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Supplier Awards 2010

The second installment of the annual awards.

Sunday, 14 March 2010 08:00
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IAG Supplier Awards 2010

This year's Inside Asian Gaming Supplier Awards have been expanded to cover table gaming supplies and slot peripherals as well as slots and electronic multiplayer machines. This is to reflect the continuing importance of the live table segment across multiple markets in the region, and the vital role that high quality 'peripherals' play in maintaining a good experience for slot players and in keeping slot machines and tables operative and profitable on casino floors.

Our judges are all senior executives in the regional casino industry with detailed practical knowledge on what it takes to create successful products in the high-revenue, high-energy Asia-Pacific region. The judges are based in Macau and South Korea (representing East Asia), the Philippines (representing Southeast Asia), and Cambodia (representing Indochina). Singapore is not included this year because its tablegaming market only commenced operation in February.

We're also publishing the criteria on which the awards have been based. In most cases, winning products received more than one nomination and similar score weightings from multiple judges, thus creating a majority winner. In cases of deadlock, the weightings were rated against the original judging criteria and the best performer under those criteria was declared the winner.

ALL WINNERS

ELECTRONIC GAMES

The judging criteria for electronic games were as follow:
* Revenue performance measured by average daily hold over period of installation (65% of the final assessment).
* Operator floor feedback based on software stability, quality of hardware build, ease of servicing (15% of the final assessment).
* Cost flexibility for operators based on the options made available (such as outright purchase/revenue participation/management contract). This was weighted 15% of the final assessment.
* Crowd pulling appeal of the cabinet and overhead sign (5% of the final assessment).

  • Best Standalone Electronic Game
  • Best Linked Progressive Game
  • Best Multi-Player Game
  • Best Innovation in Electronic Games

ELECTRONIC GAMING PERIPHERALS

The term 'peripherals' could imply this equipment is only a bit part player in the daily drama of casino gaming. That's not the case. Digital technology has allowed slot peripherals such as printers and bill acceptors to become increasingly 'smart'. It has also allowed them to become increasingly reliable and increasingly flexible and integrated with the operator's floor. All these qualities help to maintain and build casino profitability by reducing machine down time and reducing revenue leakage from technical error or fraud. These capabilities also make for a better player experience because there are fewer frustrating ticket-inticket-out (TITO) breakdowns or bill acceptance errors. The judging criteria are:
* Operator floor feedback based on software stability, quality of hardware build, ease of servicing and upgrade, modularity (weighted at 60% of the final assessment).
* Player friendliness based on ease of use, robustness, level of intelligence, player interaction (weighted at 20% of the final assessment).
* Interoperability and integration based on ability to plug and play, linkage to operator's back of house functions (weighted at 20% of the final assessment).

  • Best Electronic Gaming Peripheral — Bill Acceptor
  • Best Electronic Gaming Peripheral — Printer
  • Best Electronic Game Signage

TABLE GAMING SUPPLIES

Electronic gaming equipment tends to represent the most high value and technically complex part of a casino's inventory. But modern live tables are by no means the low-tech environments they were a few decades ago. Many of  the benefits of digital technology and networking that have so transformed the slots and multiplayer segments are also having an impact on table gaming.
The benefits of technology can be seen even in what appears on the surface to be a relatively low-tech, traditional casino supply product such as playing cards. Many casino grade cards now have highly complex manufacturing processes to reduce the risk of shoe malfunction or dealing errors.

  • Best Table Gaming Essential
  • Best Table Utility Product
  • Best Table Gaming Peripheral
  • Best Table Gaming Innovation

