For the man who helped to legalize non-tribal casinos in Washington state, table games were more of an avocation than a vocation. A Reno native, Robert Saucier believes that his time on the other side of the table has prepared him well for his role as one of the premier table-game suppliers in the industry.
“I remember when Bill Harrah allowed Bill Cosby to get behind a game and deal to the other players,” he said. “Cosby may have cost Harrah a few hundred dollars, but everyone who was at that table probably remembers it to this day.”
And that’s what Saucier says the table-game experience is all about: entertainment. He describes what he saw when the Hard Rock Hotel first opened in Las Vegas and it became the first casino to actually remove slot machines to make room for more table games.
“Everyone thought the younger crowd targeted by Hard Rock would want to play slot machines since they grew up with video games,” he says, “but that was not the case. They didn’t want an ordinary, everyday experience of playing a video game. They wanted the tactile feel of the cards and the chips, along with the human interaction that you get with table games.”
Saucier says he got into the table game business almost by mistake.
“When I was running our small casino in Washington state,” he explains, “we invented a side bet to create more excitement at the blackjack table. It was called the ‘horseshoe’ bet because we rewarded the player for getting 20—close to 21—which we rewarded like getting close in horseshoes.”
The name didn’t really work—today it’s called Lucky Ladies—but the concept did, and Saucier was captivated. Galaxy Gaming was born when other casino owners wanted to use the side bet and pay a royalty. Today, Galaxy Gaming is the second-largest supplier—after Shuffle Master Gaming—of new table games and side bets in the industry.
Even so, Saucier says it’s difficult to convince casino owners to step outside the traditional table game arena and pay for a similar game with a side bet.
“We have to prove that they’ll make more money even after paying us and attract more customers by taking our games,” he says. “But once they see the excitement and entertainment values of our games, it’s usually an easy sale.”
In addition to Lucky Ladies, just some of the games that Saucier says have been popular with casinos have been Texas Shootout and Empress Challenge Pai Gow Poker. But he’s most excited about the new Bonus Jackpot System, which has recently been approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The system permits casinos to offer substantial jackpots and creative bonusing schemes for their table game customers.
But Saucier says the key to any table game is a low house edge.
“I think the casinos are making a big mistake by offering 6/5 blackjack,” he says. “Players need to perceive a chance to win, and if that disappears, so will the customers.”