Golden State of Mind: Indian Gaming 2012

Under an umbrella of optimism and community, tribal leaders and industry executives united for four days of camaraderie, education and business at Indian Gaming 2012 in San Diego.

Held April 1-4 at the San Diego Convention Center, NIGA’s annual trade show broke attendance records, with more than 5,500 people registering for the convention. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 3, NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. announced that every hotel within a 3-mile radius sold out, and every booth on the trade show floor was occupied.

“We set a record. You set a record. Indian country set a record,” he said.

Spirits were soaring, and retired U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell emphasized to the crowd that Indian gaming shows no signs of slowing down.

“We’re on the move, there’s no question about that,” he said. “When the rest of the country is kind of in the economic doldrums, Indian gaming really is one of the bright spots. It’s one of the few real strong growth industries in America.”

Billy Mills, the second Native American to win an Olympic gold medal, and Canadian Salteaux actor Adam Beach also joined Stevens and Campbell for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Beach spoke last and added a touch of inspiration right before people flooded onto the show floor.

“In those doors, you’re walking through a place that really has saved lives and has given our people a better image that Hollywood cannot even touch,” he said. “This dream of Indian gaming—little did we know that was going to save a lot of American Indians’ lives.”

CEM spoke with Valerie Red-Horse, president of Red-Horse Financial Group, and she reiterated Campbell’s ribbon-cutting ceremony remarks when she said, “We’re back.”

“It’s been about two or three years since the recession hit and the market crashed, and we’re back to pre-market crash mode,” she explained. “It’s not even recovery mode. Everything’s fine and everything’s moving. I think everyone’s aware from the market crash that you have to be extra prudent, and you have to be careful—that actually makes a better show. It’s a very positive feel.”

On the show floor, exhibitors appeared relaxed and refreshed. Many exhibitors that CEM spoke with expressed their delight about the personal, relationship-based nature of NIGA. Tom Hoskens, principal at Cuningham Group Architecture Inc., noticed a palpable sense of enthusiasm.

“I can see the optimism, and I can hear it in their voices. NIGA is very U.S.-centric and focused on creating and growing relationships,” he said. “People stop by and talk. You get to see how they’re doing and how their family is doing. You create relationships. I love NIGA for bringing us all back together.”

RSP Architects’ Ian Scott remarked that NIGA has a distinct personality. “NIGA is really nice because it’s a community-based show. You’re mixing commerce with family, politics and a wide balance of topics,” he said. “It’s more personal than a general retail or hospitality show. There’s a personality to this show that you don’t see anywhere else. It’s a family affair.”

Robert Miodunski, CEO of American Gaming Systems (AGS), agreed, comparing it to other industry trade shows. “At G2E you only really get a chance to shake someone’s hand and maybe show them one game. Here, they actually come, play the games, and many times, there are actually buying decisions made here.”

NIGA’s Indian gaming focus allows for exhibitors and attendees to interact in a special way.

“You’re dealing with family—there are no mergers or acquisitions,” said Brett Ewing, partner at Thalden Boyd Emery Architects. “This is very near and dear to their hearts. It’s very personal,” added Linda Roe, VP of business development & client relations at Thalden Boyd Emery Architects.

Dick Rizzo, chairman of Perini Building Co., told CEM that he thinks NIGA is all about forming sincere relationships with tribal clients. “It’s very key to build relationships on trust and maintain that trust,” he said. “We have to earn it.”

NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, along with other tribal leaders and celebrities, cut the ribbon to open Indian Gaming 2012.
NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, along with other tribal leaders and celebrities, cut the ribbon to open Indian Gaming 2012.
Traffic Report
Despite breaking attendance records, exhibitors had mixed reviews of this year’s floor traffic. Some felt the show was slower than usual, while others felt attendance seemed stronger. One thing remained constant—exhibitors felt that the people who entered booths were genuinely interested in their services or products.

“The people stopping by have a true interest in our solutions and great questions for us,” said Dawn Hudock, senior product manager at Cummins Allison. “It’s quality over quantity.”

The show floor appeared to have more activity before and after conference sessions, but the flow of people meandering through the maze of booths remained steady.

“The people who are here seem to be the folks that can make decisions or make purchasing decisions,” said Clair Rogers, senior VP of sales at NEWave. “The mood seems to be much more positive than we’ve seen in recent years. I’d put it up there as a very good show.”

Michele Bass, sales manager of interiors at YESCO, thought the weather might have had an impact on attendance, but the people who did visit the YESCO booth showed promise. “The weather’s beautiful so why would you come inside?” she said. “It’s slower, but the folks that are here seem interested in actually doing projects this year.”

