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G2E Asia 2012 opened with all the optimism we expect - and closed with a cloud of uncertainty over future iterations in Macau. Luis Pereira reports.
Predicting the future is never an easy job, it seldom pans out the way it was planned. This year’s Global Gaming Expo Asia started with the unveiling of the biggest and best in gaming technology for Asian markets and has ended under a cloud of uncertainty about its future in Macau.
A messy feud over intellectual property rights has put future editions of the show in Macau in doubt, with the city’s Asian gaming rival Singapore jockeying to take the spoils.
Shuffle Master Inc. and Macau-based LT Game continued their head-to-head fight over a patent to a multigame technology, which LT Game says it has the exclusive right to market in the Chinese territory.
On the second day of the event, Shuffle Master was told by Macau customs officials to cover its Rapid Table Games Multi Game offering – a table game that combines a live dealer and touch-screen electronic betting interface that gives players the flexibility to switch-up their game without leaving their seat.
LT Game says it owns the patent for multi-game products and any company displaying a similar product is liable to legal action. Shuffle Master initially covered and then uncovered its product, after the company showed customs officials its court order.
The awkward state of play led Frank Fahrenkopf, the president of the American Gaming Association, to threaten to pull its support of the show. “There’s no question that if every year we come here and there’s going to be this kind of confusion, then we could move the show. Singapore constantly comes to us and says ‘Move the show to Singapore’. But we love it here in Macau,” he reportedly told the Macau-based Business Daily newspaper.
Shuffle Master’s Rapid offering was seized at G2E Asia in 2009, as part of the same patent showdown. LT Game has previously lost a case in the courts but is appealing and says it has an injunction in Macau.
Threats of a return to the courtroom by LT Game may have darkened the skies over The Venetian-Macao-Resort-Hotel but the exhibition floor was at its busiest for a number of years, according to the co-organisers Reed Exhibitions. Visitor numbers on the crucial first day were up 12.5 percent on last year, with more than 130 exhibitors.
The show was dominated by electronic gaming machines and there was a heavy emphasis on efficiency at this year’s event. That stands to reason as gaming tables allotted under the Macau government’s cap have all but run out and restrictions on imported gaming floor staff are still in place. More pleasingly, from an Asian gaming perspective, there was a substantial increase in the number of international companies showing compelling games for the Asian markets.
New products from SPIELO International were unveiled by new Macau-based Asia sales director, Marcia Garcia, and general manager of casino systems for Asia Pacific, Lai Fatt Chiang. Three Egyptian Gold titles were prominent on the booth. The Egyptian Gold titles are the company’s first to include progressive link “Episodic Gaming”, an innovative function that gives players the chance to play, walk away and resume at the same stage when they next play.
The games are crowd-pleasers, with multiple progressive bonuses across five levels. Additional features and bet options are revealed until the additional awards are revealed by Tutankhamen.
On the systems side of the ledger, the complete range of GALAXIS casino systems solutions was on display, with the newer, smaller houses around Asia potential clients. The modular system gives management the opportunity to build as they grow. Modules for managing table games and slot jackpots say much about where the money is in Asia.
Ms Garcia said the SYSTEM2go package – providing accounting with automated readings, jackpots, ticketing or card cashless payment systems and player-tracking – had also drawn heavy interest.
The message from SPIELO this year was its commitment to all Asian markets. The hiring of Ms Garcia is evidence of that. She told Casino International that attendances were good and the number of international visitors to the booth was pleasing.
It certainly seems SPIELO is well-placed to take advantage of Asia’s new and upcoming markets.
Konami Australia called G2E Asia 2012 a resounding success.
“We were delighted with the response we received from our suite of games at G2E Asia. We look forward to placing these throughout venues and anticipate a very positive response,” said Konami marketing manager Jeremy Alchin.
There was plenty to choose from – some 54 gaming machines including a mix of the slim-line Podium range that was first shown at G2E in 2008 and new Advantage models based on the now iconic cabinet that features two high-definition video screens with traditional mechanical reels.
The latest community-style link, Beat the Field, was also on display. The popular horse racing game brings the excitement of the racetrack to the floor – an especially appealing prospect to most Asian markets.
Aristocrat brought Asian themes to the fore at its presentation.
To celebrate the Year of the Dragon and referencing this year’s zodiac element, water, their booth was crowned with a 32-metre dragon, flying over a dramatic “water beads” centrepiece.
