I recently started listening to podcasts in bed to wind down before going to sleep. It’s been a great tool to help me fall asleep quickly. That wasn’t the case when I was listening to the Vital Vegas podcast last Sunday night. I saw a strange note on Facebook while making my last check of social media. It said “I am safe with (my friends and family). Still on the Strip. But Safe.”
That was a strange message so I check twitter to see if there was anything happening. By now you know there was a shooter at Mandalay Bay spraying people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival across the street at the MGM Resorts Fair Grounds.
My heart was racing and I couldn’t go to sleep as planned. It took one too many conspiracy theories in the twitter stream to force me away. I’m not going to rehash the news or speculate about the situation. I was happy to learn that the few people I knew at the concert escaped without harm and that most of their friends did too.
The shooting incident was awful, to say the least. Like any community that has been attacked, Las Vegas has come out strong to support the victims of the incident. It’s inspiring to see so much good in people. The constant acts of kindness reminded me about the kind stranger who picked my mom up when she was walking to the Bronx from Manhattan on 9/11.
If you want to help support the victims you can donate to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund. Go Fund me has been kind enough to waive all fees so all money will go to the right place. The fund is currently at $9.97 million and could be $10 million by the time you read this. You can also buy a Vegas Strong shirt designed by the awesome Shepard Fairey at VegasStrong.co. This is a partnership with Red Rock Resorts and 100% of the proceeds will go to local businesses helping the cause.
Another way to help Las Vegas is to continue visiting like normal. The only way to return to normalcy is to move forward. After 9/11 it took us a while to get back to normal but we all pushed forward. It’s not easy but we can all help. If you’re in Las Vegas right now you might want to stop by Mandalay Bay. Those employees can certainly use some friendly faces.
Global Gaming Expo
When I woke up on Monday and saw that everyone I knew was safe I started to look forward. Thankfully the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) was beginning at The Venetian. The annual gathering of the casino business was a welcome distraction. Surprisingly, the topic of the shooting didn’t come up very often. When it did come up, it was a quick discussion.
The news this week won’t be the typical roundup of Las Vegas news. Instead, I’ll share news from G2E. Between seminars and the new games on the expo floor, there was a lot to take in. Let me start with the seminars.
G2E Seminar Quick Hits:
- There has been a lot of talk about esports in casinos for the past couple of years. I think the casino operators finally have an idea of what they want. For the time being there will be more eSports competitions in Las Vegas casinos. We’ll see events from 20 people to potentially 20,000 people. The operators like the liveliness the events bring to the casino floor. This seems like it will almost like a way to usher in the next era of casino customers. By the time Millennials become the age of Generation X, it’s possible that they’ll be so ingrained in casino life that they become frequent visitors.
- Electronic Table Games and Stadium Gaming are here to stay. In fact, they’re only about 1% of gaming tables in casinos around the country. Expect to see dealer table limits to be higher limits while the electronic or dealer-assisted games remain low limits. The games can be more profitable to casinos and they will continue to find ways to low rollers towards these games.
- Millennials are dead! Long live millennials! The casino game manufacturers tend to be ahead of the casino operators when it comes to marketing trends. While everyone respects people born from 1982 and 2004 it seems as though there is millennial overload setting in. One speaker said they have “millennial fatigue.” Another speaker reminded us that they’re just people. Seriously. It seems as though there’s an evolution and understanding that this is just a part of the market with different preferences than older market segments. Expect the operators to keep up the push since they have other parts of the casino to tend to.
- Skill-Based gaming is changing. Gamblit and GameCo came to market with original unbranded themes in the past year. Both companies will be launching branded games for the first time. I’ll get into specifics shortly. It was interesting to learn that hybrid of a skill-based slot machine, Space Invaders, has been a success for Scientific Games. Players I’ve come across have been frustrated by their diminished skills.
