The International Gaming Exposition (formerly known as ICE) anticipates a big year.
The international casino industry converges on London this month forthe 2009 International Gaming Expo, which will incorporate both theprevious ICE and ICEi shows.
Organizer Clarion Gaming is anticipating a record-breaking show atIGE this year, predicting a 34 percent increase in attendance despitethe worldwide economic slump.
While all types of casino products and services will be displayed,the most attention, as usual, will be given to the games themselves.Here are previews of what’s in store in two of the most popular gameareas-multi-player electronic and electro-mechanical table games and single-player slots.
Electronic table games spread across the industry
The International Gaming Expo always has counted multi-player,electronic table games among the most prominent new products displayed.After all, Europe has been the central market for this style of productin the past.
This year, however, this genre of product will be more prominentthan ever. The reason? It is one of the hottest product styles in theworld-in the U.S. and other markets as well as its traditional Europeancore market.
The reasons are many: Younger, more table-savvy players areentering the market. Some casinos are looking for more economic, lesslabor-intensive ways of offering table games because of theinternational economic slump. Other casinos want to increase table-gamerevenue through a faster game. Still others seek to offer the tablegame experience in markets where table games are not legal.
Whatever the reasons, there will be a full lineup of multi-player,electronic table games at this year’s IGE. Here are some highlightsfrom many of the top multi-player suppliers:
Alfastreet Gaming Instruments
Slovenia’s Alfastreet is one of the top suppliers of multi-playerauto-roulette games, a business the company has recently extended toU.S. markets through an arrangement with Arizona-based AtronicAmericas, which assembles Alfastreet R8 and other electronic roulettegames at its Arizona plant and markets them to U.S. casinos,particularly in Native American markets.
Alfastreet will certainly show its latest multi-player roulettegames, but the company has a few surprises in store at IGE as well.According to Matjaz Petek, marketing and sales manager, the companywill debut a new multi-player game called “Tago” at the show, as wellas a completely re-designed multi-player electronic keno game.
Alfastreet is keeping exactly what Tago is (other than a Philippine city) extremely close to the vest until show time.
Also new at the show will be Poker Multi-Player, a successfulmulti-player electronic poker game already receiving positive feedbackin Hungary and Romania.
Other multi-player products on display will include video baccarat,dice sic-bo and a multi-wheel roulette game, which will be connected tothe new SL line of single terminals. Multi-wheel roulette allowsoperators to connect up to three live roulette tables to Alfastreetelectronic terminals, permitting players to switch among wheels withtheir wagers.
Bulgarian slot manufacturer Casino Technology is known best for itsGemini series of single-player slots, but the company also producespopular multi-game units-most prominently, “PlayMe,” which is amulti-player auto-roulette game built into a player piano.
“The product concept is based on the combination of two mainelements-the gaming experience and live music performance,” says DerekRussan, Casino Technology’s R&D director. “The players have achance to socialize and enjoy live performances while betting on thegame. Beyond that, PlayMe is really versatile in terms of spatialconfigurations, shapes and design. Launched as a classic grandpiano-roulette, the latest development seeks more entertaining valuewith ‘dueling pianos,’ with a contemporary appeal and increased numberof player terminals.”
Casino Technology also offers “Casino King,” an eight-player,completely automated roulette system; and “Casino Prince,” an automatedwheel that can link to up to hundreds of individual player terminals.
“There definitely is an increased presence of multi-player systemsin the casinos,” says Russan. “Besides convenience, speed andinteraction, players are looking for more entertainment and action.Asia and Eastern Europe are great potential markets for those systems.”
Electroncek d.o.o. / Interblock
Slovenia’s Electroncek, with its Interblock brand, pioneered theautomated roulette genre in the early 1990s. This year, the company ispioneering what it calls the “G4 Organic” line of multi-playerautomated table games.
At the top of the line is G4 Organic Card Blackjack, aseven-player unit that actually uses real cards, in anelectro-mechanical dealing device under a bubble surrounded by theindividual terminals.
