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Digging the Pit

Making life easier down in the trenches

Digging the Pit

Table game suppliers view the pit as a cathedral.

Their products must please the “high priests” who operate casinos by reducing down time, increasing play and simplifying operations. They must also make life easy for the players who worship in gambling houses.

The reward is a multimillion-dollar windfall, well worth the extensive research and start-up costs. Several companies have fortified and helped upgrade the pit, via different themes.

The smaller the world gets, the larger its benefit. That could be the rallying cry for FutureLogic and Table Trac, who turn ticket-in/ticket-out (TITO) capability into a portable powerhouse. Copy that for Innovolt, which found a way to reduce power-outage risks on the gaming floor.

Technology does not have to threaten employees; it can assist them. One could derive that from Genesis Gaming, whose products bring dealers to the forefront of automated game management.

Respect RFID. That’s been the mantra of Gaming Partners International, which retains its pioneer status in the re-invigoration of radio frequency identification, both inside chips and through software.

While each company finds a different market approach, one thread brings them together. They all bring their specialty to the pit.

 
TITO-Tested

Ticket-in/ticket-out technology was designed for slot machines, but there’s nothing to keep it from working on tables as well.

FutureLogic delivers a game-changer with TableXchange (above), set to launch later this year after a second-quarter trial period.  The small device enables gamblers to bring vouchers from slots to table games. Forget cash-out or buy-in lines. This product will, literally, vouch for your bankroll. The company calls it TITO for table games.

TableXchange will be distributed by Global Cash Access in North America, according to Nick Micalizzi, the vice president of sales and marketing for FutureLogic in North America.

Operators will see all the benefits of player tracking, while gamblers view instant game access and the absence of lines for cashing in their proceeds.

TableXchange brings TITO to the entire floor, an expansion of what was once groundbreaking technology. Remember the rage when TITO escorted slot machines into the cashless era? The same innovative spark applies here, as TITO becomes a floor-wide tool.

A patron can purchase a voucher anywhere—slot machine, kiosk, cage, etc.—play a certain game and decide to move. TableXchange’s scanning and printing capability enables him to punch his ticket, move to another game area and produce the voucher. It is validated, he receives chips, and plays. When finished, the patron returns the chips for an updated voucher and continues the journey.

The system enables quick buy-ins—a benefit for high rollers with wads of cash—substantially reduces chip refills and eliminates the need for players to be ensnarled in cash-out lines. The player can put the voucher away and return another time.

“Is there anything more frustrating than being stuck in a long line in a casino?” Micalizzi inquires. “Especially when you have money to burn? What that means is that if players are not standing in lines, they are usually playing. That’s what you want.

“When we showcased this product at G2E, there was no shortage of people who want to test it.”

The Glendale, California company offers the TITO printers in gaming, along with printing solutions in the kiosk, medical, gas pump, and voting markets.

Table Trac has unveiled its own TITO option play. It’s called Tickets at the Table. The Minnetonka, Minnesota company already has this app in the market as an optional component of its new TTRac2 Pit System. TTRac2 is a model of comprehensive simplicity.

Can comprehensive really be simple?

Yes it can, according to CEO Glenn Goulet. Table Trac, which supplies casino management systems, derived input from dealers and pit bosses to produce its latest product. It was unveiled at G2E Asia in 2011 and is gaining momentum in local U.S. markets and the Caribbean. The system covers every table game.

“There’s something for everyone in our table game system,” Goulet says. “For dealers and table games managers there are the operational efficiencies brought on by automated table fills and credits, openers and closers.  For the audit and accounting staff there is the complete suite of reports and real-time accounting. For the marketing professionals there is the ability to reward players in real time through our Reflexive Reward system, which automatically rates and tiers players every two hours.”

TTRac 2 involves a small mounted touch screen both at each game and in the pit. The dealer takes a patron’s player’s club card, swipes it and records the buy-in along with placing the money down the chute. He also records the player’s seat position. A pit boss can see the action on every table via his own computer—usually a centralized location like the pit podium—and can color-code to denote player activity and to rate him.

The information connects with a back-house server, which integrates with the casino management system. Goulet says the two-hour rating component helps operators serve the local market, which depends upon weekly repeat visits. A key element of TTRac 2 was its origin. Dealers and bosses brought an effective practical viewpoint to the new technology.

“One of the key things we learned from the pit bosses and dealers was their desire to find an easy way to identify and rate players,” Goulet indicates. “They also wanted a system that was intuitive. This is easy to understand.

“The touch screen looks exactly like the table. The operators can easily access player information and player data and can easily train a new dealer in this system. By the end of his shift, the dealer will be very comfortable.”

Goulet says the system also tracks players who move to different tables. A dealer can simply hit his own “move player” button and mark the next table the customer went to. This system also allows operators to track uncarded players and decide whether or not to reward them.

 
RFID’s Best Friend

Gaming Partners International is a leading provider of casino currency and equipment worldwide, with offices and manufacturing facilities in key regions including the Americas, Europe and Asia.

GPI bravely embraced and partially reinvented radio frequency identification to a market that had downplayed it once the hardware posed conflicts with signals at or near the games. This company advanced RFID’s use into a back-of-the-house software gem for operators, helping them track overall game play.

By extending RFID beyond its security function, GPI implements it into several products. The company also stresses its clear ties to gaming operators.

