Gaming News

The Latest From Aristocrat Technologies

Aristocrat Technologies  has long been an innovator in the way it uses its reels and bonus events. It’s the company that introduced Reel Power, the 243-ways-to-win format based on buying reels instead paylines with your bets.

And Aristocrat launched a trend that became a casino standard when it introduced Hyperlink back in the 1990s through its Cash Express system. Hyperlink, with frequent hit, four-level progressive jackpots, is the father of all the multilevel progressives from multiple game makers you see in casinos today.

The Australian-based slot manufacturer is at it again with a triumvirate of creations that figure to make players, casino operators and competing game makers to stand up and take notice. The new Sons of Anarchy slot introduces Cluster Power, a new way to form reel combinations that will hold your attention until the last reel stops spinning.  The Romance of Fire and Rain uses some of the biggest Mega Symbols yet – up to three reels across and eight symbols down – to enable some huge, multiline wins. And Super Wheel Blast takes the ever-popular wheel spin and integrates into main game play, a new, different way to use a game mechanic that long has been used just for bonuses outside main game play.
cropped Sons of Anarchy


Sons of Anarchy, based on the FX television hit drama about an outlaw motorcycle club, their lives and challenges, would be drawing big attention even without the new Cluster Power play mechanic.

“The game’s not focused on the violence of a motorcycle, game,” said Siobhan Lane, Aristocrat’s senior director of product management and strategy, casino operations. “It’s about the key characters, and really getting into the depths of those characters. They all have a strong appetite for something, whether it’s being the leader of the gang or wanting stability or keeping the family together. So really focusing on those traits and the family is what the studio has focused on in creating the gameplay.”

Sons of Anarchy is on Aristocrat’s Verve cabinet, with a 31.5-inch portrait-oriented screen, the same cabinet as the company’s big hit The Walking Dead.



On to Cluster Power, where any three or more adjacent symbols can form a paying combination. Matching symbols can be touching vertically, horizontally, in a line, on the first three reels, in a stack on the last reel alone – as long as you have three or more adjacent, that’s a winner.

Having no matching symbols on the leftmost reels doesn’t eliminate your chances at a winner. With Cluster Power, you still have a chance right to the end.

In the same game, Aristocrat also steps outside the box with a No Limits feature. Mega-symbols of the shows five lead characters take up multiple spaces, leaving for the potential for the symbol to land partially in the playing field, and partially out of view. When that happens, the field can grow both vertically and horizontally to accommodate the symbol.

For example, if a Jax Teller symbol is three symbols wide and three symbols deep, but lands so that it shows only one symbol on the last space to the right on the bottom row, then the reels can expand two more spaces to the right and two more deep to accommodate the entire mega-symbol and potentially create extra winning combinations.

The whole package looks like a winner, and slot directors and other slot-makers certainly will be watching closely to see how players react to Cluster Power.

Aristocrat has long been known for its high volatility games that give even penny players the chance at sizable jackpots. In recent years, the company has expanded its range with the E*Series. The “E” stands for entertainment, and the games are built with plenty of eye-catching, exciting experiences designed to keep you in you seat and wanting more.

The Romance of Fire and Rain is the latest in an E*Series line that was launched with games by Dan Marks. Marks, now working exclusively for Aristocrat, formerly designed slot games for High 5 Games, and an independent developer highly regarded within the casino industry for creating games that are both popular with players and high performers for casinos. High 5 has developed games that then were produced and distributed by a number of leading slot makers, including Aristocrat, Bally and IGT.

Among the games already available in the E*Series include Mythos, Moon Maidens, Pearl Warriors, Temple of the Tiger – games filled with fun animation and special features such as Max Stacks, with long stacks of repeating symbols, and Mega Symbols – oversized symbols that can fill multiple reels to enable big, multiple-payline wins.  You can recognize any of Aristocrat’s E*Series games at a glance by the purple edge lighting, to differentiate from C*Series – for “core” – games that have blue edge lighting.

The Romance of Fire and Rain adds unique reel spin music and sound effects, and a new 2x5x8 reel layout. The allows for truly mega MegaSymbols – they  appear on reels two, three and four, and can be four or eight symbols deep. A symbol that’s three reels across and eight symbols deep means you can win on a whole lot of paylines if you have a matching symbol – or even better, a matching stack – on reel No. 1.

On top of that, The Romance of Fire and Rain features a five-level standalone progressive jackpot. “Standalone” means the progressive builds with each bet on the individual machine, as opposed to linked progressives, where several machines share the same jackpot. While you’re playing, no one else is going to win the jackpot you’ve been building. It’s yours to win – or not.

One other fun feature: Romance of Fire and Rain has Transferring Wilds, a popular feature in which wild symbols on one reel set can be cloned and transferred to another, opening the door to extra wins.

