2006 Global Gaming Expo report - part 3

19 December 2006

It was the final day of the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas when I approached the International Game Technology booth. I always save IGT for last, because it's the biggest, busiest booth at the show, and I like to see it after the crowds have thinned.

Word was out that there was something new and different, something unique at IGT's booth, and I wanted to get a close-up look. That unique something was Guaranteed Play Video Poker, and as I approached, an attractive young woman greeted me. When she saw the "Press" label on my convention badge, she said that she was a journalism student at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. I knew I could count on her to have all the details.

"Do you want to see Guaranteed Play?" she asked.

Very much, I told her. It was one of the games I wanted to see most.

"Great," she said, "let me show you." And she reached for a bar-coded ticket to put $20 worth of play on the game. Not real money, mind you. There is no actual gambling at the expo. But, she said, high scores and the lowest score of the day would win cash prizes, and there would be a random draw for a cash prize, too.

On Guaranteed Play, she explained, you first see a welcome screen that asks if you want traditional play, where you pay for each hand as you go, or Guaranteed Play, in which you are guaranteed a set number of hands.

I touched the Guaranteed Play icon, and was given a choice of video poker games. I touched the screen again, and chose Deuces Wild.

A "hands remaining" message on the screen showed 100. I was guaranteed a hundred hands for my pretend $20, win or lose. On a traditional quarter video poker machine, $20 would buy you a minimum of only 16 hands, should you start with a bad losing streak.

"The credit meter is at zero," the young lady from UNLV pointed out. "See? When you bet, it goes to minus-5."

I drew a flush, good for 15 credits on the "Not So Ugly" pay table on the demonstration version of Deuces Wild.

"Now those 15 credits are added. The meter goes up to plus-10."

So it went for 100 hands, subtracting five credits for each wager, adding credits for each win. That's familiar territory for any video poker player, but there's a big difference. In traditional play, you're not allowed to go into negative numbers. That $20 would normally buy 80 credits, and when you hit zero, you're reaching for your wallet or leaving to do something else.

Not with Guaranteed Play. If I'd lost every hand, I'd still have played 100 hands. And there would have been no reaching for the wallet.

As it turned out, I finished on the positive side, at plus-50. If I'd been playing for real money, I could have cashed out $12.50 of the original $20. Instead, I knew what I had was a middling result, one that wasn't going to be the high score of the day, nor was it going to be the lowest. There would be negative numbers.

"But you could still win the drawing," my hostess said. "Be sure to come back for that."

I smiled and thanked her, and walked away to contemplate what I'd just seen. This is a product with promise, one that has the potential to change the way we play and the way casinos market themselves. For one thing, it ties into one of the casino industry's biggest trends, one of the things that has made video slot machines so popular: time on device. With traditional play, the amount of time you get for your 20 bucks depends on the random number generator and the cards you see. With Guaranteed Play, you know before you start that you're going to get to play a while.

More important, it gives casinos a chance to include gambling time in their package deals. Today, when you buy a room package from a casino hotel, you may get the room, a couple of buffets, a trip to the spa, maybe show tickets. Guaranteed Play such a package to include the casino's primary product --- gambling time.

The Guaranteed Play concept comes from Jay Walker, creator of Priceline.com and holder of a number of casino-related patents. Walker took the idea to Action Gaming, whose founder, Ernie Moody, invented Triple Play Poker and is responsible for the multitude of multi-hand games we now see in casinos. Action has a long-standing working relationship with IGT, which now has big plans for Guaranteed Play.

Will players try it? Certainly, when they're handed vouchers as part of their room packages, they'll flock to the games, and some will stick with the guarantee when they bet their own money. And video poker is just the beginning. No doubt we can expect Guaranteed Play slots in the not too distant future.

Certainties in gambling are rare, but this is one product certain to grab attention from both casinos and their customers. Guaranteed.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2006

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.