Patriotic defence or nationalistic attack

Traditionalists moving with the times

R.Franco strategic focus shifts with Codere sale

Case Study: The Gala gaming platform

Anti-competitive and unhelpful

Hot Shot Progressive is  a thrilling performer in US

Fresh Zest

Right Result

Merit strengthening role in Italian games market

Cyberview signs major Italian systems contract

Aristocrat purchases EssNet

Russia redux

Nothing but blue skies….

Progressive wired into Macau

Bingo falling through the gaps in Italian legislation

EELEX set to deliver new products and surprises

Greek games oddity nears end

Market LED

Paralles with consumer World

 

 

PARALLES WITH THE CONSUMER WORLD

CTL’s Anton Churchill is another with technology on the mind, but he also predicts greater parallels with the wider consumer world and the growth of branding within the gaming sector.  “All purpose gaming will be the key feature in moving towards a future where brand awareness will be the driving factor in a world of connected technologies where eGaming will dominate.  The power of established major global brands can deliver just about any type of product or service imaginable.  Famous names such as Virgin now offers everything from mobile gaming telephone, services to personal insurance and a range of terrestrial transport services.  Couple with this, technology now offers the possibility of a complete eGaming platform that encompasses just about every ‘real world’ device we all use in daily life.”

      With mass-participation gaming such as lotteries and bingo bringing vast audiences to the table, in search of high entertainment value and huge prize rewards traditional land-based casino locations will surely need to provide additional attractions about and beyond conventional table gaming and slot machines.  Low stake, high volume gaming is growing in influence, based around destination locations that offer so much more to a far wider audience.  “There will always be a strong need for smaller venues to meet localized needs,” says Mr. Churchill, “but the capacity for gaming will need to be diverse and include not only casino but bingo and other offers all under one roof.  For some, this will mean getting the mix of entertainment right within a multi-disciplined complex, for others it will be about merging existing operations.  But, in my view, what all will need to have in common across the board will be a strong and recognized brand identity to carry their deliverables into the market.”

A WORLD MOVING OUR WAY

Olympic Entertainment operates casinos in Estonia, Lithuanisa, Lativia and Ukraine.  Such markers are often described as ‘emerging’ and Eastern Europe as a whole has been viewed as a land of opportunity for international gaming equipment suppliers for almost a decade.  The beauty of being involved in a comparatively ‘young market is that there is no need to follow old or outdated traditions.  Within a fresh and rapidly developing environment it is simpler to embrace new ideas for two main reasons.  Firstly, the players have no preconceived ideas or expectations.  If you have never seen a reel-based slot machine, then it is easier to convince you that video is superior because to anybody except the most committed reel machine player, the superiority of video is obvious.  Secondly, suppliers are not attempting t convince operators that the product investments they made previously are now obsolete.  Olympic’s Chairman is Armin Karu.  With little to fear and almost everything to look forward to, his views on the casino business of the future are delivered with refreshing bluntness.  “Server-based gaming combined with internet will replace slot machine, three-dimensional graphic solutions will be offered to players and table games with electronically linked jackpots and extra features will make table gaming even more interesting and attractive.” 

As expected, no sitting on any fences with Mr. Karu, just a straightforward assessment of how it is going to be.  “The original US (Las Vegas) concept of open entertainment centres combined with luxury hotels and public casinos will succeed everywhere and eventually there with gaming hall, in every large shopping mall.  We have recently opened such venues in each of our major markets and these have already been a great success.”  On a global and more socio-economic level, Mr Karu is also confident that the way the world as a whole is moving will prove beneficial to the gaming industry. “Provided life continues to develop normally, with no worldwide recession or major war, then of course people will have more money to spend on recreation and leisure.  Markets will open in new jurisdictions due to the need by governments to raise funds, and arguably one  of the greatest challenges our industry will face will be the need to effectively control problem gambling.  If we can achieve this objective, the casino of 2005 will be an entertainment centre that is accepted by society.  In a perfect world, gaming spend will have increased to 10 per cent of people’s income with no social consequences.”

