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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Finally Some Good News for Illinois Casinos

2 June 2004

There are some encouraging developments at Chicago-area casinos in Illinois. The beleaguered properties, which have been pressured into competing at a disadvantage against the casinos in Northwest Indiana, are fighting back with new technology that just may be a harbinger of better days ahead.

First, and most importantly, the casinos have at long last been given the regulatory nod from the Illinois Gaming Board to activate the "ticket-in/ticket-out" slot machine capabilities that properties in Indiana began using months ago.

Casinos in Illinois began equipping their machines with the technology, which is known as "TITO", last year, but they had to wait for the mandatory system-testing processes to be completed and formal approval from the Gaming Board before the convenience could be activated.

Argosy's Empress Casino & Hotel in Joliet, along with the Hollywood Casino in Aurora and the Grand Victoria in Elgin, activated TITO on a limited number of machines within the past week. Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel is expected to follow suit.

It'll take time before the conversion is complete. Each casino must address new internal operating procedures. It also represents a major monetary investment, something the casinos have been reluctant to make in light of the hostile tax and regulatory structures by which the industry is forced to operate in Illinois.

TITO ultimately is a cost-saving device for the casinos, but slot players themselves derive the most benefits. The technology not only eliminates the need to collect tokens in plastic buckets, it gives players the convenience of cashing out at the touch of a button. The paper tickets can be used as currency in other machines, or they can be redeemed at the cashier.

It's particularly useful if you play nickel slots. Instead of having to collect 1,000 nickels ($50) in a bucket and take them to the cashier to be counted, you can redeem you credits for a paper voucher. It makes it easier for players to walk away from the machine a winner.

The other bit of encouraging news comes from Argosy's Empress Casino, which has revitalized its slot machine inventory with a selection of nickel games featuring Williams Gaming's (WMS) sleek, state-of-the-art Bluebird video cabinet.

The Bluebird cabinet is the result of feedback from both players and casino operators alike. You'll be pleasantly surprised to experience the new levels of comfort, convenience and excitement that the new cabinets provide.

The amenities include a new LCD monitor featuring a larger 18.1-inch digital, high-resolution flat screen with a non-glare display. The screen, which is repositioned for a better angle in relation to the eyes of the player, can display 16 million colors.

The cabinets are equipped with sleekly designed coin trays that don't protrude from the bottom, giving players a greater sense of security.

The cabinets are fitted with a BOSE sound system developed exclusively for Williams Gaming. The audio capabilities are unlike any interactive machine you've ever played. Four speakers create innovative directional sound technology that is incredibly lifelike.

Congratulations to Argosy's Empress for taking the lead in invigorating its slot product. Technology is changing so rapidly that games and machines introduced several years ago are already tired and obsolete.

Buying new machines is a major investment for casinos. Granted, they'll return the investment in a very short period of time. However, when you consider the hostile tax structure to which Illinois casinos are subjected and the fact the properties in the Chicago area are owned by publicly held companies which must answer to stockholders, any capital improvement is a bonus.

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