What can you tell us about your IT department and the gaming properties owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians?
Our IT department of 10 provides service and support for the Wind Creek Casino & Hotel property in Atmore, AL, which is one of three Class II gaming facilities, operated by Wind Creek Hospitality- the Gaming Authority of the tribe. In total, we actually have four IT departments within the Tribe’s Gaming Authority. Each casino property has its own IT department of approximately 10 professionals that keep the property systems operating and a Corporate IT team that is focused on enterprise systems, business development and overall strategy. The Tribe has other IT departments in Creek Indian Enterprises (no- gaming commercial businesses), the Tribal Government and the Tribal Gaming Commission. The Wind Creek Casino & Hotel, which is my team’s main area of service has 1769 bingo gaming devices, a 236-room hotel, a full-service spa, an outdoor amphitheater and a newly built indoor entertainment center with non-gaming entertainment options available such as; movies, bowling and arcade games. We also provide remote tech support for the three pari-mutuel properties tracks owned by the Tribe. Two of these pari-mutuel properties have live poker rooms. We also support our corporate call center and print shop. I take great pride in the fact that the majority of my team is made up of Tribal members. They are bright, energetic people with tremendous passion for learning and IT. Through the work, experience and training the Company provides, they have become critical to the success of our IT department and the property.
With constant innovative ideas in tribal gaming- what are some of the technologies your team has worked on that have that “cool factor”?
Like many other tribal casinos, in the last couple years we shifted some of our focus to cost saving measures and infrastructure upgrades which set us up for future opportunities. Improving our infrastructure has put us in a great position to do some new things on the gaming floor, direct at the game, enhancing our customer’s experience. We are deploying Bally’s iView Display Manager product, which will give us a platform for improved service and marketing opportunities at the game. We are even taking things a step further with the beverage on-demand service. First at the Wetumpka site and now at Wind Creek Atmore, customers can order drinks right from their games with the added customer service feature of viewing bartender and server images. So, when a guest orders a drink it pops up a picture of the bartender and tells the guest, ‘Mike is making your drink’, then shortly after, a picture of the server will come up and say, ‘Stacy is on her way with your glass of Merlot’. It’s a great personal touch that our casino guests enjoy. Another “at-the-game” initiative is the installation of the Epicentral promotional ticketing system. This system allows us to market to the rated and unrated guest at the game and offer promotions through printed coupons on TITO paper. So instead of having to visit the players club or kiosk, we can send promotional tickets such as drawing entries, directly to the game’s printer. Internally it makes for more ticket refills but our customers love it. We are lucky to have a Company culture that encourages everyone to constantly look for new ways to engage our guests. We focus a lot of our energy on how to make our guests feel special and appreciated; a combination of guest service training for everyone and the appropriate use of technology makes this happen.
What can you tell us about some of the hospitality and non-gaming projects your team has been working on?
Although our company has four separate IT departments, we still work together on some initiatives and bigger projects. As an example, some of our Atmore and Corporate IT team recently assisted the Wetumpka IT department with the opening of their new property, a $250 million project which has all the latest technology in a highly integrated environment. We helped with everything from installing new systems and providing training to providing normal day-to-day IT support to users. It’s an advantage to have a deep bench and the ability to pool our resources and collaborate on larger projects. In November, we opened a new entertainment center here at the Atmore property which was unfamiliar territory for us when it came to the systems to put in place. A lot of research was done to select the right systems for the center. We decided on Brunswick for bowling, RTS for management of the movie theater and Sacao for the arcade. The arcade games are wirelessly networked, have a swipe card and kiosks for loading money to the card and loading credits at the game. We also took this opportunity to install the newest version of the Micros POS solution, Simphony. We are currently running the old Micros 9700 system and Simphony in tandem, but will be completely migrated to the new version by the end of the year. All this technology supports our visitors having many non-gaming entertainment options and we wanted to ensure the best technology is in place to offer a great experience for our guests utilizing however they wish to be entertained.
Wind Creek Hospitality has had a place in the social gaming space for a couple years now, what can you tell us about that?
We actually have two players clubs. There’s “The Club” and there’s “My Club”. Our guests have a choice of which players club they would prefer to be enrolled. The Club is what you may call the “normal or standard” player’s club for the casino and My Club is a players club for our guests that may be interested in the social aspect of gaming. We’ve been doing it for almost two years- it’s a different way for people to play and stay engaged and also a way for our marketing team to have the messaging and information reach a different category of gamers. People can craft their own marketing offers, play online versions of casino games, interact with other players via a posting wall, or interact with our Community Managers who operate the My Club site. We really look forward to what lies ahead for the Tribal gaming industry. We aim to stay at the forefront of innovation as the industry moves ahead.
We would like to thank Jamie for taking the time to do this interview with us.
He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at: