IGT drives gaming technology evolution
IGT is the world’s largest end-to-end gaming provider, delivering lottery, video, casino, sports betting, and digital gaming apps to players worldwide. Yet as gaming sweeps across the globe, the industry is focused on standardising aspects of its platforms. ‘All providers are looking for that brand differentiator, whether it is speed-to-market, personalised customer service, the latest technology, most vibrant user experience or some combination of the above’, says Pat Kamm, Vice President of Technology Operations at IGT.
To do so, companies like IGT are capitalising on the mobile channel, personalised AI, automation and cashless transactions. ‘Technology is the engine and the facilitator of today’s gaming’, says Kamm. ‘Today’s gaming is feature-rich and multi-sensory. We’ve come a long way from monolithic, proprietary systems and are designing and operating highly secure, high-volume, multi-server validation transaction engines that make the player experience seamless across channels’.
Gaming management and operating architecture used to be highly proprietary. But in the past few decades, Kamm says, companies have shifted from this model to more open architectures, easing integration with other third parties. In fact, with the increase in small, nimble gaming startups, many large gaming corporations want to develop open systems that facilitate ease of collaboration with these smaller teams.
True to form, IGT refuses to be outdone by smaller startups. Kamm elaborates: ‘We invest a great deal each year in R&D, part of which is engaging players and partners in product forums. We take that feedback and respond with new games, feature rich content, and greater value. We drive for that truly engaging user experience, the WOW factor in our products’.
After all, IGT is the leader bringing new ideas to an old industry. ‘Going back 20 or 30 years, leadership teams in the corporate world were not all particularly diverse’, Kamm says. ‘[Since then], there’s been a realisation that bringing in people from different cultural backgrounds, different ethnic backgrounds, and different educational backgrounds is vital. The clash of ideas is incredibly healthy’.
For a multinational gaming industry leader such as IGT, diverse sourcing of ideas couldn’t be more important. Kamm, a graduate of several prestigious executive programmes, considers professional development a leadership requirement. He recalls early in his career thinking, ‘You say to yourself, “The response to these challenges are obvious”. You think everyone will come to the same conclusions. And then when you get together as a group, you find that there are so many different perspectives among people of different backgrounds and ages’.
Kamm notes that young, diverse members of the IGT team come to the team with great ideas about content, loyalty programmes, knowing your customer (KYC), and the future of the integrated user experience across channels. The new generation of players has spoken and leaders are listening. ‘At IGT, we are working on ways to customise the gaming experience for players around the world. What we have found is that the value proposition for our players in the United States varies from that of South America, Latin America, Europe, or Asia’, Kamm says. ‘Values are different’.
IGT is focused on bringing awareness to the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and the results are clear. Fresh ideas, approaches to systems architecture and products, and methods of customer support and delivery have added value and efficiency to the business and improved the overall product suite across its portfolios.
What’s more, IGT can no longer focus solely on the player base that’s pulled the same slots for the generations. Instead, Kamm explains, gaming companies must drive demand for the next wave. To do so, the company is capitalising on two major areas of innovation: developing mobile gaming apps and facilitating personalised AI gaming and resort experiences.
Mobile platforms allow companies like IGT to build user intelligence into its core operating systems. ‘In today’s connected world, you open that door to a property and the record of your recent visits to the property are available. Your room, restaurant, spa, and gaming preferences are immediately visible to your host and hostess. This information can be used to tailor that unique guest or player experience for the consumer’, Kamm says. ‘That knowledge becomes this acute awareness of who the players are and what they do when they are on the property’. The same can be said for the traditional lottery channels around players’ favourite games.
While such a system may sound a bit like Big Brother, IGT recognises that today’s players seek out customised experiences. ‘It becomes this add-on that players appreciate’, Kamm says. ‘They say: “Hey, this person knows who I am. They know what I like. They're bringing my favourite drink. They're offering me tickets to my favourite restaurants or shows”’.
Apart from customising its games and content and facilitating a unique player experience, IGT has been on the frontlines of enabling cashless functionality. Prior to the pandemic, the company had cashless product offerings on the shelf, but the market appetite at the time was more of a push than a pull in terms of demand. Today, Kamm notes, IGT finds wide market interest and cashless adoption from both players and properties across all gaming verticals, from casinos to lotteries.
Taking control of its payment methods, IGT was the first to bring cashless to the floors in Las Vegas. ‘It’s a fantastic evolution’, Kamm says. Cashless gaming machines aren’t just more sterile. According to IGT, e-wallets help the company promote responsible gaming and make handling cash more safe. In some cases, the gaming experience is seamless as your mobile device—and therefore your profile—instantaneously connects with the game.
With these digital developments, there’s no doubt that IGT is ahead of the gaming tech curve. On top of mobile apps and cashless transactions—not to mention AI and blockchain—the company has implemented new cloud capabilities. Led by some of IGT’s most senior architects, the company’s dedicated cloud center of excellence has accelerated development and test environments.
While Kamm acknowledges that cloud operations trigger concerns by some around security, he emphasises that the architecture is secure and its critical systems redundant. ‘There are arguments you can make that the cloud is more secure than on-premise systems’, he says. ‘From an operational expense perspective, there are also benefits to be realised. In the cloud, you pay for use versus maintaining on-premise systems that require licensing, environmental, and power costs’. In fact, IGT anticipates increased cloud adoption over the next five years and intends to lead the way forward.
Five years will come fast. In the gaming industry, technology is moving more rapidly than ever. ‘The operational tempo at IGT is unlike any other I’ve seen in the public sector’, says Kamm. ‘We’ve got more technically-savvy players who understand and know what they want’. To keep up, IGT has automated several of its capabilities to expand the range and speed of its testing and development. Ultimately, this has allowed the company to produce higher-quality products and shorten its time to market.
Additional innovations include machine learning and robotics, both of which add to IGT’s pace of development. As Kamm puts it, the company couldn’t be more pleased with the result. ‘Once we run our code through the automation tools, we know that 85% of it has already been tested’, he says. ‘Each time thereafter, test teams write additional scripts for the balance, thereby increasing the breadth of testing over a shorter amount of time’.
As change accelerates, that manual 15% drops lower and lower. For some companies, this rapid change can unsettle team members. ‘Organisational change is always met with some level of resistance because an employee’s world changes’, Kamm reflects. ‘They think: “How is it going to impact me? Is it going to make my work easier or harder?”’.
But for Kamm, IGT’s recent innovations, including the functionality that enables funding bets with cryptocurrency, couldn’t be more exciting. ‘We’re changing not only to improve our operational efficiency, but also to architect the future of gaming’, he says. ‘The quality of our product suites across all channels is through the roof. Our time to market is faster than it’s ever been. It’s all very forward-looking’