In the previous column, we had a chance to look around the world at how operators, suppliers, test labs and even regulators are coming together in an almost unprecedented manner to keep the industry alive and moving forward during these almost unprecedented economically challenging times. Practically everywhere gaming exists, the industry is coalescing in a positive manner.

That figurative global convergence will become very literal later when the world descends on Las Vegas later this month for the Global Gaming Expo. Here, we will see everything come together – all the work, all the sales and marketing efforts, all the struggle and hope for the future – will be on display in a grand and global style.

Of course, the floor will be fantastically populated with new technology and new products that have taken technologies and embraced them in a new way. I’ll share a little bit about what we are already seeing in the lab, but first, I want to tell you about a small event that is a microcosm of what the industry needs to keep at the forefront of its mind while we move forward.

Top of mind today

Last month, GLI held a regulators summit in South Dakota. More than 50 regulators were in attendance, and the concerns were universal: How is the industry doing around the world? How can we adapt to new technologies quickly without sacrificing our stand for public policy? How can we help while maintaining our independence?

As we move about the bright lights and loud ding! ding! ding! of G2E, these are the questions that we all must keep in the forefront of our minds, because it is regulators who ultimately keep the industry going. It is their ability to adapt to new technology while maintaining public trust that will affect the future of the industry. I’m saying this not to put additional pressure on the regulators, but rather to illustrate that suppliers and test labs share that responsibility.

Suppliers can share that responsibility by creating devices and systems that are rooted in a secure base of standards, and that do not fly in the face of reasonable regulatory concern. In the weeks leading up to we have seen a tremendous influx of innovative designs, and for the most part, we have been impressed with the designs and with the thoughtful approach suppliers have been taking.

We are seeing devices that embrace community style gaming that could bring an added level of excitement to the casino floor with players playing against each other, with each other, winning as individuals and as a group. There are regulatory issues to be addressed, and the devices are initially showing a high level of compliance.

Systems continue to evolve and, with the assistance of protocols like GSA’s S2S (System to System) protocol, the entire property is becoming involved with player tracking and customer development, rewarding and incentives. In some cases, we are seeing the ability to involve partners outside of the casino. All of these issues will present a challenge to regulators, and, so far, we are hopeful that these types of innovations can progress.

Networked gaming has been an interesting animal that is now more finely tuned than ever. As it has been evolving, regulators have been actively keeping pace, and, on occasion, GLI has been called in for consultation. We remain confident in networked gaming and in regulators’ abilities to adapt.

No substitute for thorough testing

Like the 50 regulators in South Dakota, and for the rest of the world’s regulators, it all comes down to thorough testing and certification. Like we discussed in the previous issue of Slot Manager, we at the lab understand. We understand that we are part of the larger whole in this industry, that operators need customers, and suppliers need operators, and that customers want their operators to have the latest devices from suppliers. But we also understand that, even in the toughest of times, no allowance can be made for lackluster testing.

Tread carefully

As the economy has weakened, more and more U.S. states and territories and countries around the world are either considering establishing gaming or considering expanding gaming as a source of new tax revenue. That doesn’t mean this is the time to rush blindly forward; it means just the opposite. As more jurisdictions expand into new territory, now is the time to be more vigilant, and to prove to the players (a.k.a the general public, not all of whom accept gaming), that, when properly tested, certified and regulated, gaming can be seen as a completely legitimate entertainment option.

What we are seeing in the lab, and what you will see at G2E, is really exciting and really fun. But let’s remain mindful of the South Dakota 50. They want and need us to not be carried away by the sparkle and shine of new technology. They want and need us to be attentive to detail and to our responsibility. If we can do that, if we can pair the excitement of advanced technology with the absolute necessity of public policy, then we can share a bright future together, in both emerging jurisdictions, and in those as established as South Dakota.