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The gaming industry is big business in the U.S., contributing an estimated US$240 billion to the economy each year, while generating $38 billion in tax revenues and supporting 17 million jobs.

What people may not realize is that slot machines, video poker machines and other electronic gaming devices make up the bulk of all that economic activity. At casinos in Iowa and South Dakota, for example, such devices have contributed up to 89 percent of annual gaming revenue.

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Spinning-reel slots in particular are profit juggernauts for most casinos, outperforming table games like blackjack, video poker machines and other forms of gambling.

What about slot machines makes them such reliable money makers? In part, it has something to do with casinos’ ability to hide their true price from even the savviest of gamblers.

The price of a slot

An important economic theory holds that when the price of something goes up, demand for it tends to fall.

But that depends on price transparency, which exists for most of the day-to-day purchases we make. That is, other than visits to the doctor’s office and possibly the auto mechanic, we know the price of most products and services before we decide to pay for them.

Slots may be even worse than the doctor’s office, in that most of us will never know the true price of our wagers. Which means the law of supply and demand breaks down.

Casino operators usually think of price in terms of what is known as the average or expected house advantage on each bet placed by players. Basically, it’s the long-term edge that is built into the game. For an individual player, his or her limited interaction with the game will result in a “price” that looks a lot different.

For example, consider a game with a 10 percent house advantage – which is fairly typical. This means that over the long run, the game will return 10 percent of all wagers it accepts to the casino that owns it. So if it accepts $1 million in wagers over 2 million spins, it would be expected to pay out $900,000, resulting in a casino gain of $100,000. Thus from the management’s perspective, the “price” it charges is the 10 percent it expects to collect from gamblers over time.

Individual players, however, will likely define price as the cost of the spin. For example, if a player bets $1, spins the reels and receives no payout, that’ll be the price – not 10 cents.

So who is correct? Both, in a way. While the game has certainly collected $1 from the player, management knows that eventually 90 cents of that will be dispensed to other players.

A player could never know this, however, given he will only be playing for an hour or two, during which he may hope a large payout will make up for his many losses and then some. And at this rate of play it could take years of playing a single slot machine for the casino’s long-term advantage to become evident.

Short-term vs. long-term

This difference in price perspective is rooted in the gap between the short-term view of the players and the long-term view of management. This is one of the lessons I’ve learned in my more than three decades in the gambling industry analyzing the performance of casino games and as a researcher studying them.

Let’s consider George, who just got his paycheck and heads to the casino with $80 to spend over an hour on a Tuesday night. There are basically three outcomes: He loses everything, hits a considerable jackpot and wins big, or makes or loses a little but manages to walk away before the odds turn decidedly against him.

Of course, the first outcome is far more common than the other two – it has to be for the casino to maintain its house advantage. The funds to pay big jackpots come from frequent losers (who get wiped out). Without all these losers, there can be no big winners – which is why so many people play in the first place.

Specifically, the sum of all the individual losses is used to fund the big jackpots. Therefore, to provide enticing jackpots, many players must lose all of their Tuesday night bankroll.

What is less obvious to many is that the long-term experience rarely occurs at the player level. That is, players rarely lose their $80 in a uniform manner (that is, a rate of 10 percent per spin). If this were the typical slot experience, it would be predictably disappointing. But it would make it very easy for a player to identify the price he’s paying.

Raising the price

Ultimately, the casino is selling excitement, which is comprised of hope and variance. Even though a slot may have a modest house advantage from management’s perspective, such as 4 percent, it can and often does win all of George’s Tuesday night bankroll in short order.

This is primarily due to the variance in the slot machine’s pay table – which lists all the winning symbol combinations and the number of credits awarded for each one. While the pay table is visible to the player, the probability of producing each winning symbol combination remains hidden. Of course, these probabilities are a critical determinant of the house advantage – that is, the long-term price of the wager.

This rare ability to hide the price of a good or service offers an opportunity for casino management to raise the price without notifying the players – if they can get away with it.

Casino managers are under tremendous pressure to maximize their all-important slot revenue, but they do not want to kill the golden goose by raising the “price” too much. If players are able to detect these concealed price increases simply by playing the games, then they may choose to play at another casino.

This terrifies casino operators, as it is difficult and expensive to recover from perceptions of a high-priced slot product.

Getting away with it

Consequently, many operators resist increasing the house advantages of their slot machines, believing that players can detect these price shocks.

Our new research, however, has found that increases in the casino advantage have produced significant gains in revenue with no signs of detection even by savvy players. In multiple comparisons of two otherwise identical reel games, the high-priced games produced significantly greater revenue for the casino. These findings were confirmed in a second study.

