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Alfastreet is making an aggressive push into Asia, backed by intense research and development to gear its products to local markets

Tuesday, 01 February 2011 16:33
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Valentine’s Day marks the first anniversary of the world debut of Alfastreet’s semi-automated multi-terminal roulette machines. They went live last Chinese New Year at the casino in Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) integrated resort (IR). The date seems only fitting, as semi-automated multi-terminals and Singapore casinos appear to be a match made in gaming heaven.

Multi-terminal products are electronic versions of popular table games, whereby players place their bets and receive payouts electronically via a computerised touch screen. Multi-terminals offer casinos several benefits over live tables, including increased game speed and turnover, reduced labour costs, greater security, and even savings on dealer mispays (after all, while players will always raise a fuss when dealers accidentally underpay them, they are often happy to remain silent when they are overpaid).

Unlike Alfastreet’s previous fully automated multi-terminal roulette products, the semi-automated versions feature a live dealer spinning the ball, and according to Deric Goh, the company’s Sales Director for Asia, the semi-automated offering was specifically developed to gain Alfastreet a foothold in Singapore. “All this while, Alfastreet had only been doing fully automated roulette, until we wanted to penetrate this market, and we knew automated would not work as well,” he explains. “Genting [the owner and operator of RWS] have been operating in Malaysia for the past 40 years. So they have tried a lot of different products in that market. The automated roulette didn’t work—players didn’t fully trust it, because they thought the casino could control the wheel, control the ball. But when they converted it to semi-automated with a live dealer spinning the ball, that really made a big change and drew a lot of players.”

RWS had opened with 66 Alfastreet R1SL semi-automated terminals, which registered robust performance despite being located in the non-smoking section of the casino, which generally contains considerably fewer players than the smoking section.

The excellent results from the R1SL terminals prompted RWS to order an additional 115 Alfastreet terminals—this time, of the updated SLM3 cabinet—that went live in the smoking section in November.

The new terminals occupy a slightly smaller footprint than their predecessors, which is important in a market where the casino area at each IR is capped at 5% of the property’s total floor space. According to Mr Goh: “The casinos want to make full use of the space. That’s why they need product which has a smaller footprint, so they can put more machines into that space to earn more revenue.”

The new terminals are also a bit lower. “They are more like a real table,” comments Mr Goh.

Patrick Hogan, Alfastreet’s Asia Sales Manager, adds: “Alfastreet does a great deal of market research and product development to make the player more comfortable. So with the heights of the terminals, they want the player to ‘feel’ the game. They want it to feel more table-like, more ‘in the game.’

“Before, players on a manual roulette table had to fight the crowd to get in there and put their bets in place. Meanwhile, the marketplace at RWS in Singapore is a bit more upmarket and more modern. So they don’t mind moving to the automated or semi-automated equipment. If you look at all of the card tables out here [in Singapore]—the blackjack and all of that—you’ll find there’s a specific height, because that’s what the players desire.”

Blossoming trust

Of course, as the Singapore casino market evolves, players will start trusting fully automated products, and that trust appears to be developing quickly. Alfastreet recently installed 48 roulette terminals in Las Vegas Sands Corp’s Marina Bay Sands (MBS) around a fully automated wheel, and Mr Hogan claims the company has observed significant occupancy at that installation.

Meanwhile, the semi-automated setup can also be reconfigured around a fully automated wheel. “Conversion simply involves upgrading of terminal software and converting the wheel into an automated one,” says Mr Hogan. “Alfastreet tries to make products that are maximally flexible for the casino. So if it doesn’t work in this configuration, we have a solution for you in our hand, ready to go.”

Greater versatility coming soon

Mr Goh reveals “we’re going to roll in new product, which will use the same terminal, the same cabinet, but is a multi-game. The terminals can connect to roulette, sic-bo and baccarat. Three live dealer or automated tables can be placed in the middle of the terminals, or at the front in a theatre type setup—it will comply with the casino set up requirement.”

Furthermore, there is no need to purchase new terminals to enable the multi-game facility. “It’s just a matter of upgrading the software,” reveals Mr Goh.

