Regular readers of this column know of my passion for, and background in, casino table games. I’m a lifetime player, former table games executive, ex-craps dealer, consultant, producer of Raving’s Cutting Edge Table Games Conference for BNP Media Gaming Group, and creator of Casino Journal’s Best New Table Games Competition. Yes, table games are in my blood.
As such, and as this column is appearing in the same month as the Table Games Conference at The Mirage in Las Vegas, I thought it was time for another round of free advice for casino table game operators. And whether you agree with me or not, I hope you will at least consider these thoughts. They are designed to propel your table game business in a way that makes the slot execs shudder. Because I do think that your time has come.
Let me start by saying that I believe the erosion of table game revenue has come to an end. The signs are unmistakable-young players showing a fondness for table gaming; more and more gaming jurisdictions allowing table games; Asian gaming, and specifically baccarat, booming; electronic table games and “jurisdictionally acceptable” table game offshoots gaining some traction, etc. Yes, it is time to strike even before the iron gets hot.
And as I look out at the table game landscape, here is what I see and the advice that I have to offer:
• The pace of trying new table games on the casino floor needs to pick up. Yes, I know how valuable table game square footage is and the risk of putting a new game on the floor and displacing existing revenue of a known (and perhaps popular) table game. But how will you find the next 3 Card Poker or Blackjack if you are not innovating and sampling? How do you think the slot guys and gals have been doing this “new game development” thing for decades?
• You need to leverage table games’ huge advantage, that it is a show that involves people. Nowhere else in gaming are live people such a part of the experience as the table game environment. But we have let it become mostly robotic and transaction oriented, with more focus on rules and procedures, rather than the “experience.” Time for more theater, more entertainment, more guest focus, more fun!
• The table game experience, no, make that the whole casino experience needs to become more “young people friendly.” If indeed it is true that 20- and 30-somethings dig tables, then you need to do things that attract them, entertain them-that make them say, “Wow!” And that may involve being able to play table games on iPads and mobile devices, entertainment and “happenings” that appeal to the younger generation, or just creating a strong sense of “We Love Young Players.” And while that may not mean making every casino into a Hard Rock or a Margaritaville (although that trend is definitely upon us), it does mean that a cheap buffet, a bunch of silly slot games, and an entire casino focus on “blue hairs” won’t cut it anymore for Gens X, Y and whatever.
• Table gaming is already happening in the home (and I am not referring to online gaming here) and that needs to be leveraged for table game advantage. Yes, casino customers are playing social and sometimes live-money games right now at home on their tables. How do you take advantage of that? Well, I’m not sure, but I’d be thinking about equipment and paraphernalia sales (dice, cards, felt, chips, etc.); special “home game” nights as a casino special event; marketing to cribbage, pinochle, poker, checkers, chess (OK, maybe not chess), and other traditional game players, to create crossover casino game traffic; giving lessons on casino table games to home table players, etc.
• Finally, rediscover the game of craps. Yes, it is one of the more complicated games, yes, its popularity has been waning and yes, it requires space and labor. But go watch a lively craps game where everyone playing is hooting and hollering (and everyone not playing is envious) and tell me you don’t think more of that couldn’t help your table game business.
Yes, table gaming is alive and well and has the potential to grow... if you’re willing to pay attention to it.