Monthly Archives: August 2016

Municipality headed toward net-zero energy

The city of Las Vegas is looking a bit more green these days. Over the past 26 years, it has reduced its energy costs by $5 million annually and increased the recycling rate to 60 percent. The city recently signed contracts for hydropower and solar energy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent while increasing the amount of green energy use to 100 percent. It is on track to become one of only four net-zero energy cities in the U.S.

The city started its green transition in 2008 with the receipt of money from the National Recovery Act. However, the project was set into motion three years earlier when former Mayor Oscar Goodman signed a Climate Protection Agreement drafted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to urge the federal and state governments to take action against climate change.

One of the first projects involved changing streetlights from energy-hogging mercury vapor and high-pressure sodium lights to energy-efficient light-emitting diode bulbs; approximately 80 percent of the fixtures have been converted.

Significant in the commitment to becoming green was the construction of the new $146 million City Hall building, which opened Feb. 21, 2012. Designed with advanced energy and water-saving factors including Low-E windows, high R-value insulation, innovative heating and air conditioning and solar panels that provide 10 percent of the total energy, the building was certified by the U.S. Green Building Council with a silver rating under the Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design standard.

Another showcase is the original Las Vegas Post Office, which was acquired by the city and converted to the Mob Museum. During its restoration, the building was gutted and updated with the latest insulation, lighting, thermal windows and air-conditioning technology resulting in a LEED silver certification for a building retrofit.

The city owns or leases thousands of square feet of building space in about 120 buildings throughout the city limits. Included are fire stations, park buildings, and various warehouse and administrative buildings. Many of the new fire stations have been LEED-certified and facilities throughout the city have been equipped with solar panels to offset some of their energy use with sustainable solar power.

All of the solar energy systems on city-owned properties combined provide approximately 12 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy per year.

In addition to generating clean energy, the city has been busy retrofitting all of its buildings with new energy- and water-saving technology. Most of the office building lighting has been converted from fluorescent and incandescent fixtures to LED. And low-flow water devices and toilets have been installed in all restrooms.

One of the largest retrofit projects involved the replacement of all windows and a new heating and cooling system on the nine-story Development Services Building at the corner of Rancho Drive and U.S. Highway 95. Originally built with 1980 technology, the city also installed modern water-efficient fixtures, LED lighting and occupancy sensors that turn off lighting when the room is not in use.

In 2010, the city used over 150 million kilowatt-hours per year, with the current conversions in place. That number has dropped to below 120 million. And despite a 57 percent population increase over the last 26 years, Las Vegas has reduced greenhouse gas levels by over one-third, bringing it down to 1990 levels.

Even with all of the accomplishments, the mayor, Las Vegas City Council members and city staff have not stopped working toward becoming more sustainable.

Starting in October 2017, Las Vegas will receive two megawatts of hydroelectric power generated by Hoover Dam. This energy is not only clean and sustainable but inexpensive. The allocation is the result of a recent federal act that reallocated the dam’s power distribution. The city of Las Vegas was one of the many applicants that were accepted from a number of governmental entities and Native American tribes.

City officials have also signed an agreement with NV Energy to purchase all of its power from the Boulder City II Solar Energy Project upon its completion in January. With this agreement, the city of Las Vegas will become a 100 percent net-zero-energy city. What makes this accomplishment,even more groundbreaking is that the other cities in this elite category have populations under 50,000 and use far less energy than the city of Las Vegas with a population of more than 600,000.

The added solar and hydropower energy also will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent.

On Dec. 6, 2015, the city of Las Vegas received certification as a Four-Star Community, earning 77.8 points out of 100 in the category of Climate and Energy. The city ranked high in the subcategories of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation, Greening the Energy Supply, Resource Efficient Buildings and Waste Minimization.

The city of Las Vegas is also focusing on becoming the net-zero capital of waste. Leaders are looking at ways to compost all of the organic waste, which includes grass and tree clippings that accumulate from parks and green areas throughout the city.

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MGM Mirage Sustainability Discovery Center provides educational programs

David Blasko is passionate about saving the planet and caring for the creatures of the earth. He is also the director of the department of animal care for The Mirage and the creator of the MGM Mirage Sustainability Discovery Center.

