The ninth annual Cutting Edge Table Games Conference held at Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino offered attendees a comprehensive view of current challenges and opportunities in the category as well as a chance to rate some of the new games that could turn up on their floors in future years.

Gamblit Poker, by Gamblit Gaming, LLC, took home first prize in the conference’s popular Best New Table Games contest, which is voted on by table games operators themselves. Down Under Blackjack by Masque Publishing took second place, followed by 3 Card Draw Poker by Score Gaming. All told, there were 25 entrants. The winner will receive floor space at five test properties, provided that all necessary legal and regulatory approvals are met: Downstream Casino Resort, Quapaw, Okla.; Grey Eagle Resort and Casino, Calgary, Alberta; Muckleshoot Casino, Auburn, Wash.; Saratoga Casino Black Hawk, Black Hawk, Colo.; and Shooting Star Casino, Mahnomen, Minn.

 The conference was preceded by full-day workshops held concurrently by table games experts Bill Zender of Bill Zender and Associates and Dennis Conrad of Raving Consulting. Brian Decorah, president & CEO of Battle Creek, Mich.-based FireKeepers Casino Hotel, kicked the two-day conference off with a presentation entitled, “Table Games, The CEO’s View. ” This was followed by an operators roundtable discussion led by Roger Snow, senior vice president-table and utility products, Scientific Games, where panelists were asked if they see a “renaissance” happening in table games due to better products, better technology and a better gaming experience.

“I see table games as an evolution,” said Mark Kelly, vice president casino operations at Las Vegas-based Bally’s, Paris and Planet Hollywood. “When I think back to my early days on the casino floor, we had five different games, and if you wanted to move one it didn’t take all that much. No surveillance feeds, data lines, shufflers… you name it. Today, we have a variety of other things that enter into any decisions that we make. We have a wide variety of game types; new means of being efficient; and continued improvements in game protection.”

Johnny Walker, director of gaming operations, Muckleshoot Casino, feels the tide is moving in the direction of table games. “One of the reasons table games got stale and complacent is we got greedy,” said Walker. “We put $25-per-hand minimums out there; told players they could only play one hand and if they wanted to play two it was double the minimum; and we put all these rules out there that eventually caught up with us. And then when the economy went down we all panicked and said, wait a minute, we do have $5 tables and we’ll allow you to play multiple hands. So I think as we’ve realized the mistakes that we’ve made, and saying we’re going to operate differently has made things change. “

Cutting Edge Table Games 2017 will be held at Paris Las Vegas November 14-16. For more details, visit www.tablegamesconf.com.