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Family Feud

The biggest changes to table games in the last 20 years

Family Feud

One hundred casino gamblers surveyed. Top five answers on the board.

What’s the biggest change to table games over the past 20 years?

Survey says . . .

Electronic Tables [30]

If you’re truly plugged into the table games industry today, you’re no doubt aware how many table games in the industry today are truly plugged in. Like with a cord. Electronic tables, de rigueur for decades in Asia, Europe and Australia, have finally—after a few fits and starts, sputters and sparks—become fashionable in this part of the world. 

And it’s a fashion bordering on passion. Electronic table games, or e-tables as the cool kids call them, are now offered in every major market in North America. The common-sense definition, if perhaps not the legal definition, of an e-table is a device that mates table content and electronic wagering. The craps game with the tumbling dice so big they should be hanging off the rearview mirror of an 18-wheeler? That’s an e-table. The roulette game with ticket-in and ticket-out? That’s an e-table. The mashup of baccarat, roulette and sic bo that’s flanked by three dealers, video cameras and a Jumbotron?

 Yup, that’s an e-table, too.

What started as a niche is now perhaps the fastest-growing segment in casinos. And of even more weighty importance, many operators believe e-tables are the best bait for luring and retaining the millennial generation. To wit: several resorts in Las Vegas have recently created special zones for these games and these players, while others in places like Quebec dedicate entire rooms—vast, intricate build-outs—in the hopes of wooing this younger crowd.  

Card Shufflers [25]

Earthquakes. Famine. Rivers turning to blood. And of course, the most harrowing apocalyptic precursor of them all: card shufflers on every table. We’re not there yet, but we’re not that far off either. If you walked into a casino in the mid 1990s, you were less likely to find a shuffler than you were a tattoo parlor catering to hemophiliacs or a three-legged cocktail waitress. Shufflers were an oddity, a curiosity, and to some, a monstrosity.

Now they are a necessity. Or pert-near. Sixty percent of all house-banked card games utilize a mechanical device for mixing cards. Et tu, poker? Yes, Caesar. Seventy percent of the Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Seven Card Stud games around the world have shufflers on them. And speaking of Caesars—plural—its annual World Series of Poker (aka, the greatest show on felt) uses them as well.

New Games [20]

Remember the scene in Vegas Vacation, right after Chevy Chase lost all his money to that dealer—you know, the little guy, old and bald with a squirrel face, the one in The Princess Bride who kept yelling, “Inconceivable!” over and over—he tried to get it back at games like Coin Toss, War and Rock, Paper, Scissors?

Yeah, that was pretty funny, but here’s the thing: two of those games actually exist. For realsies. War (technically Casino War), where you play mano-e-mano, card-vs.-card against the dealer, is offered in casinos around the world, while Two Up is a coin-toss game played on Anzac Day in Australia. It seems art imitates life once—make that twice—again.

No Smoking [15]

Whether it’s via house policy or government statute, smoking in casinos is going bye-bye. Or as they say when you’re getting off an airplane, buh-bye. At this pace, smoking will soon be regarded as an anachronism, an antiquity, a practice as passé as having boxmen on a craps game or laddermen on a baccarat game, or a blackjack game that gave you a fair gamble.

Speaking of which . . . 

Bad Blackjack  [10]

Once upon a time, a time before eight-deck shoes, a time before hitting soft 17, a time before 6 to 5 only referred to how early the milkman woke up, was a time when blackjack had the best odds of any game you could name.

Sorry, time’s up.

Just how good were the good old days? Read ‘em and weep, lo these tales of yore: 1) The Holiday Inn Boardwalk on the Las Vegas Strip would, albeit intermittently and briefly, allow “early surrender,” where players could forfeit half their bet before the dealer checked for blackjack; 2) The Stratosphere once dealt a single-deck game all the way to the bottom; and, 3) Las Vegas Club for years advertised the “World’s Most Liberal Blackjack Game,” and mathematically speaking, it was closer to reality than it was to hyperbole.

Those days and those games—not to mention two of those casinos—are gone, baby, gone. Blackjack has sold out and cashed in, like Jefferson Starship in the ’80s, Aerosmith in the ’90s or Phil Collins in every decade. But hey, that’s showbiz. And that’s casinobiz too: first and foremost, it’s a business. Sure, a 0.25 percent house advantage sounds appealing, but it doesn’t exactly pay the rent. Or the neon bill, for that matter.

Besides, all these changes to blackjack—side bets, derivatives, progressives, rule variations, etc.—have proliferated because players like them. Simple as that. And to all you purists out there aghast at such advancements, Frankie says relax. Blackjack isn’t all that goofy and gaffed up. It’s not like something you’d find along a carnival midway, where if you beat the dealer three times in a row, he pays you off with a funnel cake or a giant Minions doll.

Well, at least not yet.

Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Light & Wonder. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Light & Wonder or its affiliates.

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