MARKETING: Talking about a table games renaissance
by Dennis Conrad
December 1, 2009
I have been what you can call a “table games guy” most of my adult life. I was a dealer and table games floor person very early in my gaming career, and my first marketing job involved promoting table games. I have been an avid blackjack and craps player for more than 30 years. My marketing consulting work for casino clients often takes me into table game organizations. My company produces an annual table games conference.
So, yes, I have developed some pretty strong thoughts on the
casino table games experience, and they can best be summed up by the following
1) The casino table games experience continues to be more like the interactions with tellers at a bank than a value-adding entertainment experience that helps casinos build strong customer relationships and create real customer loyalty.
2) There is a tsunami of business opportunity coming with table games in the next two decades (and I believe it has already begun).
The last two decades can best be described as “The Evolution of Slot Machines” in the gaming industry, and hardly anyone in the casino business can argue that it has been a bad thing. Millions of new gamers have been introduced to casinos through the simple and powerfully fun experience of the slot machine. Some casinos now routinely make 90-100 percent of their gaming revenue from machines.
Yet over these same two decades (except in some notable table games markets like Europe and Macau) table game revenues have seriously eroded and table game floor space in casinos has dramatically shrunk (and in some cases disappeared altogether). That’s the bad news.
The good news (and the main reason for my optimism) is that it appears right now that casino customers aged 21-35 (the future of our business) appear to prefer table games. Just look at the boom in poker with young people. Notice the success of notable table game environments (Hard Rock Las Vegas, the Palms, numerous successful and branded “party pits” across the country, etc.) with Gen X and Gen Y customers.
It appears the coming generation of gamers that we always assumed would be drawn to video games might actually prefer table gaming.
If I am right about this emerging table game dynamic then I believe some things need to happen to maximize this opportunity:
Table game operators need to significantly increase the trials of new table games from inventors. They need to promote them well, get their table game staff motivated to sell these new games, and get every VIP table games player to try them and share feedback.
The table game environment needs to change from an adversarial one to one that roots for player wins, from a transactional model to a relationship-building model, from caring about how much money is in the drop box and how much the house is winning or losing, to caring more about how satisfied the customers are.
Table game operators need to shift focus from taking the money faster (higher hold percentage) to giving more quality “time on device” (overall game profitability and guest satisfaction and intent to return rates).
The role of the table games dealer needs to significantly broaden beyond generating game decisions to being a performer, a cheerleader, a business developer, a host, a coach and a problem-solver.
The table game organizational hierarchy needs to change to eliminate the disincentive for dealers to move into management.
The current table games experience needs to leverage its significant advantage as live theater, as opposed to electronic gaming entertainment. (Thank you, T.J. Tejeda, for sharing that powerful notion.)
Table game technology needs to be better leveraged, not to catch crooks but to make the customer experience more enjoyable.
Every table game needs to become a welcoming learning environment where every player can learn every game from every dealer every time they ask.
Table game departments need to overcome their paranoia about sharing honest mathematical information (good bets versus bad bets, good strategy versus bad strategy, etc.) with table game players. An informed customer is a confident customer who will spend more money.
Table game environments must become more comfortable (less smoky, less crowded seating, more comfortable chairs, seats at craps tables, etc.).
Closed table game areas (midweek, graveyard, etc.) have great potential to be utilized as retail, promotional and instructional areas to drive revenue.
Innovative table game managers finally have a chance to fight back and reclaim some acreage from the slot managers.
Dennis Conrad is the president and chief Relationship Officer of Raving Consulting Company, a full service marketing company specializing in assisting gaming organizations. He can be reached at (775) 329-7864. Visit Raving’s Web site at www.ravingconsulting.com.
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