The G4 machine automatically shuffles and deals all cards, ensuringa totally random distribution of up to eight decks, arranging the cardsand dealing them at the same time-the machine constantly shuffles. Thecasino can configure the number of decks, minimum and maximum wageringlimits and all variable blackjack rules. It is the first multi-playermachine that allows all traditional blackjack rules, according to thecompany.
At IGE, the company will display other games in the G4 Organicseries, and demonstrate the ability of casinos to switch the modularunits between blackjack and other games, including roulette, baccaratand an electro-mechanical horse race.
Gold Club d.o.o.
Gold Club is another one of Slovenia’s pioneers in the area ofauto-roulette. In addition to showing the best of its traditionalauto-roulette units, Gold Club will use the IGE show to showcase “OmegaPlus,” which is the company’s flagship line of products.
Omega Plus is an eight-player automated roulette with touch-screenmonitors. In the Plus version, Omega features table-top illuminatedbill validators, discrete footrest lights and LED-lighted ornamentcrossbars.
Omega Plus, like other Gold Club products, can be eaily convertedinto other games, including the new Super Bingo roulette, whichreplaces the central wheel with a glass-dome ball blower, includingplastic numbered balls for a bingo game. This is being marketed injurisdictinos where the roulette game is not allowed.
Gold Club also has added multi-player card games to its productmix. At IGE, the company will launch a new 10-player Texas hold’em unitand a five-player blackjack/baccarat game. Both products featuretouch-screen monitors for wagering, around a central video display forthe cards. (The blackjack/baccarat unit features a video dealer.)
Novomatic Group of Companies
The Novomatic Group’s Austrian Gaming Industries subsidiary will hitIGE not only with a lineup of new slots and cabinets, but a newmulti-player platform as well.
Novomatic will demonstrate a new server-based platform called NovoUnity II. More than half of the booth space will be devoted to acomprehensive presentation of the groundbreaking new multi-playertechnology.
Novomatic’s booth will actually be networked, with linked versionsof all of the company’s traditional multi-player versions of live tablegames-which all consist of live tables with cameras positioned to beamthe games to a group of player terminals enabling touch-screen,interactive wagering. Novo TouchBet Live Roulette, Novo Multi-Roulette,Novo TouchBet Live Baccarat, Novo TouchBet Live Black Jack, NovoTouchBet Live-Sic Bo and Novo Multi-Roulette will be included in thenetwork, as well as a new electronic live gaming table featuring NovoTexas Hold’em Poker and the “Novo Wheel of Cash.”
The entire range of games has been graphically redesigned andtransferred to the new Novo Unity II platform. At IGE they will bepresented as an interoperable multi-player product family.
The networked structure allows the operator to offer guests alllinked multi-player games on each of the connected player stations. Aneasy game management via the server-based operating menu guaranteesflexibility for casino management. The operator can map the completemulti-player floor layout, define individual groupings, unlock andblock certain games on chosen terminals and, in general, modify themulti-player network according to demand.
International Game Technology
International Game Technology has always been known as the world’slargest slot manufacturer, but for the past two years, the venerableReno, Nevada-based company has been marketing a new line ofmulti-player electronic table games as well.
IGT licensed the technology of the Novomatic Unity platform, andused it to create multi-player electronic table games in its MP Series.At IGE, the company will display MP Series multi-player roulette,baccarat and horse race games.
According to Tim Richards, who holds the newly created title ofdirector of table games for IGT, the company also is developing amulti-player blackjack game. IGT, though, will display its threeversions of roulette. “We offer products featuring both a fullyautomated roulette wheel and a video roulette wheel,” he says. “Ourvideo product is an actual animated wheel, operated by a random numbergenerator, but set up as a multi-player unit.”
He says several players’ terminals are linked to the same animated wheel in this product.
In addition to automated and video-wheel products, IGT is offeringa multi-terminal version of live roulette, in which remote terminalsare linked to a video feed from a live wheel.
“Any of our MP products can link to up to 250 terminals, so you can set up any style of seating for it,” says Richards.
IGT also offers the complete range of games from DigiDeal, theleading electronic table game supplier of which the company acquired 50percent interest last year.
