Many small- and mid-size gaming equipment manufacturers also made news in 2011. Here’s a rundown of some of these companies that bear watching in 2012

The gaming industry is no different from other businesses in that the larger suppliers of the best-earning products tend to get most of the user/operator attention. Almost always, this notice is warranted and, indeed, it was a great year for many of the gaming industry’s largest slot vendors, with companies such as International Game Technology, Bally Technologies, WMS Gaming, Aristocrat Technologies and others introducing new and improved products and systems and announcing important, large-scale contract wins with operators.

Lost in this wash is the fact that many small- and mid-size gaming equipment manufacturers also made news in 2011; through introduction of new technologies or product lines, by restructuring or rebranding, or by securing game changing contracts with casinos. Here’s a rundown of some of these companies that bear watching in 2012.

Dandy Dan the Ice Cream Man

Arlington Heights, Ill.

With the average age of the casino patron hovering somewhere in the mid-50s, few would argue that for gaming facilities to prosper going forward, ways need to be found to bring younger clientele though the doors and onto the slot floors. Incredible Technologies may provide part of the solution to this dilemma.

Formed in 1985, Incredible Technologies has made its bones as an innovator in the coin-operated video gaming space. Over the past six years, the company has brought the arcade-style game concepts it honed as a video amusement producer to the casino slot floor through its Magic Touch Innovation Collection and Magic Touch Traditional Collection of Class III video slot, poker and keno gaming machines.

According to company literature, the Magic Touch lines represent nearly five years of research and development to produce designs that grab new players with modern gaming technologies yet appeal to experts with classic casino traditions and easy-to-understand game play. The breadth of this growing line was on display at this year’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E), where the company featured 50 cabinets to showcase dozens of new titles such as Family Vacation, Rollin’ on Route 66, Neon City Casino, King of Bling and Dandy Dan the Ice Cream Man. IT also launched follow up titles in its Sidewinder Reels and popular Angle Pay technologies with All Mixed Up and Mahjong Dynasty. Goat Cheese and Nautica, the first titles from its partnership with slot development studio GC2, were also at G2E. The company also found the time to introduce a new version of its Upper Hand Hold’Em video poker game.

“We worked very hard to have a deep catalog, because that was the concern people had about us,” Incredible Technologies CEO Elaine Hodgson told the Chicago Post-Tribune. “‘Oh, yeah, you have a few games, but are you in this to stay; can you keep supporting a unit on the floor?’ So the last year was about deep catalog. We’re showing that we can do it.”

The fact Incredible Technologies secured gaming licenses in Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana and Wisconsin over the past year is further proof the company wants to become a permanent players in the slot market. The company also forged a distribution agreement with Asia Power Entertainment to bring its Magic Touch lines to the Macau market.

On tap for Incredible Technologies 2012-a much-anticipated entry into the Las Vegas market. The company is currently in the process of securing a Nevada gaming license.

Axcess slot line

Pleasantville, N.J.

For the past 33 years, AC Slots (formerly AC Coin & Slot) has carved a profitable niche as the Atlantic City and Caribbean distributor of International Game Technology (IGT) products and as a manufacturer of gaming machines that use IGT operating systems, which it sold to casinos across the U.S. and around the world.

This year, the company decided to leave its comfort zone and forge its own identity in the gaming space by buying out its contract with IGT and re-launching as AC Slots (which it will eventually shorten further to just ACS).

“This is huge -the handcuffs are off,” Aimee Schultz, marketing director for AC Slots told the Press of Atlantic City. “We are now a full-fledged slots manufacturer.”

The fruits of this endeavor were showcased at this year’s Global Gaming Expo where AC Slots unveiled Axcess, its new slot machine line. The devices drew admiring reviews from some slot managers. “The new video and stepper cabinet from AC Slots looks promising,” said Frank Neborsky, vice president of slot operations for Mohegan Sun. “I liked the game mechanics, bonus features and the simplicity of the cabinet design.”

“AC Slots is differentiating themselves by cutting the bureaucracy and allowing content to flow from Internet-based applications,” added Paul Tjoumakaris, senior vice president of gaming operations for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. “They’re tapping into talent from the house-garage so to speak and positioning themselves to give something very unique to the industry. Their distribution infrastructure is also a big plus that will help them launch their new video product.”

Indeed, AC Slots has ambitious plans for its Axcess line, and is eyeing distribution in the Latin American and Asian marketplaces. “Every place there is gaming, we have people, sales and service,” Mac Seelig, president and CEO of AC Slots, told the Press. “Until about 10 years ago, the company was Atlantic City-centric. Now, we’re global and serve markets all over the United States.”

Spielo International featured its KITTY CASH progressive at the recent SAGSE show in Buenos Aires.

Las Vegas, Nev.

Since its purchase of Atronic in 2008, Italy-based gaming giant Lottomatica has debated the best way to fold the slot producer in with its other machine businesses, specifically Spielo, which Lottomatica inherited when it bought Gtech in 2006. This past year, the parent company decided the best way to handle the two units was the integrate them, and Spielo International was born.

