William "Si" Redd, the founder of International Game Technology (IGT) and considered by many the founding father of the modern video slot and poker machines, died last week at his beach home in Solana Beach, Calif. He was 91.
Once described by former Governor Bob Miller as Nevada’s "most innovative gaming pioneer," Redd was a member of the Gaming Hall of Fame in Las Vegas and the Nevada Business Hall of Fame.
Redd is credited with developing the first video slot and video poker machines, which aided in the rapid expansion of neighborhood casinos, as well as developing Megabucks progressive jackpots, which helped reshape the concept of modern casino gaming.
"He was a guy who tinkered, a poor boy who had ideas and hustled, and he was the force behind the development of the video poker machine," said Bill Thompson, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) who specializes in gaming issues.
Thompson added that Redd might have had a greater effect on gambling than anyone in the last 30 years.
A native of Union, Mississippi, Redd parlayed a career in the coin-op jukebox and amusement game business into the gambling business when he moved to Las Vegas in 1967 and founded Bally Distributing Company.
His company was bought by Bally’s Manufacturing in the mid-1970s, and in 1978 Redd formed a new venture called, Sircoma ("Si Redd’s Coin Machines"), which later became International Game Technology.
Among the first machines that Redd developed was the Fortune video poker machine, a hulking five-card draw poker machine that dumped coins after every winning hand, and ultimately launched video poker as the game of choice for neighborhood bars and casinos.
Video poker also ultimately became the game that put IGT on the gaming map.
Redd’s company went public in 1981.
IGT Chairman Charles Mathewson, who was recruited by Redd and eventually bought out most of Redd’s interests in 1986, said the company’s founder loved machines and loved selling them.
"He was charming, but at the end of the day a shrewd businessman," said Mathewson, whose IGT ranks today as the world’s largest slot machine manufacturer.
After giving up his interest in IGT, Redd bought and managed Si Redd’s Oasis, a resort casino in Mesquite, for a number of years before selling it.
Redd was a heavy supporter of UNLV and its athletic programs, and an early donor to the building of the Thomas & Mack arena.
He is survived by his wife, Tamara; daughters, Vinnie Copeland of Wellesley, Mass., and Sherry Green of Mesquite; seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Memorial services were held last weekend at Palm Mortuaries.