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Top 10 new games and innovations at the 2018 Global Gaming Expo

15 Oct 2018

By Gary Trask
Casino-goers — particularly those who frequent sportsbooks — want advanced technology; convenience; and unique, immersive experiences.

That was the main takeaway from this year's Global Gaming Expo (G2E), where key players in the industry were flaunting all kinds of new games and innovations to the tens of thousands of folks who flooded the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas last week.

Casino City roamed every last inch of the 2 million square foot convention floor over the course of four days, and while this list truly could have been a top 100, here are the 10 products that stood out the most and that you'll most likely being seeing on your favorite casino floor within the next 12 months.

10. James Bond - GoldenEye slot from Scientific Games

The G2E showroom features more than 500 exhibitors spread across the 2 million square foot convention center, and at times, slot machines seem to take up more than half the space.

One of the most lavish and impressive "booths" at this year's show was that of Scientific Games, which brought in actress Famke Janssen, who played Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye, to help promote the launch of the new James Bond - GoldenEye slot. (Janssen also famously played Petra in the gambling cult film Rounders. Somehow, the movie was glaringly absent from her list of notable performances handed out at G2E, even though this was a gaming show. But I digress . . .)

While I'm not a regular at the slot machines, the visuals on the new games are like nothing I've ever seen before. Using Pepper's ghost — a sophisticated illusion technique used in the theater, amusement parks, museums and concerts — in the "immersive" bonus round drops you into the middle of a scene from the movie that plays inside the actual machine. Definitely the type of "wow" factor that could lure a non-slot player like myself into inserting a few dollars, simply for the entertainment factor.

9. Sex and the City slot
Speaking of the "wow" factor, IGT's new version of its Sex and the City slot machine is 4-D, so players can manipulate features and bonuses without actually touching the screen. What's more, the machine can calibrate with the screen using the player's eyes to play the game and collect prizes. Very cool.

"Players love it because it's different and it's intuitive, so it's easy to use," explained Dallas Orchard, IGT's chief product officer. "At the same time, we don't push the technology onto the player. This is meant to enhance the experience, not overtake it, so if they aren’t comfortable playing the game with their eyes, they don't have to. They can play it like a traditional slot machine."

IGT expects the new game to be rolled out on casino floors in Q2 2019.

8. IGT's Cardless Connect

This new system being introduced by IGT turns your mobile phone into a virtual casino loyalty card and payment device.

"People are already using their phones to buy their Starbucks coffee, or for boarding passes on airplanes," said Matthew Hui, IGT's director of product management. "Why shouldn't they do the same when walking into a casino and playing their favorite slot machine?"

Once a player enters the system, the next time they sit down to play with their phone in hand, the machine automatically recognizes them, greets them and displays their loyalty point balance. When the player leaves, the app automatically cards them out.

IGT is also unveiling slot machines with web browsers on them, so players can spin the wheels at the slot and at the same time order drinks, make dinner reservations or place a sports bet at the casino.

7. Willie Nelson slot (weed references included)

With legalized marijuana becoming commonplace through the U.S., Everi Games decided to ride the wave and introduced a Willie Nelson-themed slot machine, complete with images of marijuana leaves and other blatant cannabis references, such as a bet for $4.20 (yes, "four-twenty" is slang for the consumption of cannabis).

"Let's just say it's true to the Willie Nelson brand," said Mike Wabschall, Everi Games executive producer, with a laugh.

The game is a perfect fit for Nevada, considering Nelson has his own brand of marijuana called Willie's Reserve, which is available for sale in Las Vegas dispensaries. Everi hopes to see the game hit casino floors early next year. And, just in case there are any sensitivities out there, the company plans to provide a version of the game free of weed references.

6. Cashless table games
The new ACS PlayOn cashless gaming option has already landed at tribal properties in California such as San Manuel Casino, Thunder Valley Casino Resort and Red Hawk Casino, and could debut in Las Vegas by the end of this year.

The concept is simple. Instead laying down your cash at a table game and waiting for the dealer to count it out and then deliver your chips, the table has a wireless handheld device that allows you to swipe or insert your debit card to buy in — or more importantly, rebuy — all while the play on the table continues. A receipt is provided for the transaction, and the dealer receives a cash equivalent voucher, letting him know how many chips to provide to the player.

The benefits for both the player and the casino are obvious. For the player, there is no need to carry cash or get up from your seat when you go bust, as long as you are willing to pay the fee, typically about 4% of the transaction amount. There is no sign-up or registration required. All you need is debit card with a PIN.

For the casinos, anytime you can get the player remaining in their seat instead of getting up and keep the game moving along, it's a good thing. PlayOn claims the casino experiences stronger holding power and increased revenue, as well as more hands per hour.

5. Blackjack Burnout
Almost all gaming trade shows feature a slew of new table games or variations of games. In my experience, most of these games never make it to the casino floor, or are short-lived when they do — but I'm always intrigued by them and give them a shot when given the chance.

After visiting the booths of more than a half-dozen of these games, the one I enjoyed the most was Blackjack Burnout, which was developed by Angel Espino, a former dealer who now owns Casino Gaming Development out of Colorado.

