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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 18:01 GMT
Vegas gambles on a hi-tech future
Ian Hardy
By Ian Hardy
Click's North America technology correspondent

The world's casino capital is betting on some winning technology to draw in even more players. Ian Hardy reports from Las Vegas.

The Strip
The bright lights are working even harder to draw in the punters
For tourists The Strip is all about shows, swimming pools and casinos.

It is the ultimate PDA-free environment - a cell phone escape, a laptop-less pleasure zone.

Yet behind the glitzy glass the casino operators have put themselves at the cutting edge of tech.

The Wynn claims to be one of the most advanced casino resorts in the world. It was built fully future-proofed - and it should be - at a cost of $2.7bn (1.54bn).

It is one of the few casinos in Las Vegas that is already coin-free.

All the poker chips on the property carry a radio frequency ID tag so they can be tracked from the cashier to the table tops.

The suppliers, Shuffle Master, located nearby, also make optical readers that can tell which cards are where on the table at any given moment.

Of course what every hotel would love is a fully automated casino. Shuffle Master has made one called the Table Master.

The company's president, Paul Meyer, says: "It requires no playing cards, so that's an expense that's eliminated. It requires no dealer, so that's an expense that's eliminated.

"It can run seven days a week, 24 hours a day, with perfect security and perfect player tracking."

Flexible access

Yet the casino is just one area where technology has got an upgrade.

Wynn Casino
The Wynn Casino is leading the way in hi-tech gambling
The Wynn claims to have the largest installation of VoIP phones in a hospitality setting - 4,200 in all. Each one has an interactive display.

JP Ayache, telecommunications director at the Wynn Hotel, says: "We wanted to really take advantage of the building and the hotel, and take advantage of the new technology, giving flexibility to the installation, and also being able to provide access to the guests to a lot of content.

"The guests can now have access to our restaurant information, show information, the nightclubs, and eventually we'll be able to push more content as it becomes available."

The rooms all come with a simple, yet essential, speaker wire for listening to your own MP3 player and an HD TV, perfect for watching your own wedding recorded downstairs at The Strip's only HD-equipped wedding chapel.

There is just one problem: there is still no easy way to distribute HD content on discs - so they store the ceremonies on a server. The bride and groom get a standard DVD for now.

Robert Sheridan, director of video production at Wynn Hotel explains: "I tell them: 'We can't do it now, but I have a 4.8 terabyte RAID here at my feet and the wedding video will be stored here in high definition until the day when we can give you that high definition disc.'"

Neon magic

While The Strip is famous for its weddings, perhaps the bright signs are the most instantly recognizable element.

But these are changing fast too.

Every casino is looking for something that will set it apart and advances in video screens now allow for a lot more creativity.

One particular design, made by the Young Electric Sign Company, is one of a kind.

The company's Bill Buttrum says: "It has an eraser on it that's 63,000lb, and we're moving - basically with the counter-weights - 120,000lb every time that eraser moves up and down that you see in the background.

"That's a very, very unique thing to do because it's choreographed with the video animations you see on the screen."

Assuming the signs do their work and draw you onto the grounds of a hotel complex you might soon be playing on casino-owned wireless handhelds without having to spend time in the gloomy, smoke-filled gaming rooms.

Instead you could play in public places such as beside the pool or in the restaurants.

Paul Meyer says: "You can certainly play slot machines, you can play Wheel of Fortune, Megabucks; anything literally that you can play now in the casino, you should be able to play outside the casino wirelessly."

Of course it is hoped handheld players will utilise the wireless games in addition to visiting the casino with, of course, most the money going to the hotel, either through the air or across the tabletop.

SEE ALSO:
Technology helps tie the knot
26 Sep 04 |  Click


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