Cover Story - Sacoa Maintains High Standards

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March 01, 2016

This year, Sacoa will celebrate 24 years of supplying revenue management systems for the amusement and leisure industries. The company’s products are widely used in over 1,400 locations and more than 60 countries around the world.

Sacoa’s deep rooted beginnings in entertainment go back to 1957 with the Mochkovsky family’s operation of jukeboxes and games at street locations in Argentina. The company business grew to include arcades, family entertainment centers (FECs), and even amusement parks.

In 1992, the company’s PlayCard System was developed in-house to optimize Sacoa’s own operations but quickly expanded to serve the needs of operators across the globe.

Sacoa has developed a full line up of cashless payment products and services that include a line of card readers to serve a multitude of purposes and price ranges, the most recent being its new Color-Shot HDT/RF all-in-one display reader, which combines Dual Head Magnetic Stripe + RFID/NFC “Tap to Credit” Technology; the Play-Card Redemption Wizard Program for e-Ticket tracking and inventory control; the Party and Event Booking Module for use both online and at the location; and the Bowling Management System.

The PlayCard System also works in cooperation with POS providers through integration with CenterEdge Software, Micros, NCR Aloha, Ordyx, AMF Qubica, Brunswick, and many others.

In addition, Sacoa offers the EZ System, the first self-contained and fully automated cashless payment system for unattended or smaller locations launched in 2006 and a three-part Access Entry Control System of turnstile, manual attended device, and the newest portable hand-held controller.

Sacoa has concentrated heavily on expanding service and representation in the U.S. by opening a main office in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., lead by Sebastian Mochkovsky. Sacoa regularly exhibits at trade shows around the world.

Play Meter checked in with Sacoa officials for an update and to find out more about the company’s newest products.


Does Sacoa follow a particular business philosophy?
Our business philosophy is simple and can be summarized in two main focuses:
1) Maintaining the highest standard to always develop based on the latest trends. Once the technology is reliable and proven, we then apply it to our product so we remain at the forefront of innovation and our competition.
2) Listening to our customers and respecting their needs for a product tailored to meet their own individual requirements.


What are the newest products from Sacoa?
Sacoa has been working continuously on many new developments. One of our latest releases is the mPOS, a mobile version of the Sacoa POS, which can run in any Android tablet, with NFC capability, and allowing F&B (food and beverage) or retail merchandise sales as well as PlayCards. The mPOS accepts cash, credit cards, or PlayCard credit as payment and can connect to a printer through Bluetooth for receipt printing.

Another newly released feature for multi-location customers is the ability of “card roaming directly at the game” using our Color-Shot HDT or HDT/RF card readers. This allows players to purchase or charge their cards in one store, play at that location, then go to another authorized location, and spend the remaining credits by merely swiping their card at any game there.


What are the advantages of your card system?
Our Sacoa PlayCard System has been designed by operators for operators, which results in an experience of years of in-house and on-location product testing. We are not just a manufacturer of a cashless payment system; we are also a partner with all our customers worldwide.

We greatly value input from anyone and everyone because we believe that a good idea can better serve every operator more than just a single company.
So, we always try to incorporate suggestions and updates into our software or hardware solutions whenever possible.

Another advantage is the reliability of our system’s proprietary wireless network that does not depend on standard unsecure 802.11 wi-fi. This gives our system the unique levels of security through communication encryption from card readers to and from the server, which is a much more robust solution in today’s technologically advanced world.

But we believe our most important advantage is our own people, whether it is the team in Argentina, the U.S., or anywhere else in the world through our network of partners. We aim to offer our clients the best service, support, products, and experience from each and every person representing Sacoa globally.


There has been a considerable increase in FEC development in the last few years. What do you think has fueled this growth?
We think a main contributor to this growth is global economic improve-ment. Existing FEC chains are now able to expand and operators are trying to better position themselves in their own markets by opening new game rooms to attract a larger customer share.

We are also seeing a restructuring and redefinition of bowling centers, which are now incorporating more entertainment like important game areas to help present a fuller guest experience for the whole family. This trend is also visible in hotels and movie theater complexes, which also understand that redemption game rooms—small or medium ones, from 10 to 30 games—are an essential complement to their primary business.


Are most new FECs starting with a debit card system? What are new FECs looking for in a card system?
Most new FECs immediately start off with a debit card system because of time-proven advantages of the control given by a cashless system and e-Tickets.

It’s almost a recipe for disaster if a new location opens on cash or token.
The ROI is much quicker than people expect because there are so many ways an operator can increase revenue with our system while also rewarding guests. It’s truly a win-win situation.

These simple techniques or strategies that increase revenue are impossible when operating a location on cash.

