There are so many bright spots at G2E it’s impossible for one observer to do the show justice, even if you just focus on the slot category.



Stick around long enough, and you get to see slot machines with plastic shotguns.

IGT’s Big Buck Hunter was among the many highlights at the 11th annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E) last month. There are so many bright spots from across the broad spectrum of gaming products and technologies, so it’s impossible for one observer to do the show justice, even if you just focus on the slot category. But that’s what I did, and here’s some of what I heard:

•Targeted server-based gaming: Server-based gaming in the U.S. is most often limited to specific portions of the floor, and operators are beginning to see some results, according to Laurie Lasseter, senior vice president and chief technology officer, WMS Gaming, which offers server-enabled capabilities through a technology called Portal, which enables it to mix-and-match base games with server-enabled bonus games. “It takes about $30,000 of equipment to do a banked approach,” she said. “We’re seeing 20-30 percent lift on machines that are running Portal applications compared to operators with the same machines that are not running it.”

•Let’s get real about technology reinvestment: Slot machines are the revenue and profit life-blood of casino gaming, but operators need to step up the amount of money they put back into their floors, suggested Bruce Rowe, senior vice president of strategy and customer consulting, Bally Technologies. “We expect our management-level employees to have a cell phone, a smart phone, a laptop, or a tablet or all three and it probably gets replaced every three or four years,” he said. “We can no longer expect the technology that goes into a game to cost $2,000 and last 15 years. A percentage of that $300 win-per-day should be considered as technology reinvestment in order to make the industry into what we know it can be because we have examples of it in our everyday life.”

•Bonusing is starting to deliver: “We had this technology for several years, but no one was doing anything with it,” said Buddy Frank, vice president of slot operations, Pechanga Resort & Casino. “Basically, we were spending several million dollars to say, ‘Hello, John,’ on very expensive hardware vs. doing the same thing on very inexpensive hardware. In the last year, systems are delivering real bonus to real games that I think are starting to make a difference.”

•Bonusing for non-carded players: Aruze has an interesting approach to this, per Steve Walther, vice president of marketing. “We’re focusing on the smaller venues with a system that is designed to target and bonus the anonymous player,” he said. “Our G system has an e-prompt card system built into it, which is a hopper of cards that are within the machine itself. When a player cashes out, a card is ejected with the value of their cash-out and now they’re tagged in the system. This enables you to bonus, reward or incentivize people that you may never have come in contact with.”

•One slot manager’s view: “I liked the IGT Big Buck, Wheel of Fortune duo pack, Ghost Busters, Texas Tea Center Stage and many of their new video and reel type slots,” said Juan Hernandez, director of slot operations, Boyd Gaming. “At Bally, I liked the Grease and Michael Jackson games. I liked the fact that Aristocrat are putting old games such as Sun and Moon, Geisha and Pompeii on their new platform also, their Superman and Mummy games were attractive. Aruze Big Fish was eye-catching, as well as their Big Six Wheel video game. Konami had a variety of video games with extensive bonusing on the podium platform that should be popular. I liked what I saw at the Multimedia booth.”

•Are 21 to 35-year-olds worth the trouble?: No, according to Nick Kihn, president, Aristocrat Technologies. “We are not focused at all on that player,” he said. “I don’t believe that group is a large player segment today. When they go into a casino they have different priorities than gambling. They may go to a bar with friends, meet members of the opposite sex. As they get older, their priorities change.”

Bally “almost entirely” agrees, said Ramesh Srinivasan, president and chief operating officer, Bally Technologies, who suggested that players entering the core target demographic are far more tech-savvy than their predecessors. “If the target is 45-65, there are a lot of people entering the 45-50 range who are not the same as the 45-50 range five years ago,” he said. “They have been exposed to a lot of different technology, and are used to interacting with their personal devices and mobile equipment. So we are trying to move to a different place off the 45-year-old demographic to meet those changes, making our products more social media-ready, providing more mobile options on their iPhone and iTouch, and developing games like Skee Ball that have a little more implied skill level.”