Blackjack Burnout is, of course, a variation of blackjack. Regular rules apply, but the player gets a second chance of winning – with a fee. After receiving the first two cards, a player can "burn" a card on the third or fourth hit card and get the next one off the deck. Of course, this costs the player 20% of his or her bet, or $1 for every $5 bet. The "burnout" bet isn't required on every hand, but must be made before the deal.

Blackjack Burnout also offers a side bet in which you can get paid for winning streaks of two hands (pays 2-to-1), three hands (pays 4-to-1) or four hands (pays 8-to-1).

According to Espino, the house edge on the game is 1.74%. While I never typically play gimmick games or side bets, since they can drain your bankroll, this is a fun game that is worth a try just for a change of pace. The game is currently offered at Twin Pine Casino Hotel in California and Saratoga Casino Blackhawk in Colorado, and Espino says he hopes to see it land in Nevada next year.

4. Running Rich Racing skill game

Skill-based gaming has been all the rage at G2E over the last few years. There's still some question if this genre of games will ever live up to its lofty expectations, but if they do, we're betting that the "reimagined" Running Rich Racing from Competition Interactive will be in the mix.

Trust me, I remember when my kids were seriously obsessed with Mario Kart back in the day when the Nintendo Wii was a big hit, and Running Rich Racing has a similar look and feel. Players can race against up to two other real players and six to eight automated players. Within every race, there is a spin of a 5x3 slot reel, providing more chances to win. Players can bet on themselves or on their friends while cheering them on, and the game console is state-of-the-art, with comfortable and easily adjustable seating with drink holders.

Following a six-month trial period in Las Vegas, the game was certified by BMM Test Labs and is expected to be rolled out in California casinos in the coming weeks. Competition Interactive was founded by CEO Paul Steelman of Steelman Partners of Las Vegas, an international designing firm that has worked on buildings for casino magnates such as Kirk Kerkorian, Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adelson and Stanley Ho.

3. Roll to Win Craps table

If you don't know how to play, craps can be an intimidating game, with large and typically loud crowds gathered around the table, hooting and hollering with every roll of the dice.

Aruze Gaming is hoping to change that – and, of course, to attract millennials – with the new Roll to Win Craps table, which will debut early next The LINQ Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, which, not so coincidentally, just unveiled a "futuristic" sportsbook last week. This game is played just like regular craps, but is a hybrid with both live (there is one live dealer and real dice are thrown by the players) and digital (all bets are placed electronically on 21.5-inch LCDs, and each bet is immediately reproduced in an animation) aspects, to go along with laser effects, loud sounds after every roll and animated flames when the dice get hot.

Another benefit is the quicker pace of play. Since a second dealer isn’t needed to collect and pay out chips after every roll, the game moves along much faster, leaving more time for players to interact. In addition to more rolls of the dice, another advantage for the casino is the ability to offer advertising space or showcase events and other promotions on an LED wall along the interior of the table.

2. Sports betting kiosks and tablets
Following last May's Supreme Court decision to abolish PASPA, it's no surprise that the topic that dominated G2E this year was sports betting.

Many companies are starting to pump out innovations in this vertical, including Scientific Games, which had its new sports betting kiosks and tablets on display at G2E.

Expected to be rolled out by the end of this year in New Jersey and Mississippi, the Scientific Games' sportsbook solutions have been used in Europe for more than 15 years and can be found at over 3,000 retail shops. Similar to the William Hill units found throughout Nevada, the kiosks allow a sports bettor to deposit and withdraw from their account and place bets. In addition, Scientific Games, which announced the acquisition of Don Best Sports last week, is introducing mini tablets – about the size of an iPad – that are erected to a comfortable chair that sits inside the sportsbook. Most anything can be done using the tablet – view odds, place bets, order drinks, play video slot machines and more.

"While the sportsbooks in the U.S. have mastered how to display the games for the customer, what they haven't done a very good job at, in our mind, is integrating the odds and prompting and making it easy to place a bet," said Keith O'Loughlin, senior vice president of sportsbook and platforms at SG Digital. "Look, sports betting is supposed to be fun. It should be about long lines at the counter or straining your eyes to see the odds screen up on the wall. We like to think we're bringing convenience to sports betting here in the U.S."

1. CrystalBetting Terminal "redefines" sports betting

IGT's asserts that its new CrystalBetting Terminal is "your best bet for an unrivaled sports betting experience," and that it "redefines the traditional sports betting experience." While this kind of PR-speak jargon found in marketing materials is very often hyperbole, take it from this tried and true sports bettor: IGT is dead on with its claims. This could really reshape the sportsbook experience.

In the simplest terms possible, the easy-to-use terminals are a one-stop shop for all things sports betting. Within the 27-inch screen, a player can stream multiple games of their games of choice, listen the audio a selected game, view up-to-the-minute odds, charge their mobile devices, and, most importantly, place wagers on a high-def touch screen, including in-play bets. While most in-play wagering in Nevada is currently done via mobile apps, IGT says that the terminals will provide a more seamless and quicker option.

A representative from IGT told me that it would be up to the operators as to where they would place the terminals, meaning they wouldn't necessarily have to be located in the sportsbooks. Some books may even consider dropping a few of them in a small lounge for a VIP experience. Following a field test, IGT hopes to have the terminals in casinos next year.
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