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« on: January 23, 2005, 07:16:44 AM »

Three Clints: Jackpot!
By PAT H. BROESKE

Published: January 23, 2005 New York Times


Million Dollar Baby" isn't the only current production starring Clint Eastwood. By the end of this month, his squinty-eyed visage will begin appearing in casinos across the nation: staring out at gamblers from a pair of slot machines based on "A Fistful of Dollars," the prototypical spaghetti western.

A trend that began in 1996 with the introduction of the "Wheel of Fortune" machines - readily identifiable by the large fortune wheel atop the traditional body, and now the most popular slot machines in the world - has become a full-blown licensing frenzy. Slot machines account for as much as 70 percent of the gaming industry's multibillion-dollar annual take, and the name recognition that comes with a popular film or television show can give a one-armed bandit an edge; Bill Thompson, an authority on gaming, estimates that as many as 10 percent of slots have pop-culture themes. Scott Schweinfurth, chief financial officer of the Waukegan, Ill.-based WMS Industries, whose subsidiary makes games, said demand among casinos was higher than anticipated for the "Fistful of Dollars" machines. But, he added, "you still have to have a great game. You start by sticking to the fundamentals and themes of what it is you're licensing." Thus, players of the "Wanted" version of "A Fistful of Dollars" will take aim at bad guys, firing bullets to earn credits.

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