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IGT keeps cranking out the ’bandits!

Dec 16, 2002 11:59 PM

   Despite all the ups and downs in 2002, gaming continues to expand in venues beyond Nevada. And gaming machines — slot, video poker and more — have become the foundation of virtually every new casino, from San Diego to Mountaineer Racetrack.

   Those two realities have helped slot manufacturing giant IGT become a billion-dollar company, and the world leader in slot machine and video gaming machine design and production.

   In just a relatively short period of time, the company has set the standard for product innovation. IGT products include the S2000 and Vision Series spinning reel slots, the Game King multi denomination, multi game video product, a full line of interactive video iGames, the EZ Pay Ticket System, and the Japanese pachisuro slot.

   IGT also makes proprietary software for MegaJackpots games like Megabucks, The Addams Family and Wheel of Fortune, as well as IGT Gaming Systems (IGS) for casino player tracking.

   Moreover, IGT created and marketed the first video poker machines in the 1970s. The games quickly caught on with players, and IGT adapted the concept to bar-top versions which, in turn, produced new revenue possibilities for neighborhood taverns.

   IGT eventually sold more video poker machines than all of its competitors combined. In 1998, traditional video poker took a giant leap in popularity with the introduction of Triple Play Draw Poker, the result of an IGT partnership with Action Gaming, Inc. That concept has since been adapted to Five Play Poker, Ten Play Poker, Fifty Play Poker and Hundred Play Poker (100 hands at a time), plus a wealth of other poker variations.

   IGT helped take slot machines into the microprocessor age in the 1980s with the creation of its S-Plus spinning reel slot machine. The machine’s reliability and serviceability quickly made it the industry standard and led to slot machine revenue eclipsing table game revenue in Nevada casinos.

   IGT began introducing custom game themes for the S-Plus in 1988, and created an average of 25 new themes a year through the ”˜90s. In 2000, the S-Plus product line was replaced with the S2000 slot machine, featuring enhanced audio and visual effects.

   Megabucks, the world’s first wide-area progressive slot system, was launched in Nevada in 1986. Its success led IGT to expand its MegaJackpots offerings to a wide range of gaming jurisdictions, denominations and game themes, and to add a line of products known as MegaJackpots Instant Winner games, whose top jackpots are paid in full instantly.

   IGT MegaJackpots have produced more than 500 millionaires in their 15-year history, and have paid out more than $2.1 billion in major jackpots. The MegaJackpots product has made huge jackpots a possibility for all slot players. And for one player, that meant the world’s largest slot jackpot of $34.9 million, won in January 2000 at the old Desert Inn in Las Vegas.

   IGT built its reputation on a willingness to customize its products. IGT was the first company to apply game themes to its slots — something other than a company name or simple denomination on the game glass. Now-classic themes like Red, White & Blue and Double Diamond paved the way for hundreds of other slot game themes, and led to the marriage of slots with well-known entertainment themes like Wheel of Fortune and Elvis.

   Imbedded bill acceptors were introduced by IGT in 1994. Building gaming machines with built-in bill validators relieves casinos from constantly having to dispense change to players. It’s a major convenience for the casino AND the player.

   In 1999, IGT unveiled another gaming machine milestone with its EZ Pay Ticket System technology. EZ Pay combines ticket printers with traditional hopper pays to improve a gaming machine’s cashout function for players. The ticket can be reinserted into other EZ Play machines; exchanged for cash at a cashier’s station; cashed by attendants on the casino floor using wireless validation units; or held by the player for use at a later time.

   Players can still insert bills or coins to start playing and can change their wager without the bother of collecting and converting coins when they cash out.

Another innovation was IGT’s Game King multi game machine, introduced in 1994, and offering a selection of video poker and keno games on a single machine. Players no longer had to move from one machine to another to play a different video game. The latest variation on the theme is the multi denomination machine, which gives players the option of playing nickel, dime, quarter or dollar credits on a single machine.

   IGT introduced the Vision Series slot machine in 1997, in response to casino requests for machines with secondary bonus games and more high-tech excitement for the player. The Vision Series slot has a high-resolution Liquid Crystal Display that programs bonuses, casino events, and live video directly to the player. Vision technology made possible games like Elvis, with its Elvis Presley concert footage and audio messages.

   IGT was also the first gaming machine manufacturer to introduce video gaming and slot machines to pari-mutuel sites like racetracks. The addition of machine gaming at racetracks in states like Delaware and Iowa has saved what was becoming a threatened industry.

   The company now adapts a number of the entertainment world’s best-known themes to create innovative and popular products for the casino. Those familiar themes include Wheel of Fortune (the most popular gaming machine in history), The Addams Family, Regis Cash Club, I Dream of Jeannie, The Munsters, The Price Is Right, Harley-Davidson and Austin Powers. IGT’s original-theme successes include Little Green Men, My Rich Uncle, Cleopatra and The Frog Prince.