Further analysis revealed no evidence of play migration from the high-priced games, despite the fact their low-priced counterparts were located a mere 3 feet away. Olg casino thousand islands.

Importantly, these results occurred in spite of the egregious economic disincentive to play the high-priced games. That is, the visible pay tables were identical on both the high- and low-priced games, within each of the two-game pairings. The only difference was the concealed probabilities of each payout.

Armed with this knowledge, management may be more willing to increase prices. And for price-sensitive gamblers, reel slot machines may become something to avoid.

Bally Manufacturing
IndustryInteractive entertainment
FateAcquired by Hilton
FoundedJanuary 10, 1932; 89 years ago
FounderRaymond Moloney
DefunctDecember 18, 1996; 24 years ago
HeadquartersChicago
ProductsPinball
slot machines
later expanded into casinos, video games, health clubs, and theme parks

Bally Manufacturing, later renamed Bally Entertainment, was an American company that began as a pinball and slot machine manufacturer, and later expanded into casinos, video games, health clubs, and theme parks. It was acquired by Hilton Hotels in 1996. Its brand name, and mid-20th century pinball & slot machine logo, are still used by several businesses with some trademark rights, most notably Bally Technologies and Bally's Corporation.

History[edit]

The Bally Manufacturing Corporation was founded by Raymond Moloney on January 10, 1932, when Bally's original parent, Lion Manufacturing, established the company to make pinball games. The company took its name from its first game, 'Ballyhoo'. The company, based in Chicago, quickly became a leading pinball maker. In the late 1930s, Moloney began making gambling equipment, and had great success developing and improving the mechanical slot machines that were the core of the nascent gaming industry. After manufacturing munitions and airplane parts during World War II, Bally Manufacturing Corporation continued to produce innovations in flipperless pinball machines, bingo machines, payout machines and console slot machines through the late 1950s. They also designed and manufactured vending machines and established a coffee vending service. They made a brief venture into the music business with their own record label, Bally Records.[1]

Moloney died in 1958, and the company floundered briefly. With the financial failure of its parent company, Bally was bought out by a group of investors in 1963. Throughout the 1960s, Bally continued to dominate the slot machine industry, cornering over 90% of the worldwide market by the end of the decade. In 1964, Bally introduced the first electromechanical slot machine, 'Money Honey.', They became a publicly traded company and made several acquisitions, including German company Guenter Wulff-Apparatebau (renamed Bally Wulff) and Midway Manufacturing, an amusement game company from Schiller Park, Illinois.

The 1970s[edit]

In the late 1970s, Bally entered the casino business when New Jersey legalized gambling in Atlantic City. The effort moved forward even though the company was temporarily unable to attain a permanent license for the completed casino. During this period, company head William T. O'Donnell was forced to resign because of alleged links to organized crime, which he strenuously denied.[2] When questioned by the Moffitt Royal Commission (the NSW Clubs Royal Commission) in New South Wales, Australia, during an investigation of criminal activities between the US and Australia, O'Donnell admitted that Genovese Mafia boss Jerry Catena (Gerardo Catena), once owned shares in Bally, 'but I bought him out.'[2] He also denied knowing Chicago mobster Joseph Dan Testa, even though Australian police described Testa 'as a representative of Bally who visited Australia.'[2]

The company opened the Park Place Casino & Hotel on December 29, 1979.[3][4] Also in the late 1970s, Bally made an entry into the growing market for home computer games with the Bally Professional Arcade. It had advanced features for the time, including a palette of 256 colors and the ability to play 4-voice music. It shipped with a cartridge that allowed users to do a limited amount of programming on the machine themselves, using the BASIC language and record their programs on cassette tape. However, because it cost more than its major competitor, the Atari 2600, and had much fewer games, it failed to compete successfully despite a loyal following. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Midway became a primary source of income for Bally as it became an early arcade video game maker and obtained licenses for three of the most popular video games of all time: Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man.[3]

The 1980s[edit]

By the mid-1980s, Bally again had a strong balance sheet and began buying other businesses, including the Six Flags amusement park chain in 1983, and the Health and Tennis Corporation of America. The health club division, Bally Total Fitness, grew during the 1980s and 1990s. The company also purchased several casinos, including the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip (subsequently rebranded Bally's Las Vegas); The MGM Grand Reno in Reno, Nevada; and the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, rebranded Bally's Grand and later The Grand—A Bally's Casino Resort. The expansion quickly took its toll on the company's finances, and Bally was soon forced to sell off several divisions, including Six Flags and Bally-Midway. The pinball division, along with Midway, was acquired by Williams Electronics in 1988.

