Slots go communal

Nov 20, 2006 5:33 AM

While browsing through the major slot manufacturers’ booths at the G2E expo floor last week, one couldn’t help but feel like there was sensory overload.

Slot/video gaming machines have become loud, I suppose to help attract attention, but for me they mostly cause my molars to reverberate.

As always there were tons of new slot games, complete with bonus rounds, second screens and so forth. I didn’t play many games; they all seem like a variation of your standard slot machine, except with a host of creative characters and themes.

A few other slot features actually seemed interesting for what they hold for the future.

One of them was multi-player games from IGT, which featured slant-top machines linked together and surrounding a game console or "centerpiece," which could be a common electronic roulette wheel or other gaming device.

The games on display featured baccarat and roulette, though other games are available. I’ve seen these work with games like Wheel of Fortune, and they should also work well with keno and poker.

Another intriguing innovation at IGT is "guaranteed play," which would give players a pre-paid block of play.

These blocks of play represent a set number of poker hands or keno games, paid for in advance and delivered via tickets, similar to the ticket-in, ticket-out pay tickets.

By paying a single price for a block of spins or hands, you know in advance how much gaming you’re getting for a specific price.

The sales creature at the IGT booth pointed out that the guaranteed play feature will eventually be bundled with offers from the casino, such as dining, show tickets, etc.

Machines equipped with this feature will have a "countdown" meter that indicates the number of plays remaining (that were prepaid).

Even if the credit meter hits zero, you keep playing if you have games left on the countdown meter. If you end with a negative balance, you owe nothing since all play was pre-paid.

If there’s a positive balance at the end, you can "play it off" or cash out.

Other cutting-edge innovations on the expo floor included prototypes of the new downloadable slots, and hand-held wireless gaming devices.

Now, if the slot makers can come up with a way of eliminating cigarette smoke from the casino floor, they’d have something.