Aristocrat general manager Asia Pacific, David Punter, said: “Aristocrat is proud to be the number one games provider in the Asia Pacific, on the strength of our tailored games and legendary performance.”
With a chip share in slots and electronic gaming approaching 60 percent in Macau, according to regional marketing manager Nathan Drane, the undisputed market leader in Macau had a dual approach – build on classic games and introduce big-ticket slots.
There were new editions of the Fa Fa Fa game, that have dominated Asian markets, and Dragons on the Lake builds on the company’s Hyperlink progressive jackpot technology. Hyperlink connects banks of machines to drive a randomly triggered four-level jackpot. Play on a second-screen feature determines the scale of the payout.
The five-reel Dragons on the Lake is in both Chinese and English, complying fully with new regulations in Macau. Keys of Fortune was the other big new title. It is the company’s first symbol-driven, link progressive in Asia. Both are available for the Viridian widescreen cabinet.
Leading European innovator, DR Gaming Technology made its exhibition premiere hot on the announcement of distribution deal to sell and service Konami slot machines in Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. Under the deal, DRGT will sell video slots in the Podium series, stepper slots in the Advantage series and the premium Advantage Revolution hybrid series in the three countries.
DRGT’s Systems in Progress technology monitors any and all electronic gaming machines through a server-less and flexible slot management system – regardless of age or manufacturer. A real-time monitor visualises all events on the floor, such as jackpot hits or hand pays, activities such as door openings, and exceptions such as rejected notes or meter jumps.
All meters and events are continuously retrieved, time stamped and stored within each machine. The data can be pulled up instantly for daily reports and the current values are also available to optimise performance in real time.
A nice bonus for the house is the system is said to be future proof and links banks of machines, regardless of geography, easing legislative burdens.
Georg Steiner, DRGT senior director of business development was bullish. “The interest received from the ample visitors to our stand has demonstrated that we are very welcome here. It is a breath of fresh air, the sheer, positive way we are being received at all exhibitions around the world.
“The fact that our software is modular means that all investments made, continue to be of value even when the system is expanded upon – for example from accounting to include cashless, to then include bonusing, jackpots, live gaming and the cage.”
Another debut at Macau this year was Larry Pacey, the WMS Chief Innovation Officer. He brought plenty of firepower with him.
WMS brought 43 new gaming machines to Macau, featuring a range of dynamic entertainment experiences designed to attract and engage.
Among Mr Pacey’s top picks was Life of Luxury Deluxe, a video reel machine with a local area progressive, free-spin bonus randomly triggered during game-play. The game’s “stickiness” is built on traditional WMS strengths: differentiated game-play mechanics, diverse math models and innovative reel arrays.
WMS have been out and out innovators in the EGM space for a number of years, bringing attractive game play to punters and profitability to operators. It is a shame that the brand has not been able to fully capitalise in North Asia – Macau included.
Mr Pacey acknowledged the US-based giant could, perhaps, be considered slow to the market. The company was getting its product right in most Asian markets and promised operators access to more than 140 titles a year – and very few clones.
In common with WMS, Bally Technologies presented new EGMs with richly themed game-play coupled with immersive experiences.
Centre stage was the commanding Michael Jackson King of Pop. The themed game features Jackson, singing and dancing his way through a devilishly addictive, touch-screen enhanced scenario.
Bally turned up the “wow” factor with the upright cabinet. The dual-LCD screened Pro Series V22/32 model with topper and candle towers over the gaming floor. Vibration feedback and crystal-clear sound are provided by the Pro surround-sound chair.
“Attendees experienced our new compelling game content, trailblazing play mechanics, floor-wide bonusing applications, and cloud-based custom mobile apps. These technologies deliver an entertaining experience across the casino floor and tremendous return-on-investment for our casino partners across the world,” said Bally Technologies’ Vice President, Asia-Pacific and Managing Director of Bally India Srini Raghavan.
The company illustrated its commitment to the Asia-Pacific region with a roll-call of products designed specifically for the Asian market. On show were a large number of Asian-themed titles including Sakura Festival, Moon Dynasty and Rainbow Dragon.
“We are focusing on developing specialised market-oriented content,” said Bally’s managing director of Asia-Pacific Kurt Gissane. “We have released several games that have all been fully translated into Chinese, and they have been a huge success.”
Italian manufacturer Abbiati Casino Equipment reckoned G2E Asia 2012 was a great success.
