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VLT operations: WinWin Austria

A WinWin scenario

WINWIN  is a cooperation between Casinos Austria AG and Austrian Lotteries launched in May 2004 to bring Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) to Austria.  The machines, supplied by Bally Technologies, and which are almost identical to slot machines, differed by calculating wins and losses on a central computer. WINWIN  outlets offer modern gaming entertainment in trendy settings with bars, eateries and, of course, VLTs.  The project started with the two operations companies seeking fulfill the Austrian lotteries, and Casinos Austria the skill in the running and operation of location- based gaming.  “We began in February 2002 and opened the project’s first location in Mayhofen in the famous Austrian ski resort on May 21, 2004,” stated Robert Vierziger, Managing Director of Casinos Austria International. 

The latest outlet opened on March 23 in Zell am See in Saltzburg, with further operations in Lienz, Ebreichsdorf and Scharding.  Each location features a standard package of VLTs, food and beverages.  The companies are currently working upon a sixth outlet in Vienna, followed by two more in Lower Austria.  “It has been very successful,” said Mr.  Vierziger.  “VLTs are a broader product that’s been quickly accepted by the customer.  Casinos Austria has 12 casinos in casinos in Austria, in which we have tried to find a product that’s more closely aligned to a wider customers.  VLT terminals make it possible to penetrate smaller areas in smaller cities, remote areas, in which we can bring the product to the people.”  The product, in this case, is both the VLT terminal  games and the brand of Casinos Austria. 

The WinWin  brand is the name upon the door, but Casinos Austria makes clear the customers knows it’s a daughter company of Casinos Austria and the Austrian Lotteries.  In marketing terms, VLTs are reaching the customers that casinos cannot.  The spread of the machines is impressive too, with 50 VLTs in Mayhofen, the same in Lienz, 90 in Scharding, 150 in Ebreichsdorf, Zell am See has 73, and Vienna, which is in the final opening stages, will see around 80 terminals installed.  The decision to purchase these machines from Bally Technologies was made together with an international consultant, having short-listed a number of companies able to offer a product that fitted completely with paragraph 12a of Austrian Gaming law.  The System is capable to run with a series of games from a variety of manufacturers, though its hardware is supplied by Bally.  “We change the games from Bally, Aristocrat and IGT three to four times a year,” said Mr. Vierziger.  “Due to the online status of the machines, we can see exactly which games the customer likes, analyzing the data over several months and providing live updates wherever we think it necessary.” 

Again, these are all Bally Technologies’ machines, so how did Bally and Casinos Austria forge this partnership? “As I recall, Casinos Austria first saw a demonstration of our Central Draw system and games at a gaming show,” explained Bally Technologies Vice President of Systems and Technology, Warren White.  “They recognized that it fit their needs and that we had staff who were experienced in lottery requirements and operations as well as having traditional gaming expertise.”  The equipment itself consists of a fully redundant central computer, a small physically secure computer at each gaming site, and a player terminal (the VLT) that is programmed to receive central results.  The operation is analogous to an instant ticket lottery, except that it is done electronically.  A relatively large pool of play results for wagers is generated in a central computer.  Each pool has a predetermined number of winners of different amounts so the pool has a predetermined number of winners of different amount so the pool  has a precisely determined cost and prize content.  Unlike a traditional VLT or slot machine, a centrally determined game has an exact payout percentage in each pool.  Randomly selected subsets of those winners are then transmitted to site controllers at each retail site. 

The site controller (a small physically secure computer) then responds to individual game request messages from player terminal (VLTs) and distributes individual game results.  When pools are exhausted at the central computer new ones are automatically generated.  The Central Draw VLT terminal offers the flexibility of both downloadable central systems determination, and can also be used as an on-site server solution.  “In tribal casinos in the state of Washington, each casino has its own system with pool manufacturing capability,” stated Mr. White.  “These casinos range in size from 300 to 2,000 machines.  In Physically dispersed networks, like Austria, there is one central computer and many retail sites that only have a site controller to distribute the play results, which it gets from the central computer.  Sites can be as small as a single gaming machine.”  The central result consists only of a prize amount.  It does not include the graphic which provides the entertainment.  Bally calls the process “reverse mapping” in which the software process in the player terminal makes the prize amount and determines a way to play the game for the player so that they end up with that result.  The success of the Bally methodology there is a key factor in making the technology successful.  Its boils down to the fact that the games don’t physically play any differently from a regular Bally casino slot machine.  “The games are designed to offer the same play appeal as a traditional casino game of the same game theme,” stated Mr.  White.

  “Playing Blazing 7s in a centrally determined game has a the same look and feel as playing Blazing 7s in a casino.  In some jurisdictions it is desirable, or required by regulation, to have a physically observable distinction from a slot machine.  In Washington, for instance, the player is required to push the “Play” button twice for each game play.  when we first started doing that we were nervous about whether it would have any effect on game play, but the games have always done very well in Washington.  The double-tap has not proven to have any effect on game play, but the games have always done very well in Washington.  The double-tap has not proven to have any effect on revenue.”  Already over 90 game themes have been prepared for the Austrian market.  This figure does not include paytable and denomination variants.  They represent not only Bally themes, but also include licensed game content from Aristocrat, IGT, Atronic and Konami.  The games themselves are familiar themes, such as those you would find in an American casino, except for language translation and some responsible gaming features, which remind the player of how long he or she has been playing and encourages responsible behavior.  It’s a sensitive subject in Austria, particularly in the capital, Vienna, where Casinos Austria has taken particular measures to ensure the opening of the latest WinWin is a seamless affair.  “We have put the design of the locations to tender with six architects in Austria, whereby the main objective has been to design locations that complement the different shapes and sizes of each environment,” commented Mr. Vierziger. 

“Our aim is to create locations that are completely different from traditional slot halls.  We’re trying to give them a new image, positioning each WinWin as a kind of meeting place, where people from the city come to drink, take a coffee, meet friends, and play video lottery games.”  There’s certainly more of a Bar/coffee house atmosphere to the locations as a  result, whereby the view form the street is not one of an enclosed isolated environment.  Passers-by cannot see into the gaming area, but they are not excluded by my mirrors either, able instead to view the food and drinks areas just as one would expect to see in a bistro.  “It’s completely different from a design point of view,” emphasized Mr. Vierziger.  “We mix modern with traditional, using a lot of wood and flat panel monitors to offer an inviting environment for poker entertainment.  The games are familiar, soccer games, cricket games etc.  with music always in the background.  As such, the audience is also different from the traditional casino clientele.  We don’t attract the live game players, the candlelight dinner players; but instead the social players, who like a nice glass of wine but do not consider themselves a casino player.”  Asked if the concept would work right across Europe, Mr. Vierziger commented: “I think in a lot of counties, especially places like the Czech Republic, video lottery terminals will find great success.  For us, we are attracting additional target groups, and though I can’t predict what the future market will be in five years, the fact that we are not cannibalizing the lotteries or casinos with this product is a very important factor.  This is a new market for us and as the figures have proved already, additional revenue is a very good thing.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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