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When Will The New Slots Be in Your Casino?22 February 2005
Each year after the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, I write about the flash and dash of the latest and greatest slot machines. And each year, I get e-mail from readers wondering when they're going to be able to play these games.
Casino operators, especially on Midwestern riverboats, don't always install new games quickly enough to satisfy players eager to experience the latest bells and whistles.
Still, many of the games featured in my recent review will be available to operators early this year. For starters, Bally Gaming was targeting January or February for distribution of the Rocky & Bullwinkle slots, pending regulatory approval. Much of the Midwest will see these games fairly soon, especially in the larger land-based Native American casinos. When readers tell me they've not seen many of the exciting themed games that have come out in recent years, I assume they've not spent much time in tribal casinos in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, which have a large array of up-to-date games.
Riverboat states can be slower to adopt new games, although that's not the case with every operation, or in every state. Missouri, Indiana and Iowa tend to get new games faster than Illinois, partly because Illinois has a much higher gaming tax than those states, limiting the budget for new games, and partly because Illinois casinos are limited by law to 1,200 gaming positions. No other state has that kind of limit.
There are other forces at work. Space constraints on boats and barges are a piece of the puzzle. So is the fact that many of the slot manufacturers' brightest, glitziest, most popular games are revenue-sharing games --- casinos must pay the manufacturers a portion of the revenue produced by the game. When you see a popular, licensed brand such as Rocky & Bullwinkle, Wheel of Fortune, Hollywood Squares or Elvis, understand that a portion of the profits must go to the manufacturer. With the state government wanting a share of the proceeds, and the manufacturer taking another cut, what's left might not be enough to make it worthwhile for the casino.
The economics of such games work much better in Native American casinos, where the operators don't face the same kind of tax bite as do state-licensed casinos.
That's a long way of getting to the short answer, which is that we'll start seeing the new games in the Midwest in the next few months, but we'll see them first and with the greatest variety at Native American casinos, along with the largest riverboats/barges.
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While we're on the slot beat, a couple of readers have asked recently why they can no longer find some of their favorite games. One asked specifically about the WMS video slot Winning Bid , while the other asked about IGT's video Fortune Cookie. Both games are still around, but both are a few years old, and it is the fate of older games to be replaced by newer concoctions with more of a novelty and curiosity factor.
Casinos do listen to their customers. If you have a favorite that has disappeared from your casino, tell slot supervisors you miss the game, and fill in customer response forms to say you'd like the game back. If you know others who liked the game, have them do the same. If the game wasn't earning its keep, there's not much that could bring it back, but if it was a marginal decision, customer response could have some influence.
A casino slot director once told me that a successful reel-spinning slot game could maintain popularity for a couple of years, but the hey-day for a video slot game is only six to nine months. Interest builds for a short time, and peaks as customers want to play the hot new game. But once they've been through the bells, whistles and bonuses a few times, they're ready to see what else is new. A popular game will survive in reduced numbers for years --- Jackpot Party is one older game that generates enough play to hold onto floor space nearly a decade after its introduction, first as a reel-spinning game, then as a video slot.
It does cost money for a casino to buy new game programs, but the increased play on a newer game more than makes up the cost.
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Moving over to video poker, a fellow player not long ago pointed out a disclaimer on machines that says "Pays only highest combination." That's pretty common on video poker games, and a rule that applies to hands that include more than one winning combination. If you have a full house, your had also includes three of a kind, two pair, and sometimes pairs of Jacks or better. If you have a straight flush, your hand also includes a flush and a straight. The machine glass is telling you is that you'll get paid only on the highest winning combination in your hand.
There is a game that paid off on every winning combination in a hand --- Multi-Pay Poker, manufactured by WMS Gaming. Draw a royal flush, and you'll also be paid for a straight flush, flush and straight. But that's a specialty game. Other video poker games pay only the highest payout on a hand.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
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