Casino Journal's Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products of 2008
The winning entries were varied, but all are designed to do at least one of the following in a new or innovative way - enrich the player experience, achieve greater efficiencies or cost savings, drive incremental revenue, bring in new players or enhance marketing.
Judges for this contest faced no easy task. In this year’s contest, highlighting the best gaming technologies from 2008, they reviewed 83 entries from gaming equipment and systems manufacturers. They pored over marketing and technical materials, graded products in a series of categories and wrote detailed comments for each entry.
The winners of the platinum, gold and silver awards for Casino Journal’s Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products will be revealed at the seventh annual Gaming Technology Summit, slated for May 19-21 at Green Valley Ranch in Las Vegas. In addition, summit attendees will vote for the inaugural “Attendee Choice Award” winner from among the products on the Top 20 list. An awards ceremony will take place during a May 21 luncheon, and the top three winners as well as the “Attendee Choice Award” winner will be featured in the July issue of Casino Journal.
Before launching into the Top 20 winners, we want to mention several entries that narrowly missed making the list. They are WMS Gaming for its Lucky Penny slot; Synectic Systems for its Synergy video management software; Casino Data Imaging for i-Guide; 3M Touch Systems for its Command Touch Sensor Strips; Radical Blue Gaming for its RadBlue’s Protocol Analyzer; and Gaming Support for BonusBox. Each of these products fell short by five points or less, indicating how close the contest was this year.
Continue on for the descriptions of this year’s exciting group of Top 20 winners and read what the judges had to say about each.
Rio Text Offers-ACUITY MOBILERio Text Offers powered by Acuity Mobile is a comprehensive mobile marketing program that encompasses all three facets of the mobile space: SMS, mobile Web and a downloadable application. Through this channel, marketers at Las Vegas’ Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino can reach guests individually for promotions and more. Additionally, guests using the downloadable application or mobile Web site can receive their Harrah’s Total Rewards point balances and current tier levels in real time.
This program is one of the first to include a mobile application that allows guests to view their rewards balances at any time or place from the convenience of their mobile phone. The application is connected to Harrah’s Total Rewards data base, and the dynamic information is pulled specifically for each user based upon their Total Rewards number and birth date, which are required upon opt-in. Targeted text messages also are sent out by guest arrival and departure dates. If no date is given the guest is automatically opted out of the program after a set amount of time. To redeem offers, guests display their messages at the Total Rewards desk.
“All casino resort operators should be actively exploring this space,” one judge said. “Most individuals almost always have their phone on or near them, which makes mobile marketing one of the most effective forms of communication.”
“It is a great example of technology as an enabling tool, coupled with an excellent marketing strategy,” remarked another judge.
iVIEW Display Manager-BALLY TECHNOLOGIESBally’s iVIEW Display Manager empowers casino operators to deliver content to players at the gaming machine in new ways. With iVIEW Display Manager, marketing messages are not limited to just the iVIEW SmartScreen display. This intelligent controller allows casinos to present messages on the main game screen, the top game display, even the overhead display, with picture-in-picture capability.
With iVIEW Display Manager, gaming operators can present systems content on the displays of most manufacturers’ gaming machines through the iVIEW processor rather than the game processor, which would require separate regulatory approvals and complex development and integration efforts. It is technologically innovative because it enables game and systems content on the same display - without interrupting game play. And it allows operators to choose where on the game they want to present systems content - they are not limited to the player-interface device.
Judges said they would deploy the Display Manager if their property either had or planned to get the Bally Technologies slot system. One called it a “home run”. Another said, “I would recommend the product. It builds on the iVIEW and takes it to the next level.”
Among the features cited were its “ability to run on most manufacturers’ machines,” and its “ability to deliver content at the gaming machine in multiple ways, creating lots of possibilities and flexibility.”
Bally Power Card-BALLY TECHNOLOGIESThe Bally Power Card offers a new marketing and promotions tool for gaming operators. It is a stored-value card that can be used in three key ways - as an “electronic wallet” for players to safely store their gaming dollars rather than carrying cash, as a gift for gaming operators to give to their customers or for players to purchase for friends and relatives, and as a marketing tool that allows gaming operators to drive incremental sales, build their brand, capture new sales opportunities and develop stronger customer relationships.
