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Kevin Smith

Station Boards Internet Train

27 November 2001

Land-based gaming operators continue to jockey for position in the race to see who will be the best at merging their strong brand with an Internet gaming site. Among them, Station Casinos, Inc. is taking a unique approach.

In June the company announced the formation of GameCast Live, a subsidiary that would focus on bringing the latest in-room and on-premise gambling applications to casinos, cruise lines and Indian gaming facilities.

The company hopes to take a valuable step in the next couple of weeks in the process of developing its new product when it goes before the Nevada Gaming Commission for approval of the technology.

Many properties on the Strip are attempting to bring their brand awareness to the Internet, but with GameCast Live, Station is going where no other property is. The technology lets players use slot machines remotely.

The video terminal-based gaming system could shape the direction Nevada, and other states looking to regulate Interactive gaming.

In the same space a traditional slot machine takes up, a property can install four of GameCast's slot terminals. The slots, which are stored at a "slot farm" on the properties premises, are wired to TV screens and monitors throughout the casino. Terminals can be placed in guestrooms, entertainment venues, bars and sports books.

The terminals can all be activated by touching the screen, which sends an electronic impulse to the slots and activates them as though they were being played on the regular floor.

The slot farm is able to take up less space since the game relies on just the main guts of a slot machine. The in depth signage and marquees which are needed for slots on a gaming floor, aren't needed in the GameCast system.

Players are able to track their success during the game thanks to a small camera that is placed in front of the slot machine screen.

The basic principal of the technology can be easily converted to an Internet-based gaming platform. But if Nevada and other states in the United States are slow to adopt and pass laws favoring online gaming, Station is going to make sure they have a way to embrace modern technology.

While GameCast positions itself for its first round of approval, it's busy working on developing new games. Its latest project includes incorporating blackjack into the system. The development enables players to connect to a remote live dealer to whom they can send commands (hit, stay, double down, etc.) and then watch the hand be played out. The cards are dealt over an electronic card reader, enabling the system to keep an automatic total of each hand's points. The system even includes the ability for players to tip their dealers during the game and have the amount added to their bill.

The first version of the GameCast system can connect the slot farms with a wide array of devices from video terminals, wireless pads, television sets and home computers.

The company had its first public demonstration of the technology at the Global Gaming Expo and the World Gaming Congress and Expo shows at Las Vegas in October.

Tony Fontaine, Station's Vice President of Complex Business Systems showed off GameCast's system of integrating all of a property's offerings. With a connected terminal placed at a property sports book, a player can watch his game of choice, bet on the action and play the slots simultaneously.

If the system gains approval from the commission it could be implemented as early as the first quarter of next year.

Judy Rosensweig, the General Manager of the GameCast Live unit, said the technology has been in development for nearly two years and is thrilled to see it nearing the approval phase.

The technology is patent pending and will allow Station to sell the concept to other properties.

Rosensweig said GameCast is targeting properties in regulated areas to incorporate the system, and the initial feedback has been positive.

"The response to date has been very favorable," she said. "We are currently in the process of seeking regulatory approval of our product in a variety of jurisdictions so it can then be marketed to licensed land-based gaming operators."

In addition to taking up less space, the GameCast terminals get more than three times the amount of player use. A normal slot machine is played for about two to three hours a day while a GameCast machine gets played 10 to 12 hours a day, according to Fontaine.

Nevada is step one for GameCast with Native American gaming operations also in the company's immediate plans.

Other properties may try to follow suit and develop their own in-house system, but Rosensweig said none of them will be able to do it effectively since the GameCast technology is patent pending.

Officials were tight-lipped about any future partners for the system but reports have mentioned MGM, Park Place and Mandalay Resort Group as having an interest in the system.

The future of Internet gaming in the U.S. remains unclear; Nevada passed enabling legislation this summer, but a federal ban could put that movement in limbo. The direction Station is heading, though, will not rely on major legislative action. The company may need some gaming regulations to be tweaked for the system to be used to its fullest extent, but it's positioned itself to move forward with already-legal versions of the technology (such as in-room gambling at hotels) regardless of what happens in Congress.

Station Boards Internet Train is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith