The gaming trade show season is notorious for its new products, new deals and new technologies, each poised to flip casino conventions upside-down, deliver a massive ROI and transform the way we all do business. Of course, many of these products never actually make it to market, many are little more than the same old same old with a fancy new sticker, and many more fail to find a relevant application on the casino floor. A rare few, however, not only deliver the promises made in their promotional materials but also meet casino operators’ real demand. The Epic Ten80® is among those few.
Among the whirlwind of announcements and introductions at G2E Las Vegas this past November, the Epic Ten80 could have easily been written off as yet another product that sounded way too good to be true: 30 percent faster, no need for future upgrades, more horsepower, no down time. No way, right? But the Epic Ten80 is quickly proving that big promises don’t have to come with low expectations. And it should come as no surprise, since the Epic Ten80 is the latest in ticket printer technology from TransAct Technologies Inc.
Since its first public stock offering in 1996, TransAct quickly became a leader in quality and reliability, thanks in part to the company’s focus on addressing the distinct needs of each industry it targets, from banking to point-of-sale across North America and worldwide. For casino gaming, this means thermal printers that must hold up in high-stakes, near constant-use environments; deliver a measurable ROI; and keep up with ever-advancing technology trends.
One of those trends is the slow-but-sure move toward a networked gaming floor, and Tracey Chernay, TransAct’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, said casinos are ready to start exploring the possibilities that this creates for thermal printing. “Operators are ready to take the next step in printing, and many of them are now beginning to see how the networked casinos can benefit them,” she noted.
Specifically, promotional couponing is allowing operators to immediately reward patrons for their loyalty by printing personalized offers, discount coupons and free item vouchers directly at the slot machine. “It gives the casino the opportunity to have thousands of points of contact with their guests and go directly to them with a printed message versus having coupons centralized to the cage or direct mail,” Chernay explained. “Your customer is in front of a device that can deliver a coupon directly to them—it’s got to be a huge competitive advantage.”
And in light of the slow-recovering economy and floundering casino profits nationwide, that advantage is more vital than ever. Enter the Epic Ten80.
A Perfect “Ten”
Developed under the company’s strict quality standards and the proven reliability of the entire Epic family of products, the Epic Ten80 is the thermal printer for the networked casino floor. And although it is a brand-new product that is revolutionarily different from its predecessors, the Epic Ten80 does merge and improve upon two proven TransAct technologies: the company’s flagship slot ticket printer, the Epic 950®, and its complementary ServerPort™ plug-in, which allows the Epic 950 to communicate with marketing servers and provide coupons to patrons along with TITO vouchers.
Chernay said that TransAct took “the best” of the Epic 950 in terms of reliability and speed and integrated it all into the Epic Ten80, along with adding an internal interface that, like ServerPort, allows the printer to communicate with marketing servers and print promotional coupons. “The Epic Ten80 takes it to the next level,” she noted. “[It] provides the interfaces, the speed and the memory to be able to quickly and easily link a couponing system to the printer.”
The Dual-Port technology that makes couponing possible also allows operators to remotely download firmware updates and configure the printer, as well as monitor printer events.
The Epic Ten80 also incorporates the Epic 950’s patented Quick Disconnect, Ticketburst™ and Ticket Low Sensor features, which respectively eliminate down time, print the entire ticket before presenting it and reduce wasted paper. The Epic Ten80’s new processor also provides more horsepower, 30 percent faster transaction times, and even faster downloads of firmware through USB imPort™ technology.
According to Chernay, the Epic Ten80, in conjunction with the Epic 950 and ServerPort, completes a trio of products that meet not only operators’ current needs but will also serve them well into the future. “Those customers that have Epic 950s today, if they want to move to promotional couponing, they can upgrade their Epic 950s [with ServerPort],” she explained. “And they can add the Epic Ten80 on new games and really have a complete suite of products that were designed to work together.”
And, because it is configured to open standards, the Epic Ten80 will work with any manufacturer’s slot machines and any third-party’s promotional system, which means it is a universal printing solution for any marketing department and the entire slot floor.
Of course, it should also come as no surprise that the Ten80 is so versatile, flexible and reliable—after all, it’s an Epic. Aside from the Epic Ten80 and 950, the family of printers includes the Epic 880™, a thermal roll receipt printer for VLT and amusement games, and the modular Epic 430™, which can be configured to any tight machine space. Rounding out the product line are the Epic Series 70, Epic 630™ and Epic 850, each targeted for varied gaming machine or kiosk environments and each held to the same TransAct standards of quality.
