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slots_homespun_7_25RISMEDIA, July 25, 2009-(MCT)-Slot machines are popular because they’re easy to use-just stick your money in and pull the handle or push a button. But that won’t satisfy Gen X and Gen Y gamblers who grew up playing video games, advanced to Wii, and socialize through Facebook, says Rob Bone of WMS Gaming, an Illinois-based maker of slot machines.

“Even as younger gamblers get older, they’ll still be bringing a different perspective, and we have to account for that,” Bone says.

The result, according to WMS Gaming’s 2009 Active Gambler Profile, is that casinos need to offer slots that are: adaptive, taking into account the person playing them; communal, allowing players to compete against one another; and immersive, appealing to several senses.

For example, WMS’ Star Trek slots are adaptive because players, in addition to experiencing the familiar sights and sounds of Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock and photon torpedoes, can advance in Starfleet rank from private to corporal to major. As the player wins “medals,” more game episodes are unlocked. And the system will remember the player’s rank and medals and pick up at the same place the next time he or she plays.

For the thrill of competing against other players, there’s Reel ’em In, with big-screen virtual fishing ponds overhead. Players can choose a fisherman, who casts his line for bonus credits in a fishing tournament. Scores are archived and listed on a leader board with other players. The information is networked so that a slots player who hits it big in Las Vegas could also be listed on a leader board in Atlantic City.

Customizing games to the players and increasing competition may add to the entertainment value of slots, but that doesn’t mean bigger payoffs-at least not now. Gaming regulations would have to be changed for that to happen, Bone says. “Can we go there? Absolutely,” Bone says. “But first we have to give (players) the appetite for this type of experience.”

In WMS’ The Wizard of Oz, video clips of the movie and a vibrating chair take slots players down the Yellow Brick Road to the gates of the Emerald City.

But are such complex games too complicated? It’s a tricky issue, Bone says.

“There’s a misconception about gamblers… that they’re laggards when it comes to adapting to technology, and that’s just not the case. Actually, they like to figure things out, they want to know how a game works, how they get paid, and then be able to explain it to others.” But there is a danger of slots games being so complex that they defy understanding, Bone says. “There’s definitely a balance between the art and the science (of games) that keeps me awake at night.”

One answer, Bone says, may be to make games available online for free play.

“If you can educate someone about the game in the comfort of their own home, when they take the drive to the casino, you have a much better chance of them trying your product.”

(c) 2009, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.