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Horse racing slots

27 April 2010

On a trip to Las Vegas long enough ago that we didn't have casinos in the Midwest, I took a time out when things were going badly at blackjack and video poker.

I decided to relax for a little cheap play on a horse racing game, Sigma Derby. Maybe you remember it. Odds would be posted and you'd pick a horse to win, or a couple to finish 1-2, and horses would race around a track. It was all mechanical, not video.

The race took time, and there was plenty of time between races to bet. I knew I could sit there and stretch my budget.

What happened was a lot better than a little conservation. On about my fourth or fifth bet, I took a flyer on an exacta, picking two long shots to finish first and second. To my shock, it came in, and more than 1,000 quarters came pouring into my tray.

I stuck around for about an hour, neither winning nor losing very much, but had replenished by bankroll a bit. I returned more successfully to my main games the next day.

What brings all this to mind is that a couple of new horse racing games are ready for market. This time they're on video slot machines, and they won't be the relaxed day at the virtual races Sigma Derby was. But they promise some excitement for those who enjoy multi-tiered jackpot play to go with their video bonus rounds.

One game is Breeders' Cup, from Bally Technologies. It's on Bally's V32 elongated, vertical widescreen platform — if you've seen single-player Roulette from Bally, you know the look. It draws on the tradition of the Breeders Cup, two days of racing drawing champions in different divisions from all around the world, leading up to the $5 million Breeders Cup Classic. This year's races are Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

There's a five-level progressive jackpot, but the real entertainment comes in the Horse Race Bonus feature. Then, as hooves thunder, the William Tell Overture plays and a track announcer calls the race, you can root on your horse.

The game has 40 paylines, with a maximum bet of 5 coins per line. That's a $2 bet on a penny machine, and that's a racing kind of number in itself. I know I've put down a few $2 bets at the track in my time.

Of course, Bally isn't limiting itself to penny players. Breeders' Cup is available to operators in denominations ranging up to $100, though I think I might have a little trouble staying the course with max bets of $20,000. Most likely, I'll be on the lookout for the penny, 2-cent or 3-cent versions.

While Bally has licensed the Breeders' Cup, racing's big end of the season event, Aristocrat Technologies has gone for the most famous event in American racing, the Kentucky Derby.

A late April release is expected, just in time for the May 1 Run for the Roses. It has four progressive jackpot levels. The top jackpot determined by your reel symbols, but the other three progressives can be won during the bonus round. And yes, the bonus round is a horse race. It's interactive: Binoculars appear on the screen and you touch them to move your horse along.

Aristocrat is a pioneer in multitier progressives, having brought the four-level Cash Express, powered by Hyperlink, to casinos in 2002. The progressives, displayed on a large screen over a full bank of machines as well as at the individual games, use a variety of base games, all linked to the jackpot events. In the case of Kentucky Derby, both base games will be racing-themed, with Oaks Day and Run for the Roses.

Each of the base games has its own graphics and bonus events, but link together for the big race.

Breeders' Cup and Kentucky Derby add to a mini-boom in slots that tie into horse racing. Multimedia Games doesn't have the big-name licensing deal, but goes to the virtual track in Sport of Kings. In a video reel base game, players collect entries to a horse race. When time for the race comes, all at the bank go to the race on the overhead screen together. Players must play all 20 lines on the base game, plus a wager of half the total line bet, to be eligible for the racing event. Timing of the races is operator configurable, at approximately every 10 minutes.

And Konami has Beat the Field, a four-level progressive on both reel stepper and video formats. The main bonus event is a horse race, with players allocated horses based on bet level. The winner in each race brings a progressive jackpot, while other players win consolation credits. Everyone wins something together.

Will the games go the distance? It's too early to tell, but at least they're at the gate.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski