This month, we spoke with leadership at nine casino properties across Indian Country to find out what key elements make their respective properties unique and stand out from the competition, as well as what new technologies they utilize to enhance the guest experience/operations. Here is what they had to say…
Lindsay Grant, Chief Marketing Officer
KEY ELEMENTS: Augustine is a true locals’ casino. We are known for our friendly prompt service, award-winning food and amazing value. Our guests return to Augustine because they know they have a better chance of winning and will be treated like family. We are consistently voted reader’s favorite by local publications including The Desert Sun and Palm Springs Life magazine. The tribe cares deeply about our team members. Rather than highlighting flashy, big money promotions on our commercials and billboards, we feature our leader and team member of the year. In July, we celebrate our 21st anniversary and will honor the 15 team members who have been with us since we opened our doors.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES: Three years ago, we went completely paperless in all of our direct marketing and never looked back. We partnered with Sightline/Joingo to develop a customer-facing app that provides our guests with all their benefits and information right at their fingertips. We can quickly communicate offers and relevant messaging based on a guests’ preferences. We currently have over tens of thousands of app users, 74 percent of whom are logged in with their player’s card.
In Q1, we went live with QCI Host. Augustine is known for amazing service and value and our connection with our guests. QCI allows us to deepen that connection and provide individualized service by equipping our hosts with invaluable real-time data. Like our app, this tool allows our hosts to quickly communicate with guests via the means they prefer (phone call, text or email) in mass or on an individual level. The tracking of all communication allows for management to quickly see the customer journey and the quality of the guest relationship. The tool also empowers our hosts to make data driven decisions on how to spend their time most efficiently.
Harold Baugus, General Manager
Chinook Winds Casino Resort
Lincoln City, OR
KEY ELEMENTS: We concentrate on offering a wide variety of entertainment options and take pride in offering exceptional customer service. We feature over 1,200 of the newest and most exciting slot machines, a player-friendly and affordable golf course, signature outdoor events, monthly headline entertainment and comedy shows, huge stakes live poker tournaments, clean affordable oceanfront rooms, and exciting casino promotions – all in a vibrant community right on the beach. Our friendly customer service is something we take pride in, and we make our guests feel more like family. We do things a bit differently here – we do them with excellence, and we celebrate it.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES: We offer a mobile app that allows guests to stay up to date on current events and gives them the opportunity to check their point balance, mail offers, and receive additional bonus promotional games. We offer user-friendly kiosks located throughout the casino offering additional games and opportunities for our guests, which include Team Green offers (paperless enrollment), monthly promotions, dining offers, RV spots, giveaway promotions, earn and get promotions, a new member prize wheel, and more. We also offer guest surveys throughout the year to stay current on customer feedback while providing fun giveaways to those who participate. Our player portal is easy to use and allows exclusive players to see their current monthly offers and monthly mailer in digital format.
Frizzell Frizzell, Jr., Chief Operating Officer
Inn of the Mountain Gods
KEY ELEMENTS: We are located in the cool Sacramento Mountains of Southern New Mexico, located on the Mescalero Apache reservation. Inn of the Mountain Gods is a four-diamond destination resort and casino, with expanded recreational, entertainment and amenities for all ages. What makes us special though is how our culture and tradition is woven throughout the property, and our guests continue to make lasting memories year after year and consider it a home away from home. During our guests visits, the excitement never ends – from the newest casino slot machines and live table games to an exhilarating Apache Eagle zip line ride over Lake Mescalero. During the warmer time of year, many will take a boat ride on the lake, a horseback ride or enjoy a round at our championship golf course. For those looking to relax, they can find peace and a relaxing message at the spa. Guests will also find plenty of options for dining with us, from Wendell’s, which features the finest steaks and seafood, Broken Arrow Tap House with over 70 beer taps and an creative menu, our new food hall at The Market, Big Game Sports Bar, Apache Tee bar and Grill, and Red Hat Grill – there’s something for everyone. We also have our sister properties, Ski Apache with winter and summer activities, and Casino Apache.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES: With the launch of our new Apache App, our guests can get quick information and notifications about the Spirit Club, property information, book a hotel stay, view their offers and stay on top of all of our promotions and entertainment. In addition, we offer mobile check-in for our guests, and recently launched our mobile key, giving guests the ability to go directly to their room using their smartphone to unlock the door. Once in their newly renovated hotel room, our guests have access to our VOLO in room tablet directory, which gives our guests real time access to all our amenities while at the same time being able to engage directly with our staff if they need anything. For our hosted guests, we utilize OPTX, which gives our staff meaningful insight into our guests so we can best serve them, along with other operational analysis so we can adapt quickly to changing needs. Later in 2023, we will be launching a new program that benefits our gaming and non-gaming guest with an inclusive rewards card.