For players who love to chase jackpots, Aristocrat has its J*Series – and yes, the “J” is for “jackpot.” The latest innovation in the J*Series is Super Wheel Blast, and it’s a giant leap. A look around the casino will tell you that wheel spins are one of the most popular features around. But the wheels are used as bonus events, extras appended to the games without really being incorporated into the main game.

Super Wheel Blast, which will have several game themes including the initial Miss Liberty, is different. The wheel is fully integrated into the game. It doesn’t just award credits or tell you what bonus event you’re getting after bonus time has been launched. It interacts with the reels during base-game play to multiply winning spins, add wild symbols to the reels and more.

Super Wheel Blast games have an unusual, attractive look. The five video reels are three symbols deep on the first reel and fifth reels, ad four deep on the middle three, and the onscreen layout also includes a dual video wheel, with an inner wheel and outer wheel. Each of the two base games in the initial release has four potential awards, with free games and a jackpot wheel in addition to the multipliers and extra wilds.

To trigger the wheel, players need to get wild symbols to land on reels 2, 3 and 4. Simple, right?  Wilds appear  in stacks as well as individually.

It’s creative, fun, adds to your potential playing time and gives you frequent chances at jackpots. That’s a combination players are sure to love.


by John Grochowski


Social Media: Win, One Tweet @ A Time

TwitterTwitter, the “microblogging site” that lets people communicate with others 140 characters at a time, is a way of life to some – and a complete mystery to others. Southern Gaming’s recent reader’s survey found that many of you consider yourself to be in the latter camp.

We totally understand that. On the surface, it just doesn’t make sense that people talking randomly in such short bursts could ever be more interesting than “Here’s what I had for lunch today.” But once you do a little digging, you’ll find that there’s some fascinating stuff being written and published, much of it treating the limit of the medium as a strength rather than a weakness.

So, if you’re ready to take the plunge, install the Twitter app on your smart phone—or simply go to—and get ready to “follow” some folks based on your unique playing interests. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of experts and personal favorites who should be a great start as you start exploring the online world of sports, gaming news and information.



Let’s start with some general sites and accounts that cover multiple sports. Arguably one of the best written is SB Nation (, and it has a characteristically excellent Twitter account at @SBNation.

Several of its writers are also doing the Twitter thing, among them Michael Katz (@KatzM), Bill Hanstock (@sundownmotel), Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman), and the great Jon Bois (@jon_bois), who is as much a humorist as he is a sports writer. Be sure to seek out his regular series “Breaking Madden,” in which he takes the latest Madden video game and turns all of the player stats to ridiculous extremes, to hilarious effect.

Before we leave aside the general sports sites, let’s make sure we run down the “big guns”: Of course there’s Sports Illustrated (@Sinow), ESPN (@espn) and SportsCenter (@SportsCenter), but don’t miss Grantland chief Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons), ESPN’s SportsNation (@SportsNation), Twitter Sports (@TwitterSports) Wayne Allyn Root (@CWayneroot) and Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports), and the official accounts of the NFL (@NFL), NBA (@NBA) and the MLB (@MLB). The big networks are all on there too, from CBS (@CBSSports) and NBC (@NBCSports) to USA Today (@USATO DAY Sports) and Deadspin (@Deadspin).

Soccer your thing? Gary Lineker was a top “striker” for a number of the world’s best soccer teams between 1978 and 1994, and among many other achievements, was the top scorer at the 1986 World Cup. Today he’s retired from the game but has a new career as a sportscaster: He’s been the host of the BBC show “Match of the Day” since the 1990s, and also tweets prolifically at @GaryLineker. If hockey is more your thing, you’ll want to follow Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) and hockey historian @NHL historygirl.

For basketball lovers, there are almost too many interesting accounts to choose from. So here are a couple, selected because of their diversity—if you don’t care for any given one, just move onto the next: ESPN’s Amin Elhassan (@AminESPN), the official @NBAFantasy account, Chicago Bulls columnist Sean Highkin (@highkin), VICE Sports contributor David Roth (@david_j_roth), CBS Sports writer Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie), Washington Post NBA reporter Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee), Grantland’s Brian Phillips (@runofplay), and for a view from the hardwood itself, there’s Houston Rocket James Harden himself (@JHarden13).

Of course, we don’t want to neglect the WNBA, so make sure you follow James Bowman (@Jbowman_ATL ), the
Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker (@Candace_Parker), the long-running Women’s Basketball Daily (@WBBDaily), and the official account of the WNBA itself (@WNBA).

Horse racing will bridge the gap between these two sections, as it is equal parts sports and gaming opportunity. Since we’re based in Louisville, KY – the home of the greatest thoroughbred racing inthe world – we suggest you follow the official home of the Kentucky Derby, @ChurchillDowns. Other great options include long-time horse racing expert John Asher (@johnasher), tip site Horse Racing Nation (@HR _Nation), a British perspective from Horse Racing News (@HorseRacingUK), and horse racing expert and Southern Gaming contributor Bruno DeJulio (@RacingwithBruno).



