Famous Slot Machine Designer Dies


Robert Phillip Manz, the designer of some of the most widely recognized slot machine games in history, died after suffering a medical emergency while driving in Las Vegas on Saturday, reported VegasInc.

Manz spent 23 years at Bally Technologies before serving as president of the Las Vegas-based Rocket Gaming Systems, used extensively in tribal casinos. He lead Rocket Gaming from a small start-up operation to a leading company in the gaming industry.

Manz, 65, gave birth to the Blazing 7s and the Black and White slot series. Since its introduction in 1987, the Blazing 7s with its winning "7" combinations continues to be a popular casino floor game. He's also the man behind "near-wins," when spins would produce 7-7-blank on the screen.

“He had a knack for knowing what players like to play as well as what casinos wanted,” Terry Daly, vice president of game design at Rocket, told VegasInc.

Manz also pioneered the concept of a generous payout and grouping machines together on the casino floor, so that players could witness other wins regularly. “He had a gambler’s mentality,” said longtime friend and game-designer colleague Charlie Lombardo. “He believed if you take care of the player and give him value, he would eventually give you his money. He firmly believed that you had to let the player win once in a while and that it was OK to let them go home with money in their pockets.”

Manz also played a pivotal role in developing Rocket’s Gold Series of video lottery terminals founds in several tribal casinos nationwide. Video lottery terminals are connected to a central computer that determines the outcome of each wager, whereas traditional slots are individually operated with random number generators.

“People in the industry would come into our office and just want to shake his hand,” Ron Harris, CEO of Rocket Gaming Systems, told VegasInc. Harris credits Manz with turning his company into a billion-dollar operation in four years. “He hated the spotlight and didn’t like accolades. When I would introduce him as the person responsible for making our company what it is, he would interrupt me and correct me and say it was the result of the efforts of the team.”

Related: The Long, Colorful, Profitable History of Slot Machines