Technology makes best-in-class customer experiences come alive at Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland
When Bob Dylan wrote “what looks large from a distance, up close ain’t never that big,” the digital age was a glint on the horizon. Nearly 40 years later, we’ve come to understand that what looks large from a distance is probably much bigger underneath, and that delivering simplicity and ease to consumers in virtually every industry requires no less than the brightest minds and the deepest pockets.
For more than 100 years, The Cordish Companies has leveraged both to become an internationally recognized real estate developer with lines of business that include developing and operating innovative entertainment districts. An entertainment district brings together dining, nightlife, lodging and live events in its own “neighborhood” of best-in-class experiences.
Their Live! branded properties welcome over 55 million visitors annually, and Live! districts are the No. 1 visited attractions in their markets. Their growing casino business includes Live! Casino and Hotel Maryland, which has won over 17 "Best in Gaming" awards, including Best Casino.
As their network of casinos expanded, the company created the Cordish Gaming Group. Rob Norton, the group’s president, brought in systems integration specialist Frank Bonini, a veteran of Microsoft, Revel Entertainment, and the Borgata Hotel and Casino, to lead the IT side of the gaming group as their CIO. “Once we went to multiple properties, it became very important to have an enterprise vision that we could execute on for the long term,” Bonini told BOSS. “Our strategic vision puts the guest experience first.”
Cordish Gaming Shared Services (CGSS) provides Tier 3 and above IT services for all the company’s casino properties, working very closely with the IT leaders at each property to make sure that things keep running. At present, Bonini oversees three properties. A fourth will open in Bossier City, La., in early 2025. “When Live! goes into a market, there's an expectation that it will deliver the high-end experience we're known for. We work hard to provide that kind of experience for our customers,” he said.
From a technological point of view, everything the group does must support that guest experience. Bonini also pointed out that managing casino IT is akin to having several different vertical industries in one building that all need to work together. Making sure the Live! mobile app is consistent across properties, that their loyalty program works the same at every location, and that they provide more personalized and exciting experiences to their customers are just a few of their mission critical mandates.
CGSS employs analytics to help create the highly personalized experiences that sets Live! apart from other casinos. “We watch how people behave when they're on the site, what kinds of games they like to play, what kinds of restaurants they like to visit, what shows they go to, and we start developing a profile for how people like to engage with us,” he explained. Once preferences are established, the company promotes experiences that appeal to them.
One challenge CGSS faces with multi-site operations is scale. While the exact number is proprietary, Bonini said the number of players in their database easily exceeds 2.5 million. “We have to figure out who's active, who is inactive, what a player’s value is, and how to promote to these people differently. There are a lot of factors that go into that,” he noted. In addition to consumer preferences, demographics such as a casino’s location are carefully examined, as destination and local properties draw different types of players with different expectations.
“Just dealing with the massive amounts of data that come out of those environments gets very interesting. Players have come to expect near real-time feedback on their rewards.” he said. “For example, players who earn comps or points use an app to watch those points accumulate. We've taken great pains to ensure the information we provide our customers is accurate to within a few minutes. There's a lot of complexity behind that. It ends up being simple for the customer, but that doesn't mean it's simple to implement,” he said.
The Live! loyalty system is integrated with online gaming as well. When players are gaming online, they earn comps and points just as they would at the casino. Guests can play at home, and when they visit the casino, their earnings from online play can be used to pay for dinner or other amenities.
“We wanted everybody to be able to experience what the Live! brand has to offer. Even if you're playing remotely, we felt that was really important,” he stressed. “When you’re betting on sports, if you use your Live! Rewards ID, you earn rewards for those bets as well.”
Naturally, cybersecurity is of paramount importance. CGSS focuses on finding ways to protect the tremendous amount of personally identifiable information in their databases in flight and at rest.
“Along with security comes compliance, because after we open our next casino, we'll be working in three different jurisdictions and every jurisdiction has its own flavor of regulatory compliance. We have to make sure we're following the rules and figuring out how we can implement our systems in a way that's compliant with what each jurisdiction is looking for,” he said.
In addition to the 40 people working in the center of the IT organization and CGSS, Bonini has a development team that he describes as small but extremely strong. “I have four people doing custom software development and they're almost exclusively focused on system integration,” he said. Outside firms are used to make the consumer-facing tech attractive and user-friendly.
“We're extremely good at integration, and our architecture lets us control all business rules in our middle tier. For example, we're never putting business rules out on a website or in a mobile app, which makes updates less frequent and much easier,” he said. That approach makes adjusting rules based on business decisions that arise as they analyze their data much more timely. “Our time to market with functional capabilities that rely on integration is greatly reduced.”
All of the Live! Casinos have adopted standard infrastructure technology; a process that was complicated by the need to involve staff that already have another world of responsibility. “The general manager of a restaurant has a full-time job already, but now I want them to work with me on a point-of-sale project; where do they find the time for that?” he said. “Fortunately, we have a culture that rewards people for going above and beyond when engaging in those kinds of things. We try to involve operations wherever we can. IT doesn’t know how to run table games, so we need to trust those operators to make sure we have the correct requirements for the systems that our team is implementing.”
The company’s entrepreneurial management style echoes through CGSS. In addition to their IT work, group leadership takes an active interest in the business side of the enterprise. “We're very fortunate that because Cordish has been in business for over 100 years, there's a lot of very smart people around – and not just about gaming, but about business in general. That’s why even in a weak economy, we find ourselves in a very strong position and are able to open new casinos or other properties,” he concluded. “We're not trying to go first, we're trying to be best. That's what we strive for.”
Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland is the dominant gaming destination in its region, and the most visited destination in Maryland, attracting over 22 million visitors annually. Located at the Arundel Mills Mall in the heart of the Baltimore-Washington Corridor, the project combines dynamic gaming, dining and entertainment with a world-class retail experience.
The $550 million casino, which opened in June 2012, is one of the largest commercial casinos in the country, with more than 200 live action table games, 4,000 slots, an industry-leading Poker Room, and two High Limit rooms. Its gaming amenities are complemented by a state-of-the-art live entertainment venue, and award-winning restaurants Including their Zagat rated steakhouse, The Prime Rib, Asian inspired Luk Fu and Sports & Social that boasts a 100-foot media wall for the ultimate fan experience.
In 2018, Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland was further enhanced by the opening of its luxury AAA 4-Diamond rated Live! Hotel, full service spa and state-of-the-art Event Center. Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland has won dozens of awards for its best-in-class amenities and service.
601 East Pratt St., 6th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone Number: 410.752.5444
Homepage Link: https://maryland.livecasinohotel.com/