Manufacturers such as International Game Technology (IGT) and WMS Industries (owned by Scientific Gaming, one of 2017’s fastest-growing developers) have perfected the art and science of producing slot machines. They offer tremendous variety, not only in-game themes but also in equipment shapes and sizes, from recessed bar-top units to traditional upright models and universal slant consoles with 22-inch LCD screens or mechanical 3, 4 or 5 reel configurations.
Although casinos often lease machines directly from the manufacturers, according to one estimate each new machine retails for $14,000 to $25,000. Take away the distributor’s margin, any royalties and the maker’s profit, and the real cost of the equipment is probably in the vicinity of $5,000 to $10,000. But what does it actually cost to create a slot machine, component by component?
The Cost of the Box
External hardware comprises the most obvious parts of a slot machine. The three biggest physical components of a standard video slot are the cabinet, the LCD display and the cash handling mechanism. All three can vary greatly in complexity, but some ball park figures are available to indicate how much they add to the relative cost of a machine.
The cabinet must be fabricated and fitted with lighting, a sound system and a power supply source with feed wires for the internal components. The simplest such plain metal cabinet sourced from China, with no branding or game logos, will come with spaces already provided for player tracking systems, card readers, support key-in/key-out and currency handling. It may measure L540 x D558 x H2416 millimeters and weigh 124 kilograms or more. Dual screen cabinets will cost more than single screen ones, and customized button panels will be more expensive than standard configurations.
Costs can be reduced by ordering in quantities of up to 1,000 units per month, but expect the cabinet pricing to start at $400 to $600 apiece FOB and range as high as $1,000 to $2,000 if fewer than 10 are ordered. Add another $20 for each cabinet lock and key required, $30 for crown lighting, $10 per illuminated console button, and $50 per power supply. The audio speakers can be obtained for just a few dollars each.
The size of the LCD display and the quality of the output in pixels will affect its cost. The most common screen diagonals are 19-inch, 22-inch and 23-inch. Most modern games incorporate touch-screen technology, so that must be taken into account, too. Again, discounts are available for ordering in quantity, but no less that $250 per display with a minimum order of 20 pieces is a good rough estimate. Then add a smart ICT multi-way bill validator/bill acceptor, either with or without a stacker, priced from $300 and up with a minimum order of five units, plus a ticket redemption printer for $300 more.
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The Inner Workings
What’s not immediately visible is where the major expenses of creating a slot machine will be found. The LCD display requires a VGA convertor and adapter cables, starting at $50 per set when 200 or more are purchased. An embedded gaming board will be needed to install the slot software, and they can range in price from $100 each at the low end to $1,000 apiece for multi-game boards capable of handling up to ten applications for a single machine, so figure $200 to $500 on average. Also, a gaming I/O evaluation board will be needed, adding another $100 to $200 to the cost of the circuitry.
Then comes the game itself, for which software must be developed. Slot manufacturers have the staff to come with their games, but anyone who prefers a do-it-yourself approach can make use of a gaming development package, such as the one offered by Slot Constructor for $3,000, exclusive of any hardware costs. The package includes gaming framework software on a CD, a printed user manual and tutorial, Windows XP embedded and Linux drivers and demonstration games with source code. Also included is free technical support for 12 months on all software products.
Optional components for coin-operated machines include coin selectors, coin entry devices, coin meters (in), counters (out) and coin hoppers. For security, electronic locks, switch locks, door switches and anti-shock devices are available. There are also EMI filters, connectors, led lights, special jackpot lights and wire kits that may be needed. Creating a slot machine is not exactly rocket science, but it is close enough for most intents and purposes. If you choose to build your own, may the spins be with you.
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