“The show had brought to the company a few important orders”, said chief executive Giorgio Abbiati. “When meeting our existing clients it was a nice satisfaction for us to see our products, delivered during the last year, in operation.”
During the show, Abbiati presented their new line of Next Generation Casino Currency. Eight-colour injection moulded chips, which may hold any security feature, including RFID technology, look to be the most promising of products. “It was a very successful launch,” Mr Abbiati said.
“In Asia, casino operators are always looking for new alternatives that would guarantee the casino the most secure products. More and more attention is being paid to advanced technologies and materials, which protect casino currency from counterfeiting.”
The company also presented the “Tiger Eye” bean-shape Baccarat table, which is already in use in Singapore, along with the Light-Up American Roulette table showing “no more bets” status, last winning number and related chances.
If innovation was your raison d’être for calling on G2E this year, the wonderfully exotic Trono DX massage chair was shown by Taiwanese company Astro Corp. The chair includes a mounted 22-inch, high-definition screen and powerful massage settings.
Managing director Arden Yang - who is also the inventor of the chair and holds many gaming-related patents in his own name – said the aim was to provide the most comfortable playing space to the players in Asia’s booming VIP rooms.
Since last year’s show, when the Trono TM was introduced, there have been six chairs installed at The Venetian Macao and they’ve won plenty of positive feedback.
The company also makes electronic table games. New this year was Sicbo. The 46” multi-touch LCD table allows up to five players betting at the same time, where each player has an individual button to recognise their bet.
After G2E, Astro was planning to invest heavily in Malaysia and Vietnam.
This is one company built on raw innovation – this publication profiled the company in 2010 – and, if you were a betting man, you’d say the chance of taking Southeast Asia by storm are very high indeed.
In our coverage of last year’s event, we called JCM Global’s Project 8 note sorter among the best in show. Twelve months on, the project is reality.
The first, final design of the iV8 note validator counts currency at eight notes a second, dramatically increasing the speed of play and the number of games per hour. The machine is surprisingly compact, with a 8.3-cm-wide slot to receive a stack of about 200 notes.
The validator counts and sorts the stack, displaying the value to players, the dealers, the pit and overhead surveillance cameras. Rejected bills are automatically sent to a separate tray, while the cash sits in escrow.
Last year, JCM Global’s senior vice-president for global marketing Tom Nieman said processing 40 banknotes could take up to two minutes to be processed. With the iV8, operators stand to gain hours of additional play.
The new model overcomes some of our gripes too. After extensive in-field research and customer feedback, the unit’s overall design has been modified and is far more compact. The product’s potential seems ready to be realised.
Gaming Partners International brought its precision engineered dice and quality cards to Macau this year, but there was also a big push to market the company’s casino currency.
GPI released six new currency security features specifically for Asian markets. Among them, closer integration with JCM’s note validators with the company’s RFID management system. RFID Total Money Management promises to streamline cash and chip transactions at the table with “instant” validation, increasing time in play.
Watermarks revealed under ultra-violet light, encrypted security tagging, hologram printing and a range of innovations using RFID technology also received a warm response.
“We are very excited to present these products to the Asia market. Macau, Singapore, Philippines and Malaysia have unique aspects to the day-to-day operational environment. Over the past year we have heightened the understanding of what the market wants, and what they need to drive the profitability and productivity,” vice-president of marketing and product management Kirsten Clark told Casino International.
It was a very practical demonstration of the company’s commitment to operators in Asia, said Scott McCarthy, GPI’s vice-president of sales in Asia.
Shuffle Master Inc. promised to deliver more at this year’s G2E Asia; more innovation and more products.
“This year’s exhibit at G2E Asia highlights the most extensive product line-up in our company’s history,” said Gavin Isaacs, Shuffle Master’s chief executive.
The company’s booth had new developments in electronic table games and Asian-flavoured games, front and centre, but it was the company’s shufflers and verification gear that would have impressed operators.
Macau has seen its fair share of card counters. Security consultant Sal Piacente warned that the “cutter scam” that uses micro-video cameras to record sequences of cards, was the tip of the iceberg in Asia.
“The scams that happen here (in Asia) are a lot more sophisticated than in the States. What was happening here in Macau five years ago is happening in the States now,” he told the Agence France Presse news service.
Timely then, that Shuffle Master should highlight their new model MD3 shuffler. With the capacity for eight decks, the shuffler automatically scans and verifies pre-shuffled baccarat and blackjack decks at the table.