The flagship printer is the Epic 950, which is known primarily for its extreme reliability. Chernay said this has proven to be a huge advantage for TransAct and its customers. “The failure rate is so low that many customers don’t really have an occasion to replace a printer,” she explained. “And the easy serviceability of the design is such that if they do need to service the printer, it’s so quick and easy to pull out the old printer and plug in the new—it’s very expeditious to them to be able to do that. … Slot techs across the board prefer the Epic 950.”
While the Epic 950—or any TransAct printer—seldom needs servicing, TransAct does offer several service advantages to its clients, including spare printers for those rare swap-outs, extended warrantees, free live telephone support and quick turnaround time at any of its service centers worldwide, from Las Vegas to the East Coast to the U.K. and Asia.
The Epic 950’s longevity is partly why TransAct will continue to offer the printer and its ServerPort upgrade instead of simply phasing out the 950 with the introduction of the Ten80—it’s all to protect the investment. After all, completely replacing a high quality printer that seldom fails and excels at its functions is not only costly, but wasteful to boot. According to Chernay, TransAct did not want its customers to have to pull out an old printer just to access advanced features. Instead, ServerPort is a simple plug-in module that instantly upgrades the Epic 950, providing access to dual-port applications and optimizing existing printers for the switch to a server-based gaming floor. And although it was introduced more than a year ago at G2E 2008, Chernay reported that the excitement about ServerPort is yet to wear off, particularly as on-floor couponing will likely play a role in recession recovery for many properties. “I think that it will go hand in hand with the advanced features that casinos are now looking at with networking their floors,” she explained. “It’s a nice fit.”
Because the switch to server-based gaming is ongoing and evolutionary in nature, to meet the varied needs of casino properties, Chernay said the Epic 950 and ServerPort will remain available indefinitely, though she can envision a future where the Epic Ten80 has taken the 950’s place as the industry standard. But until then, the Epic 950’s combination of cutting-edge technology, reliability and robustness will ensure it remains, as Chernay said, “a winner for the casinos.”
TransAct’s winner for the VLT and amusement market is yet another printer in the Epic family, the Epic 880. The 880 made its debut at the International Gaming Expo 2009 and joins the Epic 430 to meet any operator’s roll-fed printing requirements. According to Chernay, the 880 has enjoyed “tremendous success” in its first year. “Many customers have chosen to integrate the Epic 880 as the premier, clear choice for gaming manufacturers who want a roll printer with a transport that presents the ticket out to their patrons,” she said. “It’s been widely accepted in Europe and Canada, as well as North America.”
Reflecting on the entire Epic family, Chernay noted: “It’s really about having the full product line to offer our casino and gaming customers—the right solution; the flexibility to be able to do the applications that the customers are interested in; and then the coverage, service and reliability of the products. … The Epic family of printers is the most reliable family of ticket printers for casinos in the world.
Despite overall difficulties in the gaming world, particularly for domestic casinos, 2009 was a winning year for TransAct. Chernay noted a great number of successes, from earning more exclusives at more casino properties than ever before to getting some “big wins.” “Being chosen as the exclusive printer for the City of Dreams opening in Macau this year was a huge honor,” she said. “We’ve done a wonderful job over in Macau with the Epic 950. River Spirit in Oklahoma is another great example of an industry win we had this year with the Epic 950. And there are many, many others.”
As for 2010, Chernay said TransAct will focus on introducing the Epic Ten80 and its capabilities to casinos around the world and into new markets. “We believe we’ll see a rebound in the domestic casino business and continuing growth in international markets as well,” she said. “We had tremendous success in international markets in 2009, and we expect that to continue and grow in 2010. For example, we’re expanding into the Latin American markets with new distribution agreements as well as expanding our footprint in Asia.”
High expectations again, but with TransAct’s proven record and product line, once again, its success should come as no surprise.
Top 10 Reasons to Pick the Epic Ten80®
1. So flexible, no need to upgrade for the future
2. Up to 30% faster transaction time
3. One printer for all slot machines
4. New processor with more horsepower
5. Integrated dual-port capability
6. Even faster downloads of firmware with USB imPort™
7. Ticketburst™ prints entire ticket before presenting
8. Ticket Low Sensor—go green and save on paper
9. Quick Disconnect technology eliminates downtime
10. Proven reliable technology that says it must be TransAct