All new suppliers to the gaming industry come to a quick realization… it is an exceedingly hard market to break into.
Obstacles can include intrusive gaming license processes, grueling product testing procedures and litigious interference from potential competitors. Pass those, and the nascent vendor then has to square up against well-established suppliers that, thanks to numerous mergers and acquisitions, have complete product lines at lower costs. It is a daunting set of hurdles to overcome.
Despite these and other difficulties, each year a number of new gaming companies are able to navigate the shoals and establish a foothold in the gaming marketplace with unique and innovative product and service offerings. What follows is an alphabetical rundown of some of the nascent gaming suppliers that made progress in 2017 and bear watching in the upcoming year.
5 STAR HOLDINGS
The gaming industry was largely founded on family run businesses, and although most companies are now publically owned, many newcomers still enter the industry as family-run outfits. Once such concern is 5 Star Holdings, which is owned and operated by an Oklahoma-based family, and is in the business of producing new slot games that are action packed, engaging and incredibly versatile to meet the needs of diverse market demands.
The company’s flagship slot product is Oil Riggers, a highly-customizable product that 5 Star Holding developed in partnership with Global Gaming Group (G3) on game design and with VSR Industries for production of the cabinet. A niche market product, Oil Riggers features the newest technology and is designed to be customized on many levels, according to press materials. Casino operators can choose the state to be identified on the game cabinet, as well as the tribe, counties and cities to be incorporated into gameplay. Part of the game’s appeal is the minimum bet needed to win a progressive jackpot; for 50 cents, the player has a chance to win all jackpots, including the $10,000 MOTHERLOAD.
Oil Riggers is currently licensed in Oklahoma and North Dakota, two key target markets for a game that has broad appeal to players who dream of striking it rich in the oil and gas industry, and had its first placement this past November in Oklahoma’s Native Lights Casino. Originally developed as a Class III game, 5 Star Holding is currently working to create a Class II version Oil Riggers to broaden its appeal in Oklahoma and other tribal jurisdictions.
“We’re very pleased with the success of Oil Riggers as we roll it out in oil country,” said JC Garner, CEO of 5 Star Holdings. “There’s nothing else even remotely similar to it in the gaming market, and this uniqueness speaks to tribal casinos in states where oil is king.”
Las Vegas-based ARB LABS is attempting to carve out a niche in the gaming industry with its proprietary precision recognition system for casinos that uses advanced sensors to track real-time table activity. Recently, the company took a big step toward this goal by inking an agreement with VizExplorer that made ARB LABS’ ChipVue technology part of VizExplorer’s successful tableViz solution.
Complete with state-of-the-art, proprietary hardware and software components, tableViz with ChipVue will help casino operators generate slot-like analytics for popular casino table games like blackjack and baccarat, according to a press release. ChipVue uses proprietary optical technology to collect real-time wager information, while automatically tracking various bets made on popular table games. Captured data is recorded and can be used for player tracking and rating, side bet participation and measuring dealer performance. tableViz can provide accurate player ratings to help casino managers evaluate player worth and game performance by dealer and table, along with data about player behavior and activity to inform marketing campaigns, player development initiatives and gaming floor changes. Backed by ChipVue’s reliable optical data, tableViz insights can be used to properly assign player ratings, measure game and dealer performance, and even optimize staffing of the pit based on actual occupancy. The solution also generates accurate trends in the amounts bet by a player, including side wagers, opening up new possibilities for incentivizing players.
“ARB LABS has built an innovative solution to provide casino operators reliable data and previously unavailable analytics about real-time table game wagers,” said Jeffrey Hoss, vice president of business development for VizExplorer. “VizExplorer is excited to add a powerful table games analytics solution backed by reliable data for operators seeking intelligent insights to better understand table game players and ultimately increase table game profitability.”
ARDENT PROGRESSIVE SYSTEMS AND GAMES
Since its inception in 2002 with its first player tracking system, Ardent Progressive Systems and Games strives to be a leader in developing and distributing innovative slot and promotional games, as well as casino systems. Ardent has achieved this through utilizing innovative software solutions, superior player friendly products and rapid and efficient customer support, according to press materials.
Ardent evolved from Owner/CEO Robert Guinn’s concern with the inefficiencies that hinder larger corporate gaming entities from responding expediently to customers and the market itself. His vision for the company is for Ardent not to be the biggest, but to be the most responsive to client needs as well as gaming industry trends. This has set Ardent up to be a leader in modern technology and value oriented products.
The company has most recently altered how the gaming industry tracks complimentary beverage costs with the pioneering Ardent Complimentary Validation System, the first product of note that has been able to effectively quantify the bartender’s perception of what qualifies a player for complimentary service. Up until Ardent trialed it over two years ago at Caesars Palace, the player and the proprietor have been at the mercy of the bartender’s professionalism. With the Complimentary Validation System, operators no longer have to explain what constitutes “consistent play” to the patron that expects to watch T.V. and drink for free while playing a quarter a hand. After proving its value in trial at Caesars Palace, it has been selected and installed by 19 properties (1,200 units) in Las Vegas, Laughlin, Reno and Lake Tahoe to bolster their bottom-line.
