Genting UK IT director Chris Ashworth believes offering a great customer experience online and at its 47 casinos in the UK is key to the Malaysian-owned conglomerate growing its audience, brand, and increasing its bottom line as the entertainment company launched its Resorts World complex at the NEC last month.
As well as the new £150 million Las Vegas-style leisure destination of bars, restaurants, casino and more than 100 slot machines in Birmingham, Genting runs the largest number of casinos in the UK. Among its estate are the exclusive London high-roller clubs The Colony Club and Crockford's in Mayfair, where Australian media mogul Kerry Mogul famously lost £11 million in a three-week blackjack session in September 1999 - often playing seven different hands at the £250,000 table maximum.
IT director Ashworth said that there was a vast difference between the regional casinos - it has 40 across the UK from Edinburgh to Plymouth - and the private gaming establishments in London, but that the fundamental customer experience principle was the same across the organisation.
"A provincial casino is very different to a VIP London casino," Ashworth said. "But the challenge is getting more people in by offering a nice customer service so we can grow our bottom line, and we need a system that can support both. The home markets are underpinned by IT, but we try to introduce the human element, particularly in London which is still a very personal experience.
"The Genting business traditionally been split. The online business was kept apart, but now we are bringing them together," he said of the challenge of integrating online arm Genting Alderney with Genting UK, all under the Genting Group conglomerate.
Ashworth said that being able to bring together successfully land-based gaming and the online experience was not something that had been pulled off by the rest of the industry. "If we can get it right and have a single customer journey, we can provide something to our customer base that nobody else can," he said.
"We expect six million people visit every year in Birmingham, and we encourage our customers to share some data with us and we will encourage them to come back.
"We are really excited about WiFi, to see how people interact with our site. Not as a hard sell but a value add, so we can talk to our customers in real time through our app.
On the eve of the launch of Resorts World in Birmingham, Genting UK was awarded the Innovator prize in the TIBCO Trailblazer Awards in recognition of how it has accelerated IT innovation across the business in a collaborative way to provide remarkable product and service delivery to their customers using the TIBCO Fast Data Platform to create a high-end and personalised customer experience.
"We have a real marriage with Tibco and our relationship works really well," Ashworth said. "I have worked with Oracle a lot, but with Tibco we are working with very senior architects and we see them as part of the team.
"Cultures are so important. With an integration toolset, there are differences between an IBM WebSphere and an Oracle fusion, but ultimately it's the people and culture that are important."
Ashworth, a former lawyer, said that being able to focus on the business challenges rather than the technology, as well as having a supporting board, were crucial elements to the CIO going through any projects.
"Most companies are cost constrained, but the managing director and board backed us to grow our margins," Ashworth said.
"I trained as a solicitor and loved working on contract. I always loved talking about a business problem. I'm making fewer and fewer technical discussions, instead always making sure you aren't hamstringing the business and taking it down a cul-de-sac.
"It's funny how people fall into IT. The law frustrated me; it is really risk oriented, which helps with certain bits of IT. But I always take a commercial view of things - that pragmatic view has helped me, always being able look at the right outlook of the business."