Talk of slot floors becoming more technologically advanced is a constant in the gaming community these days, creating a ripple effect throughout the entire casino. Ticket printers and the paper that feeds them are among the products that have been swept up in this technological evolution.
Ticket printers have now been assigned the task beyond, well, simply printing tickets. These systems are now expected to help with marketing, promotions, player tracking and a host of other services for casino operators and customers.
For this reason, the ticket printer marketplace has largely avoided the slow growth that has plagued other casino supplier segments during the ongoing economic downturn.
“It’s a very positive environment for printers today, because operators are realizing they can do so much more with printers to increase their levels of customer service,” said Tom Nieman vice president of worldwide marketing for JCM Global, which doubled down on its line of ticket printers with its acquisition of FutureLogic last year. “At JCM Global, we like to say that our products help operators create, maintain and deepen customer connections, and that certainly is the case with printers, where the operator can print an offer directly targeted to a specific consumer, and that consumer can use that ticket to explore new areas of the casino they may not have experienced before.”
Tracey Chernay, senior vice president, global casino, gaming and lottery for TransAct Technologies, is seeing progress as well. “The market for ticket printers continues to grow with opportunities to place our product in one of many ways—new casino openings, new games going into existing casinos, new markets for ticket-in/ticket-out [TITO] in Latin America, Asia and Australia,” she said. “There has also been growth in new non-casino markets for ticket printers such as video lottery terminal [VLT] jurisdictions and fixed-odd betting terminals.”
Chernay added that, “trends toward keeping slot machines longer and not refreshing current hardware versus replacing hardware more frequently have an impact on the ticket printer market.” But in contrast, “trends toward active marketing at the slot with innovative rewards in real-time are positive for [new ticket printing systems],” she said.
Specifically, these innovations are targeted toward adding marketing and promotional initiatives onto tickets, largely to do with the increasingly competitive market at hand. One such product enhancement is JCM’s PromoNet, a couponing solution that identifies valuable players, and targets both carded and non-carded patrons with timely rewards, according to Nieman. “PromoNet links promotions to game-play and delivers promotions exactly where and when they are needed,” he said. “It allows operators to tailor different rewards programs to all players, whether they are carded or not, with promotional triggers that work in real-time. With that, PromoNet can link game-play metrics and slot promotions directly to player behavior, and that can help operators to drive player club sign-up, extend game play and increase slot revenue.”
Chernay said that TransAct’s printers, and their Epicentral system, also provides casinos the ability to market directly to the player while they are playing at the slots. The Epicentral system offers players many more ways to win, creating excitement on the floor, inevitably driving longer time on device, increased visits and finally more play.
“With Epicentral, players can be incented to play with a card or the casinos can drive players to sign up with a card all through the automated offers that Epicentral enables,” Chernay said. “All of our Epicentral casino customers have realized proven results in driving more carded play—up to a 60 percent increase in carded play as a result of using the system. Other important metrics include a 14 percent increase in time on device and a 46 percent increase in coin-in on the night of a promotional drawing where players earn drawing tickets based on a threshold of play.” When it comes to analytics, “Epicentral also provides a full suite of reporting tools that allow the casinos to interact intelligently with their casino management system or any other analytics systems that the casino is utilizing,” Chernay said.
With new innovations like these from JCM and TransAct, ticket printer support products, namely paper, are also seeing the positives effects of the implementation of marketing and promotions to slot tickets.
“I think it’s great of course,” said Tom Mitchell, managing director special projects for Cordova, Tenn.-based Slot Tickets Worldwide, which got its start in 1998 providing TITO paper to FutureLogic printers used in International Game Technology (IGT) gaming machines. “The talk was about promotion, promotion, promotion, for the past 15 years. It has taken forever to get it going.”
Mitchell added that the use of promotions and marketing varies widely, depending on the casino and the system they are running. “We’ve seen a flurry of activity in the last couple of years of more useful promotional tickets,” he said. “Personally I do not understand why it is not of greater value. It seems to be spotty. A property will do a big promotional campaign with their tickets, and then it goes away.”
Another ticket producer, Appleton, Wisc.-based Appvion, offers thermal papers used for slot tickets that are engineered to provide rich and legible images at all print speeds for enhanced readability.