“When you drill down to the core, [Atronic and Spielo] are essentially the same,” said Walter Bugno, president and CEO of the newly formed entity. “Both businesses were moderate in size; not necessarily large. And they were competing against some of the larger, more global businesses in the sector. As individual organizations, their biggest challenge was the ability to compete against the scale of larger competitors.”

Going forward, Spielo International will aim to develop a common platform and content parameters-the strengths or the former stand-alone units. “Those two areas were where we focused and, by combining, we’ve freed up resources from trying to lots of little things in individual markets, to harnessing this one consistent, common set of platforms for both content and technology,” Bugno said. “What we’ve allowed ourselves to do is to start investing in technology at a faster rate, and not being in catch-up mode, but being ready as the market and our customers demand it.”

Despite the new company moniker, the Spielo and Atronic brand names will survive and continue to be used-the former in distributed (lottery) markets and the later at commercial (casino) facilities.

“Atronic stays very much alive as one of our core commercial product brands,” Bugno said. “This integration is an opportunity for us to say, for the things that are common at the core, let’s do it once rather than twice, let’s do it on the same platform rather than on a separate platform, and then let’s customize at the tail end of the process for market segments. So we can still be focused, deliver solutions that target specific market segments, and recognize differences, while making our investment dollar go a lot further-and, as I like to say, ‘do more with same’”

In business since 1993, audit, cage, compliance and document management solution supplier New Wave Automation went all-in in 2011; and re-branded with a new name (NEWave), logo, Web site and leadership team, all to better represent and manage ongoing expansion and technological innovation, according to company literature.

“We conducted extensive research internally and externally, and we found that our company, especially with our new Professional Services organization, helps our clients with much more than ‘automation,’” said Bart Lewin, chief executive and technology officer for NEWave. “We studied the results of that research and decided that calling our company simply ‘NEWave’ fits our brand much better.”

The company came up with a new tagline to describe the new mission statement: “Creating innovative solutions together”

“This simple phrase clearly and concisely communicates exactly what the new NEWave does: we work with our customers to create solutions that best fit their unique needs,” said Claudia Winkler, who joined the company as senior vice president of professional services in March.

Since this announcement last spring, NEWave has unveiled a number of new offerings including myCloudSolutions, a Web-based delivery method for its products that gives casinos added security and boosts the bottom line, a new Web service to its popular Title 31 Software, and upgrades to many other components of its myCompliance Suite and Check Prove software. The company also sold its products and systems to CasaBlanca Resort and Virgin River Casino in Mesquite, Nev., River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, Okla., and Avi Resort & Casino in Laughlin, Nev.

And 2011 promises to be an even better year for NEWave, especially as casinos gear up to comply with coming changes in FinCEN regulations; a transition the company can make easier for its clients.

“We are moving exceedingly fast to update our myCompliance suite to accommodate all of the FinCEN changes to ensure they remain in compliance, without adding FTE expenses,” said NEWave COO Tom Bechtel. “Furthermore, our new SAR Manager program will gather data and submit the information automatically.”

Las Vegas, Nev.

The race and sports book usually takes up a small portion of total casino space and revenue. But that does not mean more profit can’t be derived from the area with technology and aesthetic upgrades. This is the mantra for Cantor Gaming, a provider of complete mobile gaming solutions that include proprietary wireless gaming systems, full back-office infrastructures and a portfolio of casino games. This past year saw the fruition of this strategy, with Cantor Gaming designed, developed and managed race and sports book either coming on line at some of Las Vegas largest and newest casino resorts including Tropicana Las Vegas, The Cosmopolitan, The Palazzo and The Venetian.

The core of the Cantor Gaming race and sports book offering is its In-Running wagering technology, which enables betting on live sporting events throughout the game. The company also offers the eDeck mobile gaming device, which allows patrons to wager on their favorite team outside of the sports book in pre-designated areas of the resort. When not wagering on sports or races, the device offers numerous casino-style games.

The company also upgrades the experience of race and sports betting by improving the physical space at the book. For example, the recently opened book at The Venetian features one of the world’s largest high definition 4-mm black video screens dedicated to multiple sports games and races. In addition, the state-of-the-art venue offers surround sound, a sleek design and a large number of wagering carrels.

“We are proud of [our latest] race and sports book,” said Lee M. Amaitis, president and chief executive officer of Cantor Gaming. “It’s absolutely revolutionary, showcasing a sleek and contemporary sports betting environment and offering patrons the most sophisticated experience on the Strip. Combining high-end, real-time technology and visual entertainment with a stunning design that includes marble flooring and our signature branding, our book is guaranteed to provide sports fans with the ultimate luxury sports wagering experience.”

Cantor Gaming already has race and sports book projects in the pipeline for 2012 including an installation at The Plaza Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. But with a number of jurisdictions contemplating casino-based sports wagering legislation, 2012 could prove to be another breakthrough year for the company.

Sabre terminal

Staffordshire, U.K.

In the world of European server-based wagering, Inspired Gaming stands tall as a provider of SBG systems and products for casino, VLT, bingo and sports betting markets as well as an operator of 50,000 participation games. This past year, the company decided to expand its SBG expertise beyond Europe and into the Asian, Latin American and U.S. markets.

