IT investment proves a help to struggling Station Casinos

Unified computing and communications help Las Vegas gaming company implement innovative wagering systems

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The new network also supports the company's recently installed automated touchscreen kiosks where gamblers can take their affinity cards to quickly get information on their gambling credits and other information without having to wait for an agent. "It's one of our biggest successes," Baltz said.

This fall, just in time for football season, Station Casinos expects to have launched a system that will allow sports bets to be made from a customer's home computer or by phone over the company's intranet.

Online Internet gambling is illegal under federal law, but Station Casinos' approach, called "Sports Connection," is legal because it uses the company's intranet and will only serve Las Vegas area residents, Baltz explained. "We're hopeful for a repeal of the federal Internet gambling ban, but this is our approach for now," he said.

Cisco's UCS made the Sports Connection application possible and opened up a potentially fertile revenue stream, Baltz said. Users will call or log onto a computer to make a request for a bet, and they will be sent a PIN code to complete the wager using stored account data. "It's an account-based wagering system, and it's the same as a banking transaction," he said.

Station Casinos is also taking advantage of the flexibility of its new IP network to allow managers working on vast gambling floors to easily move games and slot machines to areas where customers are most likely to use them. Some touchscreen displays used by managers at gaming locations can now be used to send data over an encrypted Wi-Fi link.

Over the next two years, Station Casinos expects to move to the latest wagering technology, which allows a gambler to sit at any wagering station and call up the game he wants to play.

Miles and Baltz noted that many of the company's frequent customers will continue to seek out older favorite machines. "Some of our slot machines are 12 years old, and video poker games are still popular with some," Baltz said. "If we don't keep those games for them, they'll find them somewhere else."

While Baltz said his presentation to reporters was focused on Cisco technology, which is at the core of network operations at Station Casinos, the company's decision to use Cisco IP phones, Wi-Fi access points and the UCS came only after comparing that vendor's products with those of other providers. "We don't have any problem going with a variety of providers, but Cisco was the best for us," he said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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