Casino Journal's TOP 20 Most Innovative Gaming
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 next level.
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 4.0Slide Ways is actually two games in one; the first game is one of skill and pays off with entertainment scores. The second is a game of chance that rewards winners with cash. Each time a player makes a skill-based move, the gambling game is automatically initiated and the price of a wager is charged. By keeping the two games separate (a patent-pending concept), players enjoy skillful play and luck-based gambling.
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 4.0The A4 Platform combines modern server technology with low-cost consumer electronics, a system that includes player tracking, cashless wagering, bonusing and games is accomplished with lower cost and greater power than traditional systems. All game decisions, accounting, player tracking and wagering accounts are held within a central server. Players interact through low-cost interface terminals that instantly gather player identity and wager information and send it to the central server where the game outcome is determined and instantly returned to the player terminal for display.
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 TECHNOLOGIESNteractiv LCD Programmable buttons are Aristocrat’s solution for downloadable and server-based product offerings, providing a button panel enabling quick and easy game downloads.
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 AMERICAAruze Gaming’s King of Dragons uses an innovative design to present a bonus style video game in stepper form by delivering more engaging graphics, sounds, reel spins and player interaction. This five-reel stepper machine includes an interactive 19-inch touch LCD screen in the top box and has larger than usual reels (280 mm in diameter) with seven different LED lights implemented behind, above and below the reel strips. These large reels allow for various actions with speeds, sounds, colors and even spin direction, spinning up to 200 RPM. The effects of these reels, mixed with a video bonus game, give players a more entertaining experience.
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 AMERICAAruze Gaming’s Paradise Fishing is designed to offer an exciting, engaging experience that is fun to play. It features innovative Reel Feel Technology that offers players a more fun and interactive experience with the appearance of control over catching fish for credits in bonus features. Paradise Fishing’s new Reel Feel Technology is an innovative way to offer players perceived control. Players actually have control over the movement of the lure by moving the controller, which mimics a fishing rod, back and forth. The game simulates fish being attracted to the hook as players move the rod. Once a fish is caught during a feature, the rod then reacts to the fish’s movements as well, making for a unique real-feel experience for the player.
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 INSTRUMENTSAutomated Currency Instruments’ Player Enrollment Kiosk (PEK) is a way for the casinos to streamline the Player Club self-enrollment or card replacement. This concept allows casinos to have patrons move to the gaming floor quicker. The PEK Kiosk has the ability to integrate with strategic marketing initiatives and promotional activities. The kiosk may be tailored to have patrons visit certain areas during their stay through videos or promote upcoming events at the casino.
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 TECHNOLOGIESBally Technologies’ new chip-recognition product provides casino operators with the ability to identify the value of chips being wagered on gaming tables. Using optical bet recognition software, Bally’s technology is able to view the gaming chips, distinguish between various denominations, and perform an automated count on the chips through two cameras and a button or card-activated switch mounted on each table.
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 TECHNOLOGIESBally Technologies’ Code Red is a highly innovative, fully integrated gaming machine featuring a first-of-its-kind 20-inch “curved” LCD display. Code Red looks, feels, and plays like a traditional reel spinning slot – but is really a video. It uses Bally’s proprietary ALPHA 2 game electronics housed in the Pro Series Upright V22/22 cabinet, and offers a number of interactive features currently only seen in video games.
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 TECHNOLOGIESBally Technologies’ iDeck interactive touch-screen button deck turns the point of physical contact between the player and the gaming device into an interactive channel – effectively creating a fourth video screen and delivering a powerfully immersive play experience. When new game content is installed, iDeck instantly changes to match – operators will never need to change a button deck again. In addition, the iDeck adapts to display unique bonus events, including virtual wheels and much more. As the level of immersion increases, players will explore new dimensions in multi-touch skill-based bonus games, mini-games, virtual shooting galleries; indeed anything is possible with iDeck.