Inside Asian Gaming Editor's Pick

  • Editor's Pick

Inside Asian Gaming Supplier Awards 2010—Winner's List

IAGSupplier Awards
Award Manufacturer Title
Best Standalone Electronic Game Aristocrat 5 Dragons
Best Linked Progressive Game Aristocrat Fa Fa Fa
Best Multi-Player Game Aruze Lucky Sic Bo
Best Innovation in Electronic Games Aruze Lucky Sic Bo
Best Electronic Gaming Peripheral — Bill Acceptor JCM UBA-14-SS
Best Electronic Gaming Peripheral — Printer TransAct Epic 950
Best Electronic Game Signage Orion Art Customised signage
Best Table Gaming Essential Angel Playing Cards Casino Angel pre-shuffled cards
Best Table Utility Product Shuffle Master MD2 Shuffler
Best Table Gaming Peripheral Gaming Partners International Bourgogne & Grasset RFID plaques
Best Table Gaming Innovation Sasian Gaming UP2U Baccarat
Editor's Pick TCSJOHNHUXLEY TouchTable MultiPLAY Craps

Best Standalone Electronic Game

Standalone slots are often seen as the sports cars of the gaming floor—high-performance, high-octane revenue earners with the 'look at me' factor. It may be that as the industry moves toward an increasingly networked world and networked floor, the division between 'standalone' and 'community' or 'linked' games will become less and less important. Content and format will increasingly depend on the tastes and location of the player, rather than on the location of an individual gaming unit. That player may be able to carry his basic preferences around with him on a smart card, just as currently he can carry his preferences and skill level information for a computer video game around on a memory card. That way a server based casino gaming system will be able to 'recognise' the player wherever he is on the floor, while for regulatory and copyright purposes the random number generation technology resides with the system.

The best performing standalone games in the current casino industry structure certainly have personality, but innovation of itself doesn't always guarantee success with the players. This year's nominees have solid pedigrees in multiple markets and proven appeal among the growing army of discerning Asian customers.

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
Aristocrat 5 Dragons (MK6)
Bally Quick Hit Platinum
IGT Treasures of Troy
IGT Wolf Run
WMS Great Wall of China

Winner: 5 Dragons

Aristocrat’s 5 Dragons first burst onto the casino scene in 2004, but has consistently proved to be a winner
with players and operators, especially in Asia. Aristocrat hasn’t rested on its laurels either—5 Dragons has been constantly updated to add fresh value for players and is now packaged in Aristocrat’s Mark VI cabinet.

The 5-reel video slot game machine themed on Chinese history was consistently rated highly by the judges under every criteria heading, making it a clear winner against very worthy opponents from other suppliers. The judges commented in particular on the winning combination of 5 Dragons’ revenue performance and Aristocrat’s flexibility on cost.

Honourable Mention: IGT – Treasures of Troy

Operators and players like the value created by IGT’s Treasures of Troy. The title of the game hints at the riches hidden below the surface, just like in the real ancient city. Treasures of Troy looks at first inspection similar to a 5-reel game, but closer examination shows there are five columns of four rows, making it a 20-reel,
40-line game.

In addition to being a 40-line game, Treasures of Troy also has an option to buy into a MultiWay® feature, which gives players an additional 1,024 ways to win when they double their wager.


Best Linked Progressive Game

Just as the divisions between standalone and linked games may blur over time as the floor becomes a network rather than discrete zones of product, so the divisions between volatile and progressive games may also become less distinct as the industry develops. There's already evidence in the Macau market that many of the most popular linked progressive games—while retaining Supplier Awards the attractive accumulated jackpots that appeal to mass market players—also have significant volatility in their bonusing and in their award of smaller jackpots.

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
Aristocrat 5 Dragons
Aristocrat Fa Fa Fa
Aristocrat Cash Express (MK6)
Bally Blazing 7s Hot Shot
IGT Wheel of Fortune

Winner: Aristocrat – Fa Fa Fa

Fa Fa Fa is an Asian-themed Hyperlink, launched into the region’s markets on Aristocrat's Viridian cabinet in the autumn of 2008. It includes three of Aristocrat’s strongest performing games in Asian markets—Choy Sun Doa, 50 Dragons and 5 Dragons. In March last year, Wynn Macau and MGM Grand Macau reported that Fa Fa Fa's performance was already exceeding that of Aristocrat’s classic hit Cash Express among mass-market players.

Honourable Mention: Bally – Blazing 7s Hot Shot

Asian players love the value for money provided by the spectacular free games in Blazing 7s Hot Shot. Those free games are truly random, being triggered at low bet multiples as well as high and max bet levels.