The purpose of the Sustainability Discovery Center is to educate visitors and locals on the importance of taking care of the environment.

“The one thing that I have failed to do for perhaps the first two-thirds of my career is to give people action items where they can make a difference. We have instilled passion but failed to provide a path,” said Blasko, speaking about his 45-year career in caring for animals and educating people about the role that animals play in the environment. The last nearly 10 years of his career have been spent at the Mirage where he oversees the health and safety of the resort’s dolphins and white tigers.

It was Blasko’s passion for saving the environment that started him thinking about the development of a Sustainability Discovery Center.

“I thought that it was important to develop messaging that would give people action items so that they can go out and do things that would have a positive impact on the environment and help these animals.”

It took about 18 months and a large team of individuals with varying skills to bring Blasko’s vision to reality. “You have to understand that it is a very strange, twisting path from my brain to where something actually happens,” Blasko said with a laugh when asked how the idea for the Sustainability Discovery Center came to be.

The theme that was developed is based on water because of the important role that it plays in the lives of animals and humans, no matter where they live. As mammals, dolphins are very sensitive to changes in the ocean and that ties into the Dolphin Habitat at the MGM Mirage.

The MGM Corp. is very invested in sustainability. Each of the properties along the Strip and around the world goes to great lengths to conserve water, energy and to recycle waste.

In Las Vegas, Republic Services is a key partner in helping the MGM properties recycle as much material as possible. As a result of the MGM and Republic partnership, MGM Resorts recycles 28 million glass bottles each year. In 2015, The Mirage alone reached a 45 percentile in recycling, equaling over 4,000 tons of material that did not go to the landfill.

“We are always looking for ways to educate the community about how recycling helps the environment,” said Tracy Skenandore, area director of public relations and field communications for Republic Services Mountain Area.

Republic services recently constructed its $35 million, 110,000-square-foot recycling center with the capacity to process 3 million pounds of paper, glass and metal.

“Now that we have opened our new recycling facility, we are expanding our community outreach even more to encourage greater participation in the recycling program,” Skenandore said.

The Dolphin Habitat and the Sigfried &Roy Secret Garden are research and education facilities that offer tours to over 6,000 school children each year, teaching them about the ocean, the marine animals and the environment in general.

“We saw the Sustainability Discovery Center as a great opportunity to team with MGM in our effort to promote responsible waste management and recycling alongside MGM’s effort to promote their worldwide commitment to protecting the global environment,” Skenandore said.

Both the MGM and Republic Services understand that by teaching children the values of sustainability at an early age, they will continue those habits into adulthood. In fact, the children may be able to teach their parents the value of recycling, which in turn will help the Las Vegas community as a whole.


Big data meets casino floor

A lot has changed in the gaming industry — most notably, the shift from a single stream casino-based profit center to multiple profit centers in the retail, restaurant, nightclub, hospitality and even the swimming pool areas.

It used to take an army of accountants to gather data from each of the department silos and combine them into rudimentary reports, charts and graphs. Those functions are now performed with the push of a button, thanks to a company called VizExplorer.

The company is the brainchild of Andrew Cardno and took six years to develop. It was founded in 2008.

Cardno, the founder and chief technology officer of VizExplorer, is not only an expert at analyzing and interpreting data, he co-wrote the book on casino data analytics, “The Math that Gaming Made” (2011). His co-author is Ralph Thomas, a UNLV Ph.D. graduate in mathematics and VizExplorer’s chief data scientist/general manager of gaming and strategy.

Together, Cardno and Thomas have authored an 18-part series for Casino Enterprise Management Magazine titled, “Where is the Money?” Cardno holds more than 60 patent applications and has been a featured speaker on the subject of analytics at a variety of venues around the world.

VizExplorer’s corporate headquarters are in San Diego, but the Las Vegas office on Eastern Avenue near Windmill Parkway employs a team of 45 computer software engineers and analytical experts who spend their days developing complex algorithms to analyze casino operations. Cardno expects that number to grow to 60 employees in the next year.

