What is happening to Casino Table Games?
The once dominant aspect of a casino's 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 maximize profit from their operations, which has led
to more machines and less, labor-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 until the eventual extinction of table games? Is a casino still
a casino if it 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 computerized 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 Hickok "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 adrenaline linked endeavors. 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 themes 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.