From evolution to revolution.
Years ago casino managers decided that they could stimulate play by offering "free" trips,
room, food and beverage deals to specific customers. They "knew" they held between 20%
and 40% of the average front money or bankroll brought by a customer. So if a player was
willing to bring $10,000 to gamble they based their decision on how much to provide in
complimentary benefits on that basis. So, depending on the policy of the casino, they might
have given 10% of the players bankroll back to them in complimentaries. So, if you bring 10
grand we might have given a $500 airfare, 2 nights' accommodation, show tickets and paid
for their food and beverage during the stay.
Well you don't have to be too bright obviously to use such an arbitrary system to your
advantage. The more you bring the more you get and you don't have to play any differently.
So, casino managers moved from what were relatively arbitrary systems often based on
personal contact and knowledge of players to more mathematically based criteria for
establishing a customer's value. To do this, however, you need to determine average bet
levels, type of game played and length of period played. So, for example, we know that a
player plays $500 a hand at Baccarat for 1 hour. Based on other surveyed and statistical data
we also know that on Baccarat we have 45 resolved hands per hour and that the house
advantage is approximately 1.25%. Therefore, the player's theoretical loss will be around
$280. Again, depending on the individual casino's policy, we might provide between 25%
and 50% of that back to the player in complimentaries.
To work this through and collate this information for a large number of players, casinos
turned to computers with significant processing power and the ability to manage large
databases. But there are still "holes" in this system. We still manually estimate average bet
levels and manually input the data. Also, we use system averages for various factors, which
may not be representative of the actual play.
Thus, while this system is certainly better than the old "gut feel" approach it still may
undervalue some customers while overvaluing others. To overcome this, various systems
have been developed which record every aspect of a customer's table play. The most
sophisticated examples of which are Mikohn's SafeJack and SafeBac systems, both of which
are still really in an R&D phase. SafeJack, for example, monitors every aspect of a Blackjack
Each time a card is removed from the specially designed dealing shoe it is read and displayed
on the dealer's small V.F.D. screen in front of them. Once the player has two cards the total
is shown for the dealer. On the round of play being completed the screen also shows the
dealer whether or not the player has won, lost or drawn.
Embedded within the gaming chips the player uses is a micro-chip that has an assigned value
and is encoded so that it may be ascribed to particular players. Built into the table under each
betting box is a small aerial which means that not only do we know which cards are dealt to
each box but how much is being wagered and by whom. The players themselves are
identifiable by their mag-stripe player card with their details encoded thereon. In the future,
Smart Cards may carry even more information about the players.
Thus, it is possible to know exactly how much a player bets, how many hands they play and
even how good their play is compared to Basic Strategy on Blackjack.
Of possibly more interest to casino operators in Australia is a similar system for Baccarat.
Given that this is the game of choice for many high rollers from Asia and that Australian
casinos currently spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year manually recording the
individual bets made, it is easy to see the value in moving to such a system. Also, now that
we have varying government tax rates on different business segments in many Australian
states, it would be clearly advantageous from the regulatory perspective to have more
foolproof automated systems.
Once this level of accuracy is achieved for table game play, then no doubt we will see the
true integration of slot club marketing systems with table game player rating systems. Many
slot clubs (gaming machine clubs) both in the United States and now in Australia offer Cash
Back to players either based on their turnover (total amount bet) or their theoretical loss.
For high rollers on table games the same is true, although we certainly don't advertise it as
"Cash Back" for this group but refer to these as Commission Based or Discount programs.
For lower level table game players, at the moment, this does not happen. Once, though, we
have smart systems on tables then that will change and whether you play table games or slots
or both you will be treated no differently.
This may to some degree even spark a resurgence in the public's interest in table games.
Certainly it will open up to Casino Marketing Departments the prospect of using all the tricks
of the trade on tables in the same fashion that they employ these, so successfully, on slots. So
let's bring on the revolution and encourage the technological innovation that our Table
Games businesses so badly need.