Winning by Design

The upgrade will allow
us to isolate that traffic to its own virtual LAN.” Because his capital
request fell outside the normal operating budget, Zayas had to make his
case in the state legislature.

“The capital request proposal required a lot of wordsmithing, justifications,
and assurances,” he says. But the Capital Commission recently approved
the project, which Zayas expects to complete by February 2001.

On the heels of this success, Zayas is contemplating his next budget
battle. “Once the new infrastructure is in place, we need to take a hard
look at voice over IP,” says Zayas, who admits somewhat sheepishly that
his own phone consists of one line and no speaker. “This will be a tough
sell,” he predicts. “The state gets a very good rate with the phone company,
but we also have PBX systems that are costly, not to mention that not
everyone can use them. How much could we save by getting rid of the PBX
systems?” Before leveraging his newfound wordsmithing skills, Zayas says
he will need to do the government equivalent of an ROI analysis, determining
to his own satisfaction that the plan warrants another trip to the state

Winning Customer Loyalty

Don Kneisel
Executive Director of Information Technology, Tropicana Casino &
Resort, Atlantic City, N.J.
Major accomplishment: Moving to off-the-shelf casino management
Goal 2001: Gain competitive edge through customer marketing

Like Zayas, Don Kneisel is no stranger to budget battles. His casino,
a division of Phoenix-based Aztar Corp., is not the largest in Atlantic
City, but it does boast 4,000 slot machines and 5,000 employees. It is
the largest hotel in New Jersey with more than 1,600 rooms. “Do executives
want to spend $100,000 on a new slot machine or on a server consolidation
project?” he asks with a grin, knowing the answer.

IT department must run not only the payroll, accounting, and business
continuity functions typical of nongaming companies, but also the casino
management and guest registry systems that are critical to maintaining
competitiveness. “The industry is heavily regulated, and all the casinos
are selling the same product using the same software and vendors,” he
says, pointing out that “there’s only one way to play blackjack in Atlantic
City.” As a result, differentiation must be achieved through customer
loyalty initiatives, where he now spends the majority of his time.

The luxury of devoting himself almost full-time to marketing applications
is a relatively recent phenomenon, however. “When we first started out,
there wasn’t much choice in vendors, and we were building most of our
casino management applications in-house,” says Kneisel, who has been with
his company for 16 years. “My competitors were taking advantage of faster,
newer technology more quickly than I could develop [applications].” Kneisel
reasoned that if he converted to “vanilla” off-the-shelf casino management
software, he would gain not only features and functionality, but also
automatic regulatory compliance, which is embedded in these systems.

The problem was that 99% of the new applications were developed