New Class II, March 2015

Bally—ZZ Top Live From Texas™
ZZ Top Live From Texas™ will have players grooving in high-definition on the ALPHA Pro™ V22/32 with a 5.1 surround-sound chair. ZZ Top appears in this 5-reel, 30-line game. It includes some of the band’s classics like “Sharp Dressed Man”, “Cheap Sunglasses,”
“Just Got Paid”, “Legs” and “Gimmie All Your Lovin’”, along with concert footage. Players spin a ZZ Top Bonus Wheel to win one of the three free games bonuses, a jackpot wheel spin or a Money Spin. The Jackpot Wheel awards players one of two progressive jackpots at any bet level or a huge wide-area progressive jackpot at max bet. Game play starts with the Just Got Paid instant win as players are awarded a pick-‘em feature which can earn credits, a Jackpot Wheel spin or one of three free games bonuses: Live from Texas Free Games, Sharp Dressed Man Free Games and Legs Free Games with Locking Wilds™. In Eliminator Wilds, a hot rod appears on screen during the base game and awards wilds on reels two through five. The band’s VU Sound Meter also appears and awards a 2X, 3X or 5X multiplier to line wins. For more information, visit www.ballytech.com.

Cadillac Jack—Goddess of the Woods™
Discover the Goddess Series, a stunningly beautiful collection of games available with the Goddess Treasures™ linked progressive or as standalone games. Four strong and beautiful Goddesses rule their unique base games but unite to electrify profits as part of the Goddess Treasures multi-level progressive link. Goddess of the Woods Night Glow is set in the forest, the background is alive and moving, seamlessly switching from the base game to the Free Spin Bonus. This game incorporates Connect to Win™ natural payline algorithms that make the winning experience easier to understand. During the bonus before each of the first seven spins, the Pay Stack Power™ level meter increases by one and then the Pay Stack Power value meters increase one at a time. If a full stack of Goddess symbols lands on reels one, three or five the corresponding Pay Stack Power value above the stack is awarded. Three bonus symbols landing on reels one, three and five awards an additional seven free spins. However, all spins played after the seventh spin are played with the Pay Stack Power value meter at the same level as spin seven. For more information, visit www.cadillacjack.com.

IGT—Prowling Panther™
Bring the excitement and mystery of the dark side of the jungle to casino floors with IGT’s Class II title, Prowling Panther™ Video Slots. Packed with symbol-driven gaming fun, this high-volatility gaming experience features IGT’s MultiWay Xtra® wagering and Stacked Multipliers. Boasting a 3x4x5x4x3 reel configuration, players will tap into their animal instincts when they hear the pitter-patter of panthers running through the jungle as the MLD reels spin. Prowling Panther will have players purring with excitement as they seek out the exciting Free Games Bonus. Once engaged in the bonus, the thunderous growl of a panther takes over the reels, giving players a chance to win up to 96 sizzling free games with Stacked Multipliers. Numbers, letters, jungle birds and panthers stalk the reels, giving way to 720 exciting ways to win and gaming thrills poised to pounce at any moment. Prowling Panther is compatible with a variety of IGT cabinets. For more information, visit www.igt.com.

Nova Technologies—SAVAGE SEAS™
Answer the call of the siren in Nova Technologies’ newest 5-reel, 30-, 40- and 50-line game SAVAGE SEAS™. These SAVAGE SEAS have beautiful but deadly sirens, savage sea monsters and the giant kraken guarding its many priceless treasures. In your quest at sea you will encounter a free spin bonus that awards up to one hundred free spins or even more with nested free spins. This highly cinematic new game features stacked symbols for even bigger wins and greater excitement. SAVAGE SEAS uses a medium-high volatility math model and can be set at 30 lines for higher time on device or 40 and 50 lines for bigger wins. This blockbuster game also features full-screen symbol animations, a new streamlined user interface with lots of new over the top win celebrations and rich booming sounds to engage and excite the player. Available as both a Class II and a Class III game. For more information, visit www.novatechnologiesllc.com.

Rocket Gaming—Gods of Olympus™
The gods have come out to play in gods of Olympus, the newest release from Rocket Gaming Systems®. This 5-reel, 40-line video title is offered on Rocket’s Elite Class® cabinet, Winners Edge® video cabinet and Galaxy™ cabinet. Gods of Olympus has a max bet of 300 credits by default, but is configurable to up to 1,800 credits. It is available in denominations of $0.01, $0.02 and $0.05. The Zeus Lightning Free Games Bonus is triggered by three, four or five Zeus symbols. In this feature, the player is awarded an unlimited number of free games until three Zeus Terminator symbols appear on reels one, three and five. During the free games spins, additional wilds are added to the reels and the multiplier increases 1X after every spin played for added wins. Initiate the Gods of Olympus Wheel Bonus by obtaining three Wheel Bonus symbols on reels one, three and five. A Second Chance feature is available to try to acquire the third Wheel Bonus symbol. In this feature, players are awarded one spin of the wheel to win additional credits. For more information, visit www.rocketgaming.com.

Video Gaming Technologies—Ruby’s Lounge Life™ and Ruby’s Hot Red Cabaret™
VGT’s legendary Hot Red Ruby® is back with two new 3-reel, 1-line, 3-credit max bet progressive titles guaranteed to engage players and keep them coming back for the chance to win big jackpots. Ruby’s Lounge Life™ and Ruby’s Hot Red Cabaret™ use the same math model and base game features of Ruby’s original game with the added excitement of multi-level progressive jackpot payouts. Jackpot wins are cumulative to give players more value and incentive for betting up. And VGT’s hallmark Red Screen Free Spins® add to player engagement and excitement. For more information, visit www.vgt.net.

WMS—Eagle Maiden™ and Lone Wolf™
It’s the Eagle Maiden™ and Lone Wolf™ themes from the Awesome Reels™ family. The themes each have a distinct 6X4 reel layout offering 4,096 ways to win each spin and the chance at multiple six-of-a-kind wins. Win up to 100 free spins with the chance of retriggering the Free Spin Bonus adding up to 100 additional free spins. Three “awesome” features can trigger on reel six during base game play. When an Awesome Respin™ symbol lands on reel six accompanied by a winning combination, the winning combination will be locked in position as the reels respin. An Awesome Burst™ symbol on reel six accompanied by a winning combination triggers the Awesome Burst™ Bonus, during which a seemingly random number of symbols will be replaced with the highest paying symbol won on that spin. An Awesome Multiplier™ symbol on reel six accompanied by a winning combination awards the pay at 2X, 3X or 5X. Each theme also features a mystery progressive. The progressive is triggered by specific wins and the machine can be configured for a progressive with multiple levels from one to four. The mystery progressive is optional in Class II markets. For more information, visit www.now.wms.com.

Where is the Money? Part 9 of 36: Social Media Meets Player Development (Mixing Personal and Business Relationships)

Authors’ Note: As we established in parts 7 and 8 of this series, social media is now a powerful force in the casino industry. And guess what? Good hosts exploit it. Social media is like an invisible force in the management of relationships with customers. Players and hosts can and do send messages, share personal stories and communicate on a very personal level via social media. This remarkable social channel is completely outside of the control of the casino, and because the relationship is personal, exactly who owns the relationship is questionable. In this article, we dig into these ownership questions and suggest ways that the casino can maintain ownership of the patron while the host is connected on Facebook. Before we dig into the player development side of social media in this article, we’ll set the stage with some critical concepts. These concepts define the difference between business and personal relationships and allow us to build out a way of understanding the quite different world we find ourselves in with the advent of social media.

