News and notes from the international slot industry

Pechanga, Bally reach deal on iVIEW Display Manager

Bally Technologies has signed an agreement with Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif. to provide up to 5,000 iVIEW Display Manager (DM) controllers, an award-winning technology that enables a customer and employee interface using the game display.

Bally has been testing iVIEW DM with Pechanga since May on gaming machines manufactured by Bally, Aristocrat Technologies, and Konami Gaming. Pechanga is now ready to commence a large-scale rollout by mid-October on 600 games, with plans to add iVIEW DM on all of the casino’s gaming machines over the next 24 months.

iVIEW DM enables gaming operators to present unique content and messages directly onto game screens with picture-in-picture capability, creating a customer and employee interface. The iVIEW DM screen is configurable so content can be displayed on the left, right, top, or bottom of the game screen, horizontally or vertically, without impacting game play. iVIEW DM is also backwards compatible, an important feature for many casinos.

“Protecting our customers’ previously invested capital has been at the forefront of our product development, and this is especially reflected in iVIEW DM, which is backwards compatible and can be made to work on any game with available video and touch-screen interfaces,” said Bruce Rowe, Bally senior vice president of strategy and business development. “Unless an operator is opening a brand-new casino with all new games, it would be unreasonable for them to purchase or upgrade all of the gaming machines on their floor to get this type of customer portal on every gaming machine.”

Pechanga will deploy multiple applications through iVIEW DM, including marketing and rewards programs at the game and improved customer-service functions through a beverage-delivery request feature.

“We are looking forward to leveraging our world-class, high-speed infrastructure by adding iVIEW DM’s powerful window-management system to create new offerings for both our customers and employees,” said Craig Clark, general manager, Pechanga Resort & Casino. “The successful test has shown us that the customer-service possibilities are far reaching and will enable us to even further elevate our guests’ experience and create an interface at the gaming machine to use for advertising, marketing, customer service, game-in-game, and floor-wide tournaments.”

Ramesh Srinivasan, Bally executive vice president, systems, said, “The lessons we have learned together in the last six months are priceless. We knew from our experience with over 200 Ethernet floors and integrating our technology into existing games from every manufacturer that this would not be easy. But the reaction of the players, and the fact that Pechanga is moving forward with the large-scale deployment, says it all.”

Lightning Gaming to develop SCRABBLE gaming machines

Pennsylvania-based Lightning Gaming has entered into a long-term licensing agreement with Hasbro, Inc., giving the gaming company exclusive rights to develop and produce gaming machines based on the popular SCRABBLE brand in the United States and Canada.

The first gaming devices to be developed are expected to debut later this year.

“This agreement gives Lightning Gaming access (in the United States and Canada) to an incredibly popular and iconic game brand,” said Brian Haveson, chief executive officer of Lightning Gaming. “We can now open up our game development and content innovation to bring a new dynamic to traditional product offerings in the casino industry.”

Mark Blecher, Hasbro senior vice president and general manager of digital media and gaming, said that Lightning Gaming “has proposed an innovative take on the SCRABBLE brand for gaming machines and we anticipate a positive reaction to their creative thinking.”

Chris Strano, chief marketing officer of Lighting Gaming, noted that there’s something about SCRABBLE – the No. 2 branded board game in the world behind Monopoly – that keeps people coming back over and over again.

“From what we see it’s gaining momentum,” Strano said, noting the game’s strong following on the Internet, through sites such as Facebook and Yahoo games, an iPhone application and even a Subway sandwiches promotion. “You can’t go anywhere without seeing SCRABBLE and the elements of SCRABBLE on other platforms.”

Strano said Lightning Gaming’s take will capitalize on the brand’s popularity by providing the players with games that mimic the familiar attributes of the game. “It’s definitely going to deliver on the brand experience of the players who sit down and play it.”

The first game, which the company hopes to have available by this month, is Video SCRABBLE. It features a seven letter draw, just like the board game, and an opportunity for a redraw as well. “It’s going to have a lot of player appeal,” he said. “A player will get their seven letters, and the game will automatically sort the letters into the best word possible. Players can then hold the best letter or word and can redraw, with the machine then re-sorting into the best word possible. “You don’t have to have an advanced vocabulary. You don’t even have to know how to spell. It’ll give you the best word and even give you the definition.”

The next game, expected out by the first quarter of 2010, will be a more traditional slot with spinning reels that will use the well-known SCRABBLE symbols.

FireKeepers Casino launches player acquisition platform

FireKeepers Casino has successfully launched New Play, GameLogic’s new player acquisition platform. More than 75,000 eligible prospects have been captured to date, including more than 50,000 converted to carded club members ahead of the property’s grand opening.

FireKeepers combined New Play’s Web-based player registration and profiling with its interactive new player portal including PlayAway games - working in concert to attract prospective patrons, capture them into the casino’s marketing database, provide them a daily chance to win, and ultimately instill in them a strong sense of “stake” in the Red Hot Rewards, FireKeepers player loyalty program - all before the property ever opened.

“Operating a casino in 2009 demands that marketers continuously seek out new ways to innovate, and the Internet will be increasingly central to these efforts,” said John E. Taylor, Jr. GameLogic president and chief executive officer.” “We are pleased that FireKeepers Casino recognized our proven ability to reach and attract new players faster and more cost effectively than traditional marketing methods.”

Launched 90 days ahead of the FireKeepers grand opening, New Play registrants began the process of building a bond with the casino and its Red Hot Rewards. On average, they interacted with FireKeepers, through the New Play web portal, three times each week for more than 20 minutes each day. These prospects built a “stake” in the club by visiting the casino online, playing games and regularly winning drawing entries. By the time FireKeepers opened on Aug. 5, tens of thousands of club prospects had invested numerous hours of time accumulating coupons for thousands of drawing entries - all redeemable on property.

FireKeepers Casino, located near Battle Creek, Mich., is owned by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Indians and managed by Full House Resorts. “We know that the Internet is increasingly central to our marketing competitiveness,” said Andre M. Hilliou, Full House Resorts chairman and chief executive officer. “GameLogic made it possible for us to use the Internet to sign and engage with more than 75,000 club members ahead of our opening.”

MGM Grand at Foxwoods launching iPhone application

MGM Grand at Foxwoods has announced its foray into the consumer technology space with the impending launch of a mobile application that will live on Apple’s iPhone platform. The application is under development and will be released to Apple in the coming weeks. It is expected to be available to consumers this fall.

“Our goal is to continuously dazzle our guests with cutting-edge gaming and entertainment, and this state-of-the-art technology is the latest example of that,” said Michael Speller, president of Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprises. “This application will help us promote our world-class offerings, from entertainment to dining, nightlife to spa, gaming to golf, and everything in between while affording our customers the opportunity to interact with our brand in a unique and compelling manner.”

This first-ever branded application in the casino gaming category will boast a “game play” feature, allowing users to try their hand at an MGM Grand at Foxwoods-themed games using “play money.” The game will simulate the sights and sounds of an actual casino, creating a virtual environment that will immerse consumers in the MGM Grand at Foxwoods experience.

Another element of the application is the “resort experience” feature, which gives users the opportunity to take in-depth property tours, complete with virtual visits to hotel rooms, restaurants, retail shops, spas and more. This element also will provide users the opportunity to book spa appointments and receive tutorials on how to play the various table games that are offered at the property.