The original Blazing 7s concept goes back more than three decades to the 1970s. But the idea has been brought bang up to date for the digital age. Modern versions including the seven-reel Blazing 7s on Bally's CineVision widescreen video format, and the five-reel blazers on Blazing 7s Hot Shot progressives.


Best Multi-Player Game

Operators in key Asian markets such as Macau, Korea and now Singapore are juggling with the issue of how to maintain profitability in table gaming when faced with high local labour costs relative to the neighbouring markets from where they draw their custom.

It seems unlikely (for the time being) that automated or semiautomated multi-player games can be used to build profitability in the high volume but generally low margin Asian VIP baccarat market, given that segment’s general dependence on middle men to bring in players.

Multi-players are, however, a key component in the mass segment. There are a number of reasons for this. First, they can be used to draw in new customers—especially less seasoned baccarat, sic bo or roulette players who wish to learn the games. Second, they can offer players bet combinations not available or hard to calculate in traditional table gaming, such as ante bets on sic bo or side bets on baccarat. Third, they can provide instant calculations on results and commissions that prevent revenue leakage for the operator. Fourth, and by no means unluckily, they can improve operator margins either by removing the need for a well paid dealer, or by offering a hybrid system that can be switched from automatic play at quieter times to dealer- or attendant-supervised play during busy ones.

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
Aruze Lucky Sic Bo
Elaut Roulette & Sicbo
Jumbo Technology Sic Bo
Royce and Bach Roulette

Winner: Aruze – Lucky Sic Bo

The judges praised the wide appeal of Aruze’s Lucky Sic Bo, with its ability to draw in seasoned sic bo players and newcomers alike.

It features a high-impact display designed to be seen easily across the floor. A 32-inch wide, high-resolution LCD screen prominently displays the progressive amounts, game results and past data.

The display acts as a quick ‘educational’ for novice players and helps to draw in those already familiar with sic bo as a game.

The centre unit of Aruze’s Lucky Sic Bo features large (3.5 inch) dice and a light-based presentation on the unit corresponds with the action of the game.

Each station unit offers ample foot room and emphasises ease of play with a 22-inch wide LCD game screen and a monitor angle that allows easy recognition from any play position. The touch panel offers comfortable and precise control.

Honourable Mention: Royce and Bach - Roulette

Royce & Bach’s electronic roulette products entered Asian markets in July 2007 with the deployment of three multiplayer roulette stations to Holiday Casino group in Cambodia. Since then, its products have been introduced successfully into a range of markets including the Philippines, Vietnam and Macau. As a result, the brand has earned a well-deserved reputation for player excitement, high quality build, software stability and excellent support via its local representatives.


Best Innovation in Electronic Games

Selection of this category was at the judges' discretion and features any product or product area they felt had provided an outstanding contribution to the development of electronic gaming in the Asian casino industry in the last year.

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
Aruze Lucky Sic Bo
IGT Multi-Layer Display Slots
Novomatic Multi Live-Baccarat
Novomatic / TCSJOHNHUXLEY Novo Unity II

Winner: Aruze – Lucky Sic Bo

Aruze Lucky Sic Bo topped the judges' list because of its genuine ability to add excitement and player value to one of Asia's oldest betting games.

In Aruze's game, the highest better per round gets to press a large red button and give the dice one last big hit, in the manner that the person making the highest bet in live table baccarat gets to squeeze cards.

"All other [sic bo] products are just auto bounce after 'last bets call'," explained one of the judges.

"This one gives a bit of player incentive to bet up and makes players feel they have some effect on the outcome Aruze Lucky Sic Bo also has an ante bet side feature that offers a mystery progressive jackpot. It also has minimum bet requirements and separate side bets to the game.

Honourable Mention: IGT Multi-Layer Display Slots

IGT's Multi-Layer Display® (MLD) widescreen upright machines provide an excellent presentational setting for the company's 'REELdepth' 3-D effect reels. IGT's MLD can switch from a video slot game to a 3-, 4-, or 5-reel virtual spinning reel game and back to a video slot game—all on the same G-series MLD machine.


