Our 5 Favorite Casino Trends & Tech From The 2021 Global Gaming Expo

Posted By Marc Meltzer on October 12, 2021

The Global Gaming Expo (G2E) returned to Las Vegas as an in-person event at the Venetian Convention and Expo Center (formerly Sands Expo Center). This was the first in-person G2E since 2019. The annual gathering of the biggest and most innovative in the casino industry was held virtually last year due to the spread of COVID-19.

As expected, attendance was lower than the 2019 edition of G2E. This year there were about 13,000 attendees. That’s less than half the number of attendees in Las Vegas for G2E in 2019. While there was a lack of some smaller companies and international visitors, those in attendance were exuberant and happy to be in Las Vegas again.

Panel discussions via zoom were useful in 2019 but that’s only half of the G2E experience. The expo hall that features new casino games was nearly impossible to reproduce digitally. The expo portion of the G2E is where casinos buy new wares for their property.

The smaller attendance meant there would be fewer items to check out. The non-gaming portion was much smaller without entertainers and food and beverage companies hawking themselves and their products.

The expo hall is where the shiny, new casino games of today and tomorrow are on display. The pillar items on display were of course slot machines and table games.

The 2021 Global Gaming Expo was different

Gaming manufacturers are in a difficult position today, as 2020 was a slow year for the casino industry. While 2021 is better it’s still not at pre-COVID levels yet. This leads to casinos having less money to spend on new products. This impacted the expo in two ways.

First, there were fewer new big branded slot machines available for casino floors. The brands on display were mostly old games in new cabinets. Sure a new “Goonies” slot machine is fun but so are new titles with different characters.

While there were plenty of new cabinets, most of the new slot games used generic themes that don’t cost as much money for licensing a big brand name. A different version of the same games can only make customers so excited. That said, there are some new machine game concepts already making their way to casino floors.

Second, there were fewer innovations for all types of gambling on display. New technology should become front and center again in the future as casinos redefine their business strategy. Having said that, the star of the show was a product we first saw at G2E 2018.

Overall, there were still a few new casino games and ideas that stood out from the rest.

1. IGT’s CrystalFlex sports betting and slot machines

CrystalFlex Bartop
CrystalFlex Bartop

IGT introduced CrystalFlex at G2E this year. The units are based on the original Crystal Betting Terminal introduced a few years ago. The new configurations combine the sports betting tech with IGT’s Game King multi-game machines.

The original terminals offered a video screen with pregame and in-play betting options on the same screen. While unique, the terminal was geared towards a gambler sitting inside of a traditional sportsbook.

The new CrystalFlex comes in two styles. There’s a similar terminal option for sitting inside of a sportsbook. There’s also a bartop version (above) that will fit inside any bar that uses IGT’s PeakBarTop machines. The new CrystalFlex includes the original concept of a video screen and sports betting odds. It also offers bartop games like video poker, slots, and keno on the same screen.

On the surface, it appears as though there might be too much happening on the screen at once. Not everyone can handle all of these stimuli. However, this doesn’t stray too far from how many people gamble at home or in a bar nowadays.

The single-screen on the CrystalFlex simply replaces multiple screens a gambler might have open. For comparison, a player may have a phone for betting on sports, a tablet with a game to play and a TV showing the game at home or in a bar or casino.

The bartop configuration should prove popular with younger sports bettors around the country. Sportsbooks today are more than just chairs or a betting station in a big room with huge TVs.

The are plenty of different sportsbook configurations around the US. CrystalFlex will allow bettors to place sports bets without leaving a bar to wager at a kiosk or sportsbook desk. Adding to the appeal is that since this is similar to betting at a kiosk, there’s no need to fumble around with a phone trying to make a wager.

IGT tells PlayUSA that they hope the CrystalBetting Terminal will be in casinos in the first half of 2022. The sports betting functionality for the PeakBarTop games should be available at a later date that is still TBD.

2. Go-Go Claw carnival-style game

The Go-Go Claw game from Aruze is already popping up in some Las Vegas casinos. The concept is simple like an amusement game with a gambling twist.

A player inserts money and directs a claw to pick up a prize. If the crane is able to hold onto the ball with a prize the player wins a prize up to a predetermined dollar figure. The demo above was set to pick all winners. That’s not always the case when playing in the casino so players can expect some losses.

While a fun game, Go Go Claw uses a Random Number Generator (RNG) like slot machines. It may appear as though there’s skill involved with Go-Go Claw but all outcomes are set once the player starts the game.

Aruze’s Roll To Win craps game debuted at 2018 G2E. Casinos didn’t start to install the game en masse until this year. Roll To Win Craps is at all Caesars Las Vegas casinos and more.

Unlike the craps game from Aruze, Go-Go Claw is already in a few Las Vegas casinos. Be patient as it may take time for this to reach a casino near you.

3. Huge slot machine installations

Aristocrat introduced one of the largest slot machine configurations at G2E 2019. While the concept is cool, it takes up a lot of space and casinos and customers weren’t quite ready for something like this while dealing with COVID-19 last year.

This new tunnel-style slot machine installation is currently being used for the company’s new “Dune” slot game. This could be configured for a co-branded promotion like a movie or with any of the games that would fit.

While the Aristocrat installation isn’t in every casino it’s easy to see that slot machines are getting larger. Many of the newest slot machines at G2E and on casino floors are massive installations for one or more players.

Anecdotally, the huge slot machines are popular with players and casinos always want new games in configurations that players want to see. The new Game Of Thrones Kings Landing is one of the best examples of a great-looking and huge slot machine that’s fun to play.

4. PayAction sports bonus

Sometimes the best ideas are right in front of your eyes. There’s no reason the PayAction sports bonus system hasn’t been available in all casinos and bars for years. The idea is simple.

The PayAction bonus uses a live sports data feed to trigger a bonus round on any slot machine connected to its casino management system. The example above shows fictional players at slot machines inside of a casino receiving a bonus when a Vegas Golden Knights player scores. This type of promo can use any measurable statistic to trigger the bonus. Prizes can be paid to the game’s credit meter or in either cashable or non-cashable credits.

This is something individual bars could do (and some have done) anytime but the process is automated so there’s no extra work for the casino or bar staff. The company says it’s negotiating with sports franchises, athletes and brands to create unique jackpots.” This sounds like a no-brainer and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it available soon.

5. More Electronic Table Games

Interblock Stadium Games
Interblock Stadium Games

Electronic Table Games (ETG) aren’t new but they’re a rapidly growing part of casino floors today. Don’t expect that to end as companies like Interblock continue to offer new types of ETG installations. The photo above is a new massive Stadium Gaming structure at The Palazzo. This is now available inside multiple Las Vegas casinos.

There are ETGs available for as little as one player and as many as a hundred or more. Both options are already available in casinos around the US.

ETGs have become much more popular over the past year due to COVID-19. Players like the option since there are fewer people around and possibly fewer germs. Casinos like them because they’re a lower-cost table game option for the gaming floor.

The ETGs have also become the low-priced option for table game players looking to play blackjack, roulette and more. Casinos in Las Vegas are setting minimums for live dealer games at a higher minimum bet of around $25. Meanwhile, ETGs have lower minimum bets somewhere between $5 and $15.

Get used to seeing these games in casinos. Low rollers should expect ETGs to be the lowest cost table game option in their casinos eventually.

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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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