I’ve been going to the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) since I moved to Las Vegas. I’m not like the vast majority of attendees who work in the casino industry. I attend the annual gathering of the casino biz in part as media and also as a casino customer and gambler. It is always great to examine new slot machines and new gaming technology.
Between the panels and expo hall, G2E is a full week of work. There’s no rest for the wicked and usually about 5-6 miles of walking each day but it’s a fun walk.
It’s always interesting to hear the industry talk about customers. It’s their job to extract money from customers. It’s also their job to provide a great casino experience.
When the two are combined the casino experience can be great for everyone. Customers have fun and casino operators make money. Unfortunately, that’s not always the experience we find in casinos.
Casinos Are Not Behind In Technology
I decided to take in a couple of casino-tech panels. I love new gaming technology. I used to be a tech dork and needed the newest technology the day it became available. I’ve slowed down tech purchases in recent years but I still keep up on the newest technological advances.
“Casinos are not seen as falling behind technology.” This isn’t a point that made sense to me until listening to casino employees and consultants. In my mind casinos are always behind in technology. I typically see myself as the exception, not the rule when it comes to that. This point was reiterated at a couple of panels on casino technology.
The vast majority of guests see casinos ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. Say what?! Well, it makes sense when you dive a little deeper. Many of the people surveyed with the opinion on casinos and tech point to slot machines as a way the casinos are ahead of the tech curve. They see the new TV screens, bright lights, and new sounds as being ahead of the curve.
Further, the opinions of technology change depending on where the casino is located. In another discussion about tech in casinos, a rep from a casino in Washington or Oregon (I can’t remember which presenter made this point) lamented that they had to reverse tech advancements. Customers preferred using pagers instead of mobile devices for notifications. Pagers!
We’re Not in Vegas Anymore – New Slot Machines and New Gaming Technology
We’re not in Vegas anymore. This was a reminder that we’re all different and don’t have the same preferences. In my mind, IGT’s Cardless Connect should be the norm in a casino. Using a physical loyalty card seems to be a thing of the past. I can’t imagine casino guests throughout the country feeling the same.
The casino makes customers use the physical card for everything else. The muscle memory to use the card still exists. Since the card is always handy, there’s no reason to use the other option.
Technology is a funny thing. I love bright lights and loud noises but that’s barely new tech in my eyes. I see that stuff months or years before it’s in casinos. Anyway, it’s nice to see a different perspective.
Branded Slot Machines Are Still A Thing
New Slot Machines
Once again there were a slew of slot machine themes from 30 year old brands on display at G2E. There are some newer brands but the majority are older. I tweeted a picture of the new “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” slot machine last week and it seemed to touch some nerves.
There was a lot of excitement for the game from people around my age. Then there were questions from younger followers on how and why this was new or interesting.
Slot machines can’t be marketed to kids so there’s usually a waiting period before releasing popular themes for younger people from today’s culture. There’s also a financial reason to avoid current themes for younger people. These are typically lower-income casino guests. Finally, the majority of slot machine players are in the Generation X and Baby Boomer demographics. Chances are they won’t be playing a game with a theme that they’re not familiar with.
The majority of gamblers won’t take to kindly to the first Electric Daisy Carnival casino. Ultimately gameplay is what matters to keeping players on a machine. As much as I love Seinfeld and the Simpsons, the slot machines are boring unless there’s a bonus. Getting to the bonus can take forever. I find myself playing less and less of these branded slot machines.
The bonuses are fun but it costs so much money to get there that it’s just not worth it. I’ll let other people pay to entertain me. This is one reason people enjoy watching slot machine players on YouTube. It’s a way to let other people spend money on these games but still enjoy the theme. Sometimes the games and new slots machines are worth the spend and other times they’re not.
New Gaming Technology
Electronic Table Games Are Still Coming Into Their Own
Table games are boring. Well, the original games aren’t boring. Craps will always be great but there’s only so many side bets that can be added to the game to improve it.
Blackjack variants and new table games come and go. The majority of these games are tested and don’t last very long. Games like Blackjack Switch and 3 Card Poker are now staples in casinos but they’re the exception to the rule. Most new games are gone after their trial period.
Electronic Table Games (ETG) are a way to bring traditional casino games like roulette, blackjack, craps, and baccarat to more people. These new gaming technology installations – large and small – are have lower minimum bets. Playing against a machine is also less intimidating to new gamblers.
I believe one of the speakers on a tech panel said that casinos in Asia have about 50% of floor space dedicated to ETG’s while American casinos only average 11% of space to these games.
American and Asian gamblers aren’t the same but that’s a large disparity. ETG’s work in some casinos and not in others. The Venetian is finding that these games and new gaming technology work for some of their low rolling customers. They recently added another Stadium Gaming area to the casino. Meanwhile, Red Rock Casino keeps trying new ETG’s and they’re gone as soon as the trials are over.
Expect To See More ETG’s (Electronic Table Games)
As casino operators keep cutting back expenses, I expect we’ll see more of these games. These new slots machines won’t work in every casino but I expect to see more ETG’s in casinos where they do work.
Vital Vegas noticed that The D Las Vegas is testing out individual craps machines. Interblock is improving its craps ETG to offer an experience closer to the real thing. ETG’s won’t replace the real games but they’ll offer experiences similar for those that might not have the desire or bankroll to play games with live dealers.
Get Ready For Skill Games 2.0
Skill-based gaming was a thing a few years ago. The idea to attract millennials into gambling didn’t go anywhere. There are plenty of reasons for this new gaming technology but there’s one thing that stands out to gamblers of all ages – skill should help a player gain an edge.
The initial concept of skill-based gaming was seen as something a select number of players could take advantage of and possibly find an edge against the casino. Nope, over time using skill only provided smaller losses.
If using skill doesn’t help gain an advantage, why would anyone play these games? Well, we won’t find out any time soon.
Skill-based gaming is back! It’s now called “skill-influenced” gaming.
Skill-influenced gaming is the same kind game targeting younger casino customers as skill-based games. The casino always has an advantage and can’t lose over time.
These are arcade games where a player might win money in the short-term but can’t win over time. In theory, casino guests will play these games for fun. I’m an old guy, I’d rather use my skill to possibly win money in a casino. I’ll stick to brainless bells and whistles in slot machines if I know I’m going to lose money the more often I play.
One of the Skill 2.0 companies, Synergy Blue, just had some machines installed at Palms and Red Rock. I applaud Station Casinos for trying something new. Unfortunately, I’m not sure these games have a customer in casinos yet.
Maybe a bar or tavern chain would be a better location for fun gambling games. I know I like to play dumb games – gambling or otherwise – when I’m not sober.
Our Guest For Next Episode:
Scott Roeben of Vital Vegas
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