The new multi-game offering is currently awaiting approval from Singapore’s fastidious Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA). “The CRA are very clear about what their rules are, and expect manufacturers to meet their rules,” says Mr Hogan. “They want to make sure that everything that comes in is fair to the player. That’s good for the industry, because that will progress into players knowing, ‘hey, this is a fair casino. It’s a fair [gaming] industry in Singapore; we have an opportunity to win. We also have an opportunity to lose, but it’s fair.’ The CRA will ensure the machines perform as claimed.”

Southeast Asia push

Albert Radman, Alfastreet’s Senior Sales and Marketing Director, is overseeing the company’s aggressive push into the region. Mr Radman believes Alfastreet’s multi-game player terminals, scheduled for launch in the second quarter of this year, will place the company firmly ahead of the competition.

“The first step was product development. The second step was establishing our position in the Asian market. We’ve done well in the whole region, not just Singapore,” says Mr Radman.” Other markets in focus include the Philippines, Indochina and, of course, Macau.

Deric Goh manages the Asian market, while Patrick Hogan is in charge of developing business in the Philippines. Mr Hogan is particularly bullish on opportunities in the Philippines, which is a relatively mature electronic games market, though roulette has yet to take a hold there. “We’re looking at more automated equipment there, rather than semi-automated,” he says.

Innovation never stops

“Over the past three to four years, Alfastreet has been doing intense research and development to gear its products to the Asian market,” says Mr Hogan. “Alfastreet is continuously doing research. If you look at the old machines, they looked and felt great, with perfectly finished burly wood rails. These classic machines are still in demand, and Alfastreet has upgraded them into their new modern look. Still, they are limited to eight stations, so Alfastreet’s research led them to make the wheel a separate, standalone unit from the terminals.

“The set up can be automated or semi-automated, offering maximum flexibility depending on player preference and the individual casino’s requirements. Meanwhile, the player terminals can be located anywhere in a casino. So ideally, you could be playing an Alfastreet machine in any area of the casino [located away from the wheel].”

“Alfastreet’s market focus and player research has made its products increasingly attractive to casino operators and players alike. Alfastreet is continuing development and is responsive to market needs. The flexibility and dynamism of the machines and meeting the requirements of world markets and Asia is the central focus of the company’s efforts.

“Alfastreet has invested greatly into research to ensure their development efforts are viable and focused on what the casinos and players want,” claims Mr Hogan. “The machines can compete in any market today. And it doesn’t stop there. The research and development continues. Keep an eye on the latest product releases coming from Alfastreet very soon.”

 

Pioneering products

Alfastreet is a private limited company based in Slovenia. It entered the world’s gaming and amusement market in 1997 with its first multi-terminal roulette machine. After years of rapid growth in European sales, Alfastreet has expanded and is now selling multi-terminal gaming equipment all over the world and considers itself one of the pioneers and trendsetters in the field.

The company displayed its strong line up of existing and upcoming products at last month’s International Casino Exhibition (ICE) in London. Inside Asian Gaming visited the company’s booth, and saw several innovative and market-leading products.

Alfastreet’s sic-bo multi-terminal, for example, offers a new take on the game by doing away with the traditional dice shaker used by other manufacturers. “We’re doing it in a different way,” says Sales Director for Asia Deric Goh. “We roll the three dice in a roulette wheel; instead of shaking the dice, we spin the dice.”

The company also recently upgraded its SL – single terminal and equipped it with an expansive 23” screen, “which is more than enough to satisfy the demanding players in Asia,” comments Albert Radman, Senior Sales and Marketing Director.

Mr Radman also has high hopes for Alfastreet’s newly developed live dealer baccarat product, which features an impressive in-house developed card shoe with optical reader. Inside Asian Gaming tried yanking the cards out of the shoe at variable speeds and angles to test the limits of the reader, but was unable to thwart it.

“That [the card shoe] is our own development, and very precise, very reliable, and I think it will give us an advantage, not only with this game [baccarat], but with the future games we are going to roll out,” states Mr Radman. He adds the company decided to develop its own shoe so as not to be dependent on third-party suppliers.

Another promising product is the versatile Table top terminal (TTM3), which can fit easily onto bars and tables, and is equipped with a hydraulic system that allows the screen to be tilted and fixed in any desired position.

One more potential winner is a newly developed roulette product which has yet to receive a formal name and is currently known simply as Wdky—“which stands for ‘we don’t know yet,’” quips Mr Goh. “This is catered more towards markets like Cambodia and Vietnam.”

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