August 11, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

One-armed bandits of tomorrow

If the typical Las Vegas slot player wants to switch to playing "Wheel of Fortune" after hours on a "Monopoly" box, he has to take his cup of quarters and go trolling for a different machine.

But that's about to change. Where one-armed bandits have always been standalone devices with a single game hard-wired into their circuitry and rotors, the industry is getting set to unroll a new generation of machines in which the games will be stored on back-office servers and downloaded at the whim of gamblers.

According to executives from two of the biggest slot machine manufacturers, the so-called server-based gaming, or SBG, technology is slated to be the biggest news at next month's Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, the casino industry's huge annual trade show.


What's new:
When the gaming industry unrolls a new generation of slot machines next month, the one-armed bandit we've always known will become an anachronism.

Bottom line:
Server-based gaming could expand beyond the casino floor. Some even predict the technology will be as big a sea-change for the gaming industry as the Internet was for PCs.

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"The floor of gaming establishments in the near future will be changing drastically," said Ali Saffari, senior vice president of engineering at International Game Technology, or IGT, one of the largest makers of slot machines. "Quite simply, the machines are going to be slaves to the system."

What this means, essentially, is that slot machines will become little more than dumb terminals with games that can be changed on the fly by customers or at any time by casino officials looking to put the more in-demand games on casino floors when players want them.

Further, the gaming industry has in recent years standardized electronic loyalty club programs in which players carry cards that track what and how much they play in return for complimentary rooms, meals and other rewards. With SBGs deployed, casinos could also keep track of which games club members most like and have the machines offer those games from a menu when players insert their cards in a slot.

"It will allow your favorite games to carry with you no matter where you are," Saffari said. "The games can be downloaded in seconds."

By all accounts, this will be a major move in places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, despite the fact that no one is exactly sure when the first SBGs will hit casino floors. Saffari said, however, that the roll-out should begin sometime after G2E and should be complete by 2007.

Yvette Monet, a spokeswoman for MGM Mirage, which owns Vegas casinos such as Bellagio, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, the MGM Grand, Monte Carlo and others, said the company likely plans to deploy SBGs in the near future.

It gives MGM Mirage the "option to switch to an exciting new emergent technology that (offers) benefits for the consumer and the casino," Monet said. "This is definitely predicted to be (big) and is going to be seeing very wide use."

For casinos that currently have to devote significant man hours to maintaining individual slot machines suffering from broken or jammed rotors or to change out games during slow periods late at night, SBGs are likely to be a boon for efficiency.

Server-based slot machines

"It certainly could save the casinos some time if the games are able to be set up on the fly," said Charles Kimmel, deputy attorney general at the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. "For instance, if on a Saturday night, they decide they'd like to change from a 94 percent pay table to a 90 percent table...right now it would take hours and hours to make that change. And now they'd be able to do that much more expeditiously."

Kimmel said his agency has not yet had any SBG technology submitted to it for review, but said he had seen a demo from IGT. Still, he said he is optimistic that the new machines could provide regulators an easy way to ensure that the systems are hacker-proof.

"That is what we're there for, to make sure the system is as secure as possible," he said. "We're going to set standards (to ensure) the encryption method is as secure as possible.The rule will be they have to use the most up-to-date encryption process."

Indeed, Saffari said that IGT had developed a security protocol called SuperSAS, which he expects to become the industry standard for making sure hackers can't break into SBG systems.