North Carolina-based PokerTek, Inc., will display its groundbreakingmulti-player electronic poker line through its exclusive distributor inEurope, Aristocrat Technologies.
PokerTek’s PokerPro 10-player Texas hold’em game-10 individualtouch-screen player stations around a central video display showing thedeal and the flop-and its two-player “Heads Up” version of the samegame have been consistently gaining popularity around the world overthe past several years. The company most recently expanded itsoperations into Hungary, where seven of the PokerPro tables have beeninstalled at the Monte Carlo Budapest casino.
“PokerPro has been a wonderful offering for us,” says DanielLindsay, general manager of sales and marketing for AristocratTechnologies Europe. “This year alone we have installed tables inHungary, Bulgaria, Spain and several other countries throughout Europe.”
Shuffle Master, Inc.
Another company exhibiting at IGE that has been growing its market basein multi-player electronic tables is Shuffle Master, Inc., the companythat made its name supplying automatic shufflers and moved intoproprietary table games such as Let It Ride and Three Card Poker.
Shuffle Master has scored a major hit with “Table Master,” a lineof electronic table games that use a normal table setup around alife-sized video representation of a dealer (one of several beautifulmodels the company filmed to deal the virtual cards).
The latest Table Master offering is Ultimate Draw Poker, the firstnew game to be placed in the format. (Others are traditional tablegames and the company’s proprietary games.)
Ultimate Draw Poker is actually a multi-player game of five-carddraw poker. “It’s the type of game you could not offer on a live tablegame, because there would not be enough cards,” comments Roger Snow,Shuffle Master’s executive vice president and chairman of the company’scorporate products group. “You’re playing five-card draw against thedealer, and the dealer has to draw according to a prescribed set ofrules.”
There are head-to-head bets and a side bet against a pay table for two pair or better.
In addition to Table Master, Shuffle Master offers a live/videofeed version of multi-player tables. Called “Rapid Table Games,” thesystem links live table games to electronic touch-screen wageringterminals.
The newest multi-player Shuffle Master product is “i-Table,” asemi-automatic game that features a real dealer and real cards, butelectronic betting. “It’s a chipless table game,” Snow says.”Eliminating chips speeds up the game by 30 percent.”
TCS John Huxley
TCS John Huxley has for years been one of the premier suppliers oftable game equipment to the international casino industry. Lately,though, the company has become known as an innovative creator of newmulti-player table games as well.
The company will display three major lines of electronic tablegames at IGE. The first is a line of live-action roulette productscalled “TouchTable MultiPLAY Roulette.” The system merges a traditionalroulette table and live dealer with electronic betting.
The only difference from a live wheel is electronic wagering forseven to 21 players. Each player has a personalized touch-screenbetting surface. All chip handling, calculation of winnings and payoutfunctions are fully automated, to deliver total security, reduced costand increased number of games per hour. Available configurations areseven-player single, 14-player double and 21-player triple formats.
Another live table setup with electronic wagering is “AccuPLAYParallel Deal Blackjack.” In this setup, a live blackjack dealer andreal cards are combined with electronic wagering. Cards are dealt froma normal shoe, but the same player cards apply to all players. Eachplayer uses an electronic interface to wager and to make their gamedecisions, at the same time.
Finally, TCS John Huxley will use IGE to launch “Big Tony’s TexasHold’em,” which is a video poker game played against a virtualopponent, a mobbed-up cartoon character. The multi-player version, “BigTony’s PokerKard,” links up to four player terminals in a table-gamesetup.
European manufacturers to showcase innovation
The European slot market, with its compartmentalized economic andsocial environments, has been fertile ground for the imagination ofdesigners. From posh casinos to the corner snack bar, the gamingmachine has a large group of fans willing to play at whatever levelthey can afford. With literally hundreds of thousands of machines insome individual countries, there has been plenty of opportunity forstart-ups over the years. Here are some of the large and small namesyou will encounter at IGE 2009.
Novomatic will again occupy the largest exhibit space at the show. TheAustrian institution traditionally prefers to unveil its most excitingnew products in London rather than at the Global Gaming Expo, and thisyear is no exception.
