Ainsworth's Progressive Progress in Class II slot gaming
With its AnyBet progressive jackpot solution, Ainsworth Game Technology is making a huge splash on the Class II gaming marketplace
The evolution of Class II gaming machines has been something to behold, and with the AnyBet solution, Ainsworth Game Technology is taking this market segment to an even higher level.
To understand why AnyBet is so revolutionary to this space, it helps to remember that as recently as 15 years ago, gaming industry pundits predicted eventual extinction for the Class II gaming marketplace, stating the machines were hopelessly outclassed and that tribes would be better off negotiating for Class III compacts in order to offer the casino-style machines most slot players desired.
But this suggested strategy did not sit well with many tribes, who preferred the no compact/no taxes advantages that existed with Class II games. With this support, the Class II gaming machine market flourished, as customers continued to gravitate toward the games in established tribal properties and seek them out in new gaming facilities opening in nascent markets such as Oklahoma and Alabama. Class II game manufacturers responded by producing a more sophisticated product that better mimicked Las Vegas-style slot play. Over the past few years, mergers and acquisition activity within this space has introduced major Class III gaming manufacturers to the market, companies with the backing, knowhow and R&D budgets needed to totally transform the Class II machine.
Today, if it wasn’t for the mandated bingo card facsimile on the front of the machine, a customer would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a Class II and a Class III play experience… except in one vital area. The bingo card math on which Class II games are based is difficult to manipulate when it comes to certain styles of linked jackpots, at least compared to Class III slots that utilize random number generators.
This is where Ainsworth’s AnyBet product comes into play. Simply stated, AnyBet is a first-of-its-kind, patent-pending technology that offers Class II machine players the chance to win huge mystery progressive slot jackpots at any bet level. With AnyBet, a player can drop $0.25 into a machine and walk away with $5,000 or wager $0.40 and win more than $10,000.
“AnyBet is the only Class II mystery progressive that pays the full amount of the progressive regardless of the wager,” said Dave Waters, director of technical services and hardware for Ainsworth. “Our patented technologies provide true odds across all wagers and math models. The result allows linking of over 50 titles to a large progressive, which increments the jackpot more rapidly. We designed this to be given away very frequently.”
“The key innovation is in player fairness and engagement… games that require a match bet for progressives leave a smaller bettor out of contention for the progressive, and that makes the game less appealing and lowers the expected value of return for the player,” Waters added. “AnyBet solves this problem by giving every player true odds and a chance to win a life-enhancing progressive.”
AnyBet is just the latest Class II innovation from Ainsworth, which entered the market in 2016 with the purchase of Nova Technologies, a South Carolina-based developer of Class II games and systems.
““What it [the Nova Technologies deal] did for Ainsworth is that it immediately provided a Class II games route market, which was something Ainsworth had never been involved with before,” said Mike Trask, director of marketing and project management for Ainsworth. “The company had looked at different ways to expand into the Class II machine sales and route operations markets, and purchasing Nova was the right call; it was the right size and gave us access to a Class II system as well as some incredibly talented folks who have stayed on through the merger. So it gave us content, gave us a route, gave us talent and most importantly, gave us a tremendously sound Class II system… it really gave us the backbone to start growing this business.”
“Nova provided a stable, proven and flexible technology platform that helped position Ainsworth to expand into server-based gaming, mainly Class II and subsequently Washington State central determinate products,” added Waters, who had been with Nova Technologies since 2002. “The product has been around and stable for over 15 years, and it was the most stable and flexible platform in the industry. In return, Nova now had access to much more complex and proven Class III mathematics, which we did not have before.”
Nova also benefitted from the stable financial backing of Ainsworth Game Technology.
“What Nova had was a very sound central determinate system and team… but they struggled with R&D and other things that most small companies do,” said Russ Witt, director of central determination gaming for Ainsworth. “Ainsworth gave Nova the ability to integrate and mesh with an already proven and very large R&D team, it gave them access to a larger budget and other things they really needed to take that next level of success. It was a true marriage that worked on both sides.”
With Nova folded into Ainsworth operations, the first tasking was integrating Nova’s Class II system onto Ainsworth hardware platforms and then migrating titles from Class II to Class III and vice versa. It was during this process that Waters and his team had the “eureka” moment that eventually led to AnyBet.
“The math is where it really started,” Waters said. “We needed to pour some of this complex Class III math from the Ainsworth Class III to the Nova Class II system. What that led us to was re-imagining the traditional Class II math model. We had to add the capability for more complex Class III math, and that resulted in a new patented methodology that allowed us to create new features like AnyBet.”
