The dynamic duo of Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson captured the attention at last month’s Global Gaming Expo, as each gave electric presentations to more than 1,500 people. Wynn kicked it off on the opening day of the show in traditional Wynn style, spinning yarns and anecdotes that enthralled the audience. The Wynn Resorts chairman didn’t endear himself to the major supporters of the show, the gaming manufacturers. He repeated his often-spoken comments that slot machines and table games are all alike.
“It was never the slot machines,” he said. “The machines have no power unto themselves.”
“From Bangor, Maine, to Phoenix, they are an hour and half to a slot machine,” Wynn said. “You’ve got to give people something they’re willing to get on an airplane and submit to a body search for. That ain’t a slot machine.”
Wynn said all gaming devices are alike, but if you give them an exciting experience, that makes all the difference.
“It’s about things that give people a chance to live big,” Wynn said. “If you give it to ‘em, you’re going to be OK.”
Nonetheless, Wynn bragged that his casinos, from the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas through his current Wynn and Encore, have always established new highs in gaming revenues.
In a post-speech Q&A, Wynn answered a question about internet gambling. Although he said he agrees with Adelson’s objections to iGaming and its impact on children and problem gamblers, he simply doesn’t see it as a good business. He said members of his team said he had to spend $40 million to $50 million or risk getting “left behind.” Wynn actually had planned a New Jersey iGaming casino via a deal with Caesars until Adelson convinced him to back off.
The next day, Adelson, interviewed on stage by GGB Publisher Roger Gros, exhibited even more passion when discussing his opposition to iGaming. He described a childhood with a father addicted to gaming and, as a father, losing a son to drug addiction.
“To me, it’s a matter of principle,” he said. “I was raised in a family that suffered from the scourges of uncontrolled gaming. I don’t want people to get abused, because when I look at people like that, I see the faces of my parents.”
He said children are so technologically sophisticated these days that they can get around any attempt to block them from online casinos. And as for the contention that it’s already happening and impossible to stop?
“Then why don’t we legalize prostitution?” he exploded. “Why don’t we legalize cocaine, and heroin, since people are ‘doing it already?’ That’s not a good reason, just because they are doing it anyway.”
Enforcement, not regulation, is the only thing that will stop iGaming, according to the Las Vegas Sands chairman and CEO.
And he’d like to see full enforcement, rather than settlements, against companies like PokerStars, who are “essentially lawbreakers” and currently up for a license in New Jersey after being sold to Amaya Gaming.
“It’s the same organization—just different stakeholders,” he said.
The crowd seemed to agree, as they applauded at his closing line: “I just don’t see any compelling reason to put an electronic casino in 318 million hands.”
Before the iGaming discussion, Adelson described his success in Macau and Singapore, along with his vision for other parts of Asia. He said he expects the current dip in gross gaming revenues in Macau to reverse itself shortly, and pointed to recent remarks by Chinese leaders that the corruption crackdown is over.
“Everything that I’ve seen happen in the last 13 years (since) I first was exposed to Macau is cyclical—it comes and goes,” Adelson said. “It’s like gambling: You start off at a baseline, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down.”
Adelson also responded to the speculation the day before at a seminar held at the Meadowlands in northern New Jersey that he may be interested in building an integrated resort there.
“Yes,” he simply said, although he indicated he has not given it much thought.
In other general sessions, two state-of-the-industry panels focused on the views of suppliers and operators. The director of UNLV’s International Gaming Institute, Bo Bernhard, moderated both.
The operators’ panel consisted of MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren and Hard Rock International CEO Jim Allen, and discussed the state of the U.S. industry. Most notable in the discussion were references to Atlantic City. Allen wanted nothing in AC for his company, where Murren said he would consider building a new complex on 50 acres MGM owns adjacent to the Borgata, which they co-own with Boyd Gaming. Construction would only begin, warned Murren, if the tax rate in Atlantic City were stabilized and regulatory reform continues in New Jersey.
Allen said that his company has the rights to gaming at the Meadowlands, despite Adelson’s interest. He said that any benefit for Atlantic City should be monetized and planned completely. “If you’re going to hand $50 million or $100 million to Atlantic City,” he said, “you might as well just give it to the homeless.”
Murren also said MGM Resorts, which sponsors fantasy-sports events, could go a step further by investing in fantasy sports leagues.
“It’s obvious what’s happening,” Murren said, noting the growing popularity of fantasy sports. “The more we get this out in the open, the more people understand this is a very healthy, fun way to entertain oneself.”
In addition to expanding its sports betting in casinos, MGM is looking to expand sports betting in states where it’s not currently allowed.
The suppliers’ state-of-the-industry panel on the second day of G2E featured CEOs of several slot manufacturers who assessed the changing slot-sector landscape.
International Game Technology CEO Patti Hart, Multimedia Games CEO Patrick Ramsey, Amaya Gaming Group CEO David Baazov, Aristocrat Leisure Ltd. CEO Jamie Odell and Novomatic AG CTO Thomas Graf addressed a full range of issues, including the effect of the recent mergers and acquisitions, the changing customer base and the evolution of game styles.
