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Tipping the Tables

Automated rating, hybrid games

Tipping the Tables

Bring on the new, enhance the “old.” Table games, the original industry kingpin, flaunts new fortifications. Some embrace slick devices, with Android phones and tablets becoming smart data-collection cameras. Others reflect automated bonusing, security and player rating capability. Another blends skill-based and classic games in a demographic melting pot.

Combined, it’s a welcome boost for a sector sharing its once-exclusive prominence with slot machines, lounges and social-media platforms.

A crowd around the table once described people elbowing up to the craps and roulette arena. That has morphed into a projection that by 2019, more than 400 million people will regularly watch competitive video gaming. Many will be millennials, gaming’s youth movement.

For table-game operators, this does not have to be an age-based passing of the torch. It can be a burgeoning market that they, by way of technology, tap.

 

Automate and Improve

Walker Digital Table Systems (WDTS), headquartered in Las Vegas with sales and support in Macau, provides innovative casino systems, tools and contents supporting the expanding global table games market. It empowers operators to maximize their table game productivity by automating the most iconic games—those played with live cards, live chips and live dealers.

Automation is the company’s stock in trade.

Walker Digital embraces several dynamic industry trends, according to Neil Crossan, general manager of Asia operations. A big one is the uptick of live-dealt table games. The casino expansion in Asia, where baccarat is the dominant revenue-driver, fuels this surge.

The demand for automation, data collecting and bonusing for table game operations is another significant area. So is total game integrity, with counterfeit protection provided by systems that track gaming chips from the chip float to the bet spot. Automated table ratings comprise another major industry movement.

Into that backdrop comes one of WDTS’ prime products, Perfect Pay. The company thinks it is, well, perfect.

“With automation comes rich data, business insights and never-before-seen capabilities such as cash chip rolling, insurance bet propositions by player position and off-table betting,” Crossan says. “The Perfect Pay table generates ratings for player sessions that automatically—and exactly, in real time—log every wager for cash chip, program or promotional play including start time, stop time, bet amount, bet type, win/loss, turnover, rolling and many other dealer and game performance metrics. Ratings are directly integrated into any casino management system and detail true handle, house advantage, exact win/loss and insights into bet mix and patterns of game play.”

Crossan says Perfect Pay supports total game protection from the time a bet is placed until it is paid, taken or exchanged in the chip tray. The casino is protected from bad actors on either side of the table. Capping, pinching and past posting are eliminated because the table generates an alert indicating when a bet changes at any point from when the first card is pulled to when the last bet is paid. If bets are overpaid or underpaid, the game will not resolve until errors are corrected. The chip tray checks for the correct balance at the end of each game and reports variances for any reason.

“Perfect Pay is an integrated table games system that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) and computer vision technology to track play and assist dealers to complete transactions quickly and without errors,” Crossan says. “The system tracks every player bet, every chip and every dealer transaction in real time. Perfect Pay does this while remaining indistinguishable from a traditional table game.

“Perfect Pay Baccarat is the most comprehensive table automation solution available today. Now, WDTS is applying the Perfect Pay platform across all game types, enabling a total-floor product. We can provide comprehensive solutions to any table games operation in the world.”

Crossan says a critical point of differentiation for his company is that table games automation and content leveraging RFID is Walker Digital’s core business. Perfect Pay automates the most time-consuming and labor-intensive table game procedures.

“The gaming day roll has traditionally required a series of manual procedures that disrupt play and result in fewer games played,” he indicates. “With Perfect Pay, an entire gaming floor rolls in just a few minutes without stopping play, manually closing or entering ratings, or starting a new shoe. Closers and openers are automatically generated and sent to integrated systems, player ratings are automatically closed and reopened, and the new gaming date is automatically updated across table and cage locations while players continue to place bets.”

 

Smart Software

Australia-based SenSen is one of the leading suppliers of data-driven business process enhancement solutions, specializing in the Video-IoT (internet of things) data analytics software realm. Its groundbreaking software combines enterprise video and sensor data acquisition, data fusion and big data analytics into a highly scalable and configurable platform, according to company CEO Subhash Challa.

SenSen is well positioned in the new era of artificial intelligence, IoT and data-driven decision making, he asserts.

“Since the data is collected for every table and every game for every player and dealer, we can support data-driven approaches to manage the floor and optimize yield as opposed to model-driven approaches to yield management,” Challa says. “When there is no data, you need models, which are approximations of ground truth or the world; however, when there is data the ‘data becomes the model’ and one can use the data directly to optimize yield. I believe the impact of this will soon go beyond yield management of tables to all areas of casino business.”

Challa says the company’s latest generation of technology, built in collaboration with Crown Casino, is operational in Crown Melbourne. The product, SenGAME 3.0, was formally launched in October at the Global Gaming Expo.

Challa says the SenSen system involves a set of Android phones/tablets, primarily used as smart cameras. They are installed on either side of tables, away from dealer hands and players, yet positioned to get a good view of the card and betting areas.

“A small-form-factor PC (video processing unit, or VPU) is installed under the table to capture and process images captured by the cameras,” Challa indicates. “SenGAME 3.0 software is installed both on the Android phone/tablet and on the VPU. A central server within the premises or on the cloud is installed with SenBOS (SenSen’s Back Office Software) that collects data from the live table games for storage and processing. Various third-party business applications like yield management, rating and loyalty programs can pull the data from a centrally hosted database like SenBOS to drive business applications.”

The company advanced its algorithms with deep-learning-based AI technology to use low-cost cameras embedded in Android devices, Challa asserts.

