November 14, 2022 Casino, Land Based

Viewpoints: How have table games progressed

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In this edition of Viewpoints, industry experts discuss how technological progress is affecting the Table Game sector.

Tjaša Luin Peric - Chief Executive Officer, Alfastreet

Tjaša started her career in the gambling sector at Alfastreet in 2010, learning the trade as Executive Assistant to the CEO and then taking the reins herself six years later. Slovenian-born, Tjaša achieved her Master's Degree in Business Administration at the University of Primorska.

John Connelly - Global CEO, Interblock

An industry expert, Connelly began his career at Bally's, where he worked as Vice President of International and Vice President of Business Development. He took on a new challenge, becoming the CEO of Interblock, in 2015.

Gabe Baron - Vice President, Table Products, AGS

An accomplished expert in casino gambling, table games, ETGs and hybrid table game systems, Baron spent four years with Scientific Games before he joined AGS in 2018. He was promoted from Senior Director of Table Products to Vice President of Table Products in 2021.

Rob Ziems - President, Aruze Gaming

Ziems is something of a company man, having spent over 11 years with Aruze, where he has worked in a variety of roles. These include Corporate Secretary of the Board of Directors, Global Chief Legal Officer and President (a position he has held since 2020).

Will traditional table games be affected by trends emerging from ETGs?

Tjaša Luin Peric: It is difficult to forecast how the ETG industry will evolve in the next few years. However, we believe that the ETG market will not change a lot, especially because manufacturers are constantly developing new cabinets, new games and features to attract both existing and younger players. On the other hand, operators are also looking to lower personnel costs, which is an undeniably strong argument for having ETGs on casino floors. After the pandemic, almost all markets face huge issues with manpower, causing maintained or even increased demand for ETGs.

Alfastreet is very satisfied with the sales results after two objectively difficult years and is expecting a good beginning to 2023, since production is already full until the end of this year. We expected significantly lower demand in the beginning of 2022, but it turned out to be the exact opposite and we grew the production by more than 50%.

John Connelly: It is difficult to imagine any area of a casino, in the future, that is not impacted by technology in one form or another. ETGs continue to evolve in a multitude of ways, from a peripheral standpoint and by complementing existing live table game pits. As a result, we are witnessing a positive impact on a casino’s ability to yield-up their existing live table games, through the utilization of technology, in a manner, which was not possible only a year ago.

At this year’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, Interblock launched a new product category designed to enhance existing table game offerings though the utilization of technology – Live ETG Pits. With an overwhelming positive reaction from the industry, we introduced Live Craps, Live Roulette, Live Blackjack, and Live Baccarat in an ETG Pit setting. With Interblock, dealers can now triple decisions per hour, increase the house advantage/hold percentage, eliminate overpayments, and provide players an intimate, personalized gaming experience.

Gabe Baron: Having worked with both ETGs and Table Games extensively, I see the ETG segment as both supportive and complementary to fully live table games. ETGs often act as a gateway for newer table games players both by removing the intimidation factor and by bringing the opportunity to learn titles at a lower limit. On the casino’s side, ETGs allow the pit tables to be run at higher and more profitable limits, maximizing the use of the limited floor space allocated to them in a lot of locations. So, all in all, this is really a symbiotic relationship and healthy for both operators and their players.

Rob Ziems: As ETGs become more prevalent, traditional table game players may migrate to ETGs. There is always room in casinos for nostalgia. Plenty of people come to Vegas or Atlantic City for an experience, and part of that experience is table games. So no, I don’t think ETGs will completely replace traditional table games. However, I could see players who love table games migrate to ETGs as they become more comfortable with their benefits, such as increased speed of play, reduced touch points, chipless or cashless, and integration of digital displays and player positions. Like any industry, casinos are meant to evolve, but there are some things worth keeping, and the traditional table game is one of those.

How does the rising popularity of online gaming affect table games?

Tjaša Luin Peric: At the moment it’s difficult to say what the results will be like in the next five years, because it depends
on many factors, for example, how much market share we will be able to get, how gaming legislation will develop and
how many new licenses will be released in different territories. Alfastreet stays positive and we aren’t expecting drastic changes for the upcoming five-year period, but we’re also aware that there will be changes in global gaming trends after the world ‘stabilizes’ after the current series of critical periods. The fact is that people are social creatures who need to connect with one another to enjoy life outside their home and we don’t see casino venues being replaced by online gaming any time soon. One thing is certain though, we are in front of interesting developments in our industry.

John Connelly: There is a growing desire by traditional operators to incorporate online gaming on the casino floor. Specifically, casinos are interested in livestreaming content. At Interblock, we are enthusiastically exploring ways to provide our partners and players the ability to play our content in an integrated manner, whether online or in a casino. Online players have different expectations when entering a casino, than the players our industry has grown accustomed to. The rate of play, distribution methods, social aspects, and many other factors are more relevant when attempting to bridge online gaming and traditional table gaming environments together. ETGs, having the ability to effectively integrate both gaming segments together, is the clear solution. The technology and innovation of these machines enable casinos and their players to efficiently adapt to a progressing market in a manner that other form factors cannot. The success of ETGs is demonstrated by the increasing rate of player penetration and appeal across all areas of the global gaming sector.

Gabe Baron: I think this is another complementary win/win situation similar to, but maybe not exactly the same as, the ETG/Live Tables relationship. Online gaming will do the things ETGs do-introduce content to players and remove some
of the intimidation factors, but further, when players are properly marketed to and incentivized, the online space can positively affect, and drive in-person play and bring this new action to the live floor environment. It’s more about building
a larger customer base overall in the table space and then attracting them to the excitement and other amenities a live casino can provide. So, tome, this is a 'rising tide that lifts all ships' scenario rather than an either/or scenario.