Online Gaming
Attendance wasn’t the only topic that received mixed reviews. I-gaming was on the minds of most attending and exhibiting at NIGA, and people expressed concern, excitement and curiosity about the issue.

“It’s really early to say what will happen, but we are very excited,” said Jarred Torres, senior director of game development at Cadillac Jack. “The prospect of online gaming is closer than it ever has been. We are preparing the company and our products for the time when i-gaming becomes legal so that we may help our customers achieve their goals in this area.”

Nick Farley, president of Eclipse Compliance Testing, said it would “not surprise us in the least to see one or more Native American tribes introduce some form of Internet gaming in America first.”

Red-Horse took away two key ideas from discussions about i-gaming, and her concern lies with protecting tribes. “The issue is complicated, and tribes need to hold out for sovereignty,” she said. “They can implement online gaming now on their reservations, and in the future, legislation needs to address how the NIGC can regulate when the licensed casino is tribal, even if working with other jurisdictions. To compromise sovereignty and bow to other jurisdictions does not seem to make sense. Legislators have to address it and cannot ignore the tribal aspect of this industry.”

Informing and educating those who will be affected by i-gaming is a top concern for BMM’s Global President and CEO Martin Storm. “The online space is something that’s really challenging, and I think there’s still a lot of information yet to be distributed and understood. More knowledge is required before tribes make the important decisions for themselves, and at BMM, we’ve been working really hard over the last 12 months to run seminars, to do panels,” he explained. “I think what we’re seeing is that there’s still much more knowledge to be gained and distributed before people make huge investments in this technology. I think that we need to embrace it, and I think that all stakeholders need to learn much more about the i-gaming business before making decisions and investments.”

CEM attended a few of the conference sessions, and found the experience quite valuable. Probably indicative of the biggest issue Indian country is interested in and concerned about is Internet gaming. In fact, when we arrived to one panel, the room was so full that every seat was taken, and even the standing room in the back was packed. Attendees to this session poured out the door, with some people even standing in the hallway trying to hear the discussion.

Jana McKeag, president of Lowry Strategies, summarized and discussed the various bills that have been circulating through Congress, including Barney Frank’s bill, and the Senate committee hearings. She also said that Sen. Reid is rumored to be working on a draft bill that is not yet introduced. Also referencing some studies by Spectrum Gaming Group, she said that if legislation goes much beyond Internet poker, it will be devastating to tribal brick-and-mortar. To be fully prepared, she encourages tribes to engage with their lawmakers on this.

Another important topic is tribal economic development. In the panel “Economic Development Beyond Gaming: Tribes Diversifying Their Gaming Revenues,” Jamie Fullmer, chairman and CEO of Blue Stone Strategy Group, opened his comments with the statement that econmic development is not short-term, and it’s not an event, but a process. “The goals of the tribe is such a critical path,” he said. “Before it even starts with leadership, it starts with community.”

He went on to say that you need to evalute what the core goal is of the community, whether it’s job creation, revenue generation or protecting your investments. Those three things are the three pillars that are so important to the ongoing success of economic initiatives. Fullmer and the two other panelists, Kari McCormick, director of business development-Native American division at Kitchell and Travis Nabahe, director of business development at the Pueblo Laguna Development Corp., jived well together, and the crowd appeared to be engaged and intrigued, learning hands-on things they can employ in their own business.

On a bit of a different note, in the session, “Celebrating Cultural and Tribal Heritage While Improving Your Income,” the discussion was around a incorporating tribal culture and design into casinos or tribe, and how to do so with a non-Indian customer base.

Wendell A. Chino Humanitarian Award Banquet
Another buzzed-about and widely attended event was this year’s Wendell A. Chino Humanitarian Award banquet, where the award was given to the Quapaw tribe of Oklahoma. The award, presented by Mark Chino, Wendell Chino’s son, had never before been given to an entire tribal nation. The Quapaw Tribe was honored for their contributions and aid during the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, Mo.

“The Quapaw tribe, this nation of First Responders, demonstrated their innate ability to mobilize and provide a safe recourse for Joplin,” Stevens said. “Lead by the humility and heart of (Quapaw Chairman) John Berrey, this tribe has served their country at a great level.”

The audience watched a moving documentary-type video, filled with powerful images of the storm’s damages, and heartfelt interviews—a brief look into the immense amount of work that the Quapaw tribe put in after the tornado hit.

