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lar slots, video poker and four-reel games. The technological changes of the late 20th

century set the stage for what was to come in the commercial casino industry, to be sure, but it can also be argued that the first 10 years of the 21st century have changed the game once again, laying the foundation for what could, in a com- paratively short period, completely change the way a casino looks, the way games are played, and the way the public looks at our industry. Beginning in the year 2000, several new tech-

nologies merged to set the stage for what’s to come in casinos over the coming decades.Ticket- in/ticket-out slots enabled lower denominations. The lower denominations necessitated an alter- native to the old coin-redemption system. The redemption kiosks that appeared led to new marketing paradigms, not to mention new ways of making cash available to casino customers. A parallel advance has occurred in technolo-

gy related to the online systems that track play and provide casinos with accounting informa- tion. The systems that first appeared in the mid 1980s evolved from pure accounting tools into sources of valuable information on player habits, and player preferences—so loyal players could be rewarded with free meals at their favorite restau- rant, for example. Information showing how much and how often a customer played at a casi- no could now be translated into a guide for the casino’s marketing people: Who should get the most “freebies?”Who will be invited to exclusive events? Who gets the free suite? That marketing information was initially

used strictly to reward, and thus retain, loyal players. However, as with those original slot accounting systems, this functionality evolved, with the creation of separate software modules to mine various categories of data and trans- form the information into customer relation- ship management programs that tailor market- ing and promotion efforts to fit the needs of each player in the casino. Finally, the evolution in the technology of

the games themselves that began with the 1980s computerization of the slot machine has evolved several times—first with the creation and refine- ment of the slot bonus event; then with sophis- ticated video graphics and artwork; and capped off with a variety of new ways to play the games. In the pit, a parade of new specialty table games

has been aided by electronic progressive side bets and the same computer technology that has led to perks for slot players.

The Big Ticket It was a change that few saw coming. It was a change that many thought players would never accept.Yet, it was a technological development that ultimately would change everything for casinos. As the turn of the 21st century approached,

the idea of removing coins from the equation of slot-machine play was not a new one.Video lot- tery terminals in small vendor locations around the country had done it for years. An Indian casino in Verona, New York, the Turning Stone, had a completely cashless slot floor in place from the mid-1990s. Even in Las Vegas, the idea had been tried—in

the early 1990s, the MGM Grand experimented with slot machines that accepted bills and paid out with tickets that could be redeemed at the cage. The Vegas coin-free experiment was a total flop. The reason it flopped related to the nature of

slot machines in the early 1990s.The vast major- ity of the average slot floor was populated with traditional reel-spinners—three reels, a single payline.The slot-playing culture that had grown after big jackpots made the machines popular was built around the coin. That culture involved buying rolls of quarters or dollar tokens, cracking them into the hopper tray or coin bucket, feeding them into the slot and pulling the handle. This was slot play in the early 1990s.

Industry jargon to this day proves it—we still measure slot wagers by “coin-in”and jackpots by “coin-out.” Even in the late 1990s, when bill acceptors and credit play were already standard features of slot machines, uniformed employees were still pushing those old change carts around the casino floor, ready to transform players’ soft money into hard coin. Traditional slot players loved the coins. They

loved dipping into that hopper tray, getting their hands dirty, and lugging their buckets of hard money to the coin-redemption booth. The sound of coins clanging into hopper trays was as much a part of the casino experience as the excited shouts of players on a good roll at the craps table. This is why the original MGM coin-free

experiment failed, and it was why, when IGT’s “EZ-Pay” system—allowing payment in tickets that could either be redeemed or placed in another slot machine—was first proposed on a wide scale as the century ended, there was no shortage of skeptics as to whether or not it would take hold. Casinos wanted the tickets for obvious rea-

sons—they were able to eliminate a ton of cost related to coin-handling, including coin redemption, the hard count (thousands of coins had to be processed through counting and sort- ing machines), jackpot fills (attendants filling hoppers in machines when coins ran out), fixing coin jams, and hand pays (jackpots paid by attendants—when they got to it). Whether or not the players would accept the idea was anoth- er story entirely. “Players will never give up their coins,” some experts said. “It’s only for the con- venience of the casino—players will see right through it,” others said. As we now know, players warmed up to the

idea quickly, and soon loved the ticket payouts. You could leave your slot machine to go to the restroom without waiting for a cash-out; your hands stayed clean; it was easier to manage your bankroll with tickets,which enabled winnings to be placed in a wallet immediately.

Pennies from Heaven One of the things that made nickel slots work was the format of multiple paylines—the more lines, the more ways there were for players to win. Now that payouts were in tickets, the slot manufacturers took things to another level— even lower denominations, with game formats rising to 40, 50, even 100 paylines. At the same time, many players began to

miss the volatility of the traditional single-line game programs. Occasional large jackpots were a staple of the classic three-reel game; with mul- tiple paylines, those became less than cost-effec- tive, and the lower, “dribble-pay” jackpots became the norm. Enter the penny slot machine—up to 100

paylines, maximum bets as high as 1,000 credits, and lots of volatility. Jackpots in the hundreds of thousands, even a million credits, became viable for the casino through penny slot machines. Casinos were even able to hold much more of the wagers—holding onto 12 percent or more of

• Class II gaming and its impact on Indian Country is a major focus at G2E

• G2E explores the impact of Macau’s new casinos on the gaming industry

• Show highlights multi-denomination slot machines and their advantages

• F&B at G2E debuts

• The poker boom goes under the microscope with sessions featuring players, operators

54 | G2E Preview 2010

• Server-based gaming takes center stage

• “Visual analysis tools” give casinos a new look into customers, operations

• Sessions focus on how to build and use the data warehouse

• Ergonomic cabinets and how they increase playing time are hot topics on the show floor

2004 2005

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