugly, do not create those.
Keep what is good
The most common issue with this is that entire banks do not always go bad at the same time. You can alleviate this by cherry picking and recombining new banks. So if you have an eight pack that six games on it suck, look for two more games of the same cabinet style that also suck. Move the two good games off this bank to replace those others you have found. You can do this in whatever way is easiest for your techs (Conversions or Moves depending). You now have a full bank that just sucks.
Note: this is easier to do with smaller banks. If you have a bank of 20 games, it makes it harder to change out only a few unless you are just doing conversions.
Make your plan, create a narrative.
Create a sheet of machine moves, and fill it in. The master machine move form* is one I created, but feel free to make your own. The point of the form is to have an easy way to communicate what you are doing with the information everyone needs to do it. You can send this form to IT, Surveillance, TGA, MFRs, etc.
This step includes creating a narrative. Chances are the people you need approval from or that you need to share your vision with are not going to go over all these numbers. Help them and yourselves by creating a narrative out of your notes and numbers. The form is one step for that, but not the only step. Break this down. Make it make sense to people using the information you have gathered.
- What you want to do (change, replace, remove, add),
- Why you want to do it (coin in sucks, win is too low, cabinet is obsolete, something else will be better).
- How you will get it done.
Now use this information to contact the approval areas you need. TGA and bosses are the most common. Make a list of those you need approval from and what order you will contact them. Then make a list of those you need to contact to actually get the job done. Get your approvals and move on to the next step.
I love lists. Lists of who to contact and what you need are important in every step of a project. Lists of the hardware keeps you from finding out on install day that you do not have the right locks.
Contact the MFRs
Ok, getting to the point of having this project completed. Contact the MFRs incoming, moving, and outgoing to set up dates and times. In the perfect world the outgoing MFR will arrive, remove their games, seconds later moving and installing vendors will show up to install and move their games. The prefect world is not always where we find ourselves.
The best thing to remember is how are, these outgoing games doing and how long can you have them down before it starts to dig into your pocket. Having an empty hole on your floor all weekend in a prime location is expensive. Having an open spot on your floor for a Tuesday in non-smoking likely less expensive. This goes back to knowing your floor.
This section may involve back and forth phone calls. The MFRs are there for you. Tell them the days you want. Be polite, but remember they are selling you something. You are not asking their permission, you are telling them what you need as a customer. If they have valid reasons to need a different date than what you want then fine. But you determine with them. You are not a passive observer. Do not be afraid to push back on your needs.
As a side note I normally write out my key points I want to cover before I make the calls. I then write answers and notes on my list as I speak to the MFR. This gives me a record, but also ensures I cover everything. It really helps with the removal MFR, because they will likely not want to be removed. But if you have been doing your job, and they have been doing their job, then everyone should know that their games are sucking and fix needs found. If they are surprised at their games sucking they likely do not care enough about being on your floor to stay there. These key points also create a nice starter for the email you should send to the MFR as soon as you get off the phone as a reminder of what was discussed.
This is also the stage where you ask the size of base they need, the amount of locks, and any other needs the games might have that you are supplying or they are supplying. Be sure to ask the MFR to supply everything. They might say no, but they might say yes, and a $200 base is nice to have supplied for you.
Plan the install removal with everyone you need to inform
Once dates are set and things are moving along make sure everyone is ready. Contact IT, see what they need. Your techs to ensure they have the bases, chairs, locks, wires, etc. You can only install new games on a clean floor if maintenance knows they need to vacuum. Everyone should be ready and informed about what is going on and what is going to happen. There should be no surprises for anyone. This is where you share maps, and basic info to make sure everything is ready on game day.
Always be ready to pivot.
Listen I know planning a project is awesome. I know that feeling of having everything perfect the morning of the project. You feel like it is done. You have your maps, your workers, your locks, everything is ready and waiting as the truck pulls up. Sometimes you have a smooth wonderful ride because you have the world planned out. But be ready. Not everything works out. I have been part of enough projects to know that once the boots hit the ground you might need to pivot. Games might not fit exactly as you thought. They have more locks then you were told. There is always something that you can count on to go wrong. Plans make this easier to adjust for. You know your end goal. You know what you want to have happen. You just need to pivot parts of it here and there.
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