Plasma, LCD, and television technologies are all helping casino signage to evolve and better communicate withplayers
Everyone has his or her favorite slot machine. It could be because the player believes he plays tennis like Andre Agassi, would like to live next door to Playboy bunnies, still watches all the reruns of "I Love Lucy," or just enjoys watching small bottles of Tabasco fly 'round and 'round.
However, if you talk to slot manufacturers and sign fabricators, they will tell you that colorful slot signage-depicting all of the above characters and symbols along with plasma screens advising players of double and triple points or jackpots of $100,000 and more-are part of the total makeup of the slot that draws customers to the game and brings casinos a winning advantage.
"Slot signage is an integral part of any machine," said George Turk, general manager of City Lites Electric Sign Company. "Not only does the signage and graphics of the machine add to the overall experience for the player, the plasma screens on the machines are able to speak directly to players and make them aware of promotions within the casino. The slot machine is not just a casino product; it's also a marketing tool."
Fitting to theme City Lites assisted in the development and fabrication of signs for two of the newest machine themes from Aristocrat Technologies: Andre Agassi and Zorro.
"There is a hand-painted globe above the Agassi bank of machines with an airplane flying around it to represent the international appeal of Agassi," said Turk. "It's extremely visual and you can spot it far down the casino floor. For Zorro, we received artwork from Aristocrat and then did some research on our own to better understand this character. When we fabricated the final sign, we knew we had to connect to the players who are familiar with this mysterious masked man. When you see it, notice the fiber optics. They are especially good."
Kent Young, vice president of marketing for Aristocrat Technologies, said a great deal of work went into the signage for his company's introduction of the local-area penny progressives that offers a $50,000 top jackpot award.
"We know our customers," said Young, "and with the introduction of Zorro, we're anticipating another Hyperlink theme that promises to offer the same kind of proven performance inherent in similar products such as Cash Express and Jackpot Carnival. Look around a casino floor and you'll see some amazing slot signage that enhances games and makes them much more fun to play. It's no different with Zorro. The game is hitting the casino floor at the same time as the release of the new movie, The Legend of Zorro. Therefore, the signage had to be perfect."
Young said the high-resolution graphics and eye-catching plasma LCD sign promote a specific floor presence and celebrate wins by playing full-color story animations of Zorro's adventures, a character that has a wide global household name and brand appeal.
"The signage has to send this message to get that initial trial component," explained Young. "It becomes part of the overall play experience and that's where plasma fits in, especially as he rides his horse across the top of the bank of machines. We know players are attracted by signage and we spend a great deal of time within that one area."
Keeping it simple
That's a lot of activity for one slot machine, but Young said that is what is necessary these days to draw customers to a specific slot on a fiercely competitive slot floor.
Or is it? Adam Wiesberg, president and chief executive officer of DSG Signs, said slot manufacturers are continually creating new games with additional bonuses and advanced technology which only adds to the importance of signs.
"Signs have always been a huge part of the gaming floor, but now even more so," he said. "With so many new games being introduced every month, game manufacturers want players to gravitate toward their signage. Thus, it becomes a marketing tool in reaching them and it needs to convey something that is new, exciting and fun."
Wiesberg has found that some of the most effective signs are usually the simplest ones."Everyone thinks that the best way to attract players is through large signs that are intense with color and graphics" he said. "Not true. The most popular sign our company sells is an 18-inch clear acrylic oval tube called a paddle. It's double-sided and the only message is 'Hot New Game' or 'Penny Slots' or 'Progressive.' Players know what they want to play and there is no need to overkill or oversell that message."
Slots can overwhelm the senses with flashing color, climbing gorillas, a song or two from Elvis, and the very familiar refrain, "Wheel of Fortune." They can also promote other aspects of the casino such as restaurants and entertainment, while introducing players to other gaming opportunities.
Wiesberg has found through his research that many players prefer a game without all the extensive graphics. He said some players complain about the noise and annoying beeps and whistles.
Mark Wiedemer, vice president of international and domestic sales for Paltronics, a provider of casino systems and gaming equipment said his company recently signed an agreement with Wynn Las Vegas Resort to cover 100 percent of the casino floor with its full-color LED meters. The meters showcase over 65,000 colors, and according to Wiedemer, create a stronger player attraction than traditional meters ands a more distinctive look to the floor.
"The centralizing control and operation of slot, table and media systems throughout a property is key to the modernization of today's casino," said Wiedemer. "Our software can monitor different banks of progressives from multiple manufacturers and control all of them from one work system. That system can be anywhere in the casino, including the slot manager's office."
Not just TV anymore
Wiedemer is surprised by the many casinos still using television screens just for television.
"Our equipment allows those television monitors sitting above the casino floor to function beyond news and sports," he said. "I refer to them as total media outlets where multiple messages are sent across the screen advertising restaurants, slot winners, showroom and lounge entertainment, and special casino promotions. This can be done simultaneously, periodically, or in any time sequence requested."
Wiedemer said there is a great deal of flexibility to the program. A message announcing 50-cent hot dogs between 1 p.m.-2 p.m. at the snack bar can be sent to monitors adjacent to that slot area or sports book. A completely different message about spa and massage treatments can be simultaneously sent to screens at the baccarat pit or the high end slot salon.
"Our approach to providing casinos with media and slot system solutions demonstrates Paltronics' ability to change the design of any casino floor, and improve its overall operations," he said.
While the design of the casino floor may be changing, John Ferl, vice president of sales and marketing at City Lites Electric Sign, said there has been very little change in the construction process of slot signage over the past 15 years. The only significant change has been the addition of plasma, which he considers
critical to a game's success if the graphics are properly displayed.
"We just copyrighted a 360-degree viewable slot sign," said Ferl. "If you walk into a casino and walk around to the end of sign on a bank of slots, there is nothing there. It's just the end of the sign where the metal comes together and the sign ends. You simply have two faces with very little impact on the ends of the sign that could display the game. We have come up with a methodology to view a 360-degree sign. Keep in mind that the location of the sign hasn't changed, only its construction."
Ferl believes signage changes are evolutionary, not revolutionary, even with the addition of plasma screens incorporated into signs. He said customers will see that some plasma screens only promote the game they are currently playing. That is because the slot manufacturer placed the game on the casino floor along with the seating, slot stands, and signage.
If there is plasma, it only advocates the game and no casino promotions. However, if a generic bank of games owned by the casino is placed on the floor, then the plasma screens can be used for any marketing purpose.
"Players are loyal to their favorite games and game themes," said Ferl, "and I believe that word of mouth is still the most important means to generating a successful game. However, signage allows players to find their game amidst the jungle of 2,000 or more on a casino floor. Let's face it, everyone now recognizes Wheel of Fortune." CJ