"Innovation is the name of the game"

Mary Chatelain, Director of Casino Gaming Operations for Groupe Barrière

Being able to surprise over a long period of time (not just coming up with one shots), looking out for new trends, creating new concepts, exploring new avenues - such as electronic gaming, "to keep the emotional rollercoaster ride going, whilst being mindful of Responsible Gaming": "that’s my job too", says Mary Chatelain, Director of Casino gaming operations for Groupe Barrière.



What does innovation mean for a director of Casino gaming operations? 


Mary Chatelain. - It’s all about standing out from the competition, doing something different and being one step ahead of the game.

So always thinking ahead. And we’re talking about gambling here,  slot machines in particular.

Yes. To ensure you’re efficient whilst keeping your goals well-balanced. Innovation should have three main objectives: to surprise, yet still be attentive to players by fulfilling or creating a new need, whilst being efficient and profitable in the long term. If you look at it like that, the best approach is actually not to over innovate, nor to innovate for innovation’s sake, and not to innovate on a whim, following a fad!



Can too much innovation kill innovation?


It’s all about getting the right balance. There are «modern» and «conservative» types of players, who want us to surprise them in different ways.

Although it must be somewhat of a necessity.

The role of a director of Casino gaming operations is to optimise the performance of investment through rigorous investment management. This may at times appear highly ambitious, but it is always judicious. What we refer to as "the equipment", which will be made available to our clients, undergoes specific analysis, especially in terms of evaluating the «fun capital». The technology also requires our staff to undergo training, as they play an important customer support role, welcoming players and providing information and advice. The gaming mechanisms mustn’t be too complicated or too straightforward; once again, it is essential to get the balance just right.



Do you travel a lot to see "what’s going on" in other casinos around the world?


Yes I do, and it’s very enlightening. The credit crunch led to a slow-down in innovations, but with the economic recovery, Las Vegas still remains a hothouse for new ideas. Afterwards, it’s up to us to keep them in line with reality.



Perhaps some of the innovations that you discover aren’t entirely compatible with the needs and requirements of your French customer base?


We all make mistakes, we just need to learn from them.

For the past 4-5 years, electronic English Roulette has gone through the roof. Recently, Barrière has become a trailblazer again with the introduction of electronic Black Jack, which was an instant hit. Did you know that in 2008, an almost identical version to today’s electronic roulette generated a revenue of 1 million euros? Less than ten years later, and with a slightly more sophisticated version of the game, this figure has increased dramatically to 115 million euros, which just goes to show that innovation does not have to be short-lived.

In your opinion, where has innovation made the most impact in the past ten years?

Getting rid of chips. On a wider scale, fiduciaries and tickets will soon disappear too, to be replaced by the electronic wallet which will make for a totally cashless experience. In just a few years, our fleet of slot machines has been totally revolutionised. There has been a noticable change in customer behaviour, as well as generational development and a massive technological uplift. Machines that previously required the skills of electrical engineers are now more often than not computer operated. 


At the moment we are noticing two main trends:


    1) Ways of improving the immersive gaming experience: engaging all five senses (sound, image, touch, enhanced virtual reality …). e.g: choosing an object just by looking at it or by moving your hand towards it.

    2) Online gaming community platforms with multi-player game mechanics.