When it comes to player comfort and extended play, there’s more than one piece of the ergonomic puzzle.
"It all has to work together,” said Steve Odden, vice president of sales and marketing at MLP Seating, which works with customers to add custom features to its slot machine chairs. “We’re working on a project for a customer who needs a 19-inch stool to work with the foot rests in its slot bases. That’s all fine, but if the player then has to raise his arms to reach the slot machine, he’s not in an ergonomic position.”
“The chair has to work with the base, has to work with the machine. If they don’t work together, it’s all awkward,” said Chris Strano, vice president of sales and marketing at AC Coin & Slot Service. “People are staying at the games longer. With penny games, they’re playing longer. Ergonomics is a very important part of the package.”
For modern casino operators who want true ergonomic design on their slot floors, manufacturers stand ready to give them the pieces they must put together - chairs, bases, slot cabinets, even a new product for keeping women’s purses secure at eye level.
“Playing slots consists of a lot of repetitive actions - pulling handles or pushing spin buttons, staring at a screen or reels and sitting in one spot for hopefully extended periods of times,” said Chuck Hickey, director of slot operations, Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino. “A player who leaves your casino feeling re-charged or invigorated from playing will have a better experience than someone who walks out with a bad back, bleary eyes and carpal tunnel syndrome.”
Keeping them in their seatsCustomer comfort is a prime concern as Ameristar furnishes its casinos, said Bob Sobczyk, corporate vice president of slot operations, Ameristar Casinos.
“No chairs in our company are more important than the seats we offer to our guests,” Sobczyk said. “We consistently seek guest feedback about what features they like best and compare those comments with the research and expertise provided by our chair manufacturers.
“As a result, we have made considerable investment in chairs that can be adjusted to meet each guest’s personal preference. The chairs have a lower base so guests are at the same level as the slot machine key pad and don’t have to uncomfortably reach to touch the buttons when they play.”
Bob Yabroff, president of Gary Platt Manufacturing, points to his company’s introduction of ergonomically designed slot chairs as the start of the ergonomics trend on slot floors.
“Gary Platt Manufacturing started ergonomics on slot floors six or seven years ago now,” he said. “Before, seats were not contoured. We started molded foam, lumbar back support. It makes the player more comfortable. If they’re comfortable enough to stay longer, that relates to time on device.”
Gary Platt today touts its Xtended Play series of chairs, with designs including the Riva, Sierra and Barona, all with molded, high-density foam and ergonomic lumbar support. Standard seat heights are 24 inches for upright slots, and 22 for slant tops, though Yabroff said there is a movement toward lower machines and bases, and with them, lower seats.
“There’s a trend in games toward making stands lower and bringing the seats down a little,” Yabroff said. “It’s easier for the customer to get in and out of the seats. With a lower stand, and the machine coming down, that brings more visibility in the casino.”
Gasser Chair, a leader in furniture throughout the entertainment and hospitality industry, features its dual flex slot seats. The dual flex-back action adjusts to the motion of the player not only in the upper back but in the lumbar region.
That adds to the list of comfort features Gasser has employed over the years, with its Easy Glide roller system, making it easier for slot employees to move around chairs without having to lift weighted bases, adjustable height chairs, and, of course, contoured foam and lumbar support.
While recognizing that a chair alone can only be comfortable, not truly ergonomic without the other pieces in place, MLP Seating stands ready to do its part, Odden said.
“We offer whatever ergonomic features a person wants,” he said. “With our manufacturing process, we can pretty much make whatever they want. We can modify any feature a casino wants, whether it’s molded foam, lumbar support, softer foam, harder foam - it’s almost ‘make your own chair.’”
AC Coin has been a leader in trying to make it all work together, with chairs, bases with recesses for foot rests and its own slot games.
“We introduced the ergonomic slot base at the Borgata when it opened five years ago,” Strano said. “Now, we see knockoffs everywhere. In a way, it’s a compliment.”
But AC Coin hasn’t stood still, adjusting its ergonomic chairs, bases and cabinets as industry needs have changed. One of the new features being developed is called the Tray Facta, built into the slot panel to bring a drink holder and a shelf for holding cigarettes or belongings closer to the player.
“Today, operators want lower boxes for the sightlines and visual impact,” he said. “The machine is closer to the player. The chair has to be integrated into the ergonomics, how it fits in with base. Now we go as low as 16 inches, 18 inches. Casino design has changed so much.”
Moveable, changeable slotsFor their parts, major slot manufacturers including Atronic, WMS Gaming and International Game Technology are working to build ergonomic benefits into their gaming machines.
In Atronic’s eMotion video slot cabinet, the player can raise or lower the full screen at the touch of a button to optimize sight lines. The cabinet also includes “repeat bet” buttons on both sides of the hand rest to accommodate right- and left-handed players. The Harmony slant-top cabinet features a large armrest with dual cup holders as well as a 19-inch TFT screen designed to reduce eye fatigue and a footrest.
Atronic planned to show its new e2 cabinet at the NIGA trade show in San Diego in April.
“This cabinet features all of the ergonomic strengths of the e-motion cabinet while adding dual 19-inch monitors that will be easier on the eyes as well as providing an enhanced playing experience,” said Krista Colonna, marketing manager at Atronic. “The accessibility of the player tracking unit and card reader have been further improved while the exclusive player environment allows for full concentration on the play field.”
WMS Gaming is building on the success of its ergonomically designed Bluebird cabinet with the Bluebird2, due out within the coming year, which vice president of marketing Rob Bone said “is as technologically advanced as it is visually appealing. WMS will roll out its fully digital, slim line Bluebird2 cabinet enabled with the CPU-NXT2 operating system and a programmable button panel that allows for remote server-based configurations and fully downloadable content.”
IGT also has developed ergonomic features, said Rick Sorensen, IGT public relations manager. IGT, he said, worked with several industrial design firms to bring the concept of the optimum Human Machine Interface (HMI) to its new machine designs. Seat comfort and stand height, LCD size and viewing angles, bill acceptor and printer locations, LED brightness and many other factors were reviewed and tested.
“The Human Machine Interface was developed to provide an ergonomically approachable and customizable cabinet, so that each player has a personal connection to the IGT gaming experience,” Sorensen said. ”The aim is to attract the casino operator and the more sophisticated player with a sleek product that offers unique features - and to build on existing IGT brand equity through the use of rich materials and features, a thinner, lighter feel, and larger-looking screens.”
A purse placeWith all the development in chairs, cabinets and bases, there’s room for little things to enhance comfort and offer customers some peace of mind, such as the SecureKlip purse holder.”It’s basically molded plastic, designed originally for restaurant applications,” said co-founder and president Cathy Wood, who noted that the first order for a slot floor had come from the Diamond Jack casino in Vicksburg, Miss.
“It lends itself really well to security issues for casinos. In the restaurant and on the slot floor, it gives women a place to put their purse. That’s a security issue in casinos, where women carry more cash. It mounts on the side of a slot machine, at eye level for a female sitting at a slot.
“It’s ergonomic in that it’s more comfortable than sitting with the purse strap round the neck or the purse in your lap, and that allows for longer playing time.”
That’s one more piece of the ergonomic puzzle, one more way for operators to assure customer comfort in their bid for extended playing time.