With Italy’s VLT rollouts continuing apace and Greece likely to follow soon, how are the big gaming vendors responding to this new demand?
Few major gaming suppliers can afford to ignore the large new markets opening up for video lottery terminals (VLTs). But they’re all putting different twists on VLT technology’s ability to deliver both tried-and-tested games and novel content, maximising player involvement and operator profits.
Bally Technologies, for example, describes its Cash Spin as “a breakthrough video-gaming device that brings together several unique technologies”, notably the large, coloured spinning wheel taking up two thirds of the video display above the mechanical reels. In bonus rounds, the player uses Bally’s U-Spin touchscreen, which senses both the pressure and speed of a person’s hand gestures, to “spin” this wheel.
Also from Bally is the Digital Tower Series, which includes Vegas Hits, featuring two bonus wheels as well as U-Spin technology. The firm says that providing a low-denomination base game with frequent bonuses will serve to attract casual players, while more experienced gamers will be enticed by the high payouts offered by one of the wheels.
Another major gaming name which is targeting the VLT market is Inspired Gaming Group, active in Italy through its tie-up with Merkur while going it alone in other markets. The core of its VLT technology is the Open VLT platform, which gives operators a choice of cabinets from both Inspired – such as its Storm unit – and other manufacturers as well as a content collection drawing on multiple developers.
In the back office, meanwhile, Open VLT also provides tracking and data-analysis tools which permit operators to vary their gaming offer throughout the day as customer patterns shift. This, says Inspired, translates directly into higher income.
Says CEO Luke Alvarez: “With our server-based system we can do all sorts of clever analytics. Business intelligence becomes a key driver of VLT revenues, rather than just focusing on what the product looks like and what games are on offer. We don’t just supply products – server-based gaming is all about providing an ongoing service and we are unique in the way we work with customers by giving them the tools to micro-manage their estate.”
Inspired already has 3000 VLTs live in Italy and orders for thousands more, and says it is the leading supplier in terms of total cash box and net win. Four Italian operators are using its technology through contracts with the Merkur Inspired partnership.
Spielo’s Italian VLT rollouts are based around its Intelligen system, which provides a multi-level, linked progressive jackpot which can be operated either locally or over a wide geographic area.
“The linked progressive jackpot features unprecedented flexibility,” says Spielo. “The frequency, value, and number of wins can be scaled to the venue size and to jurisdictional requirements. It can be deployed on top of any game and can fit either a Central Determination of Win outcome-generation model, or a Local Outcome model. The jackpot can be machine- or system-triggered, and payouts, payout logistics, and player identification can be set based on jurisdictional requirements.”
TAB-Austria’s approach to the VLT market has included the creation of a VLT version of its Golden Island platform. The choices for operators offered by that platform continue to grow with new games, including Mystic Ocean and Black Pearl, as well as new terminals such as TAB-Austria’s slant-top series, featuring one or a pair of 22-inch touchscreens.
Magic Dreams, as an Italian manufacturer, has unsurprisingly taken a strong interest in the VLT market there. After this spring’s Enada event in Rimini, the firm concluded: “The balance is clear: the Italian gaming market is changed. Following the introduction of VLTs, the country has seen a deep evolution, since casino, AWP and VLT markets have now to co-exist.” Among the products which Magic Dreams is providing to this new market are its popular Double Draw Poker, which it is also making available to Inspired’s Italian customers.
And WMS Gaming used that event to show new VLT products with its partner Cogetech. “By leveraging Cogetech’s relationships and capabilities, we can bring our innovative player-appealing gaming content and entertainment experiences to this market,” said Sebastian Salat, president of WMS International.
The WMS products on display in Rimini highlighted its G+ series, including the Jewels of the Night, Thai Treasures, Neptune’s Kingdom II, Roman Dynasty and Black Knight themes. This series features volatile, free-spin-based gameplay, with large win meters and audio.
But Italy is not the only game in VLT-town. Many vendors and operators are, of course, looking next to Greece; the government there has had cold feet about its proposed legislation and withdrawn it for further consideration, but it seems unlikely that the idea will be abandoned altogether.
And there are opportunities further afield, too. In the Dominican Republic, for example, International Game Technology (IGT) is to supply “several thousand” VLT terminals for operator Caribbean Cage, as well as its Casinolink gaming-management system.
“IGT’s technology will expand our capability by offering enjoyable games for consumers and players, as well as additional sustainable annual revenues for specific needs of many of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, such as healthcare, education and sports,” said Bob Washington, chairman and CEO of Cage.
The first shipments of “several hundred” units are taking place this spring, and Cage will continue to expand its rollout month by month thereafter. Many of the games will be from IGT’s Game King 6.0 Multi-Game suite, which includes 46 poker titles, 13 video-slot titles, nine keno games and blackjack. And that’s more proof (if it’s needed) that – despite regulatory, cultural and demographic differences – VLTs are in any territory an effective way to deliver old favourites as well as new gaming experiences.
Getting it on paper
It’s not just the makers of games and management systems who are reaping fat new orders from the VLT operators. Peripherals such as printers are also essential to VLT deployments.
One major supplier is FutureLogic, whose Gen2 Universal thermal printer is said to provide 50 percent more ticket capacity than any other gaming printer, saving on refill costs, and – along with the unit’s reliability – allowing the Gen2 Universal to offer the lowest total cost of ownership of any gaming printer. “This is particularly important for operators with multiple or remote locations,” the company observes. FutureLogic also markets the CouponXpress printer.
Eurocoin, meanwhile, is carving out a niche as a supplier of the paper itself, with European and African distribution rights for Slot-Tickets’ thermal-gaming tickets. Indeed, the very first Italian VLT winning ticket – issued on the opening night of the country’s first VLT salon – was one of these. Designed for use with all ticket-in, ticket-out (TITO) gaming units and available in either a standard or customised design, the tickets also have security features to protect against fraud.
Other Eurocoin accessories for the VLT market include its Epic 950 thermal printer, now being used by Italian concessionaire Sisal in all its VLT terminals. “VLT operators have looked at the long-term cost of ownership and operation and realised that the Epic 950 is extremely reliable in both casino and VLT operations as well as being the most user-friendly and versatile for floor attendants responsible for ticket refills and service,” said Maria Rosaria Parisi, commercial manager at Eurocoin Italy.
JCM Global addresses a different, but equally important, requirement of VLT operators: banknote validation. It has recently developed the UBA RC, an enhancement of its older UBA product which can recycle two denominations ranging from €5 to €200, and hold up to 100 banknotes in each recycling chamber.
And JCM’s iVizion offers advanced banknote recognition technology with features including an acceptance rate of greater than 99 percent, self-calibrating sensor, and ability to read barcodes both horizontally and vertically.
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