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Still The Forgotten Game

If I were to tell you that there is an existing casino slot machine game that has a wide following among players, is inexpensive to manufacture, contains a high yield for the operator – traditionally somewhere between 8% and 14% house hold – but one that is being substantially ignored by both gaming manufacturers as well as casino operators, would you know to which game I am referring?

This game has been a staple of casinos for a very long time. It is a Video game that is easy to play, commands a wide audience of players numbering in the hundreds of thousands, but has always been treated mostly as an afterthought. Yet, this game is loved by casino players – but has remained largely without innovation for a very long time. And almost totally ignored by everyone – except, that is, it’s fervent and ardent fans and players!

While slot manufacturers have invested millions in new game development, designs, manufacture, and innovation, at the 2015 G2E not one manufacturer featured this game! (At least not that I could find) This is particularly significant in the light of the recent economic conditions, and the devastation that has impacted the gaming industry nationwide as a result of the recession.

As of the third quarter of 2015, the gaming industry is finally emerging from that recession. Slowly but surely, all current and recognized economic indicators point to successful growth throughout 2015, and into 2016. While it is true that not all gaming jurisdictions will see equal growth, or equally sustained economic recovery, the fact nevertheless remains that both gaming equipment manufacturers, and gaming operators, can collectively look toward a much brighter future. Signs of this were already seen at the 2015 G2E gaming convention in Las Vegas. Nevertheless, there is still a ways to go before complete confidence and security is restored.

Today, everyone – so it seems – is looking for a way to not only recapture profitability at pre-recession levels, while reducing operating costs and manufacturing costs at the same time, and also maintaining the momentum of new casino and casino equipment innovation. To slot manufacturers this means continued investment in new games, new technology, and increasingly more complex gaming machines and options. To the operator this means more deals, more complex deals, more choices, more competition, and often more costs – especially with the M&A’s that have created giant multi-national gaming conglomerates among OEM’s as well as Operators.

Such ongoing growth and innovation is always welcome in any business, including slot manufacture, and gaming and casino operations. Slot manufacturers in particular are finding competition fierce, not only in innovation and machine design and manufacture, but also competition for casino floor space. Many of the industry’s giants have seen significant erosion in the percentage of the casino floor which their products have traditionally commanded. While competition is not necessarily a bad thing, under the still ongoing economic challenges capital investment in slot machine innovation and manufacture does have a meaningfully significant impact on any manufacturer’s bottom line.

It therefore seems increasingly more puzzling that while manufacturers are investing so much time and capital in the manufacture of ever increasingly more complex slot machines – all of which are way too heavy on entertainment and not enough on the “gamble” part of the equation (more on this in other articles) – meanwhile this one tried and true staple of casinos with an already established player following and a high profitability yield – remains completely overlooked and forgotten.

So what is this forgotten game?

Video Keno.

If you’re NOT surprised at this, then my question to you is this:

Why have you not invested in the development of Video Keno?

And if you’re an operator, my question to you is this:

Why do you not carry more Video Keno product on the casino floor, and why do you not ask your gaming supplier for new Video Keno innovations?

If you ARE surprised at this, how is it that your gaming research has missed this incredibly valuable fact? And, if your research has not missed this fact, then why are you allocating so much money, time, and effort into investing for the creation of hugely complicated and expensive slot machines, many of which will not last on the casino floor beyond the trial period, or disappear shortly thereafter – while tens of thousands of enthusiastic Video Keno players still have a product that is essentially 30 years old?

Why is everyone ignoring Video Keno?

The short answer to this is – No, not everyone.

IGT is still by far the preferred leader in video keno. The Game King series is a staple of all casinos, and every multi-game console has at least one of the great IGT video keno games in it’s menu. Bally also had some video keno games, but of late seems to have let them disappear from it’s catalogue of offerings. Maybe not altogether, but I haven’t seen a Bally video keno game in any casino for a long time.

For a while, about 10-20 years ago now, there were other manufacturers who tried video keno. Of those only WMS and IT had any real tries at this. But all never quite succeeded in the way that IGT’s video keno games have, and still are. If truth be told, IGT’s video keno games are by far superior to any new innovations that has ever been tried. That’s because in THIS game, IGT actually got it right – it’s the “gamble” part of the equation that makes this game a success. Not the “fruit” or “cartoons” or the so-called “bonuses” and so on in other “new innovations.” Players of video keno are gamblers, pure and simple. They enjoy the game for what it is – the primeval risk vs. reward. It’s the challenge of overcoming the machine’s math and odds, and coming out a winner.

This is the thrill of victory that not one single manufacturer today understands – and that’s why they are always building more and more machines that are “entertainment”, but not much on the “gamble.” And that’s also why today’s “meat and potatoes” of the gaming industry – the “Millennials” – are being left out, and why they rather go to nightclubs and day clubs instead of the casino. Because no one has TAUGHT them HOW TO GAMBLE, and WHY IT IS A GREAT THRILL.

These players – millennials – are used to the “entertainment” part of the game, because they grew up with game consoles, iPhones, iPads, and the Internet. So, “entertainment” in gaming is what they understand.

But no one has shown them the THRILL OF GAMBLING!

And that’s why they don’t understand it – and so they don’t do it. At least not as much as they would, if they had games that provided that thrill.

And video keno is the perfect game for this.

No, it’s NOT boring – there is a lot more to this game than most people understand, or give credit where it’s due.

It’s all a simple matter of perspective – the “challenge” of it is what provides the thrill, and also the reward.

So, don’t change the game. Keep what you have, but make it more visible, and promote it. And, when you DO make innovations, remember not to fudge with the formula. Don’t take the “gamble” out of the “gambling games.” And THAT is what real innovation in casino gaming SHOULD be.

Victor H. Royer is President of Gaming Services & Research and can be reached at: DrVHR@aol.com