West World
by Andrew Mac Donald

West World.

What is happening to Casino Table Games?

The once dominant aspect of a Casinos product line-up is losing market share to Gaming Machines and valuable casino real estate is being turned over from Pits of Table Games to rows and rows of Slots.

Why is this?

Several factors exist. Firstly, the games initially appear complex and are intimidating to learn, as the skilled staff and “knowledgeable” players go about their business. Secondly, the atmosphere around a table is often tense and uninviting. Thirdly, entry level, low limit table games are often crowded and uncomfortable. Fourthly, the stakes are often relatively high and it is unlikely that a person wanting to trial the product will get perceived value out of a $20 or $50 purchase of $5 chips, as this only gives them 4 or 10 units with which to play and these may quickly be exhausted. Fifth, social changes have occurred which no longer see families sitting around playing cards or Monopoly at night to while away the time. And lastly, Casino Managers have sought to maximise profit from their operations which has led to more machines and less, labour intensive and thus more costly to operate, table games. A combination of all the above factors has resulted in a decline in participation on table games. In many U.S. Casinos the ratio of slot machines to table games is in the order of 40 to 1 or more. In Australia, at the moment, the ratio is more like 10 to 1.

Will this be allowed to continue till the eventual extinction of table games? Is a Casino still a Casino if is doesn’t offer table games?

I don’t believe table games will disappear totally. In part because if Casinos become nothing more than a slot machine venue then it would be extremely vulnerable to direct competition from both the internet and other venues. Table games are still an important point of difference and are a product that has a specific target market and level of appeal. Gamblers are superstitious and enjoy the level of skill and control afforded by table games as well as the mechanical rather than computerised nature of the equipment involved. What will most likely happen to table games is that they will be transformed using technology into hybrid games incorporating many of the interesting features of gaming machines. This will mean more games like “Caribbean Stud”, “Madness 21” and “Let It Ride” which already incorporate jackpots and tournament features. Multi-station Blackjack, Roulette, Sic Bo and Craps gaming machines already exist and it won’t be long before we see our first electronic table gaming pit with service personnel and instructional areas using these or games like Rapid Roulette which are semi-automated.

Animatronic Dealers and themed situational settings may also be used to create a “West-Worldian” type table gaming experience. For example, we could have Bart Maverick dealing Blackjack with Wild Bill Hickock “playing” and live players entering and exiting this Old West movie scene. In another part of the same Casino other themed fully interactive experiences may be created using both live actors and computer driven robotics.

Thus, the Casino complex of the future will be more dynamic with diversionary architecture and interior design used throughout to trick the mind into believing they are part of something that they are not. This means more experience and escape driven properties and thus we will see a multitude of ever changing themes within the Casino properties.

A single facility may include such diverse themes as “The Old West”, “Ancient Rome”, “The Roaring Twenties”, “Galactica”, “Outback and Adventure”, “The Fabulous Fifties” and many other zones featuring horse and car racing, sports, and other adrenalin linked endeavours. So, like Las Vegas itself, single properties in other smaller markets may try to become all things to all people. Their offerings will be diverse to allow people to continually discover something new about the property and the theming will not just be architectural but will be fully integrated into the fabric of the operation.

The creation of new interactive table games to fit such themes will be an interesting evolution and melding of technology with personal contact so as not to lose the human and social aspect of Casino gaming. As Peter Drucker stated “…there are only two fundamentals in business, marketing and innovation.” Table Games managers need to take that notion and apply it to their businesses or die. When was the last time you walked up to a Table Game and thought “WOW”? Either in regard to, a marketing promotion, technological initiative or new way to offer a game?

The challenge for Table Games is not to lose itself to slot machines but to recreate itself to become all the more interesting and exciting and move into the future.

Date Posted: 26-Jun-2001

Andrew MacDonald is a highly respected Australian expert on Casino Operations and gaming statistics. Several of his works are utilised by the University of Nevada Reno in their Executive Development Program.
Andrew may be contacted at andrewmac@urbino.net.

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