For years, many in the gaming industry considered Class II slot machines a niche market, important to only a few tribal gaming facilities that, they believed, would eventually migrate over to superior Class III product.
NIGA GAMING SUPPLIERS
Suffice to say that this is no longer the case.
The continued growth of the tribal gaming marketplace and the ongoing importance of Class II slot machines—which can be operated without special compacts with state governments—have led to a resurgence of interest in Class II game development from Class III slot producers. What follows is company-by-company recap of new Class II offerings that will be featured at the upcoming NIGA show from some of the gaming industry’s largest slot machine suppliers:
With its purchase of Class II gaming provider Nova Technolo
gies last fall, Ainsworth Game Technology served notice that it planned on becoming a bigger player in the Class II gaming space going forward. For NIGA 2016, Ainsworth announced that for the first time it will offer its proven and popular games to Class II gaming tribes.
“We are excited to start to become part of the Class II market,” said Mike Dreitzer, president—North America for Ainsworth. “Our first responsibility is to listen closely to tribal leaders about their needs in the current gaming environment. We see it as our mission to provide new gaming options to help ensure tribes are empowered for continued success.”
To help with this transition, Ainsworth has hired Russell Witt as director of operations and business development—Class II, and he will be responsible for strategy and planning in all Class II markets. Witt previously served as national director of tribal development for Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) and has more than 15 years’ experience in Class II gaming.
(A podcast with Russell Witt discussing his new role at Ainsworth and the company’s Class II plans can be accessed at http://www.casinojournal.com/media/podcasts/2594).
Highlighting Class II offerings on display at NIGA will be the first three Ainsworth Class II titles—Twice the Money, Mustang Fortune and Cash Cave. Titles developed by Nova to be on display will include China Gold, Dragon’s Heat, Wheel of Time, and a pair of companion games, Immortal Nights Day of Reckoning and Immortal Nights Judgement Day. These Class II games will be available on both the A560 Dual Screen and Atlas 100 cabinets.
International Game Technology Plc (IGT) has had a long history of supplying successful Class II gaming content to tribal enterprises throughout the U.S. At NIGA 2016, IGT will be showcasing a number of new Class II games such as Air Heart Bingo. Based on the math model of the company’s exclusive Cleopatra Class II theme, Air Heart can be deployed on a variety of leading IGT gaming machines, including the G-series and universal slant cabinets. The new bingo game supports IGT’s Custom Button Configuration feature, which tailors the bet credits on every button and enables operators to configure for high-denominational or low-denominational gameplay. The five-reel, nine-payline gameplay elevates the player experience with dynamic aviation-themed symbols, and features a World War II pilot as a symbol that resonates with the game title’s play-on-words.
The company will also display the Crude Cash Bingo game. The exclusive Class II theme is equipped with a five-reel, MultiWay Xtra configuration which removes paylines and offers players 720 ways to win when select symbols line up in adjacent reels. Developed for a high-volatility gaming experience, Crude Cash can be deployed on a variety of leading IGT hardware solutions including the G23, G20, and GMLD cabinets. To elevate player excitement, the game’s stacked multipliers and free games bonus features keep players engaged for big-win opportunities.
As with IGT, Everi has strong roots in the Class II gaming space. “Class II gaming has always been a top business focus for us as we continue to expand our game development operations to support new gaming titles,” said David Lucchese, executive vice president, games at Everi. “In fact, every game currently in production is available as Class II. Our goal is to continue being a top performing Class II provider with new and innovative games that will appeal to players.”
Producing exciting premium content for Class II markets is the core of Everi’s tribal support strategy going forward, according to Lucchese. “One of the surprising trends in the Class II market is the lack of premium game content,” he said. “Our strategy remains to focus on Class II and ensure we offer top quality, premium games to this market. Games likeSuper Strike Progressive from our High Rise Games series, The Money Man Easy Street on our Platinum MPX cabinet, Fortune Teller on the Skyline top box, and Quad Burst Tiger Strike on our new Core HDX cabinet are just a few games we’re especially excited about.”
On display at NIGA is the above mentioned Super Strike Progressive, a nine-reel, 32-line video game that features bonus opportunities at any bet level. The Super Strike Bonus is triggered when three Super Strike symbols land on payline 7. Players are awarded five picks on a board of 20 picking spots and can win credits, additional picks or a progressive prize if they find a Super Strike symbol. Three Jackpot Wheel symbols landing on payline one awards players one spin on the Jackpot Wheel. The Jackpot Wheel contains credit values from 60X-200X bet per line and progressives are active at max bet.
“At NIGA this year we will also be showcasing Sushi Sushi Bang Bang featuring the Game Crown topper designed to draw in players from across the casino,” Lucchese said. “We will also be demonstrating Everi Bet, our new bet configuration system that gives casino operators the power to optimize the gaming floor for maximum returns.”
Scientific Games is another slot supplier looking to increase its Class II presence. “A key 2016 objective for Scientific Games is the expansion and growth of our Class II footprint,” said Alex Dungan, vice president of gaming operations/administration for Scientific Games. “Class II is a key strategic product in our overall portfolio, and as a leader in the Class II marketplace we will continue to innovate to meet our customer’s needs. Scientific Games currently has over 7,500 EGMs installed in over 85 locations throughout the United States and South Africa.”