Berrey accepted the award, and was joined onstage by Vice Chairman J.R. Matthews, his son and tribal councilmember Thomas Matthews, his mother and many other members of their nation.

“This one event did not define who we are, but we define ourselves as proud Native Americans,” Berrey said. “We are fortunate to have the resources from tribally owned gaming businesses that can allow us to help others.”

Berrey dedicated the award to J.R. Matthews’ son, Seneca Black Elk Matthews, a Downstream Casino employee, who was tragically killed in a car accident just weeks before the award was presented.

The award ceremony was preceded by delicious food and great conversation, and was followed by a highly anticipated performance by Dwight Yoakam—who was rumored to have taken time off of filming a movie to be there.

Native American dance groups take the stage during the cultural reception. Photo courtesy Michael Woestehoff.
Native American dance groups take the stage during the cultural reception. Photo courtesy Michael Woestehoff.
Trade Show Exhibitors
Slot Manufacturers
Moving on to the trade show floor, Bally Technologies brought a splash of Southern California sun to the show, with the world debut of its Beach Boys™ video slot. Featuring classic songs like California Girls, Fun Fun Fun, and I Get Around, the 5-reel, 1,024-way game immersed attendees in a culture of 1960s surfing.

“We think the Beach Boys brand resonates really well with traditional slot players,” said Derik Mooberry, senior vice president of products and operations. “It’s got five of the best Beach Boys songs of all time integrated into the game, and when used with the sound chair, it’s really a dynamic experience.”

Following the release of Michael Jackson King of Pop™ and Grease™, Beach Boys furthers Bally’s emphasis on brand strategy and interactivity. With five progressive jackpots and six different U-Spin™ play mechanics, the machine acts as part game, part concert. Utilizing the ALPHA 2™ Pro Series™ V22/22 Upright Wheel Cabinet, custom Pro Series surround-sound chair, and a colorful bonus wheel, the new game will soon bring “America’s Band” to properties nationwide.

Another product at home and at use in California is the TournEvent® slot tournament system from Multimedia Games. Currently powering TournEvent® of Champions™, a first-of-its-kind statewide slot tournament at 11 casinos in the Golden State, the system will soon enable national competitions.

“You can take a machine that’s in revenue and take it out of revenue and allow players to do a true slot tournament against it,” said Darnell Johnson, director of product management. “You can play against one another, you can play as teams—it has a lot of flexibility.”

Thanks to hourly tournaments at NIGA, attendees got to play with the TournEvent technology that Casino Enterprise Management named a Slot Floor Technology award winner in 2010 and 2011. Not only did these battles make the Multimedia Games booth among the most popular at the show, but they prepared operators for the soon-to-be-released improvements of TournEvent 4.0.

Also showcasing an update to an already popular product was Aristocrat, with the Tarzan® & Jane Forbidden Temple™ video slot, the second in the series of its popular Tarzan® franchise. Playing out on Aristocrat’s award-winning VERVEhd™ 31.5-inch portrait monitor cabinet, the game features an exclusive LCD button deck, high-definition graphics and 3-D panoramic digital audio. Most importantly, though, the dual Reel Power base game features a proven storyline and winning formula.

“To win $100,000 you only have to bet $1.50,” said Dallas Orchard, vice president of gaming operations. “It’s a high-energy game, and most importantly, there’s a big pay day at the end of the tunnel if you continue to play.”

The original Tarzan® Lord of the Jungle™ has already hit the jackpot 11 times, and now the new Tarzan & Jane contains eight high-hit frequency bonus features and 243 ways to win on both sets of symbols. Just one of the many game, online and on-demand offerings on display at the show, Aristocrat also highlighted the popularity of Superman, the versatility of Wonder 4™ and the volatility of Wicked Winnings™ III.

Another big-name brand came from the WMS booth with the Aladdin™ and the Magic Quest slot machine. Taking attendees on a virtual-reality magic carpet ride, the game introduces the next generation of Sensory immersion gaming with the WMS motion system chair. Powered by the CPU-NXT® 3 processor, Aladdin & the Magic Quest offers players a visual and aural trip through three unique bonus rounds.

For the pure gambler, though, WMS also had on hand its Royal Series, a simplified slot series that Vice President of Gaming and Networked Operations Dean Ehrlich calls an “elegant experience.” Designed with a straightforward interface and available with the new Bluebird® 2e cabinet, the traditional nature of Royal Series demonstrates the diversity in the current WMS product line.

“Our new products offer more than three times the number of unique math models than the previous three years combined,” Ehrlich said.