The Complimentary Validation System, combined with the ability to offer large format HD games and complete slot management systems at low price points, allows Ardent to re-introduce fair value to the casino gaming industry.
Backed by Callidus Capital Corporation, Bluberi is an established and reliable Canada-based company that delivers high-quality gaming experiences to players and provides swift, dependable customer service to casino slot managers. With an ever-expanding footprint in the gaming industry, Bluberi has deployed games and forged business partnerships in casinos across North America, South America and the Caribbean and is focused on delivering new and innovative solutions to the land-based, social and mobile gaming marketplace, according to press materials.
Bluberi debuted a total of 14 new game titles at G2E including the new Class III games Frogged Up!, Emperor Mystery, Wild Wishes and Dèng Lóng featured on the b.POD by Bluberi configuration. The show also included the unveiling of the new Novus Series by Bluberi cabinet line which boasts an interchangeable common base that supports six different display modules for maximum operator flexibility. The first two display modules, the Novus Series Slant and Novus Series Upright, will be available on casino floors next year. In addition, Bluberi revealed further upgrades to the popular BluKnight by Bluberi cabinet line featuring the b.POD extension including new full HD-enhanced screens to augment existing Bluberi games.
“The feedback from our most valued customers at G2E was truly outstanding,” said Mike Starzynski, CEO for Bluberi. “The new Novus Series cabinet line was well-received and, thanks to our invaluable partnership with our customers, Bluberi continues to create innovative products designed from the ground up to meet the specific needs of individual casino operators.”
Casino operators are constantly on the lookout for products that can streamline and grow marketing efforts, providing a ready-made entrée for nascent companies that offer leading-edge customer engagement technology and systems. Experiture, an offshoot of INDROS Group, a leader in CRM and data-driven marketing for more than 12 years, is one such company looking to capitalize on this trend with the first ever multichannel marketing automation platform built specifically for casino marketers, according to press materials.
Casino operators have always had to grapple with using various complicated and expensive methods to reach, engage and track communications sent to their players and guests via their direct marketing efforts— until now. With Experiture’s Player Engagement Solutions, marketers can enable personalized, compelling player experiences that seamlessly connect multiple channels— allowing marketers to reach players with messaging that fosters loyalty and encourages repeat visits... without ongoing help from internal IT.
Experiture is available as self-service software, but also as a managed turnkey service for those that are new to digital and mobile marketing. The Experiture marketing software enables casino marketing teams to create and automate the delivery of messages to players and guests across multiple channels such as e-mail, mobile, social, web, direct mail and more—all from a single platform and without any special skills or training.
Experiture’s innovative technology features include multichannel messaging; a revolutionary program designer; seamless data connectivity; a unified view of the player, player lifecycle marketing; and real-time reporting and analytics.
GAMING TECHNOLOGY GROUP (GTG)
Las Vegas-based GTG was formed in 2010 as a spin off from its predecessor Western Money Systems and has generated slow and steady success in the gaming marketplace by offering affordable slot, cash management and player loyalty systems for small- to mid‐sized gaming operations. With its flagship GameLinx and PlayerLinx systems, and its new UltraLinx system, GTG currently has installations in nearly 200 gaming locations within Nevada.
According to press materials, UltraLinx is an affordable, full‐floor slot and loyalty systems solution for smaller gaming operators. Its extensive features include slot accounting, downloadable credits, ticketing, robust reporting, player touchscreen LCD display and player loyalty management. UltraLinx also has several affordable add‐ons including PromoLinx, GTG’s full‐service promotional kiosk that allows operators to drive revenue by aligning marketing reinvestment costs to the exact players that warrant it; CashLinx, cash and ticket redemption kiosks that provide a strong cash management solution and CountLinx, soft count machines, that offer an easy way to efficiently scan, count and sort cash and tickets.
This past year has seen UltraLinx gain Nevada Gaming Control Board approval and be adopted by gaming operators such as Broadway Colt Casino and Gold ‘N Silver Inn. “The Broadway Colt Casino is pleased to be part of the UltraLinx launch,” said Stuart Ellison, general manager for the property. “We believe it is an affordable way to differentiate our brand without increasing operating expenses, and that it provides the necessary reporting, security features and functionality we desire for our property.”
Next Gaming is unique in that it creates and distributes slot games in addition to their parent company TLC Casino Enterprises, Inc. operating two casinos in downtown Las Vegas – the Four Queens and Binion’s Gambling Hall. Founded by Terry Caudill in 2006, Next Gaming is a privately-owned company focused on creating and distributing leading-edge, quality slot machines and equipment to the U.S. gaming market. The company’s dedicated team brings a combined 10 decades of experience in a number of disciplines including design, technology, state-of-the-art delivery platforms, product development and manufacturing. This combined expertise created a slot product company dedicated to working with customers to develop value-oriented solutions that strategically complement the casino floor.
