As we approach NIGA’s annual trade show, tribal operators are asking the same questions as operators around the world. What is the status of networked gaming? How will this affect my bottom line? What do I need to do to prepare my floor? Can I get by without networked gaming? Will my players even understand all of the entertainment options in the next generation of games that networked gaming presents?
As we have spoken to tribal leaders and other operators, there has been hesitancy about networked gaming, largely because, as we have been told, people really don’t understand it completely yet. That’s to be expected – what we’re talking about is really new. But it’s also very exciting. While there simply is not enough space in this column to answer every question, what we can do is talk about what the Gaming Standards Association (GSA) is doing to help tribes – and all operators –prepare for the new world. So let’s start with what we already know.
What we know is that tribes have experience in the field. In fact, many tribes have been operating a type of networked gaming for years: Class II. The server/game relationship may not be as wildly robust as it will be with networked gaming, but Class II is networked gaming nonetheless. Having operated in this environment for years, tribes can take a certain pride and comfort in knowing that they are ahead of the game in understanding the basic principles of networked gaming. Further, most tribal operations have the IT staff members in place who have long-standing knowledge about the deployment and management of these high speed networks – ahead of most of Class III gaming operators.
Educational KeysTo further help educate operators, GSA has developed an education program for executives that helps to provide a greater understanding of gaming’s future in a 30,000-foot-level, non-technical perspective. Participants will come out the other side of the courses with a functioning knowledge of where we are, what the future can look like, and what it will take to get there. And for IT staff who speaks in 0s and 1s, more in-depth technical courses are available to help you understand the in-depth nature of the protocols that drive the new technology, and what you will need to do to get your casino floors ready. Complete global course information is available at www.gsauniv.com.
So can you get by on the games you have now? Sure, but for how long? Are you in a jurisdiction that is converting from Class II to Class III? What are your competitors doing? What are your players expecting to see in your casino? If you are converting Class II to Class III, the Florida Seminole gaming operations are a great case study for every operator, as that tribe converted its floors over by striving to use GSA protocols wherever possible. Keep in mind, these are free protocols that use off-the-shelf technology, and the tribe successfully converted its floors.
Preparing for a New GenerationNext, the new generation of technology is here and is here to stay. This is a point in time to prepare for the next generation of players. Today’s 16-year-olds will be of legal gaming age in two years in some jurisdictions and in five years everywhere else. Think about this generation: What do they do now for fun? What are their entertainment habits? Will they be satisfied with more traditional games or will they need a higher level of entertainment that is on par with the video games they have played since age 5? As we look at retiring one generation of our player databases, we must prepare for the next generation realizing that their entertainment options are more varied than ever, and casino operators must be prepared to vigorously compete, with other casinos, yes, but primarily with other entertainment options built with the future in mind.
The encouraging news is networked gaming, fueled by GSA standards, can propel the industry into a very competitive position that is ready for the future. Now is not the time to delay. There are certain preparations that must be made to fully enable the slot floor, and the benefits are real.
Certified progressSo once the floor is prepared for networked gaming, how can tribes and other operators be sure that games and systems will function properly? To help alleviate this concern, GSA has developed a certification program, in which manufacturers can submit their devices for testing to ensure they comply with GSA protocol standards. Then, operators can quickly and easily browse a list of certified devices. The certification program is free for operators to use. More information can be found at http://cert.gamingstandards.com/.
Clearly these answers represent just the beginning of what could be a long and interesting discussion; however, we can begin to relax a bit. What tribal operators can take away now is that you’ve done this networked thing before in Class II. GSA has classes ready for you to help bridge any knowledge gap you feel you may have. GSA also has a track record of putting protocols into action to benefit tribal operations. And GSA has a program ready now to help you rest easy that the devices you are considering purchasing will work as expected.
We will be presenting more about GSA at this year’s NIGA show, and we hope to see you there.