American Gaming Systems (AGS), the Las Vegas-based designer, manufacturer and operator of Class II gaming machines for the Native American market with an emerging presence in a broad range of commercial Class III markets in the United States, has been in the news quite of bit as of late, thinks in large part to a spate of acquisitions that included the purchase of specialty slot provider Colossal Gaming, and Casino War Blackjack, a developer of unique table games concepts.
Andrew Burke is vice president of slot products for AGS. He took some time during the recent Global Gaming Expo (G2E) show in Las Vegas to meet with Casino Journal Editor Paul Doocey and discuss the company’s product lines and its plans for the future. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:
What are some of the slot products AGS is highlighting at G2E?
Burke: We have a really exciting lineup. It is the first time we have all of our Colossal Gaming products from our acquisition. There are two exciting products there—one that we affectionately call “Big Red,” but that has the official name of Colossal Diamonds. It is a “Beyond Bertha” in that it is bigger than oversized-type product. We have been rolling that out and it has been the number one performing product in every market we have put it in thus far. We are really excited about it and what it can do for our business next year.
The next big thing in our Colossal line is the game Bang for your Buck. It is another jumbo cabinet that looks like a crate of dynamite and has a big mechanical reel on top. When you get to the bonus round you get to spin the mechanical reel, and to trigger the mechanical wheel you push a plunger kind of like Wile E Coyote in a Warner Brothers cartoon.
It has been very well received; there is nothing else like it on the show floor. It fits very well into our strategy of offering some quirky products. If we can get one of those at every casino over time, we are going to be happy.
What is your outlook for your Smarter than a 5th Grader slot and the line of games that feature a trivia-based bonus game component?
Burke: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Was actually the first game in that series which we call “It Pays To Know.” It has been doing phenomenally well with players [and they’ve] been responding positively to the trivia. If you go on YouTube, you will see videos uploaded by folks playing trivia questions, pulling out their smartphone and Googling the answers.
The 5th Grader slot is just launching; we actually have our very first install and go live today [September 30] in Oklahoma. That product is now going to be available in the majority of our markets including Nevada. We are looking for really big things out of that product.
The next product for the It Pays To Know line will be Family Feud. We hope to have the product alive and approved the first quarter of 2015.
AGS recently bought Casino War Blackjack, a table games vendor. What was the attraction of Casino War Blackjack and why did AGS decide to go in that direction?
Burke: We’re a small company so we try to act fast. On August 1, we had no table games business. On August 15, we hired John Hemberger, our new vice president of table product, who previously ran SHFL entertainment’s proprietary table games business for eight years and is one of the top guys in the space. He came on board and in the eight weeks between August 15 and today has acquired five different table games, the first of which was Casino War Blackjack. War Blackjack is an exciting side bet for a classic table game. It is a really cool concept.
Why has AGS been so active with acquisitions?
Burke: There have been a lot of mega-acquisitions, but we believe there are still plenty of small, talented companies out there. It is hard for these companies to operate in more than one market at a time. We think there is a great opportunity in these smaller companies that have great technologies and proprietary games. Part of our strategy is to continue to look at those, and if it makes sense, add them to our team.