IGT’s sbX® Floor Manager offers flexible tools to boost slot revenues and give an edge over rival operators
Slot machine occupancy already appears to be consistently high at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore and is ramping up in Macau. As that trend develops, Asian operators may want to tweak their slot price points in line with player demand. That already happens in the live table segment where minimum bet levels are increased at peak times.
At the IGT Asia Network Systems Users Conference held recently at The Venetian Macao, IGT’s Eric Lancaster explained how the company’s sbX®Floor Manager can give operators the kind of flexibility on content and pricing that can improve slot yields. The powerful tools provided by sbX Floor Manager include remote real-time or scheduled game theme adjustment and pricing management.
IGT’s sbX Floor Manager made big news when it went live in ARIA at CityCenter in Las Vegas in December 2009 as part of MGM’s server-based gaming floor, and is eagerly anticipated at the Cosmopolitan property opening on the Las Vegas strip this month. But the architecture of sbX is flexible enough to be compatible with existing equipment in older casinos—provided that the equipment has been written to the Gaming Standards Association’s (GSA) open communication standards.
“You get the core layer of sbX, that’s the G2S open protocol, and then you got our product called Floor Manager,” explains Eric Lancaster.
“The GSA protocol is something that IGT has embraced because we believe that the [slot] service window, with Media management via sbX, is the way that the industry is going. This allows operators to touch players while on the casino floor. GSA protocol is needed to drive this technology,” says John Gomes, Managing Director of IGT Asia.
“Previously if you wanted to get your hands on SAS [Slot Accounting System] protocol technology you had to go to IGT.
Now, if you want the GSA protocol, it’s available on the Net, it’s available to everyone that is interested, on a common protocol,” adds Mr Gomes.
“Think of sbX Floor Manager as enabling two new things,” Eric Lancaster, Manager, Product Management for IGT, based in Las Vegas, told conference attendees.
“It enables the management of games from a desk rather then from the game itself, and it speeds the delivery of the game themes to market.
On a slot floor that’s not really possible with the older protocols and the older games. It’s so labour intensive to go out and manage those games and change the price point or change the game themes that are available to your players.
The big thing that sbX Floor Manager does is to maximise your investment in your game partners. You as an operator have a certain amount of space, and for you that’s retail space selling a product. You need to maximise your return on the investment in that space,” states Mr Lancaster.
“An interesting thing about Floor Manager is it’s independent of the casino management system. It’s a wire that goes to the game and allows you to manage the game library but it does not interject itself between the game and, say, accounting,” he adds.
Real time and scheduled
Floor management can be done in real time as conditions on the floor change at short notice, and it can also be done on a scheduled basis in anticipation of peaks and troughs of activity.
“It allows you to manage based on time of day, it allows you to manage on day of the week, or week of the month, or month of the year,” explains Eric Lancaster.
“sbX Floor Manager allows you to manage pricing targets. It allows you to manage your game mix to optimise for a particular demographic or particular event. You can tailor to your expected player and you can also compete better when using sbX Floor Manager.”
IGT says it typically takes a slot manufacturer some time to deliver a casino’s order for a new slot game or a conversion kit for an existing cabinet.
“Imagine if our new games just came to you, every month,” says Mr Lancaster.
“Here they are. And you can put them on any compatible cabinet you want. Now you don’t have to choose. They’re delivered to you automatically every month. Using sbX Floor Manager, a key benefit is the game libraries. There are well over 100 games available in the [IGT] library in this [Asia] market. That allows you to take any of those themes to put on your main game. You the operator can then manage those games on a scheduled basis.”
Theming the floor
A practical example of the benefits of remote content management is that it can be used to create a themed area within the casino itself.
“One property we work with is creating an area in their casino to drive excitement, with new games,” says Eric Lancaster.
“So what they do when they get the new games via sbX Floor Manager every month is they will load all the new game themes in that particular area of the casino. And they have signage to support it and they award extra points for players that go and play those new game themes. This really helps your players to try new things. The customer perception is that your technology can differentiate you from a property down the street. This differentiation is really starting to drive how your players play, based on how you want them to play. One of the new things you can do with sbX Floor Manager is you can begin to choose your price point.”
sbXFloor Manager does more than simply manage the game themes.
“You can start to manage some of the firmware that’s in say the bill validators, and in the printers, and you can set game options,” states Eric Lancaster.
“For example, you can set your hand pay options and you can set the clocks on these games if you need to. This tool allows you to completely manage the games, not just the game themes. It also allows you to see your floor and to select based on certain criteria. You can click on the games and see all the game themes that are on those, and the entire meter set.
“These games are not necessarily all IGT games. You can click on the games of any manufacturer that’s implemented the GSA’s open standards and see all the same information,” adds Mr Lancaster.
“sbX Floor Manager also maximises your investment in your network infrastructure. So whether you have a high-speed network or a low-speed network or a serial network, you have built that network for a reason. That is to get player information back and forth, for processes such as accounting. Using sbX Floor Manager helps to maximize investment in that network infrastructure.”
IGT is encouraging slot technology integration with an interoperability testing facility in its home base in Reno
IGT has shown its commitment to the development of GSA open standards by setting up a facility for equipment interoperability testing—the IGT Global Technology and Interoperability Center—at the company’s home base in Reno, Nevada.
“It is built with the primary purpose of bringing or allowing all the manufacturers to have a place to build and test their equipment and games,” says Eric Lancaster.
“We test downloading and managing of other manufacturer’s games within our system. And those manufacturers can also take their systems into that lab and test our games. I’m glad that IGT was able to do it. It was a very expensive thing to do, but it’s also a certified GSA testing centre.”
“I want to reinforce the point that GSA standards are not something that IGT controls or owns. It’s a commonly agreed platform among all the manufacturers,” adds John Gomes.
“Everyone who wants to implement it needs some R&D dollars to put behind the implementation of this protocol. It’s up to each company how quickly or how slowly they do that in terms of how much cash they have behind it.”
“But I can tell you that the manufacturers are very excited about these protocols. They are very excited about GSA and we are very interactive with them. IGT architects and engineers speak with architects and engineers from those companies on what seems like a daily basis.
“We take ideas to the GSA and we get together. All the members must agree before it’s implemented. If it doesn’t get agreed upon by GSA, it doesn’t happen.”