Bally Technology’s 10th annual User Conference held at Mohegan Sun last month afforded attendees a view of a company that has worked diligently to position itself on the right side of progress.
By that I mean technological progress, which is proceeding at exponential speed, to the point where you can now have a man-in-the-street conversation about metadata.

Some 450 people attended the conference, including 327 casino operators. They heard from Bally’s top executives, starting with president and chief executive officer Ramesh Srinivasan.

“We’re becoming more of a customer-centric, market-centric, customer-driven organization,” he said. “We have more employees today in R&D alone than we had total employees six or seven years ago; close to 2,000 in R&D alone right now. In terms of systems, there are about 1,500 systems employees, the largest gaming system team that has ever been built. Close to 900 of those are in R&D, adding value to your maintenance dollars, about 354 people in services.”

Citing a report by Fantini Research, Srinivasan said Bally has almost as much systems revenue as all its competitors combined and generated 57 percent of all systems revenue in the first quarter. “That means our investments in these products will continue, we will continue to invest in them at a rapid rate and in R&D.” System success, he said, is no longer about an absence of issues, it’s about ROI and profitability.

“There are more ROI success stories in the last 18 months than in the previous 10 years combined,” said Srinivasan. One is from South Point, which ran Bally’s virtual racing on Thursdays in June, July and August 2012 and realized close to 28 percent increase in coin-in. South Point ran Power Winners in March 2013 and the increase over March 2012 was about 7 percent. And during a recent NASCAR Vegas weekend, coin-in increased by about 18 percent.

“A lot of those success stories are building up with the user systems products now,” said Srinivasan. Perhaps the most surprising thing he said was that Bally expects to be the number one games company in the next three to four years. If that’s to happen, it will no doubt be a by-product of things like the company’s Innovation Lab, led by Bryan Kelly, senior vice president of technology.  Innovation Lab members are in the Silicon Valley; Reno; Las Vegas; Chennai and Bangalore, and it has skilled people in hardware engineering, network engineering, cloud-based engineering, and game design.

Among the Lab’s success stories has been the iDeck, which grew out of a boutique technology conference that Kelly attended a few years back (the Lab attends 65 to 70 non-gaming technology conference a year) that gave him a heads-up on Apple’s iPad. Similarly, Kelly discussed how Bally is currently working to bring the benefits of augmented reality applications such as Google Glass to the slot floor to provide faster and more personal customer service; a mobile payments solution  that can be utilized alongside the Bally Power Bank solution without adding any hardware; and Challenge Connection, which links a casino’s Facebook site directly to slot machines and takes advantage of the viral nature of Facebook, merging online and land-based gaming.

But as everyone knows the highly regulated and fragmented gaming industry can be a tricky receptor for the new. That’s where Bruce Rowe, an operator himself for many years and now senior VP of strategy and customer consulting, comes in.

“Bally’s principles are, ‘Is the technology practical, can it be implemented, and is there a migration strategy that’s sensitive to the operator’s previously invested capital?’” said Rowe. “It’s totally irrational to think that anybody would replace every slot machine on their floor to order a drink.”

 All in all, a strong message advanced by a formidable team across-the-board that has been together for several years now.  It will be interesting to continue charting their progress.