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More Than Just Felted Furniture

Table game technology accelerates into the 21st century

More Than Just Felted Furniture

Don’t reinvent the wheel, just keep it spinning.

Table game operators view a steady maintenance role for this significant industry sector.

While substantial innovation has fortified the table game lineup from bonuses and wild cards to increased speed of play and exciting new games, the enhancements must be balanced with an eye toward online gaming.

Table games are a natural venue triggering the synergy between brick-and-mortar and online casino realms. As long as the games basically remain the same, they can reinforce one another.

Customers who favor certain games on their phone or home computer want to be able to recognize them when they visit a property.

Once on site, players want the magic they can’t experience online. That’s where the size of the table, the visual dynamic of the game and dealer engagement enhance the experience.

Vendors put all these factors together when selling products to operators. For both sides, the combined online and brick-and-mortar tracks produce profit.

The Side Hustle

Jamie Abrahamson, senior director of table game content for AGS,  believes game content itself has become a commodity.

“Every operator has its own version of each game, and the opportunity for us is how we can enhance those games with side bets and progressives,” Abrahamson notes. “Progressives have proven to be a high-margin product for operators, and we are enhancing the features that have proven to be popular with players. We are also working on expanding the reach across more games and increasing excitement for players by adding more chances to win and bigger, life-changing jackpot prizes.”

Gabe Baron, vice president of table products, cites the role of the viable shuffler as an essential accessory.

“AGS entered the shuffler market in 2019 with DEX S, and in January 2022, we launched our first specialty table games shuffler, PAX S,” Baron notes. “We have had a lot of success across the continent with PAX S because it brings an alternative option to our customers in a reliable and already accepted form factor.

“Unlike progressive jackpots and side bets, shufflers should be something that’s not noticed by players on the floor,” he adds. “The purpose is to provide efficiencies and reliability to the casino, and that’s what PAX S does well.”

According to Baron, AGS has rolled out several software improvements with PAX S. It has refined and added features based on the feedback of operators and players. By listening to its customers’ feedback, PAX S has grown to become an even more reliable product.

“We’ve added additional game configurations and continue to improve reliability in each release,” Baron says. “We’ve also added features that make installation more seamless for operators, which is important to them so there’s less downtime at a table. We always like to look ahead and meet customers’ needs.

“Increased reliability is a never-ending focus no matter what else we do with the product and is always a part of the equation. Customers expect shufflers to be a workhorse for the casino floor, and we keep that top of mind as we continue to improve on PAX S.”

Both officials also tout AGS’ evolution regarding its progressive jackpot systems.

Abrahamson says AGS has taken the best of its Bonus Spin Xtreme progressive and STAX progressive and created a high-hand jackpot for Bonus Spin Xtreme that offers players a chance to win a jackpot through community triggering events, as well as a jackpot for achieving a once-in-a-lifetime individual hand.

“Players like jackpots for having a great hand, but also like the excitement that slot games bring where you can frequently enter a bonus round and still win a life-changing jackpot,” Abrahamson asserts. “So, for some games, we took a hybrid approach and offer community triggers to keep the wheels spinning and have everyone at the table involved, as well as offer individual jackpots for amazing hands.

“This way we can keep the excitement that is normally only found at a craps table, and still reward players for having great hands.”

Baron says the evolution of this table-game sector is ongoing. AGS continually seeks new ways to innovate, whether that’s regarding shufflers, progressive systems, side bets or anything new.

Abrahamson indicates that the company will soon be releasing a new version of Bonus Spin Xtreme, BSX Power Up!

“Unlike the original community-based Bonus Spin Xtreme, BSX Power UP! will be based on an individual player trigger,” Abrahamson notes. “We believe this is a great solution for poker derivative games that do not feature community cards (Pai Gow Poker, 3 Card Poker). Operators will still be able to link traditional Bonus Spin Xtreme games with BSX Power Up! games, and offer a single jackpot across their floor.

“Instead of a hot seat feature that awards a player at the table the chance to spin the outer wheel, which contains the high-valued and jackpot prizes, the BSX Power Up! wheel will feature a ‘POWER UP’ slice that awards the player with the opportunity to spin the outer wheel. Bonus Spin Xtreme Power Up! will also offer the high-hand jackpot for achieving great individual hands.”

Valued Sector Niche

Table Trac is not only the company name, but a product that falls under the CasinoTrac CMS umbrella. Both are referenced in the company assessment by Jeff Baldi, its senior vice president of commercial strategy.

“Table Trac, Inc. has been a market leader in table games tech since our inception in 1995,” Baldi says. “Table Trac is the first patented table game accounting and tracking system. Frankly, we view it as a neglected sector. Certainly there are companies breaking ground with proprietary games, but as a whole, the CMS providers have turned their back on the space. In contrast, we spend a significant amount of time and treasure enhancing, updating, and refining custom aspects for the best table operators in the business.”

Baldi adds that the connection between on- and off-premise play is only as strong as the operator’s brand, and how they make the connection for the player between the two realms. Whether free to play, or pay to play, if the player doesn’t recognize and appreciate what’s being presented by the operator, not much comes from it, he says.