FINALLY DRIVEN FORWARD BY FASHION

Heikki Rinta-Panttila has led the Grand Casino in Helsinki through a seemingly continuous period of ongoing transformation, not least of which has been wholesale relocation, so he has lived with dynamic change on a daily basis.  “The current trend for casinos becoming more general entertainment centres will continue,” he asserts.  “Live entertainment, bars and nightclubs and possibly even cinemas will blend with tales and gaming terminals in the ‘new generation’ casinos.”  This is not exactly a revelation from the knowledgeable Heikki, a city centre casino specialist, but he does suggest slightly different reasoning.  “The current online and live poker boom has resulted in movies and television shows, and this will bring a younger clientele into casinos.  We have to respond with the products and services these younger adults require.  The classic ‘European style’ casino with stone-faced staff will be gone for good, everything will become more relaxed and this will include society’s attitudes towards gaming.”  This shifting of the core thought process must surely be the central spoke in the future of casino gaming?  Yet again, we find operators talking of casinos being venues where customers seek our “entertainment”, rather than “gambling”.  Whisper it quietly, but this psychological realignment of the central concept is the very thing that will ‘clean-up’ a negative image that has been in place for hundreds of years. 

The new city casinos will become a dynamic part of general nightlife,” pledges Mr. Rinta-Panttila.  “They are centrally located and built for a diverse night out.  I am not ruling out the role of destination resort casinos in Europe and these may do well – but they require huge investment and infrastructure and are largely climate sensitive, so I believe that opportunities in Europe will be limited.”
      As the spiritual and technological home of the mobile telephone, it is interesting to understand where the Finn stands on the future of products and games.  As ever, he is open and forthright in his views.  “Needless to say, cash will be replaced by chip cards and other forms of electronic payment. Slot machines will become gaming terminals, with games stored on servers.  Perhaps regrettably, this may mean that we operators lease or share games, rather than owning them ourselves.  The future of table gaming has been insecure for some time, but let me predict that the incredible poker ‘boom’ will be followed by growing interest in other table games.”

      Finally, whilst many hot and passionate southern Europeans might perceive the Finnish psyche to mirror its most common weather conditions, i.e. cold and grey, it has to be said that Heikki was the only of this way to emphasize that how ever ‘Blue Sky’ and futuristic we may want our thinking to be, the key components to successful casino that must never change are “great customer service the personal touch and a natural smile.”

BLUE SKY THINKERS

      Gareth Phillips, Chief Technology Officer quintessentially a blue sky thinker.  Having contributed to every future-gazing article we’ve printed, Mr. Phillips is the kind of free-thinking radical that you attempt to interview under the noses of the corporate suits with their red pens.  Thinking ‘outside of the box’ in this case is a literal interpretation of his views on server-based gaming.  “The gaming floor of the ‘future casino’ will be built upon the technology of server-based gaming,”  said Mr. Phillips unequivocally.  “The floor will consist of a network of distributed gaming terminals connected to a series of servers located within the casino infrastructure.  The servers will be able to turn multiple content from games of entertainment and will communicate the outcome to the player over the network using a secure industry standard protocol.  Manufactures will have their own cabinets on the floor running their own unique games, but the majority of the floor will be general terminals that the player can run any game on by selecting their favourite off the central content file server.  Players will be able to play multiple games simultaneously on a single terminal by using the ‘windows in windows’ style of presentation.  Real-times video of sporting events and casino events will be broadcast to the terminals over the casino’s own closed broadband wireless system which the player will be able to access at any time either just to watch or to place a bet,”  Progressive Gaming International Corporation (PGIC) is a company that has staked its future on achieving just that goal. 