Over at IGT, a number of MegaJackpots® themes packed the NIGA floor. From the Ghostbusters™ Who Ya Gonna Call with big-screen, 3-D entertainment, to Wheel of Fortune® Experience™ 2 and Big Buck Hunter® Pro, IGT’s booth mixed pop culture games with new core titles like Day of the Dead®, a video slot based on the popular Latin American holiday.

IGT Vice President Knute Knudson also reaffirmed the company’s commitment to casino management systems solutions, as well as mobile and online gaming offerings, while discussing the company’s acquisition of the Swedish online poker network Entraction and online social gaming company Double Down.

“Everybody knows we’re in the online and mobile gaming arena. In Europe we’re live,” Knudson said. “We have a responsibility to our customers, to our shareholders, and to our employees, to be ready for whatever comes in the Internet gaming space.”

Also enhancing its presence in the mobile space was Konami Gaming Inc., with demonstrations of KCMS KONETIC Mobile Solutions. Offering a Konetic Mobile Player Interface that gives customers direct access to player data, incentives and property information, the solution also partners with JOINGO, allowing casinos to create customized mobile app content.

Konami also introduced a mobile application for employees. This new mobile app enhances customer service and casino operations by giving casino employees the ability to have access to critical information about their player and the casino—anytime, anywhere.

“Casino executives want more information so they can make better decisions and they want it quicker, and they want it in their pocket,” said Clark Warren, director of systems sales and marketing. “The demand for mobile applications really comes from our customers asking us for these kinds of solutions.”

Having successfully listened to customers for five years now, Incredible Technologies affirmed its place at NIGA as a company that’s creating and growing. Now in 11 states, IT predicts its new 40-line game Sacred Stones of Alchemy™ will prove another strong earner.

The mythical-themed machine features an interactive added-wild free spin event and new transforming symbols feature that adds a new twist to its already-popular Random Awards category in the company’s Magic Touch Innovation Collection.

“It just shows a maturity to our catalogue,” said Dan Schrementi, director of gaming marketing and new media. “We’re taking the data that we’ve learned on what makes a game great, and we’re adding to it as we develop new titles. It’s an exciting time.”

Meanwhile, the search for gold extended over to Aruze Gaming’s booth with the new titles on display, The Gold™ and Crystal™. From the Innovator™ series of games, both The Gold and Crystal featured intricate top-boxes with lighting packages that matched the base game.

“When you walk into NIGA, the first thing you see are these gold and crystal lights,” said Steve Walther, vice president of marketing. “They really grab people’s attention.”

Building upon Aruze’s Radiant Reels, a revolutionary spin on stepper technology, The Gold also contained three-dimensional gold bars on top of large reels dynamically illuminated by multi-colored LED lights. And even with more than 60 games on display, the deluxe components present in these new titles kept the machines in demand for much of the show.

For VGT, Indian Gaming 2012 brought a new look to a familiar brand: Mr. Money Bags™. Putting a twist on the proven product, VGT has now added a wheel to the base mechanical spinning reel game, activating mystery events that unlock higher wins.

Also showcasing Mr. Money Bags on the new DS cabinet, VGT highlighted the dual-screen, multi-line, multi-coin offering to attendees. The cabinet will work with previously released titles and the soon-to-come X-Spin platform, equipped with more game capabilities, more power and more speed.

“This will take VGT into the future,” said Vice President of Product Management Scott Winzeler. “We’re having fun.”

John Berrey accepts the Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award on behalf of the Quapaw Tribe.
John Berrey accepts the Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award on behalf of the Quapaw Tribe.
Another Class II leader, Rocket Gaming, celebrated 18 months of expansion into four new states and 40 additional casinos at NIGA. Crediting the Gold Series® product line for much of that success, the games have awarded more than $800 million in prizes since being introduced in 2009. In that time, they have created 17 million-dollar winners.

“This gives you about an average span of 44 days that this million dollars hits at various casinos across the U.S.,” said Account Executive Mike Beezley.

But properties can expect more than increased revenue with these games, as Rocket adds interactive bonus features aimed at keeping customers as interested in the play mechanics as the prize.

At Ainsworth, John Glaser, director of sales, showed us a new game debuting at their booth, Quad Shot, a 4-level progressive, and said their stand-alone progressive games were performing extremely well. With major momentum from showing the A560 at G2E, at NIGA Ainsworth also showcased its Triple Screen product to demonstrate its signage offerings. Glaser also shared that the company is on an aggressive growth initiative. Ainsworth moved into new offices last September, and began manufacturing there in January.

