Behind every great slot machine is a great base and cabinet.
You can have the best game in the world, but if a player isn’t drawn by the packaging—or if, once he sits down to play, it’s uncomfortable, or there is no place to put his drink—the player may wander.
The biggest manufacturing players make their own cabinets and bases. But many exciting advances are being made by independent, mid-level companies, some of them young, that offer custom cabinets and bases.
Slot bases once were where the coin box resided. But with the advent of ticket-in/ticcket out, they have developed more ergonomically.
They still serve a purpose.
Bases contain communications for player tracking, wide- or local-area progressive systems, general wiring, and storage for extra printer tickets or slot technician log books. Some are customizable, lighted end panels used for game-bank or casino branding with logos or advertising.
At some properties, the base is simply a stand on which the slot machine is mounted. Others fill the insides with data cables or power supplies. Some slot bases are controller bases that house various controls for the bank of machines.
Elite Casino Products
One company making exciting advances is Elite Casino Products, based in Itasca, Illinois. Since 2004, ECP has provided design, engineering and production services for cabinets, bases, top boxes and toppers. Scott Irving, managing director, says, “We’re not trying to compete with WMS. We support the guys who don’t have engineering departments to design cabinets. We make ours changeable so you can get your own look.”
ECP’s standard line aims at small- to mid-sized game manufacturers, and companies new to gaming. It also has good relationships with the big players, working with them on design, manufacturing and assembly projects. Customers bring in designs, using napkin sketches or a full-blown designs—and ECP implements them.
ECP launched its newest addition, the NITRO slot cabinet, at G2E. According to Iriving, “NITRO was developed in response to a call for a premium product in the slot cabinet manufacturing niche market. While there is a variety of off-the-shelf cabinets to choose from, they often lack modern styling and attractive features. NITRO was designed with style and refinement in mind, incorporating softly contoured lines, vibrant feature lighting and a premium audio system.”
NITRO is a departure from ECP’s existing product line. Besides ergonomic research, ECP did focus studies with slot players. “All else being equal, people gravitate to the prettier product. We use the gambling public to determine what is attractive,” says Irving.
ECP considers items such as screen angles to optimize viewing, and reach distances to touch-screen LCDs, the player interface area and button deck to ensure comfort. Maintaining player comfort will decrease fatigue and encourage longer game play.
ECP’s new standard base features a modern-yet-economical, refined design and all-metal construction. Clients choose from custom finishing options, including vinyl or powder-coat, and trim, lighting and end panel options. Dimensions are customizable.
Irving sees a continuing trend toward custom cabinetry. “OEM (original equipment manufacturer) game manufacturers recognize the importance of branding,” he says. “We believe it is critical for slot cabinets to represent the manufacturer’s brand identity. Equally important ergonomic and stylish design of a cabinet increases a game’s earning power.”
The game software is “the thrill,” says Irving, but the cabinet creates a comfortable environment. “A well-designed cabinet can attract players and also contribute to extending the length of play,” he says.
The most critical process in cabinet design is in the early stages. Here, the design team develops the overall appearance and “identity” of the cabinet and integrates ergonomic styling.
Irving adds, “A good cabinet design lets OEMs customize and tweak the slot cabinet to provide a branded, easily identifiable product among the sea of games. A customized cabinet gives slot players instant familiarity with the look and feel of the cabinet, even if they have never played a specific game.
Another relatively young company is Philadelphia-based KGM Gaming. Founded in 2003, it supplies and distributes gaming machines, slot bases, casino chairs and other products.
KGM’s most recent developments in bases include custom extruded aluminum moldings and laser-cut solid brass laminates.
“We have incorporated various types of LED lighting into the slot bases and end panels,” says Jack McNamara, KGM’s vice president of operations. “Our latest concept is a continuous wrapping foot-rest design for various carousel shapes. This creates a smooth transition between slot bases and eliminates the need for pie-fillers.”
KGM uses “crossover technology,” sharing new materials and fabricating techniques between its signage, slot base and seating divisions. Elements like LED illuminated colored acrylic and sculpture, traditionally used in signage, are incorporated into the end panels of slot bases.
KGM meets with designers from a project’s onset. Says McNamara, “Many elements you find on our slot bases originate from a concept that occurs elsewhere on the gaming floor.” Such as a ceiling feature or molding. This may have helped in the development of the Curved Front Slot Base, which offers a distinctive curved access panel in metal or wood, an alternative to angular designs.
KGM’s slot bases are tailored to each client and offer custom moldings, LED lighting, installation alignment systems and universal bolt and electric hole patterns. The company’s product design teams studied the relationship between slot bases and slot seating, and developed a formula to size the height of the base and determine seat dimensions.
Design changes wrought by the demise of the coin drop led to the Comfort Series Slot Base, where players can stretch their legs and use custom foot rests.
KGM’s new Slot Table Concept features “plug and play” devices which enable quick changes on the slot floor. Pre-wired “pods” quickly connect and disconnect using internal harnesses. The table also utilizes a quick-change universal plate that bolts to the machine’s underside. This lets operators move a machine without tools.
“The stand looks like a simple coffee table. Its roots parallel the furniture industry and the design options are endless,” says McNamara.
