For casino business server-based gambling still in the cards
High-tech slot machines must obtain a big-shot in the arm using the beginning of Nevada' CityCenter later this season. Still, a whole lot of rewiring remains to be done.nby Daniel Terdiman February 3, 2009 12:01 PM PST nFollow @GreeterDan nIn the summertime of 2005, the casino industry was abuzz with excitement over what was then viewed as another great thing--server-based gaming, a major technological shift in how slot machines work. nEssentially, this development was going to be able for the machines to provide a broad number of activities, all plumped for immediately by players, and served up from back-office databases. This is a sea-change from the conventional style, where a device had one game built into it. Because of this, I wrote then, the technology was 'planned to become the biggest news at (the September 2005) World wide Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, the casino industry's large annual trade show.' nFlash forward, nevertheless, for the November 2008 edition of G2E, where a technology panel entitled 'Server-based gaming: Beginning to start' assured a rousing discussion around the matter, and one which belied the intense optimism of four years ago. 'While it may possibly nevertheless be unclear when and how server-based gaming will be introduced widely over the industry and towards the consumer,' the panel's description mentioned, 'the question of if it will is no longer.' nnLong regarded as another great thing within the casino industry, server-based gaming might eventually be ready for primetime. These machines, from WMS Gaming, are allowed with the technology, which allows individual machines on a casino floor to acquire new games on the fly, in addition to give the casino a way to present players promotions.n( Credit: WMS Gaming) nSo yes, the market was jumping the gun with its 2005 excitement. And needless to say, given that history, any new commitment must be seen via a somewhat suspicious contact. nBut today, business executives say, the time is ultimately appropriate for sever-based gaming, and the first symptoms of the technology--albeit a fresh form of it that has been modified considerably from what it was originally--may actually be coming. The next best part may at long last be here. nThat means a bunch of new slot machine-based innovations might be on the way. Included in this, explained Rob Bone, the vice-president of marketing for WMS Gaming, one of the casino industry's big-four makers, is a community-gaming system that'll allow multiple individuals to play games across a number of devices. And yet another, generally known as 'adaptive gaming,' will make it possible for the machines to keep track of a player's progress and allow them rejoin their game, even in a different area. nFor each one of the four manufacturers, then, the improvements that will come within a more substantial server-based gambling activity are varied and wide-ranging. At its core to-day, though, the technology is all about systems by which the machines can speak to databases on back-room servers, rendering it possible to get new information and information to a device at anytime, as well as to change the denomination of games on the fly to reply to casino occupation numbers. nThe world's first all-server-based gaming floornAnd if a new technology needed to be publicly rolled-out with a splash, the casino industry could hardly have opted for a much better method to formally introduce server-based gaming to the world: CityCenter, a large, $8 billion, mutual MGM Mirage/Dubai World growth project now under construction to the Las Vegas Strip that encompasses thousands of rooms in hotels, luxury condominiums and soccer fields' worth of casino space. And the world's first all-server-based gaming ground. nThis start, which will include 2000 devices, is slated for late 2009, and might, in the end these years, eventually pave the way for server-based gaming to become the new industry standard. nBut what caused the delay? nAccording to business executives, not long following the 2005 G2E, there clearly was a major philosophical shift, where the major vendors--International Game Technology (IGT), WMS, Bally Technologies, and Aristocrat--came to the conclusion, alongside specialists, that in place of each looking to make their own proprietary designs of the technology, they'd place their heads together and devise some new technology standards. n'In 2005, there have been no criteria, and no protocols where we're able to produce help software,' said Javier Saenz, the vice-president of product management for network systems at IGT. 'We needed to produce standards, interfaces that labored, and some formalized engineering.' nAround that time, then, a fresh standards human body emerged, the Gaming Standards Association (GSA), and what occurred were methods that could make it possible the casino operators to automatically pipe in communications to players--promotional communications, updates of free buffets and the like--in pop-up windows to the monitors, irrespective of which manufacturer's devices they were playing. Previously, it would not have been possible. nFor businesses like WMS and IGT, this change in philosophy was nothing short of a major retrenching, but one they felt they no option but to adopt. n'Pretty much, IGT had to.abandon all past progress that leveraged old, proprietary protocols,' Saenz said. 'It was a huge enterprise.' nInstead, he explained, the four manufacturers have followed what they call open networks, a new expression for server-based gambling constructed around systems designed to give casino providers the form of new server-based technology they want, while also meeting the security and communications goals of the GSA. nGetting the requirements in place was the initial step, naturally, and based on Mark Lipparelli, a part of the Nevada Gaming Control Board--which adjusts casinos in that state--they were implemented in November of 2005, just weeks after that year's G2E. nThe larger problem, then, was just how long it'd simply take for the outcomes of the standardization to manifest in industry-wide roll-outs of server-based gaming. n'The common adoption and implementation of the secure circle technologies,' Lipparelli said, 'may well be more of a market function. 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' Nothing unanticipated--at the time, at least--result of the philosophical shift is that the industry's major companies attended around, for the first time, to the understanding that their technology has to be interoperable, in at least some fundamental ways. nBanking on consumer loyaltynThese days, a large portion of successful casino operations is better finding out how not merely to get a player to bring their money onto your floor, but also how to get that person to join your loyalty program and come back to one of your qualities again and again. nFor businesses like MGM/Mirage, as an example, that type of customer acquisition and maintenance is crucial, specially in a town like Vegas, where in fact the giant currently owns ten main properties--including Bellagio, the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Luxor and others--and will soon open City Center. Which makes it feasible for its clients to play games and feel welcome and valued at all of its casinos is just in regards to the most significant point MGM/Mirage or any of its competitors can do. nAnd that is why, while an IGT unit however will not run activities from Bally--at least not anytime soon--the four manufacturers appear to have come around to the idea that their technology had to give the casino operators a great deal more get a handle on within the messaging people would see on those machines. nAdditionally, Saenz said, the gambling machines will require to be able to access the casinos' databases of client names and information, regardless of who made the equipment, in order to offer information that is specific to each user. nnA schematic of the server-based gaming console from WMS Gaming.n( Credit: WMS Gaming) nBut whilst giant businesses like MGM/Mirage get into server-based gaming, the adoption of such machines is going to be slow. nAs of today, Bone said, WMS has about 1,500 server-based models stationed all over the world. He thinks that casinos will quickly roll out server-based gaming over a 'bank by bank' basis, meaning one element of models at a time, rather than by changing entire surfaces at once. nThat means, Bone said, the technology is going gain traction throughout the casino industry within the next 2-3 years. nIGT's Saenz agreed with that assessment. nAt as soon as, he said, the organization has five server-based gaming field trials, two in Nevada and one each in California, Missouri, and Michigan. nLots of servers, a great deal of rewiringnOf program, the approaching City Center beginning is going to be the big developing party IGT's--and the industry's--server-based gambling technology is waiting for. But while that start will mean that as much as 2,000 models come on line at the same time, Saenz said that there are sensible reasons why the technology will be slow to spread, nonetheless. nPart of that is because of structure. In order to roll out server-based activities, Saenz directed out, casinos must have Ethernet networks deployed on their floors. That is something that several casinos have achieved up to now, he explained, adding that people who do have a much quicker road to the newest technology. n'Historically, there was an expectation that after server-based gaming appeared, (casinos) would magically rewire their whole floors,' Saenz said, 'and instantly there would be server-based gaming. But that is maybe not useful.' nThat is the reason why he needs to determine roll-outs 100 machines at a time throughout the industry, however not much faster than that. n'In a few years,' Saenz said, 'the vast majority of casinos will possess some server-based games, and (a few) will be 100-percent' rolled-out.