Casino Technology: Branching Out
The Eastern European slot leader spreads its wings to new markets
Casino Technology’s brand of slot machines dominates the landscape in and near its home base of Sofia, Bulgaria. Casinos in Sofia are virtual showrooms of the manufacturer’s many varied styles of video slots and other products.
Lately, though, the manufacturer, founded in Sofia in 1999, has been branching out, its uniquely styled games, multiple-progressive links and clever specialty games spreading their presence throughout Eastern and Central Europe, and growing in popularity in places as far away as Latin America.
The company continues to produce products with appeal over a broad range of markets—Casino Technology currently has more than 50,000 games in the field in over 20 countries. The Eastern European Gaming Summit, held in Sofia at the end of September, reaffirmed the company’s strength in its home market area.
According to Steve Surch, group director of international sales and market development, the company has begun a step-by-step expansion into new markets around the world. “Our home market, of course, will continue to grow,” says Surch, who estimates that Casino Technology commands a 40 percent market share in Eastern Europe. “Romania is still a very active market; we work with many casinos in Eastern Europe—Ukraine, Serbia, Hungary, Czech Republic—we’ve firmly established ourselves over the past two years in this market, and we see these markets growing significantly in 2009.”
New product development, says Surch, will extend the market outward across Europe and into the Americas. “We hope to have a VLT product for 2009, which will open up the Czech Republic and Slovakia for us,” he says. “We’re also looking, with our new PC-based platform, to break into the Western European casino market. We see that casino market as the first- division, premier market for our expansion—and they’re always looking for a new mix of slots. We’ve already had some very successful trials in Hamburg, Germany, and we will soon be announcing some placements in German casinos.”
He adds that other markets on the front burner for Casino Technology’s expansion include France, where the company is currently going through the license approval process; Portugal, where the company hopes to get a slice of some of the largest slot floors in Europe; and Greece, where the company also is pursuing licensing. In Asia, the company had its first introduction at the G2E Asia show in Macau in June.
In Latin America, the company has already started an expansion. “We have a representative office in Peru, and we also work with a company in Panama,” says Surch. “We’ve had success entering these markets. 2008 was about positioning our brand through the four shows there. Having gotten some penetration and results from machine performance, we are actively looking to build on that success in 2009.”
North America? The G2E show, and Casino Technology’s large presence there, is being seen as a statement of the company’s intent to penetrate the market, first in Native American casinos, Surch says.
Casino Technology’s expansion has been fueled by constant improvement of its slot products in all markets. This year, the company has made improvements to all of its product groups, and will use the G2E show to display upwards of 40 games, including at least 20 brand-new titles.
On the hardware side, the company has improved its elegant “Gemini Sensa” cabinet. The cabinet features an ergonomic design, with the top monitor in the dual-LCD setup angled down for easier viewing by the player; and an innovative button panel that provides for comfortable and easy play.
“We’ve given Gemini Sensa a facelift,” says Derek Russan, Casino Technology’s R&D director. “We’ve been going deeper into industrial design, and that is delivering a much more coordinated design, focusing on player comfort, player usability and player direction.”
He adds that new features on the cabinet include a third video monitor for casino-to-player communication, promotional games from the casino, and even video streaming to allow players to watch sporting events or other video while playing.
The player button interface has been simplified, with only six buttons on the panel. “All the other functionality is now on a row of touch-buttons on a panel right below the screen,” says Russan. “It’s enabled us to separate the functionality with dedicated touch-screen buttons for bet levels, leaving the buttons on the panel as hold buttons for video poker or for stopping individual reels in slot games.” A patent is pending for the touch-screen controls, which are called “Crystal Touch Sensor Buttons.”
The Gemini Sensa cabinet is the format used for stand-alone video slots, for “Multi-Gemini,” the company’s multi-game unit; and for base games in the company’s multiple-progressive links, such as “Quatro Cash Mania” and “Columbus Treasure.”
New games to be introduced at G2E include video slots for all of the company’s game groups. Among the new titles are “Ocean Madness,” a high-volatility, 21-line video slot featuring a free-spin bonus round and multiplying wild symbols. Another prominent introduction is “Kilimanjaro Treasure,” one of the company’s new 50-line video slots, which includes a cascading-reel feature in which symbols in winning combinations disappear and new symbols cascade down the screen to replace them for possible extra wins.
Other free-spin games include “Deep Water Fishing,” a 21-line video slot that includes an interactive bonus screen that leads to several potential bonuses, in addition to the free-spin round; and “Queen of Nubia,” a high-volatility 21-line game that is a sequel to “Nubia Princess,” which has been one of Casino Technology’s most popular games.
Some new games include innovative new ways to present the basic free-spin bonus feature. In the game “Dancing Queen,” free-spin rounds are triggered by three different sets of symbols—one set of symbols triggers a traditional free-spin round; another triggers a free spin round with full-reel wild symbols; a third set of symbols triggers a free-spin round in which the triggering symbols reappear frequently to tack on additional free spins.
Multi-Gemini will be shown in two new versions, including both video slots that have proven successful and completely new games such as “Milk & Coffee,” which was developed specifically for the multi-game unit.
Finally, a focus of attention at G2E, as at most recent trade shows in which the slot-maker has participated, will surely be on the new versions of “PlayMe.” This is one of Casino Technology’s most talked-about attractions: a grand piano, built by the company’s engineers, that includes an embedded roulette wheel and several video player stations for wagering. It’s like a combination of a piano bar with a roulette wheel. Several of the units are already in the field.
Two new versions of PlayMe are being introduced at G2E. There is a new “Dueling Piano” version of the roulette game: Two pianos are positioned around the roulette wheel, with four player stations on each piano for an eight-station multi-game unit. And, this year, Casino Technology will launch the first video slot version of PlayMe—four of the company’s most popular video slot games are placed in the side of the piano this time.
“Our biggest achievement in the past year has been to be awarded ISO 9001, the internationally recognized quality accreditation,” says Russan. “The designation is recognized by several of the approval authorities we have to work with.” The designation streamlines the approval process in many of those jurisdictions, which will speed up the company’s march into new markets.
The company also has embarked on an effort to be “green,” with an initiative to ensure compliance with world environmental standards.
The standards most important to the company’s future, however, are those related to player appeal and profitability of the games themselves. In this respect, the company is maintaining a gold standard.