The innovators whose technologies are redefining the table games experience will tell you that that it’s definitely getting intense out there. With operators under increasing pressure to grow the top line amid a persistently sluggish economy, they’re doing all they can to push more weapons into their hands for mass-marketing the pit to a wider audience in ways that are both appealing, cost-efficient and profitable. They’re also seizing opportunities to forge real partnerships with their casino clients by extending themselves to a greater degree on the marketing side. It’s as much as these tough times demand.
DigiDeal, a leader in the field, recently brought on three new sales representatives to bolster a team that has brought the company’s versatile Digital Card System and Digital Table System to casinos across the United States and into Mexico and Southeast Asia. A couple of big installations are on tap in Atlantic City. A distribution agreement recently was sealed with TCSJohnHuxley that will see the Washington-based developer extend its reach into more international markets.
“We’ve got all kinds of deals in the works for partnering with new companies,” said Dave Krise, senior vice president of product development. “It’s going to be a pretty good year for us.”
The new DTS-X Table is a big reason why. For casinos looking to grow their multiplayer offering it checks off all the right boxes: a TITO-enabled platform, SAS-compatible for complete networking and back-end financial tracking, a rich graphical interface that affords players the ease and friendliness of virtual chip selection and betting at their own 15-inch LCD touch screens that also provide real-time card-peeking, player-tracking and up-to-date bank information.
DTS will become even more versatile in the months ahead with the roll-out of the new X-POD Play-on-Demand terminal, which connects to the X-Table for platforms that can be configured for up to 99 player positions or operated as stand-alone game area with customized stadium seating anchored around a large-screen display. Each X-POD terminal has its own bill acceptor and ticket printer and features full player-tracking and SAS compatibility.
The importance of providing the best transactional experience at the player’s initial point of contact with the game isn’t lost on FutureLogic either.
“With non-gaming revenue becoming more important to casino resorts and complexes, linking reward programs across multiple leisure experiences has become an important initiative for casino marketers,” said Nick Micalizzi, vice president Sales & Marketing, North America, for the Glendale, Calif.-based printer giant.
FutureLogic’s new TableXchange printer/scanner links the pit to a casino’s existing TITO network, “creating a bridge between slots and tables,” as Micalizzi puts it, while allowing operators to strengthen the relationship with the all-important “crossover player”.
“Many casinos are now considering delivering promotional content to the player via TITO printers at slot machines, and this new device will allow them to do the same at table games,” Micalizzi explains.
With TableXchange printer/scanner, a player moving from a slot to a table game no longer needs to stop at the cage on the way to redeem a TITO voucher for cash. The voucher is their buy-in. They hand it to the dealer to scan, their LCD or touch screen displays the voucher value and they receive their chips and a TITO voucher for the balance. To cash out, the dealer simply collects and enters the value of the player’s chips on a keypad and TableXchange printer/scanner dispenses a cash-out voucher.
TableXchange printer/scanner also records and updates loyalty card information, enabling casinos to award slot-style points for table play. It can also be integrated with FutureLogic’s dynamic new PromoNet couponing solution, which directly links promotional campaigns to specific player actions and enhances cross-venue marketing by tying together reward programs across a variety of non-gaming as well as gaming activities.
Las Vegas-based Galaxy Gaming is in hot pursuit of something very similar to this slot-table “bridge” Micalizzi speaks of. With its innovative Bonus Jackpot System, the company is bringing to the pit the marketing power of the wide-area progressive.
BJS, which Station Casinos installed earlier this year across nine of its Las Vegas casinos on Galaxy’s popular Deuces Wild stud poker game - the first table games WAP ever deployed, says Galaxy represents a major step forward in the company’s evolution from an inventive developer of carnival games and catchy side bets to a systems innovator of note.
It’s a critical real-world test for Galaxy, said spokesman Greg Flowers. “It’s something we’ve been working on for a while - so has everybody else - but what’s important for us with this partnership with Station is we’ve been able to able to get the system out there and see how it works.”
Meanwhile, the company continues to expand and refine its portfolio of propriety games and game variations, integrating its popular Lucky Ladies blackjack side bet into the Bonus Jackpot network, pursuing joint ventures with companies with similar aims (a “big emerging focus for us,” Flowers said) and working to take the concept of the linked table games jackpot to new heights with a technology called MEGA-Share, which will be unveiled at this year’s Global Gaming Expo.
Vice President of Sales Ron Marks said the company is especially excited about a new partnership with TableMax that will bring Galaxy’s proprietary games and side bets to TableMax’s proven ETG platform, which also features a progressive jackpot and a state-of-the-art display package.
