Impressive keynote speeches and top-notch panel discussions on new technologies, strategies and solutions to gaming industry challenges highlighted the 11th annual Gaming Technology Forum held June 17 to 19 in Las Vegas.

The forum, presented by WhiteSand Gaming and Casino Enterprise Management, featured an evening welcome reception on June 17 highlighted by a keynote address from Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA).

Bally Technologies President and CEO Ramesh Srinivasan Delivers his Keynote Speech.The next day’s full slate of events kicked off with a keynote speech on systems innovation and advancement by Ramesh Srinivasan, president and chief executive officer of Bally Technologies. Other keynotes were delivered by Michael Paulos, a senior gaming industry specialist with BIS², and John Acres, founder of Acres 4.0.

Acres’ speech on the industry’s future included a call to action to think differently, create new products and take risks in order to attract new demographics of players to the gaming industry.

Because of pent-up demand and limited supply, the casino industry had a steady supply of customers for years. Now the industry’s core customers are aging, and Acres said many younger potential customers aren’t interested in what the industry currently offers.

“We’ve got a real identity crisis, and we have to choose what we’re going to do about it,” Acres said. “What you’re doing now will not take you well into the future. If we’re going to find new customers, we must try new things.”

The four keynotes were part of the Gaming Technology Forum program that included 27 conference sessions on topics such as Internet gaming, mobile gaming, hospitality, direct marketing, slot systems, business intelligence systems, regulatory and legal updates and more during its three-day run at the Mirage Hotel & Casino.

In addition, attendees got a chance to honor one of the gaming industry’s leading visionaries the evening of

June 18 when Bob Luciano became the inaugural recipient of the Gaming Technology Forum’s Hall of Fame Award. They heard tributes to Luciano for his many contributions to the industry from Acres, Bally Technologies Innovation Lab Vice President Randy Hedrick and VCAT Chairman Don Speer, as well as a very personal tribute from his 11-year-old daughter Sofia Luciano. Attendees gave Luciano a standing ovation after he accepted his award and talked about his work to recover from a major stroke and his hopes to return to the gaming industry.

“Bob is the guy who pushed me and pushed everyone he’s ever come in contact with to do things better than you ever thought possible,” Hedrick told the crowd. “To have that kind of motivation and drive takes you to that next level because if he has that kind of motivation, why shouldn’t you?”

Gaming Technology Forum Hall of Fame Award inaugural winner Bob Luciano, second from left, celebrates with close friends and colleagues, from left, John Acres, Don Speer and Randy Hedrick.Luciano’s accomplishments in gaming “are beyond belief,” Hedrick said, ticking off Luciano’s work on IGT’s first mechanical slots and Megabucks, the bill acceptor, the Alpha platform and many other important innovations.

“He created markets where there weren’t markets,” said Hedrick, who worked with Luciano at IGT, Sierra Design Group and Bally Technologies.

With Sierra Design Group, the company he founded, Luciano developed gaming system solutions that helped Indian gaming flourish in many states including Washington, California and New York, Speer said.

“Bob Luciano has done so much for gaming, so much for the people I work for at Barona and so much for the Indian people,” Speer said.

Speer credited Luciano with bringing ticket-in/ticket-out into prominence, having launched a version at Barona Resort and Casino near San Diego before IGT and Bally launched their versions.

Barona has been known for its willingness to try new games and cutting-edge technologies and deliver very customer-centric service, he said. “It’s the happiest casino on Earth, and it’s because Bob has his fingerprints all over Barona.”

“The most important thing Bob brought to the table was his understanding of the intersection of technology and the player,” he added. “He’s really understood that better than anybody.”

Acres talked about how Luciano’s stubbornness and unwillingness to take no for an answer has helped him both in gaming and in his stroke recovery: “There can be no doubt that Bob has been an innovator in this industry. There can be no doubt that he has changed our little corner of the world for the better, but let me tell you one other thing I’ve learned by watching Bob, and I realize it may have been true all along and maybe I didn’t realize it—Bob didn’t do it by himself,” Acres said. “He owes great success not only to his stubbornness, not only to his pushiness, not only to his intelligence and his will, but to you, his friends, and to all of you who’ve helped Bob along the way, I say thank you.”

Luciano is undergoing a variety of cutting-edge radical treatments for his stroke, Acres and Hedrick noted. “He’s making incredible progress,” Hedrick said. “I actually believe his personal efforts are going to help stroke victims and have a much bigger impact on the world than anything he ever did in gaming.”

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