Marshall Ray Sampson, Sr., General Manager
Paragon Casino Resort
KEY ELEMENTS: The key element that makes Paragon Casino Resort unique from any other property is undoubtedly our associates. Surveys have revealed that guests love our property because of our Southern hospitality, which the associates embody every day through their exemplary service. Additionally, we stand out as a property because of the different amenity packages that we are grateful to offer under one roof. In our slot department, we offer over 1,000 slot machines and exciting new bingo and Vegas styled slots. This is a wonderful amenity for our guests. After all, why travel to Las Vegas when there’s ‘Mark’s Vegas?’ We also have over 30 tables, including live poker games and sports betting, all in one casino. Furthermore, we stand out because of our new Top Golf Swing Suite, opened in Spring 2023, adjacent to the casino in our also-newly-opened Draft Room, which serves lunch and dinner, a variety of draught beer and other
Paragon Casino Resort is also grateful to have 531 rooms in our luxury hotel, which is comprised of three distinct towers. Our hotel, which is currently undergoing renovations and upgrades, offers several different room types, including suites. On property, we have more than 75,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including an expansive showroom for concerts, conventions and more.
Just inside the hotel lobby, we have a bayou-themed atrium featuring a live alligator habitat, full-service spa and salon, cinema, and fitness center. If you are looking to just relax for a while, we offer a top-notch spa that offers different massaging and facial options. Our spa also includes a steam room and a whirlpool tub that connects to our indoor pool area, which is outstanding. Paragon Casino Resorts boasts three pools, both indoor and outdoor, welcoming guests year-round.
To add to the excitement, Paragon Casino Resort includes a three-screen movie theater with varying options, sure to please any guest, regardless of age. Paragon Casino Resort also offers a supervised play center, Kids Quest, plus Cyber Quest, and arcade-style attraction with a variety of games and entertainment options for older kids.
Paragon Casino Resort also offers an RV park with 30 cabins and 205 sites. Last, but certainly not least, Tamahka Trails is Paragon Casino Resort’s 71-par championship golf course, a destination golf club in the South.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES: Paragon Casino Resort has innovated our guests’ dining experience at The Draft Room and our ‘50s-themed diner, Roxy’s. Guests can now place their orders at the “to-go” kiosk, limiting their time away from the casino. These sleek kiosks are conveniently located near our gaming options, offering an attractive alternative for those who don’t want to miss a minute of the action. This innovation has helped to relieve congestion and buildup during high-volume events including holiday weekends, special events and concerts, and large business meetings, allowing guests to order, pay for and receive their food in a timely manner.
Furthermore, we stand out because of our new Top Golf Swing Suite – the only of its kind in central Louisiana – featuring games such as golf, baseball, hockey, zombie dodgeball and more.
Steve Neely, General Manager
Rolling Hills Casino and Resort
KEY ELEMENTS: First and foremost is our team. When I arrived at Rolling Hills a little over five years ago, I was blown away with the natural friendliness of the team, so I immediately changed my LinkedIn profile to indicate I was the General Manager at California’s Friendliest casino. In addition, there is a genuine desire to improve amongst the team. This willingness to become “comfortable being uncomfortable” has allowed us to have amazing success in a very short amount of time.
Second is our facility. Our Tribal Council made the decision to expand and remodel our facility, and the results have been nothing short of amazing. I would not advise having future projects in the middle of a pandemic, but the effort, and stress, was certainly worth it in the end.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES: Due to our remote location, we have had to implement wide ranging technology to overcome the considerable staffing challenges we have faced post pandemic. We were one of the first casinos in the country to invest in robots to assist our F&B operations, and we currently have five that help with running dishes to the dish room as well as bringing food to tables for our servers. We upgraded our entire cage operation to improved efficiencies and recently added the Acres Foundation product to help us transition to a digital wallet. We also converted our amphitheater to state-of-the-art POS units that reduced the ticket times during our shows, resulting in record sales, and improved customer experiences, at all our shows. Basically, we have adopted the mindset that we are going to be the technology leader in the casino space, and we are very proud of what we have implemented.
Melinda Coffin, CEO
Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort
Mt. Pleasant, MI
KEY ELEMENTS: Our guest experience is the best. We take pride to ensure our guests have a great experience with us. Whether it is their experience on our gaming floor, restaurants or in the hotel, we strive to be the best and make their trip memorable. Our property offers a variety of slot machines, table games, poker, bingo and sports betting. In addition, we remain a smoke-free facility because we care about the health and environment of both our guests and team members. Furthermore, we offer a unique concert experience to our guests. Our outdoor concert arena is favored by many artists, and it is the highlight of our summers. We have a great line up for entertainment that our guests look forward to. Most recently, we opened our Ruth’s Chris steakhouse inside Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort. This is a fine dining option that can’t be found in our local area and guests are raving about it. Lastly, we provide a place for children to be entertained with our partnership with Kid’s Quest. We are the only casino in Michigan that offers this service. We are a destination, and we offer something for everyone.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES: We have incorporated mobile check in for our hotel guests. This allows guests to skip the lines and go directly to their rooms when they are available. Our Eagle Casino & Sports app was launched last year, and our guests can now game from the convenience of their home if they choose. Guests can also cash out their online winnings on property at our casino cage as an option. We have access card kiosks for our guests that need to reprint their rewards card, or even enroll for first time users. This also helps to skip lines and is more efficient for our guests. With the opening of Ruth’s Chris steakhouse, guests can go online to make their reservations and find a time that accommodates their schedule.
