Last month’s Cutting Edge Table Games Conference at Paris Las Vegas offered a wide range of views on topics such as analytics, enhancements to traditional games, electronic table games, and marketing, among many other subjects.
Here’s a sampling of what was said:

What table games can learn from baseball: Zachary Levine, vice president of table game strategy MGM Resorts International—My background as a statistician is what took me into baseball and then into gambling. Our team at MGM was able to bring over a concept from baseball called wins above replacement. The key to this concept is, “What is replacement level?” About 20 years ago in baseball, people started saying we shouldn’t value players based on how they compared to average players, because there’s a lot of value in “average.” What we should be asking is, “How does this player compare to the player who would be freely available to us? How many games would you be expected to win with this player compared to his replacement?” 

The parallel to table games is fairly obvious when we look at our floor. We can’t compare games to the floor average, we have to compare them to what game would it be replacing on the floor and what are the specific characteristics of that game. For a lot of us, the question is, “What is your true replacement-level game on your floor?” For a lot of us in Vegas, it might be a 6:5 blackjack. If a game isn’t working and we haven’t seen anything good lately, we’ll try another 6:5 blackjack game because it’s a proven producer. Outside of Vegas, it might be a 3:2 game or a bank of slot machines. There are a lot of different things that a replacement-level layer could be on a casino floor.

Why side bets are increasingly popular: Christopher Abraham, senior vice president of marketing, Meruelo Gaming—Side bets are one of the reasons table games are growing and continue to grow. Nine out of 10 people are looking for entertainment. Sure they want to win, they want to be rewarded and they want to have a great experience. They also want to be entertained. There’s a segment of the business that wants to put $1 out or $5 for a shot at $500 or $1,000, something they’re never going to get hitting blackjack or winning a hand. Sure, it’s more expansive as an option and that skilled player who is 10 percent of the base is never going to play it, but most people like it when you expand your game offering with different options. 

Who is playing electronic table games (ETGs) at your casino: Ryan Bevens, director of gaming operations, Eldorado Isle Casino Hotel Black Hawk and Lady Luck Casino Black Hawk—In our jurisdiction, the demographic is extremely young. We unfortunately don’t have a big base of players who are playing both ETGs and traditional table games. It seems they start on ETGs and once they move into actual tables they don’t go back. What I’m seeing personally is players using ETGs as a gateway game and to come into the social aspect of games like roulette and craps. With ETGs, once they get the knowledge, they say, “OK, I’m going to jump in.” That demographic for us is much younger than our average player by quite a few years. These are new players; we just got some interesting data on new card sign-ups, 21- to 24-year olds. It was up over 90 percent and it amounts to a large number. I took it as I’ve got this many more players coming into my property and they’re interested in learning how to play table games.

The impact of younger players on table games and marketing: Scott Hanson, corporate vice president of gaming, Grand Casino Mille Lacs—The profile of table game players is changing. We’re seeing so many different demographics, more crossover from slots to tables. We’re getting a younger crowd, and we also cater to the old-school player that likes to sit at the table, thinks they know what they’re doing and they don’t want anybody at the table that makes the wrong decisions. Then we have young Millennials who want to interact. They can sit there, have fun, and for properties that allow it, they can take pictures, post them to Instagram and Facebook. 

Something we have to foster as table games professionals is allowing people to have fun. Sometimes we get stuffy in what we do. We have rules about no cellphones in some areas of the casino; but on your grind tables, your best form of advertising is having one kid out there posting to all his friends that he’s having a great time at Grand Casino.