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Pit Pros

Table-game vendors serve a rapidly changing business

Pit Pros

For many players, table games are where the action is. Savvy casinos and vendors make every effort to maximize their experience. Exciting things are happening in the pit, where the shape of tables and chairs and the texture of table covers are constantly changing to improve the patron’s experience—and occasionally save the casino money.

Table games are becoming more high-tech with automated shufflers, RFID chips, player tracking systems, hybrid half-electronic and half-human tables—enabling casinos to track bets, reward loyal players and even serve them food as they play, so they play longer.

Here’s a look at some of the manufacturers on the leading edge of the table-game resurgence.

Gaming Partners International
Gaming Partners International, which provides casino currency such as chips, plaques and jetons; gaming furniture and accessories; table layouts; playing cards; dice and roulette wheels, has pioneered RFID (radio frequency identification) technology.

RFID technology reduces counterfeiting, improves efficiency and increases the speed of play. GPI recently acquired an RFID chip inventory system and offers a more complete range of RFID products, in low- and high-frequency. “It permits the convergence of RFID technology, allowing a ‘best of breed’ approach to the development of software applications, inventory systems and related solutions,” says Justin Woodard, GPI’s vice president of global sales operations.

GPI’s RFIDPoker and Progressive Poker together improve operations and player experience. RFIDPoker improves accuracy and speed of various actions. RFID chips provide error-free, automatic and constant reading of the poker pot, calculate charges and rakes, and provide data and statistics such as game analysis, table performances, round-up lists, and daily totals. This speeds up the game an estimated 30 percent, which means more play and fewer idle players.

GPI’s Progressive Poker system features three incrementing jackpots that can be won at any RFIDPoker Texas Hold ‘Em table. It links a casino’s poker tables, and draws an extra rake from each pot to feed the progressive jackpots. GPI also offers pre-shuffled bricks of playing cards that dealers can place directly from the box into the shoe to speed up play.

How will the future casino pit look? The point is that such technology doesn’t change the look of the table, says Woodard. “To the player, the future casino pit will look just the same as it does today. However, the technology used at the tables and cage, which is transparent to the player, will be increasingly sophisticated.”

Woodard adds, “As this happens, it will be important for the gaming table to support this technology, while maintaining the integrity of the live gaming experience.” GPI’s eReady table was developed to accommodate the increasingly required electronic equipment. Its design allows for cooling of electronic equipment, elimination of signal interference of RFID transmitters and specially built areas for shufflers and bill validators.

Gasser Chair

Gasser Chair Co. Inc. of Youngstown, Ohio is a custom seat manufacturing firm—all U.S.-built. Founded in the mid 1940s by three brothers, Gasser was one of the pioneers of casino seating.

Gasser’s Player’s Choice Beyond Comfort Series focuses on seating ergonomics. Its newest products, the P103 and P104, are poker room chairs using newer technology with molded designs that are more player-friendly and “hug your body” with high-back and lower-back models, according to Advertising/Graphics Manager Kevin M. Smith and Gaming Account Manager Chris Dravis, who has been with the company for three decades.

Gasser’s “ReLuxation Collection” doesn’t make customers choose between luxury and comfort. “Our ReLuxation collection provides the best of both with ultimate comfort and a luxurious design,” says Dravis.

At the Global Gaming Expo, Gasser will introduce a chair line with different seat sizes and back sizes and a narrower seat, so more will fit around a gaming table.

But in general, “customers are looking for more space and comfort and less crowding,” says Smith. “Seat cushions are getting larger and more comfortable.”

Dravis says there is a trending away from the “carnival colors.”  “We are seeing a shift to more warm and inviting earth tones,” he says. “The chairs we will have at G2E have warm tones.”

Shuffle Master Gaming
Shuffle Master Gaming is a leading provider in four areas: utility products, such as card shufflers; proprietary table games like Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’em; electronic table systems that combine traditional table games with the latest technology; and video slot machines.

Automatic shufflers are having the most impact on the pit, says Kirsten Clark, vice president of worldwide marketing for Shuffle Master, “because they directly impact table productivity, profitability and security.” They increase revenue and security while providing operational cost savings.

Shufflers reduce losses due to cheating, card counting and shuffle tracking while reducing card wear, and delivering more rounds per hour. “Our roulette chip sorters help casinos eliminate down-time due to manual chip sorting, which increases spins per hour,” says Clark. “Our baccarat products deliver 100 percent card verification and unprecedented reliability.”

Shuffle Master’s new i-Table platform combines fully electronic wagering with a live game outcome to improve speed and security while providing complete game data. Its card-reading shoes read the value of each card as it is dealt. It relays this information to the table operating system, which assigns the values to the appropriate player station.

“Once all hands are dealt and all player and dealer actions completed, the table instantly resolves all hands according to each game’s house procedures, resulting in 100 percent accurate pays and takes,” says Clark.

The company is also expanding its proprietary content line with additional side bets and progressive jackpots, where players win additional payouts for certain hands.

Galaxy Gaming
Galaxy Gaming’s hot pit product this year is called the Bonus Jackpot system, an electronic side bet system for table games. First introduced in 2009 but since upgraded, it offers electronic enhancements and bonuses without removing the live dealer, real cards or real chips.

“The main thing we do is wager detection,” says Galaxy CEO Robert Saucier. “We use that information for several factors, such as determining a bonus jackpot.” It uses a standard chip (no RFID). A sensor in the table surface detects the chip. It doesn’t know the value of the wager, only that a wager has been placed.

