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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

New Face of Gaming: Slots Gain Local Ace in Agassi

7 June 2005

For professional tennis star Andre Agassi, image has been everything.

Beginning today, the lifelong Las Vegas resident's image will be emblazoned on slot machines that will soon be in casinos throughout Nevada and eventually in other gaming jurisdictions.

The Agassi slot machine, produced and distributed by Aristocrat Technologies, will be a penny-based game. It will have a tennis theme and graphics to complement its secondary bonuses and progressive jackpot elements.

But the games also have a twist: a percentage of the slot machines' proceeds and licensing fees will be funneled to Agassi's Las Vegas-based charitable foundation, which benefits many Southern Nevada organizations and programs for children.

"I was a little hesitant, being a professional athlete, about the association with gaming and wagering," Agassi said "But my connection to this city is so clear and I'm so tied in with the city, that I found myself in a unique situation. Seeing myself on a slot machine seemed like a perfect fit for a boy from Las Vegas."

Agassi said having portions of the game's proceeds benefit his charitable foundation, which has raised more than $50 million through its annual "Grand Slam for Children" events, was a way to bridge gaming with helping the community.

"I think people will be glad to know that if they're losing money playing the game, at least a portion will go toward helping to make a difference in the community," Agassi said. "My goal in establishing the relationship was to make sure some of the money makes it to kids here."

Agassi didn't say what percentage of proceeds will go toward the foundation. In a statement, Aristocrat Technologies said that as part of the partnership, it will give an unspecified donation to Agassi's foundation.

The first Agassi machines will be rolled out at MGM Grand and eight Station Casinos properties.

Aristocrat Technologies designers spent more than 12 months developing the game.

"I'm really happy with the way it looks," Agassi said. "It's kind of classy."

For Aristocrat, the game propels the company further into the themed pop culture slot machine market.

Aristocrat offers games featuring comedian Jeff Foxworthy and soccer superstar Pel . Aristocrat is expected to introduce games later this year that feature comedian George Lopez and movie character Zorro.

Other manufacturers, notably International Game Technology and WMS Industries, led the charge into the pop culture genre with varying degrees of success. Slot machines with themes of television shows ("Wheel of Fortune" and "I Dream of Jeannie"), movies ("Austin Powers," "Star Wars," and "Men in Black"), and entertainers (Clint Eastwood and Dick Clark) are now common.

Agassi seemed the perfect match to help Aristocrat, a subsidiary of Australia-based Aristocrat Leisure Ltd., grow in Las Vegas' slot market.

"We wanted to come up with a machine that would have a tremendous following in Las Vegas," Aristocrat Technologies President Gavin Isaacs said. "Who better than Andre Agassi? He is well-known and well-respected in the community, but we obviously think Andre Agassi will have tremendous worldwide appeal as well."

Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Mark Falcone believes the Agassi game will help drive company revenues in 2005.

"We believe that this product, much like other Aristocrat products, will be well-received in the marketplace -- particularly (by) Las Vegas locals -- given the company's unique approach to game design and math modeling, not to mention the name recognition Andre Agassi has since he's a resident of Las Vegas," Falcone said in a recent note to investors.

Agassi, who won an Olympic gold medal representing the United States in 1996 and is one of only five men in tennis history to win all four Grand Slam tournaments -- Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open -- just hopes customers like the game.

It's already popular with one member of his family.

"I have one of the machines here at the house and my little boy likes to play it," Agassi said. "I just don't want him to think he can play it anytime we see one in a casino."

New Face of Gaming: Slots Gain Local Ace in Agassi is republished from CasinoVendors.com.