Exclusive: Noah Acres

"Casinos are collecting less than 1% of their slot data, they're using hardware designed in the 1990s"

Noah Acres, COO of Acres Manufacturing and son of founder Jon Acres.
Reading time 6:50 min

Acres Manufacturing Company (AMC) introduced PayAction Sports Bonus as part of its Global Gaming Expo lineup this year, explaining it uses a live sports data feed to trigger a bonus round on any slot machine connected to AMC’s Foundation casino management system. "The feedback has been pure excitement," Noah Acres, COO of the company and son of the founder and inventor of casino systems technology, John Acres, tells Yogonet in an interview. "We expect our first deployments of this bonus in Q1 2022 and we can't wait to see it in action. The PayAction Sports Bonus demonstrates the advanced capabilities of our Foundation casino management system to change the player experience in ways never before deployed in the casino industry."

Foundation enables casinos to monitor every event from every game play in real-time, change the credit meter on command, and it can be interfaced to external data sources, he explains. The PayAction Sports Bonus monitors a sports data feed, commonly used by sportsbooks or sports media, that includes real-time events from every major sporting event in the world. Any in-game event from any game can be used to trigger a bonus pay on the slot machine as an audio and visual package plays in the background to build excitement. This means a bonus event can be triggered by a touchdown in an NFL game, an NHL goal, a NBA 3 pointer or a MLB home run, or any other event that may excite players.

AMC said it was actively negotiating with sports franchises, athletes and brands interested in distributing their own branded jackpots. How do you expect this will develop in the short-mid term, and how could it be integrated as a complement to the casinos’ increasing drive to enhance online/mobile offerings? Is it driving synergies and crossovers between the sports betting and casino players segments?

The whole concept of mobile bonusing is fascinating. We've created an entirely new gaming platform that interfaces a player's mobile phone with the player's real-time gaming experience.  Any in-game event can trigger a bonus paid to the player's mobile wallet. Bonuses can be revealed before, during or after the play session.  

I think the first series of bonuses released on the platform will be innovative and successful, but as time progresses casinos and brands will realize that jackpots are perhaps the best form of advertising and branding.  Jackpots can be promoted by anyone from a local car dealer to a national restaurant chain, or maybe the rock group that's playing a show in town next weekend. Everyone benefits. Players win more money, casinos don't have to pay it, and brands get the exposure plus contact and spend data from every single participant. This is going to be huge.

That announcement in September came just a few days after Acres Wallet was launched, a mobile payment app that combines cashless payments with real-time loyalty and bonusing in a live casino environment. Which new uses and opportunities is this opening for operators, and what’s the growth potential there? What can we expect in the near future from this development, and how does it address the new demands and player generations?

It really comes down to providing the best customer experience. If cashless gaming doesn't improve the player experience, players will be reluctant to participate in cashless gaming. We've added a number of features to our wallet to ensure that cashless gaming actually makes the player experience better than ever before.  

Players want added convenience and to understand their progress as it pertains to loyalty rewards, so we provide real-time point status and convert points to free play. 

Casinos want to work with multiple payment processors and use their own mobile app. So we created a "cash balance" that can import balances from multiple payment networks and allow all of this technology to be overlaid on top of any app the casino chooses.  

Players want new, exciting ways to win and we've created a bonusing platform that is available only to cashless players.  

The profit potential for casinos is huge. If you're a casino marketer just imagine: You know the exact value of any player at any time, you know the exact amount in each player's wallet at any time, and you have the ability to send them any message or incentive at any time. You could dramatically improve profits with just those three ingredients.  

We have seen an increasing presence and demand for cashless solutions at land-based casinos since the pandemic. How would you assess the expansion of cashless technology within the US casino industry so far? Do you think this could become the standard form of payment in the next few years? Which challenges does this bring for operators? What are your competitive advantages in this market?

