Locking it Up

The best thing about wandering the Global Gaming Expo’s expo floor isn’t playing slot machines in demo mode. After all, once you’re guaranteed to hit a jackpot, and you can’t cash out, it loses its allure pretty quickly. For my money, the real fun is trying to find exhibitors that you don’t expect to see exhibiting at a casino industry trade show.

Every year there are a few candidates: last year I wrote about a few of the less likely exhibitors, including a chocolatier and a confetti cannon manufacturer. This year, I saw a few interesting candidates, but a company called Lock America Inc.—the sole lock distributor that I found on the floor (though, in fairness to Masterlock and Schlage, if they’re exhibiting, it’s easy to miss booths among the crush of 430 exhibitors over 262,000 square feet).

It turns out that casinos are big consumers of locks, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it; one of the things that’s commonly locked up is money and casinos tend to have a lot of that lying around. For example, every slot machine has, on average, three locks: a main door, a jackpot reset, and a computer access lock. Figuring $9 or so per lock, with 1,000 machines on the floor, that is about $27,000 n locks. And slots aren’t the only place where you need a lock. Bill validators and ticket redemption changers, cash drawers, push carts—casinos have lots of them, and all of them are usually locked up.

At a conference dominated by, seemingly, everything digital and mobile, it’s refreshing to see old-fashioned keys and locks aren’t going out of style. Because when the power goes out, or Anonymous decides that your cash drawers should be open source, digital locks aren’t going to be much good, while plain old keys will still work. And regulators, a notoriously skittish bunch when it comes to technical change, are going to insist on the tried-and-true over potentially cost-saving new technologies (and, in this case, rightfully so). Which means that, long after we’re betting online, Lock America Inc. and companies like it will still be selling locks at the Global Gaming Expo.