Best Electronic Gaming Peripheral — Bill Acceptor

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
Astrosys Global Bill Acceptor HR1
JCM Universal Bill Acceptor-14-SS
MEI CASHFLOW Version 2
Money Controls Ardac Elite

Winner: JCM – UBA-14-SS

"Fast, accurate and reliable," was the verdict of one judge—an analysis supported by the majority. That's certainly the claim of manufacturer JCM, which claims its product has the highest acceptance rate and best security features in its class.

Honourable Mention: MEI – CASHFLOW Version 2

The CASHFLOW series was introduced to the market in 2002. Since then, it has become a leader in the United States' casino industry, claiming a ship share of more than 90% in games sold for US casino openings and expansions. The company says CASHFLOW has also been specified for all slot machines selected for the two Singapore casino properties.


Best Electronic Gaming Peripheral — Printer

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
FutureLogic GEN2
TransAct Epic 950
Westrex
International
777 TITO Thermal Printer

Winner: TransAct – Epic 950

TransAct’s Epic 950 printer has gained a groundswell of support in Asia since the product was installed on the floor at Wynn Macau in September 2006.

High reliability and ease of integration, and the ability to easily swap the printer between one device and another, have been cited as reasons for the success of the Epic 950. Strong sales and service support from the local TransAct team are also seen as a big plus.

TransAct’s Epic 950 printer was specified as the printer of choice on all the slot machines at Melco Crown Entertainment’s City of Dreams resort on Macau’s Cotai Strip® when it opened in June 2009.

Honourable Mention: FutureLogic – GEN2

The GEN2 printer is the second-generation ticket-in, ticketout (TITO) printer by FutureLogic. Its proprietary Intelligent Ticket Handling technology ensures that cash out tickets are fully printed before being ejected from the slot machine. To improve the printer’s reliability further, the IntelligentBezel feature detects for obstruction near the bezel and reduces paper jams, by waiting for a clear path before a ticket is ejected. A separate port is provided for convenient firmware upgrades without the need to remove the printer from the slot machine.


Best Electronic Game Signage

On a busy casino floor full of noise and flashing lights, getting your sign to stand out is a real challenge. Over time, casino game signage has transformed itself from straightforward advertising and direction finding to become an integral part of the games themselves. Today, that signage takes many forms, including top boxes with animations, giant reels and jackpot accumulator information. Crucially, thanks to the development of convergent technical standards in the industry and the advent of digital technology, that sign equipment is increasingly flexible in terms of how it can be deployed on the floor, and how it can interact with the rest of the casino’s marketing effort. Information on current jackpot levels on a particular game or bank of games can, for example, be uploaded from games to signs, and can also be downloaded from games to back of house systems for distribution in marketing campaigns around the property.

The judging criteria for best electronic game signage were:
* Crowd pulling appeal based on packaging and attractiveness (weighted at 50% of the final assessment).
* Daily operation judged by software stability, quality of hardware build, ease of servicing (25% of the final assessment).
* System integration based on ease of operation and ability to integrate into operator’s back office and marketing systems (weighted at 25% of the final assessment).

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
Aristocrat Fa Fa Fa
Orion Art Customised signage
Shuffle Master Pink Panther

Winner: Orion Art

"Orion offers flexibility and good access for services. Their equipment is easy to integrate on the floor and is easily adapted for many applications," was the verdict on the winner.

Orion Art's original signage is used on the main gaming floor at City of Dreams in Macau as well as the Hard Rock Casino upstairs. During 2009, MGM Grand Macau placed orders with Orion Art for new, speciality link and denomination signage.

Honourable Mention: Shuffle Master – Pink Panther

The judges were impressed with the originality of the sign support for what is already a highly original linked jackpot game. The Pink Panther top box features a giant three-reel display that activates during a bonus feature, with a jackpot indicator below it. The top box also features retro styling in keeping with the original 1960s and 1970s Pink Panther cartoon series on which the slot game is based. The familiar Henry Mancini music used in the opening titles of the film series and cartoon series, plus incidental music from the cartoons, plays during the bonus sequence.


Best Table Gaming Essential

This category includes dice, cards, chips/plaques, roulette wheels and rakes.

