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Pity the poor table games player.
And while you're at it, shed a tear for the harried floor person trying to watch and rate the player's gambling activities.
While customers and casinos have benefited from the advent of slot machine clubs -- technology-driven tracking systems that record a player's activities, allowing the casino to offer gamblers complimentary rewards based on play while giving the casino valuable marketing data -- table game players have been left out of the loop.
That may be beginning to change. Last month's $12.5 million purchase by Shuffle Master of two patents covering radio-frequency identification -- known as RFID -- gives the gaming equipment supplier the final component in its pursuit of a player tracking system unique to table games.
"Right now, casinos are doing the same thing they've done over the past 50 years," Shuffle Master Chief Executive Officer Mark Yoseloff said Tuesday. " A casino floor person glances at wagers and fills out a player rating slip, trying to surmise the average bet. Nothing has changed."
Over the past decade, Yoseloff said, casinos have sought accurate ways to track table game bets and rate a player's wagering propensity. In dealing with the ultrahigh rollers, gamblers with six- to eight-figure lines of credit, their play was easy to record.
Players betting far lesser amounts were much harder to assess.
"RFID technology allows the casino to calculate a player's average bet size, their won-loss percentage and their quality of play," Yoseloff said. "But RFID is just a small portion in the broader issue of data gathering in a table game environment."
The use of RFID has grown in recent years. The technology is used to increase efficiency and control inventory in distribution and merchandising. For gaming, RFID technology can be installed inside casino betting chips, allowing a property to read wagers in real time at the table while providing a more accurate accounting for the back-of-the-house operation.
Shuffle Master plans to couple RFID with optical card readers imbedded into the company's signature automated shuffling products, offering casinos a table game product that heightens game security against chip counterfeiting and card counting, while increasing a property's accuracy in determining a player's typical wager and the person's percentage of wins vs. losses.
Yoseloff said the RFID technology allows the casino to track the location of a betting chip from when it leaves the vault to how it is used.
"This becomes far more reaching in its broadest application," Yoseloff said. "At the table, the technology can read a bet with a high degree of accuracy so a property knows exactly what a player is wagering."
Shuffle Master purchased the two patents owned by Enpat for $12.5 million with an initial payment of $2.4 million and the balance to be paid over a three-year period.
The company will add the technology covered by the patents into casino chips manufactured by Gaming Partners International Corp. Yoseloff said the chips will be on casino floors sometime this year.
Shuffle Master will be able to license the patents to other manufacturers, gaining additional revenue.
The move was met positively by Wall Street, with analysts believing Shuffle Master now has the component for a planned table game tracking system that was different from other casino equipment manufacturers.
"We believe this is a big move for Shuffle Master, as the combination of RFID in casino chips combined with the optical card reading capabilities Shuffle Master already has will lead to an even more capable intelligent table system," Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Marc Falcone said. "There are about 10 years remaining in the life of the patents, so we see plenty of time for Shuffle Master to extract value, as well as garner royalty payments from their licensees. We feel that Shuffle Master is one step closer to the most secure and complete table tracking product available and one able to serve most of the casino floor."
Yoseloff isn't concerned about the Big Brother aspect that tracking systems bring into the casino environment. He said a higher degree of personal information can be discovered about consumers by grocery stores using their own customer tracking systems.
"I think it's more intrusive to know what brand of toothpaste or what brand of intimate product a consumer is using than collecting wagering data," Yoseloff said. "This technology gives the casino an accurate read on a customer so they can reward them properly."
Shuffle Master, which will complete a 3-for-2 stock split Jan. 14, closed at $44.12 Tuesday, down 91 cents or 2.02 percent.
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Shuffle Master Acquires Patents to Track Table Play is republished from iGamingSuppliers.com.