EELEX set to deliver new products and surprises

EELEX 2006 organizers, Unicom Group, have announced the first highlights of its September tradeshow. Many exhibitors have already specified stand space and released teaser information about the show. “In the past few years EELEX has continuously been growing in size as well as becoming an internationally important event, and it is now one of the most significant industry trade shows for us to exhibit at,” said Sylvia Dietz, Atronic’s marketing Director. Recent changes in the EELEX 2006 dates provided the trade show with the potential to become an international centrestage for many product premiers. CATS General Manager, brett Clark stated: “CATS is a progressive and forward looking company and we see EELEX as a good opportunity to present the latest innovative products developed by leading slot manufacturers and our long-term partners-  Novomatic, IGT and Octavian. Our expectations for EELEX 2006 are clear – we have increased our stand space by four times! We believe in a bright future of gaming business in Russia and we’re looking forward to meeting our partners and customers at the show. ” A well-known Russian slot manufacturer, Fair Play, plans to feature its new slot games, gaming titles from Igrosoft and introduce a new series in slim slot cabinets with LDC monitors. Meanwhile, trade show organizer and owner of the largest stand, Unicum Group, prefers to keep its plans off-record at present, with surprises guaranteed for the opening of the show.

*   Swiss barriers to gaming increases
The number of the self exclusions in the Swiss casino market rose sharply in 2005, according to official statistice released by the Swiss Casino Federation. 13,300 casino visitors excluded themselves in the 12 month period, 3900 more than in the previous year. Since banning slot machine play in arcades and restaurants in 2005, the government believes it has a clear understanding of the level of problem gaming in the country and is fulfilling its social obligation to protect young and vulnerable people from gaming. The news has not been welcomed by the Swiss restaurant association, GastroSuisse, which believes that players are more visible in a restaurant than in a casino, and views the figures as a failure to recognize addiction earlier.

Bally Technologies has announced that  its Bally Casino Management System (CMS) / Bally slot Management System (SMS) division based in Nice, France, has sold a systems solution to Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc. for the new casino Pinnacle will be operating in Great Exuma, The Bahamas. Scheduled to open in mid-May and adjacent to the Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay, the Pinnacle-operated casino chose Bally’s mCC solution in Part because its modular architecture makes it scalable to small and medium-sized casinos. “MCC offers a total systems solution for comprehensive slot machine accounting, management, security and monitoring. It’s a good fit for us,” said Carol Pride, chief Information officer for Pinnacle. “We like this Bally system because of its user-friendly, intuitive design. Bally has proven that the mCC solution is a very powerful tool in small casino environments such as the one we have in our Exuma, Bahamas property. Our location is really a boutique casino situated in a high-end resort, where customer service will be paramount. The mCC  system fills this niche very nicely. “MCC’s suite of products has a wealth of customer relationship management tools to help meet the needs of marketing programs and allows for a flexible level of investment, depending on the size of your operation,” said Bally’s Ramesh Srinivasan.

One of the Surprises of the  ENADA Spring show held in Rimini in March, was the absence of Italian distributor, Inter video. The company did take a room away from the exhibition floor to entertain guests, but did not show any product at the event. A spokesman for the company stated that the Italian market at present does not justify another exhibition and we will not lend our support until legislative changes have taken effect. “The market has died over recent months and until we see signs of life, such events will not receive our support,” said Intervideo. “We’ve had two years of uncertainty and yet still maintain three exhibitions in this market – it’s too much. ”

*   An amazing upturn in sales  during the first part of 2006, in particular record sales of the GBA HR1, prompted the UK-based Astro Systems sales team to significantly increase travel activity during February and March. Having targeted Ireland, Spain and Germany for the trade shows, there have also been specific customer visits to Hungary, Sweden and the US. Steve Priest, Technical Sales Executive commented: “As part of our sales plan for this year, we are intending to increase our presence at all of the prestigious exhibitions throughout our targeted markets. ”

Grand prize

Moudling the shape of the Italian AWP market once again is the new Unidesa video range.