Bally’s Power Card solution is the first of its kind to enable stored-value cards to be redeemed at any game connected to a Bally system. Once the system authenticates the Bally Power Card, players can then spend any money not used for slot play at various locations within the property, such as the spa/fitness center, gift shops, restaurants and movie theaters, or they can upload the balance to their Bally Power Bank account.
Several judges loved this product: “This is a great player prospecting tool that takes advantage of the large gift card market,” one said. “It can be easily deployed at off-property sites such as grocery stores and malls to extend the casino brand and capture new players with a gaming specific gift card.”
Another said, “We have long been looking for a method to tie in all resort amenities and selected retailers into our loyalty program.”
Download Configuration Manager-BALLY TECHNOLOGIESDownload Configuration Manager is a server application that allows casino operators to view, examine and manage their floor configuration from a central location.
One of Bally’s Networked Floor of the Future solutions, Download Configuration Manager provides a connection to a wide variety of devices on the casino floor, including gaming machines, player-tracking displays and peripherals, and allows a wide range of command, control and monitoring options right at the operator’s fingertips.
Based on the open G2S and S2S protocols, Download Configuration Manager provides a platform to unify previously separately controlled devices under one managed application with easy-to-use wizards. This provides a means of creating a dynamic gaming-floor configuration designed to maximize players’ experiences and casino revenue.
“This seems to be an excellent tool to enhance efficiency via true business intelligence,” commented one judge. “The rough automobile analogy is [that it’s] like a warning light on a Cadillac versus the smoking, overheated engine of a Lada.”
Among the features they cited was the ability to keep firmware current and content fresh on a timely basis and the ability to remotely change any games parameter.
One judge called it “extremely powerful,” and said, “This is the foundation block for networked gaming and, ultimately, floor-yield management.”
Bally Biometric Recognition-BALLY TECHNOLOGIESBally’s Biometric Recognition technology incorporates distributed surveillance and biometric recognition to solve real business problems at the point of play. It can passively or actively identify players at the game and track 100 percent of their activity, with or without a card, or even knowing their name.
It also provides an unprecedented new way to learn about players, track them and reward them in uniquely personal ways. The system also allows for anonymous self-exclusion by using the “John Doe” data base and enables exclusion at the point of play. It can be linked to any existing lists of excluded players, enabling instant messages to be sent to security. It can be used for validating employee identity before allowing entry to gaming devices. It also can be used to link unusual betting patterns to Title 31 money-laundering regulations.
The judges liked this product for its ability to better track un-carded play and also for its potential to enhance responsible gaming capabilities.
“This is a valuable tool to address problem gaming and a means to mitigate liability with disassociated patrons,” one said.
Another said the product “has great potential to be a game-changer in the way casino club programs track play, and as a consequence, can deliver the improved player profiling that allows the known and anonymous player to be accurately rewarded for the full extent of their play.”
iVIEW Software Design Kit-BALLY TECHNOLOGIESBally Technologies’ iVIEW Software Design Kit was developed to empower the creative minds of a casino to easily create, test and deploy iVIEW content to the iVIEW SmartScreen displays on the slot machines on their floor.
The kit consists of a software application and a stand-alone iVIEW that allows content designers and developers to “emulate” all the functionality of their live casino floor. It gives casino marketing departments the power to create content for the iVIEW SmartScreen at their fingertips.
Judges liked the kit’s ability to streamline content delivery. “This is a tool that provides client casinos the opportunity to truly express their internal creativity and leverage inherent talent,” one said.
“Real time, unobstructed marketing is what an iVIEW software design kit would seem to provide,” another said. “This is truly a radical and fantastic concept that gives properties, especially less IT-intensive ones, the opportunity to zig and zag versus lumber along.”