In Mandarin Chinese, guanxi is a generic term for a personal network of influence. In Chinese society, this is a very important concept, and understanding how it works is a central part of how a Westerner can learn how to do business successfully in China. The direct translation to English—“connections” or “relationships”—does not properly convey the depth of the importance and influence of the type of relationship guanxi describes.1

“Successful long-term business relationships in China are indeed anchored by strong personal bonds. China does not draw a hard line between business and personal relationships in the way that many Western societies do,” Roy Chau said in his Sloan Review article on building relationships in China.2 Quite simply, it seems that in China, the depth of one’s relationship on a personal level is critical to long-term relationships, trust and doing business. This very different cultural environment has sparked major shifts in behaviors by Westerners trying to do business in China—and endless books on how to build your guanxi.

As Chau implies, it has long been thought that these deep personal relationship are not a major part of business in the West. In other words, it is quite normal for two organizations to do business with each other without forming a deep personal relationship.

Consider this example: Company Alpha is evaluating Company Beta for a Business-to-Business (B2B) relationship on a technology platform. Alpha is going to look at Beta’s financials, understand its market position, examine its culture and of course, evaluate the technology. The personal networks involved will be relevant, but it is reasonable to expect Alpha to see those as secondary to the B2B relationship.

Furthermore, we can expect that the relationships that are built during the business dealings between the companies will be considered business relationships, not personal relationships.

In the West, personal relationships are between family members and friends. In a personal relationship, we discuss matters of the heart and of family, and we share intimate details of our lives. Sometimes the lines between business and personal can become a little blurred at social events and business dinners, but at the end of the day, business people in Western countries usually keep their business and personal relationships quite separate.

But enter Facebook, and all of this changes. With a simple click to accept a friend, we are now able to share what are often quite personal details of our lives with our business partners.

When Business Gets Personal
There is little doubt that every business that involves people needs to think about how social media is impacting their business. As described in our February 2015 article for this series, the social media numbers are staggering. Almost two-thirds of all Americans login to Facebook every day. This unstoppable force is changing the fabric of society and is altering how we live, work and play. Those in denial of this growth need to take a deep breath and look at the numbers again: Two-thirds of 320 million Americans login to Facebook every day, as estimated in 2015.3 Those two-thirds are often using Facebook as their window into the world. What is even more remarkable is that the social forces at play are invisible to those outside the network.

In the world of player development, hosts are Business-to-Consumer (B2C) sales people, and they are constantly building their network of players. Historically, the industry has been littered with examples of high-value hosts having “black books” of high-value players that they have cultivated over the years; some even have their own websites.4 Today, the network is built online.

Modern hosts use social media to cultivate their players, and this can be a challenge for casino operators. Consider the example of socially enabled players (CEM February 2015). These players see Facebook as one of their primary means of communication. Modern hosts are very active on Facebook, and one of their primary means of communication with their players is over this social platform. This strangely brings us much closer to a Chinese model of business, where guanxi and deep, committed personal relationships are key elements of business.

The greater challenge is that the relationship between the player and the host has gone far beyond a secret black book; it is now a complete mystery to the operator. The modern host is part of the player’s personal life, and it requires a different kind of thinking to imagine how the operator can be involved in this personal relationship. It starts with choosing the right hosts in the first place.

Employment of Hosts
When employing hosts in the socially enabled world, their personal influence is now very important. While operators may find this invasive, there is little doubt that a player development expert turning up with a large, active social media presence connected with many players is somebody of potential value.

To consider how this personal relationship effects player development, let’s consider two attributes of a host:
• The size of the host’s personal database.
• The host’s personal activity on social media.

Table 1 highlights how these attributes affect job performance.

In this new world, it will be challenging for operators to measure what type of host a prospective employee will be, so in addition to probing the prospect with questions pertaining to the depth of their experience and the size of their existing pool of gaming contacts, the operator must now devise methods of determining the level of social engagement the host has with his or her gaming contacts.

Ownership of the Relationship
The work decisions do not end there, however. Once the right hosts are in place, the casino still cannot take a passive role. If we think about ownership as a bundle of sticks,5 before social media it was possible for an operator to own the player relationship. If a host left the property, that host’s players could be reassigned to other hosts and the relationship with the player could continue. But in the world of social media and the modern host, there are some real and ongoing challenges to face.

Let’s consider the example of a host named Chris who moves from Casino Alpha to a competing casino. In the past, the operator would strive to not allow the host to bring her “black book” of players. In fact, in switching casinos, the host would in many ways be starting over. For Chris, who is a modern host, the situation is quite different. She makes a Facebook post announcing her new role and starts directly communicating with her Facebook friends. Leaving aside the legal considerations, it is very difficult for Casino Alpha to stop this communication. Worse yet, the players feel like it is business as usual, as they have been communicating with Chris on social media for years. Chris might even have a private party and invite her old players to the new property to experience a special event accompanied by a special signup offer.

For an operator this could be a very scary scenario, and clearly we need some strategies for how to handle an event like this. Let’s consider some options: (1) organizational social media, (2) executive social media and (3) multi-connect.

Organizational Social Media: The organization can embrace social media and create a buzz, showing a constant stream of activities that are socially relevant. Given the enormous number of patrons that are constantly connected to social media, these activities need to be in real time, and they need to be interesting. This goes far beyond the announcement of events. Messages must create a personal relationship between the operator and its socially connected players. One way to cultivate this is for the operator-produced material to be entertaining and funny—it should be something that the players will want to see. This is a far cry from the passive informational websites of the last few decades. Today, it must be very active and entertaining material. We can take this to another level by creating social media resources and requiring players to interact with this social media. The SEO strategy of the organization is critical here, as players must connect with the organization and see value in belonging to its social network. If operators accomplish this, then the property joins in on the trusted personal relationship between players and hosts.
Executive Social Media: The executives above the host can connect directly to the players, too. This multilevel connection is challenging to manage but provides multiple levels of value. A first level of value is that now communication between the player and the host is visible to management and manageable by the executive directly above the host. A second level of value is that if the host leaves the property, like in the example of Chris, the executive can reach out directly and communicate with the players. A third level of value is that the executive now has information streams about the players and their interaction with other properties.
Multi-connect: In this option, no player should be able to connect with just one host, and multiple hosts are encouraged to engage with each player. Through this multi-connect model, we hope to make the players feel that they are engaged with the casino’s community, not just one individual host.

Socially Enabled Tools
As we have often discussed, the importance of data and information-based decisions is more important than ever here. We have identified key components to a player development tool as described in detail in our February 2015 article, including the need for real time data and mobile tools. Socially enabled tools take this a step further, promoting and even tracking the social interactions between player and host.

The more aligned that a player development tool is with the goals (and financial incentives tied to them) of a casino host, the better this tool can track and monitor every interaction of a host with his or her players. As a simple example, a player-tracking tool that allows a host to trigger a contact (phone call, email, text, etc.) with a player can be used as a measurement of such interactions. If the casino then ties the host’s goals with these forms of communications, the hosts will invariably move all of their communications through the tool, as opposed to handling them outside the tool and tracking them via their own personal “black book.”

Extending this to social media then provides the same leverage of the casino to participate, track and reward hosts based on their social engagement with customers—in other words, their social guanxi.

Bringing it All Together
The sea change of social media over the past few years brings a form of guanxi to player development, and, like all massive changes, it brings opportunity and risk. The critical observation is that there seems to be risk in avoiding this trend—and that our hosts are probably already actively using social tools to establish their personal relationships with the operator’s customers. The only practical way to gain visibility of this invisible force is for operators to join social networks and build their own guanxi.

