Goodbye, slot machines; Hello, iPad slots

A video slot machine game is displayed on an Apple iPad in the Casinfo booth during the first day of the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) convention at the Sands Expo Center Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011.

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Casino iPad games already have proven viable in boutique gaming lounges in Northern California, Oregon and Oklahoma.

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The slot machines you see in casinos today could soon be things of the past.

Not in 20 years, but in five.

Experts predict that the games themselves aren't likely to change. They'll just get more portable, as gaming tries to keep pace with customers used to being entertained by iPads and smartphones.

Instead of players sitting at big banks of slot machines, they’ll gamble on iPads installed in restaurants, bars and other parts of the casino, much like video poker screens are today, but portable.

"If we're going to survive, we've got to change the way we do things," Deana Scott, marketing director for casino technology company Acres 4.0, told an audience at last week’s Global Gaming Expo, where many of the ideas were discussed. "Over time, what we do now will become obsolete."

For casinos, it’s a winning proposition.

First, a $500 iPad is far less expensive than a $22,000 slot cabinet. Second, customers are expected to increasingly demand the speed and convenience they get from their personal devices from casinos.

Casino iPad games already have proven viable in smaller test markets in Northern California, Oregon and Oklahoma. Boutique areas set up by Acres 4.0, such as tapas bars that offer iPad slots, have resulted in the average age of players dropping five years.

In Asia, areas devoted to e-gaming are thriving, casino architect Paul Heretakis said. There, players congregate in stadiums, making bets on iPads while real dealers shuffle and deal cards.

"The cost savings are tremendous," said Heretakis, of Westar Architects, which has designed more than 1,000 casinos, restaurants, retail centers and hotels.

Keno actually was one of the first mobile gaming devices, but it used a pencil and paper instead of a touch screen, said Brett Ewing, an architect who oversees resort design for the Cunningham.

"It allowed people to move around a casino," Ewing said.

That's what a growing segment of gamblers wants.

"No longer do they want to sit in a dark corner like a mushroom," said Steve Waither, vice president of marketing for Aruze Gaming.

In fact, players’ feelings of seclusion helped drive people away from gaming in recent years and toward more social venues such as restaurants and nightclubs, which now bring in more revenue than gambling, the experts said.

Moving forward, casinos hope to integrate those types of amenities with gaming.

IGT, for example, used G2E to debut a new menu feature that allows players to bid on buffets and other perks and hotel amenities using players’ points. WMS has designed platforms that let players carry over bonuses earned on their personal computers to the casino.

Casinos are developing ways to engage customers on their smartphones as soon as they walk in the door.

Future competition, meanwhile, may not come from gambling companies on the Strip but from technology companies worldwide.

"WMS, IGT and Ballys are seeing their biggest competition from (mobile phone app designer) Zynga and Facebook," said Kevin Parker, also of Acres 4.0.

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  1. Being a 65 year old who never owned or wanted a cell phone or other hand-held device, obviously I deplore this trend to smaller, portable machines. It hardly seems worth flying 2,400 miles to Las Vegas to play on a lap-top.
    I also disagree with the article's claim that the seclusion of sitting at a slot machine has resulted in casinos now making more of their profit from restaurants and nightclubs. In my opinion it was the obscene tightening of the slot machines that has caused tourists to reduce their gambling budgets and spend their vacation money on food and shows. Losing one's money quickly on a slot is no fun for anyone but the most hard-core addict.
    Having said the above, I must admit that I did come to prefer "ticket-in, ticket-out" slots even though at first I lamented the discontinuance of coins. Perhaps even someone my age can adjust to a lap-top slot as long as the sound effects are good. I wonder if the casinos will share the anticipated great savings with the players and increase the pay-backs?

    Donald Desaulniers (FromBellevilleCanada)

  2. I have to agree with you, Belleville. Dropping 20 or 30 bucks in a video poker machine and never getting so much as a three-of-a-kind is a drag. Over the years, the "suits" lowered pay tables as much and as quickly as they could. But, as you suggested, players have adjusted by shoveling less into the "one armed bandits." As for "ticket-in, ticket" out machines? They are a blessing when operating properly. No more waiting to collect the final dollars because the hopper runs dry and no more blackened hands from handling all those dirty, bacteria-laden coins. Plus, no more hands out from change people who pay off an occasional hundred or two hundred accumulation after you put in 75 bucks or more.

  3. I totally disagree! Placing this proposed product in bars and resturants will not produce the revenue the "experts" are implying. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

    I am all for new products and saving money, but this kind of outright claims are far off the mark. It's hard to explain to a non-gaming person. I dare a current casino operator to place this product in a major casino. Or better yet, please do what the so called "experts" say and compare the results.

    You know, many times these type of new ideals are way ahead of our time, this is one of them.

  4. 20 years ago most of you would not have even thought you would be doing what you are doing today, posting your views on a newspaper web site without having to use a pen and paper.

    This will happen in time. They are already testing it and the results are showing people like it over all.

    As far at the "obscene tightening of the slot machines" that seems to be posted here often, you should go review the Nevada Gaming Reports for the last 30 years. They will show you that the "hold" today is less than it has ever been and the comps are higher than they have ever been. http://gaming.nv.gov/index.aspx?page=144...

  5. That's the Silliest"" thing I ever heard. You want to shut down Las Vegas, this is the way to do it...Who's BIRD BRAIN idea was this.Oh this may be a fun idea for the teenagers....but the people with the REAL MONEY wouldn't go for it,that's for sure.

  6. Agree with Babyboomer. The idea of lounging around a bar or restaurant with a lap-top or ipad may fit a small sector of gamblers, but I have a feeling that the majority who go to Las Vegas prefer the physical landscape layout of today's casinos.

    We humans are creatures of location and territory.
    In a casino, I enjoy roaming through the ailes and seeing who's playing what. Like going to Disneyland, repeatedly. There is the sense of comfort in a familiar layout. The individual attractions change, but I know where the table games are, the poker slots, the dollar reels, and so forth. You make all this fuid and subject to the whim of who is on what game on his ipod, and you loose me. Give me Oz, but don't take away the magic of the haunted forest, the witch's castle, and Emerald city. I can look an ipad on the bus. But in Vegas, I want Oz.

  7. I take exception to the following quote: "Casino iPad games already have proven viable in smaller test markets in Northern California, Oregon and Oklahoma." This statement was not vetted well. In actuality, iPad games have proven they are not viable in the Northern California and the Oregon test markets. They have generated little to no interest from gamers at those locations. Both California properties have already shut the iPad gaming rooms down, and the remaining casino is slated to do the same in the near future. The reason is simple: iPad games lose money due to prounounced lack of interest and play by regular gamers. Younger gamers have not demonstrated interest either. Whatever the future of gaming may hold, this isn't the "change" gamers seek.

  8. As with any new product, performance is always relative and under scrutiny. Our partners understand that innovation and change take time, and it's hard work. Acres 4.0 continues to learn and modify our products based on the input of our beta site development partners, a progressive group that continues to expand.

    In fact, Acres 4.0's Oklahoma partner is increasing its reach to more than 300 iPad devices in the spring. In addition, the platform will be installed at two new locations in California by the end of the year. We have also had great success so far with our electronic pull-tab platform in Minnesota (see related articles at http://www.startribune.com/local/1744248... and http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display...).

    We realize not everyone will agree with us that this is the road to the future, but that's OK. We respect the opinions of all and have faith that our work will indeed add value to the future of our great industry.