Small Things at G2E Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports · November 5, 2018 at 1:56 pm It’s easy to feel small at G2E, and not just because of the size of the Expo Center or the crowds, although they’re both massive. It’s the slot machines. When I started in gaming, the most popular machine was a chop top reel spinner. Today, if you stacked three of those machines vertically, you’d still be several feet short of the summit of some of the games on display this year. I called last year the land of the giants; this year, everything seems to have grown even more. Just to be a contrarian (since I really like some of these massive cabinets), here’s my take on some of the best small things I saw at G2E: Staggered Sign/Stands at Incredible Technologies: These machines of IT’s are definitely not small, but what I particularly loved was the simple arrangement of their bases, which use angled wedges to stagger each game. The effect gives players more personal space and better separation, yet the bank was still straight, and the machine only requires a small sacrifice in overall floor footprint. IT filled in the resulting machine gaps with colorful lit panels. The effect is impressive. Operators should steal this idea immediately – or, as Sales Manager Beena Blake said, “Just buy some new IT machines.” Aruze Charging Pad: It seems that everyone today has a USB charging port somewhere on their new game. Aruze went a step further and built a Qi charging pad into their Muso cabinets. If you’re lucky enough to have a Qi enabled phone, just set your phone on the pad and watch your battery percentage climb, no wires needed. Konami’s KX 43 lighting: There’s not a lot that you can do with lighting that hasn’t already been done. That said, Konami ran the edge lighting on their new KX 43 cabinet down both front sides of the box all the way to the floor. In a sea of LED lights at the show, this simple move made these new cabinets instantly identifiable. That’s not easy to do at G2E. AGS’s Orions also have this down-to-the-floor lighting feature, and it is equally effective. In one other small, but unique, effect, Konami added environmental lighting strips to the front and back of their button panel. IGT did this as well on some of their new games, but they only used a front strip. Two, I think, is better. Neo4j Graphing Database – This was at the IntelligentTag booth and represents the next generation of databases. While this stuff is more the domain of ultra-geeks, its potential was obvious even to Luddites and technophobes. Indeed, many gaming folks are already putting it to good use. Pechanga Resort & Casino hosted a G2E panel presentation on Big Data and said during it that this software produced an epiphany when they first used the graphs it generates to demystify complex operational issues. In the NRT/Sightline booth, their new HABIT analytical suite also uses this type of database. NRT/Sightline combine it with proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) to make performing complex gaming analytics as comparatively easy as doing a Google search. This stuff is powerful and eliminates the need for months of expert training to understand complex data sets, like slot performance and marketing trends. ACS PlayOn Cashless Tables – Gaming should have gone at least semi-cashless years ago. Sadly, though, our industry has never been quick to adopt new technology. In our defense, there are casino roadblocks, like regulators and problem gambling concerns, that don’t impact other retailers. ACS PlayOn uses PIN-Debit transactions, instead of credit cards, to minimize what players can withdraw. You can only spend what’s in your bank account and only what your bank authorizes. That means players will never run up debt nor be able to increase credit lines on the fly, like they can now via hosts or casino execs. Another difference is that these transactions are quick and easy; you get chips just like you do groceries at the supermarket: swipe your card and enter a PIN. Once the bank approves, a customer receipt is printed, and the dealer is issued a bar-coded ticket to drop just like cash. The procedures for front and back of the house are identical but with greater security than cash (something that regulators tend to like.) The player’s unit (shown) is about the size of a pack of cigarettes and can be passed from base to base. The dealer’s ticket-printer, which is discreetly mounted below the table, has all the smarts built into it. In just a few California casinos, players have already withdrawn over $100 million with this device. It’s an overdue improvement. LCD Meter Replacement Glass – Not many operators have replaced their GameKing pokers with newer models, since the old ones seem to work just fine still. However, they are starting to look pretty dated on a 2018 casino floor. Dynasty Gaming is offering up a new LCD top-glass and progressive controller that can display meters, messages and new game features. The look is completely up-to-date, and the native software’s flexibility means that these screens can mimic an older Mikohn meter or change