Rob Ziems: The rising popularity of online gaming can actually inspire more players to try table games. Table games are not available everywhere, specifically, they’re not available in your home, with the comfort of your couch and TV show. iGaming is not meant to be a direct threat to table games, but to complement them. I believe we will soon see the two integrate; as more people play online, many table games will make the switch to an online format. But, as I said, there’s still room for nostalgia in casinos – it’s not likely that iGaming completely replaces traditional tabletop games.

What security measures must be implemented to maintain the integrity of your table games?

Tjaša Luin Peric: Alfastreet offers different security measures to guarantee the safe operation of machines to the operators. All our products comply with the highest gaming security standards and all terminals are fitted with security locks to assure that nobody can manipulate them. We have implemented the severest security measures on the software side to control the gameplay, as well to control and monitor the possibility of any cabinet abuse. Alfastreet offers premium products and we understand how important it is to secure a safe operation therefore we are constantly monitoring what is happening on the casino floors worldwide, to be able to identify any possible issues in advance and make sure to prevent them.

John Connelly: Interblock was the first company in the world to create an ETG, over a quarter of a century ago. We are licensed in over 230 regulated markets, around the world, and have maintained business for decades. The word 'integrity' is synergistic with our company and there is no substitute for experience. Our dedication, combined with the independent testing of certified labs and secondary approval processes from multiple global jurisdictions, verify our internal QA/QC processes are dependable. An attempt to enter this space, without the applicable knowledge and track record, would be a monumental task given the rate of advancements within this area of gaming.

Gabe Baron: While we always defer to the Internal Controls of our casino customers first and foremost, the progressive systems we deploy really depend on the professional eye of a casino’s dealers and their floor staff. It is essential for all casinos that the wagers are placed before a dealer calls no more bets, so the dealer is able to lock in their betting sensors and take the chips back into the tray before gameplay begins. It is also essential that the dealers understand how to identify the hands which trigger prize events, be it a community-based trigger for our Bonus Spin Xtreme platform, or a qualifying hand for titles played on our STAX progressive platform. Just as important is the protected nature of processing bonus events and paying the jackpots when they occur -- any large prize event requires additional authorization through the progressive system’s dealer interface, and at certain levels, calls for additional management authorization to award the prizes. Our systems and the casinos’ Internal Controls really work hand-in-hand to secure the play, protecting everyone involved.

Rob Ziems: Whether it’s online gaming or in-person, at the table, security is highly important to the gaming and gambling industry. There must be security features built into ETGs that prevent collusion among both players and dealers – it’s an important characteristic of any game. ETGs are especially primed to prevent cheating, as they are programmed to reduce the opportunity for collusion or other forms of unfair play. By reducing the number of hands operating a table game and relying on pre-programmed automation, chances of cheating are greatly reduced.

What major innovations in table games are on the horizon in the next two years?

Tjaša Luin Peric: The ETGs industry is still quite conservative and we don’t expect any drastic changes, as the players have their own preferences and habits, which are radically opposed to slot machine players. Alfastreet is investing a lot in development and the goal is to make existing games more interesting and enticing, adding new features, designs and game content. There are already manufacturers in the market offering ‘out of the box’ traditional table games, but as we see there is a very low percentage of such implementations in the long term. In terms of inventing completely new games we do not believe that we will see many novelties in the market – again completely opposite to what slot providers are doing. It is possible that the habits and mentality of the players will change with the next generation, but at the moment it is unlikely that major innovations will be required.

John Connelly: Having introduced Live ETG Pits to our existing product sweep of Stadium Technology, Universal Cabinets, and Standalone Mechanical/Video, Interblock now has four primary gaming sectors. In five short years, we have taken our company from one principal product to over thirty today! The appropriate and logical next step, at this point in our company’s growth cycle, is online gaming. Our data proves that, in order to accomplish our goals, we need to consider multiple product demographics when designing new technology. Through the utilization of best practices, obtained from years of experience, our ability to migrate to a parallel distribution channel will prove successful. In the very near future, when people think of 'table games,' they will think of Interblock.

Gabe Baron: Not even really on the horizon, but right now now progressive table systems from all the major manufacturers are here to stay and rightfully continue to grow in every region of North America. They drive incremental revenue for operators and add a real layer of excitement with both night-changing and life-changing prizes available to the casino’s players. I expect that this space continues to innovate and offer players more options and more cross-over from what traditional progressives used to be. What was once a meter or two spinning for months on end until a really rare hand was achieved has become multiple layers of prizes and other sorts of awards that may not require attaining a crazy-specific hand in order to win big, which we feature in our very successful Bonus Spin Xtreme product. Players have reacted positively to this change and the operators see their benefits. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this area of gaming for sure.

Rob Ziems: Innovation is required in every industry to maintain a competitive advantage; and while casinos are inherently hubs of nostalgia, we’ve seen them change over time into what we love today. Over the next two years, I believe we will see major innovation in the table games space through ETGs. There are endless possibilities to take casino classics and hybridize them; Aruze’s Roll to Win Craps is a perfect example of this. Today’s casino players are unlike any before – it’s a mix of poker lovers, traditional slot fans and then a new generation of digital natives looking for a more immersive experience. Hybrid ETGs can appeal to all of these in various ways, making them an obvious choice for the modern casino floor.

 

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