Casino Journal’s TOP 20 Most Innovative Gaming
by Charles AndererMarian Green
May 11, 2011
Every year, the
winners of Casino Journal’s Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products
Awards raise the bar for leading-edge products designed to take casinos to the
And this year’s crop of Top 20 winners is no different. The products that made the grade represent forward-thinking, novel gaming concepts and the latest applications designed to make casinos run more efficiently and deliver a better, more entertaining experience for casino patrons.
This year’s Top 20 list represents a diverse group of products covering a lot of ground – unique and arresting slot gaming concepts and tools, customer service applications, responsible gaming, new gaming platforms, server-based gaming applications, gaming chip recognition, IRS software compliance, security and more.
Among the companies with multiple products making the grade for this year’s list were Bally Technologies and WMS, each landing four products on the list; and Acres 4.0, Aristocrat Technologies, Aruze Gaming America and Resort Advantage, each garnering two spots on the list.
Our panel of independent judges spent long hours poring over marketing and technical materials, grading products and submitting detailed evaluations for each product. We are indebted to them for their hard work and attention to detail.
Judging this year’s contest were:
• Gregg Solomon, chief executive officer, MotorCity Casino;
• Donne Grable, vice president, gaming operations, VCAT LLC;
• Jay Fennel, chief operations officer at Club Fortune Casino and chief operations officer/managing director at Silver State Capital Advisors LLC.
The Top 20 winners will be honored and plaques will be awarded at the Wednesday keynote luncheon at the ninth annual Gaming Technology Summit, slated for May 23-25, 2011, at the Green Valley Ranch casino-resort in Henderson, Nev. The winners of the Platinum, Gold and Silver Awards, along with the winner of the contest’s Attendee Choice Award, also will be announced at the luncheon. Show attendees will vote during the Summit for the Attendee Choice Award winner, selecting from among the Top 20 winners. These top four award winners also will be featured in the July issue of Casino Journal.
And now without further ado, learn more about the companies and products that made Casino Journal’s Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products for 2010, presented in alphabetical order by company.
Slide Ways – ACRES 4.0
Slide Ways play begins with the display of a 64 position playing field, configured as an 8x8 grid, which is initially populated with a random selection of seven different types of jewels. In Internet game parlance, Slide Ways is known as a “Match-3” game because each move must result in the horizontal or vertical alignment of at least three matching symbols.
Slide Ways adds the element of gambling. When jewels are aligned the player is awarded entertainment points, but just before those jewels disappear they turn into reels which spin and stop. If the reels stop with a winning combination, gambling credits are paid in addition to the entertainment points. In any case, a wager is charged for each move the player makes.
“Casual gamers should know how to already play the game as well which is not always the case these days,” said one judge. “Connecting the casual gamer to the slot floor could mean the start of a whole new relationship between the casual gamer and casinos.”
The A4 Platform – ACRES 4.0
The A4 Platform splits traditional game functions in two. Game outcomes and wager amounts are held in a central server located securely in the casino’s back-of-house area. The remaining work of gathering player selections and presenting game results are not high-security concerns and are implemented on everyday consumer electronic devices such as Apple’s iPad, Google’s Android or even large-screen personal computers, lowering game content and unit costs to operators.
“This is the first product that attempts to take advantage of the tablet PC phenomenon and marry it to a central server-based system,” said one judge. “It’s an industry-changing product with a fairly steep learning curve initially, but one that will reward the operator who first understands it successfully.”
Nteractiv LCD Programmable Buttons– ARISTOCRAT TECHNOLOGIES
A small, dedicated LCD screen physically positioned under buttons of the mid-trim assembly is used to display graphical content on the LCD. This is projected via an image conduit inside a transparent button lens cap. Fiber optic rods are formed in the identical shape as button lenses and have minimum distortion effect on image quality.
With Nteractiv, the game comes to life at the player’s fingertips as various messages are incorporated such as “good luck,” coin showers, and more. In addition, select games have product-appropriate messaging that includes game specific graphics. The buttons are specifically designed for the GEN7 platform for compatibility with the Viridian WS and VERVEhd.
The configuration and durability of the buttons received high marks from one judge. “The projection of an LCD screen allows for a ton of flexibility,” he said. “It also keeps the day-to-day casino wear (ashes, food, drinks) away from where the actual display is.”
