Downloadable slots on tap in ‘06

Jan 3, 2006 2:43 AM

Downloadable slot systems, which have been touted as the next great advancement in electronic gaming, could finally begin field trials in Nevada by the second half of 2006.

Nevada gaming regulators have produced a draft of technical standards that would govern the use of server-based gaming, which are posted on the Gaming Control Board’s web site.

Public workshops on the technical standards were held at the end of 2005, and approval of the standards should come within the next few months.

Nevada officials point out, however, that nothing relative to server-based or "central determination" gaming has so far been approved.

They concede, however, that manufacturers have submitted server-based systems for review, but comments or even confirmation of the companies will not be forthcoming, not until their systems or devices have been approved by regulators.

Casino officials got a sneak preview of some of the downloadable systems at last September’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

IGT and Alliance Gaming unveiled a line of downloadable slots as part of a prototypical server-based gaming system. And WMS Gaming has struck a deal to acquire Cyberview Technology’s cutting-edge server-based and downloadable gaming systems.

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 demographics are at various times during the week.

Server-based gaming is being used in venues outside the United States, including in about 9,000 terminals operated by Hilton Hotel casinos abroad.

Nevada’s technical standards define central determination systems as either "system supported" or "system based" games. The standards also identify the generic terminals as "client stations," and lists rigorous standards about how software is transmitted to and from the stations.

Security and reliability have always been the major concerns of any server-based system, and the Nevada technical standards list a variety of checks and double-checks, firewall systems, authorization codes, secure interfaces, encrypted information, and other technological and accounting standards.

The ability to instantaneously change a slot terminal’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.

Regulators are also concerned that central-server systems could be vulnerable to computer hacking or other interruption in their operation.

Thus the need for a comprehensive body of technical standards, which can be altered by regulators in the wake of public hearings.