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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

South Point raises tech bar, but don't expect e-mail about it

21 August 2012

LAS VEGAS -- For a guy who just recently learned how to answer and send an e-mail, Michael Gaughan is about to have one of the most technologically advanced gaming operations in the city.

The South Point Hotel Casino and Spa recently installed the Bally Technologies, Inc. iView Display Manager on 2,480 of the casino's 2,600 slot machines. The system will be installed on the casino's 120 bar-top machines by the end of the month.

The iView system offers both the South Point and its slot machine customers a variety of marketing features and options. Players, using a touchscreen slot machine display, can sit at the machines and order drinks, book show tickets and make reservations at South Point restaurants. The casino can market its events and offer various promotions through the system.

"There is a lot we can do with this system that we'll be rolling out soon," Gaughan said.

On top of iView, South Point is in line to be the first casino in Nevada to operate for-money online poker within the state's boundaries. South Point will be in front of the Nevada Gaming Commission this week for final licensing approval as an operator and manufacturer of interactive gaming.

Once conditions are met, South Point expects to launch its poker website and accept wagers over the Internet, possibly by October.

Gaughan was one of the first casino operators to embrace online gaming. South Point launched a free-play poker website last year and the casino was first in line with its application to Nevada gaming authorities once the state's online gaming regulations were written.

If the Nevada Internet poker site is successful, Gaughan expects to try to bring the technology to other states that legalize online poker.

"I figured it was coming, that's why I was the first to jump on the bandwagon," Gaughan said.

South Point acquired its own interactive gaming system and has a patent pending for the technology. Gaming regulators also recommended the casino receive a license as an interactive technology manufacturer.

South Point is the first Las Vegas casino to use the iView system. Gaughan said his slot manager took him to the Barona Casino near San Diego to look at how the Indian-owned casino uses the technology. After Barona shared with him some of the financial figures, Gaughan was sold.

Gaughan said the iView system was the most expensive piece of technology he's ever purchased. He didn't reveal a cost.

Adding iView to the company's slot machines has taken more than five months.

"Hopefully, my current customers will play more on the machines and it will also bring us new slot machine customers," Gaughan said.

He said the system was integrated into South Point's player loyalty program.

One of the ways South Point has introduced iView is through "Virtual Horse Races" that take place four times a day each Thursday throughout the casino. Players participating in the horse race bonus round have the opportunity to split $30,000 in bonus credits daily.

Slot players pick from a field of animated horses through the iView touch screen. Extra credits are won if their horse comes in first. South Point has a bugler signal at the start of each horse race, at 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., while a track announcer gives the race a realistic feel.

Bally has placed almost 25,000 iView units at casinos across the U.S., including Pechanga in Temecula, Calif., and the Seminole Coconut Creek near Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Eight of the casinos have "virtual racing."

Gaughan said there other "virtual games" the South Point could unveil through the system.

"We positioned ourselves to be at the forefront of gaming technology," said Gaughan, who admitted that he only added a computer to his desk about a year ago.

The 2,163-room South Point is Gaughan's only hotel-casino, which allows him to move quicker than corporate-owned properties. Usually, he'll bounce an idea off longtime partner Frank Toti and then bring in his property managers to evaluate the idea.

Gaughan "reacquired" the resort from Boyd Gaming Corp. in October 2006. The property was part of Coast Resorts and in the design phase when Gaughan sold the business to Boyd for $1.3 billion in July 2003.

He didn't enjoy the corporate world and exchanged his stock in Boyd for the then-10-month-old property, a deal valued at $512 million.