For more than a decade, slot manufacturers and gaming operators have debated the promise of server-based gaming as the go-to technology to transform how casinos drive revenue and efficiency on their slot floors. For some, that promise still must be proven; but many operators are seeing dynamic and successful results through targeted implementations of the server-based applications on their casino floors.

While held by some as a game-changing technology that would sweep across the industry just as ticket-in/ticket-out (TITO) did, server-based technology has had fits and starts but is seeing a growing rate of adoption as casino operators see evidence of tangible success. For example, International Game Technology (IGT) recently reached a milestone with the 107th installation of its sbX product, which has been adopted by casino operators worldwide on six continents.

Server-based gaming has become part of the wagering landscape, giving both small and large operators the ability to house a server-based solution that works as a successful ROI tool, according to Eric Tom, IGT executive vice president for global sales. “Casino operators have also realized the cost savings associated with adopting a server-based solution,” he said. “Before server-based gaming, a single game conversion could cost upward of thousands of dollars, with days of labor involved, and that’s for each game. Through server-based gaming, such as with our sbX systems solution, we are able to provide the casino operator with game conversions that take mere minutes. Not only does it save time and money, but the operator is able to immediately try out a game theme, see if it’s successful and change it out for a new theme if it isn’t performing as expected. Again, this is a process that takes minutes, not days.”

The change in economy has brought about an increased awareness in operating costs, Tom added. “Server-based gaming allows casinos to remain at a level where they are providing exciting gaming entertainment to the players on their floor, while eliminating the costs needed to do a typical game conversion,” he said. “Casinos are now able to provide the newest themes to the gaming floor at a more frequent pace than they would have been able to do prior to server-based gaming.” 

IN THE BONUS

Bruce Rowe, senior vice president of strategy and customer consulting, Bally Technologies, said server-based gaming has evolved over the years, and more casinos have been able to take advantage of the server-based benefits because they have upgraded their slot floor wiring.

“As the recession wanes, casinos are looking at ways to reinvest in their operations,” Rowe said. “You can see there is reinvestment occurring. The need to invest is going to accelerate as markets are getting more competitive and new competitors are entering the market. One of the things we’re seeing used frequently is the [Bally] Elite Bonusing Suite server marketing application that is used across the whole floor.” 

Bally’s Elite Bonusing Virtual Racing promotional tool has been a hit for several years, creating floor-wide excitement at the casino and driving increased coin-in, carded play and new player club signups. 

The results speak volumes about the success, Rowe added. “People using those applications are seeing double-digit increases in coin-in and number of cards issued and increases in excitement on the floor because of those events.” 

Last fall, Bally upped the ante with its NASCAR-branded Virtual Racing, which debuted at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. Rowe said the NASCAR product continues to highlight the power of such floor-wide bonusing applications noting  that casinos can set their own rules for which players can participate in the event. In South Point’s case, patrons who belonged to the players club and who earned 50 points on their player’s club cards within one hour of each race were eligible to participate in the virtual NASCAR races. 

“We’re thrilled to partner with Bally Technologies again to bring this trailblazing technology to the Las Vegas market and to our patrons,” South Point Slot Director Cliff Paige said when the product debuted. “Bally’s iVIEW DM really brings the NASCAR races to life and gives our players the chance to take the checkered flag and experience the action and excitement of NASCAR racing.”

Another Bally server-based product gaining adoption is the company’s tournament application, which allows casinos to turn regular slot machines into tournament-enabled games with ease and without the need to send out a slot tech to each machine. Slot tournaments usually force operators to “take machines on and off the floor,” Rowe said. “With iVIEW DM, the games they [usually] have to displace can remain in place.” Rowe added that the iVIEW DM and other server-based applications are scalable, allowing casinos to handle larger than expected tournament crowds and otherwise fulfill the needs of both small and large gaming properties.

Indeed, more and more gaming operators realize the benefits of server-based systems; whether it’s to be more efficient by upgrading software through the server or to become more proficient in incentivizing loyal customers or attracting new ones. Casinos can use the tools in a very localized way, Rowe noted. “They can customize it. They can set lots of criteria,” he said. “They’re able to brand these items to be very unique to their casino.”

Bally Technologies is not the only slot vendor looking to provide operators with the ability to easily and efficiently host floor-wide bonusing and tournament events. Another company leading the charge in this area is Konami Gaming, which recently unveiled SYNKROS, the next generation of its successful KCMS casino management solution. 

The more robust SYNKROS system allows gaming operators to connect, capture and control customer interaction throughout a gaming facility, thereby creating more opportunity to target market and improve player worth. Among the slot tools offered by SYNKROS are true-time bonusing through its Super Series of multi-level, multi-themed floor-wide progressive community games; true-time tournaments; real-time player communication through slot displays and windows; connectivity to operator and patron mobile devices; electronic point redemption; and a host of back-office functions such as security and alerts, cash control management and advanced analytics.