Technology has created a generation gap in terms of how we gamble.
People who have grown up with texting and Smartphones prefer video slot machines, while gamblers over age 40 tend not to trust them.
“Older generations see the spinning mechanical reels and feel much more comfortable,” says John Dawson, an engineer for Video Gaming Technologies (VGT), a leading manufacturer of Class II machines for Native American casinos. “When they can’t see something really physically spin, they feel like they are being duped by technology.”
“With touch screens becoming more and more mainstream on phones, we’re seeing young people gravitate more to the video screens,” he says.
In the gaming industry, slot machines are now more commonly referred to as electronic gaming machines (EGM). Spinning the reels is controlled with a button and the traditional side lever is usually only present for nostalgic reasons.
VGT manufactures game titles in both mechanical reel and video reel forms. It’s marketing niche is making slimmer space-saving game cabinets that allow casinos to squeeze twice as many machines into the same floorplan.
Some VGT game titles include:
➢ Hot Red Ruby
➢ Celia Cruz: The Queen of Salsa
➢ Crazy Bill’s Gold Strike
➢ Live Call Bingo
➢ Mount Cashmore
➢ Mr. Moneybags
➢ Squirrels Gone Nuts!
➢ Tito Puente: King of Mambo
Whimsical characters like “Mr. Moneybags” attract players to VGT casino machines.
Dawson says he’s personally a fan of Crazy Bill, the Gold Rush prospector.
“I think he’s one of our more entertaining animated characters. I love his hootin’ and hollering,” he says. “Character recognition is a big deal in this business. It’s what keeps players coming back.”
What also keeps players coming back is more frequent payouts. Class II games are programmed with Bingo patterns for determining winning outcomes. The idea is that players win smaller prizes more often, encouraging them to keep forging ahead. The odds are similar to those of lottery scratch tickets, with so many wins per a certain number of plays. Class III machines include broader games of chance, such as blackjack, craps and roulette.
The amount of money players can bet with each machine varies by state law. VGT makes machines with starting bets ranging from a nickel to $25.
“We offer something for every kind of gambler,” Dawson says. “If you’re not hoping to win a huge jackpot, you can play all night on the penny machines for $10.”
At the company’s research and development department in Virginia, engineers use DraftSight, a professional-grade free 2D CAD product from Dassault Systèmes, to draw wiring diagrams for their internal hardware.
“We already use SolidWorks for our 3D mechanical drawings and we were searching online for some different 2D options,” Dawson says. “We wanted something without a high learning curve and a solution that didn’t cost too much out of pocket.”
“I was used to AutoCAD and learning DraftSight didn’t take much of a jump,” he adds. “It’s very instinctive. It seems like 99 percent of what I needed it to do I already knew.”
Dawson says that DraftSight is also proving to be a more efficient tool than Microsoft Office Visio, a drawing program previously used by his peers. “Before a diagram would take a day or to two to create in Visio. One of my guys recently did one from scratch in just two hours.”
As for tinkering with the outsides of the machines, as in pumping money in them, Dawson says he ironically doesn’t get many opportunities.
“I’m not much of a gambler anyway,” he explains, “but if we go into a casino, we are not allowed to play our own games to avoid the perception of cheating. Some tribes won’t even let you in the casino at all unless you are there for work.”