The gaming industry has been slow in introducing new technologies into its traditional table games such as blackjack, roulette and baccarat. However, the technology and the urgency are now in place for these games to undergo a major revamp and unleash their full potentials in generating new and incremental revenues and making them the next growth catalyst for the industry.
Increased labor costs associated with table games have made it increasingly difficult for casinos to maintain their historical margins. To preserve these margins, casinos have added side bets and have been somewhat successful in passing their higher costs to players by increasing a table’s minimum bet limit. This practice has now hit players’ resistance levels, and moreover, has proved to be even more challenging during economical downturns when players shy away from tables with higher bet limits.
Despite reduced margins from traditional table games, casinos have managed to fuel their growth by relying more heavily on profitable slot machines while they went through a series of technology evolutions, which at least for now, appear to have peaked. The recent consolidation of major slot manufacturers such as IGT, Bally and WMS into lottery operators, GTECH and Scientific Games, is a testament to this new development.
Some U.S. casinos are now looking into other sources of growth such as internet gaming. Currently, however, the industry is split on the legalization of internet gaming. Some believe it helps their business while others see it as a threat to their land-based casinos.
An up-and-running live-dealer table gaming offered through an intranet of a resort will prepare the operator to take advantage of future online gaming opportunities when internet gaming is legalized in its jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the operator can extend its reach beyond its gaming floors, making its table games part of a broader area within its resorts, such as pools, bars or hotel rooms. In the case of tribal casinos with multiple locations, the opportunity is even greater; the live-dealer table gaming of one location could be offered to players in smaller locations that do not economically justify table games.
Technology is going to be table gaming’s best friend, and a bright spot for the industry. As computer technology helped slot machines to transition from simple mechanical gaming devices to sophisticated electronic gaming machines, new technologies can bring operational efficiencies to traditional table games such as blackjack, roulette and baccarat to spark new revenues.
Technologies such as video streaming and broadband wireless, combined with the ubiquity of tablets and smart phones, can revolutionize table gaming. A casino’s existing table games can be the core of a new interactive gaming experience, and could generate new and incremental revenues whether they are offered over the internet or via a closed-loop network.
A live-dealer table gaming system, video streamed and displayed on one screen, allows players to use a second screen, such as a tablet or a mobile device, to place a wager in the game broadcasted on the first screen. This gaming method, a byproduct of a live-dealer table, and a practice already gaining popularity in Europe, creates a new gaming opportunity for U.S. casinos.
The process of displaying a live game on one device and taking bets via another device is called second-screen gaming. By creating a system for live-dealer table games of a land-based casino, the two become part of a single, seamless and integrated service offered through separate distribution channels creating their own markets and demographics of players.
With addition of readily available technologies, any table game of a casino can scale up to an unlimited number of players, creating new derivatives of their already-available table games. The investment to upgrade an existing table game to a new channel of online distribution provides an exceptionally attractive ROI for an operator. By scaling up the availability of a table to more players, an operator can increase a table’s yield, and reduce the number of tables on its gaming floors, making its gaming operations more efficient.
The scalability and the low cost of offering a live-dealer game playable on a mobile device allows operators to offer unlimited remote players the opportunity to place smaller bets, attracting a new breed of players and also accommodating those with lower budgets. The low bet limits offered through a network to those not physically playing at a table would be a new gaming experience, and would not compete with those playing live at the table.
Outside the U.S., live-dealer casinos offered from a studio are the fastest growing sector of online gaming. However, in the U.S., where online gaming is at a stalemate, offering live-dealer gaming from a casino to players within its own resort has its own ROI appeal, and also has the essential elements and infrastructure for full-blown online gaming. Another potential for this derivative product is free play, as a marketing and promotional tool, to strengthen a casino’s brand on social media sites.
Some traditional table games, like roulette and baccarat, do not require players’ interaction during the game. These games, when offered online, can scale up to an unlimited number of players. On the other hand, other games such as blackjack and poker require players’ decisions during the game play. These games can also scale up to an infinite number of players by using a hybrid random number generator system already used in Europe.