Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Casinos: New Technology to Change Slot Playing?

So this week is the Gaming Technology Summit here in Henderson. All the big casino players are here to discuss new technology and how to bring it into the casinos.

For some time now, casino execs have been eyeing server-based gaming and its many possibilities. But now, it looks like the possibility is becoming reality.

Server-based gaming allows casinos to have slots connected through a network. It lets operators change themes, promotions, the amount that can be wagered and the hold at a touch of a few keystrokes.

CityCenter’s Aria paved the way for deploying server-based gaming in newly built casinos. Almost half of the Aria casino floor is server-based, totaling about 900 games from manufacturers International Game Technology and WMS Gaming. The floor will have 100 percent server-based gaming by the summer as more manufacturers receive regulatory approval on their games.

So why is this so big? Why is everyone so excited? Here are the facts.

Executives say one of the perks of server-based gaming is it attracts younger customers who are looking for more stimulation on the casino floor. Some server-based games allow users to play up to four games at a time, which is becoming increasingly popular among customers already familiar with using several mobile devices at the same time.

“If I can win three games simultaneously, that is better than winning one,” Saenz said.

Executives said regulators, operators and most importantly, customers, need to be comfortable with the technology. When introducing new technology, it is important not to greatly change games customers already are loyal to, said Bally Technologies Vice President of Strategic Development Walt Eisele.

“The revenue still comes from the machine so you don’t want to mess with that too much,” he said.

The next step will be training third-party developers to make applications for server-based games, executives said. The technology would be similar to how third-party applications work on the iPhone. Saenz said IGT will have a booth at this year’s Global Gaming Expo devoted to helping developers create such applications.

Now yes, there are many long-time players who are uncomfortable with the new technology. Hell, there are still some players who hate ticket-based slot machines! However, they're only a small portion of the market.

What casino execs and slot manufacturers see is the still untapped market of younger players who aren't interested in just seeing lines spin. Players my age are now used to advanced, multi-dimensional, interactive video games that can be played on every console from XBox 360 to iPod Touch. These new server-based slots open up the possibility for far more new, sophisticated games like the new Sex And The City video slot machines.

Oh, and by the way, games like the Sex And The City slots are ways to attract older players to the new server-based machines in addition to younger players.

But do they pay well? Can pay schedules be tampered with? Can the odds be changed? Obviously, there are legitimate concerns about these new machines. That's why regulators like the Nevada Gaming Control Board has taken its time to examine this new technology to properly regulate it.

Still, this new technology holds some real promise in bringing new games to the casinos... And more players into the casinos as well!

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