Part of Cardno’s expertise is in the analysis of gaming customers. His programs analyze customer types and gaming preferences. VizExplorer’s team of Ph.D. and master’s-level researchers have developed an operational intelligence company focused on developing software that enables companies to analyze complex consumer data from multiple sources and then act on that data. The tools are designed to take a company from analysis to action.

“I think that the casino resort industry is very innovative, and I see constant change and new products,” Cardno said. “It is evolutionary, and I just love the speed with which we have innovated. It is hard to have imagined. In the future, I see a completely new business model developing with different kinds of social entertainment and new kinds of games emerging.”

In a January article titled Creating Customer-Centric Gaming Floors, Cardno states that “catering to today’s older gamblers while ignoring future gamblers (including potentially the very large group of millennials) is an extremely risky proposition for a casino.”

To demonstrate how the types of patrons and their preferences can change over time, Cardno uses the “Red Beaker Analogy.” In his example, a beaker is filled with red fluid symbolizing the initial group of customers. As a new group of blue customers start to patronize the casino, the water in the beaker starts to turn purple until the new type of player dominates the casino floor, turning the fluid to blue. The transformation is easy to see with water and colored dyes, but not so easy to detect without analytics to monitor.

“However, while following the slot averages and thus naturally catering to red customers seems like the right thing to do, we ignore blue customers at our future peril. They are the future of our business, and a lost new customer today could mean multiples more lost in the future,” said Cardno.

According to Cardno, “Much of the discussion around millennials has fallen into one of two camps: marketing and new products. On the marketing side, casinos are trying to create new areas of excitement that will draw millennials into gambling while they enjoy their current casino entertainment options of choice, like shows and dining. On the product side, slot operators are beginning to explore the concept of skill-based slot machines.”

Perhaps the millennials are the blue dye that changes the beaker water totally blue. With proper analytics, that tipping point will be visible to the casino executives, and they will then start monitoring for a new “red” group of players who will slowly turn the beaker fluid back to its original color.

The Silverton Casino was the first to buy into Cardno’s theories and expertise by becoming VizExplorer’s first customer. Using VizExplorer’s complex analytics has helped the Silverton to successfully expand its highly visible off-Strip presence.

Today, in addition to the Silverton, VizExplorer customers include Boyd Gaming, Station Casinos and more than 600 other casino clients on five continents. And VizExplorer is expanding its services to sports stadiums and manufacturing facilities.

In an article published in Casino Journal Feb. 9, Cardno writes “it is not just size of data that matters, it is also the diversity of sources.”

Cardno’s analytical programs combine the diverse data sources within the resort casino, systems like slot and table player tracking, slot and table accounting, cage accounting, bingo-poker-sports, hotel, food and beverage, employee tracking, valet, spa and many others. And of course, the data sources are multiplied by the number of resort properties.

“The challenges are the same regardless of the size and scale of the resort organization,” said Cardno

The main challenge is distilling the mountain of financial reports and customer profiles into useful information for the C-suite executives and the management team.

Cardno uses the example of the casino shuttle driver who picks up clients at the airport and various locations and drives them to the casino or planned events. The VizExplorer’s hostViz and greetViz modules provide real-time customer profiles that are available via smartphones and tablets. The connectivity of these programs allows the shuttle drivers and casino hosts to interact with the customers and make them feel welcomed by knowing when they last visited, the activities they like, where they are from, family members and other useful information.

Three other program modules are also available. FloorViz is an advanced slot floor optimization solution to help increase profits and maximize slot machine return on investment. CampaignViz is a marketing campaign management solution, complete with test and control to better segment audiences to deliver targeted campaigns to high-value players. And techViz is a real-time service and dispatch management solution to maximize the efficiency of the service department and drive slot floor profitability. All modules are designed to assist various levels of management with both the overall management of the resort and the individual departments.

On July 13, during the Casino Marketing &Technology Conference at the Paris Hotel, VizExplorer introduced its latest module, greetViz. The new program is designed to provide automated mobile alerts to staff members when important guests enter the property. This program allows staff members to personally greet the guest, send a drink, or welcome them in some other meaningful way.

“We have truly become the operational front end of a gaming operation,” said Cardno.