On the mergers, the panel addressed the possible layoffs from synergies as large companies combine by stressing that the health of the industry will ultimately benefit, even if short-term job losses ensue. Odell noted that the recent mergers created $600 million in synergies. “That’s us saying we had $600 million too much in cost,” he said. Added Baazov, “Every industry is cyclical, and we have a fiduciary responsibility… In the long term, it will result in more sustainable jobs.”
The overall outcome for the industry, Baazov said, will be a much healthier business. Hart added that new jobs will ultimately be created to replace jobs that are lost. “Gaming in the U.S. and abroad is a creator of jobs,” she said. “When we prune in one place, we plant in another place.”
On game style, the panelists stressed that the slot-makers are developing new games to attract the millennial generation. “Young adults are more likely to play slots,” said Baazov. “There needs to be a healthy mix, and slots have to be more entertainment-centric.”
Ramsey commented that there is ample room for new game styles without replacing the traditional slots on the floor. “I have yet to put a product in front of Nevada regulators and get rejected,” he said. “Maybe I should push my own team more. Nevada is open to different products.”
As always, the slot manufacturers presented new games, systems and cabinets. The highlights of the show included Bejeweled 3D from GTECH—one of five “True 3D” games featuring amazing 3D images.
Aristocrat again made its mark with its big-name game designers, who produced such titles as The Big Bang Theory, based on the TV show, and Ted, based on the movie of the same name. Also new from Aristocrat: Game of Thrones, based on the HBO series, and Britney Spears—both on the new “Arc” cabinet, which features two curved 42-inch LCDs. Another new cabinet, “The Behemoth,” has one 84-inch monitor—Aristocrat displayed its hit “Buffalo Stampede” game on this giant format.
The company also followed up its hit of last year, The Walking Dead, with Sons of Anarchy, another unlikely slot game based on a hit cable series, on the same Vervehd cabinet and format as last year’s hit. Aristocrat officials say the producers of Sons of Anarchy approached them after seeing last year’s Walking Dead slot.
IGT’s featured offering for the show was S3000, the next generation of its iconic reel-spinning format. The company debuted new games and classic titles on the new format, which features, among other modernized elements, lighting and sound synchronized over entire banks—a factor prominently displayed at the booth.
IGT also debuted two games themed after the afternoon talk show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. The company also added another skill game to its Reel Edge series, Race Ace, which features a 100 percent skill-based bonus in which players use a control to navigate a car in a virtual race.
Bally Technologies debuted Duck Dynasty, based on the TV show; and Zoltan’s Fortune, recreating an old-time fortune-telling machine. Another prominent Bally offering was Dragon Spin, on the Alpha Pro Wave 360—with curved monitors in a 360-degree display featuring a dragon traveling around the screen dropping wild symbols and multipliers.
Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter made an appearance at the Bally booth. Carter signed autographs to help Bally celebrate the release of the Wonder Woman video slot, a game on the slot-maker’s Pro Wave cabinet featuring action scenes and music rom the classic 1970s TV show in which she played the comic-book super hero.
Konami featured the first slot game to tap into the wealth of intellectual property of the parent company’s video game line, introducing the theme Neo Contra. Another Konami standout was Hammer Festival, a comical game featuring a blue-eyed, loincloth-clad monkey that uses a hammer to whack away progressive jackpot levels and bring higher prizes to the player. The company also launched Rolling Riches, a video dice game that relies on video poker-like strategy.
Aruze Gaming launched Player’s Party, the next generation of the community game series launched by the popular Paradise Fishing, with a large common display and shared bonus wheels.
Multimedia Games, in addition to staging its National TournEvent of Champions slot tournament—along with a charity celebrity TournEvent—launched standouts including Haunted House After Dark, a follow-up to its popular game giving players a tour through a haunted house picking objects from creepy rooms to reveal bonus awards.
WMS Gaming released new games based on recently acquired brands, including Elvis, in which players pick the “era” for the bonus from Memphis Elvis, Hollywood Elvis or Vegas Elvis; and Austin Powers, with lots of funny takes from the popular films. WMS also presented an innovative Elton John-themed game with giant glasses framing monitors for the bonus rounds.
Other highlights from the traditional slot area included the “O Circle” format from bingo supplier Ortiz Gaming, the giant Colossal Diamonds from AGS, lineups of U.S.-specific game design from international slot powerhouses Novomatic and Casino Technology, and a new technology from third-party company Spin Games that allows HTML 5 content to be streamed to mobile devices for the first time—allowing gaming content, including 3D images, to be streamed to any mobile device without the need of an app.
The Hall at Hyde
During G2E, the latest induction ceremony for the AGA Hall of Fame was held at the Hyde nightclub at the Bellagio. The inductees were (clockwise) the late Bob Faiss, groundbreaking gaming attorney; Jan Jones Blackhurst, former Las Vegas mayor and longtime public affairs executive at Caesars; Ernie Stevens Jr., the longtime head of the National Indian Gaming Association; and Patty Becker, the first woman appointed to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.