“We don’t have the war chest some of our competitors have,” Marks explained. “We have to be more guerrilla marketers.”
Which pretty much describes the thinking behind MEGA-Share, a secondary jackpot system that exploits the BJS hardware and networking system to let every player with a piece of the action to share in payouts when any single player hits a winning event at an active Galaxy game - across the casino floor, across multiple casinos or across an entire state.
Importantly, Galaxy also recognizes that operators are under more pressure than ever before to maximize revenue per square foot and that vendors need to do more to win their share of it.
Interblock’s G4 Organic line electronic table game Galaxy emphasizes dealer training and motivation and provides informational webinars for management. A new feature-rich, player-focused Web site was scheduled for a late summer launch with game tutorials and simulations and supporting video.
“What we can do,” Marks asserted, “is create a ‘farm system’ to help casinos develop new players.”
It’s a goal that speaks very much to the heart of the technological revolution that is transforming the pit and one that finds Interblock USA very much in the thick of the quest. A division of Elektroncek, a seminal player in the ETG space, Las Vegas-based Interblock-USA is on a mission to convert the American operators to the power and versatility of the technology, a push spearheaded by the company’s innovative G4 Organic line of multiplayer roulette, blackjack, baccarat, dice and racing games.
“The U.S. has been missing out on the benefits of ETGs for years,” said Tom O’Brien, vice president of sales for Interblock-USA. “Most people would put them in as a slot machine. They need to be set up for table games players, with multiple chips settings based on the live games.”
The G4 gets it right. Its sleek, distinctively wavy architecture is a fixture in casinos worldwide. It packs a single server in every game. It can be customized to accommodate different games on a single platform, each of which is fitted for that important multi-denominational play O’Brien mentions, and it can be configured to meet the needs of any floor, from units that seat as few as four players to multigame “islands” that accommodate up to 50.
By the time the G4 was launched in 2008, Interblock already had carved a major share of Macau’s booming ETG market and was replicating the feat in Vietnam. Singapore is now firmly in the company’s sights.
The G4 won regulatory approval in Nevada earlier this year. A Pennsylvania license was secured just a few months ago, and a large installation is planned for Resort World's Aqueduct racino.
Sidebar: Chips off a new block
No supplier covers as many markets with as many essentials for the pit as Gaming Partners International. But the brain trust formed a decade or so ago from the combined talents of Bourgogne et Grasset, Paulson Gaming Supplies and The Bud Jones Company is perhaps best-known these days for the seminal role it played in introducing the gambling world to the immense capabilities of radio frequency identification.
While RFID already was being used with success by retailers and medical professionals, among others, GPI was the first to seize on the possibilities the technology afforded for counting, tracking and authenticating casino chips and plaques, the lifeblood of the pit, and it was GPI that pioneered the technology that enables a readable RFID “tag” to be embedded within a gaming chip, and in a way that is undetectable, creating a state-of-the-art communications device with the familiar look and feel of conventional casino currency.
GPI still holds the pole position in table game RFID innovation, which now embraces both high- and low-frequency tags, each packing an array of functionalities - the former ideal for core inventory and security tasks, the latter designed to handle the more complex demands of player-tracking and interfacing with casino management systems. GPI’s “readers” can count and track an individual RFID-embedded chip or large quantities of them, whether in stacks or boxes, and can follow their movements from the floor to the cashier to the back of the house. Inventories can be completed almost instantly, ditto for open and closing floats and key player data.
Recently, GPI has responded to the technological revolution it helped launch with a table specifically developed to complement and enhance today’s high-tech pit. eReady, as it’s called, marries functionality and aesthetics with a design that allows for the ventilation and cooling for electronic equipment, eliminates RFID signal interference and keeps the dealer in mind with ergonomically placed shufflers and bill validators.
Dolphin Products is another exemplar of the advanced state of quality and technical innovation that characterizes today’s casino currency.
Based in Australia, Dolphin Products Pty Limited, a division of Melco Group’s Entertainment Gaming Asia (formerly Elixir Group), a regional powerhouse in gaming machine distribution, makes chips and plaques that are a staple on the casino floors of its home country, in Macau and throughout East Asia and the Pacific Rim.
Recent innovations include a unique process for printing graphics direct to polymer. This affords almost an unlimited range of customizable colors and designs in sizes ranging from 40mm to 43mm to 45mm. Advanced security features, highlighted by Dolphin DNA, a currency-grade ceramic DNA strand embedded in the chip plastic itself for fool-proof identification, include patented, tamper-proof RFID inlay and multi-directional holographic decals that are unique to each casino.