September 14, 2005
Vendors hawk wares that stray far from
traditional gaming fareBy Liz Benston <email@example.com>
LAS VEGAS SUN
While hundreds of blinking slot
machines got most of the attention when the trade show floor opened
for business at Global Gaming Expo Tuesday, other vendors that
supply the growing casino industry also fought for attention amid
JCM American Corp., the largest
maker of bill acceptor devices for slots, used a magician to
attract attendees to its booth. "Don't be fooled by overpriced,
flashy imitations," the man said as one of his cards appeared to
float in the air.
Nearby, competitor MEI, which is
attempting to capture market share from JCM with its own bill
acceptor, brought in a NASCAR stock car featuring a simulated video
game ride for convention-goers.
"The days of (JCM) having 90
percent market share are over," Philip Wesel, a global gaming
marketing manager for MEI, said over the simulated roar of an
engine. Wesel, like the rest of the company's reps, wore an outfit
resembling a NASCAR pit crew worker. "Our booth has a performance
theme," he said. "We're letting casinos have a free test drive.
We're (advertising) less than one jam in 80,000 (bills)."
At the casino industry's largest
trade show, hundreds of vendors were on hand displaying wares that
had nothing to do with gambling but have become part of the
all-encompassing casino experience of dining, shopping and
Pioneered by the Mirage resort
in Las Vegas, synthetic plants have grown from a small specialty
product into a major growth industry and have helped an increasing
number of resorts create a refreshing, escapist landscape
One of these specialists,
NatureMaker Inc. President Gary Hanick, tapped away on his laptop
near the "shade" of a strangling fig tree.
The Carlsbad, Calif., company, which
specializes in creating handcrafted, steel-framed trees, has
branched out from museums, shopping centers and restaurants to
include casinos such as Mandalay Bay. The company invented a material for trees it
crafted for its first casino client, the Mirage, in the late
"We're a niche within a niche
within a niche," Hanick said. "The savvy client takes the best of
everyone and makes it work. The more collaboration, the better --
especially in this business."
Nearby, Carrie Hogan, a sales
representative for The Plantworks, passed out rose petals in a
booth featuring elaborate shrubs and other plants.
"We can make it look more real
than the real thing -- you can bend it and shape it," she said of
the plants. The company also sells preserved plants in addition to
synthetic ones -- both of which "just require some dusting" to look
The small company's client list
is large and includes Green Valley Ranch, MGM Grand and Mandalay
Bay. Tuesday, Hogan made a few contacts with casinos in Austria and
"Word gets around," she
Flanked by a giant fiberglass
mermaid, Christopher Foster ticked off a client list that has grown
in recent years to include more than 20 tribal casinos nationwide,
including the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun resorts.
Simulated stone and wood maker
Cost of Wisconsin Inc. more recently created waterfall displays for
the Silverton's Bass Pro Shops retail store and crafted an
oversized pair of women's shoes for a retail shop at Wynn Las
"It's been slower in gaming than
the past year," said Foster, director of sales and marketing.
"We're seeing more competition."
But competition among
casinos will ensure business for designers, who can add something
different for customers. And no particular theme or look is off-
limits, Foster said.
"It all comes down to personal
preference," he said.
Nearby, convention-goers nibbled on hors
d'oeuvres and drank beverages supplied by food companies hoping for
a bigger piece of the growing casino industry.
Gourmet food distributors rubbed shoulders
with Cinnabon, Burger King and Subway. Conventioneers mixed wine
with tropical drinks and sodas.
But no one had a spread quite like Choco
Fountain Inc., a Nebraska-based company that makes fountains of
melted chocolate that run down rotating metal displays.
As conventioneers dipped pieces of fruit into
the chocolate pool collecting at the bottom, company President Andy
Znamenacek said he broke into the casino business a few months ago
with a buffet fountain at Ameristar Casinos' property in Council
"There's a lot of interest in this," he said.
"Casinos are looking at having it at buffets, conventions, even
weddings. We're very happy we made it to this show."
Nearby, snappy cocktail server
uniforms and chef outfits competed for attention at a booth
operated by Red The Uniform Tailor, a New Jersey company that is
going up against industry giant Cintas.
The company began in 1977
supplying law enforcement uniforms and now makes custom uniforms
for everyone from the military to casinos and theme parks like
"We're trying to break into Las
Vegas," said Tracy Gluck, vice president of Red's hospitality
division. "Some people don't know about us because we're not based
Island Oasis, which makes
natural tropical fruit drink mixes for restaurants, schools and
churches, also supplies many casinos including the downtown Las
Vegas properties known for their inexpensive daquiris.
But Island Oasis, which has been
serving Las Vegas since 1992, also can be found behind the bar at
Mandalay Bay -- where a fancy pina colada can set you back at least
$8 for a drink that costs less than $1 to make. Business is good, and the Massachusetts company is
hoping to pick up even more clients like it did at last year's
show, Las Vegas sales representative Kelly Berry said.
"A frozen drink in Vegas -- you
can't beat that," he said.
But some conventioneers may have
found something better at a nearby booth, which featured several
large massage chairs with drink holders.
The chairs, made by Massage
Manufacturers Direct Inc. of San Jose, Calif., were envisioned for
places like car washes where people have to wait around but have so
far been a surprise success for Andrew Spresser, who has purchased
several of the chairs for Arizona casinos.
"That's where they work best --
casinos," said Spresser. "I put them by bingo halls and card
Company President Jesse Tsai,
whose chairs sell for about $2,000 but can be rented by casinos
that can share half of the profit, said the chairs still need some
time to catch on.
"We're new to a lot of people,"
Tsai said. "We're giving people free massages. Some people are
telling me they want to buy one for their own homes."
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Photo: Convention-goers throng around the Bally
Gaming Systems booth
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