SHFL Entertainment’s new identity combines pride in accomplishment with confidence in a future built on innovation
Forget what you thought you knew about the folks who used to call themselves Shuffle Master. The company that unveiled SHFL Entertainment at the 2012 Global Gaming Expo came packing more than just a name change. Marking the premiere of this new identity on the world gaming industry stage last month in Las Vegas was an array of new games and technologies that speak to a new energy, a new sense of purpose and a renewed commitment to R&D across all its renowned product lines.
You may recognize the new moniker from the company’s Nasdaq ticker symbol. That was by design, explains CEO Gavin Isaacs. “We believe that our image and name should pay homage to our roots, while at the same time encompassing who we are today and accurately reflecting all that we have to offer now and in the future.”
Like the G2E debut of the DeckMate 2 shuffler, with optical recognition to identify missing, extra or unknown cards and a new remote touchscreen on which to display them. The DeckMate 2 delivers new standards of speed and efficiency to the processes of setup and closing. It’s twice as fast as its predecessor, the DeckMate, and can shuffle a deck in just over 20 seconds.
Other highlights from this core component of SHFL’s business included the MD3 baccarat and blackjack shuffler, which can count and shuffle up to eight decks of cards simultaneously; the one2six multideck continuous shuffler; and the i-Deal for single-deck specialty games.
The months ahead will also see greater global traction for an expanding menu of proprietary table games—“the ones that people take for granted in America,” Mr Isaacs says, “but the rest of the world doesn’t really know—the ones like Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’Em, Four Card Poker, Mississippi Stud, great games that generate the bulk of our money in this sector”.
And it’s about building on them, he says, with imaginative side bets and the perennial lure of local- and wide-area progressives powered by technologies like Game Manager Nexus, which can link up to seven separate specialty games in a single jackpot, and a new progressives management software package called Game Manager 2, a network-based system that enables multilevel jackpots and fully configurable multiple reserve pools so players can compete in real time for multiple incrementing meters with just one wager on all specialty poker games.
Speaking of specialty games, SHFL introduced eight at G2E, including: two new 21 variants (House Money, Free Bet Blackjack), two new poker games (Raise It Up Stud Poker, Face Up Stud Poker), plus a new fun way to play Three Card Poker called Three Card Mulligan, and the pai gowinspired 6 Card Fortune Pai Gow Poker.
Asia’s casinos can expect a lot of this to be heading their way in the months ahead, including improved versions of Vegas Star, a mainstay electronic table game platform for SHFL in markets like Singapore and Australia, and a new version of the live dealer Rapid Multi-Game called Rapid Fusion, which was first shown at G2E Asia in May and offers players the ability to bet four games simultaneously, a technology the company calls “concurrent gaming”.
“Obviously, in Asia we do very well with our electronic tables. But as a company we hadn’t invested. Well, we have invested now,” says Mr Isaacs. “We have a new platform with a brand new wide-screen cabinet which is going to be common across all our products. One cabinet across all. The platform inside it, the board and all the mechanics are the same that we use in our Equinox slot machine. So we’re down to one platform. The software’s been upgraded. It’s all written within our Unity back end. So, effectively, we can build games for online, for electronic tables or for slots. They can all go across the platform.”
The innovative iTable, which combines a live table with an intuitive touchscreen betting interface (available in roulette, order in the Philippines, and under industry veteran Ken Jolly, who heads up SHFL’s Asia business, Singapore, Southeast Asia and South Korea are now firmly in its sights.
“The focus, really, is across the whole of Asia,” Mr Isaacs explains. “We’re trying to get all our products in. Electronic tables. Again, we hadn’t invested for many years. Now with the new product, ‘concurrent gaming’ being approved—recently, we got a big approval we’d been waiting for for two years in Singapore—we think now that we’ll really flex our muscles. And going forward, where opportunities arise for proprietary tables, we’d love to place them out there.”
Above all else, the new SHFL is about “showing people from the rest of the world what you can do,” as he puts it.
“We’re a technology company. And if you are going to be successful in gaming as a technology company you must consistently and continually innovate. We will, as long as I’m with the company—which I hope is a long time—continue to invest in our R&D. Every year our products will lead in playability, functionality, looks and entertainment value. And that’s how you win.”