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Changing the Game Further changes in the pit have added slot-style progressive side bets to many of the newest spe- cialty poker games, and even to many tradi- tional blackjack games. These developments have incorporated the advancement of slot technology into the table-game operation. It is a side benefit of the remarkable decade

we have seen on the slot floor, where advance- ments in the games themselves are still chang- ing the way slot machines are played, and mov- ing the industry toward a new era of net- worked gaming. The past 10 years have seen slot machines

evolve from nickel video slots carrying animat- ed-cartoon themes to new formats such as 100- line and scatter-pay formats, to “cluster” formats in which jackpots result from adjacent symbols without respect to specific reels or paylines. Beyond the formats of the games them-

selves, video slots have caught up a great deal to ever-advancing computer technology. During the past decade, every slot manufac- turer has introduced several generations of new and powerful video formats. Graphics, 3D animation and audio all have vastly improved during the decade. Moreover, the computer platforms origi-

nated for video are now used for reel-spin- ning slots as well. What has resulted is a group of versatile, flexible slot machines that can easily be transformed between reels and video, and among various game programs and different denominations. Denominations, in fact, have become a dis-

tinction that is more and more purely the choice of the operator. Games have become routinely available to casinos in operator- selectable denominations ranging from pen- nies all the way up to the premium wagers. The decade also has become the era of multiple- denomination machines, ultimately reducing the number of units needed to serve different levels of player.

Tribal Touch The advancement of technology in slot games has not been limited to the commercial jurisdic- tions of North America. Slot manufacturers serving Class II tribal casinos have kept pace with the technological revolution. Class II casi-

nos began as bingo halls but grew as technology progressed. They are regulated and approved by the federal National Indian Gaming Commission, but do not require approval of the state govern- ments to operate there. Over the past decade, development of

Class II games—technically electronic bingo but presented with the same game content as Class III games—has advanced to the point where customers of tribal Class II casinos can expect the same entertainment value in their games as customers of commercial casinos. The reason is all in the technology being employed to create the machines. Technology has been refined over the past

decade, mainly thanks to the efforts of manufac- turers working with the Seminole casinos in Florida—now Class III, but exclusively Class II for the majority of the past 10 years. Game designers have worked within the confines of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to replicate the feel and play characteristics of a Class III game. Since reel results on a Class II game must,

under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA), be the result of a bingo-card pat- tern, the game designers worked to create the same number of patterns to be randomly cho- sen on each Class II game’s bingo card as there are number combinations in the program of a Class III game—the number combinations from which a random number generator selects reel results in a Class III game. The result is a hit frequency and payback percent- age—the essence of a slot game—that is very similar between a Class II game and its Class III counterpart. The play experience is basical- ly the same. Class II tribal casinos have fought over the

past decade to keep the play experience in these slots the same. The decade was marked by repeated attempts by the National Indian Gaming Commission to establish technical specifications for Class II games that would provide a “bright line” of distinction to clear- ly delineate them as electronic bingo games under IGRA. The tenure of former NIGC Chairman Phil Hogen was practically con- sumed by this effort, as he formed a tribal advisory panel and sought to add elements to Class II games such as multiple touches, larg- er bingo screens and other standards that

would distinguish a Class II game from its Class III counterpart. In the end, the tribal experts convinced the

NIGC that most of the suggested changes would simply cost the tribes money by slowing down the games and making them less enter- taining. The new “Minimum Internal Control Standards” drafted by the agency allow the games to continue to be produced as they have been, which, as the tribes have said all along, is completely within the legal framework set out by IGRA.

To The Future Many of the most innovative new technolo- gies in slot machines are pointing directly to the future—a future in which the slot floor will be networked to provide completely new play experiences. For the operator, the server-based floor

offers unprecedented flexibility—banks of machines can be switched out instantly between game formats according to the prefer- ences of the players in the casino at the time. Under-performing games can be transformed in an instant to a completely new game, with- in the same box. Players are not left out when it comes to the

advantages of networked gaming. Several man- ufacturers have used their ever-evolving com- puter platforms to create amazing new experi- ences on the slot floor that will fit neatly into the server-based paradigm.Virtual-reality expe- riences are created through professional sur- round-sound speaker systems, high-resolution graphics, and even vibrating chairs.Movie-style video setups make ongoing bonus events visible from across the floor. The traditional reel-spin- ners and video poker now share the floor with an increasing number of games that redefine the very nature of the slot machine. Other technological advancements related

to server-based gaming are still in their infan- cy. Many manufacturers now offer the ability to use slot machines for instant tourna- ments—switching a set of machines instantly between normal and tournament mode. Slot- makers are working with the Gaming Standards Association toward interoperability of game features between games of competing manufacturers.Mystery jackpots, bonus rewards

• Hand-held gaming devices make their debut

• Non-gaming spend evaluated for the first time

• Regulations and oversight of online gaming considered

• Players Club conference track introduced

• Casino Design co-located at G2E for first time

58 | G2E Preview 2010

• Casinos cope with economic realities • Aria, the first fully networked casino, evaluated

• Conference explores how gaming increases tourism in resort environments

• Experts explain how to use social media to market your casino

• Exhibits and conference highlight the changing face of slot machines and player preferences

2008 2009

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