Meet the Judges
LYLE BELL, Senior Vice President, Information Technology, Seminole GamingLyle Bell is chairman of the Gaming Standards Association, a non-profit industry association dedicated to establishing communications standards between gaming devices and systems. He has worked in the gaming industry for 21 years, having previously been vice president of gaming systems at IGT and vice president of information systems at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas
JAY FENNEL, Chief Operating Officer and General Partner, Silver State Capital Advisors, Gaming Ventures Las VegasJay Fennel has a diverse background in gaming operations and development, including a nine-year tenure with Station Casinos. Fennel’s responsibilities at Station included gaming operations for 16 properties with more than 22,000 slot machines, 300 table games and more than 500 employees.
DAVID PASTER, Professor of Practice, Tulane University/Principal, Yarborough PlanningDavid Paster holds a bachelor’s degree in geography with a certification in secondary education, a certification in casino management, a master’s degree in urban planning and a master’s of business administration His multi-jurisdictional domestic and international education and professional experience serve as a foundation for his consulting practice.
TROY SIMPSON, Senior Vice President of Innovation, Barona Resort & CasinoTroy Simpson plays an integral role in keeping Barona on the cutting edge of business practices across all areas of operations and maintaining its longstanding reputation for innovation excellence. Previously, he served as executive director of loyalty marketing at Barona, where he was responsible for data base marketing, casino hosts, guest services, shuttle and bus programs, casino customer room reservations, events and promotions and Barona’s award-winning players club.
SHELEEN QUISH, Chief Information Officer, Ameristar CasinosSheleen Quish has been chief information officer for Las Vegas-based Ameristar Casinos since January 2007. She is a former vice president and global CIO for US Can Company, based in Chicago, where she was responsible for global infrastructure, three data centers and a wide array of applications at 24 company locations in six countries. Quish has 20 years of marketing and operations experience in health care and insurance and has developed a set of management principles and techniques that support achieving business goals and creating a viable culture for IT professionals to thrive in.
CashCode one-CASHCODECashCode’s newest currency validator, the CashCode one, is unique for its ability to work with any gaming machine. In the past, OEMs and operators had to inventory and support various models and parts for the various countries into which they sold their machines. Some countries required different power interfaces, others unique models depending on the width of the currency being validated. CashCode one is agnostic; it can be used on any gaming machine, no matter the maker, protocol, interface or voltage.
CashCode one delivers state-of-the-art validation speed (under three seconds) without compromising security measures against counterfeits. At the flick of a switch operators can allow for face-up or face-down acceptance of tickets. This flexibility is well-suited for upright and slant-top configured machines. The device self-centers each TITO ticket, ensuring it is read smoothly and accurately on the first pass.
Judges liked the fact that the CashCode one offered a standard, agnostic approach for gaming.
“I would consider it if I were opening a new property,” one said.
“I would recommend this product,” another judge said. “It offers a system-agnostic standard.”
All Star Fantasy Challenge-CASINO SPORTS MARKETINGCasino Sports Marketing’s promotional sports-themed kiosks allow casinos to capitalize on the fantasy sports industry and attract the sports fanatic on a regular basis.
Teaming with high-profile strategic partners, Sports Marketing Solutions has developed All Star Fantasy Challenge games and low-cost marketing promotions designed to capture important data, create customer loyalty and increase monthly visits. Promotions include $1 million insured grand prizes.
The product features two unique and highly effective vehicles, a customized 19-inch monitor and player receipt tickets.
Judges were interested in giving the concept a try.
“Looks very promising to me, if a marketing team can effectively leverage its use and integrate it into existing offerings,” said one.
“This kiosk concept leverages the popularity of fantasy sports and has the potential to drive casino revenues on a daily basis,” another said. “I would recommend this product to our marketing team as a new and innovative way to attract a new market segment.”
Another judge said, “In a casual, tourist-based gaming environment, where there are numerous walk-through players and a low percentage of play is carded, this is a viable means to gather customer data not garnered via the traditional ‘slot club’”.
AVP Dynamic Game Menu-INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGYThe AVP Dynamic Game Menu offers unsurpassed flexibility and the ability to switch from traditional three-, four- and five-reel slots to video slots or even video poker - all on one machine - with the touch of a button.