The world of professional gambling has some of the biggest personalities you will ever encounter, and it stands to reason that those personalities translate well to Twitter. There’s no better example of this than the world of poker, and there’s no better example of the poker attitude than our own contributor Phil Hellmuth. He tweets prolifically (@phil_hellmuth) about not just his poker career, but the other things he’s really into – his family, reading and sports betting, among other things.

Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) also gives you a behind-the-scenes look into the life of a professional poker player, but it’s more of a kinder and gentler approach – he’s just as likely to recommend a new self-help course or an exercise regimen that he’s excited about as he is to talk about poker hands.

Chris Moneymaker arguably did more to change the game of poker than any other, when he became the first “homegamer” (someone who won his entry fee in an online satellite tournament) to take home a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2003. That was the win that launched a thousand amateur poker players, stars and chips in their eyes. Moneymaker is still playing, and still tweeting (@CMONEYMAKER).

And of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one of our favorites: @SouthernGaming, a one-stop Twitter shop for news, tips and highlights for gamers and gaming enthusiasts of all kinds.



Like any good subculture, Twitter has evolved into having its own set of secret handshakes and cryptic phrases. It can be intimidating at first, but there are really only a few things you need to know.

First, what’s a “hashtag”? That’s what happens when you put the pound sign (#) in front of any series of characters. It basically turns those characters into a clickable search term, so it’s a very easy way to explore topics of interest, as well as a way to play “hashtag games” (tune into the Comedy Central show “@Midnight” some evening for a beautiful example of how hashtag games are played).

Then, there is the “at-message,” which is simply using a person’s Twitter handle, complete with the @ symbol, inside a tweet. When you do that, the person who owns that handle will be notified that you have written something about them. This is “tagging” someone, and it’s a popular hobby among people with too much time on their hands to try to get someone famous to respond to one of their tags. Oh, it’s also a good way for friends to communicate, too.

A variant of the at-message is simply to reply to someone. In the iOS Twitter app, this involves hitting a button that looks like a typical “reply to email” button. Type your message, and the at-handle is automatically placed at the start of your message. Threaded conversations take place all the time on Twitter, with people replying and re-replying to one another.

Finally, let’s discuss “retweets” and “modified tweets,” which are similar to one another with a key difference. Let’s say you found a tweet that you adore and you want to share it with your followers. You just hit the “retweet” button (the two arrows that wrap around to each other) and it’s added to your timeline, for all your followers to see.

If you need to make a change to it—say, shorten the text or add a comment, it’s good form to use the “modified tweet” by placing MT in front of it. This alerts readers that you’ve changed the text from its original form.

The bottom line: Don’t be intimidated. You can’t really mess up on Twitter. Well … okay, yes, you absolutely can. But you can also hit “delete” if you do.


by James Bickers


Hot Slots of 2015!

Slot machine manufacturers play a perpetual game of “Can you top this?” Each year brings new ways to play, new possible winning combinations, innovative new bonus rounds evermore advanced graphics, sound effects and lighting displays.

This year is no different, and gamemakers are gong all out to make sure they have attention grabbers you just can’t ignore. Here’s a peek at some of the hottest slots you’ll see in casinos this year.



Sons of AnarchySons of Anarchy
Aristocrat Technologies

Why you’ll love it: The innovative new Cluster Power payoffs keep you in the running till the last reel stops.

Aristocrat is using this game, based on the FX television hit drama about an outlaw motorcycle club, their lives and challenges, to introduce a new way to play. With Cluster Power, any three or more adjacent symbols can form a paying combination. Matching symbols can be touching vertically, horizontally, in a line, on the first three reels, in a stack on the last reel alone – as long as you have three or more adjacent, that’s a winner.

Having no matching symbols on the leftmost reels doesn’t eliminate your chances at winning. With Cluster Power, you still have a chance right to the end. In the same game, Aristocrat also steps outside the box with a No Limits feature. Megasymbols of the shows five lead characters take up multiple spaces, leaving the potential for the symbol to land partially in the playing field, and partially out of view. When that happens, the field can grow both vertically and horizontally to accommodate the symbol.





The Big Bang Theory
Aristocrat Technologies

Why you’ll love it: Bazinga! The fun of TV’s favorite geeks comes to the slots. Big Bang follows last year’s Batman slots in the Wonder Wheels line, with three mechanical reels atop the game, used to award credits and launch bonus events. This is the first Wonder Wheels game with four sets of reels on the screen – you can play up to four games at once.

Three “Bazinga! ” symbols bring you a wheel spin for credits or to launch a free spin feature based on TV characters Penny, Sheldon or Leonard, or to pick’em bonus based on show elements such as the Scavenger Vortex or the Warlords of Ka’a.. It’s an audio-video treat for fans of the CBS comedy smash.