Win Your Way– ARISTOCRAT TECHNOLOGIES
King of Dragons– ARUZE GAMING AMERICA
The LCD screen displays various animations throughout base game play along with a Dragon that anticipates large wins. Once a bonus feature is triggered, the game integrates the use of the stepper reels as well as the LCD touch screen for the bonus games.
“It’s unlike anything ever seen on the gaming floor,” raved a judge. “Its unique bonus features create a full experience of lights, sound and action. The ability of the reels to move so fast in different directions captivates the player. Add the LED lighting to the mix and you have one unique product.”
Paradise Fishing– ARUZE GAMING AMERICA
Judges were impressed. One raved, “Mark the day Paradise Fishing hits casino floor as it should be start of an evolution of slot hardware and software. Aruze is merging the slot and video game space elegantly with this product and should see a huge uplift in American interest in their product.”
The same judge noted that by placing an actual fishing rod handle on the slot machine, players become an interactive part of the bonus experience.
Player Enrollment Kiosk– AUTOMATED CURRENCY INSTRUMENTS
One judge called the Player Enrollment Kiosk “a good, fundamental player’s club kiosk product.” He said it was a good product for those casinos that do not have the IT wherewithal to develop player club kiosks in-house.
Another judge said he plans to look into getting a few of the kiosks for his gaming floors. He said he believes the kiosk would be useful, “as 90 percent of the patrons waiting in line at your club are there for a reprint or to sign up.”
Chip Recognition– BALLY TECHNOLOGIES
What is truly unique about Chip Recognition is that a casino’s chips can be identified via advanced camera technology without the expense and inconvenience of replacing a casino’s chip sets. As each hand is played, a snapshot of wagered chips is taken and the technology then identifies the denominations of each type of chip in the stack.
By identifying the wagers, Bally’s CMS and TableView real-time table management systems, or other table-management systems, will also be able to more accurately track player activity for comps and rewards, while also enhancing the ability to track play on the table for dealer efficiency and labor efficiencies.
“Table games ratings are traditionally notorious for their inaccuracy and prone to human error or collusion,” said a judge. “This product allows the operator to introduce table games bet tracking and provides metrics on dealer efficiency without the high cost of entry that has been required by competing systems.”
Code Red– BALLY TECHNOLOGIES
Code Red also features Bally’s award-winning U-Spin gesture-control play mechanic to award free games, progressive jackpots, or bonus credits.
The cabinet itself features a number of cutting-edge technologies in addition to the curved LCD--fully integrated Digital Topper and Super Candle, iDeck touch-screen button deck, a custom four-speaker 24-bit sound package, LED cabinet lighting, touch-screen reel glass, and a shared single entry/exit for currency and tickets which makes it easy to access and service key cabinet components.
Judges were over the moon about this product. “Bally has taken the evolution of stepper even one ‘step’ further with the Code Red product. The visual of the curved LCD screen replicated almost perfectly the look and feel of the physical stepper reel game. Players will not know the difference while operators can take full advantage of the conversion of a video platform vs. mechanical reels,” said one judge.
iDeck– BALLY TECHNOLOGIES
Judges had nothing but positive comments for the iDeck. “Bally is taking bonusing to the arcade with capabilities never seen before in a slot machine. This product should make others jealous as Bally can now deliver quality skill-based bonuses using this intuitive tool,” one judge said.
Service Tracking Manager– BALLY TECHNOLOGIES
Players simply place their order at the game, via the iVIEW or iVIEW Display Manager (DM) player-user-interface, and the attendant closest to them receives an alert notification on their iPhone, iPod or other handheld smart device to service the request. Guests can cancel their requests at the game, or card-in at a different game, which causes the order to re-route to the guest’s new location.
From ordering and delivering beverages, managing the slot floor, reviewing table game alerts, and automatically enrolling patrons to offers, Service Tracking Manager promises to increase the efficiency of casino operations, improve customer service and raise levels of customer satisfaction to significantly higher levels.
Judges felt the Bally Service Tracking Manager holds promise as a useful tool on the casino floor. “Bally Tracking Manager gets the operator into the 21st century by taking advantage of the hardware tools of today,” said one judge. “No longer is radio communication the only way to get personnel where they need to be.”
ReputationManager 360– IOVATION, INC.
ReputationManager 360’s combination of device identification, device reputation and real-time risk reporting allows over 60 gambling sites, including such leading names as William Hill, Wager Works and Entraction, to combat financial fraud, money laundering, chip dumping, all-in abuse, player collusion, under age playing and to keep self-excluders from coming back.
