There have been lots of changes to the market which has made links an area of debate. This really isn’t a one size fits all issue anymore. Because of this, the answer to the question: Should I have links on my gaming floor? ….is different for every venue. Without taking sides or having a preference, we outline the options and general trends that are current in the gaming market right now.
Traditionally we used in-house links to add interest for the players and to benefit and promote certain areas of the gaming floor. The first controllers only allowed limited numbers of machines to be attached so some venues offered separate links for high and low denomination machines and small segments of the floor. In most cases the jackpots levels were fairly low and any jackpot hit (of any level) required a staff member to attend the machine to write up a jackpot and key off the credits. While having all the links drop directly to the machines these days is more efficient it also takes away interaction with our players and their natural break in play. This is not necessarily a good thing as we have lost some of the theatre and celebration of the win.
Types of links
In-house links – The original link was the in-house link that added a percentage of the turnover, from each machine it was attached to, and offered it as a jackpot or a number of jackpots of increasing value. The parameters were chosen by the venue to fit their market and added to a group of machines of their choice. These types of links are perfect for high denomination areas, and as a major jackpot prize that runs across your whole floor. With large numbers of machines attached you only need to provide a very small percentage of the turnover from each machine to drive it consistently. Don’t be cheap with the sound and graphics though, your players need to see some excitement when the jackpot hits.
Premium Links – Premium links were developed by the gaming machine manufacturers and added a couple of common jackpot levels to a series of games that followed a theme. The earliest ‘Cash Express’ can still be found in clubs and pubs around NSW and many others such as ‘Jetsetter’, and ‘Jackpot Carnival’, were followed by lots of others right up to modern versions, such as Aristocrats ‘Lightning Link’, Bally’s ‘Lock It Link’ and IGT’s ‘ Cash Climb’. Originally, they came in large numbers with large banks of machines attached. The more modern variety are reduced, due to the larger numbers of these products now available, to 4-6 machines in most cases. Where a club might have a large number of machines on a premium link these days they would tend to be split into several banks and may be added to several areas of the gaming floor (e.g. indoors and outdoors).
Standalone Progressives – SAP machines offer a number of jackpot levels to a single game and the increase in these machines are what has led to many clubs removing their traditional in-house links. As they increase the return to player percentage, their prevalence has also considerably lowered the actual net return for many venues. In the case of multigames with these jackpots, they can also be several percentage points away from the expected net. With large numbers of these games on our floor this is something to keep an eye on.
State-wide links – These offer the players a chance for a life-changing jackpot that could not be offered in one venue alone. The current jackpot limit for a club is $100,000 but the Megabucks Jackpot state-wide link is currently just over $540,000. The clubs pay a fee to have a few of the machines available and the state-wide jackpot amount is guaranteed by the Maxgaming who runs it.
Which ones do I choose?
Every club and hotel these days has lots of SAPs and they are really what the players want these days. The great advantage to SAPs is that only the player who is playing that machine can win the top jackpot. Interestingly, it is the second top level jackpot that most players choose because they see this as the most achievable amount, so banking them up gives the players an opportunity to move from machine to machine without having to search for them across the whole gaming floor.
What used to annoy many players on premium links are the people who would come in only when the jackpot is high and play to win. Even a smaller player could fluke the jackpot every now and then. These days we often have a number of these premium links on our gaming floor in smaller numbers so that the players have a variety of choices. This also causes less problems with “link chasers” as the larger number of premium link options in many clubs means they are harder to keep track of. The Drop recently published some data that shows that most clubs with more than 50 machines would benefit from the addition of premium links, but clubs less than 50 machines still achieve better results from SAPs.
In-house links are frequently being removed these days from clubs and hotels but there are certainly opportunities to have a fresh look at them. The current controllers can set up several different link jackpot levels with machines attached to a number of jackpots across the floor giving you much more flexibility. For example, you could have a dollar game attached to a high denom link as well as a 1 cent link to give the bigger players a chance to win both.
The answer to what works best depends on your venue. Everyone has SAPs. Premium links are a great option for a venue that is large enough to place 4-6 machines on a themed link, as are a couple of State-wide linked machines. In-house links are worth taking a fresh look at with controllers becoming more flexible. As always, variety is the key to success on any gaming floor. The more of your market you can meet the more successful you will be at retaining players.
For in-house links:
- Many clubs and hotels put them over the worst performing machines to improve their performance. Instead, ditch the old games and replace them with new, and put your links over the games that can best attract the market you want to favour…fish where the fish are.
- For every 1% you add to a link you have to earn 10% extra turnover to cover the cost of the jackpots. This is your KPI when you put them in, but you can alleviate any issues by adding lots of machines to a large jackpot that has a small increment (For example, a $25,000 jackpot with only a 0.25% increment). You can, using a simple equation, mathematically calculate the right number of machines required to hit your jackpots at that percentage. Your reps will help you.
For premium links:
- Keep numbers small. Large banks of 20 machines are no longer the trend. Offer 4-6 machines and add a couple of these types of links to the floor if you have the space.
- Lightning Cash (SAPs) or Lightning Link (premium link)? Add both if you have the space. The SAPs will offer more flexibility to move them around the floor, are cheaper to buy because you don’t need a sign, produce a slightly higher net return and will be easier to convert them in years to come, but the product is so strong at the moment, if you have the space go for it.
- Watch the numbers and ensure you have a variety
- In particular, watch the numbers of multigames that have SAPs on them as you may be seeing strong turnover results, but the net profit is often poor.