Footnotes
1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanxi
2 http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/building-effective-business-relations…
3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States
4 http://topcasinohost.com, referenced Feb. 2015.
5 CEM April 2014, Cardno Thomas. Ownership is a bundle of sticks.

New Community Style and Progressives, March 2015

Ainsworth—Fire Wizard™ and Ice Wizard™
Add some magic to your casino floor with Fire Wizard™ and Ice Wizard™, Ainsworth’s newest SAP’s featuring five levels of standalone progressives or four levels of standalone and one linked Grand progressive. Both options include a free games feature. In these new games, 10 free games are triggered by any three or more scattered Fire Wizard or Ice Wizard, respectively. During the free games, if one or more Wizard substitutes in a win, the pay for that win is multiplied by the Wizard multiplier, except scatter wins. During the free games, bonus Wizard multipliers of up to 10X are awarded, stacked bonus symbols appear and one retrigger can occur. Housed in the striking A560®SL cabinet complete with a 32-inch high-definition display, premium surround sound, dynamic attract lighting and available with 19-inch LCD toppers, Fire Wizard and Ice Wizard are sure to cast a spell on your casino floor. For more information, visit www.ainsworth.com.au.

Bally—5 Treasures™
5 Treasures™ has arrived in the United States. 5 Treasures is a superb addition to the Duo Fu Duo Cai progressive link, which also features the title 88 Fortunes™. The game offers players the chance to test their luck with free games that can be re-triggered and enticing progressive jackpots. This 5-reel, 243-way game is available on the Pro Series™ V27/27, V22/22 and V22/22 with Hammerhead. This game entertains players with gorgeous Asian artwork, Reel Ways and the All Up game style, which offers players higher rewards for higher bets using gold symbols. Three or more Red Door symbols start the Free Games Feature, which awards six free games that can be re-triggered over and over. Players select a Golden Animal symbol to add to the reel set to choose their own volatility as they pursue exciting five-of-a-kind wins. The game is highlighted by the Fu Bat Jackpot Feature, which lets players pick from among 12 lucky coins until three Fu Baby symbols match. Each Baby symbol corresponds to one of four amazing jackpot levels. For more information, visit www.ballytech.com.

IGT—Gong Xi Fa Cai™
IGT invites players seeking higher volatility to experience IGT’s Gong Xi Fa Cai, which translates to “Happy New Year” in Mandarin. The 5-reel, 50-payline game keeps players on the edge of their seats with vibrant Asian-inspired graphics including lucky dragons and gilded medallions. Anticipation climbs when the mystery trigger initiates the progressive bonus. Jewel-filled red envelopes in the Pick Bonus allow players to select envelopes until three of the same colored gems are revealed, awarding one of four corresponding progressive level jackpots. Players can also trigger the Free Spins Bonus, where stacked major symbols pay out big wins. Players are encouraged to place a side bet and buy the multiplier feature, which adds up to a 5X multiplier on any line wins that pass through the multiplier symbol and also extends the multipliers in the Free Games Bonus. For more information, visit www.igt.com.

WMS—Gremlins™
The sights, sounds and, most importantly, the Gremlins™ characters themselves are brought to life in this new gaming experience from WMS—the Gremlins theme. Featuring two player-selected modes, Gizmo or Gremlins Mode, each offering a unique player experience, Gremlins slots have all the fun of owning your own Mogwai—without the responsibility. Watch as the Gremlins characters appear respinning, electrifying or slamming the reels to add up to a 10X multiplier in the various Gremlins Multiplier Features, swinging down to drop Wild symbols or blowing Wild symbol kisses onto the reels in the Added Wilds Features. Spin the reels and collect clocks to activate pods on the top screen in the Gremlins Free Spin Bonus. Each spin moves the clock closer to midnight, and when the hand strikes twelve the pods hatch, adding Wild reels to the reels below. When three or more Sap symbols land on the reels, the Gremlins Sap Bonus is triggered. Each of the triggering progressive symbols flies up to the top screen, flipping over to reveal a credit prize or a progressive symbol—the more progressive symbols collected, the higher the progressive awarded. For more information, visit www.now.wms.com.

CEM’s Inner Circle

What is your view of the effect tightening hold percentage has on
slot play and player behavior?

Editor’s Note: This month Casino Enterprise Management debuts Inner Circle, a new feature in which gaming industry executives and observers weigh in on important issues affecting our industry. In this first installment, we tackle the topic of increasingly tight slot hold percentages.

Buddy Frank
Vice President of Slot Operations
Pechanga Resort and Casino

I’ve wanted a Porsche 911S since my first driver’s license. The reason there will never be one in my driveway is that I can’t afford it. The product is fantastic, but the price isn’t. I’ve read numerous articles, including some in these pages, showing math and computer simulations that prove that slot players cannot detect even major changes in the hold percentage of today’s machines. With potential game outcomes numbering millions and millions, it’s just logical that no one can play deep enough into a pay table to know if any game is tight or loose.

But in the real world we’re dealing with humans. They aren’t computers, and they are seldom logical. But they are better at some things, including an intuitive sense about odds. Author Malcolm Gladwell calls it “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” That may be a better title for manufacturers and operators who’ve been inching hold percentages higher and higher, egged on by better technology and the seductive lure of short-term gain without considering the consequences.

And there’s the undeniable fact that these strategies work… for a while. When pennies hit the scene with high-credit bets, it was amazing to see players actually celebrate a 25-cent win, even though they’d made a 45-cent bet. It was a beautiful thing.

Now we’ve combined addictive high-hit frequencies with gorgeous HDTV video, rainbow LEDs and more bonus rounds than a Wall Street banker receives. Throw in outstanding volatility that excites everyone nearby and you’ve hooked players for almost a decade. Check the published stats. Nationwide, slots have gotten tighter and tighter. What was a 4 percent to 6 percent overall hold in Nevada has swelled over 10 years to 7 percent to 9 percent. However, very few tightened their $1 or 25-cent games; they just added more and more tight pennies. There may have been solid justification at the beginning because bets were in the skimpy 1-cent to 30-cent range. But today that has swelled to popular penny games with bets of $3 or more. In other words, we’ve nearly doubled the hold on a similar bet over the last 10 years. Doesn’t sound too bad considering gas prices were $1.85 in 2005. But don’t forget that today’s games also play two to three times faster as TITO replaced slow coins, tokens and hoppers.

So players are beginning to slowly understand that their gaming experience is getting shorter and shorter. It appears that many may think the only alternative is to slow down. Or not play at all. The product is fantastic, but the price isn’t.

Jim Kilby
Casino Gaming Consultant and
Former University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor

When a slot department manager chooses a machine to offer the public, the manager will have the game’s theme and par sheet (PC sheet) to guide a decision. In addition to the game’s configuration and pay table, the PC sheet lists the game’s payback percentage and hit frequency. One hundred percent minus the payback equals the house advantage and the hit frequency represents the percentage of time something drops from the machine.

When managers view slot statistics, they are seeing the play of only one player, that is, the public. It has long been argued that high payback machines stimulate play. Casinos even use payback percentages as a marketing tool with ads such as “Our machines pay up to 98 percent.”

However, what management considers a loose machine and what the individual player perceives as a loose machine may not be the same. For example, assume a 32 stop 3-reel game. There are 32,768 pulls in a cycle (32x32x32). What if each reel had only one winning symbol and this winning combination would hit only one time per cycle? But, when hit, it returns 110 percent. Looking at the PC sheet, management would classify this machine as super loose. So loose the player has the advantage. Again, this “player” is the public. Unfortunately, only one player, the player who hit the jackpot, would call this game loose.

