While the past six months have undoubtedly been devastating for the gaming industry, in just a short space of time suppliers have shown their ability to adapt and react, releasing new products for the new reality and refocusing business models.
As casinos begin tentative steps towards reopening, stringent social distancing and other safety measures have created challenges, which many suppliers are stepping up to meet. New technology and artificial intelligence are playing a major role in some of these new products, which range from machine sanitation to how to identify player trends to maximise floor yield with reduced visitation.
Scientific Games has introduced an entire range of contactless solutions, including its Automated Game Sanitization solution that eliminates the manual task of searching for games that need to be cleaned by identifying machines that need sanitization after active play.
Operators can also schedule sanitization at regular intervals as well as anonymous play.
“Scientific Games has always been committed to innovation, but it is now more critical than ever to develop solutions that help our partners address and adapt to the new normal,” said Matt Wilson, Executive Vice President and Gaming Group Chief Executive.
IGT boasts a similar product with its Mobile Responder solution, which enables venues to keep on top of sanitization, as it can be configured to automatically recognise and report events on the gaming floor. For example, when a carded or un-carded player cashes out it notifies floor staff to sanitize their machine.
The company says its customers are asking how they can provide safe and sanitized gaming areas for their players while still offering a comfortable, convenient and enjoyable gaming experience.
Transact Technologies too has developed a product providing proof of sanitization to give consumers another level of confidence about their safety during play.
“Clean2Play is a tool that empowers both players and casinos,” said Tracey Chernay, Senior Vice President in Global Casino and Gaming at TransAct Technologies. “With re-openings come new safety standards, and this software solution makes it that much easier for casinos to show that they are committed to protecting players while adhering to the new protocols. Players are also more likely to feel safe and come back when they see casinos are taking serious sanitation measures.”
The solution is available as an app that is part of TransAct’s Epicentral promotional system, and it is built on Acres 4.0’s Clean Machine product, which detects when each gaming machine’s play session ends and instantly dispatches a staff member to sanitize the game.
Once sanitation is complete, Clean2Play causes the gaming machine to print a certification ticket, which the casino cleaning staff member then places on the machine or directly over the machine’s bill acceptor. Before the next play can begin, the cleaning voucher will be removed from the slot machine allowing casino guests to see that the slot machine is certified as clean.
When it comes to table games, Matsui has developed a range of antimicrobial chips. Nova Guard Chip Protect ensures that any part of the chip coming into human contact in the casino is antimicrobial therefore stopping the growth or spread of microorganisms.
Matsui has carried out extensive and certified tests in highly specialised Japanese laboratories on the new products, which it says have a significant advantage over the use of antiviral sprays or ultraviolet sterilizers in use.
“Although they may be a temporary solution, they do not come without risk of damaging the individual chip’s material strength but also changing the chip colours over prolonged use,” says Shigeki Machida, managing director of Matsui Asia. “Our Nova Guard Chip Protect chips will not require any such process, or carry that risk, as the chips own active antimicrobial properties are an inbuilt protection to stop the spread of the virus.”
Social distancing measures that require every second machine to be turned off on a casino floor are also providing some headaches for operators, who say it is acting as a disincentive to play.
SG has launched a new Social Distancing Module that introduces some flexibility into the process, rather than manually shutting down every second machine. Its Dynamic Distancing product facilitates social distancing amongst slot players, disabling all games within close proximity once a player cards in.
Given the limited product offerings, some suppliers are actively looking to tweak their roadmap of games across Asia to ensure deployment of the best-performing games. For IGT, that’s Ying Cai Shen in Asia and Fireball in Australia and New Zealand.
Jade Entertainment and Gaming Technologies is using its Reel AI, which is anl AI-guided optimization platform designed to find the best possible mix of slot machines or online content to present to players. Reel AI learns the playing style of multiple player segments and discovers trends in the data to optimize the content and arrangement of games.
Some trends, such as mobile wallets and cashless payments, have already been in use, though the pandemic is expected to accelerate their deployment.
While the spread of the disease is leaving little hope for a sharp V-shaped recovery in Asia’s gaming industry, suppliers now appear to be looking to the future with more confidence.