Vice President of Slot Operations, Ted Herzchel has been instrumental in creating an elevated casino product at Ocean Casino Resort, adding a number of new and popular slot machines to a recently redesigned casino floor for customers to enjoy. I caught up with Ted Herzchel to discuss his own career path to Ocean, the casino’s gaming innovations, customers’ favorite machines, and his own perspective on why Ocean’s gaming experience keeps guests flocking to the casino floor.
Michael Cook: What was your path to Ocean that made it somewhere you simply had to make as part of your career fabric?
Ted Herzchel: First and foremost, Ocean was very enticing because I saw a property that was just unbelievable, located right on the beach with so much untapped potential. I have invested a lot of capital since arriving less than two years ago, purchasing new slot machines, re-configuring the casino floor and introducing a better slot experience than what we had in the past. Just this year, we created pathways on the casino floors to take customers on a guided journey rather than having them left to wander the floor without a real sense of direction. We also built a new high limit slot gaming room, The Cove. There are so many new experiences and amenities being built and I’m excited to be a part of it.
MC: What do you think it is about certain slots and particular casinos that keeps people so completely faithful to them?
TH: Slots tend to be played as a more individualized form of entertainment, as opposed to table games where you are interacting with dealers and other players a bit more socially. There is also a low price point to play a slot machine, allowing you to play for a minimum of less than a dollar.
As for what brings people back there are definitely a couple of factors. First and foremost is the attractiveness of the machine. The machine has to be appealing to the customer. That is done by the cabinet style or the license or brand or theme of the game. There are a litany of things that speak to a customer, but what ultimately determines the life span of a game is the math and the hit frequency that the customer experiences. The game mechanics, the hit frequency and the types of payouts are all key components. Beyond that, it is the service that the player receives on the casino floor. It is the relationships that they establish, whether it is the slot attendants, cocktail servers, hosts, etc. There are so many players that come in just to see certain individuals that work here at Ocean. You can play slots anywhere in the country within a reasonable drive, so ultimately it is the relationships and the service that bring the customers back to Ocean, we hear that time and time again.
MC: Right now, what do you think on property is the most attractive slot that people are drawn to and what could the reason be?
TH: We have a few slots that are extremely popular with a very loyal following right now. Aristocrat is probably one of the hottest manufacturers over the past few years. They produced Lighting Link, Dragon Link, and most recently, Buffalo Link, which are all popular machines. Aristocrat is an Australian company, and Australia is known to have a pretty large gambling audience down under. If it is tried and true coming out of Australia, it does well in the States.
Konami has a strong performing game called All Aboard. We have had that on the floor for about a year now and it is still going gangbusters.
IGT has various themes of Wheel of Fortune, which is always a customer favorite. There are a number of games out there that you have to have on your floor that customers will either inquire about or go to a given property where they are available.
MC: So it is safe to say the change up of the casino floor has been a “game changer” as a whole for Ocean, right?
TH: Absolutely. Matching the new slot machines that we have introduced along with fan-favorites has created unique destinations throughout the casino floor. We really tried to step back and take a thoughtful approach, balancing the East and West sides of the floor, as well as understanding the traffic patterns. Trying to lay out machines and configurations that are going to accommodate players as they journey through the property has been a real focus.
MC: So many customers have superstitions or their own specific “tricks” that they might follow to try to hit it big on a slot. In your career, is there any specific angle that you have seen that really worked?
TH: You know, there are so many myths out there. Whether it is the time of day or the location in the casino, whether you are using your players card and the casino can determine if you are winning or losing and adjust the hold accordingly. Obviously none of those myths are factual. The reality is that it’s all about being at the right machine at the right time. The key is to stick to your budget and not bet over your head and everything else is pure luck.
MC: Speaking of the idea of a “players card”, what do you think the biggest benefits are for players to sign up for Ocean Rewards?
TH: The biggest benefit is to really be recognized for your play and receive rewards based on your play. Whether it is Free Play or Comp Dollars or exclusive invitations to slot tournaments, events or concerts, all of that is the added bonus on top of the actual gaming experience. A lot of players are drawn to the machines, but there is a side benefit and that is the rewards that you get for being a loyal member to Ocean.
MC: In your role, what are some of the innovations that you have recently seen that you are thinking could be a real game-changer?
TH: One of the things that I have come to appreciate and that we saw during the pandemic is introducing carousels that give the customers more space. We had a lot of longer rows of machines lined up in a back-to-back manner on our floor. The pandemic presented the opportunity to create smaller configurations, providing a sense of space and comfort for the customer so they don’t feel like they are playing right next to someone. It is more about the quality of the space and of the configurations rather than the quantity on the floor.
MC: What do you think you have learned over the past last fifteen months?
TH: I believe customers come for the interactions that they receive from our team members. Everyone can replicate the slot machines on the floor, however the differentiator is the personal experience and the customer service. It is knowing what interests our customers have. We just got a letter from a customer the other day who had a great experience with one of our slot attendants named Linda. Linda remembered the customer’s last visit and the interest they had, and she picked them back up during their next visit; it was like an old friendship. The customer was so impressed that she wrote a letter complimenting Linda on her hospitality.