Slot players rarely win. Therefore management must focus their attention on satisfying the experience of the losing players. A winning player is satisfied because they won but the losing player is satisfied by time on device (TOD). A little-used metric on many PC sheets is the game’s volatility index. If management chooses games that increase time on device, that will result in the best of both worlds—increasing game profitability while maximizing player satisfaction.

It was long thought that a high hit frequency increases TOD. Not so; the volatility index is the driver. Managing a casino is a science, not an art. We have objective data that should dictate objective decisions.

Marcus Prater
Executive Director
Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers

The Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM) and its 150 members from around the world are indeed concerned about the effect that tightening hold percentages has on slot play and player behavior.

Certainly the slot suppliers want players to have a fair and entertaining experience playing their games. And certainly the slot suppliers want their customers—the casino operators—to benefit financially from all of the great content created and presented to their players. That delicate balance can be tipped the wrong way when operators tighten machines in a misguided attempt to increase revenue over the long term.

It’s not a secret that slot revenues throughout the U.S. have been on the decline for a variety of reasons. In an attempt to understand the impact of tightening hold percentages and other factors, AGEM has embarked on a large-scale slot assessment study that will hopefully shed additional light on this subject. We look forward to sharing the results of the study because it is in the best interests of everyone on both sides of this discussion to understand more so that slot machines remain a key form of gaming entertainment going forward.

Charlie Lombardo
Slot Consultant and longtime gaming industry executive

As slot operators, we have two primary responsibilities—to provide maximum entertainment value to the players and to provide maximum revenue profitability to the owners. How to make this happen is like balancing yourself on a ball while juggling six more.

The biggest ally in providing maximum entertainment value is hold percentage. The problem is everyone wants a piece of it.

CFOs want us to hold more because they believe that everything falls directly to the bottom line. They don’t completely understand how hold percentage affects coin-in; their only concern is the budget, no matter how tight the slot hold percentage is. If win is down, it is not hold percentage; it is poor operations.

The marketing department wants to give more of the hold percentage away through free play, comps, promotions, special events and trinkets. Marketing executives also don’t understand how these things affect coin-in and hold percentage. If play is down, they believe the culprits are the wrong games and poor customer service. After all, they are bringing in plenty of players, and it is not their fault if we don’t have the games that they want to play.

The game providers and designers want more of the base game percentage so that they can add more to convoluted bonuses and too many losing free play games. Theoretical game cycles have gotten too big with too many of the win amounts smaller than the wager. Then there are licensed entertainment games and the wide area progressives that also require tighter hold percentages to help the game manufacturers pay for the games’ enormous cost.

The player wants entertainment for dollar investment, time on device and to occasionally leave as a winner. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but the slot operator has very little flexibility to give players what they want because everyone else has taken a piece of the win before the players get theirs. That’s unfortunate, because casinos compete with many other forms of entertainment for the player’s dollar. The couple who comes to the casino with $200 for playing slots must receive the same amount of playing time as they do going to a movie and dinner, a sporting event, play, concert or myriad other activities.

Slot win across the country has been slowly decreasing over the past few years, and analysts have all kinds of reasons to explain why… the economy, cost of living, lack of pay raises, etc. I believe that parallels can be drawn to the tightening of hold percentages across all games to the decline in slot revenues. The fix is simple. To provide maximum entertainment value to the players and maximum revenue profitability to the owners, do the following. Loosen the games. Give more time on device. Let players win.

Bruce Rowe
President
Renaissance Casino Solutions

The dramatic increase in hold over a short time in the history of gaming has had a negative effect on the player experience, and I believe we are killing the business one customer at a time. That said, the issue is not as simple as just the overall increase in hold. Rather this is an issue with at least three elements to be considered—the utilization of virtually unlimited amounts of stops, the addition of bonus games and the increase of top awards. The increase in stops has created more ways for the customer to “win” and helped create amazing games, but most often this means a return of credits less than the bet. Then a percentage of coin-in goes to the bonus, and the more that is contributed the less to give on the base game. Further top awards increase the overall hold and the frequency of wins must change. We only need to look at wide area progressive to see this example. The odds of having a good time are getting more like the lottery than the slot machine that made the industry what it was.

There are yet more things to be considered regarding denomination, line and credit configuration that impact the way customers manage their gaming budget. So by giving customers more choices than they understand and giving game designers more complexity than can be easily mapped to a customer experience we are at risk each time a casino performs human trials with their customers with products that have not been through clinical trials. There was a time when bloodletting was a standard medical practice and in fact is still used for certain conditions, but too much, or too much too fast, and we know what happens. And there are things we have done to the casino experience that impact the player experience in a very negative way… But that is for another article.

What was a 4 percent to 6 percent overall hold in Nevada has swelled over 10 years to 7 percent to 9 percent.

The odds of having a good time are getting more like the lottery than the slot machine that made the industry what it was.

Table Games & Gear, March 2015

Cammegh Limited—Spread Bet
Cammegh launched its new roulette side bet, Spread-Bet Roulette, at ICE 2015 in London. Filling the roulette side bet void, Spread-Bet builds on the traditional roulette game delivering an increased house edge and a winning side bet outcome each game. Customized pay-outs ranging from even money to the mini-jackpot sized 1,200/1 allow the operator to tailor the game to suit their clientele. To lengthen the odds, Cammegh has introduced two concentric roulette number rings spinning in opposing directions on the Billboard Display. At No More Bets, the rings stop dead, randomly aligning the two sets of numbers. The game then continues as usual until the winning number is determined, which is then paired with its aligning number on the Billboard Display. The sum of these paired numbers determines the Spread-Bet result, which is displayed via Billboard together with the traditional roulette result. Spread Bet buy-ins are printed on the layout; any bets covering the range of numbers in which the Spread-Bet result falls are then paid out at the specified odds. For more information, visit www.cammegh.com.

Interblock—The Ministar Roulette
The MiniStar Roulette is the smallest and most highly performing product available on the market from Interblock’s newly launched family of gaming products. The MiniStar Roulette is built to accommodate any casino floor with a much smaller footprint. The product incorporates all of the same features of the Diamond Roulette. In addition, the MiniStar Roulette features color-adjustable illuminated armrests, a Progressive Jackpot system (Golden Chip), faster result detection, additional side bets, excellent Wheel visibility and an ergonomically designed surface. Pay systems include all well-known bill acceptors, bill dispenser and ticket printers, and the MiniStar Roulette also has a coin handling system. MiniStar Roulette consists of a fully automated roulette generator, which is surrounded by five, eight or 10 MiniStar Play Stations, enabling between 80 and 150 results per hour. Games available on Ministar Roulette are Roulette Single Zero and Roulette Double Zero, with available side bets Touchdown Roulette, Goal! Roulette and Big Poker Roulette. For more information, visit www.interblock-usa.com.

Shuffle Master—Fusion Virtual Multigame
Give your players more gaming options while maximizing your floor space with Fusion Virtual Multigame from Shuffle Master. This fully electronic table system allows players to switch among baccarat, roulette and sic bo from the same terminal, increasing play with four different game options in one seat. The Fusion Virtual platform comes in a standard five-seat configuration and can be assembled back-to-back with Tablemaster™ Fusion and Fusion Auto Roulette. For larger environments, the modular terminals can be arranged in a number of seating layouts. Remote terminals can also be connected to the main game anywhere on the casino floor. With so many floor layout options, along with betting timers that are configurable for each game, Fusion Virtual provides a truly customizable experience. Players use the elegant and modern 22-inch touch screen to choose a game, with tabs allowing them to quickly switch between games. Each game is displayed on one of four 37-inch LCD screens that also feature several attractive dealer options. For more information, visit www.ballytech.com.