Wicked Winnings LegendWicked Winnings Legends
Aristocrat Technologies

Why you’ll love it: You get a choice between two versions of a longtime popular favorite. The original Wicked Winnings was an immediate success upon its release more than a decade ago, capturing players’ loyalty with its 243-ways-to-win format free spins and, in later versions, the opportunity to win more free spins within the freebies.

Wicked Winnings Legends brings together Wicked Winnings II, the game that introduced the free repins to the line, with Wicked Winnings Legends. It includes a new “Wicked” bonus feature along with respins and free games with Sticky Stack, where a stack of wild symbols sticks in place for the next spin, creating the opportunity for more big wins.








Wizard of Oz: Not in Kansas Anymore
WMS Gaming

Why you’ll love it: That Kansas cylone brings a new twist to bonus events The Wizard of Oz license has been very, very good to WMS, and this one has a new twist – or twister. Your road to bonuses and perhaps progressive jackpots come through a “Prognado” – and amalgam of “progressive” and “tornado.”

During bonus play, reels swirl around left to right, tornado style, instead of the usual slot reels’ end over end. Collecting five tornado symbols takes you into a progressive feature. If you’re slot fan who loves the Wizard, you’ll want to give it a whirl.




Mad MenMad Men
WMS Gaming

Why you’ll love it: Slot play gets an edge from one of TV’s most innovative dramas. With its curved top box screen and high-definition, 1080 pixel graphics, Mad Men is based on the hit AMC series, and has a nice wrinkle in launching bonus events. It can trigger a bonus event through scattered bonus symbols, like most games, but it also can launch the bonus with any win of at least five times your bet. After that, a spin of a bonus wheel in the top box can bring bonus credits or land on a character symbol to bring a themed bonus events based on show characters, with plenty of video.

In the Roger Sterling bonus, you’re invited to have a drink – touch a glass of some nice brown liquid on the screen and perhaps add wild symbols to the reader. Using video from the show, you’ll then get a line from Sterling to go with the bonus – “When God closes a door, he opens a dress” is one possibility. “It’s a little edgy,” WMS vice president of game development Phil Gelber said, chuckling as he showed what the game could do.








Wonder Woman
Bally Technologies

Why you’ll love it: Your golden lasso can rope in big bonuses in two games based on the 1970s Lynda Carter TV hit. Wonder Woman already is in casinos in two versions, Wonder Woman Gold and Wonder Woman Wild, both on the advanced Bally Pro Wave cabinet, with its curved, concave screen. Both have three-level progressive jackpots, with rollover values at $10, $100 and $1,000 when configured for penny play.

In a free-spin bonus, Wonder Woman Gold adds wild symbols, while Wonder Woman Wild uses wild symbols to randomly substitute when A, K, Q and J symbols land on the screen. Both have a choose your volatility option, so when you got to the free spins bonus, you can choose either more spins with fewer wilds, or fewer spins with more wilds. All the while, the “Wonder Woman” TV theme plays, and the video, animation and spinning reels make it multimedia fun.




Ellen DeGeneres Show SlotsEllen
International Game Technology

Why you’ll love it: Imagery and bonuses based on Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talker will make you feel like you’re part of the show. The initial release of Ellen slots includes two games. Dance Party is a 432-ways-to-win game, and 12 Days of Giveaway is a five-reel video slot with traditional paylines. In one Dance Party Bonus, a stack of Ellen symbols on the first reel sends an animated Ellen dancing across the screen, adding more Ellen symbols as she goes for potential big wins.

And in 12 Days of Giveaway, fans of Degeneres’ talk show will know the Wheel of Riches bonus before they even play – and you get to spin the wheel by touching the screen, dragging and letting it fly.






Race Ace
International Game Technology

Why you’ll love it : The video game generation will feel the old competitive spirit rise. This is one for the small niche of players who like skill-based bonuses. Race Ace has a Mario Karts feel. You pick a car console to accelerate, and use a joystick to steer your car around the track. Along the way, you can collect speed boosts, weapons to derail opposing drivers and shields to protect you from malevolent foes.

As in other IGT Reel Edge skill-based games, those who don’t trust their skills can choose a free-spin bonus instead.




blob smallThe Blob
Bally Technologies

Why you’ll love it: A bonus-building attack will have you rooting for the monster The Blob. Based on the 1958 horror movie that starred a young Steve McQueen – then billed as Steven McQueen – The Blob brings thrills, chills and potential big wins to your screen. It’s a wide-area progressive on the Bally ALPHA Pro V 22/22 Hammerhead cabinet, with a 22-inch vertical screen for main game play, and a 22-inch horizontal screen on top to give it that hammerhead look.

During free game features the Blob can enter and attack. But the creature is no destroyer of bankrolls. It leaves behind wild symbols and bonus credits.