In the baccarat-focused markets of Asia, it's not surprising that operators unanimously chose playing cards as their nominated products in the Table Gaming Essential section.

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
Angel Playing Cards Casino Angel pre-shuffled cards
Gemaco Gem Pro Casino playing cards
United States Playing Card Company KEM casino plastic cards

Winner: Casino Angel pre-shuffled cards

Angel pre-shuffled cards emerged as the majority winner. Japan's Angel Playing Cards is dominant in the key Asian jurisdiction of Macau, where the company is estimated to have 90% of the market.

The judges praised the quality of Angel's pre-shuffled product, with one operator reporting a 99.9% error free record.

"Angel Cards used in concert with the Angel Eye card shoe mitigate the risk of introducing foreign cards, reduce tableau errors and provide card-by-card tracking for surveillance purposes," stated one of the judges. 'Tableau' is a reference to game rules that govern when dealing staff should or should not draw the next card.

Players reportedly also like the cards. "No complaints from the customers about the Angel cards… great quality, great to squeeze and easy to read," was the feedback from players via the operators.

"Angel have a pro-active relationship with this company and have been listening to and implementing feedback on areas for improvement for over 10 years," said one of the judges.

"There is a high level of confidence in Angel's production techniques and security aspects that, along with sound company processes, mitigate most of the risks associated with card scams in casinos."

Honourable Mention: United States Playing Card Company – KEM casino plastic cards

USPCC supplies the full range of its respected card brands to the Asian market, including exceptionally high quality KEM® brand plastic cards noted for their virtually error-free shuffle and durability in high play volume markets such as Macau. The cards for Macau use a standard index on the playing side, while those supplied to casinos in Europe and the US commonly use a jumbo-size index.


Best Table Utility Product

This category includes shoes, shufflers and chippers.

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
Angel Angel Eye Shoe
Shuffle Master MD2 Shuffler
TCSJOHNHUXLEY Chipper Champ Plus
USPCC Bee Electronic Baccarat Dealing Shoe

Winner: Shuffle Master MD2 Shuffler

The MD2 multi-deck batch shuffler's card recognition system has the ability to read and verify every card being shuffled. Its patented platform and gripper system dramatically reduces card wear-and-tear and ensures quieter machine operation. It features an easy to read display that alerts the dealer if cards are missing or extra cards are present.

Shuffle Master's MD2 shuffler was described by the judges as not only reliable and offering a secure random shuffling of cards, but was also identified as a key factor in increasing staff productivity and reducing labour costs.

"It's very easy to use, never jams and certainly shuffles the cards better than I do," was the feedback from a casino floor staffer polled by one of the judges.

"The MD2 shuffler gives players confidence that the cards are well mixed together and that the casino is offering a fair game," added a judge.

"Shuffle Master provides immediate response to service calls, regular meetings to discuss new and innovative games/products and good follow-up on any outstanding issues. MD2 and the One2Six [Shuffle Master's multi-deck continuous shuffler] are integral components to ensure game integrity," said the judge—a judgement backed by several others.

Honourable Mention: TCSJOHNHUXLEY Chipper Champ Plus

The fact TCSJOHNHUXLEY has sold more than 4,000 units of the Chipper Champ Plus across the world tells its own story.

The equipment is ideal for high volume, fast play markets such as those in East Asia. The Chipper Champ Plus identifies and 'quarantines' suspect chips. It can sort 300 to 500 chips per minute, is simple to program without removing covers, features statistical and diagnostic reporting and is capable of integrated networking with other equipment using Internet Protocol technology.


Best Table Gaming Peripheral

Table peripherals include applications of sophisticated technology such as radio frequency identification (RFID) chips and plaques. They also include tableside displays that help players—especially Asian baccarat table players—follow one of their favourite pastimes: namely, trying to identify patterns in betting and outcomes.

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
CSA Automated
Baccarat Display
Gaming Partners International Bourgogne & Grasset RFID plaques
Matsui RFID chips
Matsui MG Eye-MB chip authenticator

Winner: Gaming Partners International – Bourgogne & Grasset RFID plaques

Gaming Partners International (GPI) has been a key player in the development of the Macau gaming market, first supplying chips to the territory's former monopoly operator Dr Stanley Ho more than four decades ago.

