IGT hopes to hit high note with debut of Whitney Houston slot

October 12, 2023 4:08 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
October 12, 2023 4:08 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
  • United States

If you wanna dance with somebody, few could be a better choice than Whitney Houston.

Story continues below

The late singer, among the top-selling musical artists of all time, graces the newest blockbuster slot from International Game Technology.

The towering new slot machine, developed with the cooperation of the Whitney E. Houston estate and Primary Wave Music, is making its global debut this week at IGT’s sprawling booth, #3659, at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. The game is housed in the Skyrise 55 cabinet, which features two 55-inch curved screens and is making its global debut as well. The machine plays videos of Houston performing, clips of her top songs such as “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” “So Emotional,” and “How Will I Know” with music-related imagery.

“Whenever we do a license theme, we want to make sure that we choose a license with relevant elements for slot play. In this case, you’ve got stars, you’ve got records that spill out onto the reels,” said Phil O’Shaughnessy, IGT vice president of global communications, events, and sustainability. “It creates a really festive environment.”

The agreement with the Houston estate has another factor. Market research showed that the Whitney Houston fan demographic aligns closely with the core slot-player demographic, O’Shaughnessy said, calling the resulting game “the perfect blend of art and science.”

The game includes stacked wild symbols, cash on reels, lock-and-respin, and persistence features that are popular with players. He said players are likely to notice that the play of the Whitney Houston game resembles that of the popular Prosperity Link. In addition, a Prosperity Link multilevel progressive is also being launched on the Skyrise 55 cabinet.

The IGT display spotlights four Whitney Houston slots side by side, but they will be available in a variety of configurations.

Mesa 4K ETG

In electronic table games, the new Mesa 4K cabinet boasts a 27-inch screen and allows bettors to play as many as four games at once from one credit meter, mixing and matching from games including roulette, baccarat, and blackjack.

“Most players will play probably two games at a time,” said Kevin Parker, IGT’s director of ETG. Still, he said the average bet on ETGs ranges from $27 to $34, even with a $1 minimum. That is far higher than for a slot machine.

Players can choose their games and make bets with an intuitive interface that allows quick action. Roulette games have “hot number” and “cold number” choices and players can drag a finger over a screen to bet sections of the number layout.

“The terminal is new,” Parker said. “It has higher performance with less equipment inside, so less chance of breaking.” The new design is seven inches shorter from front to back, allowing players to see about 70 percent of the roulette wheel from a sitting position, more than triple the 20 percent visible previously. The wheel is much quicker and more dependable than in the past, he added.

Parker said ETGs attract three types of players: those who find live-dealer tables too expensive or intimidating; slot players looking for a different experience; and “hybrids” who prefer ETGs to other options. “It’s a table game in box that’s not a slot, so it really does attract other people.”

Video poker-sports betting combo

“This is like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of slots,” said Sid Lazarus, senior product manager of poker products.

He was talking about a video poker game that allows players to play video poker while placing sports bets, or vice versa. Using the PeakBar Top cabinet with the sports-betting option, players choose their preferred video poker game as usual, then can toggle to the equivalent of a sports-betting kiosk simply by touching the “sports bet” option. “They’re into a fully interactive world of sports wagering and at the same time concurrent video poker play,” Lazarus said.

During the video poker, a sports ticker runs across the bottom of the screen, but players have the option of “pinning” their favorite games to the screen for even faster access to in-game bets.

The sports-betting screen has all the options available at a kiosk or sports book, and the money for the sports bet is deducted from credits on the machine. A bet slip is printed and winning tickets can be redeemed at the machine, with the payout added to the credit balance. For accounting and reporting purposes, the machine notes in the background how much was bet for sports and how much for video poker.

“Everything happens off the credit meter. All I have to do is put money in the machine and I can make my bet,” Lazarus said. “We want to create an environment for players to be able to reinvest their winnings in a convenient way.” Players cash out by printing a TITO ticket.

The larger Crystal Flex cabinet offers operators the ability to stream games, but that space can also be used for advertising or other displays.

The current sports-betting option works only with IGT’s Playsports solution, but Lazarus said the goal is to have it function with those from other providers. Additional options might be available by October 2024, he said.