Peannies from heaven

Oct 17, 2006 12:36 AM

August, the machines raked in more than $118 million, a 37 percent increase over revenue from August 2005.

Moreover, the win amount exceeded the win for nickel, quarter and dollar slots, and was surpassed only by multi-denomination machines.

Also, the 10.4 percent "hold" percentage of penny games was more than any other denomination, and more than 60 percent higher than the across-the-board average hold for all slots in Nevada.

Of course, today’s penny slots are a far cry from the ones mom and dad used to play, mostly in downtown casinos.

Historically, the penny slot machine has been 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 2006.

Slot directors quickly realized the positive impact of penny slots. Mohegan Sun Slot Operations Vice President Frank Neborsky told Strictly Slots magazine 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 the 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 Wars 5-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.

The slot giant’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."