GPI continues to dominate this key Asian market with its use of the latest RFID technology available with all the company's casino currencies. In June 2009, GPI announced it had won a US$2.7 million order to supply all the gaming plaques for the 550 tables at Melco Crown Entertainment's City of Dreams casino resort in Macau.

GPI's high-frequency RFID chips and plaques provide security against counterfeits, staff pilferage or errors, and are compatible with special player tracking hardware and software that allow for accurate tracking of play data from tables so casinos can follow player bets and accurately rate and reward players.

Honourable Mention: CSA Automated Baccarat Display

CSA Automated (Macau) Ltd is a leading systems integrator in Macau and a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Automated Systems Holdings Limited.

"The CSA Baccarat display is very easy to use. Any incorrect results can easily be rectified and changes to minimum bets or table differential can be easily input with the use of a keypad," stated one of the judges.

The CSA Baccarat display provides historical and predictive trends—an important feature for ethnic Chinese players, who tend to look for patterns in the results of each hand.

"The CSA Baccarat display is integral to our business in that it is a fundamental piece of equipment that baccarat players demand. Additionally, the display units are networked, making upload of advertising or promotional content easy. CSA also provide functionality that enables hand-rates to be recorded and extracted via an excel report," stated one of the judges.


Best Table Gaming Innovation

Selections for this category were made at the discretion of the judges, who were instructed to choose any product they felt had provided an outstanding contribution to the development of the Asian casino table gaming industry in the last year.

Nominees
Manufacturer Title
Sasian Gaming UP2U Baccarat
Shuffle Master i-Table
TCSJOHNHUXLEY AccuPLAY System
Walker Digital Elite Baccarat

Winner: Sasian Gaming – UP2U Baccarat

UP2U Baccarat, from Sasian Gaming, is a baccarat variant that offers the player a choice between traditional player/banker bets and reverse commission bets. With the latter, players get paid more than even money for wins on one to six points. With the reverse commission formula the house advantage of the new betting configuration also increases, making the formula a winner for both players and the bank.

While house advantage on the traditional player/banker bets remains the same, the UP2U player/banker bets offer increased payments, as well as a bonus opportunity. Sasian states that UP2U Baccarat can increase average house advantage by 43%, compared to the traditional format. It adds that its house advantage comparison chart is GLI certified.

UP2U Baccarat was introduced to Las Vegas Sands' Venetian Macao and Sand Macao properties in December, 2009.

Honourable Mention: Walker Digital – Elite Baccarat

"The Elite table remains faithful to our Chinese guest's favourite game [baccarat], but allows them to switch, press or make a late tie bet after the first four cards have been exposed," said one of the judges. The Elite system takes card data from any smart shoe, reads the amount of the player's bet with RFID technology and then calculates instantly in real time payout odds based on the guests betting choice and amount of their wager.

"Truly groundbreaking stuff... currently up and running at Genting Malaysia and about to be introduced in the Philippines," added the judge.

The game is currently awaiting approval from Macau's regulator, the DICJ.


Editor's Pick

Winner: TCSJOHNHUXLEY – TouchTable MultiPLAY Craps

TouchTable MultiPLAY Craps is one of Inside Asian Gaming's favourite product releases of 2009. It's the best table surface simulation we've seen so far in terms of speed and response of play. The screen surface has such high definition you can even make out the strands of 'virtual' baize cloth on the surface.

According to IT experts who know about these things, TouchTable MultiPLAY's screen definition is four times better than standard HD and a significant improvement on the touch screen computer technology that so excited audiences in the recent James Bond film, Quantum of Solace.

Being a high quality TCSJOHNHUXLEY product, it won't come cheap. But it promises strong return on investment because of its flexibility.

It's available in two- or three-game configurations for craps, roulette and/or sic bo, and can be swapped from live dealer to automatic mode at the flick of a switch. And in keeping with TCSJOHNHUXLEY's policy of working with local partners in specific markets, the table surround can also be customised to local players' tastes.

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