“When it comes to our core products, we are the provider and we are the manufacturer; we are not a distributor,” says Maricela Maciel, GPI’s marketing manager. “When you deal with us, you deal directly with us. You have more control in addressing your concerns, more input on special requirements and price points. Everything is made to order.

“Once in a while, a casino will ask us to do something special for our table or for a decal or inlay. It can be addressed immediately, as opposed to going through another person or a distributor.”

The company showcased both its Chip Inventory System and TIM, a tray inventory module, at ICE in London. It will make another demonstration of these products at G2E. Both products are powered by RFID.

The RFID Tray Inventory Module (TIM) is an added feature of GPI’s RFID Chip Inventory System, which gives operators real-time chip/tray currency inventory monitoring at the table. TIM provides critical time-saving functions like automated table openings and closings.

Using an RFID reader and antennas to verify each chip in the tray, TIM automates manual chip accounting procedures. It provides reports for the table’s currency inventory throughout each dealer’s shift. This eliminates the need for manual dealer and supervisor counts and ends human error, thus reducing game down time.

TIM records the beginning and ending chip inventory for that dealer’s shift. Along with the total value of all the currency, it also provides management with an accounting of how many chips of each denomination are in the chip tray at all times. As an added level of security, a second employee is required to validate the opening and closing of the game table each time there is a dealer shift change. 


Shocking Innovation

Casinos can lose up to $1 million daily via power outages, according to a 2007 statement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

No wonder Innovolt brings an electric surge to this discussion.

The Atlanta-based company tossed its Power Manager product to the gaming world a while back. Software analytics will be added by the end of this month.

Several properties are running tests to see if Power Manager, which has one unit connecting to the back of every two machines—or shufflers or table-top electronics—can reduce costly down time.

“The results have been extremely positive,” says Ben Grimes, the chief technology officer for Innovolt. “What happens in gaming is that a line of machines are tied to the same circuit. There are more machines and more power draw, so if some machine was to be affected, it could impact others down the line. I’m not saying they would all be disrupted, but it could, for instance, make the lights on a machine dim the way your lights would when you turn your air conditioning on.”

Grimes says Innovolt has the industry’s only protection against all five power anomalies—the voltage sags which cause current in-rush, over-voltage that damages power protectors, voltage surge from the rare lightning strikes, brownouts which cause under-voltage levels and then normal power outages.

Innovolt’s next focus becomes software and analytics. An operator can purchase license access to Innovolt’s data about the machines.

“What’s exciting about this is you can have someone sitting at a screen, monitoring the environment, the power and the temperature, everything going on that would affect the machines (or table electronics),” Grimes says. “You can see a trend of things happening, like a sag affecting this particular run of machines. You can find out there is a problem in the breaker or the line and go fix it before there is a failure, not afterward.

“You will also get a sense of consumption issues. It’s nice to understand how much power the machines are consuming.”

And, therefore, determine how to monitor and perhaps tweak temperatures to reduce electric bills.


Encore for Bravo

Spring, Texas-based Genesis Gaming Solutions is a leader in hardware and software solutions for casino pit and poker room management. Leveraging the power and function of its first product, Bravo Poker, the company has developed Bravo Pit, a complete table game management and player tracking system.

 The Bravo Pit system enhances ratings and pit management utilizing electronic data collection. Bravo Pit also enables casino management to handle multiple casinos, and is compatible with any casino player-tracking program available. 

 The on-table dealer unit allows for easy data input including dealer login, player or guest check-in and check-out, player buy-in, chips-in, marker buy-in, and average bet. With the Pit Watch monitor program, the system also enables dealer, supervisor and marketing tracking, shift roll, table fill, table credit, table inventory and table rundown. Through Pit Watch, players are rated electronically and given credit for play immediately.

“If blackjack was invented today and you said that you were going to rate players on this game, there is no way you would have supervisors running around trying to check all the players in, and there is no way you could count on them to fully monitor that person’s play,” says Randy Knust, president and CEO of Genesis. “You have to bring the dealer into the equation somehow. That has become even more significant during the recent downturn, in which people were laid off. A supervisor used to be handling one to four tables, then it went up to six, and now it can be up to eight tables. You have one person trying to get 40 to 50 people swiped in. That’s not efficient. You end up with customers unhappy about not being rated. We take the operation and make it more efficient.”

While the PTC unit enables the dealer to input information, sensors record the speed of the game. By placing a sensor under any designated betting area, casino management can track any proposition or bonus bets on a game, enabling more accurate data for cost-benefit analysis of a particular bonus bet.

Knust says the sensors also deliver specific knowledge about hands per hour. This is an upgrade over the method of taking a random time sample, extrapolating it out over a long period of time, and determining the number of hands played. A slight uptick in dealer speed, multiplied by millions of hands every year, will likely spike revenue, Knust says.

The sensors and PTC unit are highlighted elements from the Bravo Poker realm, put into the Brave Pit universe. Another new twist, Bravo Poker Live, is an app connecting players to data where Bravo Poker is being played

The Genesis units are in more than 40 casinos in Las Vegas, Knust says, as well as more than 150 properties throughout the United States. The app enables a player to check where the Bravo Poker is being played that particular evening, and what tables are open.

The Bravo Poker system was chosen for a fifth straight year to manage the World Series of Poker, held recently at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.

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