to any contemporary font or configuration, depending on the operators’ desire. My favorite idea is to resurrect earlier hits like Suited Royal Progressives, for instance, using these new and impressive displays. There are size options for uprights, slants, or even large standalone signs. Tiny Bingo – This game isn’t small either. It’s a VGT (Aristocrat) Class II game carrying a new version of longtime slot stalwart Buffalo Xtreme. What is small are the tiny, tiny bingo card in the upper corners (look closely.) By regulation, these bingo cards must be displayed, and must be no smaller than 2X2-inches. But when you position (or hide) them in the upper corners of a giant LCD screen, they seem almost invisible. You’d be hard pressed to find these “cards” on any of the new giant cabinets. That may be appropriate. Today, few operators, and virtually no players, can tell the difference in game play between a Class II machine and their Class III siblings. The proof is in the performance: C2 games in Oklahoma; Glendale, AZ; and San Pablo, CA generate numbers that any C3 operator would envy. And these games work in C2 whether they’re from AGS, Ainsworth, Gaming Arts, IGT, Konami, Scientific Games or any other supplier. This small concept that tribes pioneered years ago is now very big. The Scientific Games Booth – As usual, this booth was huge. What wasn’t so usual was the fact that it was totally enclosed. This element generated more buzz at the show from other vendors than any game, system or theme. Whether it was good buzz or bad, we’ll know for sure by G2E 2019, when there will either be many more enclosed booths or none at all. For me, the jury is still out. Despite some negative speculation, it was easy to get in. I seriously doubt anyone, including those with Donald Trump-sized egos, really minded the 30 extra seconds it took to register for entry. Sci Games executives said they did this to ensure smaller crowds of legitimate buyers, so you could demo the products without waiting. I visited the booth five times in three days, and the crowds were about the same as always. And it was still hard to get a demo without waiting. So what was, in fact, small? The reading on my iPhone’s decibel meter, for one thing. I loved that the sound levels inside this booth were reduced substantially. And the lighting closely resembled a Las Vegas casino floor. These were small, effective touches. Old sounds and spins in a new box – IGT’s S3000s are arguably the best of the new generation of reel-spinning slot machines. However, neither these nor the half-dozen other recent attempts to recreate the aesthetic and earlier dominance of the one-armed bandits has been completely successful. Maybe this little tweak to the S3000 will make the difference. At G2E, IGT revealed a reworked S3000 that exactly mimics the sounds and spin-rate of their older S2000 game. It’s very subtle, and I don’t know if it will work. But somehow it seemed very, very familiar. Frank Legato – This last one is not small; it is, in fact, a very big deal. At G2E, my writing partner Frank won the annual Peter Mead Award for Excellence in Gaming Journalism. He joins GGB Magazine publisher Roger Gros and CDC’s Howard Stutz as one of only three recipients. Peter Mead was my first gaming editor as publisher of Casino Enterprise Management Magazine (CEMM). Peter picked an awful name for his publication, but the magazine itself was terrific until it ceased publication following his untimely death in 2015 at age 54. Peter’s CEMM competition was always wherever Frank Legato was working. Here’s a little Legato-bio lifted from his citation: “With a background in gaming dating back 35 years, Legato, 61, has served as Editor for Global Gaming Business (GGB) magazine since 2002 and is the leading voice for new slot titles and gaming technology from both the industry and player perspectives. His career in gaming journalism began as Associate Editor for Public Gaming magazine in 1984 and he launched and served as Editor of Casino Gaming magazine in 1985 before moving on to Casino Journal, where his focus on slot companies and their new offerings became renowned throughout the industry. On the player side, Legato started sharing his humorous tales with readers of first Atlantic City Insider and then Casino Player in 1997 and also guided Strictly Slots magazine and its focus on slot and video poker players. A sought-after speaker and trade-show moderator, Legato is also the author of two books on gaming, How to Win Millions Playing Slot Machines… Or Lose Trying and Atlantic City: In Living Color. He has a B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications, both from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.” They unfortunately failed to mention the great work he does each month for the Frank Floor Report! A well-deserved honor, my friend. In summary, I’m sure I missed several small things that may have a big impact soon (I mean, I said they were small.) Please let me know via email what you liked in this category, and I’ll do an update based on your input soon. Submissions welcome at email@example.com.