Are Slot Machines About To Get Smart?

Technology keeps advancing more and more. As technology advances, so do the games. New laws and the millennial apathy are starting to force slot makers to innovate.


Recently a group of employees gathered around a tabletop computer in Glendale, California. They were searching out a screen that was filled with hundreds of bottle caps just for one from a specific brand.


Claudia Wirachman who is Gamblit’s human resources manager, scanned the 43 inch screen. In another part of the office other testers were playing a game called Smoothie Blast. Smoothie Blast is a game in which players line up as many virtual fruits as possible in a race that is against the clock. In the grand finale, virtual graphics appear even more. A virtual monkey is seen making a virtual smoothie from the virtual fruit.


Smoothie Blast and Brew Caps Squad seems to be attempts to develop the next viral gaming app. It seems like an attempt to make a candy crush type of game designed for players waiting in line, but with more at stake. Both of the games are gambling types. The first rounds of both games begin with a wager and they both potentially end with a cash prize.


With young gamblers, slot machines have went cold in recent years. More and more of the youth population are starting to go to Las Vegas for their clubs and restaurants. There has been an increase of the youth population betting on sports games. Many of them like to wager on sports and lay bets at the tables. Since a lot of the youth population have been raised on videogames, many do not have an interest in pressing a button and waiting on a random number to determine whether or not they have won. Nevada’s slot revenue has decreased 17% since 2007 and for table games it went down 3% since that year.


Some of the gambling industry experts are not concerned about this. They believe it is best to wait until the youth population become core slot customers. In other words middle-aged and elderly. However, some are not convinced. Bill Hornbuckle, a chief marketing officer and president casino giant MGM Resorts Internationals recently stated that he was disappointed at what was said in a recent conversation by a slot machine executive. The slot machine executive told him to not worry about the future and that ‘there will always be 51 year old women.”


Many casino executives are not comfortable with leaving it up to chance and are planning to remove the traditional slot games from their game floor in order to create room space for craft beer and third-wave coffee. In the past, there were strict regulations placed limits on which manufacturers could factor skill to be included in the outcome of the games. Currently under these new laws in Nevada and New Jersey, game creators are now able to alter the mathematics behind payout structures for slot machines. These laws were made last year. They have legalized slots in which the outcome is not just based on random luck. The changes have started a revolution in the gambling industry. Also, they have paved the way for videogame elements produced by Gamblit. Casino giants like MGM, Caesars Entertainment Corp., and Foxwoods Resort Casino announced that they plan to release Gamblit games later this year.


An electronics engineer named Eric Meyerhofer found Gamblit in 2010 with a partner. They analyzed successful games like Call of Duty, Madden Football, and Angry Birds. They studied them to determine if there’s a possibility they could be adapted for casinos.


It was difficult for the group of employees to create a wagering system that rewarded skill, but ensuring that the odds are still favoring the house at the same time. The game Smoothie Blast is able to reward players that are skilled. It is able to do this by increasing the odds of winning or by giving the players a bigger chance at a bigger payout than the less skilled players. A different version of the game lets the payouts be random, but allows the players to gain points which can be turned into cash or a different prize.


In the casino industry, changes occur slowly. Some of the casinos are worried that the new games would eliminate the traditional slot machine sales. Currently, the traditional slot machine sales still account for 77% of the total gambling revenue at the commercial casinos in the nation.


Meyerhofer does see a possible upside for longer wagering intervals. He thinks it will have limited appeal for gambling addicts in comparison to traditional slots. “If you want a heavy-duty gambling experience, we don’t think our product is for that player,” he said.

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