He explained that IGT has spent months working on hardening SBG defenses

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Chi-square Test?
So who performs the Chi-square Test on the pseudorandom number generator used by these new games to certify it is sufficiently random and thus (reasonably) fair? Not all pseudorandom number generators can pass the Chi-square Test. How are the pseudorandom number generators for these games seeded?
Posted by C.Schroeder (126 comments )
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Why would they
a chi squared test... i dont even see how its applicable... there are other tests of randomness you know
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Link Flag
So, this technology will have all the electronic games running on one central server. What are the possibilities of hacking or tampering, and are casinos willing to risk it happening? Sounds cool, but this idea has the possibility of major backfiring!
Posted by BMR777 (61 comments )
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If hacking was a problem it would have been a big news story over a decade ago. Casinos have long been attached to the net without significant issues. They have the strongest security measures in place as mandated by the feds. Hackers are tracked and turned in to the feds immediately at their first attempts. Gaming is regulated at the fed, state and local level and is a closely monitored industry...
Posted by gamindpert (2 comments )
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Not gonna work
I dont think this idea is going to pan out. The casinos that do this are going to see a mass exodus to the casinos still using the old machines.

Theres just something mystical about the relationship sitting in front of a one armed bandit. Its just you and the machine. Its something physically in front of you and while slot machines havent been completely mechanical in a long time, still theres something reassuring about having the laws of physics be the randomizing factor, rather than a number crunching computer.

The gamblers arent going to be happy in the least I dont think. With the old machines they knew that the odds were set manually. Once you sat down unless someone came by and took a screwdriver to the back of your machine, the odds you started with are the odds you end with. Even hint at the idea that management is adjusting the odds on the fly based on your luck and you'll see a riot.

Besides if they wanted to gamble online on a computer they can do that at home.. why go out to a casino if not for the thrill of pitting your luck against the static settings of the machine sitting in front of you?

I just wonder why they cant leave well enough alone. They claim that it is to give more options to the gamblers but thats a crock.. its to reduce cost and increase profits of course (oh how horrible is the plight of the casino owner who must let people win just enough to keep them hopeful but not so much that they on average leave with more than they arrived with) and to micromanage the odds on the fly to ensure no one wins too much.

Just what they need.. for it to be easier for them to figure out the most effective way to get people addicted. With this system they could run experiments and see the results in real time rather than having to manually reconfigure machines.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
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reduce cost
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
The old machines are already networked and have been that way for quite some time now. All modern slot machines are attached to a slot accounting system. The sb machines can be configured to 'look and feel' just like the old machines (including the 'one-arm' but excluding the mech. wheels) however, most people prefer the spin button nowdays and video is fast becoming the preferred format.

Number crunching (random number generation) has been built-in to a firmware computer chip which is installed in every slot machine for many years. There is no way to tamper with this as it is true firmware, burried deep in the machine and 'closely' monitored by gaming commissions. Also, odds have been managed by the house since the invention of the 1st slot machine. The house adjusts odds based on market factors &#38; competition. If the casino down the street pays 95% - you set your SAS to pay out 96% or more so your property pays out more and gets the lions share of business. You see this advertised on street signs in Vegas everywhere. No casino will attract guests if the odds are too tight compared to the casino down the street. And no casino general manager will jeapordize their properties existance by stacking the odds against the players. Market based competition is alive and well in gaming.

Everything about gaming is automated these days. SB gaming is just the next step in the evolution of the industry. Today's PC gamers are tomorrows casino gamers. If casino's don't meet this demand with sophisticated computer based video slot machines the players of tomorrow just won't play. SB slots will add flexibility for the player in that they will soon be able choose from many dozens of games on every machine vs. today's multi-game slots that offer just 5 or so games.

Player tracking has been another reality of gaming since marketing was invented. Those player cards don't just give the gamer a place to store points! The vast majority of gamers know what those cards are used for by the house. The gaming industry is just that - an industry. It can only exist if it is legal and profitable - and it is legal but not always profitable. The papers are full of articles about BK casinos these days.

SB slots need to happen for gaming to maintain player interest and for casinos to maintain industry viability. From where I sit the future of gaming looks bright.
Posted by gamindpert (2 comments )
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Maximize Estate Profit
With this plan, I see more profits per square inch of the casino floor.

But my guess is that it can not be implemented full blown because nothing beats the classic.

I'll bet it'll just be one of the machines you can choose to play or not to play in the casino.
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
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