May 27, 2013

NASCAR Slot MachineThe NASCAR slot machine just recently mentioned in our news feed has made its debut in Las Vegas this past Friday at the initiative of Boyd Gaming, with the company offering it up for play at several of its locations. Some of them are the casinos at Main Street Station, Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam’s Town, California or Fremont.

The move had been announced on Wednesday, May 22. Chris Gibase, Boyd’s senior vice president of operations, conveyed the following message in a statement: “Our customers love NASCAR, so it makes perfect sense for Boyd Gaming to be one of the first casino companies in the country to offer this game.”

Boyd Gaming has been sponsoring the annual Nationwide NASCAR race in Las Vegas since 1997, with the contract extended in March of this year through 2017; the company is one of the longest-running title sponsors in this particular NASCAR series.

Gibase also commented that “We see Bally’s NASCAR game as a perfect example of what our guests are looking for when they visit a Boyd Gaming property. It’s an engaging and memorable gaming experience.”

May 13, 2013

Designer Bill Wadleigh recently spoke about his forthcoming NASCAR-themed slot machine, one which has a very interesting bonus game. His ideas ran thus: “We’ll just make a tire a wheel. Wheels are very attuned to gambling.”

However, the slot machine is not simply about wheels and reels, a thought also expressed by Wadleigh – “It is a video game”. And we can take him up on his word, since he was originally involved in the video game industry. Now the head of development at Bally Technologies, he has found himself increasingly closer to his roots, even as Bally and so many other slot machine producers are at the commencement of a process meant to close the gap between traditional reel slots and immersive video games.

“From a technological standpoint, on a slot machine, it’s pretty insane,” Wadleigh stated. “Insane in a good way.”

innovative slots ImageThe most immersive slots, including the NASCAR-themed one, have gone outside of the basic player-character interaction realm; they are accessorized with 3D engines, state-of-the-art video cards and complex mathematics. Thus, the machines offer gamblers scenarios that they can control, very similar to the video games popularized by Xbox and PlayStation.

Click the spin button on NASCAR in order to benefit from the “U-Race” bonus: once that happens, you are racing three laps at Daytona. There are four characters that you can choose to sit behind the wheel – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson or Kevin Harvick – but you are in control. Three arrows will appear as you begin the race: left, straight ahead and right. Pick one and that determines the driver’s decision.

When tapping the right arrow, “I can pass on the high side!” will be the driver’s response and he will act according to it. The forward arrow will elicit the confident “I’m going for the lead!” assertion and, behold, that’s what the car does. At the finish line, you are cordially informed “Couldn’t have done it without you!” – winning is not that easy, though, but there is money to be earned with every decision (the actual beauty of a bonus).

Wadleigh says that possibilities like taking part in a race or interesting bonus scenarios maintains the player’s interest and desire to play again. “We’re out to find something that’s compelling to a player,” he said. “And not just compelling once, but a repeatable event that has a lot of different variety in it.”

According to the American Gaming Association, there are more than 853,000 electronic gaming machines in the USA, Nevada being at the top of the list with more than 178,000. On the national level, casinos make 62% of their revenue from slot machines.

Slot makers invest a lot of time and energy into developing games based on television shows, movies or pop stars. Wadleigh expressed it as the industry’s desire to bring about something new and exciting, whether by a subtle, incremental change or a vastly radical one.

Pawn Stars is one example of how novelty and excitement can be brought to the world of slots – you have the opportunity to trade with the famous characters starring in the History Channel show. Once you roll the Rick bonus, the deal-savvy leader Rick Harrison appears on the screen. Among many things, you have the chance to sell him a rare gas pump from the 1930s.

However, Rick is skeptical about the item’s authenticity and asks you whether you’d like to call an expert. Once “Call an Expert” is activated, Rick calls and quickly afterwards gives you the answer: “Sorry, my expert said it’s a reproduction. … Thanks for stopping by my shop.”

Another bonus is the Old Man one, where Richard Harrison pops up saying “So, what do we have here?” It turns out to be an acoustic guitar from the 1970s that the Old Man examines and lets you make an offer.After that, he counters it and you accept the final price – $170, which is also your winning amount.

