This past year was clearly a year of innovation. CEM is proud to announce the results of its fourth annual 2010 Slot Floor Technology Awards, our biggest year ever. We had a record of 47 products nominated from 18 different companies.
From slot cabinets and platforms, to tournament systems, mobile media applications and bill validators, our nominations were chock-full of technologies making a difference in gaming operations.
We assembled a panel of judges tasked with combing nomination materials to decide our top 10. Rules were simple. Each company could submit up to five new slot products that were introduced to the market between March 2009 and March 2010.
Judges assigned a score from 1 to 10 on the following criteria: innovation, performance, ease of use, benefits, efficiency, capabilities and advancement. The top 10 products with the highest combined scores won. Listed in order on the following pages, read about these great products and find out why they’re worthy of the award.
Not only was this year our biggest in terms of number of nominations, but we also had more judges than years past. With so much to go over, it was a hard task, but our judges managed to sift through it all to make the tough decisions. Our expert panel of judges included Buddy Frank, VP of slot operations at Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif.; Chuck Hickey, VP of slot operations at Barona Resort & Casino in Lakeside, Calif.; Ralph Margolis, director of slot operations at Mystic Lake Casino & Resort in Prior Lake, Minn.; Philip Trofibio, VP of slot operations at MotorCity Casino in Detroit, Mich; Michael Tomasello, director of slot operations at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas; and Paul Tjoumakaris, senior vice president of gaming operations for Seminole Gaming in Hollywood, Fla.
This year’s awards truly show how hard this industry is working. The advancements are amazing. We’d like to thank everyone who contributed to another great year of gaming innovation.
WMS’ BLUEBIRD xD™ earned the No. 1 spot in our awards this year. Its name, Experience Design, is a suite of sensory innovations that heighten player experience beyond game content. Bluebird xD creates the industry’s first interactive experience between the gaming cabinet and the advanced play features of the game.
That means, for the first time in the industry, the gaming cabinet is now an integral part of the gaming experience. Bluebird xD is also the industry’s first mechanical slant-top cabinet—in both 3-reel and 5-reel Transmissive Reels® versions.
“Another good looking cabinet with full multimedia features. The sound, and especially the lighting, are a nice enhancement from WMS. Linked community bonusing graphics are also a big plus,” said judge Buddy Frank, vice president of slot operations for Pechanga Resort & Casino.
The cabinet takes the gaming experience outside the box, creating an entire new form factor for slot entertainment. In the 32-inch version, the overhead Metascreen allows for game play and bonuses to seamlessly integrate on a massive overhead screen. This enables content of banked units to respond and engage with each other. A state-of-the-art emotive lighting system creates a first-time-ever bank-level celebration based on in-game activity. This new dimension of interactivity draws players to game banks with choreographed lighting that underscores their individual experience.
The advanced BOSE® FREE FIELD® sound system preserves audio clarity and bass power regardless of volume to create brilliant sound quality. With patented signal-processing circuitry, players are immersed in a powerful audioscape that dials up the energy. Put together, the visual and audio features on this cabinet allow for enhanced bonusing, game play and “big win” celebrations.
Bluebird xD is also innovatively designed to offer many player-appealing physical features. The ergonomic screen positioning enhances viewing; intuitively located player-interfaces heighten player intimacy and ease of play; and optimal player seating-positions, generous leg clearance and an integrated footrest provide maximum comfort. There is even a padded armrest and a downloadable button panel. The dual screen height is 60 inches, allowing for increased sightlines across the casino floor. There is also space for networking gear in the base.
Bally—Cash Spin with U-Spin™ and Interactive Reels™
Bally’s Cash Spin with U-Spin™ and Interactive Reels™ combines several unique technologies to create a breakthrough gaming device unlike anything ever seen on casino floors. Bally believes this is a game changes that sets a new standard of player interaction and control of a gaming device. Judge Buddy Frank, vice president of slot operations at Pechanga Resort & Casino, agrees: “Who would have imagined something new on a slot machine involving a wheel? Bally did and it’s truly unique.”
This innovative platform creates a distinctive video/reel-spinning slot featuring an eye-popping video wheel displayed on the upper section of the touch-enabled video screen, combined with mechanical reels on the bottom section.
Cash Spin with Interactive Reels features a large virtual spinning wheel on an oversized video display. In the bonus round, the player touches the screen and electronically “spins” the wheel backwards, forward, fast or slow, just as if it were an actual physical wheel. Bally’s gesture-control technology senses the pressure and speed of a player’s hand as they slide their finger across the wheel. U-Spin uses proprietary mathematical algorithms to translate this pressure and speed-sensitive motion into a variety of spin rates for a true-to-life simulation of a physical spinning wheel. There is even a “clack-clack” of the wheel hitting the leather strap as it slows and stops on a payout amount. These elements combine to provide a new level of player control and interaction.
On the bottom screen, Cash Spin features Bally’s Interactive Reels (iREELS™) which overlay various graphic animations and special effects on top of actual electromechanical spinning reels. The graphics appear to float across the reels during bonus rounds, while the video overlay fades into the background during normal game play, allowing the mechanical reels underneath to come to the visual foreground.