Economics, Not Politics: A Regulatory Roadmap for the 21st Century

Thirty-three years ago, I began full-time research into the regulation and impacts of legal casino gaming, a pursuit that continues through the present day with no end in sight. One of the first people I met with way back in the winter of 1982 was New Jersey Casino Control Commissioner Martin Danziger, a veteran federal regulator and astute observer of regulatory practices and trends in various industries.

It was the dawn of gaming regulation, as New Jersey was in the process of building a regulatory system and Nevada was working toward developing a regulatory system to oversee what had largely been an under-regulated industry up until that time.

Danziger warned of what he viewed as an inevitable evolution: Regulators and the regulated would grow closer together, to the point where the regulators would grow fiercely protective of the industry that they oversaw.

He saw this as both inevitable and bad, inimical to the public interest. That was 33 years ago. We now know two things:

He was absolutely right. It was inevitable, and it has occurred.
He was absolutely wrong. It is not inimical to the public interest.
At the time he made those remarks, and at the time I began my life’s work as a student of gaming regulation and impacts, the world was different. Today, it is taken for granted that gaming licensees—both operators and suppliers—have met stringent tests to demonstrate their good character, honesty and integrity.

Today, it is taken for granted that gaming companies could reach out to Wall Street and the financial community to attract affordable capital investment.

Neither of those were true back then. Virtually every gaming licensee in the United States—at the individual and corporate level—has demonstrated the requisite level of suitability. Both regulators and investors know this and have adopted a higher comfort level as a result.

That higher comfort level means that a variety of requirements once viewed as essential and immutable is neither. Once upon a time, every gaming and non-gaming employee had to be licensed, as did every gaming and non-gaming supplier. That is no longer necessary.

But what of the issue of regulators becoming defenders of the industry? Why is that not a major cause of concern?

I submit that what has occurred is a confluence of interests. Inevitable, yes, but also benign and—as it turns out—rather helpful. The interests of the state and the interests of the industry are parallel and should be parallel. When the industry thrives, the state benefits in various ways from tax revenue to employment to tourism promotion and so forth.

When legislators and regulators adapt to encourage more investment and growth that is not cause for hand wringing. In most cases, that is cause for hand clapping.

That does not mean that effective regulation is not necessary. It is. States need to ensure that their rules can still address any worst-case scenario, that no licensee can be too big to regulate and that the rules governing good character, honesty and integrity remain intact and immutable.

Indeed, the regulated entities themselves leverage their licenses and regulation as competitive tools, in some cases as necessary barriers to entry against potential competitors who are less willing to play by the rules.

Regulators, by and large, are appointed, not elected. But elected officials need to understand their core role in this process: They must set standards, including necessary post-employment restrictions, on those who are appointed. And those appointees must be free to operate independently of the political process.

The most effective statutes, and the most effective regulations, are useless unless you appoint support people who meet the absolute highest standards of integrity. That was true in 1982. It is equally true in 2015.

But what of the issue of gaming saturation? How do states address that? Can it be addressed or should states simply sit back and watch their industries compete to the point of exhaustion and economic collapse?

I submit that it can be addressed and must be addressed.

Hidden beneath the issue of saturation are related issues that must be recognized and confronted:

The establishment of tax rates on gaming revenue is the most powerful weapon in a state’s arsenal.
Historically, states establish tax rates—as well as their overall gaming policy—on political considerations, rather than on sound economic grounds.
Tax rates and regulatory policies that were set when an industry was established are going to be less viable over time and must be adaptable.
These are separate issues but they must be addressed in tandem. In most states, gaming tax rates are far too high. In certain markets, this is far less of an issue than in others. In markets where there is significant population density and little competition, operators can overcome the handicap of high tax rates.

But other markets—and arguably most markets—cannot, particularly when they face new competition, and must grapple with old tax rates, which were set in another era.

How were those tax rates established in the first place? Did lawmakers sit down with economists and consultants and map out an optimal rate designed to attract capital investment and advance multiple public policies? Hardly.

Why do some states have tax rates north of 50 percent, while others are south of 15 percent? It is not economics at either end of the spectrum. Indeed, New Jersey has a rate of 8 percent, which seems quite low by any reasonable standard.

Five years ago, I authored a peer-reviewed white paper on tax policy. As part of my research, I interviewed my mentor Steven P. Perskie—who was a member of the state Assembly in 1976 and 1977 and is widely hailed as the architect of the Casino Control Act—to provide the thought processes that guided the decision to set the rate at 8 percent. He responded with the following written comment:

“In researching the drafting of the bill introduced in 1976, after the (New Jersey) referendum passed, we found that the highest (combined) tax on gross revenues was 7.5 percent (in Nevada). For principally political reasons, we therefore set the initial rate for New Jersey at 8 percent. We assumed that this would inoculate us from any argument in either direction (that the tax was too high or too low), and indeed we never had to defend that decision. We didn’t, at that time, make any effort to calculate the revenue estimates for the state, as we had no idea (and, as experience would show, we had no idea) what we would be dealing with.”

Such efforts at political inoculation did not end in 1976 and arguably continue to this very day. However difficult it may be, states should tilt away from political considerations and confront economic realities. States have to examine—and continually re-examine—their policies, including their tax rates, to ensure that their policies are in sync with their policy goals. A high tax rate is not compatible with a goal of maximizing employment, nor is it compatible with a goal of promoting tourism.

A high tax rate limits the ability of an operator to choose different business models. A high tax rate can only work with a business model based on local convenience. That inevitably means that a casino can only capture a limited number of adults and a limited amount of discretionary spending.

The result is that high tax rates will not work in markets that are approaching saturation.

I must issue one additional caveat: Low tax rates do not automatically translate into economic success. If they did, Atlantic City would be thriving today, as would Reno.

Tax rates are a critical piece of the puzzle, but they make up only one piece. If there is one essential ingredient for success, it is this: capital investment.

States must work in tandem with their industries to determine what else is needed to attract capital investment, which must be deployed properly to grow the market demographically and geographically. That is how you deal with saturation.

Tribal Casino Design: Evolution in Progress

More than 25 years ago, the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) launched full-fledged Indian gaming, and the first tribal casinos began to proliferate across the U.S. Most began as modest, understated facilities—many of them tent structures and modular buildings. Some enterprises expanded on existing Class II bingo operations while others grew out of structures bearing more resemblance to a warehouse than the noteworthy and fully “amenitized” facilities we experience today. Initially a vehicle for economic self-determination and sovereignty, the Indian gaming industry has now grown to include more than 900 facilities across the United States, owned by 242 federally recognized tribes and generating $28.1 billion in revenue on an annual basis1. As these properties grew, many tribal entities took the opportunity to create spaces and places that would honor their past and speak to the unique heritage, culture and iconography of their particular tribe.

Since then, we have all witnessed firsthand the enormous change not only in the gaming industry, but also in all aspects of our lives: technological innovations, economic opportunity and societal shifts, among others. In the last 25 years, we’ve seen paradigm shifts that have positioned casino-based gaming and entertainment and Native American tribes as a virtual crossroads of American society.

Concurrent with the evolution of these facilities, the general public’s perception and understanding of native peoples has changed. Once perceived as a homogeneous group with a singular identity, Native peoples and tribes have been increasingly recognized for their diversity, complexity and individuality. More people are now exposed to the influence, culture and values of the Native American community than ever before; our “history” is being newly examined not just in classrooms but from a broader perspective as well. The opportunities presented by the growth of Native American gaming have ensured that both the historical account and the continuing story of the Native American tribes is not just a matter of academics, but instead an evolving conversation across the nation—influencing legislation, social trends, the development of communities and the built environment.

