The gaming jury is still very much out when it comes to the future impact of skill-based slot machines within the land-based casino environment. One thing is certain, opinions on skill games very much run the gamut; from groundbreaking, vital and essential to unfeasible, unplayable and overblown.
Still, the topic of skill-based slots is brought up at every gaming tradeshow and conference I have attended this year, and there is some consensus on the subject. To start, there seems to be agreement that it will be difficult for skill-based slots to be as profitable as traditional machines; simply stated, the mechanics and math models for the traditional slot are far more lucrative than those developed thus far for skill play. So the talk of entire slot floors being devoted to skill concepts within the next decade are somewhat overblown, especially if slot managers want to maintain profit levels (and find me an operator who wants their machine area to generate less cash).
This does not mean skill-based games lack a viable future in the land-based casino space, however success will likely be determined by where the property is located, its size and the type of clientele it already attracts. The thinking goes that a segment of the floor devoted to skill-type games is likely a good idea for larger properties that have the space and the non-gaming amenities that already attract the large numbers of younger customers for which the games are designed. In other words, skill slots will play better at integrated Las Vegas-style resorts than the drive-in properties that attract serious, local gamblers.
However, this model is not ironclad—even the most local of gaming joints will carve out some space for a skill slot or two if the devices can drive incremental revenue.
With all this in mind, Casino Journal recently ran an online poll that asked which slot providers were becoming the “go to” companies for land-based operators seeking skill-based machine products? The responses were a bit surprising, but explainable. (To see the results, visit www.casinojournal.com/polls.)
Leading the pack was GameCo, the developer of the Video Game Gambling Machine, an arcade-style cabinet that allows a player’s skill to determine payout while maintaining the same casino-based economics as slot machines, which garnered nearly half (48 percent) of the more than 250 votes cast. GameCo has been in the news a lot of late, thanks to product placement deals with Caesars Entertainment and Foxwoods, as well as licensing deals to create skill slot games based on popular movies such as Mission: Impossible, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Gamblit Gaming, which has also made a splash of late by placing its line of mobile game-inspired skill gaming machines into Las Vegas and California casinos, received 24 percent of the votes. Much like GameCo, it too has signed recent licensing deals for popular mobile/social games including JetPack Joyride and The Brookhaven Experiment, which has generated a lot of media coverage.
Well behind these two companies where the rest of the traditional slot machine suppliers offering skill game slots: IGT (10 percent), Konami Gaming (9 percent), Everi (7 percent) and Scientific Games (6 percent). On second glance, this result is really not all that surprising—most of these companies have just started to push skill-based slot concepts into the market, and many are hybrid concepts featuring traditional slot mechanics with skill-based bonus rounds, designed to round out existing product lines.
So one way to read the results of this poll is that the casino industry sees more promise in machines that truly offer a skill-based experience instead of those tacking a skill play bonus round into a traditional slot concept. Initially, at least, real skill is winning the play.