“We design our Royal Ticket and TITO stock to suit the needs of both the ticket printer manufacturers and casino operators,” said Joe Audette, segment leader for thermal ticket and gaming products at Appvion. “So as more and more advertising and direct promotions are transferred to paper at the printer, our ticket stock accepts the ink at the converter so it has high-impact graphics that help pull in the player’s eye. The thermal image is robust so the custom image on the thermal face is crisp and clean.”
Indeed, Audette’s primary concern for the ticket stock segment going forward has very little to do with printing and ink quality, issues he believes Appvion has mastered. “One of the things we’re keeping a close eye on is cashless and Internet gaming,” he said. “But we haven’t seen a negative impact of that. Do we anticipate that will occur over the next five-10 years? Absolutely. But to what extent is probably yet to be determined based on legislation and the player’s desire to have something physically in their hand.”
TECHNOLOGY MARCHES ON
Ticket printer producers also see both short- and long-term growth for their products, fueled by evolving technology and the pressing need for land-based gaming properties to better connect with their customers.
“As technology continues to advance—both in the general consumer arena and in the casino industry specifically—that will provide operators with new opportunities for customer engagement, and we are already exploring new technologies that we will unveil in upcoming generations of printers that will help operators remain competitive and deepen their connections with their customers,” said Nieman.
Chernay said that a drive for innovation creates a need for incremental new printers into casinos, and that casinos will continue to have to innovate and keep their floors fresh. On top of that, “there is a still significant growth prospect for ticket printers in regions that are not using TITO printers today but are making progress towards implementing fully featured casino management systems, including back office accounting and front of the house marketing,” she said. “Additionally, existing casinos will continue to search for new ways to compete for market share by offering the latest games and fully featured bonusing systems. This continuous improvement and innovation also helps to provide a continuous upgrade cycle for new games and more advanced marketing systems.”
Here is a look at the latest iterations of ticket printers from these two printer suppliers that have evolved to meet the needs of the more technologically-savvy gaming machine player.
“Speed, memory and durability are always going to be the three most important factors in any printer, and we are happy to say that the JCM Global product portfolio includes some of the most awarded, longest lasting, fastest, most durable printers with the most standard memory available,” said Nieman. “That said we also have exciting innovations.”
Ticket2go, according to company press materials, is a market leading ticketing solution developed for amusement with prize (AWP) and other low payout machines, providing a networked TITO solution as well as the proven networkless ticket payout feature. “We are helping route operators, most notably in the UK, to take full advantage of TITO with Ticket2Go, which is gaining very high traction amongst route and street operators,” said Nieman. “As the cost of money increases, along with the need to maximize game up-time, the Ticket2Go technology delivers a very strong ROI for route and street operators.”
TableXchange, according to Nieman, was designed to enable players to use cash out vouchers at table games. It connects every table game to a casino’s existing TITO network by scanning and printing TITO vouchers. What this does is create a common currency across the casino, bridging the gap that used to exist between the slot side of the casino and the pit, allowing players to play where, how and what they want while also helping to identify valuable crossover players.
PromoNet, as mentioned, delivers promotions to both carded and non-carded player.
GEN 2 Universal, according to Nieman, is their most popular printing product. As a highly reliable printer, it has a larger paper capacity, anti-jam bezel and universal communications make it the ideal printer for every type of gaming or amusement situation.
According to company press materials, TransAct designs gaming printers specifically for the unique needs of casino and non-casino gaming establishments around the world. Whether it’s TITO for slot machines, AWPs, skills with prizes (SWPs), VLTs, FOBTs or pachinko machines, TransAct offers a ticket printing solution.
Their Epic 950, according to Chernay, is a “stable, highly reliable product that is truly one printer for all game types.” It offers flexibility to be upgradable to a networked, promotional printer of bonuses and offers all through the existing printer. A plug-in upgrade of the printer with a ServerPort allows customers to upgrade to the latest technology available. Chernay said that, “this upgradability has ‘future-proofed’ the printer and our loyal casino customers are appreciative that they can use the same printer in their legacy games as well as all new games coming out”
Epicentral, as mentioned, is an award winning software system that prints targeted promotions to carded and un-carded players in real-time. Chernay said that the Epic 950 ticket printer combined with the Epicentral Bonusing System is the most popular offering from TransAct. “This powerful combination offers a true enterprise-wide bonusing system that drives player action,” she said. “The ability to schedule multiple promotions targeting different groups of players based on various criteria and thresholds of play and then to print a ticket that drives immediate action really sets Epicentral apart.”