Perhaps one of the most surprising gaming trends of the past decade has been the revival of interest in land-based table game play.
Indeed, throughout the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, all the talk about casino games of the future tended to revolve around slot machines and slot players, with the assumption that up-and-coming generations of casino patrons—honed on a lifetime of at-home video game play—would naturally gravitate toward gaming machines. Suffice to say this has not been the case.
Instead, the growing Millennial generation has shown a greater predilection toward traditional table game play than expected. Operators and manufacturers alike have been pleasantly surprised to see this upswing in traditional table game popularity and play, and are rolling out new games and technology to meet the needs of this changed market landscape.
Count Roger Snow, senior vice president of table products and shufflers at Scientific Games, among those who are happy to see a revival in table game popularity. “You go back in time 10 years ago, which isn’t that long, and it is a different story,” he said. “Back then, operators were ripping out table games left and right, and all the talk was about automated tables. It seemed like table games were kind of playing out the back nine, as far as their preeminence or importance in a casino. I don’t know why, but it has definitely turned around pretty dramatically.”
“… [M]any young players are looking for a more sophisticated experience when they visit the casino floor. This means they’re looking for more technology integration into live table games…”
—Tracy Cohen, TCSJOHNHUXLEY
A number of factors have contributed to this resurgence in table game interest, including better trained table game personnel who are taught to think of customer needs first and a plethora of new, exciting and constantly evolving content for the table games themselves.
“A lot of the credit has to go to the casino operators themselves,” Snow said. “I think customer service in table games has really improved dramatically in recent years. It might have been born out of desperation… but the only advantage table games have over slots is that you actually have the ability for human interaction. I also think its content, you’ve got a lot of people now trying to create content, and two things happen when that occurs. You get a lot of junk, but you also get a lot of successful ideas. Casinos have been a lot more experimental now than they have been in the past, again it may have been motivated by necessity more than anything else, they needed to try things, but whatever the formula is this has worked, there’s no doubt about it. Empirically, observationally, table games are on the rise.”
Due to this rise in popularity and games on the market, operators are also seeking access to data about their live table games so that they can enhance their security and optimize operations and ultimately increase revenue, according to Tracy Cohen, director of marketing for TCSJOHNHUXLEY.
“The table game market is currently growing and evolving—finding its place in a more technology-driven world,” Cohen said. “While there remains room for traditional-style live table gaming, many young players are looking for a more sophisticated experience when they visit the casino floor. This means they’re looking for more technology integration into live table games, without losing the human interaction and exciting atmosphere that they love.”
Cohen and Snow agree that the younger demographic, Millennials, have had a major effect in growing table games popularity. Millennials are looking for a social gaming situation, and table games deliver just that. Surprisingly, they don’t need a tablet or electronic device in order to enjoy the traditional table gaming experience, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t helped.
“The introduction of new games is being driven by the younger demographic playing online as well as visiting casinos,” said Cohen. “These new players are familiar with every day devices…and migrate much easier to new products as well as demanding something more interactive.”
What’s next for table games? Snow stressed that it is all about progressives in table gaming. “They’ll be extensions, exaggerations and accelerations of the things you see today. I don’t see any seismic shift in the way table games are played. There are things you’re going to see without question—one is just a continued proliferation of progressive jackpots, you’re seeing it more and more… you’re going to see a lot more games that are successful and segmented. You simply have more companies now doing this than we’ve had before.”
Table game play still continues to grow in popularity among younger casino patrons, and game producers are responding with new formats and technologies designed to make the tables more popular, secure and efficient. Here is a recap of some the industry’s most noteworthy new table game concepts:
AMERICAN GAMING SYSTEMS (AGS)
According to company press materials, a new poker derivative from AGS is High Card Flush, an exhilarating game where players try to beat the dealer by getting the most cards of the same suit in their hand. Players are dealt seven cards and compete against the dealer to create the longest flush possible. It’s easy to learn and play for experienced and new players alike and offers two optional bonus wagers with big payouts.
Of the Blackjack variety, Dealer Bust 21 (DB21) is a blackjack side bet that allows players to win odds based payouts when a dealer busts. According to company press materials, the dealer’s up-card determines the payout the players receive on a busted hand with a hit frequency over 28 percent. DB21 is an optional blackjack side bet that allows players to win odds when the dealer busts. The odds based payouts are determined by the dealer’s up-card. The higher the value of the dealer’s up-card, the higher the payout for the DB21 bet.