What further sets Next Gaming apart is that it is taking a deep dive into the skill-based gaming machine marketplace. The company currently has five skill-based patents which allows it to design and create multiple variations for the skill-based experience. In addition to that, Next Gaming also has IP licenses with TAITO for Bust-A-Move and Arkanoid, as well as with Atari for Asteroids. At G2E, the company displayed a total of four different skill-based games as well as traditional video reel games.
Next Gaming brought its skill products to G2E to fine-tune them and get feedback, and demand at the show was very high, according to company CEO Mike Darley. In terms of the approvals process, Next Gaming has already been in discussions with the Nevada Gaming Control Board. “We’ve talked about our approach to these games; they don’t have any concerns,” Darley said. “We’ll be out and ready to implement in the first quarter of 2018.”
GRAND VISION GAMING (GVG)
Billings, Montana-based Grand Vision Gaming designs and manufacturers Class III video gaming machines for licensed operators in legalized gaming jurisdictions within the U.S. From its inception, GVG’s goal has been to capture the lead in bottom-line profitability in its respective marketplace, according to press materials. Specifying only state-of-the-art technology for the computer hardware platform and all peripherals, GVG has assembled a truly revolutionary product, specifically built for VLT style gaming jurisdictions. From the unique, proprietary cabinetry, to the interactive and imaginative game themes, no part of the video gaming experience goes unnoticed in designing and producing GVG’s products. Sounds, graphics, ergonomics and enticing math models are all evaluated and perfectly blended into each finished game.
Earlier this year, Grand Vision gaming was acquired by Century Gaming Technologies, a distributed gaming operator with the largest gaming route in Montana and second largest in Nevada. Backed by Century’s route size—boasting over 7,000 devices company-wide—coupled with over 50 years of industry expertise, the combined companies pack a powerful advantage over competitors in both the distributed route and the VLT manufacturing sectors. Indeed, since the purchase, GVG has expanded into the Oklahoma marketplace, introduced its software and cabinets to West Virginia after receiving software approval and obtaining a manufacturers license from the West Virginia Limited Video Lottery (WVLVL), released its Signature Series cabinet and multigame software set and launched its Buffalo Keno game into the South Dakota Video Lottery market.
“We believe the addition of Buffalo Keno to our product mix in South Dakota will greatly enhance our already popular keno offerings in this market,” said Merle Frank, managing director of GVG. “We are proud of the high performance of our game content mix in the South Dakota Video Lottery market and this exciting new keno game should accelerate our growth.”
Las Vegas-based House Advantage offers decades of experience in loyalty programs for the resort, leisure and entertainment markets. The company provides loyalty marketing technologies, reinforced by strategic expertise and deep industry experience that empower the world’s most successful entertainment brands to seamlessly integrate powerful new marketing strategies and tools. With House Advantage, brands increase customer engagement, generate vital business intelligence and boost per-patron share-of-wallet with seamless integration and total support for their existing systems.
The company’s primary offering to the gaming community is HALo, a suite of centrally managed loyalty solutions that enable delivery of highly tailored programs and incentives across multiple systems, according to company literature. HALo is a proven solution with huge transactional scale typically seen only in global financial networks. Orchestrating those programs and their vast stores of data is HALo Core, the central component of the HALo Loyalty Management Solution. The unique HALo architecture supports true “big data” processing with the speed to satisfy the demands of real-time transactional processing at massive scale.
In the past year, the company has added to its product portfolio by acquiring eTouchMenu, a pioneer in digital menu technology with clients across numerous industries and hundreds of outlets. House advantage also recently purchased the ClubLinq API solution suite from Intermezzo, and announced a strategic partnership with JOINGO, a leading provider of mobile loyalty solutions for the casino gaming industry, that aims to integrate the two products to provide a seamless loyalty experience for current and future joint customers.
THE RAINMAKER GROUP
Rainmaker bills itself as the hotel revenue and profit optimization cloud. The company partners with hotels, resorts and casinos to help them outperform their revenue and profit objectives. Rainmaker’s cloud-based solutions for transient and group pricing optimization, forecasting and revenue-centric business intelligence are designed to help hoteliers streamline operations, enhance revenue optimization processes, improve lead performance and drive guest bookings.
This past year saw Rainmaker jettison its multifamily housing assets to RealPage in order to further strengthen its position as the leading provider of revenue management solutions for the hospitality and gaming industry.
Rainmaker’s revenue and profit optimization product suite includes:
- guestrev, an intuitive and easy-to-use revenue management solution that analyzes total guest value across a hotel or casino property to forecast and price rooms;
- grouprev, an innovative group pricing solution that streamlines the process of responding to group RFPs by analyzing historical data, future demand, and price sensitivity to recommend the best pricing for group business;
- revcaster, a powerful rate shopping tool that gives hoteliers access to real-time actionable market data, so that rates can be set against the competitive landscape; and
- revintel, an intuitive business intelligence solution that improves day-to-day revenue management by mining various data sets and providing deep insights at a granular level.
“This transaction underscores Rainmaker’s longstanding commitment to its hospitality customers,” said Tammy Farley, president of The Rainmaker Group. “The sale will allow us to focus all of our energy and resources on developing the most powerful and flexible revenue and profit optimization solutions in the industry.”