Italy’s 2004 Gaming Law created today’s complicated and rather eccentric market conditions from a standing start. The Comma 6 AWP legislation dictated that there should be a 75 per cent payout from a 50 cents stake, with a 14,000 game cycle. This created the first ‘White’ market in Italy for over six years, with 170,000 AWPs now on site (estimates still put the number of ‘black’ machines at 200-260,000). The government also imposed a ban on notes and tickets, creating in all-coin marketplace. And in order to operate in Italy, companies had to establish an Italy-based company. Spain’s Unidesa Gaming and Systems, therefore, established its own company to import and sell machines. And, according to Commercial Director, Giacomo Bozzini, Unidesa helped to forge the industry that we see today. “Unidesa was one of the only companies with the know-how to produce reel machines in Italy,” explained Mr. Bozzini. “In three months, Unidesa sold  18,000 machines and took a 15-20 per cent market share. ” Unidesa began by selling its reel-based technology, but soon Italian manufactures found they could compete with video poker game machines; simply buying a cabinet, a screen and assembling cheaply to fill market demand. This caused a huge shift in the market. “Manufacturers began selling low quality, low cost product, but with interesting games nonetheless,” stated Mr. Bozzini. “Player preference has since switched to video-based games, with the market now 85 per cent video to just 15 percent mechanical reels. This, unfortunately, has also increased the problem of illegal machines, since it is much more difficult to manipulate reel-based games. ” The upcoming amendment to the law (Comma 6A) is a realization by the government that it must address black market problems, in which both the goes and its network were to too easy to manipulate. “To increase security and do as much as possible to protect the public, the AAMS has introduced new measures,” said Mr. Bozzini. In response, Unidesa has also changed its philosophy, introducing video machines in the Italian market in 2005. “We moved our commercial model to video from reels in order to compete in the marketplace,” stated Unidesa’s Jorge Ibanez. “Crisa is one of the concessionary license holders, providing a network to connect AWP machines.

This has ensured that from a technical point of view, the connection to the central system of our machines has been a very simple process. ” Certification of Unidesa machines has been carried out by Spain’s Applu + , which is a testing agency approved to test machines for the Italian market. “We have homologated three games in the market, despite the fact that the market is completely blocked,” said Mr. Bozzini. And while the introduction of VLT machines is expected in Italy, Mr. Bozzini believes that Comma 6A will maintain the advantage of distribution, with play in every single Barcrest in the country. “VLTs will be limited to certain locations, with a concentration in a number of larger sites,” said Mr. Bozzini. “However, this may change according to the view of the AAMS, as they perceive VLTs as a safer legal bet. When you have the technology to download games from a server, it offers the government more control. If they think that this is the only way to clear the market of illegal games, then VLTs could increase rapidly in the market. ” The changes implemented this month deal with technical conditions for the consumers, clients and operators. The new law raises the puoker game cycle  from 14,000 to 140,000. This is the maximum that the law will allow, but it is more likely that most companies will keep within a 28,000 cycle. The new law also doubles the payout and stake, and introduces a new security protocol. The AAMS has issued a smart card, which the operators must place in their machines. This card has the ability to block machines that are not connected to the network. This technical element is going to change the hardware of every single machine, with the Unidesa factory working hard to implement these changes. “There’s more expense and to homologate there’s a greater time scale to consider too,” said Mr. Bozzini. “And we’re still waiting for the AAMS to supply the smart card to test in our labs. But hopefully this will further help to rid the market of illegality. ”

   Spain’s coin validation expert, Azkoyen, has opened a new office in the Italian market, forming Azkoyen Italia in the town of Modena. Headed by former Edue Italia Division Manager, Francesco Spagnuolo, azkoyen seeks to expand  its market position in Italy with a more direct route to market. “In the competitive Italian market it is necessary to go  straigt to the customer,” said Azkoyen Business manager, Pablo de la Fuente. “Francesco is in charge of the new office with a team of four staff. Together they have a wealth of knowledge about the Italian market, which combined with our hoppers and coin validators offers the perfect solution. It’s a little more expensive, but the quality is the highest in the marketplace. ” Now selling direct to the market, customers will notice little change from the Azkoyen sales approach, since mr. Spagnuolo and his team had previously been selling Azkoyen products through a distribution deal with Edue Italia. “The team has the goal to improve the final value for the customer and raise the profile Azkoyen acquired Italian company, coges, a major vending company in the market. The new office, therefore, will sell coin and note validators, vending and cashes products due to the combined portfolio. “Our approach to the market has not changed,” explained Mr. Spanuolo. “The Italian boom will restart in the near future, at which time we will have everything prepared for the customers, with the same people and same positive reaction in the market place. ”

For the second month in succession,  Astro Systems, manufacturer of the Global Bill Acceptor (GBA) range of bank note validates, has reported record, has reported record sales figures for its currency validation equipment, in particular, the highly popular GBA HRI. Following a truly successful ATEI, the growth of the HRI continues with increased demand in amusement and gaming and other key markets. In order to meet customer requirements, the ASL production team have been working at full capacity, running extra lines with overtime. Debbie Robb, Head of Sales and Marketing, stated: “Currently the open order book is at an all time high and we are anticipating further months of the same, breaking all our previous records. ”