We're in the early stages of cashless rollout in the US, but I think within 3-5 years most casinos will offer some form of cashless gaming. User adaptation will depend on the quality of the user experience, and the operators' challenge is to find a way to deliver just the right blend of features. If we do this correctly, cashless gaming and the new features that come along with it (like mobile bonusing, real-time marketing, etc.) will usher in an entirely new group of players and casinos will experience massive profit growth.

Foundation allows casinos to become instantly cashless compatible in the most flexible way possible. Casinos choose the app, the payment processor(s), and have the ability to craft the entire user experience. Foundation's real-time data allows for mobile bonusing and real-time marketing triggered by any event in the base game. This is the only technology that allows casinos to completely craft the player experience to their brand standards. 

What other new possibilities does Acres’ casino loyalty technology Foundation open for operators? How does it work when in conjunction with other management systems and payment processors? Foundation features a modular design that "speeds regulatory approvals and supports rapid innovation", and its flexibility allows casinos to deploy a single app to serve as the player interface to the entire operation. How does this work, and why can it gather more data than average systems? Is the data collected easy to manage and translate into better player experiences?

Existing casino loyalty technology is extremely old. Technology this ancient would have been obsoleted in any other industry. But casinos are stuck using hardware that was designed in the 1990s - literally. Back in that era storage was expensive, so the legacy systems save on memory by only requesting about 20% of the data a slot machine reports at distant time intervals. In total, this means casinos are collecting less than 1% of their slot data.

25 years on, consumer tastes have changed. Everything is real-time, personalized and delivered to a mobile device, but casinos can't keep up because their loyalty systems are designed for producing snail-mailers. It's no wonder the slot player demographic has aged massively in recent years. 

Foundation collects 100% of machine data in real-time - over 1000x more data than any casino has ever collected before - and can change the credit meter of any game on command. Data is delivered to an environment the casino owns and controls, and casinos also own all the interfaces. This means anyone the casino allows can digest data to make a report or write a bonus application that pays a player at the machine. It can also act as a passthrough device to the legacy system, allowing casinos to install Foundation without losing any functionality from the old system.

The best way to envision Foundation's architecture is to think of a PVC pipe connected to a slot machine. Data flows to and from the machine through the pipe. The pipe represents Foundation, and anything can be connected to Foundation. Foundation bears the brunt of all regulatory approvals, not the applications that connect to it. This architecture makes it incredibly easy for anyone to contribute an application to the Foundation environment. And we invite all to do so. Anyone can create and monetize their own application. Only the casinos get to decide who's allowed and not allowed to consume its data. 

Do you see a positive trend among US operators in terms of preparation, investment and an open mind to fully integrate analytics, and use all the related tools available today for that? Which effects and role has the massive shift towards digital and omnichannel presence brought on by the pandemic played, and how does your technology leverage this increased volume of digital data available?

Casinos are very open-minded to analytics but probably not adequately situated to deploy "big data" strategies just yet, because they've never been able to collect significant amounts of play data. We find that casinos are preparing for a Foundation install by creating and organizing a new data analytics department. Meanwhile, 3rd party analytics developers are creating tools specifically for the Foundation platform. This is a really exciting time for casino analytics and the advances made in just the next couple of years will be astounding. 

How would you assess your business agreement with Penn National so far? 

Penn National's cashless system is hands down the best in the industry. We're proud to have partnered with Penn National on cashless and will continue to help Penn fulfill its players desires to the best of our ability.  

What new technologies, products and partnerships does the company have in mind for the US market? Do you expect to leverage potentially increased traffic to casinos due to the newly regulated sports betting, iGaming markets? Which other plans, new technologies, strategies could you anticipate? Where will your focus be next year?

Our focus for 2022 is the launch of mobile bonusing and the Foundation Platform Partnership program, which is like an 'app store' for the Foundation environment. We will also continue to aggressively roll out cashless gaming with Penn National and others.  

Could you share an update on your plans to take the company public? What are the next steps, and what changes can we expect?

We expect an IPO in 2022. The proceeds raised from going public are needed to further product development and to continue adding to our robust patent portfolio. We were recently awarded our 149th US Patent and have hundreds more pending.  

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