If the above-mentioned slot innovations are not compelling enough for proving how the gap between traditional machines and immersive video games is being bridged, one can take a look at IGT’s CSI (set in New York, Miami or Las Vegas), WMS’ Alice In Wonderland or Bally’s Michael Jackson and become convinced of the concept’s accomplishment.

It’s so much more than hitting 7-7-7,” Daniel Sahl (a sociology instructor at UNLV who has been studying the connection between slot machines and video games for the past three years) said. “(Manufacturers) are doing an amazing job tapping into the cultures people love.”

May 13, 2013 The €25,000 High Roller competition at the 2013 PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino European Poker Tour Grand Final has passed its final stages. The prestigious event was won by Steven Silverman, who also attained the largest score of his career.
Place Player Prize
1 Steven Silverman €775,400*
2 Tony Gregg €760,000*
3 Fadar Kamar €760,000*
4 Vanessa Selbst €290,300
5 Toby Lewis €232,400
6 Chris Moore €193,500
7 Igor Kurganov €154,700
8 Victor Sbrissa €116,100
Steven Silverman Image
*Denotes a three-handed deal. When the final day of play commenced, Silverman was third according to the number of chips and all the attention was focused on defending champion Igor Kurganov and Team Poker Stars Pro Vanessa Selbst. Kurganov defeated a field of 133 players and won this event in 2012; he was looking for a spectacular repeat, while Selbst won the $25,000 High Roller at the 2013 Poker Stars Caribbean Adventure and entered Day 3 of this tournament as a chip leader. Kurganov’s hopes for a miraculous back-to-back feat were shattered as on his final hand of Ace of DiamondTen of Diamonds he went all-in with against Silverman’s Ace of ClubsQueen of Spades with the blinds worth 15,000/30,000/4,000 during Level 23. The community cards were revealed as Seven of HeartsSix of ClubsThree of DiamondsJack of DiamondsTwo of Clubs, having Kurganov eliminated with €154,700 in money won. As the next level unfolded, Selbst re-raised to 185,000 Tony Gregg’s raise of 80,000. Gregg replied by making it 480,000 to go to which Selbst further responded by going all-in for about 1.8 million. Gregg called, with his Ace of ClubsKing of Clubs to compete against Selbst’s Queen of DiamondsJack of Diamonds. Initially, Selbst was in the lead when the flop turned out to be Queen of ClubsFour of ClubsTwo of Diamonds, but the turn wasEight of Spades, with the river showing Ace of Spades, thus making Gregg the victor and locking Selbst in fourth place at €290,300 in winnings. When the three-handed action began, a few attempts at striking a deal were made, unsuccessful at first. Later on, Silverman, Gregg and Kamar agreed to a deal that earned €760,000 each and left €15,000 and the title to be contended for. Fadar Kamar quickly fell in third place, leaving Silverman and Gregg to play for the trophy, the extra cash amount and the Shamballa Jewels bracelet. The two are good friends and went for a little break where they enjoyed some coffee; after that brief respite, Silverman rapidly stretched his lead over Gregg, precipitating the final hand play. That occurred when both competitors went in, Silverman with Ace of SpadesJack of Spades against Gregg’s Two of ClubsTwo of Hearts. On the flop, Six of HeartsFive of DiamondsThree of Hearts, Gregg took the lead but the Jack of Clubs turn made Silverman the front runner. That title stuck to him when the Jack of Hearts river was revealed and eliminated Gregg with €760,000 to take home. Silverman scored the extra cash, bringing his total to €775,400 – the best performance of his career and all the more exciting since he entered the tournament via a €3,000 satellite.

May 11, 2013

The State of New Jersey experienced the sharpest decline in gross gaming and tax revenues when compared to the other 21 states which had operational commercial casinos during 2012.

This was one of the key findings of the 2013 State of the States survey published by the American Gaming Association, a trade group headquartered in Washington, DC.

Other outstanding discoveries of the survey included the fact that Philadelphia held on to its title of No.1 racetrack-gaming market in the United States (its gross gaming revenue stood at $835.3 million) – Parx Casino and Racing of Bensalem was in the lead there for the third consecutive year.

Also, the survey found that an increasing number of young patrons (aged 21 through 35) are frequenting casinos – they constituted 39 percent of those polled for the first time and were more attracted to non-gambling amenities such as restaurants or nightclubs.

