When answering machines and television VCRs were introduced in the late 1970s, my parents often summoned me to their house to reprogram their machines. They would panic if a power failure canceled their settings. I never understood their inability to do what seemed easy to me, especially since my father had started our amusement company servicing pinball games.
Now, I get it. As today’s technology moves at great speed, I can barely keep up. I too must now ask younger people to explain and help me with the latest gadgets.
At the recent G2E and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) shows, I saw firsthand dozens of exhibitors whose products reflected amazing ingenuity. The games, many themed as remakes of popular hits from the 1980s, demonstrate how far we have come.
Across the US, technology is a national discussion since the disastrous October 1 rollout of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) healthcare website. For several hundred million dollars, the US government launched its federal website, ironically using a foreign company, that barely works.
The failed website has shut down or been shut down for hours/days at a time. No one knows when and if it will ever function properly, but it has yet to meet any promised deadline. However, many of the same people who developed it are working to repair it. Doesn’t that define insanity…doing the same thing and expecting a different result? Or, in this case, paying the same people?
These government types understood and ignored the warnings before the website’s debut. Sworn Congressional testimony revealed that only days before the launch, internal memos warned of massive computer crashes.
No one can undo this horrendous first impression. As the public grows more outraged at the incompetence, many supportive senators and representatives who seek reelection in 2014 are scrambling to save their own political necks.
The bureaucratic Washington “geniuses“ have now turned to the true geniuses of California’s Silicon Valley for emergency help. President Obama claimed they called in the “best and brightest” to fix the problems.
Why didn’t they hire the best and brightest from the start? It would have almost certainly been done right at a fraction of the cost.
Pioneering computer companies like Atari and others developed the Silicon Valley region. This earlier 1970s/1980s generation created the first video games, personal computers, software and many other innovations we regularly use. They not only changed the entertainment world, but also how we function in our daily lives.
Early games like Pong, Space Invaders and Pac-man made the amusement industry more mainstream for new locations and a different customer demographic. That’s when I joined the industry.
Slot machine manufacturers have used similar software and hardware ideas through the decades. Although not always perfect, gaming and amusement machines are reliable and have the public trust.
These companies must continually prove their products’ dependability. Our manufacturers and the industry rarely get to redo their mistakes, but if they must, they quickly resolve problems.
Case in point was the November online gaming launch in Delaware and New Jersey. Unlike Nevada, only permitting online poker, Delaware and New Jersey sites offer slots, poker, blackjack and roulette. All three states have legalized online gaming only within their own borders. Delaware is small enough – 917,000 residents – to warrant a download/register function via a state casino website.
Atlantic City’s 12 casinos enjoy greater opportunities and economic potential, but also face larger operating challenges with New Jersey’s 8.9 million residents – Nevada has 2.8 million – and hundreds of thousands of people who drive or ride public transportation within its borders every day. Initial geolocation, age/identity verification technologies and payment-processing services problems prevented a flawless rollout.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) called these operator issues, not regulatory ones, expecting quick resolutions from the six approved casino sites. Each casino understands the urgency of getting it right. They haven’t the luxury of limitless funds, time and public patience. The good news is that 10,000 people did successfully register in New Jersey within the first few days.
The Golden Nugget, the seventh casino seeking approval, postponed its public launch to fix more extensive glitches. That’s what private sector businesses do. They determine the problem, and if necessary, delay rather than diminish the program‘s initial viability. I have no doubt they will correct the technology.
My parents were not tech savvy, but like our industry members, they at least recognized where to get help. If only the bureaucrats in Washington did the same.

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