Another game manufacturer, Cadillac Jack, was happy to debut two new premier products in their extensive portfolio—Peter & Wendy™ and Wicked Sexy Devil™. The former is inspired by the beloved children’s tale, Peter Pan, and features all the favorite characters, including Peter, Wendy, Hook and Tinkerbell. The beautifully illustrated and animated game takes players through six entertaining bonus games on their journey to Neverland, and includes two levels of mystery progressives. Another highlighted product that joins Cadillac Jack’s Class II and Class III progressive offerings is Wicked Sexy Devil, which features multi-level progressives and an engaging Wheel Bonus. “Wicked Sexy Devil’s unique feature is an interactive wheel that the player physically spins from the main screen. The spinning wheel bonus may reveal free spins, credits or multipliers. If the player hits the right combination in the base game, they have the opportunity to spin the wheel for one of the five progressive jackpots,” explained Jared Torres, Cadillac Jack’s senior director of game development.

Looking ahead, Torres commented: “We continue to find opportunities in Indian gaming because we understand our customers’ needs and develop solutions to help them achieve success. Our focus is to continue to provide high-performing, innovative new solutions for these markets while also gaining new ground in additional Class III jurisdictions.”

Further amplifying its new name and new products, the AC Slots booth was alive with the sights and sounds of its proprietary slot platform, AXCESS. The flexible, affordable platform is still new to the market, but as AC Slots’ Director of Marketing Aimee Schultz explains, the platform is performing like an old pro. “We’re getting our performance numbers from our first approvals, and we’re finding that it’s a great platform that’s earning money—a lot of it,” she said. New mega-casino resort Revel took notice of New Jersey-based AC Slots’ new product and placed 42 AXCESS cabinets on its gaming floor. “Revel is reinventing Atlantic City standards—it’s really, really big for Atlantic City, and it’s right in our backyard,” Schultz said. With the success of AXCESS so far, AC Slots is looking forward to a year of continued growth and hopes to saturate gaming floors across the county.

Coming off of an exciting recent announcement, American Gaming Systems (AGS) was looking forward to visiting with customers about what the company has to offer. In January, the company was granted a license to manufacture and distribute video gaming terminals in the state of Illinois. This, along with the Illinois riverboat license the company received, is sure to add to the continual growth of the company. “The company historically operated on about three new titles a year,” said Robert Miodunski, the company’s CEO. “This year we’ll put out about 30.” This show was an opportunity for customers to experience AGS’ Roadrunner platform more thoroughly. “We had this platform at G2E, but the difference between then and this show is that these titles are actually ready to deploy on the floor,” he said.

Table Games and Testers
One company looking to further expand their U.S. offerings is Interblock. Based in Slovenia and with a traditional focus on Europe and Asia, the company’s main focus is now turning to the U.S. markets. At this year’s show, Interblock was showing several products in their line-up, including the G4 Organic Virtual™ 07 Black Jack, G4 Organic Twins™ 10 in football shape with roulette and dice center, and the mobile exhibition house (MEH).

Capitalizing on its expertise in Indian country was independent test lab Eclipse Compliance Testing. At this show, Eclipse was promoting four key things: its training and consulting services to tribal gaming regulators; testing of emerging technologies such as wireless and Internet gaming; on-site compliance testing and auditing; and its expertise and experience with Class II gaming technology. President Nick Farley told us that Eclipse is seeing a growing interest in their training and consulting services for regulators, and an increased interest in using their testing laboratory to review emerging technologies. As to what to expect from them in the future, VP Janice Farley stated: “We have many irons in the fire. Don’t be too surprised to hear about some earth-shaking news coming from Eclipse Compliance Testing within the next year. We would like to tell you more, but we have to keep some things secret in order to keep CEM readers in suspense!”

Various Other Exhibitors
At the NEWave booth, it was all about Mobile, the company’s new software that empowers casino staff to easily create tax forms, validate patron information, expedite payouts, maintain Title 31 compliance, track MTLs and more, on the go. This solution works with many mobile devices, including Apple, Android and Windows to give casinos a more streamlined and efficient process. As Clair Rogers, senior VP of sales, said, it’s all to “get things done better and faster.”

Joseph Eve, a CPA firm serving Indian country, recently announced a partnership with Intacct, which offers cloud-based accounting software. Grant Eve, manager, mentioned that some of the accounting software, especially in tribal operations, is outdated or very expensive, which makes this new partnership even more exciting. He also shared that the company has a new office in Bartlesville, Okla., as Oklahoma is a market where Joseph Eve is putting much focus. But their No. 1 focus going forward, as it has been since 1983, is serving the unique needs of Indian country.

