For nearly four decades, Casino ABS has been blazing trails in the Western Canadian gaming industry. Today, it is the largest Alberta-based casino operator based on number of facilities, gaming positions, employees and revenue.
“We were founded in 1973 and opened one of the region’s first permanent casinos in the mid-1980s,” President George Goldhoff says. “We have a reputation for hospitality, service and fair and honest gaming.”
Casino ABS has four casinos – two in Edmonton, one in Calgary and one in Lethbridge. The company’s 1,100 employees oversee 3,000 slot machines, 100 table games, 50 poker tables and an assortment of non-gaming undertakings that include dining, entertainment and retail. About 45 percent of revenue comes from slots, 25 percent from table games and 5 percent from poker. The rest is from non-gaming activities.
Alberta’s population is roughly 3.9 million, and the province has 27 casinos including charitable casinos, racetracks and First Nation casinos. This makes for a competitive environment for Casino ABS. What sets the company apart is the fact that it is a long-lived pioneer in Western Canada’s gaming business.
Casino ABS maintains a focus on service and the location and quality of facilities. The company’s strategic plan commits resources to physical assets, training staff, management development and innovative marketing.
The highest priority is pushing the customer service and experience rock up the hill every day. Casino ABS has pre-shift meetings with staff, and weekly discussions help staff prepare themselves for customers and to be informed on all marketing and promotional campaigns.
“There is a constant drumbeat here about customer service,” Goldhoff says.
The company wants to know if employees feel they are delivering exceptional customer service, which is why it surveys them each year. In the most recent survey in September, employees reported double-digit gains in their own view of the quality of service they are providing. That knowledge helps Casino ABS keep heading in the right direction.
As for facility improvements, Casino ABS is dedicated to providing an inviting atmosphere. For example, its Calgary location is undergoing cosmetic improvements to everything from carpets, wall coverings and gaming tables to chairs, sound systems and lights. The company is also working with Honeywell, its HVAC provider, on HVAC system upgrades to better balance air temperature and improve the environment.
“We want to improve anything the customer can see, smell, taste, touch and hear,” Goldhoff says. “We are even getting new chips. People want a comfortable, clean and crisp environment, and that is important because it is one of the reasons why they would come here instead of the competition.”
Casino ABS has challenges such as an 85 percent tax rate on revenue and a data-less environment. Customers can’t swipe loyalty cards in slot machines or at tables as they could in casinos outside of the province. They can swipe loyalty cards at the customer service desk, so the company can measure guest frequency.
“What we’ve done is test and control a data-driven marketing campaign strategy,” Goldhoff says. “We implemented a direct marketing campaign, leveraging our Club West loyalty card data.”
To support the strategy, Casino ABS launched a promotional strategy to optimize guest acquisition and retention. These promotions included prize giveaways, and the company was able to market all four facilities at once. Casino ABS plans to redesign the Club West program and rebrand its corporate identity.
With the service, facility and marketing strategies in place, Casino ABS is in position to focus on gaming and non-gaming operations. The company stays on top of gaming trends and determines its gaming lineup primarily by listening to the customers.
“We look at revenue trends and try to deliver on customer requests,” Goldhoff says.
In addition, the company’s leaders seek the latest trends by reading industry-specific magazines and traveling to events like the annual G2E convention in Las Vegas.
Beyond gaming, the company looks for variety. Casino ABS makes changes to menus in each casino twice a year and constantly searches for new entertainers. Entertainment is offered on Fridays and Saturdays, and Casino ABS hosts special events like karaoke nights, DJs and MMA fights.
Going forward, the company will continue to focus on employees. Goldhoff believes that recruiting, developing and retaining the best people will allow Casino ABS to deliver a superior product.
“If we can make the customer happy, that will help the company grow, innovate and stay in front,” he says. “Employee development and marketing drive customer loyalty and ultimately deliver top-line growth.”