Regal:Turning data into meaningful Business Intelligence provides customers with ‘facts not opinion’

Matt Bicknell Regal Leisure Data into meaningful business intelligence
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With a truly connected digital estate Regal is able to provide its customers with data on game-and-session play summarised and analysed in real time. Joint MD Matt Bicknell explains.

 

Coinslot: You became joint-MD of Regal in 2019, how would you say machine operating has changed since then and how have you reshaped Regal as a business?

Matt Bicknell: I’d like to start by emphasising the team approach that’s driven and continues to drive our approach as well as the strength of the joint-managing director role that I share with Andrew Bell (MD Finance and Commercial) and which means that we are able to play to our respective strengths and specialisms to the benefit of our customers and to the business.

There are many dynamics to the Pandemic and a key one has been how it has accelerated and intensified pre-existing trends. The fact is that all operators have had to become much more agile, which in our situation has meant harnessing and utilising the power of new technologies.

Our long-standing strategy to connect the estate to the Merkur Group’s industry leading platform meant that we were immediately on the front foot and able to deploy new technologies in order to deliver an enhanced service to customers. For example, we now rollout monthly game updates to all our digital AWPs remotely, whereas previously the orthodoxy was to undertake a physical site visit.

This not only results in us saving valuable people hours, but it also means that it frees up resource to ensure that machine uptime is maximised across our estate, boosting income for our customers which when you strip away everything else is what we are all about.

Coinslot: How would you say the relationship between Regal and its customers has altered over the last 2-years – do you play more of an expert consultancy role than in the past?

Matt Bicknell: Our job is to deliver on what our customers want.

While we have 7,000 sited digital gaming machines, we also have customers who want analogue and whose machine players want an analogue option. I have to say that our business focus is delivering a ‘best in class’ service across both analogue and digital as well as non-gaming equipment such as pool tables and music.

It’s important to stress that Regal has always been a data-led business, but I would say that over the last 24-months we have been on a journey to turn that data into meaningful Business Intelligence which we are able to use in order to drive income. Regal’s expertise, which also draws on the experience and expertise available in the wider Merkur Group, means that we are uniquely placed to support customers with facts not opinion. I think the upshot of this is that we are involved in much more of a partnership with our customers based on the insight that we are able to deliver.

Coinslot: What level of information or Business Intelligence are you able to provide?

Matt Bicknell: I think a lot of people who may hold a traditional view of an operator as being the company responsible for physically moving machines around the country and putting boxes into corners would be genuinely surprised by the level of detail which is incredibly granular.

We can identify dips and increases in income of any of our sited machines at any time of the day, we can identify the denomination of notes used by site and we can generate service calls pre-empting issues that will impact the machine income.

Returning to the ‘facts not opinion’ mantra, the level of detail that’s available to us means that we can challenge conventional wisdom that says for example that the positioning of machines should be compromised due to other events such as live music or Premier League football matches.

We are able to demonstrate the impact of lost machine income and enable licensees to make informed cost/benefit decisions. Essentially, by using technology we are able to provide the information and intelligence that enables us to fulfil the fundamentals of operating which is to maximise income.

Coinslot: What have been the key milestones in the transition from analogue to digital?

Matt Bicknell: Connecting all of our digital AWPs to MARS has been the differentiating factor for the business.

It’s easy to talk about a connected estate, but not all Connected Estates are born equal. Being truly connected, which Regal’s digital estate is, means that not only can data on game-and-session play be collated, summarised and analysed in real time, but that content and Firmware updates can be processed at the proverbial push of a button.

This has given us a responsiveness which is impossible to replicate with pseudo connected solutions.

 

Regal Leisure data

 

Coinslot: How do you explain Regal’s success in being so far ahead/advanced in the digital journey?

Matt Bicknell: I would summarise that as ‘moving early and moving decisively’. Regal took the decision in 2018 to retrofit all digital AWPs with a router which operates multiple SIM cards, as well as Wifi and hard-wired connectivity.

Whilst this was initially an expensive decision involving significant capex spend, it was the right one as it has provided us with the foundation to facilitate the transition from being a legacy machine mover to a technology focused company.

All our reporting and data mining capabilities we have built upon these firm foundations. To be able to achieve this you of course need financial backing which we have from the Merkur Group which has been steadfast in its backing and support for our vision. The second foundation stone is the strength and motivation of the people implementing the strategy.

The team we have at Regal is absolutely second to none in my opinion. The team shares the vision, it’s highly motivated and our 27 Business Development Managers are empowered in no small part by the way in which the unprecedented access to information and data enables them to solve problems on behalf of their customers and maximise machine income.

Coinslot: MERKUR’s 360 Program has been widely praised for addressing key topics including safer gambling and broader SR issues – how important is it to Regal’s customers to be working alongside a good corporate citizen?

Matt Bicknell: To our customers, as it is to Regal, this is vital. Our customers are acutely aware of the centrality of the local pub to community life in the UK and this means there is a unique bond of trust with the UK public which must be protected at all times.

Initiatives such as Merkur’s 360 programme, together with wider industry initiatives such as Safer Gambling week reflect this importance. I have to say that I believe the MERKUR 360 Program is streets ahead of what’s happening elsewhere in our industry.

The commitment to safer gambling in particular and broader social responsibility initiatives generally, are backed-up by a series of tangible initiatives whether it’s the launch of Customer Experience Groups which provide a deep dive into the mechanisms used by players to manage their gambling entertainment spend or the MERKUR Initiative which within 12-months will have supported upwards of 50 organisations and individuals that make positive change in their communities.

Of course, we are in business to make a profit but what the Group is demonstrating is that it is possible to achieve that and to also be a good corporate citizen. Increasingly our customers want to learn more about what we are doing in society.

Coinslot: How does Regal interact with sister brands Blueprint Gaming and Blueprint Operations – is it an advantage to have access to leading games creators if so in what ways?

Matt Bicknell: To us, this is one of the most beneficial parts of being part of a large and such a successful group. Gone are the days where people either played landbased or played on line; increasingly we know that the same consumers are playing both.

By having priority access to premium content derived from the top grossing online titles, Regal is able to leverage this brand recognition to boost gameplay and cashbox in the pub environment.

During lockdown we held twice-weekly meetings with the team at Blueprint Operations in which the agenda was dominated by detailed and far-reaching discussions about product, about demographics, player profiles, digital wallets, the cross-over between AGC and Pub players and how we could use our access to data in order to inform the creation of player-centric gaming product. This approach informs much of the narrative moving forward and it is hugely beneficial to our customers.

Coinslot: What do you see as being the major issues facing the industry over the next 12-months?

Matt Bicknell: As the emergence of a new Covid variant has demonstrated, unfortunately the pandemic hasn’t gone away and this will undoubtedly continue to present issues for both ourselves and our customers.

That said, the last 24 months have proved that one of Regal’s core competencies is operational excellence, and I have no doubt that should further covid control measures be introduced then we will be up to the challenge.

The other key challenge is likely to be the ongoing decline of cash in the economy. As a business and an Industry, I think we have all been pleased by how well physical cashbox has held up, but collectively we cannot allow this good news story to lead to any sense of complacency.

In our view, at some point the steady decline in cash transactions will start to have an adverse impact on AWP income and as an industry we need a solution in place before we get to this point. It is for this reason that as a business we have chosen to partner with OKTO Pay to provide an app-based payment solution for the industry as a whole. It is still relatively early days, but the product is already on over 1,000 AWPs across the Pub sector and we expect this to contribute a much greater share of cashbox over the next 12-months.


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