The new Novo Unity II server-based platform will be grabbing mostof the attention, to be sure. But Novomatic’s more traditional slotswill offer plenty of new twists themselves.
The brand new Super-V+ Gaminator ST (Slant Top) cabinet features a26-inch bottom screen, a 26-inch top screen and a recessed thirdscreen, for displaying either game or jackpot information. This newcabinet also comes with the flip-screen feature that lets the playeropt to play either on the top-box screen or the main screen. Themachines will be loaded with the new Super-V+ Gaminator game mixes.
A new collection of games for the highly successful Coolfire IIrange also will be on display, along with exciting new cabinetinitiatives.
Atronic still has its roots in Europe, even though it is now part ofthe GTECH stable. IGE will see the launch of Crystal.net, a newevolution for the casino management floor network. Crystal.net buildson the existing Ethernet technology and know-how developed inCrystalWeb, and is fully interoperable with server-based, open networks.
Also being unveiled is “Fishing for Jackpots,” a five-level progressive jackpot link presented on the e2motion cabinet.
“Cascading Cash” is Atronic’s new mystery jackpot concept, in whichall active players have the chance to share in the win. Also on displaywill be the new Asian-themed “Dragonboat,” with a new tournamentconcept featuring exciting graphics and a story line based on thetraditional Chinese dragon boat races.
Casino Technology continues to expand its image, along with its productrange. With its focus primarily on the casino and electronic casinomarket, the Bulgaria-based manufacturer offers a selection of gamesdesigned to appeal to players in various categories, territories andmarket segments found throughout Europe. To date, more than 50,000units have been installed in multiple international casino operations.
Casino Technology’s southeastern Europe location has helped thecompany gain a leading position in the Balkan countries. At IGE, thecompany will be presenting what they describe only as “a completely newhigh-end product” which will soon be available in their top video-slotoffering. At least five new game releases for the company’s PC-basedvideo slots will debut at the show.
Euro Games Technology
Euro Games Technology has been concentrating on increasing itsproduction capability in recent years. Headquartered in Bulgaria, wherethe company opened a new, expanded production facility in September,EGT has offices in Europe, Asia and South America.
The main markets for EGT products are casinos and electroniccasinos. The company specializes in the design, development,manufacture and distribution of sophisticated video slot games, gamingmachines and jackpot systems.
The EGT stand at ICE will introduce the wide-screen “Vega Vision+”slant-top machine, featuring a 22-inch main screen and a 26-inch secondscreen. The product recently won an award for most innovative design,and incorporates ergonomic concepts.
Joining the already-diverse game mix of the Vega Vision productline are new 10-line, five-reel games “The Great Egypt” and “LuckyBuzz.” The games have been developed specifically for the wide-screenVega Vision. In all, 16 new games will make their entrance.
Orion started out making machines for all levels of the market, fromcasinos to street arcades. After the Dutch company was acquired by WMStwo years ago, the focus evolved to where it now concentrates onproducts for the casino industry.
But as new technology and new ideas have spurred productdevelopment, which led to the “N-Able” games platform and “Twinstar II”cabinet, the company is now able to direct its attention to serving awider range of market segments.
At IGE, Orion will unveil its breakthrough product “Group Wins,” anentirely new development that allows group play and joint wins. Thefirst Group Wins game, “Treasures of the World,” will take the playerand his or her fellow travelers to beautiful destinations around theglobe.
Orion will also showcase its “Glamour Cash” multi-levelprogressive, several “Game Pack” multi-game units and a variety ofstand-alone products.
Gold Club d.o.o.
Gold Club built its name providing quality multi-player machines, butin recent years the Slovenian company has branched out into the slotmachine market, directing its main efforts to Eastern Europe, Asia andSouth America.
Gold Club will introduce a new cabinet at IGE with a 22-inch dualscreen wide monitor. Despite the wider screen, the cabinet will havethe same dimensions as the company’s existing product, which featuressingle or dual 19-inch touch display monitors. A slant-top model isscheduled to be released soon after London. All Gold Club cabinets canrun “Golden Wheel” virtual roulette, which provides the individualplayer the same betting options as the live game.