Today’s slot players are used to bonus events as a normal part of the games. That video slots, and many reel-spinners, will have free spins, pick’em events, mystery jackpots or some combination of the available options is a given.
But new forms of bonusing are being developed all the time, and they’re not all integral parts of the game itself. Manufacturers of slot management systems are offering bonus packages that can be delivered at the games, but which are generated separately.
The systems bonuses are akin to player rewards programs. Bonuses can be reserved for those who reach a wagering threshold, or perhaps given to segments of players the casino wants to target.
Such targeted bonusing can’t be done as part of the games themselves. Gaming boards frown on of fering different odds to different players, and slot machines must have the same theoretical paybacks regardless of who’s playing.
Player rewards are a whole different ballgame. Casinos already give different rewards to members of different tiers. Points accumulate at different rates and the rewards offered differ depending on whether your card is gold or platinum, or ruby or sapphire. Think of rewards through bonusing systems as the next step beyond redeeming points for instant free play right at the machines.
A number of developers of slots and slot systems are offering bonus applications as we move into networked slot floors and server-based gaming. At International Game Technology, the Intelligent Bonusing Suite includes events delivered through the Service Window, which the casino operator can configure to pop up on networked machines.
One application is called Random Riches, which awards bonuses when the player reaches a wagering threshold. There’s also Team Challenge, a community-based application. Qualified players who reach an eligibility threshold are split into teams. They play a game on their machines’ player tracking interface to collect their rewards.
At what threshold do players become eligible? That’s up to casino managers to decide. The operators can configure the suite to target wagering thresholds or different player segments, and decide what rewards will be offered.
Aristocrat Technologies also is delivering targeted bonusing through its Speed Solutions brand. The nRich application gives the players bonusing targets based on their play. What the player sees is a thermometer, and as wagers drive the thermometer to the top, they trigger a bonus game that can be played in the Aristocrat Media Window or on the player tracking system’s LCD panel. A variety of interfaces are available for the bonus event, such as a scratch-and-win experience or a claw game.
The nRich application uses a player’s past performance and gives realistic targets to achieve. While you play your regular game, the application launches that alert you that you’re about to hit a goal.
GTECH’s Galaxis casino systems management portfolio offers a module of bonusing tailored to each individual casino’s needs. TimeBomb FEVER and OnTarget FEVER were introduced last year. TimeBomb FEVER allows the casino operator to guarantee that a jackpot hits within a specified time, and a random number generator determines exactly when at what games the bonus burst occurs.
OnTarget FEVER reserves a reward for a specific player segment. Depending on casino marketing goals, a reward could be targeted at women for ladies night, men on a guys’ night out, players club members of more than a year’s standing; or new club members.
To the player who’s not part of a targeted group, the slot machines play as normal. These bonusing systems are separate from that, an extra way to reward loyal players.
Gambling author and columnist John Grochowski’s weekly newspaper column began at the Chicago Sun-Times and is now syndicated nationally. He also regularly makes TV and radio appearances about gambling. His column appears weekly.