It took a diehard NASCAR fan to create a slot machine based on the popular sport.
Now, other fans of the stock car racing circuit can play the slot machines nationwide.
Bally Technologies is rolling out its NASCAR slot machines throughout the U.S. starting this week. The games were unveiled last fall at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas and have been available only at casinos operated by Boyd Gaming Corp. through a brief exclusivity contract.
The slot machines have authentic NASCAR videos and images and are adorned with photos of famous drivers and stock cars. A surround-sound system pipes in audio from famed NASCAR announcer Eli Gold into speakers embedded in the game’s chair.
The slot machines are the first games ever licensed to a nationally recognized major sports league or attraction.
“We know there is a big crossover with our fan base and gaming,” said NASCAR Vice President of Licensing and Consumer Products Blake Davidson. “We have some good research that shows our fans have a natural affinity for gaming overall.”
NASCAR’s racing vehicles have been sponsored by casinos. Boyd Gaming is the longtime sponsor of the annual NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Two tracks, in Kansas City, Kan., and Dover, Del., have casinos attached to their facilities.
The slot machine is a more personalized way of reaching fans.
Bill Wadleigh should know.
As Bally’s game development director, Wadleigh worked on creating some of the slot machine’s key attributes, such as the interactive Daytona Motor Speedway race and a customized feature in which the slot machine player can theme the game after a certain driver.
“NASCAR fans are intensely loyal to particular drivers,” said Wadleigh, who calls himself “a big fan of NASCAR.”
He said that particular feature was critical for the sport’s diehard fans.
But it was also important to have features on the game “that would appeal to casual NASCAR fans and devoted slot machine players,” he said.
Wadleigh said the bonus features were themed after NASCAR events, such as pit stops and burnouts.
Davidson said NASCAR is open to partnerships but also is protective of the brand.
Bally, however, “blew us away” with the authenticity of the slot machines, he said.
Davidson said drivers who were approached to appear on the games welcomed the opportunity.
The challenge for Bally’s game designers was to find drivers who would have strong popularity when the games were released.
NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick appear on the slot machines.
“We’re always seeking ways to reach our fan base,” Davidson said.
Boyd Gaming has long been connected to NASCAR.
Earlier this month, the casino company extended its primary sponsorship agreement to the Nationwide Series race in Las Vegas, changing the name from the Sam’s Town 300 to the Boyd Gaming 300.
Introducing the NASCAR-themed slot machines seemed like a natural fit, said Boyd Gaming Chief Operating Officer Paul Chakmak. The race sponsorship has been a marquee event for the company’s customers.
“There has always been good crossover with our customers and NASCAR,” Chakmak said.
“We were promoting the machines pretty heavily at our properties around the country. Bally did a good job with the games.”
Wadleigh was happy for the praise.
“It was obviously my favorite game to work on,” he said.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal. com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.