Chatsworth, Calif.-based CATCO Gaming specializes in the manufacture and supply of table gaming products, including professional casino chips and playing cards, according to company press materials, CATCO was founded in 2010 by gaming industry professionals with over 60 years combined experience. Their products possess a high level of quality and technology putting them in the top tier of the most trusted companies in the gaming industry. New and noteworthy from are the Premium Poker Tables with the Wildfire Quick Change Table System.
According to the company website, CATCO currently has two games on the market. Bet’em All Blackjack and Lunar Poker. Lunar Poker is an easy-to-learn, highly interactive and exciting poker game where the player’s perception is value for their money and time on device. It is the only true game of five card draw poker available today which is played against the dealer. Lunar Poker also fosters a fast pace and strong social aspect while offering players much of the same decision-making control as traditional poker games.
It is a known fact that operators are always on the hunt for ways to refresh their blackjack offering through game variations and side bet options. However, it’s rare that an option comes along that can significantly and reliably create meaningful value in terms of increased wagering and win per unit, and according to the company website, Bet’em All Blackjack meets that challenge. Not only is the game all blackjack and expected to add over 20 percent to daily win per unit, it is also positioned to fundamentally change the way blackjack is played for decades to come. The premise is simple—players are able to bet on each other’s hands in addition to their own.
Galaxy Gaming designs, develops, manufactures and acquires proprietary casino table games and associated technology, platforms and systems for the global gaming industry. According to company press materials, with over 4,000 gaming tables located in over 500 casinos, they are positioned as one of the largest independent providers of proprietary table games in the world.
One of seven games which were debuted at G2E last year and new from Galaxy Gaming is Three Card—a poker-based game designed for the table games pit. The game introduces several bonus wagers and a free bad beat bonus. Players will feel comfortable and familiar with Three Card Prime, but will be instantly surprised by several player-friendly perks that make the game more rewarding.
FULL COLOR GAMES
According to company press materials, Full Color Games is a developer, distributor, licensor and games manufacturer of casual and casino gaming products for real and virtual money games for land-based, Internet and mobile platforms as well as for retail sales.
Debuted at last year’s G2E, Full Color Game’s 21 or Nothing Blackjack is blackjack reinvented. It is a house-banked game of 21 for one to six players with one to eight decks featuring Full Color Cards. During the game, players bet that they can beat the dealer’s hand by drawing the best score up to 21 or down to nothing. So, 21 or Nothing allows players to enjoy a brand new way to play blackjack that is more fun and interactive than the traditional game.
DJ Wild Poker is a five-card poker game that features a Trips Bonus and Progressive side bet. The object of the poker game is to get a higher five-card poker hand than the dealer. It is played with five wild cards—four deuces and one joker. The game is started by players making equal bets on the ante and blind bet spots. They may also place bets on the Trips and Progressive wagers. After placing their bets, players get five cards and make a decision to either fold or make a play bet of 2X their ante. How do you win? The dealer reveals their five cards and announces the hand. If the dealer beats a player’s hand, the ante, play, and blind bets lose. If the dealer ties a player’s hand, the ante, play, and blind bets push. If a player’s hand wins, the ante and play bets pay one to one and the blind pays according to the payable.
Scientific Games also offers a new spin on blackjack. Free Bet Blackjack lets players double down and split for free. If they choose the free-bet option, the dealer places a special lammer next to their original wager. If they end up winning the hand, players get paid as if they had made a traditional split or double, even though they didn’t put any additional money at risk. Free Bet Blackjack plays almost identically to the standard game of 21. To begin, players make a bet against the dealer and the additional Push 22 side bet if they chose. Each player and the dealer will get two starting cards, as in standard blackjack. Next, depending on the player’s cards, players have the following Free Bet options: Free Split or Free Double. If the player chooses to use the Free Bet, the dealer will place the special Free Bet lammer next to the cards. If the dealer busts with a point total of 22, any bets players have left in action push. The Push 22 side bet wins if the dealer busts with a point total of 22. If the dealer’s final point total is any number other than 22, the Push 22 side bet loses.
Based on the game Chinese Poker, Fortune Asia Poker is a unique and familiar poker-based game where players try and make their best three poker hands out of seven cards. To start, players make the basic bet against the dealer and can also make the two optional bonus bets—Fortune Bonus and Insurance. After players make their bets, they will get seven cards to make three poker hands: a four-card hand, a two-card hand, and a one-card hand.
