Pre-Super Bowl hoopla spotlights first ‘season’ of Aristocrat’s NFL slots

February 4, 2024 7:12 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
February 4, 2024 7:12 PM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports

Culminating an impressive first season, a touted rookie might challenge the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce storyline for attention ahead of Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.

This all-star isn’t an athlete, but has logged thousands of games since Week One: It’s Aristocrat Gaming’s line of NFL slots, which debuted shortly before the 2023 season opener and now boasts four titles.

Aristocrat will be front and center in marking the first Super Bowl since the line’s introduction and the first for Nevada on Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium, just off the Las Vegas Strip. The company will make its presence known at a booth on “radio row” on the Strip, outdoor “touchdown towers” at the walkways between New York-New York and MGM casinos, mobile billboards cruising the Strip, and dozens of NFL Super Bowl Jackpots and NFL Super Bowl Link slot machines throughout the city.

“The games are scaling on casino floors in Las Vegas, so fans who come in for the Super Bowl will have the opportunity to play,” said Mark Wadley, chief marketing officer of Aristocrat Gaming.

Before the release of the line’s first offering, NFL Super Bowl Jackpots, operators ranked it as the most anticipated title in an Eilers & Krejcik survey. That game, which offers a $1 million progressive jackpot, is on the short list of nominees in two categories of the EKG Slot Awards Show: top-performing third-party IP-branded game and most innovative land-based game. Winners will be named Feb. 29.

In addition to Super Bowl Jackpots, three other titles – Overtime Cash, NFL Kickoff, and Super Bowl Link – are available now, with Winning Drive and Rings of Victory to become available later this year.

“Players like the entertainment value of the games,” Wadley said. All NFL slots allow players to choose which of the 32 NFL teams represents them. Depending on the title, additional touches include videos from NFL games, audio of famous stadium anthems, and a feature that allows a player to swipe the screen to kick a field goal.

Wadley said Aristocrat doesn’t have data on which teams slot players most frequently choose. Operators have reported that players often switch from one team to another during their sessions. He added that it’s too early to tell whether players’ interest in NFL slots might change with the sports season, but he sees a year-round connection.

“The NFL is a prominent sport in conversation and culture throughout the year, whether it be the actual season, the NFL Draft, the NFL Combine, or other activities in the offseason,” he said. “The engagement level of a brand like the NFL is consistent.”

Aristocrat is also spreading the message of responsible gaming and “positive play” during the runup to the Super Bowl. “With the scale and reach of a brand like the NFL, it’s a tremendous opportunity that comes with a tremendous responsibility. So we built a campaign around positive play,” Wadley said.

The 2023 Super Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz., was the first one in a state where fans could bet on the game legally; this year’s site is within walking distance of  dozens of megacasinos offering virtually every type of regulated gambling. While Super Bowl sites are chosen about three to four years in advance, the selections of Phoenix and Las Vegas reflect a public acceptance of gambling and casinos and a change of heart by the league, which previously opposed any link between the sport and wagering.

The American Gaming Association’s annual survey of Americans’ attitudes about gambling, released in October, showed that 49 percent of adults gambled legally in the past year in some form – lottery, casino, sports betting, igaming, pari-mutuel, or video lottery terminals. That was the highest rate since 2013. The survey also found that 102 million adult Americans, or 41 percent, had visited a casino to gamble or partake in other entertainment in the past 12 months, approaching pre-pandemic levels.

Regardless, the NFL has prohibited players and staff of Super Bowl contenders Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers from any form of gambling, including casino games and betting on any sport, while in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl.

Aristocrat has a multiyear slot-licensing agreement with the NFL, the league’s first such deal. The company also has a licensing agreement with the NFL Players Association.

“The sports vertical, from our point of view, is a really interesting opportunity – the fan base, the brand affinity, the entertainment value,” Wadley said. “We’re always looking and keeping our eyes out for the next potential opportunity.”

Mark Gruetze is a veteran journalist from suburban Pittsburgh who covers casino gaming issues and personalities.