Best of BI: Seminole Gaming boosts bottom line by millions with BI

Its in-house BI tool gets inside customers' minds to help drive its most effective marketing campaigns.

Seminole Gaming is a chain of seven casinos in Florida, ranging in size from a small 30-machine location in the Everglades to a 5,000-slot-machine mega-casino in Tampa. To be successful, the casinos need to keep loyal customers coming back and attract new ones with the right mix of games and amenities.

A complex range of variables can make the difference between profit and loss. The types of machines and card games, the floor plan amenities, marketing promotions and a multitude of other factors can significantly change the traffic and profitability of each casino.

One factor that greatly affects success is direct-mail marketing, which Seminole relies on to bring in new and inactive customers. In 2008, the company decided to invest in a BI tool to better predict the outcome of direct-mail campaigns. At the time, an outside direct-mail business managed Seminole's customer lists and data warehouse, making in-house BI development difficult. So in the spring of 2009, the company moved it all in-house and began creating a BI system designed to not only track direct-mail campaigns, but also monitor customer activity and financial trends.

Ralph Thomas, vice president of strategic analytics and database marketing, and two other IT employees developed a custom system using an Excel front end with an open database connectivity adapter to a SQL Server-based data warehouse. With a SAS Rapid Predictive Modeler, the team created predictive models for different aspects of the business and added data graphics with BIS2 Data Visualization's Super Graphics.

The team integrated 14 data sources, including campaign management, general ledger, point-of-sale and casino-specific player tracking and slot floor systems. All of the data had to be cleaned and audited, so the team members created an automated process for staging, cleaning and analyzing the data for errors before loading it into the data warehouse. They then built multiple dashboards for a variety of business concerns, starting with direct-mail reporting and analysis.

"We save a ton of money by not mailing to people who are not going to respond," says Thomas.

Today, the company has two primary dashboards that send automatically generated reports to senior management on a daily basis. Dozens of other dashboards provide data and graphics to line-of-business managers to show them how the business is meeting its key goals.

Seminole's BI system is also user-friendly, with an Excel front end -- which almost all managers have used -- and data visualization graphics and dashboards to keep track of real-time metrics.

Amanda Totaro, vice president of marketing at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., is a fan of the system. "There's no limit to the amount of knowledge I can get on our customers," she says.

Next: Volunteer group uses BI to bolster donations

Hildreth is a veteran IT writer based in Waltham, Mass. She covers enterprise technologies, from BI and CRM to social media and IT management.

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