CEM also visited with Micro Gaming Technologies (MGT), where Travis Carrico, VP sales & marketing, was showing attendees how they can allow a casino’s marketing team to design their own promotions and attach them to a touchscreen kiosk. MGT showed off new features to their proven kiosk line: a sports challenge promotion, where players can pick their projected winners; and redemption items, where players can redeem promotions even after the player’s club booth closes. And Carrico wants CEM readers to stay tuned, as MGT plans to unveil new technology this summer.

They may not have had one of those giant booths at NIGA, but another kiosk company, Atrient, was highly visible at this show. Before attendees even made it into the trade show floor, their PowerKiosk product greeted visitors in the hallways that contained conference and exhibitor information, and where attendees could play promotional games that would enter them in a drawing for prizes throughout the show. Atrient teamed up with Bally Technologies, Imagine This, Red Circle Agency and See Point to create this unique experience. But at their own booth tucked just inside the entrance to the floor, Atrient created even more buzz with iPod® dock and T-shirt giveaways.

Sam Attisha, managing director, explained how PowerKiosk works: Easily managed in a control panel, players can look up information about the property, look up their own account, redeem comps, print coupons, play games, and even access Facebook and “like” the casino they’re at. “These are things that are designed to give casinos the ability to excite customers, efficiently offer programs though the kiosk, offer self-serve and, of course, to increase gaming revenue,” he said. “That’s the core behind our product.” And coming up, Attisha shared three exciting initiatives we can look forward to. Atrient will be added new functionality to its product, including bounceback analysis and adding pro forma capability, as well as working on a restaurant self-serve application.

A leader in signage, YESCO’s message at NIGA was that gone are the days of static signs, and that signage today has evolved. Michele Bass, sales manager, interiors, explained that YESCO creates its own LED lighting and fabricates right in Las Vegas. “That’s one of the technological advantages that current-day signage can have to make it even more exciting and dynamic and ever-changing,” she said. “It can, like a chameleon, be a different sign a year from now with its flexibility. It’s very, very cool.”

Several companies at NIGA really showcased their new media and technology-savvy products. Social Kiosk Solutions, for example, had a cool product where you can post on Facebook from a kiosk in the casino, and then in turn receive targeted promotions and rewards at the casino for doing so.

Another company on the cutting edge of promotions was Rymax. Smartphones have given people immediate access to figure out what’s the value of promo items and if it’s the latest and greatest, which is why casinos need their promotions to be smart like today’s player. “The days of saying Grandma’s not on the Internet are long gone,” commented Rymax’s VP of Sales Paul Gordon. “Grandma’s not only on the Internet; she’s on Facebook and she’s texting.”

Always there with innovative and useful products for the casino floor, Casino Data Imaging (CDI) was promoting its new product, GlobalSuite™, a data visualization analysis program. With a 3-D view of your casino floor, it’s the perfect tool for managers to keep an eye on how their gaming floor is doing. With many features, including reporting and analysis, it is built on Microsoft products, uses SQL reporting and is built with a .NET framework. It even can be used on the go with its exporting functionality to Excel, CSV, HTML and more. Also easily customizable, you can rotate the floor, add text or labels where you want and color code for easy analysis. Planned future add-ons and enhancements will include Windows 8 capabilities, touchscreen and handheld devices.

Thalden Boyd Emery’s Chief Boyd discusses design in a conference session.
Thalden Boyd Emery’s Chief Boyd discusses design in a conference session.
A company making some “smart” moves was FutureLogic, as an exciting message at the show was their PromoNet® couponing solution is now functional on smart devices. Nick Micalizzi, VP of sales and marketing for North America, explained that it now goes beyond automatic couponing, and that a casino host can now walk the floor with an iPad, and based on something like a heat map, can identify where the action is, whether the players are carded or uncarded, and offer them promotions and coupons on the spot. But PromoNet solution’s core function is something Micalizzi says they’ve been touting for a long time. “What better way to get to the customer than right at the game?” he said.

FutureLogic was also promoting its newest printer model, the GEN3 Evolution® printer, which has a larger ticket capacity—450 tickets—prints in less than a second and has an optional PromoNet adapter. This printer is available and will be shipping mid-this year. Goals in the year ahead? To “double down” on the gaming market. “Even though it’s been our core market, we’re really focusing on a number of new products,” Micalizzi said. It’s kind of like a clearing of the plate of things we have, and we want to make sure the products we have targeted for gaming come to market by the end of 2012.”

