I-Team: Technology Trumps Traditional Casino Gaming - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Technology Trumps Traditional Casino Gaming

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Dan Savage with Bally Technologies Dan Savage with Bally Technologies

LAS VEGAS --  If the Las Vegas gaming industry is to thrive, it needs to keep up with the times. But how do casinos stay relevant in a time when the entire globe is opening up to gaming on mobile devices?

There's a brave new world when it comes to the psychology and technology that keeps Nevada's primary industry thriving. Nevada's best and brightest gaming minds keep coming up with new ideas to keep the money flowing. But what's already on your cell phone could create real opportunity or serious danger for local gaming companies.

Opening up this month is Downtown Grand, the valley's newest casino. It's not the usual layout. For example, there are windows instead of the usual darkened gaming floors. There's even rooftop gaming. CEO Seth Schorr will soon realize whether his gamble in casino design will pay off. He talks about what went into the blueprint.

"We went through three different versions. The funny part is, you can autoCAD (computer blueprint program), but until you get into the space, you never really know what the flow feels like. Even today, while this is about our 50th iteration of the gaming layout, until we get chairs and people in here, I bet it changes again," Schorr said.

It must change, because getting people to keep gambling remains difficult despite the end of the recession. Schorr's Downtown Grand welcomes Hawaiians with shave ice and Chinese tourists with speciality restaurants and baccarat as it tries to tap into downtown's new energy.

"The evolving downtown guest is the guest that maybe hadn't been to downtown Las Vegas, a local Las Vegan who is now coming because of the Smith Center or is now coming because of the really hip bars in East Fremont," he said. 

The backbone of any casino isn't the volatile table games, it's the reliable one-armed bandit updated for modern times.

Bally Technologies builds slots machines played worldwide. Handles are out and buttons are old fashioned. Try scratch and win on an iPhone-style touch screen.

"Now when you're doing bonuses on the gaming device, we have a scratch and win bonus on the new Titanic game where once you pick three specific elements and they match, that's your bonus," said Dan Savage, Bally Technologies vice president.

The company houses 15 different competing teams of computer programmers. Each are looking to out do the other with brand name slot machines designed for a particular gamer.

"The bulls-eye is 40 to 60-year-old females. Now, when we come out with a licensed brand like ZZ Topp -- we just announced it at our recent industry show -- that's not a 40 to 60-year-old female target audience. When we come out with NASCAR, it's around the parameters of that, Savage said. "But if you want to talk direct bulls eye ... Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, done in 1979 is a perfect 40 to 60-year-old female demographic for us."

And there lies a problem. If slot machines aren't marketing towards today's 30-year-old's, they'll slowly become irrelevant. Slot makers would like nothing more than to make slot machines with bonus rounds modeled after today's most popular home console games such as Call of duty.

"These are skill-like games. These are games that you are actually using skill, collecting items and purchasing things online. How do you bring that experience in the casino? Regulation has a large part to play in that. There are only so many things you can do on a gaming device that is regulated by over 2,200 people in the marketplace," Savage said. 

Games of skill, such as poker, are heavily regulated worldwide for fear of gambling addiction. But one of this year's highest revenue mobile games, Candy Crush already lets players pay a few dollars extra for bonuses. They're called micro-transactions and unlike Nevada's casino's, there's no regulation to hold it back. Nevada's slot makers and new casinos are embracing new technology. But as people hold increasingly powerful gaming machines in their own hands that technology may be leaving Nevada's casinos behind.

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