For attracting players to a casino, few things work as well as an old-fashioned slot tournament – unless it’s a tournament that can take place anywhere on the floor, feature seasonal twists on players’ favorite games, and offer a shot at free cruise tickets as well as a big jackpot.
“A tournament is one of the best traffic builders that we have seen in this industry,” said Luigi Cacciapuoti, IGT’s vice president of specialty products and ETG. “It brings people at the time and the day that you see most fit.” His department is responsible for IGT’s TournXtreme, the only technology capable of offering tournaments for video slots, stepper machines, and video poker games. It also offers the opportunity for tournament play with any IGT core cabinet – such as the S3000, Crystal Curve, and Peak 49 – and with a variety of tournament-only games based on popular titles including Cleopatra, Hexbreak3r, and Wheel of Fortune.
“We give our customers the possibility to bring the excitement (of a tournament) wherever they want,” Cacciapuoti said. That allows operators to generate traffic to a new or revamped section of the slot floor, a bar, or other areas.
With TournXtreme, operators can switch the selected machines from standard play mode to tournament mode almost instantaneously. The game lineup includes seasonal themes for tournaments offered in conjunction with Halloween, Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving, and other observances.
The technology also gives operators flexibility in setting up a tournament. A common but time-consuming approach has participants signing up for a time slot and competing with a half-dozen or so others. TournXtreme allows “walk up” participation, in which players are recognized by their player card or loyalty level and compete in the tournament on their own schedule, with the tournament machines spread across multiple sections of the floor if desired. Cacciapuoti said a Gulf Coast casino took that a step further in a promotion to enroll new loyalty club members. New members qualified for the tournament by reaching a specified amount of coin-in and then could enter the tournament on their own.
From a player perspective, the No. 1 requirement is that a tournament be fun. Whenever an IGT team member gives a demo to casino executives, he said, “they start very serious, then the game clicks with them, and they start bashing like crazy.” IGT has designed a series of games specifically for tournaments, with features that increase player interaction and excitement.
Players typically use both hands, one pressing the spin button repeatedly and the other on the touch screen to pop balloons or collect objects. These titles are not available for day-to-day use.
IGT’s approach with TournXtreme and the other tournament options are driven by feedback from players and customers, he said. “This is what the players want, which is always a great inspiration, but this is also what the customers want, because it’s a marketing tool.”
To bolster that aspect of tournaments, the company is reviving its Spin & Sail promotion, which had been offered for several years but suspended during the COVID pandemic. IGT is partnering this year with Carnival Cruise Lines. Cruises will depart in the fall from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Los Angeles, marking the first time Spin & Sail ports are available on both coasts. Several casinos nationwide have started their qualifying tournaments, and Cacciapuoti said he expects record participation.
Operators meeting IGT participation standards can receive up to four Spin & Sail packages, each with four cruise tickets for distribution to their winners. On the cruise, those players will compete in a Cleopatra slot tournament with a $250,000 prize pool.
“We like to be partners with our customers,” Cacciapuoti said of Spin & Sail. “Our goal is not simply to sell a product and forget about it. We want to provide our customers with solutions.”