G2E: Slots rule in casino revenue, but ‘content is king’

October 17, 2019 10:00 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
October 17, 2019 10:00 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports

Slot manufacturers’ innovation wars over cabinet size, screen orientation, and dazzling signage overshadow a crucial element of why the machines are so vital to casinos, a Konami executive said Tuesday.

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“Things that look sexy, shiny, and bright attract people to the game,” said Thomas A. Jingoli, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Konami Gaming. “But at the end of the day, content is still king.

“Keeping them in the seat is what differentiates a good game from a fantastic game.”

Jingoli spoke as part of a Global Gaming Expo panel discussion on “Casino Floor Innovations: The Slot Machine Is Still King.” Also on the panel were David Lopez, president and CEO of AGS, and Harald Neumann, CEO of Novomatic AG. Roger Gros, CEO of Global Gaming Business, moderated.

Despite slot revenue flattening in several jurisdictions while table and online games increase, Gros said slots continue to dominate casino floor space and produce the largest portion of gaming revenue.

Lopez said several slot manufacturers have been running a hardware race the past few years, triggering a number of innovations.

“Hardware got crazy attractive, the design ID was so tight. Now we’re seeing that in the sign packages,” he said. “Now that everyone’s got the hardware game together, it’s an innovation of science.”

Neumann, whose company’s core markets are in Europe, said casinos there are a world from the away United States. European gaming sites average 20 to 30 machines each, he said, so multi-game machines – as many as 50 games on one machine – are common.

The two areas do share one similarity: Slot machines are king in Europe, as well, he said.

The three panelists predicted that cashless gaming and the increased use of facial recognition are likely to be the biggest issues in the slot operators’ world in the next few years.

Cashless gaming would allow casino patrons to load money onto the equivalent of a debit card or virtual wallet. It then could be used for gaming or other purchases in all casino venues.

With cashless gaming, “you will see a significant increase in coin-in, certainly on the slot machine,” Jingoli said. “That’s what’s going to drive revenue.”

He said Ticket-In/Ticket-Out technology had a similar impact when it was introduced, as did the launch of multi-denomination slots.

Lopez predicted cashless play will be in use at slot machines before it’s approved for table games. Going cashless would pay dividends for the industry because it would take a large amount of working capital off the floor, he said.

Neumann said several European countries have stringent Know Your Customer and player protection requirements.

“We know every activity of the player, how much he is losing, how often he is playing and so on. We have to carefully watch (to see) if there’s some kind of unusual behavior.”

He predicted the United States will eventually adopt a version of player protection involving registration or facial recognition at casinos, although Jingoli said the installation of facial recognition cameras on slots to identify uncarded players would require a major shift for casinos.

“You’re going to have to communicate that. If I was a patron sitting at a slot machine, I would want it communicated to me that there’s a camera in that machine taking pictures of you (to) cross-reference that and figure out who you are.

“I understand why an operator would want that information, but I also understand from a patron’s view … that you don’t want somebody tracking your every move.”

After the panel, Jingoli told CDC Gaming Reports that he thinks the trend of casinos raising slot hold is “dangerous,” although he allowed that circumstances differ depending on where the casino is.

“Most casinos argue that it’s not an issue and doesn’t affect things long-term for the player,” he said. “I think a player feels it all, right here in their gut. They don’t need to know the math. They feel it in their wallet, and I think it affects their play long-term.”