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Rio Slot Machine – Perla Barragan of San Francisco, Calif., plays a slot machine in the Wheel of Fortune slot area at the Plaza Hotel and Casino on Friday, July 30, 2021, in Las Vegas. The Wheel of Fortune slot game celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Magazine-Magazine) @ellenschmidttt

Mayor Carolyn Goodman, left, presents a key to the city to Vanna White for 20 years of Wheel of Fortune slots during the G2E convention in 2016. (Courtesy IGT)

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The Wheel of Fortune gaming area at the Plaza Hotel and Casino on Friday, July 30, 2021, in Las Vegas. The slot game is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Magazine-Magazine) @ellenschmidttt

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Gamblers try their luck at the Wheel of Fortune gaming area at the Plaza Hotel and Casino on Friday, July 30, 2021, in Las Vegas. The Wheel of Fortune slot game celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Magazine-Magazine) @ellenschmidttt

A gambler spins the wheel in the Wheel of Fortune gaming area at the Plaza Hotel and Casino on Friday, July 30, 2021, in Las Vegas. The Wheel of Fortune slot game celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Magazine-Magazine) @ellenschmidttt

A gambler plays in the Wheel of Fortune slot at the Plaza Hotel and Casino on Friday, July 30, 2021, in Las Vegas. The Wheel of Fortune slot game celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Magazine-Magazine) @ellenschmidttt

Wheel of Fortune co-host Vanna White plays a Wheel of Fortune slot at the 2016 Global Gaming Expo. (Courtesy of IGT)

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Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, left, presents entertainer Vanna White with the key to the city during the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Sands Expo and Convention Center on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. IGT’s Wheel of Fortune slot machine celebrates the 20th anniversary. Photo of review-journal folder

The game’s sound effects, tones and tunes drawn from the popular TV game show are just one of the reasons IGT’s most popular slot machine has endured for 25 years.

Starting June 15 and running through the next few months until December 1, the company is observing “25 Weeks of the Wheel of Fortune,” a silver anniversary tribute to the brand that includes special giveaways through the Wheel’s Facebook page.

IGT says Wheel of Fortune marked the first licensed slot brand and is a precursor to many other themed games featuring movies, TV shows and celebrities.

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And while Wheel of Fortune makes a big visual impact on the casino floor with its 250 different game variations – some of them in cabinets that are more than 11 feet tall – it’s the sounds they make that seem to make them. fans come back.

“You can’t walk across the casino floor without hearing it,” said Boris Hallerbach, IGT’s director of product management for premium products in Reno. “It’s like the games are calling the players.”

That’s the same impression Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel has. The downtown property has the Wheel of Fortune Slots Zone where a mix of different machine variations are grouped together.

“It’s iconic,” Jossel said. “It’s the sound of the game, everyone knows those Wheel of Fortune sounds, whether you hear them at the airport or in the casino. It’s the first sound you hear when you enter Las Vegas and the last sound you hear when you leave. It’s almost synonymous with Vegas, the Wheel of Fortune song and the sound of those reels.”

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According to Hallerbach’s account, it began when former IGT chairman Charles Mathewson attended an awards dinner and by “happy accident” sat next to an executive from Sony Pictures Television. Over dinner, they discussed the potential of teaming up to develop a slot game show collaboration.

“Getting an entertainment and television company to consider their content in slot machines was a little difficult,” Hallerbach said. “The sensitivity to how we represented the slot game and experience was important, and we wanted to have a separation from the TV show and the slot.

While 1996 is known as the birth year of the Wheel of Fortune, a significant development occurred a decade earlier that would create much of the Wheel’s success.

IGT introduced wide-area progressive jackpots, essentially connecting machines from a wide area that feed money into one prize pool. IGT introduced the concept with another king of the slot floor, Megabucks.

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Ten years later, Wheel of Fortune would borrow the wide area progressive system, ensuring that some of the game’s biggest winners would become millionaires.

The earliest Wheel of Fortune game that came out didn’t even have a wheel. It was just a three-reel mechanical nickel slot game with a game show theme.

Around that time, a small company in Las Vegas, Anchor Gaming, had a patented wheel that was suitable for inclusion in the Wheel of Fortune game. Anchor made slots, including Wheel of Gold, and operated casinos in Cripple Creek and Black Hawk, Colorado, and a tribal casino in California. But her greatest contribution to the industry was supplying the wheel that made the Wheel of Fortune famous.

IGT initially leased the rights to use the wheel. But by 2001, IGT had grown into a dominant international presence and bought Anchor in a stock deal for $1.1 billion, forming, at the time, Nevada’s largest publicly traded company.

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“We used that wheel from Anchor in the process and created the game that combined the Wheel of Fortune brand with strong core IGT games like Double Diamond and created something that really struck a positive nerve with players,” said Hallerbach. “It was the first brand in slot games, and people with their familiarity with the show on television every night I think had an immediate affinity with the Wheel of Fortune slot game.

With the popularity of the Wheel slot and the TV show on the rise, IGT’s network of studios began inventing variations of the game that turned out to be just as popular as the earliest versions. IGT introduced the video version of Wheel in 2001.

As technology improved, IGT added more paylines and mixed in more denominations per game, attracting a wider audience to the game.

In 2006, IGT introduced the Wheel of Fortune Super Spin, a tool to get more people into the game’s bonus features faster. In 2009, thanks to those wide-area progressive jackpots, the Wheel handed its biggest jackpot ever, $14.4 million, to a player in Biloxi, Mississippi.

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Cabinets and screens got bigger for the game. Some versions had multiplayer slots. Graphics became clearer and more realistic.

When IGT first promoted its True 3D display products in 2016, the TV show’s Vanna White met and took pictures with people attending the Global Gaming Expo trade show in Las Vegas that year. She received the ceremonial key to the city of Las Vegas as part of the celebration.

IGT followed up with the Wheel of Fortune MegaTower, standing just over 11 meters tall, in 2017, and in 2018, the company introduced a new game visual element, True 4D, in which game elements appear to jump off the screen. of the video and in the lap of the player.

A total of 250 different game variations are offered, and today players can sit back and play while the voices of host Pat Sajak and co-host White interact with them. Players can also listen to Jim Thornton, the announcer of the TV show.

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For proprietary reasons, IGT officials would not say how many Wheel of Fortune games are installed on casino floors across North America, where the game is most popular, but Nick Khin, IGT’s chief operating officer of gaming, said that there are thousands.

“The players are very loyal to the product; they trust the game because it’s been on the casino floor for so long,” Khin said. “They’re very happy with it, and a lot of players have a relationship with the game that goes back a long time. Players will come to the casino specifically requested that game.”

The sounds, progressive jackpots and familiarity of the game have enabled Wheel of Fortune to develop a diverse player base.

Another way IGT keeps the Wheel in front of people is through raffle tickets. IGT is one of the largest worldwide operators of lottery games. In the United States, the company sells lottery tickets in 25 states. West of the Mississippi River, they can be purchased in Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota and Texas.

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Perhaps the most popular Wheel of Fortune slot player in the country is social media influencer Brian Christopher, a Toronto actor who moved to Southern California to try to make it in Hollywood and ended up becoming a sensation. YouTube.

“One day, I posted some funny videos of me gambling, and those videos ended up going viral,” Christopher said of the birth of and his company, BC Slots.

Christopher travels all over the country, mostly in the Southwest, and comes to Las Vegas several times a year, making YouTube videos of himself playing and explaining slot machines.

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