When new FECs have an open mind to achieving success and are not burdened by outdated thinking of“how we’ve done it in the past,” they also allow themselves to experience faster success. A new location usually cannot afford slow growth or minor success.

New locations NEED to thrive to survive, so they actually welcome better technology options and the best ways to gain maximum control over all aspects of their business through a cashless payment system.

They are desperately looking for ways to save valuable manpower and time, as well as generate strategies and promotions to provide a better entertainment experience to their guests.

This is the main reason new locations tend to open today with debit card systems and existing locations used to be more reluctant to change.


Are you seeing more conversions from a token/ticket system to a debit card system?
How does Sacoa help clients with such a transition?

Yes, definitely. We’ve actually observed a continual growth in locations converting since the introduction of our PlayCard. However, even more recently, we think it is largely because of the reduction in operational costs,especially with e-Tickets since there is no longer a need for control and extra personnel to keep these games up and constantly running.

It may sound a little strange to some, but today’s kids honestly “get it” and have no problem with anything that’s new technology while “old school” parents are the ones who resist.

When everything you want to spend, play, or have won is on one card and stored in our secure and reliable system, everything becomes much easier for the guest, the operator, and his employees.

Today, with countless technological advances in everyday life, the “e” part in e-Ticket is very well understood and widely accepted across the globe, also translating into “ease” for a large majority of guests. Going paperless is such an environmental plus nowadays and it’s supported and applauded by the public. These big pluses are what usually minimize any small negative caused by not having the old-fashioned paper ticket in hand.

To help ensure a smooth transition, we at Sacoa share our own operating experience as well as what we have learned from our clients with installs around the world. Our goal is always to give the operator a soft, increasingly simple startup, while also developing constant marketing dynamics, continuous promotions, and loyalty strategies.


What is the biggest misconception about card systems and how do you counter those misconceptions?
One of the biggest misconceptions is affordability or ROI. Some people still think a debit card system is expensive and unaffordable, but prices have greatly reduced over the last 15 years thanks to technological advances and lowered production costs.

In fact, a usual ROI can be as little as 10 months or less. While it is still difficult to justify the expense for a handful of games in a very small game room without redemption, we have developed the “EZ system” for unattended game rooms with 10 to 50 machines.

Other misconceptions include complexity and difficulty of operation, but we provide extensive and complete training for the operator to be able to handle, create, and modify anything in the system to easily achieve the maximum result. Our system is not only user-friendly and simple to operate, but also offers on-line tutorials and support outside the initial training.


Are there any differences in what FECs in the U.S. want in a debit card system versus what FECs in Europe, Asia, or South America want?
FECs in the U.S. tend to look for integrations with standard accounting systems, which Sacoa does extensively while these are handled under other regulations elsewhere in the world.

American operators are also more likely to want added simplicities or shortcuts, which our system offers.

In addition, there are differences in currency where parts of the world currently rely heavily on larger denomination coin (unlike in the U.S.) and operators in those countries are understandably reluctant at first to step into the 21st Century. Once they finally are willing to look to the future with an open mind, they very quickly realize all the many benefits and advantages to operating cashless/paperless for both the location and their guests.

What are the milestones in the development of your debit card system from 24 years ago to today?
• The launch of our VIP feature, to reward guests for repeated visits and spending more, developing it into the best loyalty program in the industry.
• Adding fully automated self-service kiosks that allow customers to purchase, recharge, and analyze PlayCards on their own.
• The launch of our multi-attendant and multi-session redemption software used through barcode scanners to provide speedy customer service, as well as a multi-warehouse Redemption Inventory Management System for labeling, inventory control, reporting, and auditing combined with automated ordering/receiving through major vendors.
• The implementation of a proprietary RF wireless game network operated through Access Points distributed throughout the store, eliminating the hassle of running wiring to or from the games or turnstiles and allowing to change the game layout as easily as moving furniture around.
• The introduction of e-Tickets that are credited directly to the PlayCard, eliminating ticket jams and down time at the games, reducing guest fraud and theft over ticket dispensing disputes, speeding up the process at redemption booths, and limiting the number of personnel needed to operate.
• The evolution of Party Booking and CRM modules into applications closely tied with online sales and our integration to Facebook.
• The incorporation of RFID Tap-to-Credit Technology with our ColorShot HDT readers introducing the option of contactless reading for RFID cards, wristbands, tokens, or key fobs.


With so much growth over the last 24 years, what does Sacoa still want to achieve in the amusement industry?
While we cannot discuss some of the new ideas we are currently exploring at this time, we expect that 2016 will bring many exciting developments to our industry and product line. As a company, Sacoa realizes there is always room for improvement, so we look forward to continuing to bring new innovation and advancements, which will benefit both our operators and their guests. For more information on Sacoa,visit (www.sacoacard.com).

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