Nothing else offers the patented combination of IGT’s AVP and Multi-Layer Display technology with REELdepth 3-D games all in one package. It allows operators to install independent game packages of their choice to the AVP machine and have those games available for selection by the player via the AVP game menu. This feature, in conjunction with digital glass and dynamic buttons, significantly speeds conversions; and, important as well, it allows operators to retain the game software investment on the previous game as both the existing game and the new game are available for play.
Judges found this product appealing as the industry moves toward a server-based world, although they indicated that price is an important consideration.
“Combine this with remote configuration management and you have an extremely powerful tool for floor yield management,” commented one judge.
Another said, “This product moves us closer to a server-based gaming environment where operators are given greater flexibility in the slot product they offer, and, most importantly, players can easily change the game at the machine.”
REELdepth-INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGYREELdepth provides both a stunning three-dimensional spinning-reel effect using Multi-Layer Display technology and delivers the ultimate in flexibility to the operator, enabling games changes without the need to replace physical glass and reel strips.
Accomplished by a layering of two LCDs, the visual effect of depth perception is created without wearing 3-D glasses. Multi-Layer Display technology, pioneered by PureDepth Inc., generates the look and feel of a true spinning reel game - without the need for mechanical reels.
Judges were impressed with REELdepth, hailing it as “a cool visual game that should attract play” and something that “provides nice game-change flexibility to the operator.”
“I would recommend this product because it uses technology to improve reel games but also reduces maintenance while improving quality,” said one judge.
Another commented, “Best product I’ve seen to capitalize on the ability to change games based on player preference and other marketing conditions. Looks gorgeous.”
sbX Media Manager-INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGYsbX Media Manager allows operators to securely load, preview, approve, store and schedule all content that can be delivered in the Service Window, digital top glass or other server-based-enabled media display devices.
An effective way to communicate with players while they are playing, sbX Media Manager gives operators the ability to deliver targeted content and differentiate their properties with branded messaging based on tier, session play, season and much more.
Judges uniformly found the product appealing.
“I would recommend sbX Media Manager because it is an innovative application,” said one.
Another commented, “It gives the operators and guests a taste of what sb looks like today.”
One judge had this to say about sbX Media Manager’s ability to position messages to the player: “The ability to transmit messages and imagery directly to the machine is like owning the Coke shelf at the grocery store. … The player, no matter how hard he may try to ignore it, can’t miss the message that the buffet is half-off from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and subsequently the property may have just garnered one incremental F&B patron.”
Table Game Management System-NICE SYSTEMSWith the NICE Table Game Management System, casinos can employ real-time video analytics and alerts to identify dealer errors, advantage players, cheaters and collusion, thereby reducing fraud and saving money.
This robust and flexible solution also enables focused, customer-driven marketing campaigns to comp players according to their actual value and skill, it delivers automated reporting and metrics to assess, track and improve dealer productivity and provides occupancy data and operational intelligence to make better business decisions and enhance table game profitability and performance.
Using sophisticated video analytics to track playing cards, player decisions, ID cards and game outcomes, the NICE Table Game Management Solution takes the guesswork out of table game management to improve game protection, player development and dealer performance.
Judges were impressed, with one noting that the system offers “multiple capabilities, providing table games with the same business intelligence as slots currently enjoy.”
“There is definite cost savings associated with maintaining more accurate knowledge of table gaming activity,” said another.
Another judge cited the system’s ability to assist in “not only providing traditional game protection, it also fills in a lot of the blanks that make table game rating so difficult.”
“From the marketing and associated cost savings perspective, the most innovative element of the Nice Table Games System is its ability to determine an accurate skill level of a player.”
i-Table-SHUFFLE MASTERBy using various patented Shuffle Master technologies, the i-Table revolutionizes the way that popular games such as blackjack and baccarat are played and dealt.
Using six touch-screen player stations embedded into a standard-size blackjack table, the i-Table combines an intuitive betting interface, a live dealer and real card play to create an exciting live table game experience that can increase hands per hour by as much as 30 percent.
