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November 21, 2017

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Executives outline future of server-based gaming

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Enlargeable graphic: A look at server-based slot machines

Server-based gaming has been the most talked about technology among gaming manufacturers in recent years, but the technology will be a gradual change for both customers and operators, slot tech executives said Tuesday at the Gaming Tech Summit at Green Valley Ranch.

Server-based gaming allows casinos to have slots connected through a network. It lets operators change themes, promotions, the amount that can be wagered and the hold at a touch of a few keystrokes.

CityCenter’s Aria paved the way for deploying server-based gaming in newly built casinos. Almost half of the Aria casino floor is server-based, totaling about 900 games from manufacturers International Game Technology and WMS Gaming. The floor will have 100 percent server-based gaming by the summer as more manufacturers receive regulatory approval on their games.

While executives say Aria represents the future of server-based gaming, it isn’t realistic for all operators. Wiring an existing casino floor to accommodate the technology is an expensive proposition for casinos hard-pressed for cash in today’s economy.

“It comes down to us being flexible manufacturers. Let’s build it on your terms,” said Mark Pace, WMS vice president of network gaming.

Pace said WMS realized existing properties weren’t going to be redoing their entire casino floor with server-based gaming as the company initially expected. WMS realized managers were going to need to justify the expense with revenue, so they began to roll out the technology slot-by-slot at existing properties.

Pace said casinos need their floors to be 20 percent server-based to see usable player feedback and results.

Monte Carlo has been a test for the technology in the Las Vegas market to show MGM Mirage how server-based gaming would work next door at Aria. IGT Vice President of Network Systems Javier Saenz said the casino’s floor has about 200 games from the major slot manufacturers.

Executives say one of the perks of server-based gaming is it attracts younger customers who are looking for more stimulation on the casino floor. Some server-based games allow users to play up to four games at a time, which is becoming increasingly popular among customers already familiar with using several mobile devices at the same time.

“If I can win three games simultaneously, that is better than winning one,” Saenz said.

Executives said regulators, operators and most importantly, customers, need to be comfortable with the technology. When introducing new technology, it is important not to greatly change games customers already are loyal to, said Bally Technologies Vice President of Strategic Development Walt Eisele.

“The revenue still comes from the machine so you don’t want to mess with that too much,” he said.

The next step will be training third-party developers to make applications for server-based games, executives said. The technology would be similar to how third-party applications work on the iPhone. Saenz said IGT will have a booth at this year’s Global Gaming Expo devoted to helping developers create such applications.

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