Michael Olujic, General Manager
Tachi Palace Casino Resort
KEY ELEMENTS: We have completed an extensive renovation that brings in new amenities, such as a circle sports bar, a value-pricing food court, fully integrated entertainment center with an arcade, eight movie theaters, and e-gaming, with 30 bowling lanes. We have renovated hotel rooms, spa services, and a multilevel gaming floor.
We had the opportunity to open our floor space and give it this eye-catching roaring 20’s feel that is typically only seen in Vegas casinos. With this look and feel, we can provide our guests with that Vegas style with great value in the Central Valley. Guests can feel comfortable walking around circular gaming islands to find their favorite slot machines. We can allow other guests to catch a movie and enjoy live entertainment in one of our bars or lounges. Tachi Palace truly is a staycation destination in the valley.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES: Technology here at Tachi is exciting. We have just rolled out new promotional and enrollment kiosk systems. Promotional kiosks give us cutting-edge promotions for our guests to play and earn tiered rewards daily, and swipe and win in more significant drawing events. The enrollment kiosks also speed up lines by eliminating the need to visit the club to get a new card or a reprint.
As part of our renovations, we are excited to bring in the enhanced digital screens that offer that ‘wow’ look of 3D technology. Technology like this you would typically see at properties like Resorts World, is now here with us, which you can’t see with our competitors. Whether inside or out, we have touched our LEDs with this technology to incorporate living digital images on the property.
Our digital displays inside and outside have always made us stand out from our local competitors. We have a curved jumbo screen measuring 38 x 21 ft., a showstopper to catch the big games. Outside, we have installed a three-panel external digital screen as part of the renovations. With technology, we look to continue to add more in the future. The sky is the limit, and we can use our external building to attract guests and give that extra Vegas in the Valley feel.
Bruce Howard, General Manager
Valley View Casino & Hotel
Valley Center, CA
KEY ELEMENTS: Looking at each of our many different areas as unique, stand-alone businesses that all tie together for one common purpose makes our property unique.
Whether it is our human resources team knowing that every person they meet will either become a new team member in our company, a future guest in our casino or in-house bakery (making all our delicious homemade treats from scratch), we all have slightly different jobs while sharing one common goal.
By asking each of our 1,000 team members to make their interactions with guests memorable enough to be the standout, single reason why our guests return to our casino month after month is important. We challenge everyone, including me, to be the difference maker why guests will choose Valley View over our competitors.
By empowering everyone in our company to make all the decisions they are comfortable making and giving all of us that confidence is a big reason for our success.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES: For us, it is more than the technology itself, and is more about the leaders in charge of our operations departments and their tremendous amount of knowledge in technology that has made the most positive influence.
Todd Jackson is our Vice President of IT and Casino Operations. Having Todd overseeing both vitally important technology-driven areas of our business has made us unique in the industry and a step ahead of others. Todd’s vast knowledge in both areas has made utilizing the finest in technology to enhance our guests’ casino experience and our entire business seamless and the benefits immediate.
Howard Silver is our Vice President of Food & Beverage and Hotel Operation. As the corporate chef for the Ameristar organization before joining us in 2009, Howard has designed hundreds of restaurant kitchens, learning how best to use technology available to enhance every guest’s dining experience. Our kitchens are state-of-the-art, utilizing the finest equipment, the latest in technology and the finest products to offer our guests a night out that is second to none.
Don Hayward, General Manager
Win-River Resort & Casino
KEY ELEMENTS: Our property was recently voted “Best Casino” in the North State. We were humbled by this award, but also so proud of our team members that work hard every day to earn it. The fact is that I consider our team members to be “Best in the World.” That’s not just a mantra for us, it’s become a way of life. That mentality is built into our culture. The foundation of our business has been bringing joy to the lives of others through our signature brand of Win-River entertainment and hospitality. We put relationships first, and stay focused on our mission of serving and entertaining our guests. Our brand stands for creating magical moments for guests that they will never forget, and treating our guests with the highest level of service that they simply cannot find anywhere else. Win-River Resort & Casino has the best entertainers in the world, performing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Those entertainers are our incredible team members. They are the headliners of the Win-River entertainment experience every single day. Our guests come to Win-River because of them, and they have those magical moments and memories because of team members that are committed to creating best-in-class experiences.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES: I am grateful to have a team of industry leading professionals that are constantly researching and evaluating new technologies, but we work to maintain a balance in our approach to new technologies. We are a people driven business. People come first at Win-River. While we are never hesitant to embrace technology, we do so with the mindset that technology should not be a replacement for interacting with and serving our guests. Technology should instead compliment the experience for our guests where possible. Our technology team works alongside our floor operations teams to understand how new software and services can enhance the overall experience we’re crafting, while keeping in mind our philosophy that it should never take away from the human element of serving and entertaining our guests.