The company plans on accomplishing its Class II growth goal by emphasizing its strength as game developer and original content provider. “Historically, if a Class III game had performed well, we would develop it into a Class II offering,” Dungan said. “Traditional tribal Class III operators are beginning to strategically utilize Class II product on mixed floors, so we’re now dedicated to not only bring proven Class III product into the market but also innovate and produce unique content for our Class II customers. We are able to do that with our extensive game development studios… In addition, Scientific Games is unique in the market place as we have strategic partnerships with other vendors to produce content that would not otherwise be available.”
This unique content will be evident at the Scientific Games booth at NIGA. “At NIGA 2016, Scientific Games will showcase five Class II games—two Bally-branded games, one WMS-branded game, and two third party licensed content games,” Dungan said. “These games are Cash Spin Featuring Quick Hit WAP, Sparkling Twilight, Thunder Cash, Gold Fish 3, and Rebel Wild on two proven, state of the art cabinets, the Alpha Pro V27-27 and V22-32.”
“It’s the nuances that set Scientific Games’ Class II slots apart from the competitors,” Dungan added. “Our Class II slot offerings include premium style games and 10 different state-of the-art cabinet options… Our systems are also designed for virtually no downtime by linking players to provide Class II BINGO games 24/7.”
Eclipse Gaming is an established Class II gaming provider looking to preserve and grow its position in the market, primarily by re-enforcing its strong existing relationships with gaming tribes.
“Eclipse Gaming is strongly rooted in tribal gaming and Class II continues to be the core focus for growth of our products and the company,” said Gina Lanphear, vice president of marketing for Eclipse Gaming. “We are extremely committed to our partnerships here and one of our top priorities is to build stronger relationships with our Class II customers as well as to stronger collaboration. We definitely plan to increase our footprint in existing markets this year, as well as expand into additional Class II jurisdictions.”
Company plans for NIGA 2016 include presenting new themes specifically for Class II. Many of the games feature new math models and reel configurations, including The Jazzy Night and Witch Hunter, which both feature a 3‐4‐4‐4‐3 reel configuration, as well as the new Totem Spirits.
Also included in the booth are Valor & Fortune and Professor Kranium based upon Eclipse’s wildly successful Wicked Mad Hot, and Elementary My Dear which utilizes the popular and proven Volcano math model.
“Our plans include developing and releasing more games this year than ever before, with an emphasis on dynamic game content utilizing a variety of bonus levels, features, and math models, all designed for optimal entertainment value for players and even stronger performance for our customers,” Lanphear said.
Video Game Technology (VGT), an Aristocrat Technologies company, is another business with long-standing Class II roots that is looking to become more prominent in the market now that it is expanding. “VGT was built on Class II gaming and has grown to be a leader in the industry,” said Jay Sevigny, president of VGT. “The market continues to grow and expand into regions of the U.S. that weren’t traditionally Class II so it’s an exciting time for VGT. With a proven team of game design, manufacturing, R&D, customer service and marketing personnel, VGT has the total package of resources and capabilities critical to continued gaming success in the Class II arena.”
At NIGA this year, VGT will introduce 11 new titles that they believe will quickly become player favorites. Diamond Riches, Sapphire Dreams, Emerald Fireand Crown Fortune are all part of the “lock and nudge” series with new locking reel features and Newton The Nudger who nudges reels to a win during bonus spins. The company’s Red Spin Gambler Series includes Polar High Roller Red Spin Multipliers, Ruby’s Red Spin Wilds, Mr. Money Bags Red Spin Deluxe and Lucky Ducky Red Spin Run and Red Spin Thunder. Lastly, VGT has two new five-reel mechanical games based on proven player favorites—Crazy Bill Runaway Riches and Crazy Cherry Jubilee!.
For the immediate future, VGT plans to become more active in the Class II video gaming machine niche. “An important trend in the Class II slot market continues to be the expansion of video products,” Sevigny said. “At VGT, we pride ourselves on providing innovative and entertaining products to our players. For 2016, we plan to deliver exciting mechanical reel products, as well as some brand new video products.”
American Gaming Systems (AGS) is no newcomer to the Class II scene; the company has had a number of its more popular games in circulation at tribal facilities for years. “Class II Native American gaming has always been the foundation of our company, and it plays a fundamental role in everything we do,” said Julia Boguslawski, chief marketing officer for AGS. “In fact, with our recent acquisition of Cadillac Jack and its well-established licenses and library of high-performing Class II games, AGS has become one of the largest Class II suppliers in the world. The market is vital to our business and we offer nearly all of our games in both Class II and Class III formats.”
Today AGS’s Class II business comprises of more than 15,000 units in Mexico and the U.S., making up more than 85 percent of the company’s revenue, according to Boguslawski.
For the first time at NIGA 2016, customers will see how bringing together Cadillac Jack and AGS into one booth has created a new compelling combination that gives tribal gaming customers unprecedented diversity and an increased value proposition. Inside the booth will be a variety of slot machine cabinets, including the ICON, Big Red, and Stratos. Within ICON’s streamlined design, visitors can experience the smash hits Golden Wins and Gold Dragon Red Dragon. These Asian-themed PowerXStream games for serious gamblers have been building momentum due to their high-volatility game dynamics, multi-link progressive jackpots and free spins bonuses. Rounding out the company’s key offerings will be Fire Wolf: Howling Boost and Cats Eye 9 Lives, two popular game titles that feature bonus spins and PowerXStream play mechanics on the Stratos cabinet.
“This year’s NIGA show presents a perfect opportunity to highlight our significant transformation since we exhibited at the show last year and—more importantly—to demonstrate our improved value proposition and continued commitment to the tribal gaming community,” Boguslawski said.