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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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The science of gaming floor design

25 April 2007

Have you ever thought about the abundance of sensory stimulation in a casino that's purposely created to get you in the mood to gamble? The electronically generated chorus of the slots and the ornate and brightly illuminated signage combine to make a dance with Lady Luck almost impossible to resist.

The design of gaming floors and the placement of machines and tables is a perpetual work in progress for casino executives, whose primary objective is to generate maximum revenue from the product that's in place.

It's a particularly intensive enterprise at casinos in Illinois, where space is at a premium and there's a state-imposed restriction on the number of gaming positions (1,200). Every component of the inventory has to perform or it's replaced with new product.

James Laporte, director of slot operations for the Hollywood Casino in Aurora, acknowledged as much, saying: "If you are limited to the amount of gaming positions, you have to determine what mix of slots and tables are the most profitable for the company."

Emphasizing the fluid nature of gaming floor inventory and design, Laporte revealed that game conversions are made and new machines added virtually on a weekly basis to keep the casino on competitive footing.

"The most important is slot handle," Laporte said. "With upgraded computer systems we are able to review the history of each machine from the time it was first placed on the floor. Sometimes we relocate a machine, other times it just makes sense to change it to a new, more popular game."

Many times slot manufacturers will permit casinos to test new products in virgin markets. In Illinois that's easier said than done because the process by which new games is approved is traditionally a slow one.

"While it can be a disadvantage at times, it also allows us to see how games perform in other jurisdictions before to look to purchase or lease them," Laporte noted.

Slot inventories represent a significant investment for casino operators, yet in spite of the average cost of between $13,000 and $15,000 for machines that are purchased outright, a top performer in a major market will pay for itself in no time.

So, is it possible for slot players to make the science of floor design and game placement work to their advantage when it comes to locating a "hot" machine?

The advice usually given to players is reserved for larger properties, such as casinos in Las Vegas, and not those that are space challenged or inventory restricted.

Modern day slot machines of like denomination are a more homogenous breed at casinos in the Chicago area in respect to variations in long term payback percentage.

Slot hit frequency is the great differentiator, but whether a machine pays smaller amounts more often at the expense of jackpots, or jackpots more often at the expense of lesser awards, it's all the same to the casinos.

CASINO NEWS: Hats off to Jimmy K. of New Lennox, Illinois who won the No Limit Texas Hold'em Heartland Poker Tour tournament at the Majestic Star Casinos in Gary on March 25. First place was worth $140,963 from a total prize pool of $503,440, a Heartland Poker Tour record.

"It was probably the most exciting final table we've ever had," said Todd Anderson, producer of the Heartland Poker Tour. "The atmosphere was fantastic and we had some really wild hands. Everyone had a good time, especially our new champion. It's going to make for a great TV show."

Final table action was taped and will be broadcast on the ComcastSports network in two one hour episodes later this year.

Runner-up in the tournament was Gio M. of Chicago who earned $70,482. The third place finisher was Merrillville resident Joseph D. who was awarded a check for $45,310.

Majestic Star poker room manager Dom Niro will host another Heartland Poker Tournament stop in July. Qualifying rounds are scheduled July 21 through 27 with the championship round set for Saturday, July 28, and the exciting final table on Sunday, July 29.

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