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  BRIGHT IDEAS

Looking to the Future
by Andrew MacDonald

TABLE GAME AUTOMATION - PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

HISTORY OF TABLE AUTOMATION

The prospect of a revolution in Table Game development was heralded with Mikohn Gaming's announcement of its "Safe Jack" product in approximately 1995. Safe Jack was a fully automated Blackjack game with the exception of the fact that the game still employed a dealer. Cards were read from a dealing shoe, all bets were tracked and results were displayed for the dealer as to whether the player had won, lost or tied.

Field trials of "Safe Jack" commenced at Bally's Las Vegas and were monitored with great expectation by Table Games Managers world wide. In late 1998 the field trial was ceased and the "Safe Jack" tables were withdrawn. Mikohn have, however, announced that Harrahs will be utilising a "cut down" version of the "Safe Games" technology which merely tracks players turnover on the various Table Games using their chip in chip technology.

At around the same time Mikohn began advocating its "Safe Jack" product as a Table Games solution of the future another company, called Digital Biometrics, were promoting their "Trak 21" solution. This utilised visual pattern recognition technology to determine card and bet values at the game of Blackjack and like "Safe Jack" virtually automated the game for the dealer. Unlike "Safe Jack", "Trak 21" never appeared on a casino floor as a live trial and has virtually disappeared from the market. In its wake however, a group from Israel, called Gaming Management Ltd, are now promoting a similar system called "BJ-Guardian". They will be looking for a Beta-site in mid 1999 to test their visual pattern recognition system.

TABLE GAMES VERSUS SLOTS

Technological advances in the realms of Table Games Operations have been relatively limited to peripheral tasks associated with the operation and have never provided any real impact on the table gaming customer. This can be contrasted with the significant influence technology has had on the slot machine customer.

Table 1

Table Game Advances
Slot Machine Advances
Player Rating Systems
Slot Tracking
Dynamic Reporting Systems
Virtual Reels
Chipper Champs
Tokenisation
Winning Result Displays
Multi-line Games
"CS", "LIR" and Super Bucks Jackpots
Feature Games
E.S.S.
Mystery Jackpots
"Madness 21" - interactivity
Jackpots
Automatic Shufflers
Bonusing
Messaging
 
Auto-paging
Note Acceptors


As can be seen from Table 1 virtually all of the technological advances in relation to Slots have been customer focussed, whereas most in relation to Table Games have been operational efficiency issues. Customers have responded enthusiastically to the developments in the area of Slots as they have been focussed on enhancing the player's experience. To the Table Game player virtually nothing of value to them has changed. Interestingly the only successful new table games in recent times have been those which have included jackpots or player bonuses.

Thus we have seen significant growth in gaming machine performance while at the same time growth in table games revenues has been minimal. This has been a world wide trend, with slot revenues exceeding table revenues in Nevada for the first time in 1981. Slot win now makes up 65% of Nevada statewide revenues and is the dominant source of casino profits.

A comparison of two players' relative experiences and "value" derived from participating in either Tables or Slots is illustrative of the reasons why this has occurred both in Australia and overseas.



Date Posted: 28-Feb-1999

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. He is currently employed by Australia's largest casino operator, Crown Limited, as a turnaround agent and strategist.
Andrew may be contacted at andrewmac@urbino.net.

  Table Game Player Slot Player
Product · Gaming entertainment · Gaming entertainment
Cost · $90 over 2 hours (eg only) · $90 over 2 hours
Benefits · $3 in points · $9 in points
  - · $4 - $8 bounce back
  -  
 
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