Slot tournaments have been part of the casino promotions tool kit for decades. My first was at the beginning of the 1990s, the “Magnificent Sevens” event that ran daily at the Las Vegas Sands. From early morning till the finals after 10 each night, slot players plunked down their 10 bucks for a chance to win $1,000 -- something I actually did the first time I played the tournament.
The tournament was played on a couple of dozen Magnificent Sevens slots, equipped with tournament chips so that big winners showed up A LOT more often than they would in a machine set up for cash play. Machines were shut down overnight, when the tournament wasn’t in session.
Technology marches on, and on networked slot floors there’s no need to maintain special games reserved for ongoing tournaments, or to block off machines to change game chips and set up shorter events. Systems are available that allow casinos to run instant tournaments, and to link games throughout the slot floor.
Bally Technologies has been strutting its stuff of late, showing off just what it can do with its iVIEW Display Manager and Elite Bonusing Suite. Under the watchful eyes of Guinness Book of World Records representatives, Bally partnered with Mohegan Sun in Connecticut in April to set records for World’s Largest Slot Tournament and Most Slot Machines Running the Same Game Simultaneously. Then they followed up in April with a record for Largest Virtual Race, using the Virtual Racing NASCAR application of the suite.
In the April 27 tournament, 3,001 players competed for a $100,000 prize pool, with $50,000 going to the winner. That broke the record of 2,885 players in an event run by Bally and Pechanga casino in Temecula, Calif., in February 2012. Then on May 11, networked machines ran the Virtual Racing app, and this time 588 players were in it for the $100,000 prize pool. Using the touch screen on Bally iVIEW and iVIEW DM interfaces on slot or video poker machines, players were asked to select among eight drivers under Bally’s license with NASCAR.
In the virtual race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the winner in a field that included Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. Each player who selected Earnhardt won $170 in free play.
Bally already had rolled out its EBS Virtual Racing promotional tool for instant races and rewards even on non-racing-themed games. Now Virtual Racing adds a NASCAR theme, already big in Bally’s plans in its NASCAR progressive slot machines.
The technology allows any machine with the technology installed to be instantly turned into a tournament game. As long as the Bally system is in place, games with different themes, from different manufacturers and placed in different parts of the casino can all run the tournament game and graphics at once. Afterward the tournament is over, all can go instantly back to normal play.
Several manufacturers have been working on instant tournament play. Another system is called TournEvent, from Multimedia Games. Multimedia is putting a big push behind the system with a national slot tournament at 60 casinos. Local events started in April and continue across the United States through September. Then on Sept. 25, approximately 75 qualifiers will compete for a $100,000 grand prize at Lagasse’s Stadium sports bar at the Palazzo in Las Vegas.
TournEvent is an evolving platform that not only displays and updates standings in real time, but has video cameras in game machines so that overhead screens can show competitors in action. In 2012, Multimedia introduced a team play function, so the operator can divide players into groups to compete for prizes. And during non-tournament times, machines can be converted instantly to regular games for cash play.
It’s a far technological cry from the old days of tournament conversion. I once watched at the Tropicana in Las Vegas as they roped off an area to convert machines. Operators wanted all tournament play to be on Double Jackpot machines. Even at this time in the late 1990s, Double Jackpot was an older game, and there weren’t more than a couple of machines on the floor for cash play.
So on the roped off games, glass was removed and reel strips were replaced. The chip holding the random number generator also had to be replaced. I didn’t actually see the chip exchange, but it had to be done to generate all those big winners that make tournament play fun.
It was a time-consuming process, one that had to be done in reverse to convert everything back so the machines could go back to cash play, making money for the casino.
Today, the conversion can be scheduled and made by a click of the mouse or a touch of a mobile device. The downtime of old is no longer necessary. And avoiding downtime will provide an incentive for any operator to look at the technology.
Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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