Early Trends
The Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut was among the first to embrace this story-telling motif on a large scale with the creation of its Casinos of the Earth, Sky and Wind in the Uncasville property in 1996. In the following years, others embraced this approach and tribally themed casinos, such as Sandia Casino, Casino Arizona, Ho-Chunk Casino and the Viejas Casino, were constructed. More recently, the Downstream Casino Resort in Oklahoma and the Twin Arrows Casino Resort in Arizona have taken this concept and created noteworthy properties.

With these and other early properties across the nation interpreting the stories and heritage of Native American tribes, what can we expect next? Will the changing demographics of gaming dramatically influence the expression of these facilities? What new and unexplored opportunities are taking design in a new direction? What visual and spatial interpretations on Native American themes are resonating with our broader society and connecting more people to these entertainment experiences?

The lobby of the Sandia Casino. Photo by Jim Christy; Architect: Leo A Daly
The lobby of the Sandia Casino. Photo by Jim Christy; Architect: Leo A Daly
Changing Demographics and Expectations
Like commercial gaming properties, these facilities are embracing the opportunities to diversify amenities to provide a wider variety of experiences and social interactions. A democratic form of design is emerging that creates spaces that feel familiar to existing patrons while also embracing environments that have greater appeal to an increasingly younger patron base. This evolving approach to design is speaking more and more to the creation of places that connect with the character of specific locations as well as with individualized tribal expressions. The concept that these places need to transport you to a differing “reality” is now balanced against how the expression of space can connect people to one another in new and dynamic ways—interpersonal, cross-generational and cross-cultural. The contemporary resort casino connects us with activities and spaces that are familiar in our day-to-day lives—with museums, galleries, retail outlet, clubs, neighborhood bars and favorite restaurants that are now part of a larger gaming experience.

Refining the Message and Broadening the Experience
Over the past few decades, we have also witnessed an evolution in the conversation about cultural appropriation. Once regarded as a non-issue by many non-Natives, high profile media gaffes in the use of indigenous imagery have catapulted the topic to the forefront of popular consciousness. Even the long-established use of Native references by sports teams has been revolutionized by a growing awareness that the use of this imagery is largely racist and stereotypical in nature: the number of Native American-themed mascots is down to less than 900 from over 3000 a few decades ago. Today’s Native culture is not simply a trend nor a relic of the past, but a living, breathing entity composed of individuals as well as their societies. Still reverberating from the devastating effects of European colonialism, the heritage and culture of Native peoples is as sacrosanct as their traditional lands.

We can find a similar trend toward more complex, individualized expressions of “self” in the works of many contemporary Native American artists. The paintings of Stanley Natchez (Shoshone-Tatavian) employ traditional tribal motifs and imagery overlaid in stark contrast to representations of non-native themes such as printed currency and ledger books. It is his way of honoring his ancestors while staying current, and, as he says, “to understand the world that surrounds me.” Jewelry artist Patt Pruitt (Laguna) combines traditional silversmithing techniques and materials with contemporary forms and edgy materials like stingray, promoting his work as design where “Technology meets Tradition.” His designs reflect “an influence of a modern traditional lifestyle, both on and off the reservation.” Even the realm of fashion design has been impacted: Designer Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo)—best known for her appearance in the 2012 season of “Project Runway”—is described as “a traditional Native woman who is a style-maker at the forefront of modern fashion design and aesthetics.” Her high-end limited edition designs incorporate artistic hand-dyed and hand-painted fabrics using earth-friendly pigments and methods inspired by nature.

In addition to the works of artists like these, traditional forms of Native American artistry are being rethought in the context of the individual as well. Museums and collections of traditional crafts such as basket weaving and pottery have begun to identify and acknowledge the particular artist fabricating the piece as well as its ethnographic origins, elevating the role of the individual within his/her societal context and promoting the craft to artistic form, celebrating the unique idiosyncrasies of each artist’s approach.

Indian gaming properties also have begun to move past simple artifice and décor and to embrace a more complex and holistic approach to expressing their communities’ culture. The Twin Arrows Casino Resort, which opened outside of Flagstaff, Ariz., in 2013, dramatically combined both art and architecture to embody the rich history of the Diné (Navajo) people while also providing an incomparable casino resort experience. The story of the Navajo Creation and Emergence is infused in every aspect of the property from master planning to the smallest design details. In addition, the casino commissioned more than $1 million in original works of art by native peoples to augment the distinctive architecture. Unique among the works is a series of murals created by a group of Navajo artists known as Art of the People. Depicting some of the stories about the Emergence and how the Holy People created Four Worlds, the artists wove together their collective and individual understanding of creation stories told to them by their elders in hooghans as children—recreating the Navajo people’s way of life in the form of abstract painting. Perhaps most telling about this group is its mission statement, reflecting many tribal members’ desire to give back to their communities: “Encouraging a new generation of artists through the tradition of excellence, thus activating, preserving and invigorating our Native American culture through various forms of art.”

A magnificent chandelier graces the Twin Arrows Casino Resort near Flagstaff, Ariz. Photo by Kristina Ennis; Architect: Friedmutter Group
A magnificent chandelier graces the Twin Arrows Casino Resort near Flagstaff, Ariz. Photo by Kristina Ennis; Architect: Friedmutter Group
Interpretation: Embracing Change and Pushing the Envelope
Throughout the ages, design of the built environment has, like other art forms, both reflected contemporary societies and been a catalyst for change. The role of architecture in any expressionistic evolution—including what we are witnessing in tribal nations now—is convoluted. As a representation of vibrant, historically meaningful cultures, architecture has the potential to tell the story of a particular place and time as interpreted through the designers. It can enhance the experience and comprehension of place as well as inform a complex visual and experiential dialogue between person, object and environment.

Often, this role of architecture is considered in the context of government buildings, places of worship and other historically sanctioned structures, and many critics have categorized the design of leisure and entertainment environments as somehow less worthy of such auspicious countenance.

But taken in the context of tribal nations re-asserting their role in the fabric of the greater American society, should the design of these facilities be less valued than that of a museum or a courthouse? Without question, the type of environment and the preferences of the end user need to be addressed by the design, as does the context of place and purpose. Yet the opportunity still exists to create significant, dynamic and culturally relevant buildings that embrace past, present and future alike—challenging the preconceptions of the tribal casino.

As recent years have embraced the question, “What does it mean to be a Native American casino?”, the coming years will continue an exploration of this theme in broader terms. Movement toward a forward-thinking ideology—as expressed in building design—is likely to manifest itself in nongaming facilities, such as government centers and schools, as well as in the gaming facility itself.

The landscape of tomorrow’s Indian casino remains to be seen, but these trends and movements, combined with the changing demographics and experiential quality of the gaming environment, will certainly weave their way into the fabrics of these properties. The history and culture of tribal nations has been inscribed into casinos across the land for the past quarter century. Now is the time for tribal nations, operators and designers to take up the challenge of what shall become and etch the future of tribal nations in the next generation of development.

Footnotes
1 NIGC Gaming Revenue Report, Growth in Indian Gaming, 2004-2013.

Eilers-Fantini Quarterly Slot Survey

The EILERS-FANTINI survey is designed to track slot machine and related technology purchasing trends on a quarterly basis and is the gaming industry’s largest slot survey in terms of total casinos and slot machines surveyed.