Fortuno the Great
Incredible Technologies

Why you’ll love it: An eye-catching new display works some bonus magic. Incredible Technologies has introduced its Infinity slot cabinet that can transform a bank of idle machines into an attention-grabbing show that coordinates the individual games with their overhead displays. Fortuno the Great, along with Lady of the Dead, are featured game as IT launches the eye-catching line.

“What’s really neat is about the cabinet is what we call our Infinity banked lighting,” said Caitlin Harte, marketing manager at IT. “The cabinets that are banked are tapped into our network switch – they kind of talk to each other. So when they’re all out of session, they have the synchronized, sequenced light shows.”



Konami_Symphonik3DSound_NeoContra-egmNeo Contra
Konami Gaming

Why you’ll love it: With detail right down to the Contra Code, Konami gives arcade players a slot to savor. The slot version of an arcade classic is based on Contra, Konami Digital Entertainment’s game of missiles, machine guns, helicopters and action that was long popular in arcades and on home game systems. Neo Contra is a full-sensory experience, with 3-D sound that will have you looking for the helicopter overhead. And in the pick’em-style bonus event, Konami has built in something special for fans of the video game: the famous Konami Code.









by John Grochowski


$1 Million TournEvent of Champions: Arrive a Winner, Leave a Legend!

MMGhighresKathryn McDonald has always considered herself lucky. She likes to gamble, and she regularly brings home winnings after a Friday night trip with her coworkers to their hometown Snoqualmie Casino, just outside Seattle. But even she was surprised how far that luck took her a few months ago, when she parlayed a slot tournament win at Snoqualmie Casino into a $200,000 jackpot and the title of best tournament player in the United States.

“It was the experience of a lifetime,” said McDonald, who’s already busy with plans to defend her title in 2015. Though major gaming organizations don’t keep statistics on slot tournaments, casinos and players alike report they are a growing segment of the gaming industry nationwide.

That surge is clear in the popularity of the annual National TournEvent of Champions. This series of slot machine tournaments is put on by Multimedia Games, a GCA company, at casinos nationwide throughout the year, with winners from every local event facing off during a final tournament held in Las Vegas each fall.

“The prize money, the event—it has become so big,” said Michael Conway, creative director and emcee for the tournament. “It has changed the way these things are done.”

When Multimedia Games first started exploring the idea of a national tournament several years back, Conway said most people still thought of slot machine play as a solitary activity. And the tournaments that were taking place were often clumsy events confined to casinos’ backrooms, with both machines and casinos that didn’t want to work together.

His team decided to put tournaments center stage, with Conway as the wisecracking host focused on whipping contestants into a frenzy.

“This was a totally different experience,” said Conway, who played one of the original “villains” on “Seinfeld.” “It literally is like being on a game show.”

The National TournEvent of Champions began in 2012, with a tour bus traveling to regional competitions in California and Washington. The response was huge, Conway said, with casinos jumping onboard and seeing a boost in revenue, while players wholeheartedly embraced the concept.

“I have never had so much fun,” Conway said, sharing stories of families competing together, and a contestant he nicknamed Boom Boom, after he nearly punched through a game’s screen in excitement.

The event crowned its first national champion in 2013, with a woman from Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Minnesota taking the title. A total of 88 players from 77 casinos competed in the finals at Lagasse’s Stadium at The Palazzo in Las Vegas for more than $150,000 in cash prizes.

Conway got to know many of the players, reading up on their back-stories and interacting with them during the big competition. He was touched to learn about the impact the tournament had made for so many contestants.

“A lot of these people have never left their local casino. They’ve never been on a plane before,” Conway said, with some asking whether they needed passports for the trek to Vegas. “These were life-changing events for them.”

With the success of the first tournament, more than 230,000 people competed in regional tournaments during the 2014 event. The finals grew to 123 players from 104 casinos. The jackpot grew, too, with players competing for a total purse of $500,000 in cash prizes. And the setting was even more impressive, finishing at Wynn’s swanky XS Nightclub.

KathrynMCDONALDhighresThough she’d traveled quite a bit and been to Vegas often, winning the 2014 tournament absolutely impacted McDonald’s life, she says.

The next day, McDonald’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to her win, she was able to take several months off work and travel to Arizona to care for her mom as she underwent surgery and treatments.

Her mom is doing well now, and McDonald recently returned to work. She’s also driving a new Mercedes and planning a trip for her husband’s 60th birthday, plus she paid off every bill down to her mortgage.

“Not owing anybody a dime has got to be the best feeling in the world,” she said.

For the 2015 tournament, the slogan is “Arrive a Winner, Leave a Legend.”

Austin, Texas-based Multimedia Games is constantly looking for ways to make the tournament more exciting for players,Conway said.

The jackpot has doubled again this year, with a $1 million grand prize on the line. Second place will receive $150,000 and third place $50,000, with smaller amounts distributed to the top 10 finishers in the championship round, for a total giveaway of $1.3 million.