The 1990s[edit]

In 1990, Bally came under new management as its largest shareholder, Arthur Goldberg, was appointed chairman and began a restructuring process.[5] By 1993, the company had sold off several divisions and used the proceeds to pay down debts, including the slot machine division (which became Bally Gaming International, an independent company); Scientific Games, a maker of lottery equipment; Bally's Reno; and exercise equipment maker Life Fitness.[6] The Aladdin's Castle chain of video arcades was sold that year to Namco and renamed Namco Cybertainment.

The company opened Bally's Saloon & Gambling Hall, a riverboat casino in Mhoon Landing, Mississippi in December 1993.[7][8] It was moved to Robinsonville in 1995 and became part of a joint venture with Lady Luck Gaming.[9]

In 1994, the company changed its name to Bally Entertainment, to reflect its focus on the casino business and the fact that it no longer had any manufacturing operations.[10][11] It also announced that the health club business would be spun off to shareholders, to further narrow Bally's focus on casinos.[11] The spin-off was completed in January 1996, with Bally Total Fitness becoming a separate company.[12][13]

In May 1995, Bally Entertainment announced plans to develop Paris Las Vegas, a new casino hotel next to Bally's Las Vegas. Construction began in 1997, and it opened in 1999 at an estimated cost of $760 million.

In June 1996, Bally agreed to be acquired by Hilton Hotels Corporation.[14] The sale was completed on December 18, 1996, with Hilton paying $3 billion ($2 billion in stock plus $1 billion in assumed debt).[15] Later, Hilton's casino division, including the former Bally properties, was spun off as Park Place Entertainment (later Caesars Entertainment, Inc.), which was acquired in 2005 by Harrah's Entertainment (later Caesars Entertainment Corp.).

The name[edit]

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Many casinos and businesses worldwide took on the Bally name and logo in the maze of ownership, division spin-offs and licensing agreements.

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Midway, and Williams (after buying Midway) continued to use the Bally name for its pinball games, until Williams's parent company WMS Industries ceased pinball production in 1999. In March, 2005, WMS Industries licensed the firm Mr. Pinball Australia Pty. Ltd. (formerly known as The Pinball Factory) to use the intellectual properties and the rights to remanufacture existing Bally/Williams Pinball machines. The Mr. Pinball firm also bought the right to manufacture new games using the company's new hardware system under the Bally brand. The license was transferred in October, 2010 to Planetary Pinball Supply (PPS) of San Jose, California.

Alliance Gaming, which bought Bally Gaming International in 1995, changed its name to Bally Technologies. Bally Total Fitness, gambling distributor Bally France, and arcade distributor Bally Pond still use the same 'Bally' logo, though any formal business relationships, as of June 2007, are coincidental. The rights to use the name for casinos were sold by Caesars in 2020 to Twin River Worldwide Holdings, which then changed its own name to Bally's Corporation and said that it would rename most of its properties under the Bally's brand.[16]

The Bally name is was mentioned in the song 'Pinball Wizard' in the rock operaTommy and its soundtrack, by the British rock band The Who.

Pinball machines using the Bally brand[edit]

Select machines developed by Bally or Bally-Midway[edit]

  • Amigo (1974)
  • Ballyhoo (flipperless) (1932)
  • Bally Baby (slot machine) (1932)
  • Ballyhoo (flippers) (1947)
  • Baby Pac-Man (1982)
  • Blackwater 100 (1988)
  • BMX (1982)
  • Boomerang (1974)
  • Bow and Arrow (1974)
  • Capersville (1967)
  • Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1976)
  • Centaur (1981) & Centaur II (1983)
  • Cybernaut (1985)
  • Dixieland (1968)
  • Dogies (1968)
  • Dungeons & Dragons (1987)
  • Eight Ball (1977)
  • Eight Ball Deluxe (1981)
  • Embryon (1981)
  • Evel Knievel (1977)
  • Fathom (1981)
  • Flash Gordon (1981)
  • Fireball (1972)
  • Fireball II (1981)
  • Freedom (1976)
  • Four Million B.C. (1971)
  • Frontier (1980)
  • Future Spa (1979)
  • Gator (1969)
  • Hi-Lo Ace (1973)
  • Hokus Pokus (1975)
  • KISS (1979)
  • Lady Luck (1986)
  • Lost World (1978)
  • Mata Hari (1977)
  • Monte Carlo (1973)
  • Night Rider' (1977)
  • Nip-It (1972)
  • Nitro Ground Shaker (1978)
  • Odds and Evens (1973)
  • On Beam (1968)
  • Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man (1982)
  • Paragon (1979)
  • Playboy (1978)
  • Power Play (1977)
  • Shoot-A-Line (1962)
  • Sky Divers (1964)
  • Strange Science (1986)
  • Strikes and Spares (1978)
  • The Six Million Dollar Man (1978)
  • Vector (1982)
  • Wizard! (1975)
  • Xenon (1980)