- These aren’t entirely paying a player based on skill. There is always a house edge for the casino. Younger players won’t find value in that but older casino guests are used to playing games with a house edge in a casino as long as it provides entertainment. The themed games have a better chance of reaching these older customers than unfamiliar games. This leads me to the games!
G2E Expo Quick Hits:
Pac Man Battle
Gamblit Gaming will be releasing a tabletop gambling version of the four-player Pac Man Battle late next year (tentatively third quarter of 2018). They produced massive 40’ wide demo version of the game (video above) just for G2E. The game itself is fun but the huge version is BANANAS! A rep said they would produce the large version if casinos demanded it. You can read about the game here.
Gamblit Gaming has come under a lot of scrutiny this year because the first batch of skill-based games in Las Vegas are often empty. I think Pac Man and the new Deal or No Deal game are a good way to engage older (Gen X) players. Between vintage themes, mobile game themes (Doodle Jump, etc.), and unique games they might be heading in the right direction to capture guest of all ages in casinos.
Madonna Slot Machine
I just received the news about the Madonna slot machine when I was recording ZorkCast (find the episode here) a couple of weeks ago. One of the people on the podcast became giddy. You can read the press release about the game here. This machine always had a crowd during the three days of the expo at G2E so forgive the excited rep in the video. I wanted to make sure I had a video of the game.
I feel like I’m the only person that didn’t love the game. My favorite Madonna song, “Like A Prayer,” isn’t featured so my interest quickly moved elsewhere. Music continues to be a popular theme with slot machine manufacturers. Aristocrat also has a new Britney Spears reel slot machine and a B-52’s slot machine coming out. I saw a wide variety of slot machines featuring musicians from Steve Aoki to Willie Nelson.
One of my favorite slot machine contraptions of all time was the Titan 360 from Konami Gaming. I loved the massive bonus game centered around a bank of slot machines. Four years later and it’s still the most viewed video on my youtube page. Crystal Cyclone is similar to Titan 360 but smaller. The Ball Rush bonus round is probably more fun than the Titan 360. The smaller size of the bonus game makes this a semi-social slot machine installation and I can’t wait to play it.
There were a lot of advancements in traditional slot machine technology that we’ll see in casinos in the next year. IGT is leading the way with some beautiful cabinets that include Ghostbusters 4D (like 3D but better) and Sex And The City PowerSight game (the game tracks your eye movement. read here). Multiple manufacturers had more loungy slot games like this and this. The future looks bright for machine players.
New Shoot To Win Craps
Last year Konami brought Fortune Cup around to trade shows to gauge interest from casino operators. The game tested well and has finally reached casinos (see review here). The game always seems to have players at The Venetian and reports are that MGM Grand has similar activity.
Not everything at G2E will see casino floors. Some products are just being tested to gauge interest. Aruze Gaming demoed a new version of the popular Shoot To Win bubble craps game. This was a table game with plastic instead of felt so the computer could read the dice. The stick person was the only dealer since all wagers are made electronically similar to Rapid Craps.
I was told this game was only a demo and would not be in casinos. It’s possible that the status of the game could change in the future. There was certainly a lot of discussion about this on the Facebook craps group. My takeaway from the discussion is that craps players want to shoot dice on felt and want to shoot quickly. It might be time for a resurrection of Rapid Craps.
Introducing ZorkFest – December 2017 in Atlantic City
Read more about the vision behind this passion project. Also, special thanks to 360Vegas (Listen episode 245 – 28 minute mark) and Cousin Vito (Listen episode 57) for mentions on their podcasts this week.
Introducing ZorkCast the TravelZork Podcast
ZorkCast is a daily podcast about casinos, luxury travel, Las Vegas, and gambling with a focus on experiences. #PaxEx (Passenger Experience) and #CasinoEx (Casino Experience) are major areas of conversation and exploration. Get your daily dose, that never exceeds 9 minutes. Every day. #ZorkCast powered by TravelZork. ZorkCast is also available on many of your favourite podcast players including: iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play and Overcast.
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