In September, Inspired entered the China gaming market with Lucky Racing, a virtual sports wagering product it launched as a joint venture with Ladbrokes PLC and AGTech Holdings Limited. Lucky Racing is a rapid-draw fixed-odds game delivered on China’s National Sports Lottery platform, using random number generation to allow customers to bet on a 12 car virtual race over two laps of an oval race track. The game was approved by the PRC lottery regulator (Ministry of Finance of the PRC) earlier this year and is in 1,000 shops throughout the Hunan province.

Inspired Gaming also displayed for the first time at Global Gaming Expo this year, and while at the show announced it had inked a distribution deal with DigiDeal Corporation and TCSJOHNHUXLEY to supply Inspired’s server-based casino terminal Sabre with new HD electronic content for roulette and baccarat in specified regions of the U.S. According to company literature, Inspired’s slant top Sabre terminal incorporates a 26-inch widescreen with many unique features, including a HD primary display and second “Player Portal” screen for game results and analysis. The terminal is fully customizable and can be adapted to suit the design theme of any casino, with many high-end specifications available for luxury venues.

“Sabre is the perfect product for us to successfully launch Inspired to the U.S. market,” said Luke Alvarez, CEO of Inspired Gaming. “Exhibiting at G2E Vegas and signing two significant distribution deals with respected partners is an exciting position to be starting at.”

SUBHEAD: New to the game

Here’s a rundown of some of the new and established companies that entered the U.S. gaming industry this year:

•Joingo is a mobile and social technology company, based in San Jose, Calif., with a Mobile Application Platform and Mobile Loyalty System that is integrated as the central hub connecting customer relationship management (CRM) systems with robust mobile marketing application services. The Joingo mobile platform and system allows customers to incorporate their specific brand, as well as creating a mobile marketing system and messaging that provide gaming properties with the ability to connect with their valuable customers in real-time wherever they are and at any time, day or night. The product is in use at Jim Kelley’s Tahoe Nugget in Crystal Bay, Nev., and at Nevada Club Fortune in Henderson, Nev.

•TicketForce utilizes a powerful Web-based ticketing system to provide venues, promoters, festivals, arenas and civic centers with a fully-customizable solution for full-service ticketing and box office management. Facebook Ticketing, a social media ticket sales tool that TicketForce launched in January 2011, allows event venues, independent musicians, promoters, festivals, sporting events and event marketing professionals to sell tickets securely through their brand’s Facebook Fan Page. Gila River Casinos started using the service this past September.

• Quixant designs and manufactures computer platforms for slot machines that combine advanced hardware together with integrated operating software, gaming libraries and communication protocols. The U.K.-based company has established a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary and recently opened a Las Vegas office.

SIDEBAR: Product development

A number of vendors launched major new product lines in 2011. Here are some that caught our attention:

Automated Gaming Technologies’ COBRA is an advanced casino product solution for count room processing of slots, table games, ATM/slot ticket redemption devices, tills and cash deposits. The COBRA has several features that provide streamlined operator benefits, which includes the true continuous batch processing and utilizing patented “Header” / “Trailer” card technology to ensure the operator no transactions are comingled… FutureLogic’s PromoNet promotional couponing solution can be integrated with the company’s TITO gaming printers such as the GEN3 Evolution printer and GEN2 Universal printer. The PromoNet solution offers casinos the ability to create campaigns for both carded and non-carded players, and automatically trigger marketing campaigns based on real-time game play metrics, player tracking information…CDI’s Global Suite takes Casino Data Imaging’s leading edge data visualization program to the next level by harnessing the power of .NET and the Windows Presentation Foundation platform for multi-module (slots, table games, and player data) analysis. Global Suite leverages the latest advancements in data, report and graphics management to provide fast accurate information with high quality results… Glory USA’s RBG-300 cash recycler incorporates 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 launched its L2V (Live to Virtual) edition of its DTS (Digital Table System) product line. With the six-position L2V e-table, operators can use traditional live cards or virtual cards. L2V can be configured for third-party, card scanning shoes or be quickly converted to all-virtual table play… MLP Seating’s Stay and Play line features injection-molded multi-density foam that distributes thickness to conform to the shape of the body, denser in the middle of the seat and the seat back than along the edges. The line also comes with a “mesh-back” option-a more transparent and breathable fiber weave with virtually no pressure points… The E-Seek M310 is a wireless Windows CE 6.0-based computer that makes player signups quick and easy; simply insert a players’ driver’s license in the reader to start the signup process… BAM Software and Services’ BAM in a BOX is a self service gaming kiosk offering betting on horse racing and other games, in cooperation with licensed account wagering companies in regulated jurisdictions in the U.S… X2 Computing released GP101, a powerful new widescreen tablet PC specifically tailored for gaming applications. It combines an 8.9-inch high visibility touch display, high performance processing power and extended battery life to provide users with an enhanced gaming experience… Bettorlogic, creator of bet stimulation technologies, launched Nextbet, a tool which uses customer preference logic, combining performance data, customer data and details of their last bet, to offer additional, personalized bet propositions based on that selection.