Despite a resurgence of table activity, specifically poker, in some markets, casinos are still battling declining revenues in the pit. Once vibrant pit areas have eroded and been replaced by slot machines that virtually guarantee a minimum amount of play, while customer-service issues, counter-productive procedures and rules, a dearth of good analysis and insufficient dealer training continue to eat away at table game profits
Ironically, most of the casinos that are scrambling to attract new customers to their pits are reluctant to introduce new table games to their floors. Most casinos will not trial a new game, especially if it is untested. In large part, they fear that new games might cannibalize players from existing games with a history of better hold.
ART OF THE TABLE GAME
Even knowing that most new games will fail, regardless of whether they are supported by a large table games company or an individual developer, there is still a multitude of them that are created each year. So how does a casino increase revenue in its table game department? Are new games the answer? And how does a developer find commercial success?
These were the core issues discussed and debated at Raving Consulting’s third annual Cutting Edge Table Games Conference, held August 18-20 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Attendees came from commercial and tribal casinos and racetrack casinos across the United States and Canada. More than 70 companies were represented. The robust turnout was a testament to the enduring popularity of table games and their continued importance in the gaming-entertainment mix.
The sector’s many challenges were addressed too. Time-honored guest-service principles are still being ignored at many properties to the determent of the customer experience and, ultimately, to the casino’s bottom line. And the obstacles facing new games were the subject of passionate appeals for more comprehensive marketing and training.
“The industry continues to deal with critical issues that are preventing its table game floors from growing, let alone the issue of losing real estate,” said Dennis Conrad, president and chief strategist of Reno, Nev.-based Raving. “Some of these issues are new, presented by changing technology, and some are the same problems the industry has been grappling with for several years. The good news is that progressive casinos are making tough changes and are willing to talk about their innovations in training and marketing. The passionate support and interest we’ve seen from table game operators and vendors in our third year producing this conference certainly motivate us to offer the only forum like this in the industry.”
TABLE GAMES LABORATORY
When attendees were not taking part in the conference’s dynamic sessions, they were enjoying the exhibit floor, participating in a “table games laboratory” consisting of more than 18 new games and meeting with exhibitors and developers from leading table games companies.
Not only did they get to try out the newest games entering the market, they also got to vote for their favorites as part of “Casino Journal’s Best New Table Games Competition”.
The competition was created specifically to recognize innovation in the table games sector, which often is overlooked in the sea of new technologies and machine games and systems flooding the industry each year. More than 30 attendees representing both operators and suppliers cast votes for their favorite new games. Entries were judged based on “playing appeal, ease of understanding” and “potential for success”. The top three games, based on the number of votes, were recognized with Gold, Silver and Bronze awards - the developer of the Gold winner receiving an optional contract with Shuffle Master and a floor trial for their new game (pending regulatory and/or compact approvals) at Barona Resort and Casino in Lakeside, Calif., near San Diego.
“This is fantastic,” said Bob Pietrosanto, senior sales specialist for Las Vegas-based Galaxy Gaming, which took home the Gold for Triple Attack Blackjack, a game that spices up traditional 21 with three exciting side bets and a proprietary Bonus Jackpot.
“Something like 33 judges took part in the voting, including some top companies, and to come out on top of that, it’s just great,” he said.
Triple Attack Blackjack debuted in Washington state with an initial seven units and went into beta testing in August at Harrah’s Las Vegas.
Unlimited Concepts received the Silver Award for Hi-Low Pai Gow Poker, which offers players new “High Hand” or “Low Hand” wagering options that can be made either separately or in combination and may or may not be added to the player’s standard wager as he or she chooses.
“This changes the game of Pai Gow by eliminating ties, which increases revenue substantially,” explained Cary Lucier, chief executive of Las Vegas-based Unlimited Concepts. “This is ideal for party pits.”
Hi-Low Pai Gow debuted in August at the Luxor on the Las Vegas Strip, where it was performing “extremely well,” according to Lucier, “out-dropping standard Pai Gow”.
Las Vegas-based Gaming Network won the Bronze Award for Three Card Blackjack, a fascinating variation on standard 21 in which dealer and players each are dealt three cards, and players may place an extra bet for the right to assemble their best hands versus the dealer’s using any two or all three of their cards.
“It’s a simple, single-deck game and a very fast game,” said Jeff Voyles, who co-founded Gaming Network with Randy Zinkil. “It’s geared to all players. Its appeal is its familiarity factor. And it simplifies the game for the player. It’s less intimidating.”
Three Card Blackjack was scheduled to enter field trial on the Las Vegas Strip in September at Monte Carlo Resort and Casino.
Raving would like to give special thanks to each of the exhibitors and sponsors that helped make the 2010 Cutting Edge Table Games Conference a success: A. Wheel Inc. & INAG; Bandstand Gaming; BYL Enterprise; DEQ; Die Rich; FTW; Galaxy Gaming; Gaming Network Inc.; Gary Platt Manufacturing; GEMACO Inc.; HighCard Poker; Mahjong Poker Inc.; Olympia Dice; Raving Service; Shuffle Master; SNK Gaming Entertainment; Table Trac; and Unlimited Concepts.
Christine Motta Faria is vice president of operations for Raving Consulting Company and has been one of Raving’s core marketing writers since 2001. For more information on Raving’s Cutting Edge Table Games Conference and Casino Journal’s Best New Table Games Competition contact Christine at Raving Consulting Company at +1 775 329 7864; or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available at www.ravingconsulting.com/table-games-conference.