The Greatest Gaming Innovations Of All Time
by Dennis Conrad

The Greatest Gaming Innovations Of All Time
By Dennis Conrad

I have written and spoken about casino promotions for a long time. Every year in fact, I release a much-anticipated (or perhaps “little noticed”) list of the Best (and Worst) Casino Promotions. The marketing efforts that make my annual list are pretty compelling, but they are also pretty diverse. I am as apt to recognize a casino that provides free oxygen refills for its seniors, as I am to acknowledge a casino’s million-dollar promotion.

But all of these years of evaluating, of casting marketing judgment, got me to pondering. In the long and storied history of gaming, what have been the quintessential marketing innovations, the unique developments and creations that have propelled the industry to new heights, the things without which our business wouldn’t be the same?

Now this was a tough evaluation! I mean, how can you compare “topless dance reviews” with a “$1.99 Buffet?” “Megabucks” with a “line pass?” “Double jackpots” with “free covered parking?”

But recognize we must! (Consider it part of keeping the gaming history for future generations.) So here they are:

The Greatest Gaming Innovations Of All Time

1. The Free (alcoholic) Drink – I realize not all casinos allow themselves this great innovation, at least not the “free booze” variety, and that this tactic may seem predatory, but I don’t care. Customers clamor for it and slurp it up in prodigious quantities and then spend more time and money at the casino because of it. “I spent $100 but at least I got a free drink.” Marketing wizardry!

2. The Megaresort – the building of the Mirage changed the face of gaming forever, so much so that many Las Vegas megaresorts now make more money at the “other” megaresort cash registers than they do at the gaming areas. And even local and regional casinos now routinely add megaresort “elements” to their facilities.

3. Penny Slots – thank the Aussies and Aristocrat for this one. What could be more powerful than a slot game with the cheapest cost possible, the ability to bet as much as at a dollar machine, and a routinely great hold percentage?

4. Bill Validators – when these came out, I didn’t think anyone would use them (same thing with the “credit meter” instead of coins dropping). In fact, anything that allows faster play and more time in action is a strong innovation (Ticket In – Ticket Out, Credit Button Spins instead of Handle Pulls, etc.).

5. Single Deck Blackjack – some will disagree with me here (because of the vulnerability of single deck to the skilled player), but this game has had a hugely influential result on average blackjack players – making them feel “smart” about their game choice. That is why the new “6 to 5” Single Deck game is so shortsighted.

6. The Casino Buffet – this includes both models, the “incredibly cheap but good quality food” buffet and the “knock your eyeballs out, action cooking, around the world, higher priced” version.

7. Player Tracking/Players Clubs – even though many casinos aren’t real sophisticated yet in using these tools, most players are now trained to tether themselves to a slot machine with a bungee cord, and other industries would kill for the quality of information we routinely receive.

8. Progressive Jackpots – there is a certain fascination in watching prize pools grow (lottery slots, bingo, keno) and when this is both RAPID and ACHIEVABLE (or in the case of Megabucks, when it is OVERDUE), progressive slot banks are flooded with dreamers.

9. Super Bowl Parties – not even the NFL getting its nose bent out of shape over “appropriate use of its telecasts” can stop this tidal wave of casinos combining food, drinks, parties, gambling and football.

10. Casino Entertainers – I’m not referring to the mainstream headliners here, you know, the stars who could as easily play the Hollywood Bowl as the Caesars Palace showroom. No, I’m referring to those uniquely “casino” entertainers, who forever more will be linked to gaming – the Elvises, the Shecky Greenes, the Siegfried and Roys, the Danny Ganses, the Scintas, the George Carlins, even the Willie Nelsons.

11. Senior Days – not celebrated at every casino yet, but this is typically a “midweek day of value” for our beloved senior citizens, those wonderful drivers of our slot business, the folks with BOTH the discretionary income and the time to pack their butts at our slot stools.

12. Wheel of Fortune – the standard for a branded slot game that continues to defy all notions of “average slot shelf life” and tap into that unique slot player psyche. Thousands of imitators and other branded attempts to match its success, but none in its league. A true phenomenon.

13. The True “Attraction” – and whether it’s white tigers, or sharks, or a pirate show, or even a 99¢ shrimp cocktail or a picture in front of a $1 million display, it’s the uniquely casino marketing “flash” that draws hordes of people in the front doors.

And there you have it, my “lucky” list of 13 of the greatest gaming innovations of all time. In fact, let’s add a 14th and we’ll call it the “Lucky Charm,” and it’s every rabbit’s foot, every slot machine bell, every high hit frequency pay schedule on a slot machine – every THING casinos have done over time to make us feel that we will get lucky in their gambling joint. And that might be the strongest marketing innovation of all.


Date Posted: 03-Feb-2008

Dennis Conrad is the President and Chief Strategist of Raving Consulting Company, a full service marketing company specializing in assisting gaming organizations. He can be reached at 775-329-7864 or e-mail dennis@ravingconsulting.com. Visit Raving’s web site at www.ravingconsulting.com.

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