Innovation never rests, even in the midst of a prolonged economic recession. Indeed, a depressed business environment often leads to pioneering technological invention as the emphasis shifts from short-term gain to long-term viability and growth. The gaming industry is no different.



John Acres

ACRES 4.0



What: Games and systems for slot machines

Where: Las Vegas

Who: John Acres, founder

Gaming legend John Acres has pioneered such innovations as player-tracking, progressive jackpots and bonusing systems. His goal for his latest company, Acres 4.0, is no less ambitious - a technological synthesis that aims to totally reconfigure slot gaming as we know it.

“Casino operators and slot manufacturers have to fundamentally change the way they do business,” says Acres, who blames gaming’s recent economic woes on an overabundance of slot machines, a stagnating player base, the high cost of play and the random volatility of modern machines. “We need to increase the emotional gratification a player gets at the casino while lowering overall price to play games.”

His answer - a property-wide systems solution he’s christened The Experience Matrix.

In theory, a property using The Experience Matrix can lower the pay-back percentages on slot machines since perceived shortfalls in payouts will be offset by more accurate and timely bonusing. To further save money while increasing functionality, the system is designed to run on iPads and other personal computing devices instead of conventional slot devices.

“A new slot machine costs $16,000; a new iPad is $499,” Acres notes. “The best way to modify slot floor equipment is by using consumer devices, which are good and cheap now and will be better and less expensive in the future.”

Acres estimates full implementation of The Experience Matrix is two to three years away, but the iPad gaming component is already in use at some California casinos. He expects the first sale of a full Experience Matrix system to take place in early 2011.



One of A Game Marketing's new promotions

AGAME MARKETING


What: Customized marketing and promotional campaigns

Where: Dallas

Who: Bobby Brian, CEO Sheila Murphy Brian, president

In a cookie-cutter world, AGame Marketing seeks to carve a space by offering customized campaigns that take full advantage of today’s transformative communication technologies.

“Our core offering is marketing and promotions for casinos that are unique and innovative; our niche is offering project-by-project services based on the casinos’ specific needs at a specific time,” says Sheila Murphy Brian, president of Dallas-based AGame Marketing, which she co-founded with CEO Bobby Brian this past March. “We listen to the customer, thoroughly understand their needs and then create marketing solutions and products that best meet these objectives.”

An example is the “Cha-Ching a Million” players club promotion AGame developed for Isle of Capri Casinos. The promotion offers patrons a chance at a $1 million spin on a 7-foot-tall slot machine, if they join the players club and swipe their cards at the machine, which captures their information and opt-in approval for direct-mail and e-mail marketing. AGame also produced a video of the event that ran on Isle of Capri’s corporate Web site and on YouTube.

AGame also offers expertise in VIP marketing, social networking, advertising/creative services, data base marketing, brand creation, event marketing and Internet marketing.



An Automated Game Technology product

AUTOMATED GAMING TECHNOLOGY



BET TRACKER



Table game side bets are among the products offered by Gaming Network

GAMING NETWORK



Incredible Technologies's Magic Touch

INCREDIBLE TECHNOLOGIES



Leap Forward Gaming's "wireless ecosystem"

LEAP FORWARD GAMING


What: Game content and systems

Where: Reno, Nev.

Who: Ali Saffari, founder and CEO

Ali Saffari’s hand-picked team at Leap Forward Gaming has developed a cutting-edge “wireless ecosystem” that promises to revolutionize how gaming devices, peripherals, wide-area progressives, player-tracking systems and server-based systems communicate and interact - across a casino floor or across multiple site locations.

SaffariNet, as the system is called, delivers unparalleled secure, adaptable communications without traditional cables, wires and connectors. Moreover, it isn’t dependent on wireless “hot spots,” but rather employs a patented coverage technology, ensuring communications are never dropped. Additionally, it allows operators and manufacturers to maintain separate communication networks if they choose.

“This is going to be revolutionary,” says founder and CEO Ali Saffari, the famed IGT engineering leader behind Megabucks, integrated bill validators, ticket-in/ticket-out and EZ Pay. “What we’re hearing from the industry is, ‘We needed this. Where have you been?’ Others have wanted to get to the point where we are, but lacked the means to do it.”

Players aren’t being left out either. SaffariNet will incorporate applications for delivering an array of communications to smart phones, notepads and other personal devices: including special offers and promotions and other unique content.

SaffariNet will be ready for rollout in the spring with submissions and field trials in several markets. Leap Forward, in the meantime, continues working with operators and manufacturers across the industry on game content, systems and product enhancements, and to date has concluded strategic alliances with JCM Global, TransAct and Shuffle Master to provide next-generation technologies to bring their respective capabilities to new levels.

Says Saffari, “We want to be a service provider to everyone.”



RADICAL BLUE GAMING



What: G2S, S2S development, testing and troubleshooting

Where: Reno, Nev.

Who: Omey Nandyal, Russ Ristine, Marty Wegner, co-founders

Few would argue that the slot floor of the future will rely heavily on Game-to-System (G2S) and System-to-System (S2S) protocols to provide the immersive experiences desired by a new generation of computer- and social network-savvy players. Radical Blue Gaming plans to be at the nexus of this transformation with an array of critical tools for the development, testing and maintenance of tomorrow’s gaming floors.

The company’s stable of products includes RadBlue System Tester, RadBlue G2S Scope and RadBlue S2S Simulator, which help game developers understand and implement Gaming Standard Association protocols, and devices such as RadBlue Protocol Analyzer and RadBlue Analysis Suite, which test and harden new applications to make them ready for real-world use.

“What we offer our customers is expertise and efficiency that saves them money by helping them accomplish their goals with an eye toward future innovation,” co-founder Russ Ristine says. “Whether it’s helping to improve a G2S implementation with our test tools, helping a manufacturer or casino troubleshoot their G2S floor in real-time with RPA, or advising casinos on the most efficient way to move to an open-standard, high-speed slot floor, our goal is to give our customers the tools they need to succeed in the world of next-generation gaming.”

The word is spreading too. RadBlue products are now used by such leading manufacturers as IGT, Aristocrat, Bally and WMS. Operator clients include no less than Isle of Capri Casinos, Kerzner International and Lotto-Quebec.



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REEL-TV


What: Direct-to-device advertising

Where: Las Vegas

Who: Keith Atkinson, principal

Reel-TV made a splash this past May when it debuted a new server-based system that allows casino operators to display advertising and promotions on the video service windows of idle slot machines. The Palms in Las Vegas was the first to bite on this cutting-edge technology, dedicating its entire slot floor to the system and quickly garnering ads from Toyota, MillerCoors, Corona, Jägermeister and Captain Morgan.

“We’re essentially turning the slot into an interactive platform for the customers,” says Keith Atkinson, who founded Reel-TV in 2009.

But advertising is only the first of many functionalities Reel-TV plans to bring. The next step, Slot Concierge, was unveiled last month at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. A “double-tap” at a designated spot on a slot machine’s service window will open up Slot Concierge, which will offer an array of customer services - the ability to order drinks from the bar, make dinner reservation at a restaurant, order show tickets, contact valet parking, and more. It also produces bar-coded coupons through slot machine ticket printers, a feature that allows properties to create and target effective promotions. And the platform is agnostic, capable of operating on any slot, no matter the manufacturer.

“Every casino wants something like this to develop loyalty,” says Atkinson. “That is the primary goal for this product - to establish a reason to keep the customer coming back to the casino.”



STADIUM TECHNOLOGY GROUP