If the casino industry is in the midst of a prolonged economic slump, you wouldn’t know it from crowd gathered at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E), which took place last month at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. The four day event attracted thousands of gaming industry professionals who came to attend sessions, schmooze and visits hundreds of exhibitor booths offering the latest in gaming products, technologies and services.
The mood at this year’s G2E was generally upbeat. A survey of 1,150 event attendees found that 77 percent felt positive about where the casino gaming industry was headed in 2012. Roughly 80 percent believed that the gaming company they work for will be stronger in 2012, and 76 percent said that they are not concerned about their future employment situation. The sessions appeared to reflect this optimism, with many concentrating on the myriad of expansion and growth opportunities for the industry in emerging domestic markets such as Massachusetts, New York and Florida, overseas in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam and in evolving technologies such as the Internet and social media.
Still, if asked, most G2E visitors would admit that they were there primarily to see the sights and sound of the gaming industry’s largest trade show floor. Like most G2E attendees, I wore out the soles of my shoes walking the floor and sampling the latest wares from slot and non-slot producers alike. What follows are some of the booths and products that made me slow down and take notice.
SLOTS O' FUNAs usual, the trade show crowd tended to congregate around the booths of the better-known slot manufacturers. Few companies had a bigger presence on the floor than International Game Technology (IGT), which used every inch of space to showcase its latest game themes. Among the pop culture titles showcased at the booth were Sex and The City Fabulous, Ghostbusters Who Ya Gonna Call, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Joker’s Heist and The Twilight Zone in 3D.
In honor of the 55th anniversary of Elvis’s first number one record, IGT unveiled Elvis The King Multi-Level Progressives, which connected familiar Elvis Presley songs such as Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog and the Viva Las Vegas to winning bonus rounds.
Judging from the long line of people waiting to play it, IGT’s most popular G2E debut was Big Buck Hunter Pro, a slot styled after one of America’s most popular arcade-style hunting games. The game features an innovative mechanical gun that was used during a shooting bonus on a 55-inch Center Stage screen.
Bally Technologies also had a substantial footprint on the G2E show floor. Like IGT, one of its slots centered on a beloved deceased pop star, in this case Michael Jackson. Bally’s Michael Jackson King of Pop is a music-filled game on its new Pro Series V22/32 cabinet with a custom, professional Pro Series surround-sound chair. A free games bonus event features Jackson’s most popular songs including Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, Billie Jean, Beat It, and Smooth Criminal, highlighted by the U-Spin Platinum Record Bonus.
Especially popular at Bally’s booth was Skee-Ball, a new game mechanic based on the tried-and-true arcade game. Housed in a Pro V32 cabinet, the game features a bonus round in which players touch and slide to “bowl” the Skee-Ball, winning “tickets” that enable them to “pick a prize” on the game that reveals credit awards.
Not to be outdone, Multimedia Games used G2E to launch its first-ever premium participation products. The new games were designed for the company’s High Rise Games cabinet which features one of the industry’s largest top boxes; a vertically oriented 37-inch LCD screen that Multimedia claims eliminates overhead signage and creates new possibilities for gaming action. Perhaps the most visually arresting of the five new progressive concepts was White Hot Progressive, a nine-reel, 32-line video game in which a burning fire displayed under progressive awards that grows increasingly brighter and more animated as jackpot amounts get higher and higher.
Visitors to WMS Gaming’s booth likely noticed the company’s emphasis on large, multi-player game formats. One such standout was THE WIZARD OF OZ Journey to Oz, a game featuring Collaborative Gaming technology, surround sound gaming chairs, a wide-area progressive, a base game mini-wheel and a large community video spinning wheel on dual 52-inch overhead screens for unique Bigger Event bonus round action. Other games utilizing this platform were BATTLESHIP and CLUE.
Equally interesting was Aladdin & The Magic Quest, the first game planned for WMS’ new Sensory Immersion 2.0 technology platform. The slot offers a virtual-reality magic carpet ride that features emotive lighting and a motion seat system with player selectable movement.
Lottomatica subsidiaries Atronic and Spielo used G2E as a platform to announce a new, merged entity called Spielo International. The combined companies displayed quite a few wares at the show, including DEAL OR NO DEAL Join’N Play, a community game based on the popular television show. Equally noticeable was King Kong Passion Slots 3-Reel, thanks largely to its fourth reel King Kong Bonus, where players climb up the winding Pyramid Platform Bonus and enter various Pick-a-Prize bonuses with the goal of reaching the top and rescuing the damsel in distress. TournaMaster and its ability to switch from a main game to a tournament with the push of a button drew admiring crowds as did Goldify, a new customizable game where players get to choose their own experience and volatility levels.
Spielo International was not the only company to announce a new branding initiative at G2E. AC Coin and Slot officially renamed itself ACS AC Slots and launched Axcess, a new slot platform, in celebration of the event. The top-of-the-line Axcess Premium features a 22-inch widescreen display with touch-enabled anti-glare video screens for better visibility in casino environments, eco-friendly LED edge lighting and a dynamic and fully programmable button panel.
