Celebrating a Big Wheel in Gaming
This week’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas is that industry’s first in-person gathering since the pandemic hit. One exhibitor in particular will be celebrating its good “Fortune.”
International Gaming Technologies (IGT), which was among the first slot machine suppliers to use licensed IP when it introduced a “Wheel of Fortune” model in 1996 (licensed by Sony), is marking the brand’s 25th anniversary – that’s more than half the TV show’s 46-year run – with a 65-inch curved LCD cabinet and 25 different Wheel-branded electronic gaming machines (EGMs).
That’s in addition to anniversary promotions that have run at North American casinos throughout much of this year, including the opening of a 2,900-sq.-foot Wheel of Fortune Slots Zone that is home to 40 machines at the Las Vegas Plaza Hotel and Casino.
“We had the benefit of Wheel of Fortune on television every day” in the U.S. and Canada (the biggest market for the machines), says Boris Hallerbach, Director Premium Content at IGT, told the gambling news site Yogonet. Wheel of Fortune is still doing shows and it has a solid fan base. That popularity spills over onto the casino floors and when players come onto the casino floor, there is an instant touchpoint with the Wheel of Fortune brand. “It’s the sights, the sounds, the Wheel of Fortune chant that you’ll hear on any casino floor that really draws players.”
Among other gaming developments:
- Top of mind for many attendees at the Global Gaming Expo is sports betting. With sports betting legal in more than 20 U.S. states, there’s an increased focus on media and sports team partnerships to grow existing markets. A recent American Gaming Association survey showed that 63% of NFL fans believe brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in sports arenas and stadiums will add entertainment to the event.
As we’ve noted, brand licensing has also entered the equation, particularly involving sports media brands. Asked about reports that Disney is looking to license out the ESPN brand to a betting company, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said at last month’s Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference that a betting connection is of interest, but “there’s a long way between [sports betting being] embedded into the ESPN business model and licensing the name out.”
He acknowledged that since fans and the major sports leagues for which it owns broadcast rights are interested in betting, “we’re interested in sports betting. Strategically, sports betting gives us the ability to appeal to a much younger sports fan who has a very strong affinity for those sports. So it’s definitely a place we want to be.”
It seems that some partnerships (whether involving licensing or not), are in ESPN’s future. “It’s not something that we would do necessarily solo or alone,” Chapek said. “But we believe that our brands have the degree of freedom to enable us to go ahead and expand our presence there. And I think you’re seeing us starting to take some pretty big steps along that way.”
- Licensed IP is being applied to the expanding digital online casino gaming sector. Software developer Playtech signed a five-year deal with Sony Pictures Television to develop three titles based on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” for the online live casino market. Sony previously had a three-year agreement for the property with online game developer Gaming Realms. Playtech also signed an agreement with AMC Networks for a game based on “The Walking Dead” that’s due in 2022, and reached a distribution pact with Scientific Games that will give it access to, among others titles, Wizard of Oz
- Slingo developer Gaming Realms, whose games combine online bingo and slots, is developing new Slingo-branded licensed titles based on Pragmatic Play’s “Sweet Bonanza” and “Wolf Gold” online video slot machine games.
- Scientific Games is taking the wraps off its Mural 55-inch LCD gaming cabinet that has 4K resolution and will launch with the “Willy Wonka – Dreamer of Dreams” slots game. The cabinet was introduced at the Green Valley Ranch Spa and Casino in Henderson, NV. The title is the most recent in series of games introduced under a licensing agreement with Roald Dahl Story Co., which was recently purchased by Netflix.
- Casino game supplier AGS signed a licensing agreement with the NHL for slot machines and table products. The first of the slot machines, which uses trademarks of the Las Vegas Knights, was installed at the South Point Casino and Spa in Las Vegas.