This quarter’s report represents the 21st proprietary slot survey and includes record-level responses from key purchasing agents at a number of North American commercial and tribal casinos, several racino/VLT operators, as well as nine international participants.

In total, the 103 survey participants collectively operate 366 gaming venues with approximately 354,731 total slot machines or equivalent gaming devices. Ninety-four North America participants operate 299 casinos and approximately 316,862 slot machines, representing about 31.3 percent of the total install base of machines in North America.

Purchasing Activity for Fourth Quarter of Calendar Year 2014
North America survey participants purchased and took delivery of 8,750 slot machines in the fourth quarter of 2014, including 2,760 new and expansionary units and 5,990 replacement units while also purchasing 4,385 conversion kits in the quarter. Based on the quarter’s survey results, the estimated total North America replacement sales are likely to be about 14,350 games in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2014 including 12,350 traditional casino replacements and approximately 2,000 Oregon VLT replacements. Including new and expansionary demand, the estimated total slot demand for the quarter is about 17,800 games sold.

Gainers and Losers
Konami, GTECH and Aristocrat all gained ship-share on sold product in the quarter relative to each company’s trailing average while IGT lost share. As for leased and participation games, the same three companies also gained ground in terms of net lease placements while IGT and WMS were the primary donors.

Non-Big 5 Vendors Remain Strong
Non-Big 5 vendors continue to take market share in North America with survey participants purchasing 25 percent of games from non-Big 5 vendors during the quarter including Oregon VLTs and 18 percent excluding Oregon VLTs. Key suppliers gaining ground include GTECH (VLTs), Ainsworth, Multimedia Games, Aruze and Incredible Technologies.

Top Performing Leased Titles

IGT’s Wheel of Fortune (WOF) franchise remained the top performing premium leased game in the quarter. GTECH/Spielo’s highly anticipated Sphinx 3D remained in the second position and Aristocrat’s Buffalo Stampede rounded out the top three performers.

Most Anticipated Premium Leased Games
Aristocrat continues to have best lineup of most anticipated premium leased games with eight of the top 15 most anticipated titles according to our survey participants with Sons of Anarchy leading the group. After Aristocrat, GTECH/Spielo received 20 percent of the total votes with survey participants looking forward to the company’s new Bejeweled 3D title.

Forward Replacement Demand
The 94 North America survey participants (operating 298 casinos and 316,869 slots) plan to replace a weighted average of 6.4 percent of the casino-owned games on their floors over the next year, which is slightly below our survey results from the prior quarter. We believe the decline reflects the weakness in gross gaming revenue (GGR) trends starting in late calendar year 2013 and carrying through the majority of calendar year 2014. However, we note December 2014 GGR results have been much better than expected. If that trend holds, we would anticipate future surveys to show a pick up in replacement expectations for calendar year 2015.

AGA Debuts New “Gaming Votes” Initiative

The American Gaming Association has launched a national initiative aimed at ensuring that presidential candidates understand the vital role the gaming industry plays in providing middle-class jobs and driving economic growth.

AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman announced the Gaming Votes initiative during a Feb. 12 news conference at an Aristocrat Technologies manufacturing facility in Las Vegas. Joining him were AGA Chairman Jim Murren, who is chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts; Hamilton Galloway, Oxford Economics’ head of U.S. consultancy; and two gaming industry employees who are featured in videos helping the industry put a “face on gaming.”

“The gaming industry supports 1.7 million jobs nationwide, and drives nearly a quarter trillion dollars in economic activity. In the battleground states of the 2016 presidential election, it supports over 500,000 jobs and $75 billion in economic activity,” Freeman said. “That’s why we’re going to engage and mobilize our employees in gaming states to ask candidates questions to make sure they know the importance of gaming. And that’s why we’re going to call on presidential candidates to become more educated about this industry. To replace myths with facts and to let these candidate know that the gaming industry is the gateway to middle-class jobs and when they’re talking about issues about putting Americans back to work, reforming the regulatory burden to this country’s tax reform, infrastructure, they’re talking about issues important to the gaming industry.”

The gaming industry is a national industry, Freeman said, “and this initiative will give us a national profile.”

The Gaming Votes initiative will help highlight the path to the middle class that the industry provides and emphasize its commitment to strengthening communities across the United States, Freeman said.

The initiative will include local events in battleground states such as Iowa, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and will showcase how local partnerships are helping rebuild communities in the wake of the Great Recession, according to a news release. The initiative is designed to encourage presidential hopefuls to support policies critical to the gaming industry’s future, including improving infrastructure, developing a skilled and diverse workforce, promoting innovation and reviewing regulatory burdens.

Murren noted that it’s “coincidental and exciting” that the battleground states of America are also states that have a very big vested interest in gaming. “It just worked out that way,” he said after the press conference. “It seems odd to us that over many years gaming has not even been debated or discussed with candidates. We’re going to force that issue. We’re going to force candidates to explain their positions on our industry, and I think that’s positive.”

Murren spoke of the significance of the initiative as a way to demonstrate the industry’s impact. “It’s really important for us to explain what it really means to be part of the gaming industry,” he said. “This is an amazing tapestry of individuals; we come from all walks of life. We come from every possible imaginable spectrum, country, languages and gender. We are the melting pot of America—our company alone at MGM is a majority-minority company—the majority of my employees are in fact minorities.”

Not only is the industry diverse, he said, it is providing good jobs. “We’re here to celebrate the diversity, the inclusion of all and the very fact that if you’ve got the will to work you will find a home in this industry. That’s really special.”

Moreover, industry operators often offer higher education assistance, job training skills and career advancement that helps employees achieve their goals. “So as we explore our form of entertainment through different parts of the world, we tell the story not of the beautiful buildings that we build or the great equipment that occupies those buildings, but we tell the stories of the men and women that bring our resorts to life, and without whom there would really be no gaming industry.”

As chairman, Murren has stressed the importance of reaching out to be more inclusive and to share information about the industry. “We need to reach out throughout the world because we can’t just assume that everyone has perfect information, and we’ve found that in most cases they not only have imperfect information,” Murren said. “It’s really stunning to hear the commentaries and really a lack of appreciation as to what we are as an industry.”

A new study commissioned by the AGA shows the impact of the gaming industry on jobs and economic development. The Oxford Economics report, titled “Gaming Careers: A Path to the Middle Class”, highlights the role gaming plays in offering employment opportunities that help hundreds of thousands of voters throughout the United States.

“The gaming industry has really emerged as a job creation engine with excellent career opportunities for workers of all backgrounds and skill sets,” Galloway said at the news conference. “For example, when looking at the variety of careers and skills, we found that the gaming industry employs workers in more than 200 different job classifications, including high-tech, engineering, software development and law enforcement. Moreover, the industry is expected to add more than 62,000 jobs over the next 10 years.”

The report’s research shows that workers who enter the gaming industry and stay to build their careers in gaming tend to become top performers in their occupations and many advance up the career ladder, he noted. “The big takeaway from this is that gaming offers good career opportunities for those people from all walks of life.”

In addition, the report notes the industry employs highly diverse workforces with 45 percent of the workforce composed of racial or ethnic minority employees—much more diverse than the U.S. average of 33 percent. Women make up 48 percent or nearly half of the workforce; 20 percent of gaming employees are Hispanic; and those with disabilities amount to 6 percent.

The gaming sector also employs a large percentage of younger workers, with more than one third of the gaming workforce under 30 years old, compared with 25 percent on the national average, he added.

For more information, visit www.gettoknowgaming.org.

