Fifteen years ago, if you had asked a casino operator about the future of table games, it was doubtful the response would have been anything positive. Indeed, iconic casino games such as blackjack, roulette and craps were increasingly marginalized on the modern casino floor, and losing space to ever increasing numbers of popular and easier-to-operate slot machines. It was only a matter of time before casinos pushed table games out the door entirely.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the great table games demise—instead of dying, these games revived. This rebirth was initially spurred by a surge in popularity for poker, thanks in large part to success of The World Series of Poker and other televised card tournaments. Lately, table game play has been buoyed by Gen X and Millennials, younger players who prefer the social aspect of the tables to the largely solitary experience of playing a slot. As a result, the table games pit, once considered a backwards area of the casino floor, is now humming with new products, technologies and concepts aimed at capturing more customers and enticing more wagers.
A numbers of forward-thinking table game manufacturers are supplying these new, cutting-edge products and services, some more successfully than others. What follows is a rundown of some of the table game suppliers that have made product or placement news over the past few months, and bear watching in 2017, according to the editors of Casino Journal. Please note that electronic table games are not included in this report; that topic will be the subject of a later emerging companies article.
AGS has come quite a long way considering its only got involved with the table games business in 2013. Today, the company’s table games offerings include traditional games, table game variants, bonus games, side bets, signage, peripherals and “play-for-fun” online game demos. The company’s most successful table game product to date has been its Buster Blackjack side bet, which boasts 700 installs in gaming facilities across the U.S.
At last September’s G2E, AGS made a splash with a number of new table products including its first card shuffler, the Dex S. According to company literature, this card shuffler, designed for poker rooms and hand-pitched or hand-dealt games, brings an economical and functional alternative to the marketplace. Also showcased was a new white-label version of the company’s Bonus Spin progressive technology, packed with updated graphics and software, new hardware, and customizable branding, paytables and top awards. AGS also revealed new variations of blackjack and poker games, including Mega Blackjack, Toss One 21 and Cali Lowball.
“The amount of sales we’ve generated and the feedback we’ve received since G2E began in late September has completely exceeded our expectations,” said David Lopez, president and CEO of AGS. “Our customers are enthusiastic about our new product offerings—we couldn’t have asked for a better response across the board. We’re focused on continuing this positive momentum and successfully launching Dex S, and Bonus Spin, among others, into the marketplace and ensuring their performance goes above and beyond for our customers.”
AGS reports nearly 100 new Bonus Spin installs are scheduled to go live in the first quarter of 2017. In addition, the company has signed contracts for its Dex S card shuffler in some of the largest table game markets in North America, including Florida, California, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Nevada, and Alberta, Canada.
Scientific Games (SG) entered the table games market in a rather dramatic fashion in 2014, thanks to its purchase of Bally Technologies and its Shuffle Master subsidiary. Shuffle Master had long been a technology leader in the table games space, and SG wasted little time in incorporating its lines and fostering new product development.
At G2E, SG showcased ShuffleStar, a groundbreaking, low-profile frontloading shuffler that shuffles four to eight decks continuously and features a revolutionary high-speed flat-dealing shoe and sophisticated card recognition using two cameras; and Shufflink, a pioneering innovation that links shufflers, chip sorters and i-Shoes to the casino management system, to provide real-time data and reporting on table performance, player ratings and important metrics, all without dealer input, interaction or any manual data collection.
SG also introduced a number of new table games at G2E, according to a press release. The HIC Hold’em gam is based on the popular HAWAIIAN ISLAND CREATIONS surf-themed brand of surfboards, skateboards, clothing and accessories. Players vie to get a better five-card hand than the dealer, and the “Big Kahuna” side bet delivers the chance for a big prize with three-of- a-kind or better. ZAPPIT Blackjack takes blackjack to the next level by enabling the player to exchange their hand for a new hand of ZAPPIT Blackjack and the potential for greater wins. The Blazing 7s Blackjack Progressive, which capitalizes on the player-favorite Bally Blazing 7s slot brand, offers a blackjack progressive side bet. Lunar Poker, already a favorite in Asia, enables players to play five card draw against the house.
Six years ago Cammegh, a UK-based producer of roulette wheels, took a calculated gamble to acquire a supplier’s license for the Nevada market. In the intervening years, Cammegh has steadily and consistently increased its market share with the placement of roulette wheels and displays with blue-ribbon gaming establishments on the Las Vegas Strip including The Venetian, Palazzo, MGM Grand, Aria, Bellagio, New York, New York, Monte Carlo and the Cosmopolitan.
“Walking the Strip you’ll see some of the most experienced, knowledgeable operators in the business endorsing Cammegh as their supplier of choice for roulette wheels and displays,” said Andrew Cammegh, sales director for Cammegh, in a prepared statement. “We’ve seen a flow of visitors to our stand all fully appreciative of the difference Cammegh products are contributing to the amazing casino environment in Las Vegas.”
At G2E, Cammegh showcased its new Halo Wheel with illuminated ball-track alongside its “crystal-clear” Billboard displays, according to a press release. Cammegh had specially created a Union Jack wheel as a fun talking point for the exhibition (taking several orders too) and enjoyed remarkable interest in the company’s innovative roulette side bet, Spread Bet Roulette. A product not on display at G2E, but on the floor of the adjacent Venetian casino was a hot topic of conversation at G2E; a triple zero roulette wheel. The wheel allows the Venetian to offer its lowest minimum of $10 on the casino floor, providing a solution in an environment that might otherwise be outside a player’s budget.
Cammegh also boasts an impressive list of recent product placements, supplying wheels and displays to Global Gaming Ventures’ soon-to-open casino in Leeds. In the Philippines, Cammegh is supplying 22 themed wheels for Okada Manila, the third integrated resort to complete the Entertainment City in Parañaque, while in Australia, Cammegh is working with The Star in Sydney to replace signage across the floor and with Crown Casino Melbourne to launch a trial of Spread Bet Roulette.
TCSJOHNHUXLEY is another UK-based gaming supplier that is finding success on U.S. shores and remains busy introducing new products to market.
On the traditional table game front, TCSJOHNHUXLEY recently introduced Saturn Glo. Boasting the same cutting-edge features as the Saturn roulette wheel, Saturn Glo incorporates LED technology providing in-rim lighting color changes according to what’s happening in the game. Designed to literally “light up” the game, Saturn Glo can be programmed to indicate game status and also features an exciting array of attract modes in a variety of colors.
On the products placement front, TCSJOHNHUXLEY was chosen to supply a large selection of live gaming equipment for the recently opened Casino 36 Wolverhampton in Wolverhampton, UK, according to a press release. The property opted for TCSJOHNHUXLEY new illuminated gaming tables which featured Casino 36’s logo and famous red branding. Casino 36 Wolverhampton is only the second casino in the UK to feature these eye-catching new table designs, and they decided to showcase games including American roulette, blackjack and three card poker.
Alongside the new illuminated tables TCSJOHNHUXLEY also supplied Saturn and Saturn Auto wheels, Chipper Champ 2 chip sorting machines, e-FX Winning Number Displays that provide up to date media and information as well as chips, plaques and numerous gaming accessories.
Demonstrating their ability to deliver innovative design, TCSJOHNHUXLEY created an entirely bespoke table which suspended the Harley Davidson in mid-air. The result is a one of a kind roulette table which delivers an immediate impact and creates the “Wow Factor.”
Las Vegas-based Adrenalin Gaming has carved a growing niche in the table games marketplace by creating table games-based bonus/prize system that rewards players with unique items such as expensive bottles of wine, contemporary art, golf clubs, women’s jewelry or gems while they are still engaged in the game.
For example, Big Money Blackjack 55° is themed to look like a red oak wine barrel, which is appropriate considering it contains a side bet mechanism that gifts a winning player fine wine directly from the 55 degree refrigerated table game. Meanwhile, Big Money Blackjack Trunk of Treasure takes the same side bet mechanism but instead of wine offers a chance at $1 million in gold, silver, gems and pearls. Big Money Blackjack Trunk of Treasure players who engage and win the side bet receive a key that could open the $1 million prize.