Slot floor’s future taking shape

Jun 6, 2006 4:52 AM

At last month’s Gaming Technology Summit, representatives of IGT said server-based gaming — the next step in the evolution of gaming — is currently undergoing field trials in Las Vegas, but full roll-out isn’t expected until mid-2007.

David Durst, IGT’s product marketing manager for server-based gaming, said the field trial of about 20 machines is progressing smoothly at Treasure Island (TI), and that Nevada regulators have already approved IGT’s "sb" server based system, Version 1.0.

IGT’s system has also been approved by Gaming Laboratories Inc. (GLI), which has also created technical requirements that address server-based gaming products.

Those technical requirements have also been addressed in Nevada through public comment processes and have also been adopted by the Gaming Control Board.

Durst said server-based gaming portends the future of electronic gaming in Nevada and beyond.

"Just like past advancements that were considered major changes, server-based gaming is really just a change in skill sets for the casino staff," Durst said. "We see this technology as a way for operators to make decisions more quickly and implement them more efficiently, and to provide their players with the best gaming experience possible."

Sometimes called "downloadable slots," server based gaming features a central computer or server that distributes game content to machines on the casino floor.

The casino operator can vary the inventory of games available to the machines, including their configuration, denomination, hold percentages, and the like, as well as offer customer incentives including bonus games, comps, custom tournaments and more.

While opening up a brave new world of alternatives for the slot player, server-based gaming allows the casino’s slot department to:

”¡ change the games to match the demographics on the floor at any given time,

”¡ create themes for holidays and conventions,

”¡ market directly to players items such as show tickets or meal comps,

”¡ eliminate old or outdated games immediately and install the newest and hottest games without delay.

The equipment that IGT displayed at the Technology Summit included its state-of-the-art Game King AVP cabinet, which looks like a streamlined slot cabinet with an upper and lower computer screen.

Because of the AVP’s smaller footprint, casinos will be able to fit more of them on the floor. Player-friendly features include programmable buttons on a layout that includes a soft urethane wrist rest, digital sound with a refined audio system and speakers, and easy-entry bill/ticket acceptors.

The heart of the IGT system — the central server — includes rack-mounted computers, storage drives, operator consoles, back-up tape drives and switching devices.

Even though a basic server system is operating at TI (as well as Barona Casino in Southern California), further field trials will be required before a complete roll-out can take place — estimated about one year from now.

Durst said the field trials will address new options, including customized tournaments, peer-to-peer and group gaming, personalized game features, enhanced bonus options, and a platform for displaying a players "favorite" or "lucky" games that she played on her last visit to the casino.

Also expected to be tested later this year, Durst said, are system "protocols," which allow the various systems (slot accounting, ticketing, rewards programs, etc.) to interface or communicate with the server system and gaming machines.

"The fact that IGT is working with the GSA (Gaming Standards Association) to establish a single industry-standard protocol for communication between the machines and the system shows our commitment to enabling operators to experience as many benefits of server-based gaming as possible, as quickly as possible," Durst said.

The industry standard protocol that Durst alluded to — Game to System (G2S) — allows IGT’s server system to interface with other manufacturers’ machines and systems.

Officials of the GSA announced at the Technology Summit that the G2S protocol should be ready for field testing within the next six months.