Anarchy Reigns in Aristocrat Technologies’ Latest Release

Sons of Anarchy™ Slot Game, which has a 6×5 configuration, leverages the company’s VERVEhd™ cabinet, with high-definition graphics, 3D panoramic adjustable sound and an ergonomic design that enhances game play. It is the first of Aristocrat’s games to feature its groundbreaking Cluster Power™, which allows winning combinations formed by connecting the same symbol in clusters across multiple reels. Additionally, the game also offers a No Limits Jackpot feature that expands the reel area in any direction. That feature is awarded when a Big Jackpot Symbol lands and causes the reel area to grow to the size of the Big Jackpot Symbol. Three Big Jackpot Symbols award the Mini progressive; four Big Jackpot Symbols award the minor progressive; five Big Jackpot Symbols award the major progressive; and six Big Jackpot Symbols award the grand progressive. An additional free games bonus awards from 10 to 100 free games.
Sons of Anarchy™ Slot Game, which has a 6×5 configuration, leverages the company’s VERVEhd™ cabinet, with high-definition graphics, 3D panoramic adjustable sound and an ergonomic design that enhances game play. It is the first of Aristocrat’s games to feature its groundbreaking Cluster Power™, which allows winning combinations formed by connecting the same symbol in clusters across multiple reels. Additionally, the game also offers a No Limits Jackpot feature that expands the reel area in any direction. That feature is awarded when a Big Jackpot Symbol lands and causes the reel area to grow to the size of the Big Jackpot Symbol. Three Big Jackpot Symbols award the Mini progressive; four Big Jackpot Symbols award the minor progressive; five Big Jackpot Symbols award the major progressive; and six Big Jackpot Symbols award the grand progressive. An additional free games bonus awards from 10 to 100 free games.
A little anarchy can be a good thing…at least when it comes in the form of Aristocrat Technologies’ newest game based on the FX Network hit show “Sons of Anarchy.”

Aristocrat’s new Sons of Anarchy™ Slot Game, based on the FX Network’s Golden Globe® winning “Sons of Anarchy,” will debut in casinos next month. The multi-site progressive game offers new ways to play and win and a chance to land a $500,000-plus jackpot.

Aristocrat is betting that its latest title will capture similar success to The Walking Dead slot game the company released last year, said Dallas Orchard, vice president of gaming operations, Aristocrat Technologies.

“The popularity of the television show has been tremendous, and that was very attractive to us. The second thing is we have a great innovation studio here called Studio 54 and they’ve brought us great products like Tarzan and The Walking Dead under the leadership of Ted Hase,” Orchard said. “That group is always looking for edgy concepts and to create something different and add a little edge to the [casino] floor.”

There’s a risk to trying to bring dramatic titles such as The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy to slot games, Orchard said, while adding, “We believe we’ve got a really well-balanced portfolio now and we have the opportunity to allow Ted and the innovation studio to take a few chances.”

The two games are very different, Orchard said of the game likely to debut first in Nevada or California. “The commonality in them we’re really trying to go after something different, perhaps bringing to the casino floor a slightly younger demographic or bringing in fans of the show who wouldn’t normally play slots.”

The game features the gritty show’s characters, including Jax, Gemma and Clay, and touchpoints to the show’s storyline. “The mechanics of the game, the features of the game, the characters of the game are things I think the fans of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ will love, and if they’ve been fans of Let’s Make a Deal, Tarzan, Walking Dead—those volatile games of Studio 54—we have no doubt that hardcore slot players will really love the Sons of Anarchy game, and maybe as an added benefit they’ll become fans of the show itself.”

Sons of Anarchy will be the first game using Cluster Power.

“We’re extremely excited about Cluster Power. Cluster Power really is doing two things for us. It’s changing the way we pay the player by making sure that if the symbols [are] on adjacent reels, you pay them in a cluster rather than lines or reels,” Orchard said. “But it’s also bringing to life the symbol hierarchy that are the characters in Sons of Anarchy themselves. These are the stars of the show so you will be really looking for those key characters and those key story lines within the show itself bringing it to life.”

The company also plans to ensure it rolls out with strong marketing. “It will be a fully packaged theme; it will have a great marketing kickoff with excellent giveaways. We’re producing Sons of Anarchy helmets and giving those out to our customers and using social media at the show,” Orchard said.

In addition, the game is on Aristocrat’s Verve cabinet, with the $500,000 progressive link, and uses the massive portrait space on the Verve cabinet for the expanding reels feature. “It’s very feature rich, really using that portrait screen to bring in the player, making sure the characters are coming to life through the way we cluster pay and then also through Aristocrat’s traditional content, really having the volatility in there in the base game itself for the player makes sure there’s a winning experience.”

In addition to talking game specifics, Orchard also touched on the question that’s been on the minds of many slot operators: Can games such as Sons of Anarchy help address the concern over the need to reach out to younger casino visitors in new ways?

“We don’t think it can hurt and we have seen some incremental evidence of some younger demographics playing The Walking Dead, and we’ve done some research with some of our customers that suggests that,” Orchard said. “We’re always looking for those edgier licenses that we think reach out to a slightly different demographic and bring incremental play to the casino floor.”

He also believes that coveted younger demographic will get there in due time as it ages, he said.

“Not everybody likes wine at a young age, but, as you get older, you develop a taste for it,” Orchard said. “The problem is we’re competing with the restaurants, nightclubs and shows for everybody’s dollars, and so we’re doing everything we can to compete.”

What are some of the hallmarks that Aristocrat uses when it comes to developing a game around a licensed television show or other entertainment brands?

In the case of Sons of Anarchy, Orchard said the brand comes with “great development and great depth.” Sometimes, slot manufacturers make the mistake of implementing an entertainment-licensed brand with a so-so game behind it, Orchard said. To be successful he stressed, “You have to do right by the license, [and] the game still has to be great.”

Among other entertainment licenses the company recently acquired is one for the hit television sitcom “Big Bang Theory,” a move that Orchard believes holds strong potential.

“Big Bang Theory is one we’re very excited about because I think that reaches out to a multiple cross function of demographic. It’s just so popular, and it reaches out to so many different demographics,” he said, hinting the company is also on the verge of signing yet another license that looks equally as promising.

Aristocrat has invested heavily in not only pursuing great brands, but also in recruiting talented game designers such as Hase, Joe Kaminkow, Dan Marks and Nicholas Bennett to develop a wide swath of game types.

“What we’ve really tried to do is show our diversity and make sure we demonstrated we have the best talent in the industry. We want to make sure our portfolio is really well done and builds on the strengths of all our different game designers,” providing something for everyone on the casino floor, Orchard said. “And I think that’s what you saw with the Helix, which is our mainstream cabinet, and you saw it [also] supporting Verve, Wonder Wheels and the new Double Arc cabinet and the Behemoth cabinets.”

That, coupled with the recent acquisition of Class II powerhouse Video Game Technologies, has made for a winning combination, he said. “It’s just a perfect mix. You see some of these other acquisitions going on and the promise of hundreds of millions of dollars of synergies. We’re not looking to cut costs,” but instead are seeking to enhance and expand upon each company’s strengths in both Class II and Class III markets.

As the company continues to broaden its portfolio, one thing at Aristocrat remains steadfastly the same, Orchard said. “We want our customers to rest easy that we’re still staying true to our roots; we’re still designing great Aristocrat proprietary low-denomination, high-volatility games, and we’ve got 61 years of experience in that field, and we’ll always stay true to that side of our portfolio,” he said. “The exciting part now is all these things are additions, and we’re diversifying our product line, and we’re well-positioned to take larger percentages of casino floors.”