“Finally an adaptation of touch screen and interactive reels—along with a wheel—what’s not to like?” said judge Chuck Hickey, vice president of slot operations at Barona Resort & Casino.
FutureLogic’s TableXchange® is a revolutionary device that brings TITO technology to table games. The device enables players to use cashout tickets at table games by connecting table games to a casino’s existing TITO network. TableXchange can also print tickets when a player is ready to leave the table. It further streamlines casino operations by virtually eliminating the need to replenish chips at the tables.
The TableXchange concept resulted from FutureLogic’s player research on crossover players. This technology creates a bridge between slots and tables and helps casinos identify valuable crossover players. It means slot players no longer have to wait in line to cash their vouchers before heading to the table games.
Here’s how it works. The player gives a TITO voucher to the dealer to buy in. TableXchange then scans and displays the voucher value on the device’s LCD and touch-screens. The player receives chips and a voucher for any cash balance. To cash out, the dealer collects and enters the value of the player’s chips on the alpha-numeric keypad. The TableXchange printer/scanner then prints a cashout voucher for the player.
The TableXchange printer/scanner also has a Magstripe reader to record and update Player’s Club Cards, enabling players to receive loyalty points for activity at table games. The TableXchange printer/scanner can also be integrated into promotional coupon systems, such as FutureLogic’s PromoNet® promotional couponing solution. In addition, the device provides a variety of administrative interface features to assist the dealer.
TournEvent™ from Multimedia Games is a revolutionary slot tournament management system that solves operational issues associated with running slot tournaments.
Even if the bank is not in tournament mode, the games continue to entertain players as high-performing video titles that are constantly refreshed.
The system’s control center is where the magic happens. Everything the operator needs to run tournaments is at the end of the bank. Here, players can be registered, session lengths set and number of players entered, and the bank switched between tournament game mode and revenue-generating game mode. The ease of switching between modes will please both players and the casino.
“This is a great execution of a proven tournament strategy,” noted judge Buddy Frank.
TournEvent is the first server-based gaming system that demonstrates significant operational enhancements for slot managers while also providing the player a high level of entertainment—and all with the click of a mouse.
Bill validators and printers are non-functional during tournament mode. And real-time tracking allows constant event monitoring.
Further, TournEvent allows operators to upload customized advertising to the system and be shown on the cabinet’s upper display, making it perfect for promoting events and amenities at the casino.
Casino Data Imaging—iGuide™ Wayfinder Plus
Casino Data Imaging’s (CDI) iGuide™ Wayfinder Plus found its way into our top 10 products this year.
The iGuide goes beyond other wayfinder technologies by utilizing dynamic mapping, feature-rich user interface and instant recognition for the customer. But it also gives casinos choices and control.
CDI’s Digital Media Division built iGuide from the “ground up” for the casino industry, using the latest Microsoft technologies.
The iGuide Console Master was designed to facilitate easy program administration. The password-controlled Console Master allows casino departments to make changes and keep up-to-date. Changes are automatically be reported to the iGuide administrator for review before going live. The Console Master is feature-rich, and under SaaS, always expanding.
Further, visitor statistics allows casinos to analyze customer selections. This enables operators to direct patrons to high profit zones or high visibility areas. Respective departments can easily edit and update their pages including content uploads to specific windows. Casinos and advertising sponsors will be able to display their preferred games/products to maximize visitor interaction.
CDI’s product path includes adapting iGuide to new technologies including the Apple iPad and vertical markets.
“I like this clean application,” noted judge Chuck Hickey. “This is a guest service tool that works.”
Bally—Bally Command Center™
One of Bally Technologies’ two wins is Bally Command Center™, a server application that allows operators to view, examine and manage their floor configuration from a central location. Bally Command Center provides a connection to many devices on a casino floor such as gaming machines, player-tracking displays and peripherals.
Based on GSA’s G2S and S2S protocols, Bally Command Center provides a platform to unify previously separately controlled devices under one application with easy-to-use wizards. This translates to maximizing players’ experiences and casino revenue.
Just one of the ways this product is different from others is that it’s managed by a separate Bally CPU rather than a single CPU architecture. And it’s making operators lives easier by supporting dual-port peripherals, requiring minimal regulatory approvals and allowing peripheral firmware download on any gaming machine regardless of manufacturer.
Eliminating manual work, Bally Command Center uses predictive modeling and monitors gaming machines to alert service employees of a full bill validator, ticket printer out of paper or ticket printer jams.
Bally Command Center has many additional benefits, including: the ability to download and install a new operating system and game theme to all gaming devices; download and install bonusing applications and marketing content to Bally’s iVIEW™ and iVIEW Display Manager™ player-interface devices; on-demand compliance reports; device configuration control and flexible scheduling.
WMS —Ultra Hit Progressive®
WMS’ Ultra Hit Progressive® is an industry first and a true networked gaming product.
