It’s not an overstatement to say the annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E), taking place this month at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas, is the most influential trade show and conference for the North American gaming industry, if not the world.
Although overshadowed by the recent unprecedented growth of gaming in Macau and throughout Asia, the Americas remain an impressive and powerful gaming market in their own right, with the United States commercial gaming industry alone generating $37.4 billion in gross gaming revenue last year, according to the American Gaming Association’s 2013 State of the States study. Unlike Asia, the lion’s share of this revenue is undoubtedly generated by electronic gaming machines; of which approximately 853,200 are currently operating in U.S.-based wagering facilities, according to the 2013 State of the States.
For these reasons, G2E has been and remains the preeminent platform for international gaming machine providers to showcase their latest games, devices, systems and services. In turn, this plethora of new product attracts slot operators from a wide variety of facilities and locations. But what, exactly, are these operators hoping to find at G2E this year? That is the question the editors of Slot Manager asked its readers; below you will find some of their responses.
Christopher Abraham, vice president of marketing, Red Hawk Casino, Placerville, Calif.
I will be looking mostly for technology that enables our casino to communicate more effectively and efficiently with our players; kiosk technology and understanding the value of iPhone applications with examples of how they strengthen relationships with our players.
Robert Allen, vice president of casino operations, Pinnacle Entertainment
For me, I will be focusing on three areas of interest:
• Advances/new releases in gaming machine hardware: I will have high interest in seeing the new Bally Technologies Wave slant; the new Aristocrat Gen 7-based slant; and the WMS Blade mechanical reel slot. Perhaps there will be some surprises in this category as well;
• Innovative and evolved slot game content—most specifically video slot content from all manufacturers both large companies and small; and
• Technologies (at the gaming machine or system level) that provide more connected experiences for players (taking the experience beyond solitary game play at a single gaming station).
Given the level of competition that exists now, I would expect this to be one of the very best G2E shows ever.
Brian Decorah, senior vice president and assistant general manager, Firekeepers Casino Hotel, Battle Creek, Mich.
Our slot team will be looking for technology that helps to service our guests with speed and convenience, combining direct communication at the slots with accurate tracking of performance metrics. Wherever possible, we want to reduce costs and the use of paper through technology.
Personally, I look forward to the innovations that put more decisions at the fingertips of the player, like options of volatility and the banking of bonuses.
Scott Eldredge, chief operating officer, Downs at Albuquerque Racetrack and Casino, Albuquerque, N.M.
As the new Casino at The Downs just opened in July, our slot floor has many of the latest themes and technology. So at this year’s show we will be looking for new, innovative games that add more entertainment for our players while limiting bonus down time.
We have had tremendous volume of guests since the casino’s opening, and due to our ideal location in the Albuquerque market, we expect that the high amount of traffic to continue. With that being the case, we also are looking for guest service-related products that can assist our team members in creating faster transaction times and even more efficient guest service on our floor.
Joe Farruggio, senior vice president of gaming operations, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi, Biloxi, Miss.
Our team will be looking for new games that add additional entertainment value and a better player experience to our slot floor. Both video and steppers with interactive bonus rounds will be on the top of our list.
We will view predictive player trend modeling options that will assist us in more efficiently target marketing to our players so we may incentivize them in a more personalized way.
The team will speak with the manufacturers and view their new server-based enhancements and latest creative pricing options. We will further explore the use of cloud-based applications and the regulatory status to see if it could lower our operating cost and give us greater flexibility.
Research has shown that a majority of voters would approve Internet gaming; we will get the latest updates on federal e-gaming legislation as well as current statistical information on “play for free” casino games.
With the technology landscape changing almost daily, we will keep our eyes and ears open to the latest and greatest advancements that will be on display at G2E.
Bill Fishman, director of slot operations, Palace Casino Resort, Biloxi, Miss.
Over the last few years our typical slot player is becoming more and more fickle. No longer are there many slot machines out there that continue to attract players to play them visit after visit. It seems like most of our players are always looking for new games to play. Because of that, I will be looking for new games that are more interactive and offer the customer a more unique gaming experience. As an example, without mentioning specific vendors, I know that some of them will be showing new 3D and holographic games that further immerse players into the game. I want to personally experience some of these to determine if it’s just a gimmick or a viable offering.
Also, because of the current legalization of online and mobile gaming in several jurisdictions and the anticipated proliferation, I feel it necessary to be proactive; to learn as much about it as I can and see what solutions the various vendors have to offer.
