Slot managers and casino operators are scrutinizing potential purchases more closely than ever, and will be asking the hard questions. This is show-me-don’t-tell-me time for gaming manufacturers

Casino operators, product vendors, game manufacturers, regulators and others will gather once again this month for the industry’s biggest event of the year – the Global Gaming Expo.

But the vibe isn’t likely to be quite as festive as in previous years, and the expo floor might not be quite as packed, as the industry faces the same challenges created by the economic meltdown affecting the United States and abroad

 Just like other sectors of the economy, the gaming industry is hurting, as players have reined in spending in the wake of the housing downturn, a crippled credit market and high food and gas prices.

In turn, slot managers and casino operators will be scrutinizing potential purchases more closely than ever, and will be asking the hard questions. They will be looking for flexibility in pricing models, some zeroing in on the low capital investment cost of recurring revenue products while others focusing on for-sale products.

They will want to know in clearer terms than ever why they should pursue networked gaming. What’s in it for my casino and my customers if I move forward with server-based gaming?  How does it improve the player’s experience? What’s the ROI? And just how, exactly, will it work?

Sound familiar? It should. These are the same server-based gaming questions operators have been seeking answers to for years now. And their patience is wearing wafer-thin.

This is show-me-don’t-tell-me time for gaming manufacturers. And they know it.

Most have strategies aimed at giving casino operators ways to test the waters of this new technology at a lower cost-of-entry, and at providing gaming machines that are cutting-edge now, and won’t become obsolete once server-based gaming comes of age.

WMS, for instance, recently announced it was launching a new “for-sale” gaming machine based on the company’s Transmissive Reels gaming technology platform. The new gaming machine is the industry’s first mechanical reel product to offer a multigame feature set, while also bringing the advantages of networked, server-enabled gaming to mechanical reel products.

And manufacturers also are focused more on serving as a partner to the casinos, with plans to deliver marketing assistance and managed-services models to the industry.

There will be no shortage of cool content to explore in terms of progressives, community games, tournament products, cabinet styles and new ways to engage players at the gaming machine. (Check out the World of Slots and Peripherals features starting on Page 10.)

Ultimately, despite all the Wall Street and Main Street woes, the show really must go on, and the gaming industry must be prepared to deal with whatever hand it’s dealt.

True interoperability

An interesting e-mail popped up in my inbox just as Slot Manager was about to go to press. It came from WMS, and it highlighted a new white paper, called Freedom of Choice, which outlines the benefits of true open and interoperable standards for gaming systems, applications and product development.  In conjunction with the release of the white paper, two Web sites were launched, and, to foster more dialogue on the subject.

 “For too long, our customers and their casino patrons have had to settle for what is available as a result of the deployment of proprietary closed systems, games and networks,” WMS President Orrin J. Edidin said in the news release.  “Now it is time to foster the freedom of choice to realize the full scope of opportunities that will produce new entertainment experiences, and the advantages that will drive enhanced revenues and productivity.” Hard to argue with that logic. Should make for interesting reading.