By Peter Saunders
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), a provincial agency responsible for casino, slot, lottery, Internet and charitable gaming, has undergone a significant transformation since it began to embrace digital signage 10 years ago. At that time, the organization issued a request for proposals (RFP) to outside companies, while also beginning to develop its own internal team dedicated to the medium. Today, digital signage is tightly integrated into many of OLG’s gaming properties and other lines of business.
Up and running
The RFP led to OLG beginning a longstanding working relationship in 2004 with Capital Networks, a software developer based in Markham, Ont. Established in 1991, Capital had transitioned from the TV broadcasting industry to focus on supporting multimedia systems for digital signage networks.
Meanwhile, OLG hired Michael Tutton in 2005 as its digital signage manager. He had experience in corporate video production for digital signage campaigns and staff training for clients like Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE), Rogers Wireless, Cisco Systems, Elizabeth Arden Cosmetics and the Ontario Science Centre.
“I was brought on to centralize OLG’s digital signage communications and get a network up and running within six months,” he says. “Back then, some of our gaming properties were running PowerPoint slides on screens on their own. The new network would be simple at first, but the key was it would get consistent messages out to all 21 OLG slot facilities and casino locations.”
There were also already point-of-sale (POS) screens at lottery ticket retail locations across the province, but these were operated by OLG’s information technology (IT) department and were not managed like a traditional digital signage network.
“My department grew to a team of seven, including myself, two animators, two graphic artists, one content co-ordinator and one systems manager to deal with software and installations,” Tutton explains. “We were the only people within OLG really doing digital signage. We went to market fast, with no real strategy at first, just to get the system into place, but then we got really good at understanding how to create and mix great content. Today, we produce 2,000 items a year for 1,500 screens at 24 locations. And unlike many similar organizations, we do it all in-house. Compared to what a third-party agency would charge, we pay for ourselves in content value.”
Centralized vs. local
One of OLG’s aims was to ‘clean up’ its branding, which it felt had been watered down without centralized oversight. Another was to change content quickly and cleanly, which became easier through efforts to prioritize the screens over printed messages.
“With our team in place, the content could be tweaked easily, so some sites could drop their posters and go ‘paper-free,’” says Tutton. “We decided which screens and what hardware to put in which locations and we started to increase the number of ‘channels’ at each site by, for example, adding dedicated screens to the lobbies. There’s also an 8.5 x 3.4-m (28 x 11-ft) screen at our lottery prize centre in downtown Toronto that we manage.”
The installation of new screens at the casinos and slot facilities was usually provided by Edcom Multimedia Products, based in Kitchener, Ont., but at some of OLG’s larger sites, the in-house facility team handled the installs instead.