Slot tournaments are largely known as social events where players congregate in crowds to participate in friendly competition with one another.
Unfortunately, group activities such as traditional slot tournaments are largely frowned upon in the post-COVID casino environment, where many players feel safer gambling within their own space. In response, casino operators are finding multiple innovative ways to honor these requests for separation, not just for a player appeal, but to abide by new laws set in place for public health and safety.
Slot system providers are also chipping in by adapting tournament technology to the times; helping operators keep the slot floor fun and engaging while maintaining required distance between players.
“Creating energy around a crowd of people may have been the objective of early slot tournaments, but today’s system-delivered slot tournaments have the flexibility to fulfill a wide array of marketing objectives, even in a post-COIVD era,” said Jay Bertsch, senior vice president, North American games and global systems sales at Konami Gaming. “There’s a false perception that today’s tournament events require large crowds of people. Slot tournaments have long been hosted without any crowding.”
That said, it is true that in the past slot tournaments were core to many casino special events, often drawing larger than expected crowds. “Setup included a checklist of duties involving team members from slot marketing, slot operations, and even the building and security crew as it necessitated slot machine moves, configuration, physically keying the machine to enable tournament mode, placing velvet ropes around the area, and having security monitor the area,” said Ted Keenan, vice president of product management for Scientific Games Systems. “During the tournament, uninvited players watched and congregated around the tournament area (instead of playing) and tournament goers were crowded into the tournament area.”
However, focusing on the now, slot tournament systems currently offer a number of options for safety-minded players, including:
- Flexibility in when they wish to participate;
- Ability to maintain base game play; and
- Comfort of selecting a machine from a safe distance, away from other players.
Regardless of the more spread out nature of slot tournaments during the era of coronavirus, the contests remain an effective way of bringing excitement and competition to casino floors—a trend that is not anticipated to go away any time soon.
“As our customers had to navigate the ‘new normal’ and formulate re-opening plans over the last several months, hosting slot tournaments was not top of mind for many, but we see that trend shifting,” said Michael Brennan, vice president product management at IGT. “Now that players and operators have acclimated to the realities of today and social distancing and enhanced cleaning protocols are engrained into the everyday routine, they are turning to tournaments again to reward players and differentiate their offering.”
For this reason, slot providers are hard at work adding even more enhancements to tournament systems to make the technology safer and more efficient for both operators and players in the current casino operating environment. What follows are the latest updates from leading slot tournament technology providers.
TournXtreme is IGT’s flagship tournament product line, and it includes Cleopatra Tournament, the company’s newest offering for its single and dual-screen Crystal Series video cabinets, in addition to four other independent solutions: Spin Ferno for the S3000 cabinet; Spin-Splosion! and IncrediBell! for its dual-screen Crystal Series video cabinets; and Ultimate X Poker Tournament for a range of upright video poker cabinets.
“Cleopatra Tournament is inspired by one of the most popular slot titles of all time, IGT’s Cleopatra slots,” said Brennan. It is IGT’s first tournament solution that can be leveraged on both a dual-screen EGM, and a single-screen EGM, and it can quickly be deployed by simply converting cash games to tournament games and vice versa. Also unique to Cleopatra Tournament are the holiday themes that IGT customers can apply to the solution to keep the content fresh throughout the year. For example, in October operators can deploy the company’s Halloween content package to add a layer of thematic entertainment to the tournament experience by way of unique symbols sets, background music and lighting.
“IGT stands apart in this segment for many reasons, the primary one being the strength of our core games that are compatible with our TournXtreme solutions,” said Brennan. “We are also the only supplier to offer tournament technology for video poker, mechanical reel and video slots games.”
Over the last five years, IGT has built a research-backed and performance-driven core video portfolio that is anchored in dozens of titles that have earned “proven performer” status for excellent performance in the company’s test bank program. “This is relevant because when tournament-enabled IGT slot machines are in cash mode on the casino floor, our customers can have confidence that games such as Scarab, Wolf Run Gold, Star Goddess and Hexbreaker 3 will be attractive to players and drive play,” Brennan said. “To this end, our customers do not have to sacrifice floor space for a tournament-only entertainment product that will be only intermittently deployed.”
The flexibility of IGT’s TournXtreme solution provides customers with a variety of options for responsibly offering slot tournaments in the “new normal” after COVID-19 forced new gaming practices for operators. One example of how IGT is addressing this is with its Cleopatra Tournament solution for single- and dual-screencabinets, which includes an “unseated” featured that enables operators to remove a specific EGM from the competition. This functionality allows for social distancing without having to physically power-down a slot machine, which can be unattractive on a casino floor. “Other customers are opting to place their tournament-enabled games in a pod configuration, instead of a bank configurations; automatically giving each participant more personal space,” said Brennan.
