Les Ottolenghi on Data Collaboration and Compliance

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Les Ottolenghi, former Executive Vice President & CIO of Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation on the topics of data collaboration and data compliance. During his tenure with Caesar’s, Les was responsible for the digital transformation to cloud platforms for marketing, finance, human resources, cyber-security, gaming, hospitality, and employee productivity while handling 600+ staff. I was fortunate to speak to Les about his views on the industry and his take on the future of data.

What do you see as trending right now within tech and data?

You’re looking at the obvious stuff everyone talks about (analytics and the ML behind that, what’s the proposition for the proper use of AI, etc). Those are all the biggest considerations but the actual stuff that is getting done is finding what is the edge of the network for collection points for data and data aggregation or gathering and how does that work? So if you take companies like Ioterra, who really has these great sensory systems on an industrial enterprise level to collect data, they are creating more efficient models because you’re not having to store data in real-time and store data over a period of time and you can now address it as well in real-time.

So I think most of the effort is not really thinking about the heavy-duty backend infrastructure but the lighter weight edge of the network, data collection, and then ultimately forming analytics models that can respond in real-time, through human intervention or automation or a combination, and then where the highest return on investment is. Then there is automation on the backend, companies will want to reduce their cost footprint.

We will also see engagement models changing, on customer journeys, and I think a lot of analytics will be focused on that, and ultimately censoring the entire network infrastructure so that you could have a coherent set of things from security, to analytics, to customer support and response, quality assurance, you name it, all the way through to choices that are being made by customers themselves in whatever data platform they engage in.

What are some of the current data challenges you are dealing with? What is keeping you up at night?

What is keeping me up at night is that we need an easier format for data exchange and avoid keeping data in silos and then being mindful when that data is being classified as sensitive of some kind, or it has to be respectful of GDPR or anything else from a regulatory standpoint. What are we doing as far as the ability to interconnect systems, and this is one of the biggest challenges I see.

How mature are the entertainment and gaming sectors when it comes to data privacy & security?

I think it’s mature around loyalty. I don’t think it’s mature around the other areas of business, mostly because it is not well defined or understood. Loyalty, when you think of casino gaming, is literally just the gaming part and hasn’t been involved in these other areas. But that has to rapidly change, so I think you are going to get certain leaders in the industry who are going to move the model forward for what would be a much more sophisticated way to manage both customer data and the marketing programs that customer data can be applied to. And thoughtful of not only the security part but the data privacy component as well.

If you could collaborate with other companies and share your data would you? And what information would you want to share?

I think it’s around anything that makes the adoption of new gaming experiences and customer experiences easier and better and without risk. Let me give you an example:

You want to introduce a skill-based game, I think if you could get some kind of exchange there, you would have a big win, because with the exchange of information and KYC, and being able to identify the person playing the game as actually a good customer and not bad one in terms of their gaming past, can play the game authentically, then you can open up the market for a much broader set of activities, entertainment, whether its social or real money wagering, that doesn’t exist today and therefore inhibit the industry. So it would be the real-time exchange of player data and player information so that you could make sure people aren’t cheating. And then I think it is around probably rules-based trust.

Are there any topics within the industry that you think need more awareness?

I think it’s an approach more than anything else. The tech leaders are all going to provide a strategic planning advantage forethought, as well as a roadmap for success in this really challenging new era, which is network-based and also rapidly changing. So what the industry can do or different providers can do, is to find ways to provide strategic frameworks for success, that fill those steps in the roadmap. If you can do that then you can actually demonstrate and drill down value for all the technology that is being provided as services as well.

Considering the regulatory forces in the market, what do you think the future of data looks like and how do you think the market has reacted to this so far?

It looks like a lot of rules-based trusts and a distributed protocol of trust. Without that, I don’t think there is anything but a continued buildup of data and porting the information to a central repository. This moves much slower than a distributed-based network and a distributed-based trust, with proper rules and guidelines and the ability to be flexible and adaptable to a changing environment. Let me give you another example:

Being able to vote from home and not having to go to a polling station and have them identify you electronically, and mail in a ballot. Do this in a secure fashion on some sort of hashing algorithm, or blockchain, or trust protocol. Would be great flexibility and outcome for everyone. I think it’s the flexibility towards that distributed approach to data management that’s going to get better traction and growth, you’re going to have distributed networks based on platforms that perform at a much better rate.

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