Penny slots are
gaining in popularity

Mar 13, 2006 3:11 AM

The most recent gaming revenue report for Nevada casinos offered some interesting revelations about gamblers’ playing habits.

Most notable for slot players is the increasing popularity of penny slot machines, which take the form of self-contained games or part of multi-denominational machines.

Of course, quarters and dollar machines still rule the roost, accounting for $121 million and $108 million in slot win for Nevada casinos in January 2006.

But the biggest gainer was penny slots, which raked in $99.9 million in January, a whopping 75 percent increase over the win amount a year ago.

Appearing to be the loser in the slot wars are nickel machines, which took in only $55 million in January, more than 28 percent less than they did in January 2005.

The instant popularity of penny slots has been viewed as at once perplexing and satisfying for manufacturers such as IGT.

After all, the penny slot machine was historically viewed as a no-win product by players and casinos alike. Coin handling on penny machines was cumbersome and time consuming, and payouts were minimal for a typically minimal bet.

However, the emergence of ticket-in, ticket-out slots with multi-line options has clearly reversed that trend. A new breed of penny players is paving the way for the future of lower-denomination gaming.

"The trend is there, and players are certainly responding to expanded reels, multiple payline options, and lower denominations," says Ed Rogich, vice president of marketing for IGT.

IGT responded to player demand by making some of its most popular game themes "Perfect for Pennies." Even Wheel of Fortune, the most popular slot machine of all time, is available in a penny denomination.

IGT’s MultiWay video slots are one of the new options available to players. Players are offered up to 243 possible ways to win on themes like Aztec Temple and Carnival of Mystery .

IGT has even introduced a 60-line, 300-coin penny version of its legendary Megabucks progressive — a video slot with a base progressive jackpot that starts at $10 million. The Nevada top award will easily break the world penny jackpot record when it hits. A special edition of Video Megabucks featuring actress Morgan Fairchild is due to hit casino floors in May of this year.

Slot directors quickly realized the positive impact of penny slots. Mohegan Sun Slot Operations Vice President Frank Neborsky reportedly said that "a frenzy occurs during play when people are going into these bonus events and winning thousands of credits — it creates a lot of excitement in the slot area."

According to one publication, "Manufacturers are no longer saving their good themes, their good licensed brands, and their best technology for their higher denominations. They are putting out their best in pennies first, in all game genres."

That is apparent in the creation of Star Wars5-reel, 30-line, 300-coin video slots. Debuting on the penny platform, the Star Wars video slot series features groundbreaking graphics, animation, and innovative bonus options. Original movie clips and action sequences transport players to a "galaxy far, far away." Star Wars video slots offer a $1 million top jackpot.

IGT is now taking lower denomination slot play to a new level with its Multi-Level Mystery Bonus Progressives. Designed with penny players in mind, IGT’s Multi-Level Mystery Progressives have four to six different levels of progressive bonuses which are offered in addition to regular jackpots. The Fort Knox Progressives product was introduced in 2005, and hot on its heels are Wheelionaire, Party Time!, Jackpot Hunter and SOUL TRAIN.

In addition to base game themes, which on the Wheelionaire link include The Apprentice, players have the chance to advance through tiers of mystery bonus rounds and collect additional jackpots outside regular game play.

IGT’s library of penny games will continue to expand to meet player demand. With penny slots occupying up to 30 percent of some casino floors, it is apparent that the penny parade is here to stay.

"It all comes down to more action per play," says Rogich. "At the end of the day, there is just more happening with each spin."