That said, the impetus to actually create AnyBet came from discussions Ainsworth executives were having with tribal casino operators.
“Nova was typically a time on device, low volatility gamer product while Ainsworth has traditionally been a gambler-style, high volatility game,” Witt said. “So we were trying to figure out what we wanted our Class II product to be, what identity we wanted it to have. One thing that we were hearing in the field was that we really needed some sort of life enhancing jackpot type product for people to play. AnyBet is the solution we came up with, and it really came down to the innovative engineering minds of Dave and team to come up with a way to make that a Class II product. They were able to engineer that, file a patent for it, and this has become what we want our identity to be. When you think of Ainsworth and out Class II central determinate products, you are going to think of AnyBet. That is what is driving and is the centerpiece of our product development roadmap.”
“The fact that we are able to give true odds in a Class II system is AnyBet’s key innovation,” Waters added. “That means even to smallest bet amount can still win a $10,000 plus progressive jackpot. This is just not available in any other Class II product.”
Indeed, the technology behind AnyBet was cutting-edge enough to win one of Casino Journal’s 2017 Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products awards.
AnyBet functions through the use of Bingo card technology that is proprietary to Ainsworth and awards players a set number of progressive cards based on their bet level. The higher the player bets, the more chances they will have to win the progressive prizes. For example, a minimum bet of $0.25 or $0.30 offers one chance to win, while a max bet of $1.50-$2.00 provides 10 chances to win.
AnyBet games are linked by line count and there are two links available. The Silver link is for 25-line and 30-line games and has a minor progressive seed of $250 and a major progressive seed of $5,000. The Gold link is for 40-line and 50-line games with the minor seed of $500 and a major seed of $10,000. All the progressive seed and reset amounts are built into the game math so there is no progressive liability on the operator.
AnyBet jackpots also have an extremely high hit frequency which helps drive coin in, increase win-per-unit and create player excitement on casino floors. It has been engineered to drive increased coin-in and player excitement, while providing a tremendous ROI for casinos of all sizes. In short, AnyBet is geared to bring players to the game. AnyBet drives coin-in by offering a unique proposition in the Class II market: Win a big jackpot at any bet level.
Today, AnyBet can be played on more than 60 unique game themes on Ainsworth’s A560, A560SL Noir and A600 cabinets. The links can be installed across multiple cabinet styles, areas of the casino and even separate properties. Plus, the AnyBet Progressive meter can be displayed on game toppers, in a variety of sign packages or a combination of both.
And so far, the gaming industry has responded to AnyBet in a big way. AnyBet was first installed in December 2017 on 80 gaming cabinets at Jena Choctaw Pines Casino in Dry Prong, La. The second installation took place at Wind Creek Wetumpka Casino, a Poarch Band of Creek Indians property in Alabama. Additional installations are scheduled for Wind Creek Atmore and Wind Creek Montgomery, as well as the brand-new Four Wind Casino in South Bend, Ind., where 270 AnyBet linked machines take up 15 percent of the facility’s gaming floor.
Part of the reason for this strong response may derive from the type of player that tends to gravitate toward the AnyBet concept. “The primary player for AnyBet is going to end up being your local repeat visitor customer,” Trask said. “The product has been designed to have a fairly high hit frequency in the progressives, so our goal is to target those players who are repeat visitors to local properties and educate them on the product and that it can be hit on any bet, of course, but perhaps more importantly just to have them see these meters being reset on a fairly frequent basis. That is certainly appealing to a regular local player.”
“As far as the volatility goes, on AnyBet we were able to connect both our dual screen games as well as our upright cabinets, so throughout a property the volatility of the base games on AnyBet can vary somewhat significantly,” Trask added. “We are putting this mystery on top of banks of games that feature gambling-style Australian math, but additionally we have placed it atop more core products… games that attract the $20-$30 budget player who likes the idea of having a shot at a huge progressive.”
Trask also believes there is plenty of growth remaining for AnyBet in Class II tribal markets as well as central determinate and historical horse racing marketplaces both in the U.S. and abroad.
“The gaming market right now is tight, but we believe we have a very unique product that is going to drive ROI on slot floors,” he said. “Like any new product, we need to show consistent performance and I believe we have done that. We are proceeding with a fairly aggressive installation schedule over the next couple of months, and we believe we will continue to see strong performance.”