Wide-scale server-based gaming deployment is still more than two years away, with both the price and the technology of the networks needing to improve before the casino industry embraces the systems, according to a survey of 250 slot operations personnel conducted by Slot Manager magazine and Clear Seas Research/BNP Media.

The survey, which took place in November prior to G2E, was conducted to identify slot trends in the industry and determine the types of slot-related products attendees sought at the upcoming show. In addition to server-based gaming questions, the online survey also asked Slot Manager readers for their opinions on common slot components and jackpot trends.

Not surprisingly, 84 percent of the respondents who said they planned on attending G2E were seeking information on slot machines, with 79 percent saying they were looking for new games. Slot systems-including server-based technology--were also on the top of many hit lists, with 64 percent saying they would look for them at the show. More than 40 percent said they would also look at marketing/promotions services, signage and various slot peripherals while at G2E. Rounding out the list of items to peruse were bill/coin acceptors (35 percent), table game facsimilies (32 percent), Class II machines (28 percent), surveillance products (24 percent), video lottery terminals (16 percent) and financial services hardware such as ATMs (13 percent).

One reason why slot personnel did not rank server-based gaming booth visits higher on their items to accomplish while at G2E likely stems from the fact that a large majority of respondents-some 59 percent-believe the industry is still two to five years from adopting server-based gaming. A further 18 percent said server-based adoption was still five to 10 years from happening. However, a rather significant numbers-21 percent- thought server-based gaming was knocking on the door, and would be adopted in a two year time frame.

When asked what might ultimately delay a quicker acceptance of server-based gaming, the cost of the systems was the top concern among 33 percent of the survey respondents, followed by technological shortcoming (21 percent), consumer acceptance (19 percent), management acceptance (16 percent), rewiring the slot floor (8 percent) and training (2 percent).

Evidence that a majority of slot executives still believe server-based gaming is still somewhat on the horizon was evident when they were asked to rank the importance of current slot industry trends. Server-based gaming fell squarely in the middle-more important than skill and community games, but less important than advanced marketing and customer relationship management capabilities. Indeed, only 52 percent of respondents ranked server-based gaming as either an important or very important trend, compared to 59 percent for CRM capabilities and 68 percent for advanced marketing capabilities.

Want further proof? Forty-seven percent of respondents strongly agreed that being able to communicate to and reward your customer through the slot machine will grow in importance. Meanwhile, only 27 percent strongly agree server-based gaming will be an important component to the future success of a casino's slot floor. When it's time to purchase a server-based gaming system however, it appears most of those who took the survey will be turning to International Game Technology. When asked which supplier was best set up to take advantage of a server-based future, 60 percent responded IGT, far outpacing Bally Technologies (13 percent), Aristocrat (10 percent), and WMS Gaming (7 percent).

If not server-based gaming, then what current slot machines components do slot personnel value most? According to the respondents of the survey, top on their minds is payout frequency, which 54 percent termed as very important. Second on the list was bonusing, which 44 percent felt was very important, followed by game theme (40 percent) and payout size (35 percent). At the bottom of the list was the manufacturer of the machine, which only 7 percent felt was very important, followed by licensed brand (13 percent) and ergonomics (21 percent).

While bonusing may only have been second when it comes to important slot components, it was first among jackpot trends, with 38 percent of respondents ranking it as very important. Bonusing was followed in jackpot importance by multi-tiered progressives, mystery jackpots and regular progressives.

For more information on this report including how to obtain a copy, please visit www.slotmanager.net.