The latest version of the Deck Checker features re-engineered and updated components. The company has upped he user-friendliness too, with touch screen operation. The machine checks and verifies up to eight decks of cards in under two minutes, at the same time as it identifies missing, extra or unknown cards.
TCSJohnHuxley provided some real buzz to proceedings in the middle of the event hall with their unique Baccpo game. The fast-moving hybrid of baccarat and poker sees punters betting against the house or against their peers. Crowds were up to three deep at times and there was a lot of interest from Chinese players.
Other goodies for operators included the floor-wide SuperNova Table Bonus System. A back-end system to control progressive and game bonuses, SuperNova is the world’s first progressive system for local and networked table games that can be applied on any live table – roulette included.
The system employs the company’s rightly famed displays that can be branded by the operator and are driven by a touch-screen dealer’s handset. It is that kind of integrated thinking that helps the company up the excitement on the gaming floor, boosting loyalty and revenues.
Importantly for Asian players, the company promised significant updates to its award winning Gaming Floor Live platform with Sic Bo integration. The system dives into live data from table play, providing live feedback to everyone from the dealer up.
With the addition of Sic Bo – the number four ranked table game in Macau – data to the platform, operators will be able to see the number of games played per hour and get real-time warnings.
The company also announced a raft of staffing changes, with general manager Asia, Rebecca Kingswell promoted to lead Asia operations; and a new sales director in Andrew Hanley, who has previously held roles at Transact and Bally.
Slovenia’s Alfastreet has made quite the reputation for itself in Asia for its electronic table games. Asia is the company’s biggest market, thanks, in part, to holding one of two licenses to sell multiplayer games in Singapore. When Casino International stopped by the booth, sales and marketing executive officer Albert Radman said Alfastreet had also performed well in Cambodia and Laos.
While they launched no new products at this year’s event, there were upgrades to the M3s cabinet. The upgraded M3 generation stands for multigame, multiwheel and multiplayer. The cabinets have improved ergonomics and design.
Cammegh Ltd is a reliable participant at Macau, taking part in the past six exhibitions. Director Andrew Cammegh said this edition had been the company’s most successful, with fantastic feedback from customers in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. Each has sung the praises of their manual and automatic roulette wheels.
The company’s unique Bonus Numbers feature, available on the Mercury 360 range of roulette wheels were somewhat of a revelation. The system is able to generate multiple random results from the same wheel during the same game, creating exciting and profitable side bets for players. Mr Cammegh said the innovation has attracted the attention of more than one operator.
FutureLogic Inc. launched its PromoNet Intelligent Promotional Couponing Solution at this year’s show.
“We had a great show, numerous key decision makers visiting our booth and have met keen interest in our range of products, especially our printer range and of course our PromoNet® couponing solution,” says Alfred Hwee, FutureLogic’s Asia-Pacific business development manager.
“Launching the latest version of PromoNet in Asia demonstrates the importance of Macau and the wider Asian market and FutureLogic’s commitment to the region. The main enhancements of version 2.0 include new systems connectivity, an advanced mobile couponing issuance and redemption capability, the system’s ‘network-less’ solution, as well as a host of other new features and configuration options to accommodate both large and small operations.”
The printer designs, downloads, issues and redeems promotions in real-time. Promotional offers are printed for carded, non-carded, anonymous and new players on the basis of triggers determined by the house, player or play-related characteristics. It’s that degree of personalisation that could make the difference in a tighter market, with shrinking gross gaming revenues.
With a presence in Las Vegas and South America, DLV is looking to spring into the Macau market. DLV’s Oksana Susinska said the company was looking to bring fresh expertise from their collaboration with Grantech International to Asia.
DLV is a boutique operation, focusing on manufacturing competitively priced cabinet games. They had two new models on display, Gauya Quest and Diamond Games. Gauya Quest is a four-level, mystery progressive operating as either a standalone unit or networked game in a widescreen cabinet.
While Ms Susinska felt G2E Asia was a little quiet this year, she was confident the company would break into Asia in a big way by offering flexibility and agility to operators.
Another European company looking to break into new markets was EGT. On display was the company’s new P-Series cabinet that can house 19 multi-game titles.
Now with 20 years’ experience under their belts and about 8,000 machines worldwide, EGT is looking to the new casino developments in the Philippines. Asia sales manager Pamela Galisim says the company sees the Philippines as a strong core market, fuelled by tourism developments in the country’s north and at Manila Bay. Next, are investments in Sri Lanka, Latin America and, perhaps, South Korea.
