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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Chicago-Born Bally Technologies Back on Track

22 August 2007

Chicago is near and dear to Bally Technologies. It is where the company was founded on January 10, 1932 by the late Raymond T. Maloney, whose first product, the legendary "Ballyhoo" pinball machine, proved a smashing success with a Great Depression-weary nation.

Pinball machines paved the way for slots, and very quickly the company grew to become one of the Windy City's larger employers, an association that ended in 1989 when company headquarters and the manufacturing operations were moved to Las Vegas.

Bally reigned supreme as America's "slot king" for many years. It's estimated that in the 1960's the company supplied over 90 percent of the slot machines in Las Vegas, but when other manufacturers moved in to take advantage of the 90's gambling boom, Bally got lost in the shuffle.

CEO Richard Haddrill, who was in town with other Bally executives earlier this year to celebrate Bally's 75th anniversary, explained to me that the company lost its focus in the early 1980's by diversifying into other business segments such as amusement parks, fitness centers and exercise equipment.

Today, things are on the upswing again for Bally with the venerable company making a huge comeback in the gaming sector.

"We consciously decided two and a half years ago to make some big investments in new markets, new technologies, re-tooling our old products and making quality enhancements," Haddrill said.

Among the slot products Bally is banking its future on is the first seven-reel "stepper" slot on a wide "cinevision" display screen, a video version of the Double Dragon seven-reel stepper in which the middle bonus reel is flanked by three reels which stop sequentially left to right and three more which stop sequentially right to left. Another new design is the enhancement of Bally's popular Game Maker platform into a high definition display on a wide screen with a choice of seven playing denominations and as many as 11 games. "We are increasing our market share quite substantially," Haddrill said. "We're also expanding internationally. Whereas two years ago our international revenues were five percent, now they're up to the 15 percent range and growing." The main focus of international growth for Bally and the gaming industry in general is the Asian market. When Bally was king in the 1970's it launched breakthroughs that are commonplace today, such as the first five-reel game and a slot with a bonus feature. One of its most popular products was the "Blazing Sevens" slot machine, which retains to this day an iconic presence on slot floors in casinos around the country. Bally developed the first electro-mechanical slot machine which took slot play out of the "dark ages" of mechanical reels and set the stage for the advanced technology we see today. "We really didn't capitalize on some of those innovations as well as we could have if we had kept investing in them," Haddrill said. "We're committed to not making that mistake again."
John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp