Game Selection Criteria (Part 5)

In the previous installment of this series on game selection criteria, specialty slot machine carousels were discussed as an important component to consider when preparing a well-designed casino floor. With the rapid deployment of bonus-themed games on the casino floor, slot carousels have become a complex product requiring advanced technology to support. As previously mentioned, gaming devices with bonus features have been flooding casino floors due to the increased popularity of lower-denomination wagering. The game math associated with achieving a top jackpot changes dramatically with the addition of a bonus feature to a game, and this is prompting operators to seek other avenues for generating jackpots for slot carousels.

In the past, cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats and other seasonal products were offered on specialty slot banks in nearly every casino from coast-to-coast. The machines selected to support the jackpot merchandise award varied, but none had bonus features associated with the math of the game. The bonuses of the past were in the value of the merchandise, which at times exceeded the top jackpot value of the original game (without the merchandise value included). For example, if the manufacturer’s game as a standalone offered a top jackpot of $10,000, and the value of the car on the carousel was $12,000, then the increased jackpot amount of $2,000 would decrease the hold percent of the gaming device. On the flip side, if the value of the product was less than the value of the game’s top jackpot, the hold percent of the machine increased.

At times, operators would opt to allow the gaming customer to receive cash (in an amount of lesser value) in lieu of the merchandise to assist in creating a better hold percent and win-per-day-per-unit. For example, let’s say that you just won a brand-new car playing on a car carousel but didn’t want the vehicle for whatever reason. A casino that placed a $12,000 value on the car might opt to offer a cash settlement of $10,000 or less. This, of course, would increase the value to the casino by reducing the liability of the jackpot.

With the popularity of bonus features, however, an industry-wide problem has surfaced in the past 12 months related to offering specialty merchandise carousels. The problem is not with the top jackpot products being offered and displayed — it is with the frequency of the top jackpot!
For a gaming customer to achieve a top jackpot, it must be reasonably available in the math of the game.

[Note: When I say “reasonably,” I am referring to a timeframe between jackpots that customers can recognize as achievable — there must be an identifiable method of exhibiting the jackpots and their frequency. The frequency goes back to the math of the game and the popularity of the game through customer participation.]

When evaluating the correct gaming device math necessary for a successful carousel, it’s important to analyze the floor structure for items that appear to create popularity. When attempting to create something new, it is important to quickly gain public attention by utilizing
industry-recognized products. Some items that will appear include:

  • Denomination
    Through new product offerings, the industry has realized increasing growth in the lower and multi-denomination devices.
  • Manufacturer
    National and international gaming venues are supported differently by the various manufacturers, requiring the operator to select gaming devices familiar to their customers for that region.
  • Cabinet Style
    As manufacturers continue to experiment with improved cabinet styles, customer acceptance requires constant reviews.
  • Game Theme
    As game themes are introduced, it’s important to provide updated themes to the casino, with periodic reviews of popularity.
  • Bonus Features

This is a huge component in the selection process of games designed to properly facilitate a specialty carousel that achieves the desired results in a “reasonable” timeframe between jackpots.

I tend to focus on the “reasonable” component of creating a merchandise carousel, as it is the one thing that can either create a winning event for the casino or a failure. It is not unusual to find car carousels on casino floors where the “brand new” car offered is a year or two old. This is not due to low popularity or play on the gaming devices, but to a reduced frequency of the jackpot symbols appearing.

If a game’s math is programmed to offer a jackpot of once every 300,000 handle pulls on average, and the average number of handle pulls per day is 10,000, mathematically the jackpot would be triggered once every 30 days. But take a standard bonus game offered to casinos today that has no recognizable top jackpot. The reason the top jackpot is not advertised as predominantly as in games without a bonus feature is due to the lessened frequency of the top jackpot versus the frequency of the bonus round. In many newly distributed games, according to the game’s math, the top jackpot is expected to occur once every 20 million handle pulls — or more. In the event that the game’s handle was pulled 10,000 times per day, the jackpot would occur once every 2,000 days on average.

Through the addition of gaming devices to the carousel, however, you will see that the timeframe between jackpots begins to decline. For example, a specialty carousel with a frequency of one jackpot every 30 days would require 67 bonus-feature machines linked together, with an average of 10,000 handle pulls each per day. [Note: This is only an example to illustrate the importance of a proper evaluation with realistic expectations prior to setting up a specialty carousel, as most games do not get 10,000 handle pulls per day.]

Is there a reasonable solution? Of course! Advancements in third-party additions allow casinos to offer a specialty product that serves the purpose of this article — a jackpot!

Operators can offer triggered jackpots at set intervals — that they establish — through the use of mystery jackpots. With the addition of a mystery jackpot controller, the casino can establish the timeframe between jackpots through settings that track coin-in. It sounds simple, and it is the quickest way to support the utilization of popular bonus games while establishing a marketing program tailored to compete in the specialty machine merchandise programs.

When the game math isn’t adequate to offer high-ticket items at the desired frequency for your marketing programs, third-party additions may assist your casino with the proper planning for a popular and successful merchandise carousel.

We will wrap this segment up in the next installment.

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