Macau-based gaming and casino systems provider LT Game offered their Live Table Multi-Game System and Live Game Platform this year. The multi-game system gives punters the chance to switch play from the same seat and screen.
Chairman Jay Chun said the company was hoping to build on their 10-percent market share in Macau and move into markets in Singapore and the US. “We are the first local Macau factory to develop such a successful product,” he told Casino International.
On the third and final day at this year’s event, Tom O’Brien, sales vice-president at Interblock, said the show had been a success, with plenty of attention from the industry.
“This might be the first show we have been, to where all products on the stand are already confirmed for customers. I would like to say ‘thanks’ to everyone for their assistance and to our great loyal customers.”
The next generation of the company’s Organic platform was on show. The G3 enjoyed some high-profile installations and the G4 was new to Asia last year. This year, the G4’s advanced multi-player capability was a clear winner with the industry.
The emphasis was on the G4 Organic Virtual, Organic Dice and Organic Twins, playing a combination of Sic Bo, craps, baccarat or roulette.
“G2E Asia 2012 was one of the most successful shows on record. The efficient and attractive set up amazed attendees and, as a result, the show machines were confirmed sales to customers to be transferred onto their own floors,” said Interblock’s Asia-Pacific sales director Michael Hu.
Crane Payment Solutions continues to develop a leading position among brands in the cash-handling space. The makers of the CashCode, NRI and Money Controls brands, based their booth at G2E on “cash handling made easy”.
Asia-Pacific sales director Bill Murphy said the company has enjoyed a positive response and was growing in Macau and adjacent Southeast Asia.
“We are monitoring developments in Asia and are very positive about the next few years as we see significant growth potential in Macau, the Philippines, Vietnam and other parts of SEA. Having such a broad portfolio of products, we are well positioned to meet the needs of customers in these markets.”
Bullish sentiment aside, Crane also featured its oneCheck integrated cash management system, which integrates easily with TITO printers from leading manufacturers.
In attempting to deliver on a promise to tailor its content to Asian audiences, IGT has hit the streets over the past 12 months. It has been undertaken detailed market research to uncover in-depth playing habits and attitudes.
That intellectual property has found its way into new releases in tune with markets with Chinese gamblers, such as West Journey Treasure Hunt, Golden Three Kingdom and Four Great Chinese Beauties.
And while those products mark a change in strategy for the company, IGT president Eric Berg told Macau Business that it would continue to localise content from overseas. He told the monthly news magazine the Megabucks progressive jackpot had been installed in Sands China Ltd properties across Macau.
“That’s an example of taking a Western-themed game and then transferring it and localising it,” he told the magazine. Opening up regional studios would also help improve the company’s communication with operators and bring unique games to market.
With a refined strategy and new games the company will threaten its target of doubling its 9 percent share of the market in the next 18 months.
For British company Inspired Gaming Group, the Philippines and its multi-game Bingo Blaze are the perfect match. The game is a dual screen, slant top cabinet with multiple bingo, slots and SWP games. It launched in Latin America last year but now the international variants are coming through.
The Sabre cabinet was on stage again this year, with the emphasis on Multi-Win Roulette. Since launching in Asia at last year’s event, more than 1,000 Sabres have been installed in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia.
Marketing director Lucy Buckley said that in six months of real-world trials, Sabre Roulette retained 15.1 percent more cash than its competitors, making the electronic version more than a match for the traditional table game. “This provides a bigger screen, higher improvement on betting features and is more user-friendly,” Ms Buckley said.
Giesecke and Devrient presented their high-standard banknote processing products with the spotlight on the BPS C1, a compact, high-performance desktop model. The product was launched earlier this year but got its first Asian airing at Macau.
The two-stacker machine, featuring a sorting tray and a reject compartment, boasts a counting speed of up to 1,500 banknotes a minute – a rate that G&D claims is the fastest in the category. A winning move for the casino environment, the machine can also be equipped to read serial numbers on casino tickets.
The flexible design from Giesecke and Devrient helps increase accountability. And, in many ways, that was the message from the expo floor at this year’s G2E Asia. With Macau closing in on its first decade since foreign casinos were allowed into the territory, and with meteoric growth rates slowly declining, accountability will become more important to the operators’ bottom line here. And, hopefully, there will be a next year for Macau and G2E Asia.