Ultra Hit Progressive can leverage the flexibility of networked gaming functionality to extend the life cycle of base game themes by adding a secondary bonus experience on top of connected electronic gaming machines on a slot floor. This allows casinos to customize the product offering on their floor in a way they have never been able to before, offering the appropriate mix to the appropriate player at the right time. Ultra Hit Progressive is the first Portal Application Family from WMS, representing its next generation of progressive slot entertainment.
“To be able to download not only gameware, but progressive ‘theme’ content to a variety of games is truly innovative. Can’t wait to put the first version on my floor in the coming months,” said judge Chuck Hickey.
The Ultra Hit Progressive game play occurs on a back-of-house central game controller server, and the outcome is displayed on all connected EGMs on the slot floor—an industry first. UHP visually advertises and broadcasts an imminent jackpot award on dual screen BLUEBIRD® top screens, as well as on strategically located signage. Further, Ultra Hit Progressive offers operators the option of changing the themes through which this secondary bonus experience is enjoyed. One of the themes, Jackpot Explosion™, uses volcanic activity to advertise progressive status. Lava rises and ambient sounds are amplified as the progressive trigger is approached until the inevitable eruption of the volcano celebrates the big win.
Ultra Hit Progressive will operate with a large number of standalone video and mechanical reel products. New media packages will also be made available on a regular basis to keep the progressive graphical content fresh for the player while preserving the customer’s investment in the Ultra Hit Progressive game play model. Since UHP is running on a networked gaming platform, both UHP and base themes can be downloaded and swapped out remotely without a technician ever opening an EGM.
JCM Global’s iVIZION bill validator was the only such product in our top 10 this year, and it’s easy to see why. Boasting an astounding 99 percent acceptance rate, this product’s technology is what makes the difference.
Its validation and denomination process is powered by Contact Image Sensing (CIS) technology that scans 43 times more raw data points and captures the full image of a note or ticket. It optically centers notes and sees threading, tearing threads to shreds mechanically to further enhance security.
iVIZION’s 99 percent acceptance rate makes it the fastest bill validator in the industry. Its powerful optical sensor is solely dedicated to currency evaluation, and has the fastest note-to-note processing speed. A sealed bill path with a dirt- and moisture-proof design is self-calibrating and accepts notes and tickets up to 85mm wide. All of these features add up to greater operator productivity and less technician support time.
This smart innovation is 100 percent compatible with all gaming platforms and protocols. An RFID Intelligent Cash Box links the box to the asset and revenue, all with a true memory module that retains more transaction data. Additionally, you’re supplied with extensive and detailed reporting to slot management.
Judge Buddy Frank commented: “Capturing a photo image of the last bill may completely eliminate the need to fetch cash can keys. That’s quite an advancement in a device that is simple to use and repair.”
Casino Data Imaging—Casino iGuide™ Mobile Media Applications
Securing another spot for Casino Data Imaging in this year’s awards was another breakthrough from iGuide™: its mobile media applications.
Casino iGuide maximizes mobile media technologies by providing a relevant and fun information tool for the players while allowing the operator to easily manage, communicate and promote all important aspects of the casino. With touch point analytics, banner ads, links, text messaging and much more, it’s a marketing manager’s dream come true.
Powered by CDI’s Digital Media Division’s Software as a Service program, Casino iGuide can always expand and fine-tune.
The beauty for the customer is that casino information is available to them no matter where they are—even if they’re not physically in your casino. They can peruse the current floor map and find out the latest information including hot slots, what’s new, fun and dining.
For a fraction of the cost of developing your own app, CDI can even mirror your Casino iGuide application as your own.
“This is one of the greatest ideas allowing a guest to view the amenities of a casino,” judge Michael Tomasello, director of slot operations at Palms Casino Resort, commented.
Having the technological know-how and keen understanding of the casino industry allowed Casino iGuide version 1.0 to roll out in January 2010. The next updates are already planned from operator and user feedback. CDI is currently testing GPS tracking and is planning to include it in a future version release. Casino iGuide is fully developed and available at the iTunes and Blackberry app stores.
Strategy9— Slot Tournament Management System
Slot tournaments are proven winners, and Strategy9 maximized on that, bringing ease back to operators with its Slot Tournament Management System (STMS).
STMS is the solution that organizes every step of a slot tournament. Rules, registration limits, invitation lists, points, qualification parameters and prize lists are entered into the system. STMS reduces staffing needs, saves time, minimizes errors, reduces lineups and improves the slot tournament experience for both customers and staff—what more could you ask for?
Some of its innovative features include a self-registration kiosk swipe integration, mobile scoring, tablet PC scoring, flexible leader board and video displays for showcasing scores and results. Its newest feature is real-time scoring that allows the system to connect directly to the slot machines to read scores in real time and capture results on the leader board. This eliminates the time and labor-intensive manual process.
It even presents advertising opportunities. The built-in video display manager allows for customized marketing material to be displayed on screens in between tournament results. Graphics and video files can be imported to showcase the latest promotions.
STMS is built from the ground up on Microsoft architecture, delivering tremendous business value with easy integration and third-party applications and services. And it is the only tournament management system developed specifically for slots, rounding out our 2010 Slot Floor Technology Awards.