Having just received approval for a 30 day field trial for its Rapid Bet Live product from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.  PGIC’s field trial at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas began in March.  The System is designed to enable patrons to place live, real time-time wagers on professional and collegiate basketball, hockey, football and baseball.  Progressive Gaming’s Vice President of Global Marketing, Tim Richards, stated: “We have achieved the first milestone in our server-based initiative related to sports wagering.  We expect to reach similar milestones in the roll-out of the peer-to-peer and slot game station elements of our server-based wagering technology later in the current fiscal year.  We expect full commercial roll out of Rapid Bet Live are to increase the volume of wagers and hold from traditional sports book levels while we receive a daily fee from the casino operator.”  However, server-based game content delivery is only one element in the customer focused strategy.  Aristocrat’s Gareh Phillips explains: “Oh arrival at the casinos the player will be provided with some means to interact with the casino’s server network.  This could take form of a casino PDA or an intelligent room key.  At any time on the casino’s premises the player will be able to communicate with the casino, place bets, take part in tournaments, or play games of chances through the PDA/key.”  Wherever a player journeys within a location, their means of interacting with the array of entertainment options throughout the gaming environment is though a single ‘branded’ device.  It’s a very effective means to leverage the corporate brand throughout every interaction. 

And the traditional side of the casino offer has not been left out either.  “Tables will be fully ‘intelligent’ and will be able to track player preferences, size of bets, bet history etc.,” said Aristocrat’s Gareth Phillips.  “This will provide for a more accurate method of compensating and rewarding players with each casino offering competitive products to attract players.  On electronic tables the player will be offered an opportunity to play multiple games on the same terminal such that a roulette player could play multiple wheels or maybe roulette and blackjack simultaneously.”  It’s a view shared by IGT, Shuffle Master and Progressive Gaming, who have combined forces to offer their Intelligent Table System (ITS).  The Intelligent Table System combines table management software, RFID chip tracking, bonusing and image-based card recognition and analysis in one solution.  ITS’ Table Manager’ automates many of the traditional and manual tasks assigned to floor supervisors and pit clerks, allowing staff to effectively focus on customer service and security the tasks automated by Table Manager include player ratings, cash drop, head counts, markers, comp issuance and table accounting transactions (openers, closers, fills and credits).  The ITS ‘Chip Manager’, through RFID tracking, identifies and records every bet made by the players.  True game handle (coin-in)is captured, player betting patterns are revealed and exact dealer and player decisions per hour are summarized.  And by adding individual player rating information and overall game results, ITS Card/Game Manager is the final step in the process.  Through use of an embedded camera in a self-contained card shoe coupled with back-end software, detailed player and game analysis such as player skill, player counting flags, player win/loss, dealer mistakes and payback are captured.

KEEP IT SIMPLE FOR THE PLAYERS

As aforementioned, US gaming equipment supplier Shuffle master is a company than this certainly not been allowing the grass to grow beneath its feet in the past year.  With an aggressive expansion plan, across global markets, he need to be at the forefront of all the latest evolutions is paramount.  Director of Marketing Kirsten Clark believes that it is entirely reasonable to assume that an increasing number of casino developments, including those in Europe, will opt to focus their efforts on providing customers with an overall gaming and entertainment experience that combines a range of entertainment options.  But, whatever the changes, especially in terms of technology, it will be essential not to confuse the player.  “Although advanced technology will be a key component in the casino of the future, its use will need to be virtually transparent to players.  For example, enhancements like RFID bet recognition,

coupled with a table activity matrix capable of accurately tracking all levels and permutations of play will eventually be utilized on all gaming tables to ensure dealer accuracy and protect the security and integrity of games.  But, because the technology will be seamlessly integrated into non-visible components, the players will not even realize its presence.”  This desire for radical change and improvement, without risking frightening or alienating players, is clearly an important aspect of evolution in the eyes of Shuffle master.  Developments  such as card recognition, specialty  games, electronic table gaming, wireless gaming and downloadable multi-game slot terminals will, according to Ms. Clark, all enjoy rapid growth.  But they are enhancements, and include many behind-the-scene elements, so players are unlikely to be intimidated.  “As more and  more operators understand the fiscal and operational benefits these new technologies provide, and their comparative invisibility to players, we expect dramatic change as casinos enhance their operations with improved choice, security, and productivity, all of which will lead to greater profitability.”

 

 

 

 
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