by James J. Hodl
February 8, 2013
The iTable system from SHFL Entertainment
It’s no secret
that with competition increasing as the number of casinos rises, operators of
all sizes and in all markets are constantly on the lookout for ways to maximize
profits from their table game floors.
This can be accomplished through increasing play among patrons, streamlining operations or both. Fortunately, help toward this goal is at hand as vendors are now offering a plethora of new systems and technologies that can do just that.
One way to increase play is to give gamblers a reason to sit at the tables longer, which can be accomplished by offering rewards and comps. But measuring the level of play and size of wagers made on table games in order to fairly rate the player isn’t as easy as with slots. The good news: improved technologies are making it easier to track chips and play in the felt jungle. In addition to aiding player retention, such tracking systems can also help make table games more secure and efficient, thereby improving bottom-line results, various vendors said.
GETTING A READ
For example, casino table game
provider Gaming Partners International (GPI) offers a line of RFID (Radio
Frequency Identification Device) -enhanced products aimed at securing the cash
stream at table games. The company’s Chip Inventory System 2.0 uses RFID
technology to track the location and status of all enabled chips.
According to GPI literature, CIS 2.0 helps operators increase inventory movement efficiency and security by tracking casino currency from the cage or vault to its authorized location on the gaming floor. An upgrade from earlier versions, 2.0 can also be integrated with casino and table management systems for reporting and transaction data, eliminating the need for manual data entry.
GPI’s RFID Chip Inventory System also provides operators with real-time chip tray monitoring that takes inventory of chips at the beginning, duration and end of each dealer’s shift. This eliminates the need for manual dealer and supervisor counts and eliminates human error while reducing downtime caused by manual processing.
Genesis Gaming also offers its own take on a chip tracking and player rating system. The Bravo Pit Card & Chip Detection (CCD) System enables casinos to track and rate table game players for comps as easily as slots players. Sensors installed beneath the felt read all cards and chips placed on the table to compile a more accurate record of games played and the size of pots to better compensate loyal players than the traditional time-based rating system.
Individual records for players begin when the dealer swipes the patron’s mag-stripe player cards along with his initial buy-in. CCD keeps track of additional buy-ins, chips-in levels and a player’s walk-away amount.
By recording games in detail, CCD also helps pit bosses evaluate the speed and efficiency of dealers.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
Tracking and recognition systems
are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new technologies designed to
augment table operations and play. Case in point: Many players still prefer
playing table games with real (rather than virtual) cards, but shuffling cards
eats up playing time. With the Deck Mate 2 card shuffler from SHFL
Entertainment, dealers can get cards ready to deal in only half the time that
it took SHFL’s earlier Deck Mate product.
“Deck Mate 2 takes only 21 seconds to shuffle a deck for each game, rather than the 42 seconds it took their previous version,” said Roger Snow, chief product officer at SHFL. “More hands can thus be dealt each hour, with increases betting and thus revenues for the casino.
“This shuffler also can trim card replacement costs,” Snow added. “It can shuffle the more expensive but longer-lasting plastic cards. So instead of tossing the deck of paper cards at the end of the shift, the Deck Mate 2 puts the cards back in order so they can be reused like a fresh deck at the start of the next dealer’s shift.”
A recognition system within Deck Mate 2 also alerts dealers if a deck has all the cards, and can tell them exactly which card is missing, Snow noted.
Speeding up the rate of table game play also boosts casino revenue by enabling more games to be played and wagered upon per hour. The iTable system from SHFL Entertainment accomplished this with card games like blackjack by combining a live dealer with a virtual betting platform, in which six touch-screen player stations embedded in the table enable players to make all allowable bets with virtual chips. And last year SHFL unveiled the iTable Roulette game that combines a live wheel and croupier with a player stations that enable participants to move virtual chips to the desired area of the table.
“Betting, removing and counting chips is time consuming,” Snow said. “With virtual chips, games played per hour increases by about 30 percent while also increasing game security and accuracy. Problems and cheating [such as short stacking in roulette] are also eliminated.”
TableXchange products from FutureLogic and Global Cash Access
What TableXchange does is create a common currency between slots and table games. There is no need to exchange coins, banknotes or chips as players move between the two gaming floors. Without visiting a teller cage or kiosk, players can walk straight up to a table game with a TITO ticket in hand and start playing—letting them play immediately. This reduces the number of chip fills and the number of chips leaving the table by enabling players to leave with TITO tickets, thus increasing the hands played per hour, Edmunds said. Casinos further benefit from lower cash handling costs.
