Chuck Hickey: "It was nice to see some companies getting back to some of their core strength..."

Chuck Hickey, vice president of slot operations, Barona Resort & Casino, Lakeside, Calif.:

My impression of G2E was that it was nice to see some companies getting back to some of their core strength with new games being developed for a forgotten group of players, the higher-denomination stepper or reel-spinner player. I saw a lot of focus on interactivity, which is not necessarily a proven thing that the players like.

I liked the USpin from Bally. I liked that it was an application that could be written for a server-based application. I liked what Williams was showing in their back room. I saw some neat things back there that I can’t talk about. I loved their Lord of the Rings machine. I liked the pachinko sort of game that IGT was showing with some semblance of skill in that game. We will see how well that’s adopted by players. I thought IGT had too many eggs in the Multiplay basket. I thought Aruze had some interesting stuff. They seem to be branching out and diversifying a bit.

Aristocrat had some cool stuff in their back room. I also like the new paint finish on their machines. It’s a matte finish that doesn’t show fingerprints.

The Texas Hold’em game [in IGT’s booth] is an intriguing game, and I liked it. I think the game has merit. I’m just not sure who the audience is for that. If you’re going to get someone new to play, a new audience, I think it’s a good thing. I certainly think it’s worth trying.

Frank Neborsky, vice president of slot operations, Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, Conn.:

Well, WMS, with the breadth of product they had on the floor. I was not that impressed with IGT. They did some more stuff with the wheel. They capitalized on the big screen stuff that they had with eBay. [The Texas Hold’em] game was pretty neat, but I don’t know how that’s going to play. I played it, and I’m not a poker player, and it takes a while to play. The Aristocrat cabinet looks very nice

I was surprised Bally had some really good stuff. Everyone’s moving toward the LCDs on the button decks, but they’re doing it in different ways. And the wheels on steroids in the Bally booth. I liked Aruze, particularly some of their electronic table games. They had a very nice mix, They had blackjack, baccarat, Dragon Baccarat, a lot of different formats, which is nice.

The budget is tight. I’ll be able to buy more games than I bought last year, but nowhere near as many as I bought two years ago. I probably have a budget for about 150 games this year, and I bought maybe 50 last year and two or three years ago I bought 500. There will be a lot of WMS games in the mix, maybe some Aruze, a couple of Ainsworth games when they’re released, and some of the Bally stuff because they have some good incentives for swapping out some of the S6000s for some new product.

Rick Scheer, director of slot operations, Riviera Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nev.:

I think the word is overwhelming. There was a lot of stuff that isn’t ready. But after you wade through all of that, you kind of got to what stuff will be available in the very near future. I think everybody had a little something. Williams definitely had a lot of nice stuff. They’re continuing on with their Goldfish game, which looked really good. Their new slant top looked really nice. Their Bluebird2, their Plus Series, the reel spinners, all of that looked really good.

IGT had a lot of new product coming up that looks pretty interesting, including some good bonusing product. Their enhanced Barcrest product looked good. Their Hot Pursuit community-gaming-style poker looked good. Community gaming – that’s definitely finding its little niche on our floor. It becomes like a social event for players.

We have WMS’Reel ‘em In Compete to Win on our floor, and it does really well.

One of the things that IGT had that was definitely of interest was actually some good dollar product. That definitely caught our eye. At least somebody’s working on it. We hear about it from our customers all the time, ‘What about us? Don’t they make anything other than penny games.’

Bally is taking their proven winners and taking them to their new latest greatest platforms and new methods of operation. The Ultimate Tower of Power and Hot Shot Cash Wheels looked good.

Aristocrat had some really neat stuff in their backroom, and they had some pretty interesting models on the floor. They’ve got some new development going on. That Jackpot Manor looks pretty neat – the graphics are pretty incredible.

Aruze had their craps game that’s interesting. We are looking at that. I know they’ve been pushing the Queen product. We’ve had some of their video product on the floor, and we’re bringing some of the slot product as well and it’s doing pretty well.

Konami’s games have been doing very well for us. The Advantage 5 reels still are running very strong. At the show, the Beat the Field game looks like it could be pretty interesting. Horse race themes seem to do really well. We’re trying to get that IGT [Triple Towers] game on our floor.

One of the smaller booths, Real 3D display, had some incredible stuff [with high-tech 3-D images that appeared to jump off the screen] That would be one heck of a celebration mode if you had that on your floor. It’s definitely an eye catcher.