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SYNCHRONICITY: Tom Soukup

Vice President, Research and Development (Systems), Konami Gaming

SYNCHRONICITY: Tom Soukup

Konami Gaming has been known for its slot games for decades, but the slot-maker’s identity for much of the past several years has been tied just as much to the systems business.

This year, the big news is what Konami calls “Synkros,” a new identity for what has been one of the industry’s fastest-growing casino management systems, up until now known as the quite generic-sounding Konami Casino Management System, or KCMS.

Synkros represents the evolution of KCMS into a complete system solution for the entire casino enterprise, providing everything from rewards at the machine to floor-wide bonusing played out either on the external player tracking small screen or on the slot screen itself, thanks to the Universal Game Adaptor (UGA), a product on which Konami partnered with International Game Technology.

The rollout of Synkros is headed by Tom Soukup, vice president of R&D for the Konami systems division. He says the name “Synkros” was coined to mean that all aspects of the business can be synchronized with a single, integrated database for slot and table accounting and player tracking, marketing, cage/credit, enterprise analytics and integrating edge systems such as point-of-sale and hotel, all in a single database.

Casino enterprise synchronization is the type of operation for which the Konami system was born. Always Ethernet-based, the basic architecture for floor-wide bonus games and integrated marketing has always been present in the system. “Much of our success has been based on the fact that the system represents a new architecture for the gaming industry,” says Soukup. “Synkros uses an Oracle database and an Ethernet floor. It’s centralized, so you don’t have ticketing servers, marketing servers—and the players’ club is not separate. It’s an integrated, single-code-based system, so a small, 300-slot Indian casino is running the same software as Rivers in Pittsburgh, with 3,000 slots.”

Synkros is a serviceable, scalable system that has been popular with casinos of all sizes, and the fact that Soukup is in charge of the evolution of the synchronized system to where it will compete with anything in the industry is, in itself, synchronicity.

Soukup has always been a systems guy. A mathematician with a master’s degree in mathematics and computer science, he worked for two decades in the computer science field, authoring a book—Data Mining: Tools and Techniques for Data Visualization and Mining—before joining Konami in 2001, when Konami bought the company for which he was the database and business intelligence architect, Paradigm Gaming. (He had been restructuring that company’s database to enable data mining.)

By the time he was elevated to vice president two years ago, he had taken part in the entire evolution of KCMS. The 80 installations of KCMS listed by the company is a bit deceiving—when one counts all of the route sites using KCMS, the system is installed in nearly 200 locations.

All of those customers will be able to easily upgrade to Synkros. According to Soukup, it’s a two-hour remote software upgrade. Bonusing events are joined by all the service functions you can imagine. “The slot machine can be a self-serve kiosk,” Soukup says.

In the coming year, Soukup will be busy working with customers so they get the most out of Synkros. “Super Series,” the newest floor-wide progressive community bonusing game, will be available in the new release. Super Series will launch with four themes: Thunder Track, a virtual stock car race; Mustang Mayhem, an airplane race; Lot-A-Bucks, a lottery-style ball drop; and Tomb Trader, an action sequenced adventure, all played out in animations that can be customized—billboards in the scene bearing the casino’s logo, for instance.

Soukup says another application being rolled out in 2013 is Money Klip, a cashless wagering system that allows players to put funds on deposit and have winnings or losses reconciled on their player’s card—no tickets, no moving of drop boxes, no soft count. The Money Klip feature will be field-trialed in Nevada and Iowa.

Other improvements include links to mobile devices, to automatically notify attendants of jams or malfunctions right on their smart phones; and one-to-one marketing at the slot. On the development burner, says Soukup, is a method to enhance all of these services and bonuses for table-game players.

Welcome to the next evolution of systems. Soukup is glad to be its host.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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