Cole Kepro International
Cole Industries Inc. started in 1993 as a supplier of gaming machine cabinets. In September 2009, it teamed up with Kepro International Company, Ltd. to form Cole Kepro International LLC.
According to Rick Durica, sales manager, the company’s new release, the Evolver, allows customers to change the cabinet’s appearance using easily removable cosmetic features. “This allows our customers to change the appearance of their slot floor without purchasing all new machines,” he says.
Cole Kepro’s cabinets work with any software provider’s boards/logic assemblies. “This enables us to support not only the larger gaming companies but also the smaller software providers who simply need a cabinet,” he says.
Cole Kepro exclusively uses LED lighting, which is brighter, uses less power and emits less heat. “We have done studies on airflow and its effects on cabinet temperatures, and have been able to significantly reduce the ambient internal cabinet and component temperatures,” he says.
Gaming machine cabinetry is constantly evolving, driven by new types of games, and player comfort. “Slot machine cabinets are like cars,” says Durica. “New models will always be more modern and appealing than previous models. However, we do believe that some standardization is necessary. That’s why our cabinets are designed with both cosmetic and software provider ‘changeability.’”
AC Coin & Slot
New Jersey-based AC Coin & Slot recently provided its new custom hybrid slot bases for the Snoqualmie Casino. It worked with casino executives, the architectural design firm of Bergman, Walls & Associates, and interior designer Yates-Silverman to design and install over 1,700 custom slot bases.
LED backlighting in end-panel designs provide extended life and low power-draw. LED lighting also provided a highly adaptable light source for designers to create distinctive images.
AC Coin’s hybrid slot bases carried the “Tribe of the Twelve Moons” theme throughout the casino, and provided flexibility for Snoqualmie operators, due to their ability to adapt to changing floor designs.
The hybrid bases can be reconfigured to create single, double, back-to-back and carousel game formations that suit any manufacturer. The hybrid bases allow base installation simultaneously with base assembly.
In 2009, the company supplied the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Pennsylvania with 4,500 slot bases. AC Coin & Slot frequently coordinates among designers, architects and owners and ensures continuity of branding throughout a property. Its other customers have included the Borgata, Wynn, and Hard Rock Seminole properties.
King Cabinet Solutions
King Cabinet Solutions is another fairly young company. Established in 2006, its headquarters in Taipei City, one of its specialties is the design and manufacturing of slot cabinets.
Its new cabinet line, the UniVersa, was introduced in South America. “It is an upright cabinet we spent months designing from the inside out, resulting in a cabinet that is super versatile,” says General Manager Mark Gulhully. “Its ‘plug-and-play’ functioning logic box reduces time spent on cabinet integration and hardware repairs or upgrades.
“Everything we did in this latest design was based around making it easier and faster for customers to get their game to market. So most of the changes we made benefit our customers, who are the game developers and operators—not the slot players.” But, he says, players will be drawn to the eye-catching cabinets, and polyurethane armrests make them more comfortable.
Cabinet designers are always pressured to create smaller footprints, and better-looking and functioning cabinets to maximize floor space. Using the “plug-and-play” logic box that has been around for a while, Gulhully believes King has come close to perfecting this balance.
King customizes cabinets to specifications including color, LCD size, logos, peripheral brackets and base. Because this involves weeks of design work, Gulhully emphasizes, “communication between us and the customer is key to getting it right.”
VSR Industries, based in Henderson, Nevada—founded in 1969—manufactures security locks, sheet metal bases for slot machines and custom slot cabinets. Its newest slot base line, EVO II, introduced at G2E, will, says Marketing and Sales Manager Dino DeGregorio, “revolutionize the way the industry views the sheet metal slot base. We developed a completely new way to mount the slot cabinet to the base.” This “topless system” is a series of brackets that lets the operator mount any slot machine to the base.
This, says DeGregorio, “cuts in half the time it takes you mount and install your game, because the top is open.” The base also sits on a frame, so it is completely open on the inside—the tech does not need to take the machine off the base to service it.
The first casino floor to feature the new line of EVO II bases is Gun Lake Casino in Michigan.
DeGregorio sees technology trends creating opportunities for smaller companies. “As the means to develop software and game content becomes even more accessible, you will see smaller companies develop content and try and break their games into the marketplace that has been dominated by the big players.”
Smaller companies with smaller resources will be a “perfect fit” with VSR, says DeGregorio. “Because we understand that every company wants its cabinet to be unique to them, we have an extensive design staff that works closely with the customer to make sure that we accomplish that,” he says.
How much customization depends on the customer, says DeGregorio. “We deliver cabinets in various stages of assembly. Some simply want a sheet metal cabinet, and they put the actual integrated components in them at their factories.” Others prefer VSR to integrate the components into the machine.
“We like to work with clients to tailor their cabinets to exactly what they want,” he says. “We don’t take a stock design off the shelf and ram it down their throats. We view our customers as partners and continually work with them on improving design and making modifications so that as their game evolves, so does their cabinet.”
VSR likes working with “so-called lesser players,” he says. “They may not have the volume that the big players have, but as long as VSR is continuing to provide them with a quality product that is to their standards, we have the opportunity to grow with them, and that is an exciting proposition.”