Slot maker ‘spills’ goods and services from hopper

Oct 17, 2001 2:04 AM

First it rained diamonds. Soon, World Series tickets may be falling from slot machines.

Sierra Design Group, the Reno-based slot maker, is launching a new generation of games that offer vacation packages, collectibles and a host of merchandise to players. The company’s “Raining Diamonds” slots have been a proven winner during a field trial at the Rio, where they rank among the top-played machines.

“This is a huge deal,’’ Sierra Design president Robert Luciano told GamingToday. “Casinos like this concept because they can customize prizes on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.’’

The new games, which must be approved for testing by state regulators, are designed to generate repeat, exclusive business for casinos. By offering property-specific merchandise, the SDG’s slots reinforce brand names and logos. Through progressive certificates, they function like frequent flier programs that entice players to return to add to their winnings.

Prizes would be dispensed through Prize Net kiosks on the casino floor. If they work like “Raining Diamonds’’ ”” a nickel 9-line game ”” payouts would be valued below $1,200 to avoid IRS reporting requirements. Coin jackpots will also be available.

An upcoming game, “Gold Exchange,” was unveiled at the G2E show this month. With it, players win genuine gold prizes awarded directly through the kiosks.

“The flexibility that Prize Net offers for players to truly win a prize of their choice makes this system appealing to all markets,’’ said Rich Fiore, vice president for creative development.

SDG is expected to clear a key regulatory hurdle this week when the Nevada Gaming Commission is scheduled to grant Luciano a permanent gaming license and a permit to operate slot routes. Sierra Design is also seeking an “oils” license for operating interlinking systems. Luciano, a former IGT executive, says his 5-year-old company has 8,000 slots in operation and he predicts “a significant increase over the next two or three years.’’

In addition to the Rio, SDG has machines in Washington state and at the Barona tribal casino in San Diego. Luciano said Raining Diamonds ”” which issues real Tiffany diamond jewelry to winners ”” will be expanded from the 24 machines at the Rio to other Harrah’s casinos and additional locations by Christmas. The game is the No. 1 earning game on the Rio floor, he said.

Whether it’s tickets to world-class sporting events or casino gift certificates, Luciano is bullish on SDG’s future gamesmanship.