Its use of an intelligent card reading shoe and automated betting also increases handle and game security while reducing labor and operating costs. The i-Table also provides operators with access to detailed table game data never before available on live games, making it easy for operators to stay on top of pit activity from a central pit monitor. Real-time information includes accurate buy-in and cash-out information, actual win/loss, as well as a complete record of all player decisions.
The platform also provides casinos with a new level of game versatility. Its integrated software and hardware configuration makes it easy to switch between traditional shoe-dealt games such as blackjack and baccarat to specialty games such as Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold ’em, as player demand dictates.
“This product represents the natural evolution of table games,” said one judge.
Another said, “I would recommend this to casino operations because this product provides a way to better manage table games in an effective new way.”
Pick 'N Play Bingo and Slots-SPIELO/VIDEO KINGAn industry first, Pick ’N Play Bingo & Slots offers the ultimate integrated electronic bingo solution.
Spielo worked with Video King and the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation to develop this innovative product for the McPhillips Street Station and Club Regent Casinos in Manitoba. Pick ’N Play Bingo & Slots integrates Class III games, such as video reels, poker and keno, with a fully functioning bingo desk. Players have the ability to play full-screen bingo, full-screen Class III games or simultaneously play a Class III game and interact with a live bingo desk through a split screen, all at a single Atronic Harmony SLANT TOP station. The results are more gaming choices and enhanced entertainment value. The technology also provides operators an effective solution when managing two gaming systems under two different sets of regulations in a single venue.
Judges were impressed with the innovation.
“This could be a good product to develop bingo-only players into more profitable slot players,” one noted.
“The dual-purpose device has a strong market, especially in jurisdictions that impose limitations on Class III devices,” another judge commented. “The fact that the machine can serve as a Class II or Class III device with near seamless interchangeability is a huge advantage in terms of ROI per device.”
Slot Tournament Management System-STRATEGY9Strategy9’s Slot Tournament Management System is a Web-based application designed specifically for the administration of casino slot tournaments. The application has been designed and developed by Strategy9, based in Ontario, and has led to the successful production of numerous slot tournaments across North America.
The system is designed to increase efficiency and boost ROI through automation, rapid reporting and auditing, increased organization and error reduction.
Judges found this product intriguing and potentially very useful for many casinos.
One likened the system to a Swiss Army knife, with just enough tools to be helpful.
“I would definitely recommend this product. It would make it so much more efficient to run slot tournaments so we could do them more frequently,” a judge commented.
“The Slot Tournament Management System could be the figurative church key to opening up more effective and efficient slot tournaments,” was another comment.
Another judge said, “The product provides automation and features that take slot tournaments out of the dark ages. This makes the tournament much more viable and professional.”
TouchTable MultiPLAY Roulette-TCSJOHNHUXLEYTouchTable MultiPLAY Roulette is an innovative hybrid combining a live dealer and wheel with electronic touch-screen elements. It appeals to both traditional live game players as well as slots/electronic multi-game players.
Available in configurations that include seven-player single, 14-player double or 21-player triple table formats, MultiPLAY generates substantial operational benefits by serving multiple player positions from a single live wheel and croupier. Unlike other touch-screen systems, it can identify individual players and their specific bets. All chip handling, winnings calculations and payouts are fully automated. This delivers total game security, reduces costs and substantially increases games played per hour.
It also features new Touch ID technology, which has patents pending worldwide.
Judges found TouchPlay very appealing, with one calling it a “clean, elegant” solution.
“This is the most intriguing product I’ve seen in a long time. I’d love to put it on trial,” a judge said. “This set-up offers the authenticity and personality of the live croupier with the efficiency of automation … almost the perfect hybrid,” another commented.
“This hybrid approach will appeal to both traditional roulette players and electronic game players,” noted a third judge.
Reel 'em In! Compete to Win!-WMS GAMINGReel ’em In! Compete to Win! combines two previously separate product categories from WMS - Adaptive Gaming and Community Gaming. Additionally, it uses leader boards to publicly recognize players’ bonus accomplishments. It also features an overhead display where competitive community bonuses play out on two 52-inch, high-definition monitors.