The only rule for setting their hands is that their four-card hand must be higher than their two-card hand, and their two-card hand must be higher than their one-card hand. The dealer must set his or her hand according to the specified house way. Each of the player’s three hands will match-up against the dealer’s corresponding hand. Players must win 2+ to win or lose 2+ to lose. The house wins ties. The Fortune Bonus bet wins if a player’s hand contains a straight or better. If they wager at least $5 on the Fortune Bonus bet, the dealer will place an “envy” button next to their bet. This qualifies players to a bonus payout when any other player at the table has at least a four-of-a-kind. Players cannot envy the dealer’s hand or their own hand. The Insurance bet wins if a player’s hand is an ace-high or less. Players receive their seven cards and arrange them into a four-card “high” hand, a two-card “mid” hand, and a one-card “low” hand. After setting their hands, they place them in the marked areas. The dealer then reveals his or her cards and set hands.
How do you win? If players bet the dealer in at least two of the match-ups, their basic bet wins. If they lose to the dealer in at least two of the match-ups, they lose to the dealer. If a player and the dealer have identical hands, the player loses. The dealer then reconciles all insurance and Fortune wagers.
King’s Bounty Dealer Envy is a blackjack side-bet where the envy payout goes to a dealer pool when players win a qualifying hand. Players make a standard blackjack wager and the King’s Bounty Dealer Envy side bet in the marked betting areas. The dealer will deal blackjack according to house procedures and when each player and the dealer have two starting cards, the dealer settles the King’s Bounty wagers. Players will win the King’s Bounty Dealer Envy side bet if their first two cards add up to 20. The top award occurs when a player has two Kings of Spades and the dealer has blackjack.
GAMING PARTNERS INTERNATIONAL (GPI)
Gaming Partners International (GPI), a leading provider of casino currency and table game equipment worldwide, supplies casino currency (chips, plaques and jetons), RFID products and technology, layouts, dice, cards, gaming furniture and accessories, and other table game related products including European and American roulette wheels.
Most recently, GPI celebrated the 90th anniversary of its B&G line of table game accessories by adding several offerings to B&G currency, including a brand new V-Series chip line. It is an American-style chip composed of a brand new injection material formula that is both stronger and more durable. The line has been designed to offer an unprecedented variety of configurations providing operators more currency options. The V-Series also includes ChipShield as a standard feature. An anti-microbial substance that helps inhibit the growth of stain-causing mildew, ChipShield leaves a cleaner, more sanitary chip surface.
GPI has also fortified its side bet offering with Hot Poker Spot, the industry’s first side bet attached to the traditional Texas Hold’Em Poker game, according to the company’s website. Hot Poker Spot is a fun and innovative game offering two proven revenue streams. The result of the Hot Poker Spot wager is not determined by the other players at the table, but simply on the outcome of a player’s individual hand. The side bet adds to player excitement by offering a new additional wagering opportunity; allows players to select their level of game action; has simple rules for dealers and staff to learn and implement; and increases revenue potential for casino without raising the rake.
With the introduction of the Gaming Floor Live platform (GFL) Bonusing, delivering individual proprietary table games has become less of a focus for TCSJOHNHUXLEY, according to Cohen. Instead, they are concentrated on offering the technology that allows operators to add bonusing and side games that can be tracked by the system, so that they can proactively respond to player habits and demographics.
According to Cohen, aside from the games themselves, one of their newest table game products is the innovative Blaze Surface Technology. “With Blaze, operators can transition from outdated light-box illuminated tables, to sophisticated LED matrix table game surfaces,” she said “This means that animations, attraction sequences and winning outcomes can now be displayed underneath the layout. This helps dealers operate the game, provides added security by highlighting all winning bets on the playing surface—and it also excites players. At our recent appearance at G2E Asia in Macau, we showcased our fire-breathing dragon Sicbo Blaze table—it was a huge hit.”
New Blaze Sicbo tables with animated dragons are of the company’s most popular products. “We recently installed a number of Blaze Sicbo tables in Galaxy Macau Phase II and Broadway Macau, featuring the fire-breathing dragons as well as a recent installation in Las Vegas, bringing Sicbo back to the Strip, after a long absence,” Cohen said. She also noted that Power 8’s and Raise ‘Em Poker Plus are also currently among TCSJOHNHUXLEY’s most popular table games.
What’s next for TCSJOHNHUXLEY? “We have some fantastic new, leading-edge gaming solutions that will be coming soon at both G2E Las Vegas 2015 and ICE 2016,” said Cohen. “You can be assured that each of these solutions will be designed to enhance the player experience and to provide casinos with what they need to optimize operations and revenue, and to manage their table games in way they never thought possible.”