Regarding innovation, “we are focused on the proliferation of cashless and constantly refining our systems to match our philosophy… Systems need to support the operation, not dictate process,” Baldi  asserts. “For table games, this means identify the player, get them rated and keep dealing. Specifically, a card swipe or QR scan and two to three finger touches on a tablet gets a rating started. Nothing is more important that not interrupting the deal.”

As for cashless, Baldi expects to continue seeing the same interest and excitement behind the implementation of his company’s products.

“KTMobile, our app, and CasinoTrac CMS enable self-service cashable transfers to any gaming location/spot and self-service markers, through our exclusive partnership with Marker Trax,” he notes. “We even have the audit and drop covered through some clever use of TITO printers.”

Baldi is excited about enhancements to Table Trac, bolstered by KTMobile. And its cashless credit features will greatly reduce manual intervention and repetitive tasks historically attached to managing table games, he adds.

“Self-service markers, for example, will eliminate a minimum of three walking trips and game interruptions by the supervisor or pit boss to process a marker,” Baldi maintains. “Now, after a player logs into a position by scanning a QR code and then initiates a marker or cashable transfer, CasinoTrac CMS will generate a ‘TITO ticket’ at a secure location in the pit. The supervisor will simply walk the ticket to the table, sign it and have the dealer drop it. This leaves substantially more time for the supervisor to protect games and for the dealer to deal, and closes a very important loop for the count room and audit staff.”

In early September, the company announced it had signed a deal to replace a competitor’s casino management system for the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior at Legendary Waters Resort and Casino in Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Maintaining Table Game Identity

Steve Cvetkoski, vice president of product for Galaxy Gaming, cautions about bringing too many bells and whistles to the table-game sector.

“As it does with everything in life, technology will continue to have a stronger presence in table games,” he says. “However, the table game should still look and act like a table game. Doing too much and too soon can have a negative effect on the player’s experience, risking players losing their comfort and familiarity. Operators are looking for that sweet spot: something that grabs a player’s attention and time, feels new but recognizable, all the while making it easier on their staff.”

Cvetkoski believes that while creating the best and most unique content is a given, enhancements in the progressive space continue to be the major focus for Galaxy Gaming.

“During this year’s G2E, we will be featuring a sneak peek to the latest version of our Galaxy Operating System—GOS 2.0, showcasing all the enhancements and updates we’ve made since its debut,” he says. “New features, new progressives, new games; we’re only scratching the surface of what is possible and are excited to share our vision.”

The company has made significant 2023 business moves along the way.

A key component was the 10-year extension of its agreement with Evolution Group, its largest customer. Evolution will continue to license Galaxy game content across its portfolio of studios.

Connecting Online to Land-Based Business

Christopher Justice, the CEO of Pavilion Payments, says the company retains an important connection to the table-game sector.

“We are working on creating a seamless customer experience across table games and the rest of the resort experience because we know that table game players do more than just sit at a blackjack or roulette table when they visit a casino,” he says. “We are focused on the overall customer journey, and the table games portion of that journey is a very important component.

“While we do not produce any slot or table games of our own, the games environment is very important to us,” Justice adds.

“For us, the most important aspect is enabling fast and easy payments between online and in-person gaming settings. Pavilion Payments’ industry-standard e-check/ACH network, VIP Preferred, makes it easy for patrons to move their funds between online and brick-and-mortar casinos. Patrons can enroll digitally using online banking credentials and access more than 400 gaming institutions after just one signup.”

Justice considers the integration of digital technology with traditional table games the biggest recent shift in this sector. The combination of exciting and intuitive technology with beloved table games creates a truly modern-feeling casino experience, he asserts.

VIP Mobility allows users to fund their table games by scanning the QR code on the table. From there, patrons can choose how much to wager and transfer their winnings to their checking account or redeem them at the nearest kiosk.

Tech for Traditional

Online and payment advancements do not mean technological advancement is absent from traditional tables. London-based table suppleir TCSJohnHuxley is launching several such products at the Global Gaming Expo.

Products debuting at G2E include the latest update to the Saturn Roulette Wheel range, the Wheelmate. This latest development includes a compact plug-in console that enables casinos to easily monitor and maintain their wheels, keeping them in peak performance. The Wheelmate is the perfect tool kit to assist engineers or maintenance teams.

Also on display will be the latest Dynamic Display System (DDS) for winning number displays, which comes with a varied range of themed skins and animations along with the option for graphics to be configured in numerous combinations. This allows winning numbers, stats, advertising content and video to be displayed exactly how the operator requires.

New for G2E this year, TCSJohnHuxley will also be launching DDS for Blaze to provide a complete themed package. This allows operators to easily configure patented Blaze LED surface technology directly at the gaming table by using the winning number display.

Another key product range on display will be TCSJohnHuxley’s comprehensive and diverse Money Wheel big 6 portfolio for the land-based and online sectors. Visitors to the show will be able to see the range of precision-engineered Money Wheels in addition to the new Lumin8 LED Game Wheel, all of which are sure to provide a lasting visual impact on the gaming floor.

From varied perspectives throughout the industry, table games remain a vital component in the operating arsenal. In a perfect world, operators can make two separate pitches to their customers.

Playing a known table game online creates instant comfort, and perhaps compares with streaming a concert of one’s favorite performer. Playing the game on the property? That’s like attending the concert in person.

Both avenues are important. And table games remain in the middle of both of them.

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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