Casino Technology Server Based or Server Supported Gaming / Europe

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Casino Technology

Server Based or Server Supported Gaming / Europe

I have found the following article in the Casino Enterprise Management Magazine by Sheleen Quish, Senior VP of Information Technology and Human Resources at Ameristar Casinos: http://www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com/articles/may-2011/demystifying-server-based-gaming. The article, albeit a bit old, explains very well what the Server Based (or Server Supported) gaming is and it takes, not surprisingly, an American view of both. Since I haven’t seen yet a European take on the subject, I thought I will share my thoughts with you. First of all I suggest that you read the article as I will skip the technological explanations which are done wonderfully there.

Casino Technology Slots

Both SBG and SSG represent new wave of technology, which still hasn’t reached critical mass in Europe. I am afraid though that it will come for all the wrong reasons, casinos will start buying and using it not because it will bring many measurable benefits, but because it is there. Logical approach would be to analyse what SBG and SSG could bring in terms of revenues to the casino, over and above ROI. The technical base for systems is already expensive and comprehensive (which is very well described in the article), which in itself brings a consequence of casinos either relying on outside IT support or having to employ IT personnel in addition to what they already have. Those costs are to be carried regardless if a new casino is build or an old one adapted, in later case those costs could be even greater.

But let us presume that we already have Ethernet floor. The next step is decision SBG or SSG? Both require communication structure in place, one permanent (SBG), the other only from time to time. Both require pretty powerful servers with all possible redundancy (especially SBG), which mean even more cost (and maintenance – if you think that you can just switch those things on and forget about them, well, you got another think coming). What, in addition to communication related costs, should be the decision factors when choosing SBG or SSG? Consider the following:

  • Type of your estate – do you have many locations or do you operate in one location?
  •  Are you planning to add new locations anytime soon?
  • Are those locations geographically spread, so those are far away in terms of getting there?
  • What is your customer base?

The last question, at least in my opinion, is the most important one. This is where you should start, considering what both SBG and SSG offer. Let me use the SBG benefit list from the article (the quotes are in italics, my comments are below each item):

  • Multi-channel gaming, which allows players to access games on other platforms as well, such as mobile phones.

Is really a mobile gaming solution that strong in your estate that this point is to be considered? I am sorry, but if you are using an explanation of being future proof, then I don’t think that the expense is worth it. With technology, you are never future proof.

  • Linked gaming content, support for wide area multiplayer and progressive jackpots.

All this is available now, without the SBG.

  • Instant access to any game available in an operator’s catalogue, enabling a long tail effect. This can be compared to stand-alone gaming terminals, which require games to be installed on location by changing a computer chip (or EPROM) or SSG, which requires that the complete game is downloaded before it can be played.

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This is one of the heavier arguments in favour of SBG. Consider your customer base: if those are local players, which “own” the machines and games in them, do they like frequent game changes or do they feel confused and cheated? If your casino caters exclusively to tourists, then game change is not that important. Next issue to be considered are the games themselves: often it takes some time for the game to “pick up”. If you give three months to a game to prove its worth, frequent and multiple game changes may lead to drop, not increase, in revenues. Lastly, unified roll out in many parts of your estate may not necessarily be that much of an argument as not all games perform equally well in casinos which are geographically distant from each other. In order to lower that effect, you may need to try slowly and then go big, which is possibly pretty much the same as you do now. Consequently, SBG would bring you savings on travel of your technician – is that a big enough cost saving to justify a 24 hour band width rent?

I have one more issue, which is also covered in the magazine article – what about those games, where do they come from? Right now there is not that much content from various suppliers on one SBG system. You would actually limit your choice to one (or two) suppliers, possibly for ever…

  • Personalization through the use of player profiles.

Sounds very good, don’t it? But SBG will not do it on its own (well, it may, to an extent) – someone needs to manage it. Do you have such a person already employed?

  • Lower hardware, software and maintenance costs for game terminals, due to their thin client nature. (This is the hope, not necessarily a promise.)

Those terminals have to have something in them. Any hardware breaks. Maintenance is possibly no different to what you have now.

  • Real-time monitoring of game terminal status and game transactions.

Available now with so called back office systems, which most casinos use anyway.

  • Higher security, since the RNG and game logic can’t be manipulated at individual game terminals. (Not sure this is a major issue)

No argument at all, security is good as it is now.

  • More control-software, hardware and peripherals can be disabled if digital signature verification fails. Compared to stand-alone and SSG terminals, unauthorized SBG terminals cannot be operated since they rely on the central system in order to function.

Normal slot machines in licensed environment will not operate if not authorised by a licensing body anyway. Modern slot machines also have signature check built in, latest standards even make such self-check mandatory.

  • Responsible gaming features that require advanced monitoring capabilities.

Luckily we don’t have that much need for it… If needed, some back office systems can handle that task too.

  • Reduced risk of piracy, since only the client components of the game are stored locally.

If you handle your security and procedures in the casino well, you will not have an issue with piracy.

Casino Technology Benefits

One additional benefit of SBG or SSG is a possibility of adapting the percentage of the game on the fly, or based on current demand. The theory goes that during the week, when the casino is not that full, we can offer greater percentages. When it is full (as mostly is the case during weekends), we can lower the percentages as people will play anyway. But look at it this way: if you operate a casino frequented by tourist only, why not have low percentages all week long? If you operate for locals, you will loose them as players will recognize change in game percentage. If you believe otherwise, well… check it. I think that playing with percentages is dangerous when done without proper analytical work, as it may have potentially negative effect on your player base. They may simply go somewhere else, where machines pay more. In addition, this change is covered by multi-denomination option in standard machines, where lower denomination often means lower payback percentage.

Casino Technology Conclusion

Concluding, I don’t think that costs involved in introduction of SBG or SSG in European casinos are justified by the benefits. Las Vegas Adria has a SSG system for quite some time now and I haven’t heard anything about this casino being better by any measure than any other casino on the strip. So if there is no measurable, significant difference, why do it? What do you think?

Casino Technology In The UK

At present within the UK Casinos there are 3 main suppliers of Slot Machines to the industry IGT Systems  AGI Novomatitics Systems  WMS Systems .  The only manufacture to a server based system in a UK Casino is IGT, this system is installed at Gala Leo Liverpool (Post coming soon)

Started working in the Casino Industry in 1985, just never managed to leave as yet. Visited 99% of all UK Casinos, seen them all,
This Guest Post was submitted by “Industry Professional” . (S)he has been in the industry for many years and is very well regarded in their chosen field

Is the UK Casino Market Ready For This Type of  Casino Technology

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Started working in the Casino Industry in 1985, just never managed to leave as yet. Visited 99% of all UK Casinos, seen them all,

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