Much like Spielo International and AC Slots, Aristocrat Technologies used G2E to highlight recent company news from outside the show. To start, the company announced it had inked a contract with the soon-to-open Maryland Live! Casino that includes the complete range of Aristocrat’s Oasis 360 systems products and new online play-for-fun solution. The Oasis 360 system will cover all 4,750 devices on the casino’s full Ethernet casino floor. All devices will be enhanced with the nCompass media window and displays.
Aristocrat has also secured a major contract to bring its new online play-for-fun solution to tribal gaming for the first time. Aristocrat will be developing a complete virtual casino site for long-term Oasis 360 systems customer Island Resort Casino. The virtual casino will be live in Q2 2012.
Aristocrat also found time to showcase the latest titles from its Tarzan and Mission Impossible slot lines at G2E.
The Aruze Gaming America booth was dominated by its multi-machine Paradise Fishing and Amazon Fishing games. The G-LINK titles feature Reel Feel Gaming Technology, which puts the action of fishing in players’ hands, and three 60-inch LCD monitors with eye-popping graphics that stood out across the G2E show floor. As a new feature, players can now select their own bait to attract the types of fish they would like to catch according to their own style of play.
Cadillac Jack also displayed a number of new, graphically rich game titles such as Sultan’s Dancers, and Fiesta of Souls. These games feature the Hot Streak multiplier, which promote player engagement as they watch the multiplier grow with each winning spin.
A MATTER OF DISTINCTIONInnovation from major slot suppliers was only part of the attraction on the G2E show floor. Non-slot companies also showcased their latest wares and cutting-edge products.
Among the standouts in this gaming market segment was Resort Advantage and its Slots Jackpot Accelerator, a mobile jackpot payout processing solution. Slots Jackpot Accelerator provides gaming properties with a single, easy-to-use tool that “frontends” all of the related business process regulatory requirements for completing a slot jackpot payout.
Using wireless touch-screen tablet technology, Slots Jackpot Accelerator dramatically expedites the jackpot payout business process, from patron information verification, to IRS forms processing, to BSA compliance requirements. The end-goal of this technology: get the winning customer through the forms approval process and back out to the gaming floor as quickly as possible.
The Slots Jackpot Accelerator solution facilitates a streamlined business process that integrates all of the property’s business systems into one simple wizard interface. The wizard quickly leads the casino slot attendant through the required information gathering steps in the payout process.
Slots Jackpot Accelerator stores all forms and jackpot documents online for secure retrieval within a patron’s historical records providing instant visibility to operations activity. The result is the routine enforcement and complete auditability of the property’s business rules and reporting requirements for all carded, uncarded, and high limit patrons regardless of jackpot amount, denomination, or jackpot type.
Other companies that showcased new or improved products that stood out at G2E included:
• Glory USA, a New Jersey-based cash management solutions provider, unveiled its RBG-300 cash recycler incorporating new intelligent cash management technology. The RBG-300 is designed to be installed in back offices and connected online to the financial institution’s network to process deposits and dispense notes for change funds. The device features Glory’s innovative cash room management software, which handles cash, coin and all media in a single location saving processing time.
• DigiDeal Corporation showcased a number of new functionalities to its core products, such as the L2V (Live to Virtual) version of its DTS - V (Digital Table System) game. According to company literature, the L2V edition packages a slew of options only now available in a single product. With the L2V e-table, operators can use traditional live cards or virtual cards. L2V can be configured for a variety of third-party, card scanning shoes or be quickly converted to all-virtual table play. The L2V can also be a single hosted table, auto hosted in connection with other tables or in AFT jurisdictions L2V table can be switched to fully automated play.
• MEI displayed SC Advance, the next generation of its Cashflow SC bill acceptor. SC Advance offers increased value via the following enhancements: an improved recognition system, which provides proactive security by utilizing transmissive sensors to see all the way through notes in multiple wavelengths; faster bill-to-bill speed, which upgrades the player experience and speeds up transactions to expand throughput; and expanded memory, which limits part numbers and submissions by allowing more notes to be recognized in a specific release of firmware.
• Cummins-Allison, a currency and coin handling solutions provider, introduced the JetScan iFX i400 multi-pocket currency sorter. The i400 is a flexible and user-configurable multi-pocket sorter that comes with a base of three pockets but can easily be expanded up to nine pockets in a space-saving vertical configuration; effectively providing a high-volume, multi-pocket sorter in a footprint barely larger than a desktop sorter.
• Within the casino industry, Cintas Corporation in primarily known for uniforms. At this year’s G2E, the company introduced a tile and carpet deep cleaning service. The service uses a patent-pending high-pressure steam system to remove dirt and deep clean a variety of carpeted and hard-surface floor coverings in hotels and gaming facilities. According to company literature, the four-step deep cleaning process enables organizations to extend the life of their flooring with a regular maintenance program that assists in revitalizing floor conditions.