When a player hands a TITO voucher to the dealer, the TableXchange device—developed by FutureLogic with Global Cash Access (GCA)—scans and displays the voucher value on the device’s LCD touchscreens, allowing the player, dealer, and security operations to confirm the voucher amount. The player then receives chips and a TITO voucher for any cash balance. To cash out, the dealer simply collects and enters the value of the player’s chips on the numeric keypad, and the device prints a cashout voucher for the player and a receipt ticket for the drop box.
TableXchange incorporates a mag-stripe reader to record and update Players Club Cards, enabling players to receive loyalty points for activity at table games. The device includes myriad administrative interface features to assist the dealer, including a numeric keypad and touch screen with currency type, table-limit selection and manual printer controls. It also prints promotional coupons and audit reports on demand.
TableXchange can be mounted on a gaming table three ways: directly on the table, on a pole or clamped on for easy removal.
By listening to suggestions from casinos and players, FutureLogic has added to TableXchange “enhancements that ensure its compatibility with Ticket Generation Systems (TGS) and gaming regulations around the world,” Edmunds said. “Additional features include the issuance of change tickets for players bringing TITO tickets from slot machines to play on table games with minimum stakes, and receipt tickets and audit tickets to ensure all table transactions can be netted out accurately and efficiently at the end of each shift.”
FutureLogic is not the only vendor looking to simplify the table game currency scene. TiTa, a micro ticket redemption and issuing device that can be used at table games, is available from Table Trac LLC. This device is especially appealing as it provides operators with a reliable and secure way to boost revenues while reducing costs.
The TiTa system accomplishes this through an Android smartphone or tablet PC in the system’s core linked to a camera that scans barcodes. The system is connected to a printer unit that prints new TiTas on cashout. TiTa tickets can subsequently be downloaded into slot machines if players so desire.
Bravo Pit Card & Chip Detection (CCD) System from Genesis Gaming
TTrac2 further creates excitement through player reward and bonusing features like Hot Seats and iProgressive. The system even streamlines operations by eliminating manual tasks like preparing those three-part forms presented to big winners for tax purposes.
Better management of table game floor resources can boost casino profits. Helping pit bosses achieve this nirvana is the Table Yield Management (TYM) business management solution from Tangam Systems.
Changing the way casinos typically use data, TYM automatically analyzes headcount and gaming data to provide recommendations to align game mix, spread and pricing to match actual player demand in specific time periods.
“This eliminates having dealers sitting idle at tables at times [or] not having enough tables open when players demand it at other times,” said George McDonough, customer relations director at Tangam. “Likewise TYM enables pit bosses to plan to have the optimum number of blackjack, roulette and craps tables open as patrons require, and have bet limits priced to the crowd throughout the day.”
TYM can even provide real-time alerts to floor staff prompting them when exactly to open or close games and adjust betting minimums as the day progresses. This results in happier players. Casinos who have used TYM report profit increases from 7 to 10 percent, McDonough added.
Genesis Gaming also markets table game management systems. Bravo Poker is a complete poker room management system. Like the Bravo Pit system mentioned above, Bravo Poker incorporates on-table tracking units that enable accurate monitoring, tracking and managing of the entire poker room.
“Poker room supervisors can monitor and manage most poker room functions, such as player tracking, lobby tracking, game setup and maintenance, and waiting list functions,” said Randy Knust, president of Genesis Gaming. “It also compiles room statistics, player history; and measures dealer speed, kiosk utilization, promotion tracking and complete tournament management.”
Alert screen shot from Tangam System’s Table Yield Management solution
Using the Favorites feature players can see what’s going on at their favorite poker room or access info on casino or card rooms within a player-definable radius by using GPS location technology or by entering a zip code.
Meanwhile, taking an idea from bingo halls, SHFL in readying for market Rapid Fusion, a one-terminal play station where casino patrons can play blackjack, baccarat, sic bo and roulette from the same virtual screen. Players can switch from game to game as with a TV remote control at will, Snow noted. And like those bingo terminals that enable players to play dozens of cards at once, Rapid Fusion will enable players to play more than one hand of blackjack at a time.
The system is targeted for introduction in the second half of 2013.
James J. Hodl
is a Chicago-based freelance writer covering the gaming industry. He can be contacted at +1 773 777 5710; or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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