Each finalist who qualifies to go to Las Vegas not only gets a chance at the big cash prize, but also roundtrip airfare for them and a guest, a four-night luxury hotel stay, $500 for food and “white glove” treatment.

“I was treated like royalty,” McDonald said of her October Vegas stay. “I had the best time of my life.”

The event this year will also benefit a good cause. Ten percent of all sponsorship dollars, or at least $50,000, will go to Save a Warrior, a nonprofit that supports military members and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress.

More than 60 casinos across the country have already signed on to participate in the tournament this year, from Seneca Niagara Resort in New York to Valley View Casino in California. And many more are expected to join as things get underway, with organizers expecting 100 casinos and some 200 finalists.

“It’s caught on,” Conway said. “There was no selling it. It just sold itself.”

When it comes to winning tournaments, McDonald believes there’s one key factor. “I truly believe it’s luck,” she said. “I’ve always been really lucky.”

However, some experienced players insist there is some strategy involved.

“It’s just having that strong wrist,” said Charles Hicks, who made it the 2014 finals after beating out 400 other competitors to win $1,000 at a regional tournament in Indiana’s French Lick Resort & Casino.

“When I was pounding, I think I glanced up, and I was in third place,” Hicks recalled. “There was about a minute, a minute and a half left. So I just tried to give it more and more and more. Then it was over and I said, ‘Who won?’ There was about three or four people standing next to me and they said, ‘You did.’ It was a big surprise.”

Hicks said he regularly practices hitting the slots at his hometown casino, to build up his wrist strength and speed and to work on his concentration. He has a couple other routines, though he admits they’re likely more superstition than strategy.

Hicks was knocked out in the first round of the 2014 finals, blaming his performance on arthritis triggered by chopping wood. But he still took home $500 and got to take his wife to Vegas for the first time in more than 15 years.

“I’m looking forward to trying again this year,” Hicks said, with no plans to chopwood before this year’s tournament.

The 2015 TournEvent of Champions is scheduled for Sept. 30 in Las Vegas. For a list of participating casinos and details on how to get involved, visit



Southern Gaming’s Road to the Derby Race Report

DerbyFirstTurn_CourtesyofChurchillDowns, Inc.

The 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby is determined by which horses earn the most points in selected “Point Races” leading up to the first Saturday in May. The top 20 point earners will compete on the first Saturday in May for the coveted garland of red roses, and a $2 million purse too!


Below is Southern Gaming’s snapshot of the current Top 5 contenders based on points, upcoming races, and expert outlooks for who we might see in the Kentucky Derby winners circle. Enjoy!




Current Top 10 (CLICK HERE for the full points leader board)

  1. El Kabeir (75)
  2. International Star (71)
  3. Dortmund (70)
  4. Carpe Diem (64)
  5. American Pharoah (60)
  6. Itsaknockout (50)
  7. Upstart (36)
  8. War Story (24)
  9. Far Right (22)
  10. Madefromlucky (20)

Next Races:

  • Saturday, March 21 – Spiral Stakes – Turfway Park
    This race will host a capacity field for the 1 1/8-mile race on Polytrack. Top contenders are Another Lemon Drop (Calvin Borel); Big Family (Albin Jimenez); Conquest Typhoon (Mike Smith); Dubai Sky (Jose Lezcano); Imperia (Joel Rosario) and Metaboss (Alex Solis).

CLICK HERE for the full schedule of Kentucky Derby Point Races.

Current Top 5 Derby Picks 

Doug Dreisbach (Southern Gaming)

  1. American Pharoah (60)
  2. Upstart (36)
  3. Firing Line (8)
  4. Dortmund (70)
  5. Carpe Diem (64)

Eric Floyd (Southern Gaming Horse racing Expert)

  1. Ocean Knight
  2. Far From Over (10)
  3. American Pharoah (60)
  4. Texas Red (12)
  5. Dortmund (70)


For Expert Handicapping Analysis, visit 

Americans To Bet $2 Billion on 70 Million March Madness Brackets

Washington, DC – With Selection Sunday just days away, the American Gaming Association (AGA) has released new research estimating that Americans will bet more than $2 billion through more than 70 million brackets on March Madness this year. The total number of brackets to be filled out will be greater than the number of ballots cast for either President Obama (66 million) or Mitt Romney (61 million) in the 2012 election.




“Sports betting has played a major role in making March Madness the big-time event it is today,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA. “With more people filling out brackets than casting a ballot for President Obama – who makes his NCAA predictions in the Oval Office each year – it’s clear that Americans embrace gaming.”


While Americans will bet $2 billion through brackets, the total amount wagered on the tournament is expected to reach $9 billion. Of that amount, $240 million will be bet on the tournament at Nevada sports books.


For this year’s tournament, the poll also found that:

  • Nearly 40 million Americans will fill out brackets;
  • The average person will complete nearly two brackets;
  • The average bet per bracket will total $29; and
  • Half of all March Madness viewers have filled out a bracket at least once in their lifetime.


