Server-slots near?

Jun 27, 2005 11:21 PM


Server-based gaming, the promising technology that foreshadows the next generation of slot machine systems, got a boost when WMS Gaming announced it had struck a deal to acquire Cyberview Technology’s cutting-edge server-based and downloadable gaming systems.

Cyberview Technology is a world leader in the design and manufacture of server-based gaming systems.

Because downloadable slots have not yet been approved in U.S. gaming venues, most of Cyberview’s installations are in venues outside of the U.S. They include about 9,000 terminals, most of which are in Hilton Hotel casinos abroad.

In addition to acquiring Cyberview’s server-based gaming technology, WMS gained the right to create spin-off versions with the ability to sell, lease and otherwise distribute the Cyberview systems to all markets in which it is licensed.

For the right to use its technology, WMS will pay Cyberview $15 million over two years.

In a separate five-year agreement, WMS has licensed some of its own popular games to Cyberview on a royalty basis.

"These agreements significantly advance WMS’ goal of providing our customers with high-earning, innovative products as it bolsters our rapidly expanding portfolio of internally developed and licensed server-based central determination and downloadable gaming technologies," said Brian R. Gamache, president and CEO of WMS Industries. "This expanded portfolio of advanced technologies and intellectual property now serves as the foundation for WMS’ ongoing development of content that will offer players exciting game play options and operators compelling tools to improve yield management."

Unlike traditional slot machines, downloadable games use generic "terminals" that look like slot cabinets, but contain no game computers, EPROM chips or random number generators (RNGs).

Instead, slot games are downloaded into the terminals from a central server system. The technology allows the casino operator to choose from a library of hundreds of games, as well as a multitude of denominations and payback percentages.

Operators can also customize their game content by offering special incentives and bonuses to, say, slot club members, special customers and VIPs.

Some systems even allow the operator to pre-schedule what games he wants on the slot floor, depending on the time and day of the week, and what the player characteristics are at various times during the week.

The ability to instantaneously change the slot cabinet’s content and alter the nature of the games has been an issue of concern for regulators, who need assurances that the system would not unfairly deceive players about what games they are getting.

Security has also been a major issue with regulators, who are afraid the central-server systems could be vulnerable to computer hacking or other interruption in their operation.

The Cyberview system, however, has been fine-tuned over the years. Earlier this year, it won certification against the stringent GLI 21 standard established by Gaming Laboratories International, a benchmark for downloadable casino systems.

Gamache said the Cyberview technogy is poised to "catalyze the next cycle" of slot game systems.

"Our products will enable casinos to offer players exciting new playing options and experiences that can be enabled only through a networked environment catered to their individual preferences and interests," Gamache said. "Our next phase of content development that harnesses higher levels of computing power, video rendering and audio fidelity will now be married to Cyberview’s security delivery pipelines."

WMS Industries is among the top three largest manufacturers of slot machines in the world. The company turned the casino community on its ear in 1999 with the introduction of its Monopoly-themed slot games. Since then, WMS has skyrocketed to become the No. 3 manufacturer of slots in the U.S. behind IGT and Bally Gaming.

As popular as WMS’s Monopoly because, the notion of leased or "participation" slot machines didn’t sit well with some casino operators, who never accepted the notion of sharing their slot revenue with the manufacturer.