Companies not Fearful of Product Knock-offs

16 September 2005

LAS VEGAS -- Chief executives of three gaming equipment manufacturers say they aren't worried that their products will be copied or reverse engineered when they're introduced in Asian venues.

"People have made too much of this knock-off issue," said Mark Yoseloff, chief executive of Shuffle Master Inc., a Las Vegas company that made its mark in the industry by manufacturing card-shuffling machines.

"We've worked with SJM (Stanley Ho's Sociedade de Jogos de Macau) for years and we've built a level of trust that they will help us prevent those problems," Yoseloff said. "And many of the companies we work with (overseas) we have relationships with here in the United States."

"It may be something we have to worry about, but one of the advantages of being in such a highly regulated industry is that most of them (companies) comply with the rules," added T.J. Matthews, chief executive of International Game Technology, Reno, the world's largest slot machine manufacturer. "We'll count on regulators in other countries."

The executives made their remarks in a panel discussion on the final day of the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Manufacturers have spent thousands of dollars to protect their intellectual property by filing for patents and trademarks and going to court when a rival produces a product that in some way resembles the original. Shuffle Master is considered one of the most protective companies in the industry and has several copyright and trademark infringement lawsuits pending. The company most recently filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas earlier this week and the defendant, Gaming Entertainment Inc., Las Vegas, was served with papers on the G2E trade show floor.

Asked what products wowed them the most at this year's show, the executives said they were most impressed with breakthroughs in technology.

"In some sense, it's technology overkill," Yoseloff said. "When some of our engineers go out on the floor, we have to rein them in," he said, noting that technology for technology's sake doesn't serve shareholders.

Matthews said technological advancements are good for competition but all of the executives concurred that all the advancements in the market aren't substitutes for good content.

"Technology aside, we're all out to make the best games," Matthews said.

"It always comes back to content," added Paul Oneile, chief executive of Aristocrat Leisure Ltd., an Australian company making strides in the North American market.

Shuffle Master has used technological advancements to channel the company's various products to a wider audience.

"The best model we have seen is in the entertainment industry," Yoseloff said.

Content is produced to develop popular games on the casino floor. Now, through the company's Shuffle Up Productions subsidiary, tournaments involving the company's popular Three-Card Poker game are being developed into television events and the company will have a new revenue stream associated with TV.

Yoseloff said versions of Shuffle Master's games also have been made available on CD-ROM and in versions that can be played on cellular telephones.

Matthews said his company's best games are making their way to interactive television and over the Internet.

Other highlights from the panel:

- Executives concurred that specialty table games will continue to be a hot commodity as proprietary games are introduced on table management systems, such as the Intelligent Table, developed through a joint venture between IGT, Shuffle Master and Progressive Gaming International Corp., Las Vegas.

- Executives also agreed that consolidation in the industry is inevitable, as companies work to find strategic alliances and acquisitions to put a dent in IGT's North American market share, which is estimated to be in the 70 percent range.

- The panel expressed some frustration that the development of new markets is a slow process. But they concurred that the lull currently being experienced by the industry should shift favorably as markets in Pennsylvania and Florida emerge and rebuilding occurs in the Gulf Coast region following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Yoseloff added that technological advancements in card shufflers would result in the complete replacement of existing models, as second-generation machines are gradually replaced by the third and fourth generation of the devices. He said all of the 18,000 first-generation shufflers originally produced by the company already have been replaced.

Copyright © Las Vegas Sun. Inc. Republished with permission.