Eclipsing the class II slots market with Eclipse Gaming Systems CEO Tim Minard

March 20, 2023

Tim Minard speaks to Gaming America about Tribal partnerships, slot influencers and how casino manufacturers can step up their game.

What are the advantages of working with tribal operators? And why does your company have a preference for working with them?

Eclipse was founded in 2008, and while we are not exclusive to tribal operators, most of our clients are tribally based, and it all stems from years and years of relationships – the tribal market is one that I've always been passionate about.

Class II is typically also a strong revenue share market. It’s nice to be able to partner with our clients and succeed with them, and that's another driver there. It’s all about all the relationships we have. We've served the tribal population for a long time, helping their economic progress. These casinos have been an enormous catapult for them and we actively participate in that.

That's where our whole philosophy of ‘going beyond the game,’ and the idea of having an impact on these tribes, comes from. We feel like we can have an impact on these tribes by giving them good products, services, and relationships.

Having also worked with commercial operators, did you notice any differences between partnering with tribal and commercial, or if you have a preference for any particular reason?

Well, I would say that there are differences for sure. From a preference standpoint, I really appreciate the relationships we have with our tribal customers. We have about 41 customers that we’re really intimate with, and we've gotten to know well. We feel that the commercial sector is not as relationship-driven, although strong partnerships are always important. With the success we can achieve in partnership with our tribal customers, we can make a difference that they can feel in their own communities. We also provide games and cabinets to certain video lottery programs, so although there may be a little difference in their licensing and things like that, from a customer standpoint, we try to give the best service to anybody and everybody. Dealing with tribes for so many years, my personal experience has just been fantastic.

I was wondering what the personal highlights of G2E 2022 were for you?

We unveiled a new booth structure at G2E. So from a visual standpoint, we put together – in a short amount of time – an exhibit that was beautifully rendered, displayed our products well, and reflected the warm and friendly atmosphere of Eclipse, our company culture, and the way we work with our customers. We featured a number of our new slot titles, ones that are now launching into casinos. The line-up of games was great, and customers reacted very positively.

We invited slot influencers to our booth and did a live stream right from G2E with Josh and Joseph from Slotaholics, so we did a number of things that were different than past shows. I think we stepped up our game and I felt like the overall presence of our booth, and how it was put together, was done extraordinarily well.

Our Cash Arcade series, The Big Shake Neon and The Big Shake Carnival, was a big hit, and that was a big positive for me. I've been passionate about those games, and the customers responded really well because the games have features that they hadn't seen done the way we've done it. The games have an authentic arcade-style coin pusher feature with perceived skill, as players touch a slider button on the screen to hit targets, watch the coins drop, and win credit awards. This feature, along with one where players can choose from three soundtracks to listen to while they play, dramatically increases interactivity.

What is the product the last 12 to 18 months that you'd say you're most proud of in terms of success, popularity, and how it has been marketed?

The new game family I mentioned – the Cash Arcade Series, featuring The Big Shake Neon and The Big Shake Carnival, offers an element that is a digital coin pusher that physically participates in the game itself. If you can win on the reels you can win on the coin deck; you can also win through bonus rounds and so on.

It's a really fun game, and we're excited to launch the second title, The Big Shake Carnival, after a successful launch of The Big Shake Neon late last year. We had to work hard because the physics engines and everything else that made these games come together required collaboration and thoughtfulness. Whenever you put that much effort into something, it's really rewarding when the customers and players respond positively. And we put it out in the market after G2E – we've seen really good success, really good numbers – well above house average.

So you say it was a push feature on the machine, could you expand on the features included?

We have applied for a patent on that feature because it's a unique one. The way we do it, you can hit on the reel spinning, but if you don't, you still have a final chance to hit from the coins dropping into the virtual coin tray on screen.  And then the progressive awards drop onto the coin deck so you can have multiple awards on there that could be pushed off. And if you wager MAX bet, more coins fall onto the deck. So the coins literally come into play, and it's a lot of fun.

There are also free spin features and a ‘frenzy round’, the Rapid Fire Bonus, in which coins are just falling and you participate by sliding the coins where you want the coins to fall.

Have you had YouTube influencers such as Brian Christopher play on your slots?

Brian Christopher has played our games at trade shows, although we haven’t officially partnered with him yet. I know him personally and have watched him grow his business and become more and more successful. At G2E, we did a livestream on The Big Shake Neon in our booth with another influencer team, Josh Duffy and Joseph Duffy from Slotaholic. We loved the live interaction with slot players and Eclipse fans from around the U.S.

What is the most effective method you have of attracting new customers and so attracting new customer bases?

It's a small community in the Class II world, and word of mouth is a big deal. Your games speak for themselves. Customers vote with their money and so if you have good games and the games play well, then that word travels fast. But not every game can be a home run and it takes strong relationships to effectively partner with the tribes, to figure out what types of players are attracted to their properties, and how their loyal players like to experience their games.

And so we find the closer-knit relationships with the tribes presents us with the opportunity to get to know their customers better and then give them the experience that their guests are looking for, given the entertainment value of what they're trying to do.

At Eclipse, we want to not just be a vendor to tribal casinos. We really want to be a partner –  going ‘beyond the game’ to us means getting involved in the causes that matter to them, creating successes for us that make a difference for their casino, communities, and people.

We have participated in back-to-school drives where we gave backpacks filled with school supplies to two tribes, Northern Quest and Prairie Band. We've been recognized at the Peach Bowl for our support of childhood cancer causes in the Greater Atlanta community, where we are headquartered. And we support a number of tribal events throughout the year, with the profits directed to our customers’ favorite non-profit organizations. Our commitment to Going Beyond the Game encompasses our tribal communities and the communities where we have employee bases, such as Atlanta Metro.

 As a game provider, what have you done to make your products more secure in light of cybersecurity issues?

Because our installed base of Class 2 and VLT games are all linked together on a central server, we monitor the games 24/7. We use multi-factor authentication through SecureLink Enterprise Access for remotely accessing casino servers. In addition, we employ monitoring tools for detecting and responding to potential issues, and we monitor traffic both inbound and outbound securely via a Firewall. We are passionate about ensuring that we are employing the strongest cybersecurity measures to protect our customers’ data. Our IT team works collaboratively with our customers’ teams, and we’ve been very impressed at the sophistication of our customers’ cybersecurity programs.


Mar/Apr 2023

As we look ahead to another industry union in California, for the Indian Gaming Association tradeshow, we invite you to read all about the latest Tribal topics in this March/April issue of Gaming America magazine. Our co...