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Astra's ready to introduce B3 offerings

19 August 2011

(PRESS RELEASE) -- What has been a long and, for the UK industry, difficult, process of regulatory change was successfully completed on July 13th with the implementation of measures that increased the maximum stake for Category B3 gaming machines from £1 to £2 and re-defined the permitted allocation of machines as 20 percent of a site's installed unit total or 4/8 machines (AGCs/Bingo): whichever represents the larger figure.

As the UK's leading manufacturer and supplier of gaming entertainment equipment the Novomatic subsidiary Astra Games Limited had been making plans for the re-invigoration of the gaming industry's B3 sector long ahead of the official announcement. In doing so the company needed to actively address the key question: with a rise in maximum stake from £1 to £2 but with the maximum prize remaining at £500, what is in it for the player?

The answer, as explained by Astra's Design Director, Andy Dinning, is a whole new level of gaming entertainment experience: "We have had time, as the changes went through the ratification process, to carefully plan how best to enhance the whole B3 experience and then to design and produce market leading products that incorporate a whole new 'feel' for the player. By investing heavily in research and development we have produced exactly what the player wants: a whole new dimension of gaming entertainment that is produced by new game features, more chances to win, more gambles and, crucially, more wins! That can be clearly seen in what we can call our 'next generation' B3 games for Adult Gaming Centres and Bingo sites."

The first of those 'next generation' games, Jack and the Giant Jackpots, Rumpel Wildspins and Rainbow King - each one backed up within their multi-game compendium formats by industry leading classic game titles - have been launched under the heading 'double the fun'. They represent a win/win situation for both operators and players. The recent past has been particularly challenging for operators and, when taken together with the impact of the smoking ban and a wider background of increased operating costs, has seen a negative landscape of site closures and the resulting job losses. Now, within the new measures, there is the clear incentive for operators to re-invest in new products and new infrastructure. The government estimates that a further 3,000 new B3 machines can be placed and, through the use of upgrade kits (where Astra's MCU memory stick upgrade system is already an established market leader), many more sites will be able to cost effectively invigorate their gaming entertainment offering.

Astra's Sales and Commercial Director, Alan Rogers, noted: "It's all about the inherent 'feel' of the games. Players want to win, naturally, but they also want to be entertained and to enjoy the whole experience. With the incentive of the new maximum stake Astra has been able to not only produce new exciting games but also create that vital 'buzz' that has been missing for too long in the industry."

So Astra Games has already tasted the upturn in fortunes of the industry that it supports but this is not a simple 'one shot' deal. As the company's Managing Director, Zane Mersich observes: “The UK industry, particularly the B3 sector, has been in the doldrums for too long. Government have recognised the importance of sustainable jobs creation and also the place that the gaming entertainment sector holds within the wider entertainment industry. We are proud that Astra's team has reacted so superbly to the challenges and the opportunity created by the recent legislative changes and I know, from talking to our customers, that this will be the start of better days for the whole industry. Right now, we have been focussed on the B3 category but there are changes coming for Category C also and we will strive to create the same operator/player win/win climate when the time comes."

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