Duff Taylor, director of slot operations, Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino, Pojoaque, N.M.:
We’ve seen the industry has migrated so much on so many fronts, multi-denom, etc. [so] I think we’re at the stage where it’s just a matter of time. Presentation to the public, how we present it to our players, is going to be important.
[At Buffalo Thunder, which opens in August], we did a 100 percent networked floor. While we’re not opening with it, we will be ready. Our basic computer infrastructure is in place. We wanted to lay the groundwork so we wouldn’t be outdated. We just knew going in we wanted to be ready. We’re also gifted in that we’re opening with all new games. Frankly, we’re going to have one of the industry’s most modern floors. It’s going to be very, very exciting. Right now for the moment, the existing piece that’s maybe the transition piece is the community gaming. It’s migrating from that to individual bonuses. The more you can personalize the experience to the player’s likes and needs, the more the player will have loyalty for the future.
Jay Fennel, principal with PFIE Gaming and Consulting, Las Vegas, Nev.:
I do believe that we are at a turning or tipping point with server-based gaming with regard to the technological aspect only. I believe that the standard server-based “party line” that we will have SB in three to five years is coming to reality as the technology is becoming standardized and available. It is much different today than the first cycle of information three to five years ago.
The big question now is what functionality will be available in the short term and long term. Will operators have a full-blown SB system with full marketing functionality available to them in the near future? I don’t believe so as the marketing aspects still need to be developed and market-tested. Will the basic functionality such as option changes and basic theme changes be available in the short term? Yes, both the MGM Mirage CityCenter project and Station’s Aliante project will open with the basic option functionality. Most operators will not add full-blown marketing modules when they become available to their entire floors until they can be tested and proven.
I would like to see the manufacturers offer smaller bank level SB systems so operators can add pockets of different marketing modules and test what works and what does not without committing your whole floor. With a small bank, the operators can better communicate what the marketing piece is and mitigate the feedback to better develop the product. Great examples of small early SB banks are the WMS Big Event Monopoly games. The main concept of community gaming was featured on this bank, and the guests understood what was happening and loved it. Would you get this same response on an entire floor? Where I don’t believe the industry has reached a tipping point is with regard to the business model. What will all of this cost? What costs incurred today will be replacing by new costs or added to the existing costs. This is going to be the toughest aspect of the whole SB package and how the industry moves forward.
Gregg Solomon, chief executive officer, Detroit Entertainment LLC, which owns and operates MotorCity Casino, Detroit, Mich.:
I’m encouraged in that for the first time in all this discussion [of server-based gaming] there’s a machine you can go out and buy, and it’s not cheap, I think it’s $20,000, but if it works the way I think it will, then you’d recover that $20,000 very quickly.
IGT has come up with a machine that looks like a really good idea. It has the service window. And it has an LCD for the top glass that is just a pay table that only changes when it’s logical to do so. It has a wide touch-screen interface that continually changes based on what you’re doing. If you change the denom, the pay table changes accordingly. You can select a single progressive, and the old-style red dot-matrix single progressive meter pops up. If you opt in to play the progressive, the progressive will appear. The optional LCD REELdepth multi-level display is actually two LCDs screens sandwiched together to make a very convincing 3-D reel-spinner representation.
All of these things combined are starting to make sense for a server-based world. The whole idea of server-based gaming with a compelling machine that can attach to the system is really what it’s going to take. It can’t be the same old, same old.”
Jerry Roed, director of slot operations, Ellis Island Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nev.:
I’ve talked to a lot of people, and most of the people I’ve discussed it with are really interested to see. I think G2E is going to be super-interesting. I think the true test for Las Vegas is whatever we read about and see here at CityCenter. I think it’s going to come. Everybody in this industry is just waiting for a place to try it out and see how it works.