“The latest solution SenGAME 3.0 supports all types of table games and the technology retrofits to existing tables,” he says. “There is no change to layouts, dealer behavior or any other aspects of operations to start getting this data. The latest developments in SenSen technology do not need time-of-flight cameras, further reducing dependence on specialist proprietary technologies helping casinos to be more adaptable and less prone to critical dependencies in supply-chain solutions.”

A property will purchase a hardware and software system that provides real-time operational data relating to every table, dealer, player and bet placed on the live gaming floor. Raw data includes when games begin and end, each bet (including side wagers and back bets), the number of active players and people around the tables, along with the time spent by players at each game.

The raw data is transformed into valuable metrics helping casinos optimize the floor with operations like average bets per table, a running calculation of each table and the update of side bets versus main bets. This helps operational decisions like opening and closing of tables to optimize turnover and dealer speed, early detection of card counters, and fraud and compliance information, Challa says.

 

One-Stop Shop

A worldwide pioneer in this type of data collection and management in the table-game arena is London-based TCSJohnHuxley, which also happens to be one of the world’s leading suppliers of table-game equipment.

TCSJohnHuxley’s premier product in this area is Gaming Floor Live, billed as the first and only platform to give casinos real-time visibility and total control over the gaming floor.

Drawing data from every aspect of the table, Gaming Floor Live provides the opportunity to quantify every connected table and its devices. A constant flow of gaming data feeds into the system, offering never-before-accessed insights into operations, highlighting areas and process that can be improved upon in real time.

Built as a modular system, Gaming Floor Live is scalable, and allows operations to build their own table management platform using varying combinations of the seven modules.

TCSJohnHuxley is constantly adding to the modular system. The latest addition is GFL Optimisation, recently installed at Greektown Casino in Detroit, soon to be rebranded Jack Detroit by owner Jack Entertainment.

“The GFL Optimisation module enables the operator to see accurate real-time data from all their connected tables, allowing them to make instant changes to increase efficiency and help implement change processes which can save them time and money,” explains Tristan Sjöberg, executive chairman of TCSJohnHuxley. “Jack Detroit is particularly keen to utilize the wheel analysis element of the system, which provides historical wheel and maintenance information as well as highlighting any potential drop zone or leveling issues.”

Roulette Wheel Analysis allows operators to assign wheels to tables and collect data in the background so they can generate concise and detailed reports to monitor a wheel’s integrity in real time. The reports provide easy-to-read diagrams that illustrate acceptable and unacceptable levels of performance and bias. If anything untoward is detected, detailed reports provide drop zone information, number of spins and date ranges.

“We have some exciting new table game technologies due for release this year which include a new addition to Gaming Floor Live platform,” Sjöberg says. “GFL Marketing Rewards is a new module that features an innovative multi-level award system funded by a marketing promotions pool that allows players to enjoy the excitement of winning jackpot prizes, without the need to place a separate side bet.”

Other new additions to the TCSJohnHuxley product line were launched at the recent ICE Totally Gaming trade show in London. These include Chipper Champ Pro, the next generation of the supplier’s widely popular chipping machine.

“This latest model has been developed to incorporate all the key attributes of the Chipper Champ 2, but packs a punch with even greater security and operational features that bring unbeatable benefits to the casino,” Sjöberg comments. “The launch of a new chipper is always momentous for us as it’s at the core of our company’s DNA. The new Chipper Champ Pro does not disappoint. Once again, we have listened to our customers to develop a chipper that has enhanced security features as well as delivering key information at the touch of a button, providing real-time data and operational indicators, right at the source.”

The Chipper Champ Pro incorporates new features including a built-in camera to identify suspected jams or rogue items in the hopper and a unique fold-away 10-inch digital screen that can display chip column counts. Wheel bias reporting and Inclinometer leveling information are available as an optional feature.

 

The Formation of Model G

Gamblit Gaming is a leading technology provider of real-money and skill gaming in video games, enabling a wide range of game genres.

But it has a table-game presence too, what company officials consider a stroke of good fortune. This realm had a unique origin, according to Edvard Toth, vice president of game studio and creative for Gamblit.

“The Model G is a textbook case of a happy accident more than anything else,” Toth says. “Back in 2014 a generic interactive table—normally used as an information kiosk or a ‘digital coffee table’ to read sports results and weather forecasts on—somehow ended up in our game studio. One of our designers started tinkering with it in his spare time, and a quick prototype emerged.

“It could be best described as a goofy combination of a pachinko machine and button football; it combined wagering with a skill-based, two-player head-to-head game mechanic.”

Toth says the second game prototype—which ultimately evolved into the four-player, competitive Gamblit Poker—confirmed this, as people around the office kept lining up for a turn to play.

“Spectators regularly turned into an unruly crowd of cheering, clapping, shouting, high-fiving nutcases,” he laughs.

“The most unpredictable part of designing games is the often-maddening process of trying to find the ever-so-elusive ‘fun.’ I have been creating games for nearly three decades, but witnessing this kind of unbridled and joyful player reaction still felt like winning the lottery.”

The Model G product line was officially born after several of these games were met with a similarly enthusiastic audience reception at the 2015 Global Gaming Expo.

The Model G debuted last March and has launched in roughly 18 locations throughout Nevada, Oklahoma and California, including Caesars Palace, Linq, Planet Hollywood, Paris, MGM Grand, the Venetian and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, he says.

“Some locations decided to put multiple tables in a ‘next-gen gaming area’ along with other younger-skewing games, while others have placed them in multiple locations throughout the casino,” Toth indicates.

Up to four players competing on a single device in a shared game space creates an intense, high-energy, social experience, and a lively atmosphere that’s unlike anything else on the floor, according to Toth.

There are many ways to enhance the table-game sector. They include helping the house monitor players, speeding play and merging the interests of table and skill-based gamers. The crossroads of younger players, traditional games and slick technology upgrades is a rich intersection.

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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