Has it ever bothered you that a significant part of the casino business is in decline? Worried
about being a dinosaur at age 40 or less? Me too. The table games area of our business is in
real need of some serious help. I recently had the pleasure of talking with some of the
"propeller heads" (their own term not mine) that run Harrah's corporate headquarters. These
are the guys that are looking at taking "software" and scientific analysis and leveraging that
over building bigger and more expensive mousetraps or "exploding volcanoes" as they put it.
Some real interesting stuff that they are working on. It is very marketing and customer
service focused, but guess what I discovered? Harrah's operate 21 casinos throughout the US
with over 40,000 gaming machines and a business that makes over 80% of their revenues and
even more of their profits from slots. Table Games do not even appear on their radar screen!
Now that won't surprise most of you, but it should make all the people clambering up the
corporate ladders via the table game pathway very, very concerned.
So what are you going to do about it? Recently I have been involved in a couple of intriguing
projects that have the prospect of changing the way the table games product is packaged and
presented for our customers. Rapid Roulette is a new style table game that breaks the old
paradigm that to be a table game you must use chips and work with a baize layout. It also
breaks free of the thought that the ultimate evolution of the table game is to eliminate all staff
and essentially fully automate all parts of the current processes. From an engineer's
perspective or that of a computer boffin that may well have been the case, however, as my
good friend Dennis Conrad always says "...ask the customer what they want and give it to
When we started on the Rapid Roulette project we conducted a series of focus groups with
our customers who said the last thing they wanted was a fully automated Roulette game.
What they could envisage was a real dealer and a mechanical wheel with computer style
betting monitors being used to place bets. The customers actually like the social interaction
and "contest" with the dealer and they like the fact that a dealer spinning a ball gives them a
fighting chance in their mind. So we embarked on creating a new style of table game that met
both our needs of reducing operating overheads and enhancing productivity and the
customer's needs of maintaining a mechanical game.
Essentially we created a Roulette game with twelve betting stations and a single dealer. The
player has their own 20 inch automated transaction station where they place on-screen chips
on a computer simulated Roulette layout. The player buys in with cash or chips by handing
this to the dealer who credits their station with a dollar account balance from which they may
play. The player then selects the denomination of chip they wish to use by touching one of
the onscreen chips and either drags and drops the on-screen chip onto the position on the
Roulette layout or "points and clicks" the position. All standard Roulette bets may be placed
along with "recall" options and some other standard French Roulette bets. When the player is
ready to cash out they merely press "cash out" on their station and the dealer gives them their
account balance in chips and clears the player's balance. Revolutionary? "Hardly," you might
say. However, what we have achieved is a game where players can play in comfort, with a
drink and a cigarette if they wish, and reach all areas of the Roulette layout without pushing
or leaning and where all the standard features of the game they find desirable are maintained.
We have also been able to reduce labor costs by around 60% and have therefore been able to
reduce the minimum bet by a factor of four. We also have a new platform for game
development that is almost limitless. Streak betting, easy picks, feature games, jackpots and
all the bells and whistles that have made slots such an exciting alternative for our players.
With lower betting limits and more fun options perhaps we can capture some of the players
we have lost. Now, some might argue that it is better to let the player migrate across to slots.
The problem with this is that as slots become more distributed in the community it becomes
harder and harder to compete with slot parlors that can offer the same products and facilities
as our casinos. A vibrant table game product is one way that we can maintain a point of
difference with our competitors and make the casino experience more social and memorable.
The future of table games is definitely bright, if we want to make it that way!