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Chris Sieroty

Table games called vital key in casinos' future

20 November 2013

LAS VEGAS -- When it comes to gaming in Nevada, table games remain an important part of the casino layout and revenue. As online gaming continues its expansion, table games will become even more important to the financial health of a casino floor, one industry observer said.

“Live table play remains a unique (experience) that cannot be replicated online,” David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said Tuesday in an hourlong presentation at the Table Games Conference at Paris Las Vegas.

Schwartz said the slot experience is now replicated across many “platforms,” with no real benefit to playing in a casino besides drink service and cardboard checks given to winners of slot jackpots.

“Now is the time to invest in table game players,” Schwartz told about 140 conference attendees. “Not in 10 years when the next generation (of casual gamblers) has gone digital. Invest now while they are still there.”

Schwartz said the numbers told the story about the shift away from slots to table games. He said figures showed that since the recession in 2008, table games have tracked better than slots in revenue.

In Nevada, slot win per day, per unit has decreased 2 percent since 2005, while table game win per day, per unit has increased 20 percent. He said between 2005 and 2007 revenues were growing for both, but in 2008 both slots and table game revenue fell off.

At their peak in 2007, slot machines generated $132.55 in win per unit, per day, while table games were $1,997.89. In 2009, that figure dropped to $110.04 for slots and $1,673.08 per table game. So far in 2013, table game win per unit, per day is $2,105.03, while slots are at $117.27.

Schwartz attributed some of the decline in slot revenue to a 14 percent decline in statewide slot inventory since 2005. In Nevada, more than 37 percent of all gaming revenues come from table games, while just more than 60 percent is generated by slot play.

Schwartz said the long-term trend statewide is for those percentages to narrow. On the Strip, slots were beating table games until the recession, but now about 52 percent of revenue comes from table games and 48 percent from slots. He attributed most of the change to baccarat, which generates 44.13 percent of Strip revenue with just 10.67 percent of the total units, or 282 tables.

“Baccarat has saved the Strip’s bacon,” Schwartz said.

He said without the large number of wealthy baccarat players coming to Las Vegas from Asia, “some of these gaming companies would have gone bankrupt.”

On the Strip, blackjack generates 24.8 percent of the total revenue with 50.74 percent of total units, or 1,341 games. Roulette is at 10.46 percent of total revenue with 9.61 percent of total units and 254 games, while craps generates 7.85 percent of gaming revenues with 7.3 percent of games and 193 units.

“Table game players are a wealthier player,” Schwartz said. “(They) are now seen as more resilient. They are more important to brick-and-mortar revenue as online gaming becomes more prevalent.”

That growing market brought 29 table game manufacturers to a ballroom at Paris Las Vegas for two days of demonstrations and sales meetings. SHFL entertainment, and Galaxy Gaming, were joined by lesser known brands like Dunow Gaming and 3J Gaming LLC.

“Any card game has to keep players engaged,” said James Lemanski, president of 3J Gaming in Naperville, Ill. “It also has to be easy for the dealer. They’ll kill a game if they have a hard time dealing it.”

Lemanski and his partner, Daryl Jendras, began developing Match’em Hi-Lo in 2006 in which the object of the game is to predict whether the point total of the player’s three-card hand is higher or lower than the dealer’s three-card hand. Lemanski said as the game was developed, the company went through seven different versions and ultimately tweaked the game to meet the house advantage of 2 percent to 4 percent.

Lemanski expects to complete a field trial at the Isle of Capri casino in Iowa by the end of the year before installing Match’em Hi-Lo at 16 of the casino company’s properties nationwide.

Lemanski laughed when asked whether developing a table game was easy.

“If it was easy, every one would be doing it,” he said.

Ryan Yee, product director of proprietary table games at SHFL entertainment, agreed. The company was displaying two of its latest games — One for the Money and Double Draw Poker.

Yee said the company was having early success with Double Draw Poker, a game it acquired earlier this year before Global Gaming Expo, an annual industry trade show held in Las Vegas.

“It is a fairly new install in Mississippi, Delaware and Louisiana,” Yee said. “We are in the middle of a field trial at The Venetian. We debuted the game at G2E and got a lot of momentum … so we brought it here.”