Developed by Midway[edit]

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  • The Addams Family (1992)
  • Attack from Mars (1995)
  • Black Rose (1992)
  • Cactus Canyon (1998)
  • The Champion Pub (1998)
  • Cirqus Voltaire (1997)
  • Corvette (1994)
  • Creature from the Black Lagoon (1992)
  • Doctor Who (1992)
  • Dr. Dude and His Excellent Ray (1990)
  • Eight Ball Champ (1985)
  • Gilligans Island (1991)
  • Harley-Davidson (1991)
  • Indianapolis 500 (1995)
  • Judge Dredd (1993)
  • NBA Fastbreak (1997)
  • The Party Zone (1991)
  • Popeye Saves the Earth (1994)
  • Radical! (1990)
  • Revenge from Mars (1999)
  • Safe Cracker (1996)
  • Scared Stiff (1996)
  • The Shadow (1994)
  • Theatre of Magic (1995)
  • Twilight Zone (1993)
  • Who Dunnit (1995)
  • World Cup Soccer (1994)

Developed by The Pinball Factory[edit]

The Crocodile Hunter Outback Adventure based on the wildlife documentary television series The Crocodile Hunter was in development by Australian pinball manufacturer The Pinball Factory under license from Bally. It was abandoned at the end of 2007 due to the death of the main character of the game, Steve Irwin, and never went into production.[17]

Slot machines[edit]

  • Money Honey (1964)
  • Big Top (1982)
  • Jackpot Riot (1993)
  • Blazing 7s (1993)

Casinos[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^'Bally Records'.
  2. ^ abc'Bally chief denies links with mafia'. The Age. 18 September 1973. Retrieved 8 October 2018 – via Google News.
  3. ^ abChristian Marfels; 2007, Bally: The World's Game Maker, 2nd ed., Bally Technologies Inc., Las Vegas ISBN978-1-4243-3207-6
  4. ^'Bally Manufacturing Corp'. Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved 21 June 2007.
  5. ^P.J. Bednarski (November 13, 1990). 'Top exec quits as Bally revamps'. Chicago Sun-Times – via NewsBank.
  6. ^Debra Dowling (December 19, 1993). 'Goldberg whips Bally Gaming into shape'. The Star-Ledger. Newark, NJ – via NewsBank.
  7. ^Laurel Campbell (December 7, 1993). 'Adjacent casinos open in Tunica'. The Commercial Appeal. Memphis, TN – via NewsBank.
  8. ^'Bally's licensed to open in Tunica'. The Commercial Appeal. Memphis, TN. AP. December 4, 1993 – via NewsBank.
  9. ^Michelle Hillier (December 22, 1995). 'Bally's rolls upriver, reopens casino closer to Memphis crowds'. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Little Rock, AR – via NewsBank.
  10. ^Scott Ritter (March 18, 1994). 'Options help CEO's earnings'. The Star-Ledger. Newark, NJ – via NewsBank.
  11. ^ abDavid Dishneau (May 18, 1994). 'Bally gambling its games will outperform its gyms'. Akron Beacon Journal. AP – via NewsBank.
  12. ^'Bally spin-off final'. Chicago Sun-Times. January 10, 1996 – via NewsBank.
  13. ^Debra Dowling (September 19, 1995). 'Bally Entertainment pushing out its network of push-up centers'. The Star-Ledger. Newark, NJ – via NewsBank.
  14. ^Barry Meier (June 7, 1996). 'Hilton Hotels to buy Bally Entertainment for more than $2 billion'. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  15. ^Joe Weinert (December 19, 1996). 'Hilton and Bally close deal'. The Press of Atlantic City – via NewsBank.
  16. ^'Twin River Worldwide Holdings to become Bally's Corporation'. Delaware Business Times. October 29, 2020. Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  17. ^'Internet Pinball Machine Database: The Pinball Factory 'The Crocodile Hunter Outback Adventure''. www.ipdb.org.

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  • Galecki, Irek (2006), Slot Machines History, Online Casino Press, archived from the original on September 17, 2012, retrieved 2007-06-25
  • Wilson, Mark R. (2005), 'Bally Manufacturing Corp.', Encyclopedia of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Historical Society, retrieved 2007-06-27
  • Lawlor, Pat (1992), 'The Addams Family', Pinball Hall of Fame, Internet Pinball Database, retrieved 2007-06-25
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