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Circus Circus develops its mobile app

John Seelmeyer

There’s a sweet spot that’s difficult to hit in the initial development of a mobile phone application for a hotel-casino, says Aron Ezra.

On one hand, the app needs to provide enough substance that potential users will download and use it, says Ezra, the vice president of mobile for Bally Technologies.

But on the other hand, the mobile application needs to leave room for growth and shifts in direction as users decide how they want to use the fast-changing technology.

Ezra and the executive team of Circus Circus Reno are tracking users’ experiences closely in the first weeks after the downtown hotel-casino rolled out a mobile app developed by Bally Technologies last autumn.

About 400 people had downloaded the app for use on iPhone and Android devices by the time the Christmas holidays rolled around, and Circus Circus was beginning to ramp up its marketing through special offers available only through the app as well as a stronger push in its advertising materials.

“It’s still a very new app, and we are learning what our customers are doing with it,” says Danny Nguyen, a marketing specialist with Circus Circus.

For starters, the casino’s team recognizes that mobile apps are used far differently than traditional Web sites.

A user of the casino’s Web site circusreno.com is likely to check in once or twice before leaving home.

Users of the mobile app, meanwhile, are more likely to be connected during the time that they actually are at Circus Circus, and they are likely to turn to the app as many as a dozen times during their stay, says Debbi Engebritson, marketing manager for Circus Circus Reno.

“They use the mobile device very, very constantly once they are on the property,” she says.

The initial version of the Circus Circus app, then, includes lots of information that guests need when they’re on the property maps, restaurant reservations, schedules of poker and slot tournaments, limited-time promotions.

“We try to keep them engaged and on the property,” says Engebritson.

Where it goes next depends on how users tap into the initial product, says Nguyen. One possibility for the family-oriented property, for instance, is a scavenger hunt that will send parents and children throughout the property.

While the mobile application is certain to change over time, Ezra says the Bally Technologies team was able to develop it within about six weeks because of clear direction from Circus Circus Reno and its parent company.

“We had a lot of fun working on this project,” Ezra says. “They have a very good idea of what the brand is and what they want to achieve.”

A couple of potentially big hurdles for casino apps security and legal issues had been addressed by MGM Resorts International, the parent of Circus Circus Reno, before the Reno property launched its project.


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