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 TECHNOLOGIESBally Technologies’ Service Tracking Manager is a browser-based dispatch system that dramatically enhances customer care by guaranteeing the nearest attendant responds to various guest requests.
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.This anti-fraud solution for online gaming checks against a knowledge base of more than 500 million devices from every country in the world. It delivers a device reputation, exposing negative behaviors and connections, and allowing gaming sites to stop criminals before they strike. Investigative tools further catch crooks by spotting characteristics consistent with fraud, even on a previously unknown device.
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 GAMESMultimedia Games’ Side Action software allows patrons to play two or more totally different games at the same time on one machine and with the push of one button. The first video slot game to showcase this innovation is Side Action Poker, where the player can play stud poker and a spinning reel game at the same time.
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 ADVANTAGEResort Advantage’s Real-Time SSN/OFAC/DML Verification Integrated with IRS Forms eFiling gives the property cage and floor staff the ability to instantly and automatically verify a patron’s key regulatory forms processing data elements in real-time prior to generating IRS forms. This can help ensure that e-filings will be as accurate as possible prior to the patron leaving the property. This product results in the virtual elimination of end-of-year B-Notices and potential fines for incorrect or incomplete forms submission.
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 ADVANTAGEResort Advantage’s Slots Jackpot Accelerator provides gaming properties with a single, quick and simple tool that front-ends all of the related business process regulatory requirements for completing a slot jackpot payout. Using mobile tablet technology, the product brings the entire jackpot payout process to the patron while they are at the gaming machine: from patron information verification, to IRS forms processing, to jackpot ticket processing, to BSA compliance requirements. The result is an efficient business process that gets patrons back onto the gaming floor as quickly as possible dramatically increasing revenues for the property.
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 NETWORKSThe SAFETY NET system guarantees the age and identity of a player, allows money and time limit setting by gamblers, delivers truly effective self-exclusion capabilities, eliminates minor age gambling, and also eliminates card sharing by casino loyalty program members. These functionalities result in increased levels of responsible gambling, reduced overheads and legal risks associated with gaming venue supervision of minors and self-excluded problem gamblers, and therefore encourage government expansion of safer gambling across newer channels of distribution e.g. internet and self-serve kiosks.
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- WMSWMS’ new approach to cabinet and game design – Experience Design – is centered on the entire player experience and how the player interacts with the cabinet and the game content, how the cabinet and game can interact with each other to enhance the player experience as well as how the cabinet and game can help the player celebrate their big wins. For the first time ever, the gaming cabinet and game content are fully interactive, with immersive sound packages, 3-D graphics and emotive lighting packages creating an experience that goes beyond the gaming cabinet and out onto the casino floor.
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.”
Metascreen- WMSMetascreen takes the dynamic experience of WMS’ Portal Application Suite to the next level with a competitive update of WMS’ Community Gaming foundational technology platform. Debuting with Pirate Battle, Metascreen aims to enhance the communal experience by offering a large top box screen for a variety of purposes including competitive bonus rounds and win celebration. Offered on WMS’ new Bluebird xD gaming cabinet, Metascreen takes the special 32-inch overhead monitors on each of the four unit bank’s machines and links them together to create a massive, singular screen that is intended to bring the rest of the casino enterprise into the excitement of the community bonus rounds by using WMS’ Experience Design elements, including emotive lighting packages that catch the eyes of players across the casino floor.
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- WMSWMS’ Player’s Life Web Services, the natural extension of the company’s player-popular Adaptive Gaming platform, has enjoyed significant success in its initial rollout to casino floors, demonstrating that WMS’ player-centric focus continues to evolve the gaming industry. The product’s first implementation in The Lord of the Rings drew unique new logins that far outpaced initial sign-ups for the company’s earlier Adaptive Gaming products and WMS has found that many players creating logins on the Web Services platform are visiting a casino to play the game.
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- WMSWMS’ Portal Application families are designed to deliver new dynamic player entertainment experiences while providing operators with new and enhanced revenue generation and business efficiency opportunities.
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.”