A busy year for JCM Global turned into a busy showing at NIGA, as the company shared with attendees success stories about the iVIZION® bill validator, Universal Bill Acceptor (UBA®), Intelligent Cash Box (ICB®), PayCheck 4™ thermal printer, and various digital display solutions. On track to achieve more than 40 percent market share this year, for example, was the PayCheck 4 dual port printer. Developed through a partnership with Nanoptix, the product has grown from just 1 percent market share when JCM took over sales in 2011. “It’s very, very quick,” said Kip Haverman, director of sales. “People are loving it right now.”

MEI also drew interest to their booth by showcasing SC Advance, the company’s next generation bill acceptor with enhanced speed, acceptance and security. “Our goal was to improve what matters most to operators,” said Eric Fisher, MEI SVP of gaming–Americas. “SC Advance performs better than we’d ever imagined.” Already thriving in retail markets, SC Advance is currently in the approvals process for gaming and is scheduled for release in May.

Members of NIGA for more than 10 years, Crane Payment Solutions is devoted to supporting the Indian gaming market and its initiatives. And at NIGA, customer demonstrations revolved around the oneCheck™ payment and cash management solution. oneCheck uses a CashCode one™ bill validator and a leading TITO printer to provide three separate reports and access to your casino’s key performance indicators (KPIs). Customers who are ready for a back-office solution will appreciate the functionality, usefulness and in-depth reporting of the cash audit and performance report (CAPR), as it is different than the conventional RFID solution, providing a wealth of data, bill validator performance reports, printer performance reports and firmware versions. This data can also aid the soft count team prepare accurate end of shift closing reports. “The tempo of the show allowed us to spend some quality time important customers and OEMs,” shared Robert Smith, sales manager.

With their slogan “Don’t monkey around with anyone else!” Slot-Tickets had a playful booth, complete with regular trade show attendee Slick the Orangutan. Tom Mitchell, managing director of special projects, and Susan Mitchell, managing director of worldwide sales, were as optimistic as ever, telling CEM that they have a fun, full year of trade shows ahead.

Over at booth 2153 was Quixant, designers and manufacturers of embedded computer solutions for the gaming industry. Show attendees were not only attracted to the scent of freshly popped popcorn, but to the range of products the company had on display at the booth. At the booth was the QXi-200, which features AMD Embedded G-Series “Fusion” APUs with AMD Radeon™ HD 6320 graphics engine. The APU features support for the latest DirectX® 11, OpenGL 4.1 and OpenCL™ 1.1 standards. Also on display was the QX-106, the unique PC-based platform made specifically for the “Comma 6a” market in Italy.

At NRT Technology’s booth, the focus was ticket redemption and cash access. They showed a variety of ticket redemption products, as well as their financial services products that give casinos ATM functionality, credit card cash advance capabilities, all in a friendly reliable fashion.

The winner of one of CEM’s Slot Floor Technology Awards this year, TransAct Technologies had a variety of products on display at their booth. Besides the award-winning Epicentral® Print System, the company also showed the acclaimed Epic 950® slot machine printer, ServerPort™ and the Epic 880™ thermal gaming receipt printer. According to Tracey Chernay, executive vice president of sales and marketing, these products were well-received among show attendees. “There’s been a tremendous amount of interest in Epicentral,” she said, “because our first two installations of the products are actually at Native American Casinos—Foxwoods and Nisqually Red Wind.” Lou Kelly, national sales director, U.S., agreed, also noting an additional significant installation for the company. “We’ll be installing at the amazing new Revel Resort Casino in Atlantic City following their grand opening later this spring.”

For Global Cash Access’ (GCA) CEO Scott Betts, NIGA is a great way to connect with decision-making executives. GCA’s focus for this year’s show was in three major areas. First, their new kiosk platform called CXC 4.0 drew attention from attendees. This product gives people flexibility to offer different services and products on the kiosk, including linking in with a casinos current promotion and marketing systems. Another of their main attractions was the Casino Share Intelligence (CSI), which derives robust algorithms that deliver property-specific trend, and share reports over a 12-month period. It has the capability to track market share, patron share, and wallet share. “No one else in the industry has that kind of robust data,” Betts said.

Avigilon, the company that designs and manufactures high-definition surveillance solutions, had a popular booth at the show. Douglas Florence, business development director global gaming, said that he was told by attendees that Avigilon was the only camera manufacturer at the show. Products that the company showed at their booth included the 29 MP HD surveillance camera, the 5 MP camera and the 360 panoramic dome.