Larry Flynn, senior vice president, gaming, Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation (OLG), Toronto
OLG will be looking at slot gaming product that is innovative, yet understandable, as well as games that are fully configurable to meet our various demographic needs.
We are looking for vendors/suppliers that are open to hearing what the customers (operators) want and need. We understand that not all games have to be stars, but we are looking for a gaming product that can bring in incremental revenue and new patron revenue, then we all win—basically games that will provide a strong customer experience with value.
Vendors also need to provide road maps on where they are going, allowing us to feel comfortable with our purchasing decisions.
Joaquin D. Gonzales, casino operations manager, Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino, Lemoore, Calif.
I’m looking forward to seeing the new developments in regards to slot machines and their themes. Other areas would also include seating and entertainment added-value products. I will also be looking at player tracking systems technologies, handheld methods of cashing out TITO tickets, including redemption kiosk machines and, last but not least, the future thoughts of gaming manufacturers on second- and third-party users.
Sina Hentunen, gaming manager, slot & hospitality, Casino Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
I’ll be looking for good performing core games and exciting progressive games. Technology-wise, I am looking for systems which could be easily integrated to existing systems that would provide a tool to increase the additional types of gaming play (for example, the ability to play lotteries while you are playing a slot machine). Also virtual wallet systems would be interesting to see, with the capability of combining online and land-based gaming.
Frank Leeper, gaming consultant
Here is what I’ll be looking for at this year’s G2E:
• New game themes and/or game platforms from all the major slot manufacturer’s that are floor ready and approved or will be approved by the first of the year in the gaming jurisdiction that I’m currently working. As you well know, there are many bells and whistles launched at G2E that are too futuristic and may never be approved on the casino floor or in any gaming jurisdiction. This is frustrating for a person in slot operations management because we live in the here and now trying to satisfy the guest and their demands. Wasting my time at G2E on technology that slot machine manufacturers are pursuing defeats the purpose of me being there to look for the next big thing that my guests would want to play.
• The next big item(s) that I would be looking for are slot operating systems that come with a lot of reporting functions. Too many times these slot operating systems lack the reporting functions to enable someone running parallel programs such as Crystal Reports to get the basic reports needed to make sure the slot floor is running at optimum efficiency.
Johan Mirkovic, director of slot operations, Boulder Station Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas
I am very confident each gaming manufacturer will deliver and surprise most of us with new slots themes and boxes as they have done for many years. My main focus will be to collect as much information as possible on all the new products and carefully select which is going to be the best playing experience for our guests.
Frank Neborsky, vice president of slot operations, Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, Conn.
As local and regional casino competition continues to grow, I think one of the big drivers at this year’s G2E show will be differentiators. Namely products, services and/or solutions that can help create a more unique brand or an enhanced entertainment and gaming experience for our guests. Remembering that our guests, both internal and external, each have a different set of needs and expectations for service and the experience we provide.
As an operator I will also be looking for ways to deliver better guest service through technology while offering the most innovative slot product possible.
Michael Palmieri, director of slot operations, Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, Yonkers, N.Y.
Each year, my objective at G2E is to find the new products that will change the landscape of our casino floor. This year, I believe there is an opportunity for us to expand the premium product on our floor. I am interested in premium game themes that are now available in our market that will resonate well with our guests and produce excitement on the floor. In addition, I am interested in the new vendor cabinets, which directly affect game play. Last year, there was significant improvement in this area and I hope the trend continues.
Also, I look forward to the changes in the skill-based bonus rounds. In my opinion, there was a significant change in the feel of some games last year as the vendors continue to battle with providing amazing video game graphics/complexity versus the length of time of the bonus round and the effect on play on device.
Lastly, I am excited to see the new products that directly affect guest service. We are constantly looking for products that will improve and track service and enhance the guest’s overall experience (service systems and game location kiosks/casino information).
Ara Tellian, corporate director of slot operations, Jacobs Entertainment, Golden, Colo.
This year we are looking forward to seeing what the “other” slot manufacturers have to offer. We all expect the big four to have their usual licensed products and celebrity appearances. However, last year a few new players entered the Class III and commercial markets. I’m excited to see what Ainsworth, Incredible Technologies, and Multimedia Games are doing to follow up in their second year. We have also seen strong performances from Spielo [now GTECH] and new Konami programs.
With more manufacturers competing for our floor space and box sales you would expect more innovative and entertaining themes; the more choices the better for us operators. Additionally, this keeps the big guys honest—forcing them to keep one eye on core business while they are racing to conquer the Internet world.