Saucier says no system can determine the value of multiple wagers. “If you see an RFID demonstration you can detect the amount. The problem is that nowadays, those types of betting schemes have gone the way of the 8-track. More and more you have multiple betting opportunities. Some games have three side bets. You can’t pick the amount of each because they are too close together.”

Galaxy’s system detects multiple bets, which puts it in a class by itself. New releases are named after galaxies. The first was the Milky Way and the second Andromeda. Andromeda Stage II was just approved for Nevada. “We are developing Andromeda Stage 3 and the next major release will be Triangulum,” says Saucier. “It looks at the whole table surface. Instead of just detecting wagers we may have other player interfaces with shufflers or readers to keep accurate inventory of chips.”

Galaxy’s philosophy is that technology should not get in the way of entertainment. “We see a lot of competing products where people have to push buttons. That seems to get in the way. We think it is best to hide the technology and let the game itself play,” says Saucier.

Midwest Game Supply
Midwest Game Supply, a family-owned business based in Kearney, Missouri, is best known as the manufacturer of “Certified Perfects” dice. It started producing dice in 1945 and is now the only U.S.-based dice manufacturer. It has expanded to include wool, synthetic and direct print layouts, game tables and accessory items.

Midwest recently introduced a new, patented process for direct print layouts that prints an image, logo or photograph on a specially treated wool-blend fabric. Ideal for promotional layouts with dynamic graphics, the fabric is field-tested to give two to three times the wear of synthetic materials.

According to Sam Green of Midwest, the technology impacting the pit the most is automated tables. “Automated roulette and poker tables with high-tech interactive displays provide a blend of automation and personalized gaming that makes for a more enjoyable player experience,” he says.

Rye Park Gaming
Las Vegas-based Rye Park Gaming makes full-color synthetic game layouts complete with graphics, player spots and company logos. It recently introduced quiet, more ergonomic aluminum drop-slides on poker tables at Casino Arizona.

This year, the company introduced new stock designs for table layouts. According to Randy Ying, president of Rye, “Stock designs come in handy because custom artwork is so costly. We put together really good designs that casinos can put their logos on.” The digital art layouts are made of synthetic polyester and nylon that still has a bit of a nap and a felt feel. Yet, it is longer lasting because the printing penetrates deep into the fabric.

“Our designs are way ahead of everyone else. We are trying to get away from the older, boring plain green stuff that casinos used in the past,” says Ying.

Rye Park’s newest product is a design for a poker room beverage room cart, so players can be served at the table. The wedge-shaped, molded Dupont Corian carts with composite molded cup-holders and spill-prevention counter rims keep cigarettes and ashtrays away from expensive rails and poker table layouts. They fit into the table and are customized to match them.

Says Ying, “Rye Park Gaming’s beverage carts are as distinctive as the individual poker rooms they serve.”

British firm TCSJohnHuxley is considered the largest source supplier of table games and systems. According to Tracy Cohen, marketing manager, it is making a play to “revolutionize” live gaming by bringing the inherent advantages of electronic betting to live gaming. Covering roulette, blackjack, baccarat, poker and sic bo, Huxley’s live game multi-player solutions maintain the essence of live gaming while delivering added security, increased speed and ease of play.

Huxley’s TouchTable MultiPLAY platform identifies individual players and specific bets using “Touch ID” technology. Casinos can add fully automatic and cashless configurations in addition to live roulette, sic bo or craps. It combines live table gaming with the latest technology, merging traditional table games and a live croupier with a full-sized multi-player betting surface.

The new Gemini wheel combined with bill acceptors and ticket printers provides a 24/7 live-hybrid roulette platform that requires no dealer or inspection. TCS’ Gaming Floor Live harvests data from the roulette wheel. Its Chipper Champ 2 lets operators determine optimum game speed, number of players, number of tables open and price of play.

Double Action Roulette is a variation to the traditional game, delivering two winning numbers from a single spin. According to Cohen, “Casinos will continue to demand products that satisfy the craving of the table game player while enhancing the playing experience, simultaneously driving cost and error out of the operator’s business.”

Abbiati Casino Equipment
Abbiati Casino Equipment, one of Europe’s largest table game suppliers, is licensed by IGT to offer Magellan-technology, RFID-enabled casino currency products, including 13.56 MHz PJM RFID-enabled tags for its American chips, jetons and plaques.

Although RFID is still a new technology, Reda Seiliute, head of marketing for Abbiati, sees growing interest as casinos start to recognize the technology’s value, which includes security, table performance, chip movements, player track, table link and real-time data—the latter being a key element of its appeal.

The 13.56 MHz PJM RFID Value Chip reads at 800 pieces per second, recording the number of chips of each value, the total value per denomination and the sum total—also split in various sets.

The Abbiati Automated Roulette Wheel operates as a traditional wheel or fully automatic. Embedded sensors capture all of the winning numbers. It can run fully automated and cashless 24/7, which increases revenues while cutting operating cost. It switches quickly between modes. The wheel uses laser monitoring to capture the speed of the roulette ball, the direction of the sphere and rotor turn and the number that comes out.

As the pit becomes more automated, and as side bets become more a part of the table-game experience, pit vendors will continue to play the never-ending game of improving already-sophisticated technology.

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