The product also builds on iovation’s years of experience with mobile devices, adding capabilities including SDKs (software development kits) for iPhone, Android and Blackberry for robust mobile device reputation that benefits from all the features of ReputationManager 360. “The iovation ReputationManager 360 has positioned itself in the online space as one of the must have tools for operation,” said one judge. “Fraud prevention is job #1 for online gaming and this tool is the gold standard for it.”
Side Action Series Video Slots– MULTIMEDIA GAMES
This format offers the player access to a greater variety of games and higher win frequency, while the casino experiences an increased wager per play. In addition, one outcome is not dependent on another--players actually get an opportunity to double their odds of winning so more often than not even if one game loses the player may win credits on the other game.
Judges were highly complementary. “Multimedia Games has taken a bold step into the future with this product. As players look for additional sensory inputs besides the main game, MGAM has placed itself it a great position to capture those players,” one judge said.
Real-Time SSN/OFAC/DML Verification Integrated with IRS Forms eFiling– RESORT ADVANTAGE
In addition to providing immediate awareness of patron ID issues, any of which could have suspicious activity and/or security/surveillance ramifications, this innovation also dramatically reduces back-of-house staff time in preparing and managing IRS forms since all validation is performed at the point of form creation.
Judges were excited about the prospects for such a tool to help them streamline handling of tax compliance requirements.
“Resort Advantage is the solution casinos have been waiting for. Having all the data in one system makes the end use extremely easy and friendly to use. I can’t wait to see it in action,” one judge said.
Slots Jackpot Accelerator– RESORT ADVANTAGE
The utility and efficiency of the Slots Jackpot Accelerator resonated with the judges panel.
“One of the challenges casinos face is the processing of government required forms. The Slots Jackpot Accelerator streamlines and automates the process giving the floor staff more time to celebrate with the guest instead of processing manual forms,” one judge commented. “RA has created the solution casinos have been begging for. This easy-to-use product should become a must have for all casinos.”
SAFETY NET– RESPONSIBLE GAMING NETWORKS
A key component of the SAFETY NET system is its biometric USB Player Protection Key, which has many significant advantages over plastic cards and smartcards. These keys deliver instant player authentication through the use of on-board fingerprint biometrics; cannot be shared amongst players; operate on the ubiquitous USB standard; and have a large internal storage capacity to operate standalone, when required.
“This product empowers the player to have assistance in making gaming decisions,” said a judge, who called the product a “must” for every casino. “This empowerment could help casinos long-term as players are not exceeding budget and burning out too soon.”
Experience Design– WMS
The judges reacted very positively to this product, with one judge calling it a “must-have on any gaming floor today.”
Another said, “I think this platform is going where the industry needs to go.”
Judges found the Metascreen product appealing and promising.
“Metascreen should become a standard of community gaming machines. WMS has created yet another platform for delivering a dynamic entertainment experience,” one judge said.
Player’s Life Web Services– WMS
Player’s Life Web Services takes the Adaptive Gaming experience to a whole new level by offering a full suite of applications that can be used along with WMS’ content and system applications to enhance player engagement and create integrated online (Web-based) and offline (real-life) player experiences.
Judges were genuinely excited about Player’s Life Web Services and the extension of gaming activity to the Internet.
“The extension of gaming activity on your floor to the Internet is key to increasing player loyalty and to increasing market penetration on the Internet and social media,” said one judge, who called it “a product whose time had come.”
WAGE-NET Portal Applications Suite– WMS
The WAGE-NET Portal Application Suite creates new value for operators by allowing them to mix and match WMS’ portfolio of video and mechanical reel base games with secondary integrated bonus applications. This keeps base game themes fresh, boosts games’ performance and creates a superior experience for players, all while providing hundreds of new ways for casino operators to differentiate their floor.
The company believes its strategy offers operators flexibility in designing their slot floor of the future while providing enhanced opportunities for increased coin-in, slot floor differentiation and operational efficiencies.
Judges saw a winning concept for operators and players alike. One said the WAGE-NET Portal Application Suite “adds a unique revenue potential for WMS boxes” and is a “nice compact early SBG implementation.”
is executive editor of BNP Media Gaming Group and also oversees content development, sales and marketing for the company’s trade shows and conferences, which include Bingo World, Southern Gaming Summit, Gaming Technology Summit, New York Gaming Summit and Casino Marketing. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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