With Reel ’em In! Compete to Win! every community bonus is competitive; all players on a bank can play against each other. It allows players, through a unique log-in, to keep track of their bonus earnings at all casinos nationwide and also publicly recognizes players through leader boards for their bonus wins, an industry first.
Our judges were blown away by this game.
“The game has elements of acknowledgement (and resulting jealousy), and the ability to take the scores with them is just awesome,” said one.
“This is the kind of device that captures the spirit of gaming,” said another. “The innovation of taking the score plays right into the gambler’s psyche. Plus, it gives a tremendous incentive to be loyal to that game.”
Another noted, “You have added big fun elements to the game that will incent players to play longer and want to play again and again.”
Ultra Hit Progressive-WMS GAMINGUltra Hit Progressive allows a progressive to operate on a large number of both mechanical and video base themes, which can be remotely configured to allow complete ease of transition between game themes as well as progressive themes across entire banks of slot machines.
Ultra Hit is a progressive jackpot with a random element that allocates a higher chance of winning to players who bet more. It visually shows players when a jackpot is close to being awarded, not just in the signage, but on the player’s own game screen - another WMS first.
In addition, both the Ultra Hit and base themes can be downloaded and swapped out remotely without a technician ever opening an EGM. It offers more themes - on top of the vast number of video and mechanical game titles that will be compatible with it - and new media packages, provided at no charge, to keep the banks fresh. In “Jackpot Explosion,” the first theme to be offered, lava rises up the screen as more credits are played. As the progressive trigger is approached, the higher the lava level, the stronger the visuals and the louder the ambient sound, until the inevitable eruption of the big win.
Judges were impressed with Ultra Hit Progressive, citing the ease of implementation and flexibility, the visual triggers for players on the jackpot screen and the fact that each player’s screen is alerted when a jackpot is close to being awarded.
POWERBALL Power Seat-WMS GAMINGPOWERBALL Power Seat represents a brand new experience for the community gaming slot player and builds on the success of WMS’ Big Event series.
In POWERBALL Power Seat WMS has enhanced its popular Community Gaming category with the addition of the innovative Power Seat, which randomly awards one eligible player on the bank a multiplier of up to 10 when the entire bank enters a community bonus round. The Power Seat machine randomly triggers the community bonus for the rest of the bank, and a bonus multiplier is applied in addition to the eligible player’s POWERBALL Power Seat multiplier, creating larger prizes.
Four new community bonuses are available: Mystery Spin, Tire Pump, Matrix and Super Shot. Super Shot is the industry’s first bonus round driven by a real-time physics engine, creating an exciting bonus round like nothing on the slot floor. The POWERBALL character climbs into a giant cannon and is shot across a landscape, where he interacts with the environment based on the angle and velocity with which he is shot. The farther the character travels, the more credits each eligible player on the bank is awarded.
Judges were smitten with this product.
“This is a gambler’s gamble,” said one. “[This] is a product for the Pong/Atari and Wii/iPod generation, and to borrow an old person’s term, has a smidge of moxie.”
Said another, “This game is innovative because it seems that it was not [just] designed for the tired sweet spot demographic of 55-year-old women. To freshen up the gaming floor, more interactive and, frankly, fun games are going to have to be produced.”
BLUEBIRD2-WMS GAMINGWMS’ BLUEBIRD2 cabinet is a fully digital platform that allows for rich content now as well as all aspects of server-based gaming as it becomes a reality.
It contains dual high-definition screens, powerful graphics, a programmable and downloadable button panel, Bose speakers, a slimmer profile, and many more features that innovate the award-winning BLUEBIRD line.
All mechanical BLUEBIRD2 cabinets come with Transmissive Reels technology.
The judges cited BLUEBIRD2’s clear upgrade path to remote configuration, theme download and multigame capabilities.
“In the race to server-based gaming this cabinet will be deployed along with other manufacturers’ cabinets,” one judge said.
BLUEBIRD2’s “ergonomic design and the ability to switch out games makes this product stand out,” another judge commented. “With the aging populace, and a desire to have longer time on device by players, ergonomics is going to play a greater role in machine design.”