The latest technological advances for casino table games
The casino table games revival shows no sign of slowing down, and equipment suppliers are responding with new concepts that include many of the technological advances that have made slot machines so popular
They say history repeats itself, and that just might be the case for the popularity of table games.
Going back about a decade or so, it was not a secret that table games were struggling. New game concepts were being introduced on the casino floor and new technologies were allowing for other areas of casino gaming to rise above the historic need of the traditional table game. Some casinos even went as far as eliminating pits to make way for more slots.
However, despite this decline of popularity, table games avoided the extinction some predicted… not only have table games survived, they are now thriving and seeing considerable growth and expansion with new installs.
Proof is in the numbers. “If you look at the data from the table game and card shuffler businesses inside Scientific Games, the industry has never been stronger,” said Roger Snow, senior vice president table games at Scientific Games. “We have more shufflers out there than ever before, more tables out there than ever before, more progressives out there than ever before. And customers, more so than ever before, are expressing an appetite for the next new thing.”
Indeed, while the modern table game pit still contains the traditional felt-top games that have changed little over the past century, this area of the gaming floor has also evolved to include cutting-edge games that have essentially piggybacked on similar technology enhancements that brought slots much of their success—features like multi-level progressives, bonus-style side bets, advanced player tracking, analytics and digital signage, to name a few.
“Table signage has definitely advanced and is a way to attract players,” said John Hemberger, senior vice president, table games for AGS. “Today’s casino operators are also very focused on automating the ratings process and being able to recognize and reward their table-game players in the same fashion they do with their slot players, so integration to the casino management and player tracking systems are key.”
To keep this table games revival moving in the right direction, equipment manufacturers are spending time researching trends and getting feedback from players and casino operators to build better product roadmaps. One of the key finds is that operators are looking for games and products that drive more revenue and table game progressives are doing just that. Table game progressives have become more prominent on casino floors.
“Side bets are also increasingly becoming an important revenue driver and a way to add excitement to a traditional felt game,” Hemberger said. “By adding progressives and side bets to traditional table games, operators can offer players more ways to win and dramatically more excitement and anticipation.”
Modernizing and enhancing classic games like blackjack and poker are one way to keep today’s players engaged; also growing in popularity is community-style play, another long-time slot sector trend that is now enhancing table game play as well.
“Table game players in general are more social than slot players, so when you can add a side bet or progressive with some shared bonuses or rewards, it adds tremendous excitement and makes the game much livelier, more social and provides a more connected experience,” Hemberger said.
In 2019, it is anticipated that more than 700 new table games are going to come into the market through new casino openings and casino expansions. Ready to be a part of that growth, table game manufacturers are bringing new innovations to the table. Below are a few of the top players in the market and their latest news.
AGS’ table games business was created a little more than four years ago when David Lopez, president and CEO, shared his vision to create a table games business from the ground up for the company.
“Launching AGS’ table games business was an exciting—albeit challenging—opportunity; we recruited a product development team, hired a sales team, built our product plans and started growing a unique and robust library of proprietary table games and table solutions,” said Hemberger. “It has been a great move for AGS because we are now able to walk into a customer’s property and offer edge-to-edge solutions for the casino floor, from slot games to table games, card shufflers and a host of other products for the casino pit. Operators now have another supplier to work with that is passionate about table products and focused on the long-term success of this important segment of their operations.”
Currently, AGS has an outstanding selection of table products for 2019, with more than 30 different kinds of offerings. The company’s progressive table game offerings have seen accelerated growth over the past year; hitting its 1,000th install, marking a significant achievement in the business.
The two-time award-winning STAX table-game progressive continues to penetrate the market as a player favorite, offering a multi-level progressive and must-hit-by jackpots, which add unprecedented player excitement. STAX is transforming basic games like blackjack, and even AGS proprietary titles like Chase the Flush and Criss Cross Poker, because it offers more ways to win.
“We have multiple success stories with our Bonus Spin progressive and look forward to rolling out the next-generation Bonus Spin Xtreme, a progressive side bet that offers a community or player-envy experience in which multiple players can win prizes with each spin of the wheel,” said Hemberger.
In a game like roulette, with Bonus Spin Xtreme, when a player wins the main prize, all the other players who have wagered the side bet win the secondary prize. Conversely, in blackjack, when a player wins the main prize, one of the other players who has wagered the side bet wins the smaller secondary prize. This product adds a community element to table game play.
In proprietary table games and side bets, the company reports it is seeing growing momentum from Royal 9 and Criss Cross Poker, as well as continued steady placements of Buster Blackjack, one of the industry’s leading blackjack side bets.
“As for some of our new content on the horizon, we are excited to launch Vega$ 3 Poker, a new twist on traditional three-card poker; Pai Gow Linx, which adds new dimensions to traditional pai gow; and Super Start Hold’em, a heads-up hold’em-style game in which the player starts the game with the stronger of the two-hole card options that are dealt each hand,” said Hemberger.
And last but not least, the Dex S card shuffler is in the very early days of its launch and is scheduled to have a strategic and thoughtful rollout throughout the year. The Dex S single-deck card shuffler for poker utilizes unique shuffling technology to dramatically increase efficiencies, shuffling a single deck of cards in less than 36 seconds.
The company is also expanding its lineup of displays and now offers two eye-catching, double-sided digital displays for baccarat and roulette.
“We’re adding some exciting features to these displays, including animated characters, real-time reel stats, marketing video content, and highly customizable layouts and themes,” said Hemberger. “We’re on the edge of being a disruptor in the table game sign space by using these displays as an interactive tool for messaging and bonus features.”
