VSR Industries’ vast array of slot bases, locks and other metal products are giving the gaming industry attractive options

VSR Industries’ President Chic DeGregorio (left) and General Manager Colton Vollmann (right)

They may not be among the most glamorous elements of the modern-day casino floor, but slot machine bases are definitely among the most critical components.

Without them, many casino floors might look more like one’s home computing space - a tangled mess of wires, with mismatched sizes of equipment and furniture. Yet, most gaming patrons hardly notice these specialized stands that house their favorite slots and other gaming devices. Las Vegas-based VSR Industries, however, is trying to change that.

Having manufactured slot bases for 30 years and gaming machine lock systems for nearly 40 years, the company has developed a solid reputation as a leading supplier to casino companies and OEMs alike. Using metal rather than other materials gives the company’s slot base products more durability and flexibility. And with a seemingly endless array of customizable shapes, colors, designs and branding opportunities, VSR is turning the business of slot bases into an art.

Its new VSR Ironwood series of slot base manufacturing uses dye sublimation to add wood-grain finishes to the already powder-coated bases. On these finishes, VSR can create patterns, logos or other forms of branded messaging requested by its clients. The end result is unique slot bases that draw attention.

“It has the integrity of the powder coat because it’s ingrained and embedded. It has the look of anything you can create digitally, and the integrity to hold up,” said Colton Vollmann, general manager of VSR Industries.

Slot bases are made from scratch in VSR’s 75,000-square-foot facility.

In-house development

Perhaps one of the most unique elements of VSR’s business is that its entire operation is conducted in house. Unlike most other equipment providers in the gaming industry, it does not outsource any of its work, choosing instead to start with raw materials. Its 75,000-square-foot facility in Henderson, Nev. has over $20 million worth of metal-working and lock-manufacturing equipment to create nearly any array of finished product - all on site.

“For manufacturing slot bases, it’s the perfect system,” said Charles A. “Chic” DeGregorio, the company’s president.

“The process begins by first defining the unique style that the [gaming] property needs. We define their need by determining the dimensions, the character of the base, the height and door configurations, and the machine platform.  There are a lot of variables that go into creating the unique style,” DeGregorio said. “Then the customer decides if they want a bull nose front, a flat front, a curved front or a footrest.”

Beginning with raw sheet metal, machines are used to punch or laser-cut specific patterns from which the slot base will be formed. Next, the flat pattern is bent and shaped based upon the dimensions required by the client. Then, the bases are welded to ensure even more durability. Afterward, they are sent through an intensive washing process to remove grease and other contaminants. Next comes powder-coating, a unique process that adds extra protection against daily operational wear on the casino floor. Finally, the dye sublimation process adds the wood grains and additional patterns to the bases (some patterns can be laser-cut into the metal during the initial metal-working phases, and the bases can even be equipped for lighting and other attention-getting options).

The dye sublimation process was initially created and patented by the Italy-based Decoral System, the world’s leading metal decorator. VSR has an exclusive agreement with the company that allows VSR to use the process for slot bases, meaning no other company can duplicate the process.

So why all of the fine-tuning for something as simple as slot bases? DeGregorio and Vollmann said it’s because it’s one area of the casino floor that hasn’t really received a lot of attention.

“Each property wants something unique to meet their interior design needs that will also enhance the overall theme of the property,” DeGregorio said.

“What we’re doing is putting logos in the doors, end caps, or pie wedges, while adding some brilliance to the casino floor that has not been there in the past,” Vollmann added. “The aesthetic value used to be based on signage, be it overhead or on top of the machine, but now we’re bringing it down to the slot base level. For example, on the bull nose, we’ll do some down lighting to create a purple haze mood light that will illuminate the gaming floor and create some pizzazz.”

DeGregorio said that slot bases and the end of slot banks have become attractive real estate to promote with. The biggest challenge, he said, is capturing the vision of the interior designer of the property while keeping the unit structurally sound to hold the slot machine.

VSR has the equipment to create virtually any gaming machine lock.

Locked on target

While VSR has experienced strong year-on-year growth in its slot stand business, its lock sales have continued to define VSR as a customer sevice-oriented gaming supplier.

Like with its slot base manufacturing, all of its locks are manufactured from scratch in house. The company has a vast array of lock products, each designed to meet specific needs of casino operators and OEMs. The VSR Maximum Security Locks, using dimple technology, are the most secure and tamper resistant of its offerings. Other options include: medium security locks (ideal for CPU logic boards, table drop boxes, cash boxes, currency carts and chip trays); minimum security locks available in tubular and wafer designs for lower security areas; vending locks; padlocks; shipping plugs; and key control systems.

“We go ahead and install and pin the locks to ensure that they are unique to every customer in order to meet their security environments,” DeGregorio said.

Vollmann added that VSR services some 3,000 casino/gaming properties globally on the lock side. VSR employees are constantly traveling the world to install and service lock system on site for clients.

Established expertise

Holding 160 gaming licenses, VSR makes sure it is on top of its game in every market it operates in.

The company began in 1969 as a small, owner-operated lock shop in Las Vegas. “At the time we recognized a need for locks and sheet metal products such as drop boxes to satisfy the casino market,” DeGregorio said.

It was 30 years ago that the company began its first venture with slot bases, not in casinos, but rather for the cruise ship industry. There was concern among cruise lines with gaming devices that the traditional wooden bases the industry had used wouldn’t suit the ocean-going liners. For one, they were potential fire hazards should flames erupt. Secondly, wear and tear on cruise ships comes not only from human traffic, but from the elements as well.

“Metal products make better sense on ships,” Vollmann said, adding that it didn’t take long for land-based casinos to see the value as well.

Over the years, the company began to expand, first to Reno, then to out-of-state gaming markets where the gaming industry was growing along with VSR’s business.

“In 1991, we expanded into Mississippi; in 1996, we formed a company in South Africa, and in the last five years, we’ve expanded to Chicago, Philadelphia, Mexico City and Macau,” Vollmann said. “We have a couple of distributors who handle Europe and the Caribbean, but for the most part, we do everything direct. In a nutshell, we do business anywhere there is gaming. We’ve shipped slot bases to Europe, South America and all over the world.”

Today, the company works closely with manufacturers like IGT, Bally, WMS and others to make sure that game devices and slot bases meet specifications.

“We do quite a bit of volume with all the OEMs, and some lottery work that goes through several of the OEMs as well,” Vollmann said. “It’s a continual evolution that we keep growing our market share on the slot base side while the residual work on these OEMs is growing and growing.”

It also has a number of contracts with tribal casinos, cruise lines, even the Air Force. VSR has a standard one-year warranty on all of its products, and stands by them for a lifetime, Vollmann said.

The company is also moving into the design and development of complete slot cabinets for the gaming industry.

“When you look at the Class II arena, there are a lot of companies offering Class II products. Most of those companies are outsourcing numerous items for assembly work. We have had a lot of requests from the manufacturing standpoint to fulfill the assembly needs for many of these Class II game manufacturers,” DeGregorio said. “We are also constantly watching the development of server based gaming. There may be one unit rather than individual bases. To keep up with this need, we will be manufacturing the cabinets as well as the bases. We have done our first cabinets, and we are gravitating toward that.”