Multimedia Games holds its third annual National TournEvent of Champions in Las Vegas
By Frank Legato
Crowds of excited slot players jammed into the XS Nightclub at Wynn Las Vegas on October 1—not to drink and dance, but to witness a major slot tournament event.
It’s called the National TournEvent of Champions, and the event, staged by slot manufacturer Multimedia Games on its special TournEvent instant tournament system, has doubled in size each of its three years as a national event.
Developed as an instant tournament for dedicated banks of slots, TournEvent was an immediate hit for Multimedia because it was not like the typical, boring slot tournament. Instead of 10 minutes of monotonous button-pushing, it’s more like a game show or a sporting event.
Add-ons by Multimedia since the first system was released have made the tournaments even more fun. A little camera in each machine records the contestant, and beams video onto a large screen. There is a video leader-board that keeps track as the lead changes hands.
There is a “host,” either via animation on the screen or a live person shouting encouragement—in Las Vegas, the host was the game-show-friendly Michael D. Conway, Multimedia’s creative director who also is an accomplished actor. (Think the1991 Seinfeld episode “The Statue,” in which Conway played Ray.)
There also are pop-up balloons that float up the screen and burst on touch to boost your score, and a “Money Man” character that can appear at any time during the contest and boost your score to the top of the pack.
The excitement surrounding these contests led Multimedia officials to begin staging a multi-casino tournament, which they did on a statewide basis for two years—first in California, then in Washington. Individual casinos hold satellite events, and the winners of those are sent, all-expense paid, to the finals at a single, fun location. Each finalist can even bring a guest.
For the past two years, that location was Lagasse’s Stadium, the sports bar at the Venetian. Last year’s grand prize of $100,000.
In the first National TournEvent at its new home at XS, the winner—Kathryn McDonald, representing the Snoqualmie Casino in Snoqualmie, Washington—took home $200,000, with another $300,000 in prize money split between the other contestants. Not one of 123 finalists (rep-resenting 103 casinos around the country) left with less than $500 in prize money.
McDonald, who got a nice champion ring and the title of the Nation’s Best Slot Player, is a two-time breast cancer survivor—Multimedia called her the perfect winner for an event that happened to kick off national Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“My husband keeps trying to give me strategy,” McDonald said, “but I told him I would win by having fun, and I did. I’m just so happy.”
“Our casino partners all across the country did a great job at hosting the qualifier events throughout the summer,” said Multimedia Games CEO Patrick Ramsey. “And all the competitors here tonight for the finals represented their casinos with fierce competitiveness, showcasing the intensity of TournEvent. Our congratulations go out to Kathryn for her exciting victory.”
Although just in its third year, the National TournEvent of Champions has exploded in popularity and virtually doubled in size each year. And 2015 promises to do the same with an announced $1 million dollar grand prize for a total purse of $1.3 million.
“The success of TournEvent of Champions really belongs to the casinos running events throughout the year,” said Ramsey. “The format of the event adds undeniable electricity to the casino floor, and the casinos along with our promotions team, do a great job of drawing in big crowds to compete — many of them competing for the very first time.”
Spinning for Charity
The main event followed Multimedia’s first-ever TournEvent for Charity, in which a mix of celebrities and local media competed at XS for their favorite charities. JC Fernandez of KMXB Mix 94.1 in Las Vegas claimed victory and the $10,000 winner’s check for the Shine Family Foundation. Multimedia contributed $1,000 to each contestant’s charity.
Celebrities included comics Carrot Top and Terry Fator, famed celebrity host Robin Leach, Chippendales star Jaymes Vaughan and Mark Hall-Patton, the museum administrator who appears on the reality show Pawn Stars (the show’s stars call him the “Beard of Knowledge”).
The media reps included Strictly Slots Publisher Glenn Fine and contributing editor Frank Legato. While Legato played for the American Cancer Society, Fine used his prize contribution to create a scholarship at University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the name of his late brother Adam Fine, who was editor-in-chief of this magazine and sister publication Casino Player.
Planning for the 2015 TournEvent for Charity is already under way, as Multimedia Games aims to make the event an annual kickoff for the National TournEvent of Champions finals.
Next year, Multimedia will partner with Save A Warrior, a program dedicated to healing U.S. veterans struggling to cope with life after returning home from the battlefield. Multimedia is making the organization its charity of choice, for the company and for TournEvent for Charity.
Multimedia Games capped the announcement with a $10,000 donation to Save A Warrior.
“Save A Warrior is honored, humbled and thrilled to be named Multimedia Games’ national charity of choice,” said Ronald ‘Jake’ Clark, creator and executive director of Save A Warrior. “This charitable donation only serves to make us seek to work harder, and to serve more active duty and returning warriors at risk for PTSD-related suicide. We are immensely grateful for this benevolent partnership that will save lives and will cause military families to stay together.”
“Adding TournEvent for Charity is a great way to build excitement for the National Championship,” said Multimedia Games CEO Patrick Ramsey. “The players will get to experience the excitement and intensity of the competition, and the outstanding lineup of charities that they’re playing for all come away winners.”