The table game business is growing by leaps and bounds after years of playing second fiddle to slot machines. Although Scientific Games’ Shuffle Master is the dominant player in the market, there are several up-and-coming companies that have unique products. DEQ is one of them. Joe Bertolone became president and CEO in 2014, and has been laser-focused on the company’s successful products and services. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros in April.
GGB: Why don’t you give us a short outline of what DEQ does?
Joe Bertolone: DEQ is a global company. We do business in about 30 different countries. We have over 300 customers, and those customers are all the name brands in the casino operations world. We basically have two lines of business: we focus on proprietary table games, and our table games systems business, which are also known as progressive systems. So, the company’s been around for 10 years, quietly building up an incredible customer list and install base that we’re very proud of, and we see this marketplace continuing to grow.
Why do you think there’s such a renewed interest in tables these days?
I think it’s a combination of things. There’s the social aspect of table games, which is appealing to players. It creates an excitement on a casino floor, and obviously, operators are looking to create that environment. And when you walk into a casino, most casinos are laid out with the pits in the center of the floor. So it’s a focal point, and I think that’s growing. The globalization aspect of table games is also interesting. As Macau and Asian gaming has come on line, those operators are the way Vegas originally started out, which was they’re focused on table games, and not so much slots. And finally, operators are looking for a different way to appeal to more customers, and table games offer that.
Let’s talk about the DEQ proprietary games. Did you acquire them, did you develop them in-house, or is it a combination of both?
We do both. In the past, we partnered with game inventors, and we go out and distribute those games for them. But one of the things that we realize, and one of the things that we’ve been working very hard on over the course of the last year in rebuilding the business, is a recognition that if you’re going to compete, you also have to have in-house game development.
So, we’ll continue to do both of those things, to be competitive in the marketplace. We’re always looking for great games; we’ve got people dedicated to doing that. But as anyone in the space knows, game development is a critical part. If we had a magic wand and could develop the winning games, we’d use it all the time. But that’s hard; this is true gambling, in the sense that you put a game out, and you hope that it catches on and builds traction. And the trick is to keep putting games out, meeting customer needs, and being able to provide our customers with choices.
How many units do you currently have on the casino floors, and how are they performing?
If you look at our proprietary table games, we’ve got around 800 to 850 games globally. And the lion’s share of that is our EZ Baccarat brand. On the other side, from a systems and technology standpoint, we have about 1,400 installations or units out there in the field, and that’s composed mostly of progressive systems, and our tracking systems.
Your most popular game is EZ Baccarat. Why is that so popular, and why would someone buy EZ Baccarat when they can easily put in a game that’s a no-commission baccarat game, that has at least the rules of EZ Baccarat?
Our partners, the Talisman Group, and DEQ, over the last seven or eight years have done a fantastic job at creating brand loyalty. And we’re very fortunate that our operator partners have also supported us in that, because the dealers and players love the game. So, they’re a key part of the whole program, to make EZ Baccarat just an incredibly successful title.
Tell us about the DEQ progressive systems. What is your philosophy here, in terms of hit frequency?
It’s another one of those magic bullet questions. If everyone had the one magic bullet for this, it would make this easy. But it’s not. The reality is there are different regional markets, that treat things differently. Our operator partners have their own strategies when it comes to what they’d like to see on their floors. And so we offer them multiple options, from a wagering standpoint, and a hit frequency standpoint. Our new PRSM progressive platform speaks to this. Where our job has really been is to focus on giving our progressive platform customers the ability to set hit frequency. It’s our job just to give options to our customers.
What is the role of the tracking systems, where you can see the last few decisions?
What we want to see is more excitement, more interest in the game. In some ways, we’re competing with the slot machines that are sitting right outside the pit. So our job is to make sure that the information is presented in a way that’s not distracting. It has to keep the game flow going; that’s very important. But what differentiates our products from other products is that we want to enhance the general feel of the pit, and we do that in conjunction with the operators. We think it’s a key component of our solutions.