Slot managers still wary about economy but moving forward

Some six in 10 gaming executives believe their slot purchases will be the same in 2010 as they were in 2009, according to a survey of slot operations personnel conducted by Clear Seas Research/BNP Media.

But on a bright note, 22 percent of respondents said they will buy more new games than the previous year, and of those respondents, 41 percent said they expected to purchase 25 percent or more above what they spent in 2009. Just 16 percent of respondents said they planned to purchase less than they did in the previous year.

About a third of respondents in the third annual survey said they believe an upturn in the economy will really start to impact their floors during the second half of 2010.

The survey, which was conducted Sept. 8-22 in collaboration with Slot Manager, aims to identify slot trends in the industry and determine the types of slot-related products attendees are seeking at the Global Gaming Expo this month in Las Vegas. In addition to questions related to the economy, the online survey also asked slot managers for their opinions on the latest trends in slot games, slot components, server-based gaming and jackpots.

Not surprisingly, 77 percent of the respondents who said they planned on attending G2E plan to seek information on slot machines, with 71 percent saying they will look for new games. Slot systems, including server-based technology, were also on the top of many hit lists, with 56 percent saying they would look for them at the show. More than 40 percent said they would also look at marketing/promotions services and electronic table games, while some 58 percent said they would seek out information on signage or electronic displays while at G2E.

Server-based gaming

More slot professionals believe server-based gaming is nearer than ever to widespread adoption, with 54 percent believing it will happen within the next two to four years, up 2 percent over the previous year.

Gaming professionals believe the cost of the system and current state of the economy are the primary causes delaying server-based gaming. The cost of the systems was the top concern among 48 percent of the survey respondents, compared to 35 percent in 2008, followed by the current state of the economy, 24 percent, a full 10 percent higher than in 2008. Other concerns were technological shortcoming, which ranked 10 percent, compared to 23 percent in 2008, and consumer acceptance, which ranked 10 percent compared to 14 percent in 2008. Causes such as lack of management acceptance, need for slot floor wiring and training were cited by only 6 percent or fewer respondents as concerns.

More than half of respondents, some 54 percent, said they would consider implementing a small-scale version of server-based gaming with 17 percent saying they would strongly consider the option.

In 2008, only 45 percent said they would look at a small-scale implementation, with just 13 percent saying they’d strongly explore that option. But interest in such implementations remains high, with some 75 percent of respondents saying they were moderately interested or very interested in launching smaller-scale server-based implementations.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they believe the opening of City Center will have at least a small impact on their decisions regarding server-based gaming.

When it’s time to purchase a server-based gaming system, survey respondents indicated that International Game Technology is best set up to take advantage of a server-based future, with 57 percent saying IGT was best set up. But that percentage was down slightly from 2008 and 2007, when 59 percent and 63 percent, respectively, said IGT was best set up. The next closest competitors were WMS with 16 percent and Bally Technologies with 12 percent. In the two previous surveys, WMS ranked 16 percent in 2008 and 7 percent in 2007, while Bally rated a 12 percent in 2008 and 13 percent in 2007.

Slot trends

Respondents also ranked slot trends by importance. A whopping 86 percent rated advanced marketing capabilities as moderately important or important, compared to 82 percent in 2008. Slot professionals also ranked advanced CRM capabilities high, with 84 percent rating the trends as moderately important or important, nearly identical to the results in 2008.

Server-based gaming appears to be gaining some momentum, with 72 percent ranking it as moderately important or important as a slot trend, while only 63 percent did so in 2008. Community-type games ranked almost identically to last year, with 78 percent rating them moderately important or important. About 72 percent ranked skill games as moderately important to important, just a tad lower than the 2008 ranking of 74 percent.

As far as jackpot trends, some 90 percent of slot professionals ranked bemusing, multilevel progressives, mystery jackpots and progressives as moderately important or important. Of the four, bonusing was the most important, earning a 99 percent ranking.

Similar to 2007 and 2008 responses, some 86 percent of respondents agreed that being able to communicate to and reward your customer through the slot machine will grow in importance, compared to 88 percent in 2008 and 2007.

Some 52 percent agreed with the statement that server-based gaming would be an important component to the future success of a casino’s slot floor. Some 62 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that skill- and community-based games would become increasingly important to casinos seeking to attract younger gamblers, while 63 percent and 65 percent agreed with that statement in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

A large majority of slot professionals (94 percent) indicated that the ability to upgrade technology in current slot machines is important, with 49 percent saying it was a very important feature. That percentage was up from 2008, when 86 percent felt that it was important or very important to be able to upgrade technology, and 48 percent of that percentage said it was “very important.”