Trending for 2019: Ten trends for the new year in the slot sector Frank Legato, CDC Gaming Reports · January 3, 2019 at 3:30 pm New technology in the slot sector will change the way people play slot machines in 2019. That’s because innovation is invariably developed to address changes in the nature of the customer, and the customer is changing. The overarching trend for the U.S. casino industry in 2019 will be related to the biggest piece of news in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in May to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, opened the floodgates to legal sports wagering. Zeroing in on the slot sector, that event has brought technology to the forefront that forward-looking manufacturers have been developing for years. But it is only one of many evolving in the slot sector, and as we in the media are wont to do when the calendar flips, it is appropriate to list some of the biggest trends for the coming year. Here are 10 items that stand out, based on the product launches and introductions over the prior year: Sports betting: The hot trend in the industry has been to prepare for a flood of legal sports betting, and the slot sector is no different. From JCM Global’s innovative Fuzion system to Scientific Games’ iVIEW DM technology and other evolving solutions, there is clear movement toward players being able to place sports bets without leaving their slot machines, often with live video of events — on iVIEW, IGT’s Service Window or other screen-in-screen technologies—permitting in-play wagering right at the machine. Mobile sports wagering technology: The emergence of legal U.S. sports betting is sure to lead to a boost in mobile technology. Major slot suppliers like IGT, Scientific Games and others are taking the lead in providing sports betting platforms that include a mobile component. Mobile sports wagering is seen by many as the overriding factor that will conquer the historically thin profit margin of sports books and allow operators to make money from the activity, so expect this trend to gain steam in 2019. Millennial-friendly hardware: The true value of the millennial generation as casino gamblers is still being debated, but most of the major slot-makers realize one thing: Younger players are joined at the hip to their smartphones. Look for USB ports for cellphone charging to quickly become standard accessories on slot machines. Classic stepper slots: This trend has been around for a few years, but it is coming to the forefront now, with IGT, Scientific Games, Aristocrat and others devoting R&D to both new reel-spinning games and reissues of classic, famous reel-spinners. The trend will continue this year, as manufacturers rediscover the value of high-denomination games, and of penny slots that operate physically like the mechanical reel-spinners of yesteryear. Large-format slots: We noted this last month with respect to games designed for two or more players, but the trend from all the manufacturers has been to innovate in the area of large-format slot machines — those giant machines that once were a novelty to bring people into an area but are now designed to be played. AGS’ Big Red, the giant game that kick-started the slot-maker’s Class III business, has been joined by IGT’s S3000 XL, Scientific Games’ V75, Konami’s Concerto Opus, Aristocrat’s Edge XL, Incredible Technologies’ Infinity V55, Aruze’s Cube-X Vertical 80 and others—all in the past couple of years. That adds up to a bona fide trend. Expect all those suppliers to feed new content into these mega-slots in 2019. System bonusing: This trend arguably began several years ago when then-Bally Technologies introduced its floor-wide virtual racing and other bonuses, but the technique of using the player reward system to feed bonus games and other rewards directly to the slot machine is gaining steam from all corners of the slot sector. The electronic gaming machine is evolving to handle the functions once exclusive to the slot club, and that evolution is not going to slow down at any time soon. High definition: The screen of the video slot is another flashpoint of evolution. Video images within slot games of even a decade ago are crude by comparison to the high-definition video that is pouring forth from all the major slot manufacturers. The era of 4K video has arrived, and slot designers are using it for everything from amazing artwork to remarkable 3D effects. It’s no longer enough to deliver top-flight game mechanics. In 2019, they need to look good as well. The search for skill: There are a few manufacturers — Synergy Blue, GameCo, Gamblit, Next Gaming — that have devoted themselves to finding the right way to inject skill into the slot experience, and to do it so operators make money from the games. Results so far have been spotty at best, but there is a clear niche evolving in the skill-based slot genre, including games from major manufacturers such as Konami, which can draw on its legendary Japanese sister company for content, and other industry stalwarts, to dabble in the skill-based realm. Expect the search for skill monetization to continue in 2019. Away from the reels: The basic form of the slot machine has been centered around the spinning reel for more than a century. Three-reel arrays were augmented by five-reel arrays, single paylines with multiple paylines, but in the end, the play of a slot machine has involved watching reels spin from top to bottom. As we noted in October in this space, that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Look for more games in 2019 that abandon the classic reel-spinning mode for new formats ranging from puzzles to stone-crushing games to, well, it will be fun to see what else comes forth from the slot manufacturers in 2019. Away from the cabinet: Just as new formats are emerging in the single-play slot genre, more manufacturers are launching products that abandon the traditional slot format in favor of multi-player games that have nothing to do with what a slot machine traditionally did. More manufacturers are launching multi-player, automated horse-racing games, and in addition are introducing games that replicate multi-player experiences that originated in arcades. We could go on with more trends, but 10 seems to be a nice, round number. So, good luck, and good business in the new year.