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priorities. The world is starting to come out of recession and we are seeing a serious uptake of SBG technology as a lean solution that delivers value and return on investment as operators move from survival mode to seeing how they can capitalise on new opportunities.”

And at Inspired, Lucas even proposes that the

apparently off-putting requirement for high capital investment has a hidden upside: “The economics of SBG allow operators to invest more in sleek, modern cabinets that appeal to consumers who are familiar with plasmas and touchscreen technology. Because the terminals don’t have to be moved around every time a game is past its sell-by date, operators can invest more capital in the latest hardware technology and depreciate its value over a longer time period.”

Making it work Other potential SBG users cite concerns that the

technology isn’t quite settled enough. A spokesperson for the Mount Airy Casino Resort explained to Casino International why the Pennsylvania venue does not yet use SBG in any of its games: “There are certainly great advantages for the casino, allowing for effective management of the slot network. We are always looking for ways to make the slot floor more dynamic to appeal to the different demographics that we cater to.

“But concerns with incompatible systems between

slot-machine manufacturers make investing in this technology a gamble. Although major slot manufacturers are trying to devise compatible server-

based systems and games to allow casinos to mix and match components, the industry standards for this technology are still not proven. Mount Airy may look to implement server-based gaming once the technology evolves.”

However, with a clear incentive for suppliers and users to work together toward an SBG future; with Gaming Laboratories International’s standard 21 providing the basis for a common approach to SBG; and with a relatively small number of vendors – Aristocrat Leisure and its Ace Interactive subsidiary, Bally Technologies, BetStone, IGT, Inspired and WMS – dominating the market, it’s likely that any compatibility glitches will be ironed out sooner rather than later.

When that happens, and as SBGs continue to prove themselves in big deployments like Aria and Italy’s VLTs, it may be that they become not the next big thing or even the current big talking point, but simply the norm.

Clouds on the horizon?

Cloud computing is a hot trend in mainstream IT and it could be an industry- changing development if applied to server- based gaming.

Put simply, it means that heavy-duty IT

technology – in the case of SBG, the servers that run the games and the disks that store customer data and transaction records – are no longer operated by the business itself (in this case the casino) but by outside suppliers, generically referred to as “the cloud”. The business just buys computing power and disk space as and when it’s required.

The benefits are simpler management –

fixing technical problems becomes someone else’s headache – and potentially substantial cost savings, as the IT horsepower being paid for is always exactly the amount that’s required: there’s no wastage.

Many of us already do a bit of cloud computing without realising it. If you’ve used Windows Live Hotmail or Google Docs, for example, you’ve been in the cloud, getting all the benefits of email and office software without it running on your own PC.

And undoubtedly casino operators will

follow the lead of big firms in many other fields by taking the cloud approach to some of their non-gaming IT – to manage payroll and human-resources systems, or hotel bookings, for example.

The rise of SBG, however, makes it

technically possible for the cloud principle to be applied to gaming systems too. It would permit innovations like the “pay for play” relationship between game suppliers and casinos that’s been predicted by Sweden’s Ace Interactive, a subsidiary of Aristocrat Leisure: the casino only pays for the game when it’s


actually played by a customer, rewarding good developers and encouraging weaker ones to improve their product.

But the big question mark is, of course, the

regulators. The cloud computing provider would have to be as thoroughly approved as both the casino and all its technology suppliers are today; there would be fears over the vulnerability of the gaming systems and of customer sensitive data, not only on the cloud provider’s servers but in transit between them and the casino.

The cloud philosophy so strongly resembles the SBG approach that it’s certain the growing interest in the cloud will have some impact on SBG’s future. Perhaps we’ll see a very tightly-controlled form of the cloud emerge specifically for the gaming industry. But don’t count on being able to clear out the server room just yet.

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