Smartphones instead of player’s cards—or cash. Revolutionary new game styles that don’t involve spinning reels. Electronic wallets, club points, slot and table games, promotions, comps and room offers across all channels.
These are only a few examples of the next-generation technology on display at Scientific Games’ “Empower” conference, held at the end of March at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
The diversified manufacturer stages this event for its customers from casinos around the world. For 11 years, the company held the conference at various casinos around the U.S. It was originally called the Bally Systems User Conference, because it focused on helping casinos get the most out of the former Bally Technologies’ industry-leading system solutions.
Last month’s event was the first such conference staged to help customers get the most of the remarkable variety of technology the company has offered since the merger of Scientific Games and Bally.
“Previously, it was the Bally Systems user group, and we’ve expanded it to show innovation across the board,” Scientific Games Chairman and CEO Gavin Isaacs told GGB. “We don’t have all our games here, but we have new games. We have skill-based games. We have new functionality in the systems, and in the lottery area. It’s really important, because our customers are becoming one. For instance, when you deal with VLTs, you’re dealing with lotteries. We thought that given our focus as a company, it made so much sense to bring everything together, and it’s working.”
Speaking of technology, one of the event’s highlights was a keynote presentation with Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak, who fielded questions from Scientific Games Enterprise CTO Steve Beason and from the crowd of attendees.
But as intriguing as Wozniak’s session was, the real draw of the conference was instruction from Scientific Games professionals on the best use of all of the company’s slots, table games, systems and lottery products, and the always-popular sneak peek at future technologies being developed by the company’s Innovation Lab, headed by Senior VP-Technology Bryan Kelly.
New technology was the main draw of the former Bally systems conference as well, so expanding it to encompass all areas of the casino and lottery industries made this year’s event particularly popular. Empower 2016 drew more than 700 attendees, representing 150 casinos around the world—customers included executives from South Africa, Australia, Peru, Argentina and several European jurisdictions, among others—plus several major worldwide lottery organizations.
Isaacs commented that the conference allows Scientific Games and its customers to focus on the company’s products and new technologies, without the din of presentations from multiple manufacturers found at a trade show.
“I think it’s really important we get to focus on explaining to our customers—without distractions—what our philosophy, what our message, what our innovation focus is all about,” Isaacs said. “It’s really important they understand what benefits (the legacy companies of) the combined entity can provide to each other, and how synergies come across from the different groups. I’ve had multiple people come up and say to me this is way more valuable than G2E.”
He added that the benefits of Empower go both ways—the company’s executives and its customers learn from each other.
“Some of these products are in the embryonic stage, and the customers have the opportunity to say, ‘We think this is great, but if you did it this way, I think it would be better.’ We’re empowering them, and part of that empowerment is them giving their feedback. The focus is on the customer, which is what we’re all about.”
Empower provided a sneak peek at Scientific Games’ product plan with 50 exhibits, more than 40 learning sessions and 20 special “how-to” sessions involving the entire Scientific Games product portfolio. Attendees were shown how all of the company’s products fit together across multiple online and land-based channels.
The one device tying everything together will be the smartphone. For instance, one innovation shown in a private room at last fall’s Global Gaming Expo that will be making its way to casinos within the next year is “Rapid Play,” a cashless wagering system centered around the mobile phone.
Under this system, a player goes to a kiosk to deposit funds, and the kiosk creates a barcode that can either be texted to the player’s smartphone or printed on a ticket. The player then takes the phone to a gaming device and scans the barcode to a reader (supplied by Zebra) on the game, and starts playing. The amount on the code is automatically updated for another scan at cash-out, after which the phone or ticket is taken back to the kiosk to collect cash or a TITO ticket.
The company also displayed a new “Lounge Table” (a working title) that works seamlessly within this system. It is a table with a touch-screen surface designed for four players in a community setting, on which there is no bill acceptor.
The table will be available as a stand-up device or as a lower version for more intimate play between friends in a lounge setting. It’s designed to bring players of all ages together. One of the first games is a groundbreaking offering called “Dice Dice Frenzy,” a competitive game for four players.
Players touch the screen to roll their dice, and trigger a progressive prize if matching five, seven or all 10 on the first roll. After that, it’s a race to achieve matching results on all 10 dice. Eighty percent of the total of all four wagers goes to the winner, with a 10 percent rake for the house and the other 10 percent to the progressive.
According to Kelly, the dice rolls are “true rolls,” accomplished through “virtual gravity.” There is no random number generator.
A similar product to be launched by the end of the year, called the Prizm table, consists of four games on a 65-inch, high-definition touch table surface, with a community bonus in the middle of the table.
Other highlights of the conference included the “SG Universe,” a package of solutions designed to connect the player to the casino regardless of the channel being used. The SG Universe is offered as an omni-channel gaming experience, centered on players’ mobile devices.
A key feature of this system is that it offers games wherever the player is—at home through SG’s “Play4Fun” social casino, or for money where legal—and in casinos, all on mobile devices if the player chooses. Marketing also follows the player, who can earn loyalty points playing social games at home and redeem them at the casino. “Omni-channel means we are offering the same content wherever the player is,” Jeff Allen, senior director of product management for SG Interactive, said at a breakout session, “but with a common wallet, common marketing and a unified suite of content.”
Empower drew 200 more attendees than the last Bally system user conference, but Isaacs says he expects next year’s conference to be larger still. “I think a lot of people were waiting to see how good this was, so next year, we’ll be expecting a lot more,” he said. “I think this gets stronger and stronger as the trade shows get weaker.”