Architects and Designers
Perhaps some of the most optimistic and energized companies on the floor were those in the architecture, construction and design sector. With new projects being financed and opportunities flowing in, the representatives CEM spoke with eluded positivity.

“There’s a lot of activity in this segment of the industry,” said Brett Ewing, partner at Thalden Boyd Emery Architects. “Regional markets are stronger.” Dick Rizzo, chairman of Perini Building Co., describes the industry as “blessed,” noting that stronger markets and increased movement is boding well for companies in the architecture, construction and design area.

“What I like about 2012 is that not only we, but other architects, have a lot on the board,” said Tom Hoskens, principal at Cuningham Group Architecture Inc. “It’s very good for them and the contractors. I think it will be a banner year.”

For the remainder of 2012, Cuningham has its hands full with projects across the United States, including Margaritaville Casino & Restaurant in Biloxi, which opens in May, Margaritaville Resort Casino in Bossier City, Lou., and Golden Nugget Resort and Casino in Atlantic City that will finish up later this spring. The firm is also working on a new iconic hotel tower for Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee that received approval during NIGA.

Ian Scott, senior project designer, RSP Architects, mirrored Hoskens’ sentiments, noting that the architecture segment of the industry appears to be hungry and ready for new projects. “There’s a variety of projects people are talking about—now, they’re really ready to get off the bench and play,” Scott said.

NIGA newbies, RSP Architects has deep roots in tribal communities and experience with leading casinos in the Midwest and Southwest regions. These relationships have laid the groundwork for their recent expanded presence in the industry. “Our firm does so many different types of projects that we’re able to have discussions with tribal leaders about their communities and what we can provide for them,” Scott said. “We’re excited for the year ahead.”

The Thalden Boyd Emery team is also enthusiastic for the remainder of 2012, with five projects under construction across the country, including a unique water park and hotel for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan. “Two years ago at the show, we just wanted to go home and cry because everybody was so morose. Last year was much better, and this year is better yet,” said Barry Thalden, partner. “The economy is not on the tip of everyone’s tongue anymore. Everybody’s feeling better and doing better. We’re going to experience new growth. It feels good to me.”

Growth was also on the mind of Dan Elias, partner at Hnedak Bobo Group. The firm was selected to design the Buffalo Creek Casino in Buffalo, N.Y., for the Seneca Nation, and the Kewadin Lansing Casino in Michigan. The Kewadin Lansing Casino is an urban casino project and was prominently featured at the booth. Hnedak Bobo Group’s interior reconfiguration of Sycuan Casino was a featured renovation design, and also highlighted was the Winstar Casino Hotel expansion for the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.

“We showcased project designs that connect our client’s brands with the customer experience,” Elias said. “Our goal is to always find distinct ways to connect with our clients, and that ‘connect’ idea became a main theme that ran throughout our exhibits at this year’s NIGA trade show.”

The firm hosted a virtual silent auction prior to NIGA this year, offering attendees the rare opportunity to bid on an authentic Gibson “Lucille” guitar signed by the King of Blues, B.B. King. Proceeds from the auction went to the Spirit of Sovereignty, a non-profit organization founded by NIGA to reward the educational goals of exceptional Native-American students.

With their project lineup, philanthropy and the launch of their new website this month, it’s no wonder the HBG team is thrilled for the year ahead.

Also feeling content was COST of Wisconsin’s Director of Business Development Jeff Scheiber. “We’re very pleased; we’ve met with clients and made additional contacts,” he said.

COST of Wisconsin has six gaming-related projects they’re working on in 2012, and Scheiber says the industry is slowly, but steadily, growing. “With more of the tribal lands looking to build, and more states wanting Indian gaming, it’s opening up some new areas,” he said. “It’s all very good.”

Increased interest in Indian gaming and the impact it has on tribes energizes Chief Boyd, partner at Thalden Boyd Emery Architects. “That’s what’s exciting about the gaming business—empowering people to do things they never thought they could do within their tribes,” he said.

Red-Horse also felt the vitality of Indian gaming on the trade show floor, noting that a synergistic energy united show goers and exhibitors. “There are tribal leaders, casino marketing people—it’s very participatory,” she said. “There’s not that sluggish feel. It’s full-steam ahead.”

The uplifting nature of Indian Gaming 2012 left the industry invigorated and ready to shine even brighter—no wonder Sen. Campbell called Indian Gaming a “bright spot!”

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