For the last couple of decades, we have seen table games position on the casino hierarchy food chain diminish to some real lows.
In most Las Vegas Strip casinos, table games importance is mired in mediocrity, somewhere underneath F&B and retail. Most casino owners will tell you they make more money selling those ridiculous $12 drinks in the large plastic containers that tourists walk around with than they do off table games.
Strip properties are not the only casinos reporting this phenomenon; one of my tribal clients with a great sandwich cart stationed near his pit told me, “We make more money off that sandwich cart than we do off most of our table games.” Translation: on the casino food chain, table games are less relevant than roast beef sandwiches.
But I’m here to report the times are changing. Table games are making a real comeback and indeed are once again deemed important in the overall casino game mix. Going forward, table games may actually become the main driver of bodies into brick-and-mortar gaming properties, especially as the average slot player becomes more and more enamored with online delivery systems. “Table games are becoming more important to briack-and-mortar casinos as online gaming will gain prevalence,” said Dr. David Schwartz of UNLV. “Slots are diminishing in importance and table games are gaining.”
Dr. Schwartz’s observations support actual improvements in table games numbers that I am seeing from casinos nationwide; especially from independent properties such as Pechanga Resort & Casino in California and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina. Table games results from Las Vegas Strip properties are less vibrant—likely due to their reliance on highly volatile baccarat offerings and competition from numerous otherentertainments.
Unfortunately, this uptick in table games play seems largely lost on corporate casino executives. A lot of this has to do with how most CEOs and CFOs who have a blatant dislike for the table game trade. A few have even told me that they would close their table game department tomorrow if they could.
Why the dislike? To start, table games are low margin, labor intensive, problematic areas for senior casino management, especially when compared to the slot floor. Table game marketing also has to be handled differently. Technology and new games have been the marketing answer for slot operations; points for play and free play are the recipe for success when it comes to slot marketing. Unfortunately these are not the answer for table games marketing. Also, slot middle manager tasks center on computer-based player ratings and game productivity analysis. Any casino that has their floor supervisors spending the majority of their time on a computer screen really misunderstands what makes a table game successful and popular in the first place.
Table games return to relevancy is because of the social aspect of live gaming. Table game players want to be around people, interacting with each other in a social context, having fun, gambling, drinking and all that is associated with a brick-and-mortar casino. They want the staff, dealers and, yes, supervisors, to interact with them in an entertaining fashion, making sure they not only have a good time but feel involved. The casinos that are stressing this are succeeding with live gaming; the ones that are not are literally missing the boat.
The players that are using the live gaming product, the ones that will do so in the future, don’t care about bonus points, player ratings, 3x points on Tuesdays, free-spin mode or any other slot marketing type gimmick that so many in senior management want to use. Want to give them something? Successful table games operators give them a drink…but ultra successful operators not only give them a drink, but know and use their name.
The reason table games are and will become more relevant to the wagering enterprise is the human aspect. The casinos that will succeed with table games know this and will use these concepts to grow. The casino operators who don’t use these concepts or are married to that senior management dislike of table games will continue to try triple points Tuesday and other gimmicks; and I’m not sure that boat will float going forward.