The poll was conducted by GfK Custom Research North America. The sample consists of 1,000 completed interviews, made up of male and female adults (in approximate equal number), all 18 years of age and over. All completed interviews are weighted to ensure accurate and reliable representation of the total population, 18 years and older.


About AGA: The American Gaming Association is the premier national trade group representing the $240 billion U.S. casino industry, which supports 1.7 million jobs in 40 states.  AGA members include commercial and tribal casino operators, suppliers and other entities affiliated with the gaming industry.  It is the mission of the AGA to be the single most effective champion of the industry, relentlessly protecting against harmful and often misinformed public policies, and paving a pathway for growth, innovation and reinvestment.


Mac McAnally and Coral Reefer Band to Play Benefit Concert in Biloxi

BILOXI, Miss. (March 10, 2015)Seven-time CMA Musician of the Year Mac McAnally is teaming up with MGM Resorts International’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino to host a one-of-a-kind concert for a cause. On Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 8:00 p.m., McAnally will perform a special concert with members of the Coral Reefer Band and the USM Festival South Orchestra to benefit local charity, Extra Table.

“I am honored and excited to perform at Beau Rivage on behalf of Extra Table,” said Mac McAnally. “Extra Table represents a great cause which solely benefits the needy in my beloved home state. Playing with several of my Coral Reefer Band family, as well as an orchestra full of Mississippians, equals about four or five dreams coming true all at the same time. Come join us and celebrate Mississippi, while helping make it even better!”

Mac McAnally

Extra Table −founded by chef, author and restaurateur, Robert St. John − is a non-profit organization working to fight hunger in Mississippi by providing healthy food in bulk to food pantries and soup kitchens. They have partnered with the nation’s largest food distribution company, Sysco, who delivers the food directly to the doors of Extra Table’s affiliated feeding agencies. On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Extra Table partners with Feed My Sheep in Gulfport, Loaves and Fishes in Biloxi, Our Daily Bread in Pascagoula, St. Gerard Community Outreach in Bay St. Louis, and The Lord is My Help in Ocean Springs.

McAnally has achieved many milestones in his remarkable career, which started with writing his first song at the age of 15. Mac has been named CMA Musician of the Year now seven consecutive times, most recently in November 2014. He has written six No. 1 hits, become a sought-after producer, and is regarded as one of the foremost musicians of his time. In addition to playing alongside the Coral Reefers, McAnally has been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.

Tickets are $24.99 and $34.99, plus tax and service charge, and available for purchase at the Beau Rivage Box Office, by phone at 888.566.7469, or online at or A limited number VIP tickets (which include photo op and floor seating) are available for $99.99 at the Beau Rivage Box Office. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. For more information, visit

Marquee Millionaire Slot Tourney in Tunica, Miss


Don’t miss the Marquee Millionaire Slot Tournament series at Hollywood Casino in Tunica, Mississippi where you can win a chance to play for $1 Million tournament in Las Vegas!

The tournament is March 13, 20 and 27 and it’s easy to enter! Earn 400 points Monday – Friday each week to earn one entry to Round 1. Earn another 200 points on the day of the tournament by 8:00 pm and receive an entry into Round 2!



1st place each week will win a chance to play for $1 Million in Las Vegas and there will be 5 Wild Card winners who will receive $100 Free SlotPlay.


CLICK HERE for more information…good luck!





Now Open! Gateway to the Blues Museum in Tunica, Mississippi

Gateway to the Blues SignTUNICA, Miss. – The Gateway to the Blues Museum located on the Blues Highway, United States Route 61, in the Mississippi Delta where the Blues began opened today, Thursday, February 19, 2015.

The Gateway to the Blues exhibition represents one of the most important collections of Blues artifacts and memorabilia in the country.  Over seven hundred items help to illuminate the story about the origin and development of blues music in the Mississippi Delta.


“It is with great pleasure that we open the Gateway to the Blues Museum, the first stop outside of Memphis for blues and music tourists looking to experience Mississippi’s musical heritage, today,” said Webster Franklin, President and CEO, Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We will forever be grateful of the generosity of Caesars Entertainment, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, and Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Hood of Dundee, Mississippi for making this project a reality.”


The Gateway to the Blues Museum is a significant element in the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau comprehensive visitors services strategy to utilize the cultural and heritage tourism product of Mississippi and the Mississippi Delta region to diversify the overall entertainment offerings in Tunica County, a destination known for its gaming offerings.


The official ribbon cutting for the Gateway to the Blues Museum in Tunica, Miss.


“The Gateway to the Blues Museum is another great attraction and educational opportunity for Mississippi visitors and residents alike showcasing, blues music, the heart of American music,” said Phil Bryant, Mississippi Governor.


