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Best of John Grochowski

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Innovative Slot Products

2 May 2002

Not long ago, I was asked to serve on a panel evaluating the most innovative casino products of 2001 for the trade publication Casino Executive Reports.

As I waded through the mountains of material manufacturers had sent in nominating their products, it was striking just how much came from the slot machine industry. There are other areas of innovation, much of it having to do with accounting systems. A good deal more involves the transition to cashless gaming--you can expect replacement of coin hoppers with ticket printers just about as quickly as regulators allow.

There were oddball products, such as a belt designed to hold coin cups, so players could walk with hands free. (Probably the wrong product for the wrong time, with cashless gaming on its way.) There were eyebrow-raising products, such as the system that would allow players to access ATM accounts directly at a slot machine. (Regulators already wary of ATMs on the casino floor would lose little time in shooting down this one.)

But the innovations that will be most obvious to the public come from slot manufacturers. These are some of the slot products that got my ballot as among the most innovative of 2001: **Smart Touch, by Sigma Game: Not a game, but a system that can be used with many games to eliminate confusion. Players who are confused by the zig-zag paylines, scatter pays and special features of video slots will love Smart Touch. Just touch any symbol or icon on the screen, and up pops an explanation. If you're confused about the shape of payline No. 9, touch the icon for that payline and it'll be traced out, separate from the others. Or if you want to know the payoffs on any symbol, touch that symbol and you'll get a graphic on the screen. This moves slot machines in a direction they need to go. Expect other manufacturers to follow.

**Winning Riches, by Atronic: Video slots perform best as low-limit games, especially as nickel games. Multiline video games have high hit frequencies, but low payback percentages and low volatility--they're even-keel games, allowing extended play, but with smaller than usual chances of hitting big jackpots. Winning Riches, with a 15-coin maximum bet, is designed for dollar players. At the top of its range of payouts, it returns 98 percent to players and has a 33-percent hit frequency that means fewer winning spins than on most video slots, but more than on most reel-spinners. It's a big step forward in trying to adapt video to high-limit play.

**ETO Hybrid slot platform, by Bally Gaming: This system, used for Bally's Popeye slots and other games, adds a touch-screen top box to reel-spinning games. That enables Bally to offer reel-spinning players the bonus rounds and interactivity usually associated with video slots.

**Ray Charles What'd I Pay slots, by Bally Gaming: A couple of extra innovative touches are added onto the ETO platform in this game, which uses Ray Charles music and graphics of Ray and the Raylettes. What'd I Pay has Braille lettering, and also has an audio assist function so that vision-impaired players can listen to explanations as they play.

**Sticks and Stones, by Konami Gaming: Are you ready for reels that spin horizontally instead of top over bottom? That's what Konami has done with Sticks and Stones. Of course, if that was the only unique thing about the game, it would hardly be worth mentioning. But the format allows Konami to be creative with its winning combinations. Among the winners are stickmen, with head on top, body in the middle and legs on the bottom in a vertical column. It's a fun little variation that wouldn't work with traditional forward-spinning reels.

**Big Top Circus, by Sigma Game: Sigma had a number of interesting entries, and one of the most intriguing was this circus-themed game. Instead of three paylines--or five, nine or 20--there are 99 potential winning combinations on a Big Top Circus screen. Players choose symbols to bet on instead of looking for traditional paylines. It takes a few spins to get used to the difference, but then any player is an old pro. The concept can be adapted to any theme, and probably will carve out a nice little niche in the marketplace.

**Ripley's Believe It or Not, by Mikohn Gaming: The Ripley's bonus round in which players are asked trivia questions with multiple-choice answers is a first. Slots with game show themes such as Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune don't involve an actual test of knowledge. Ripley's does--the bonus is bigger for correct answers, meaning the knowledgeable player, or one who asks the right passers-by, gets a little extra out of the game.

**Ten-Seven Poker, by Sigma Game: The most innovative video poker game entered deals the player 10 cards. The player then chooses to keep seven, which are then reshuffled and dealt out into five-card hands to determine payoffs. An interesting, fun new take on video poker.

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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski