Time-on-device is not just a slot machine issue, increasingly it’s a challenge for table game players, who must navigate an ever changing, and sometimes tightening, set of betting odds and game rules.
At Casino Journal’s Cutting Edge Table Games Conference last November, we dedicated a session to the topic. Here’s how speakers defined the problem as well as some potential solutions:
John Hemberger, senior vice president—table products, AGS:
I had come out of a UFC fight at the T Mobile Arena and I was with a few buddies of mine so we went to one of the properties over there and started playing blackjack. It was a $25 table, fair price point, Friday night. So I hit a blackjack and they paid me 6:5. I said, “What are you doing, it’s a $25 game.” The dealer said, “Yeah, it’s written in the microscopic font that you see over on the side there that it’s a 6:5 payout.” I said, “OK, but it seemed kind of odd to me that at that price point it was a 6:5 payout.” About five minutes later, I had nine and the dealer had a six up and I said I wanted to double down. She said, “Oh no, you can’t double down except on tens and elevens.” So I took my bet back. Literally 10 minutes later, I ended up with a 16, dealer had a face card showing and I surrendered. She said, “What are you doing, you can’t surrender in this game.” I got up and left the table and I happened to know one of the floor people at this casino and I said, “This is dangerous territory, what we’re doing right now.” We’re creating a situation that doesn’t feel fair, is not enjoyable, and ultimately, is not providing value. I started thinking to myself, let’s just put them in ski masks, I walk up, hand them the money and we all call it a day. When I’m playing, I’m happy to lose money, I just want to enjoy myself with my friends. How did we get to this point where there are all these rules saying you can’t do this and can’t do that? We’re all trying to grow our business, increase our revenue and improve our margins. We all have to hit budget targets, but how do we achieve that without necessarily taking things all the time?
Philip Hunter, vice president of table games, Luxor Hotel & Casino:
You have to retain a balance between giving the player a price point where they’re going to be comfortable and still being able to make a profit and maintain an acceptable margin. By adding options to games, it gives people a chance to stay on the game a little bit longer. To use the penny slot example, when you bet $3 and you get $2.60 back, you still feel like you’re in the game because you’re getting a little bit back. If you have $100 as a table game player and you could be out of the game if you lose four or five $20 hands with a couple of side bets. And that experience is devastating for that player; they might not play again for a really long time. If we can add these higher holding side bets that give a little back, we can add value. Another thing we can learn from the slot side is how their floors are evolving. The machines are getting bigger and bigger with curved screens and you look at a table game which is pretty boring in comparison. What we do have is a dealer standing at the table and we need to make sure he or she overcomes the sight and sounds of the slot floor. That’s a huge opportunity for us and one that we don’t utilize as much as possible.
Ronald LaDuca, president and CEO, In Bet Gaming:
Building a fair game means not changing the base game. When you add a rule that a player views as a penalty, that hurts the game and you really can’t measure the impact that has on a player. If you have a high hit frequency game where players can see wins, it helps the game tremendously. It has to be easy to understand, quick and uncomplicated. It has to be simple enough so you can deal the game out and it doesn’t upset the base game. When you add a progressive jackpot to blackjack, people are seeing jackpots rewarded throughout the day and they will play more. If you’re a $20 blackjack player, you’re theoretical worth to the casino might be $15 an hour. But if you’re a $20 player and you make a $5 bet on a progressive, you become five times more valuable to the casino because now your theoretical worth is $75 an hour.