Progressives also continue to be a key focus for AGS; they have been highly successful on the slot floor for years and are now driving revenue and incremental play in the casino pit. The company has incorporated the popular “must hit” feature that has been prevalent in slots onto its STAX platform, helping to drive greater participation on progressive wagering. AGS is also expanding the capabilities of its STAX system to directly market to and reward progressive players separate from high-hand-type payouts.
“We’ll also be rolling out a new feature called Golden Seat later this year, so stay tuned,” Hemberger added
Scientific Games is one of the largest, fully-diverse suppliers of casino, lottery and internet gaming products. Its table game product line includes: card shufflers, proprietary table games, electronic table games, progressive jackpot systems, card-reading dealing shoes and chip sorters for roulette. Among the most popular table games are Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, EZ Baccarat and Blazing 7s Blackjack.
According to Scientific Games executives, the shuffler is getting involved more and more in game play. For pai gow poker, the i-Deal Plus shuffler tells the dealer how to set their hand according to the house way. The company’s side bet, Cover All, utilizes the i-Deal Plus shuffler to count the number of players in the round and sets payouts based on the highest hand at the table. And in roulette, Scientific Games has an automatic ball launcher, U-Spin Roulette, that spins three balls for a bonus round.
When it comes to new table games products, “We’ve got lots of stuff,” Snow said. “Face Up Pai Gow Poker is a commission-free game where players see the dealer’s hand before setting theirs. B2B is a roulette side bet that pays up to 1,000 to 1 on a single spin. Lucky Cat Blackjack pays bonuses on the main bet when the dealer busts. Diamond Rush is a side bet for Ultimate Texas Hold’em. Fu Dao Le is a progressive for baccarat that pays based on your seat number. U-Turn Blackjack is a game where the dealer plays his hand first.”
Table games for the company are placed all around the world, but not everything works the same everywhere, according to the company. Casino War, for example, is reportedly huge in Asia. Fortune Pai Gow Poker thrives in the U.S. and Canada. Meanwhile, Ultimate Texas Hold’em heavily populates European countries.
TCSJOHNHUXLEY offers a range of displays which deliver quality and performance. The company’s display range features high-impact graphics that provide key information as well as striking animations; however these graphics have historically been restricted to a standard template unless the operator has commissioned custom designs, exclusive to their properties.
The company recently announced its new Adaptive Modular Graphic system which was initially launched for roulette, but will be rolled out for other games. The new display content consists of a plethora of variable graphics and animations that can be configured in a number of combinations allowing winning numbers, stats, advertising content and video to be displayed exactly how each operator requires rather than to set configurations.
“We have always focused on producing products that provide flexibility, but also meet the requirements of the individual operator—we realize that one size does not fit all,” said Tristan Sjöberg, executive chairman for TCSJOHNHUXLEY. “Our new adaptive winning number displays allow casinos to configure their displays with our local teams, quickly and easily, to create eye-catching displays that provide information that is creative and customized just for them.”
The Adaptive Modular Graphic system is available for the Elite 29-inch single/double-sided display and the new 32-inch Ora Grande, both of which are designed to provide excellent visibility from all angles of the gaming floor.
TCSJOHNHUXLEY also showcased some new additions to its range of world-renowned products at ICE London in February. ICE 2019 saw the European debut of Blaze Craps which joined other Blaze products on show, including Blaze Roulette and Blaze Money Wheel. Like all products in the suite, Blaze Craps features eye-catching, energy-efficient LED lights fitted below the surface of the gaming table which display unique “attract sequences” and custom-themed animations, while also highlighting winning numbers.
As the industry’s only patented table technology to illuminate custom video animations through the layout, Blaze has proven to be an exciting addition to any gaming floor, according to press materials. Blaze LED surface technology has been adopted extensively throughout the global live gaming market with over 600 Blaze Sic bo units installed across Asia and over 100 Blaze Roulette tables installed in the Americas in 2018.
The Blaze product suite also increases security on the casino floor and assists dealers with game accuracy. Players and gaming staff can benefit from seeing winning numbers clearly highlighted, and with the improved visibility of these sections, pit bosses and security staff can easily monitor game procedures from a distance.
Alfastreet is another successful producer of electronic and live gaming equipment with products currently placed in 110 countries worldwide. At the ICE show in London Alfastreet presented its latest products, including the company’s double-sided Big Wheel, multi-terminal Black Jack, Fish Hunter on Felix S terminal and VIP terminal, among others.
The company’s machines come fully packed with the latest technology, placing them at the forefront to provide the best experience to the players and highest reliability to the operators, according to press materials.
Foxwoods Resort Casino unveils new table games play zone
Mashantucket, Conn.-based Foxwoods Resort Casino recently launched its Play It First New Game Zone, an innovative gaming area that allows guests to experience brand new table games, including industry-first concepts.
Located in the Grand Pequot Tower, Play It First features four unique games that rotate on a quarterly basis, including two that are new to the gaming industry, according to a press release. The inaugural games were industry newcomers Dragon Poker and 3 Card Blitz, alongside updated twists on the classics with Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em and Double Draw Poker. Dedicated Foxwoods team members will be stationed in the New Game Zone to help players get acquainted with the new offerings.
“As an award-winning gaming destination, Foxwoods aims to consistently up the ante on our already stellar gaming program by giving players a fresh, exciting experience every time they come to the property,” said Wayne Theiss, vice president of table games for Foxwoods Resort Casino. “Play It First is our latest effort in delivering on that goal, and we’re excited to offer guests a chance to try a unique mix of industry-first games as well as fresh takes on casino favorites.”
Details on the initial four games to feature in the Play It First New Game Zone are as follows: