- US Online Poker
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Slot machines are the cotton underwear of the gambling world. They’re not particularly sexy or shrouded in mystique, but they contribute to healthy bottom lines wherever they’re found. To that end, a technology called Foundation is attempting to make those bottom lines even more robust.
Foundation, from the Las Vegas-based Acres Manufacturing Company, is adding cashless deposits, improved customer bonuses and more accurate data to bring outdated slot machines into the 21st century. (Despite its name, Acres doesn’t physically manufacture slot machines. It creates “the computer systems that track play in slot machines and allow that data to be interfaced to other systems.”)
For players who alternate between land-based and online slots, the most important aspect of this technology is that it will help integrate land-based and online loyalty programs. BetMGM Casino and WynnBET Casino, for instance, fold online data into their respective loyalty programs that also tally retail casino play.
That will definitely add up, given the importance of slots to US online casinos and their loyalty programs. For instance, in Pennsylvania alone, online slots generated $67 million of the commonwealth’s $101 million in online gambling revenue during May 2021.
For operators, sometimes keeping track of all of that data is difficult. That’s especially for more ancient slot machines.
Noah Acres – son of company founder John Acres – told Online Poker Report that this is why, as of Thursday, about 5,000 of the US’s 900,000 slot machines already have Foundation installed. He said:
“We give casinos billions of additional data points per year. They can integrate this data into existing loyalty programs or create new ones. Most will end up creating a dual path, where the existing loyalty programs remain in place while a ‘soft’ (non-forced) migration to the new mobile loyalty program occurs.”
Granted, Acres probably won’t be adding its technology – introduced just this year on June 24 – to something like the 1898 Card Bell. That was the first poker-style slot machine, which spat out coins after winning pulls of a lever.
However, all current incarnations of those one-armed bandits have digital innards, even when the reels are mechanical. Most can be modified to enable players to add funds via a mobile app. Noah – who we’ll refer to by his first name to distinguish him from his company – told OPR he expects Foundation to add such “cashless gaming on over 40,000 machines by early 2022.”
Casinos appear eager to adopt this technology, which looks a lot like a computer docking station. That’s because, even though modern slot machines no longer depend on gears and levers, they do tend to come with other historical baggage.
Noah told OPR:
“Brick and mortar casinos have pretty antiquated technology. For example: No real-time player data is available from the slot machines. Casinos have no idea how players fared until they’re gone. Data is not easily interfaceable to other systems.”
He added that after adopting Foundation, casinos get real-time data that won’t interfere with their existing data-gathering methods. Slot machine owners also can “change the game’s credit meter on command.”
He told OPR:
“If the credit meter balance on a slot machine nears zero, we can create a special offer or jackpot just for players who deposit more funds. The bonus or jackpot could be paid to the game or to the player’s phone (via the mobile wallet). … Integrating physical and online gaming experiences is actually only possible using Foundation. Outside of Foundation, there is no way to integrate data from the physical and online environments. Foundation does exactly that, and layers the ability to pay players on command on top of it all.”
Noah said that means that with Foundation, retail casinos can offer just one app for everything from slots to sports betting. That app can also be integrated with other technology like mobile wallets and loyalty programs.
On the ground, Foundation is already showing results.
Because Foundation customers can retain their customer data and integrate Foundation into their loyalty programs, slots players likely won’t know they’re using Acres technology.
Meanwhile, Noah cited the story of Circa Resort and Casino‘s play-based drink vouchers.
He told OPR:
“Foundation is installed on all of the casino’s bar-top video poker machines that surround and overlook the world’s largest sportsbook. Casinos often attract low-value customers that seek freebies without spending anything. These players often hang out at the bar or other slots and try to score free drinks or other goods. The property uses Foundation to automate the distribution of free drink vouchers when players earn them with their actual play. Specifically, Foundation’s real-time data tracks both ‘coin-in’ (industry term for amount wagered) and ‘time on device.’ As players achieve certain levels of either metric, a complimentary drink or other type of voucher is automatically printed from the game’s ticket printer. Foundation has printed tens of thousands of these vouchers over the past couple of months, allowing the property to assign a specific ROI metric to each voucher.”
Noah shared some additional stories of Foundation’s success. For instance, he said that one unnamed tribal casino’s player tracking system wasn’t producing results that lined up with a physical count. After installing Foundation, the count aligned perfectly.
Two casinos in the same state, owned by the same entity, employed Foundation on 4,000 slot machines for cashless gaming. An app linking their bank accounts to the slot machines’ mobile wallets works.
Noah told OPR:
“Gaming is highly regulated. We have to achieve a large number of complex approvals for Foundation anytime we enter a new jurisdiction or deploy a new functionality. We frequently deploy with a narrow focus (like those listed above) just to gain regulatory approvals. The approval and launch of cashless is a major milestone for us. It means that we’re now approved to do both ‘read’ and ‘write’ functions and can now begin aggressively scaling our deployments.”
Acres Manufacturing isn’t the first time the Acres family has made a big bet on a future in the gambling industry.
In 1972, Noah’s father John Acres began working on improving slot machines. His current company site calls him “the inventor of casino systems technology.”
He started three related companies before Acres Manufacturing:
All of that earned John Acres a 2016 induction into the Gaming Hall of Fame at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas’s Center for Gaming Research.
Slot machine fame is ephemeral. Certain titles can become ubiquitous for a time, but the public doesn’t revere slots manufacturers in the same was it does iconic casinos. That goes double for a company like Acres, which adds back end functionality to streamline things for the casinos.
The ubiquitous machines just work, don’t they?
They’re everywhere and nowhere. Banks of the colorful, bright machines greet disembarking plane passengers in Las Vegas and Reno. Lines of them populate casino floors. One Reddit user speaks about a vintage one sitting in his mother’s front room.
Slot machines rarely feature in blockbuster movie plots, unlike craps, roulette, blackjack and poker. No one’s trying to break into a slot machine server in the Ocean’s series. Hard Eight doesn’t chronicle accurate player counts.
Regardless of how essential they are to the gambling industry, slot machines are often taken for granted.
Slot machines just aren’t sexy.
They’re the cotton underwear of gambling. Inelegant, but reliable. Good for the bottom line.
However, Foundation may have made them a little more attractive, at least to those with an eye for efficiency.