IGT plans to lean more on video technology for product demonstrations, utilizing its traveling Road Show trailer and small group visits to various showrooms around the world to showcase the innovations that the company would typically demonstrate at G2E. “Our tournament offering will be central to those interactions,” said Brennan. “Fortunately, IGT showcased Cleopatra Tournament at G2E last year, so many of our customers were able to experience the excitement and spirited competition that the solution can introduce to a casino floor.”
Konami’s True-Time Tournaments is a system-delivered tournament solution that allows players to both earn tournament entries from any machine and play tournaments on any True-Time Windowing equipped machines. Practically any touchscreen-enabled gaming device can be instantly transformed into a tournament-capable machine, and then returned back into revenue-generating game play. Everything is managed, controlled and deployed through the SYNKROS casino management system, so casino operators do not have to reserve dedicated tournament-only machines or purchase a large set of specialized game cabinets.
True-Time Tournaments is the only system-delivered tournament product on the market with player multi-game capabilities. When redeeming an on-demand tournament entry at any enabled video slot machine, carded players can have the option to choose from an array of game themes, to help keep tournament promotions fresh and unique. Players are given a menu of game theme options when claiming their tournament entries, empowering them with an additional element of control and excitement when they achieve targeted sales and marketing rewards at the property. This is a feature that operators can enable or disable, for any number of Konami’s available tournament themes.
“SYNKROS’ True-Time Tournaments was originally developed in 2012, based on feedback from customers,” said Bertsch. “Casinos properties wanted the ability to schedule their own tournaments on the machines they wanted. It continues to grow across North America because it allows operators to create excitement, drive trips and increase coin-in with a fixed marketing budget.”
Depending on a property’s unique promotional needs, SYNKROS’ True-Time Tournaments has the flexibility to deliver synchronized tournament games and on-demand tournament games to reward carded players. “Some of our customers create dedicated sections where their players compete in synchronized tournaments, others like floor-wide events, others award entries for players to access on-demand at their convenience, and some properties will circulate through any number of these depending on the particular promotion,” said Bertsch. All options are seamlessly managed through SYNKROS and provide customers with the flexibility to deploy diverse variations. From the tournament director interface within SYNKROS, casino administrators can view current scores, rankings, active players and the number of missing entries. And because True-Time Tournaments are system-delivered, there is no need to deploy property personnel to manage and administer the tournaments—it is all managed and delivered electronically to qualifying players through their loyalty account.
“Konami’s SYNKROS team is ready and available to provide online demos to casino teams on the industry’s top systems technologies, including True-Time Tournaments,” said Bertsch.
Scientific Games offers two unique types of slot tournaments through its Elite Bonusing Suite application, which allows an operator to configure promotions at their leisure; from the comfort of their couch to the back of house casino marketing offices. This can be an especially convenient advantage for marketing post COVID-19. Every aspect of the Scientific Games tournament can be completed remotely, from setup to prizes tabulation and automatic awards to the players account.
The Roped Off Tournament game offers operators the ability to construct a traditional style of slot tournament, where players descend upon a designated tournament area in groups and participate against one another during a timed event to achieve the highest score. Based on the scores, winners are ranked and the prize amount is either automatically transferred to the player’s account or paid by the special events team with great pomp and circumstance and, of course, photo ops.
“The Roped Off Tournament is great for operators as it allows them to start, stop and receive an automatic score tally from their laptop or PC, and players enjoy the various game themes which offer captivating optics and excitement inducing audio,” said Keenan.
The Bonus Tournaments Tournament game differentiates the Scientific Games tournament product line as it offers the slot tournament experience on any game with an iVIEW touchscreen, and players are able to maintain their base game play during the tournament (keeping players engaged while offering them an “in game” bonus). This allows the tournament to be opened up to the entire casino floor and inclusive to all qualified players to play at their leisure.
“While the Roped Off Tournament described above is time based, Bonus Tournaments are spin based; with the operator configuring a set amount of spins for players to receive when they participate in the bonus game,” said Keenan. “At the end of tournament, automation rules; scores are tabulated and displayed to the customer on the game screen, and bonus awards are automatically added to the players account.”
Scientific Games offers 16 different tournament themes however, the most popular themes for Roped Off tournaments include MONOPOLY Millionaire (featured on a recent Carnival Cruise), Jackpot Party and Jin Ji Bao XI. “Prospectors Plunge is the most popular Bonus Tournament game as no one can deny the likeability of the miner and his gems,” said Keenan.
The company also announced that it has recently released a social distancing application that allows operators to dynamically distance players by disabling games close by when a player inserts their card into a machine. The Electronic Gaming Machine Scheduler allows operators to control specific games that are enabled or disabled across the entire floor.