The entrance to the museum is located in a restored train depot that dates back to 1895 and was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Hood. The museum artifacts were originally part of the Blues and Legends Hall of Fame Museum located in the Horseshoe Casino. The artifacts are on loan from Caesars Entertainment, who also donated the land where the museum is located.


The father of the blues, WC Handy’s coronet is just one of the artifacts that can be seen at the Museum.

The father of the blues, WC Handy’s coronet is just one of the artifacts that can be seen at the Museum.

“We are proud to be able to offer these historic artifacts, on behalf of Horseshoe Tunica, representing one of Mississippi’s most valuable and far reaching art forms, blues music, for the enjoyment of visitors to Tunica,” said R. Scott Barber, Regional President, Caesars Mid-South.


The Gateway to the Blues Visitor Center & Museum project was funded in part via a Transportation Enhancement Grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and Economic Development Initiative Grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Blues legend, Robert Johnson’s, original guitar is on display at the museum.


“Mississippi is the birthplace of America’s music, the blues, and this museum is a testament to that rich history,” said Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert. “The preservation and display of such valuable pieces of Mississippi’s musical legacy is a cultural and educational necessity.”



It is estimated that the new Highway 61 Gateway to the Blues Visitor Center Museum will have visits in excess of 40,000 per year.  By educating these visitors on all Mississippi has to offer, hotel stays, casino visits, and collateral visits to museums throughout the Delta region will be significantly enhanced.


The following attractions are examples, and are not limited to the Mississippi Cultural and Heritage tourism attractions, that the development of the Highway 61 Gateway to the Blues Visitor Center will positively enhance.


Tunica RiverPark                                                   Tunica Museum     

Mississippi Blues Trail                                          Delta Blues Museum

Ground Zero Blues Club                                        Highway 61 Blues Museum

Red’s Lounge                                                           Dockery Plantation

Po Monkey’s Lounge                                              BB King Blues Museum

Museum of the Mississippi Delta                                    Greenwood Blues & Heritage Gallery


The Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau has partnered with State officials and private developers to create a thriving tourist destination that appeals to a broader audience than just the gaming customer. The Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau has helped to develop attractions to include the Tunica RiverPark, Tunica Museum, Tunica Arena & Exposition Center, Tunica Aquatic Center, and Tunica National Golf & Tennis.  The private sector has developed Riverbend Links Golf Club, the Tunica Queen, and the Casino Factory Shoppes that combined with the gaming industry has made Tunica a must see destination that welcomes more than 5 million visitors annually to the State of Mississippi.


For more information about the Gateway to the Blues Museum visit


About Tunica:

Located 30 minutes south of Memphis, Tunica is The South’s Casino Capital. “Live It Up Just Down the Road” and enjoy eight world-class casinos, 5,000 luxurious hotel rooms, fine-dining restaurants and buffets, headline entertainers, championship golf and tennis, award-winning museums, lavish spas and outlet/antique shopping. Call 1-888-4TUNICA to request a value-packed Winner’s Guide, or visit for travel information.


Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic Has Positive Impact on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

The Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic Presented by C Spire has brought significant national visibility to the Mississippi Gulf Coast over the past five years, and that has translated into substantial monetary returns to the region. The tournament has had an estimated economic impact of over $76.6 million during its first five years, averaging $15.3 million per year. That does not include an estimated $1.7 million in overall impression impact for the gulf coast. (more…)

IP Casino Resort Spa Recieves AAA Four Diamond Rating

Winner of the elite AAA Four Diamond award, the IP Casino Resort Spa, is the Gulf Coast’s premier entertainment resort destination. Towering 32 stories over the scenic Back Bay of Biloxi, the IP is home to more than 1,000 elegantly appointed hotel rooms and suites, live entertainment, award-winning restaurants, and a first-class spa. (more…)

World Series of Poker Removes $10M Guaranteed Top Prize

According to Poker News, the World Series of Poker announced that it has changed the payout structure for this year’s main event.  Previously, the tournament faced criticism  from players who argued the huge first prize payout had negative effects on the rest of the payouts. Read the full story here.

Part of The Clarion Hotel is Still Standing After Implosion

According to Fox 5 Vegas, one tower of the Clarion Hotel remains standing after the implosion that took place in Vegas early this morning. The last section of the 12-story, 45 year old building will be demolished  in the coming days to make way for some new additions. Read the full story here.

Sports Stars and Sports Betting

According to ESPN,  sports stars feel the same way we do about gambling. After polling 73 professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, ESPN discovered that the majority of professional athletes think sports betting should be legalized. The sports pros also shared some of the strange bets they’ve  made. Read the full story here.

Golden Nugget’s Inaugural Concert was a Success

On January 17, the Grand Ballroom opened at the Golden Nugget Casino in Lake Charles. Leann Rimes was first to perform and according to The Orange Leader, the show was a huge success. Rimes’ performance was the first of several big name acts and events scheduled at the Golden Nugget this year. Read the full story here.