As a whole, the United States commercial (non-tribal) casino industry grossed a revenue of $37.34 billion in 2012, an improvement of 4.8% compared to 2011, thus signaling the third straight year of growth. Not only that, but last year brought about the industry’s second highest level since 2007, before the effects of recession were felt.

Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., the outgoing president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, expressed optimism and excitement at this particular result of the survey, telling reporters in a conference call that “That’s tremendously good news. You add the impact of casino tax revenues and jobs, [and] both the present and future look bright for the industry.”

New Jersey CasinoFifteen of the twenty-two states that had operational casinos in 2011 experienced an increase in the gross gaming revenues of last year and the main reason that New Jersey was not among them proved to be the impact of Hurricane Sandy. The devastating natural disaster also took its toll on casinos, forcing them to close and further deterring potential customers by keeping tourists away.

These realities, coupled with an increase of gaming activities in neighboring Pennsylvania, allowed for Philadelphia to overtake Atlantic City in gross gaming revenue for the first time in history. “Pennsylvania has been one of the great successes in our industry,” according to Fahrenkopf – he also quoted Caesars Entertainment’s CEO Gary Loveman as saying that the Northeast is an underserved market and that the statistics in Pennsylvania truly reflect that fact.

“But, of course, there is a price for that, and I think Atlantic City has been hit by that,” he added. “Those that live in Philadelphia no longer have to drive to Atlantic City.”

On the East Coast, several states are increasing their casino activities, with New York considering the possibility of adding nontribal casinos, Maryland already doing it and Maine also having an increase in the field; MGM Resorts International is in the process of building a casino in DC. Fahrenkopf prediction is that the competition will increase in the next few years.

However, one gaming aspect that New Jersey seems to be a winner at is the employment of a greater number of additional people: in 2012, the number of casino jobs in the state increased by 5.8%, bringing the total to 34,726. The greater part of this 5.8% growth was contributed by Revel, a company that added 2,000 jobs in a place, as Fahrenkopf described it, “that really needed it”. At the other end of the spectrum, Pennsylvania’s casino jobs saw a 2.7% increase and a grand total of 10,162 employees.

The American Gaming Association’s fifteenth annual report surveyed 300 people aged 21 through 35 who had been at a casino in 2012. This age group had the highest rate of casino visitation, 39%, compared to the general adult population at 34%. Younger clients also wagered online, played poker and tried their luck at the lottery in higher numbers than the general casino public. Online betting is gaining popularity and support in the US nowadays, as three states (Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey) have legalized certain forms of Internet gambling.

The younger population that took part in the survey was also more likely to frequent non-gaming attractions when going to a casino, such as concerts, nightclubs, shopping, spas and pools – Atlantic City and Las Vegas are actively marketing and investing in them.

Fahrenkopf was again highly positive in his remarks when assessing the impact of younger people on the casino industry: “That all bodes well for the future. They are our lifeblood.”

At the national level, this industry employed 332,000 workers in 2012, down 0.9% from 2011; it generated $13.2 billion in wages, benefits and tips.

May 10, 2013

The legal case unfolded during a period of 18 months and involved two men accused of hacking – they were investigated for employing a software bug to win considerable amounts of money playing IGT video poker. The central issue was whether the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 was applicable.

“The United States of America, by and through the undersigned attorneys, hereby moves this Court to dismiss Counts 2 and 3 of the Indictment,” stated Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chu in a written note.

Video Poker MachinesThe two male individuals, John Kane, 54, and Andre Nestor, 41, are now only faced with one charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, with their trial scheduled to take place on the 20th of August, 2013.

It all began in 2009, when Kane unearthed a firmware bug in IGT’s Game King video poker machine – taking advantage of it afforded him the opportunity to play back a previous winning hand at ten times the original bet. Nestor joined him as he went across Las Vegas and used the bug to beat the house at several casinos but the former eventually made his way to Pennsylvania, where he stripped a certain establishment of $400,000 by playing video poker against it.

Prosecutors contended that the two men’s actions were nothing less than hacking based on the sequence of button clicks and demanded that the bug be installed – defense lawyers, on the other hand, argued that Kane and Nestor were only playing the machine based on its settings.

“The case never should have been filed under the CFAA,” posited Kane’s lawyer, Andrew Leavitt. “It should have been just a straight wire fraud case. And I’m not sure it’s even a wire fraud. I guess we’ll find out when we go to trial.”