Venetian innovating with Stadium Blackjack
December 13, 2016 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
Robert Cinelli heard a loud roar and wondered what all the commotion was about on the casino floor at The Venetian.
It was a Saturday night, but those types of responses usually come from a craps table or the sportsbook. This was coming from somewhere else.
Cinelli, a senior vice president of casino operations for The Venetian and The Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip, soon realized the celebrating was taking place over at “Stadium Blackjack,” an interesting new concept still in the trial stages.
This ETG (electronic table game) allows as many as 44 players to play a blackjack hand at the same time for a low-level entry bet ($5 minimum).
Here’s the catch: The first two cards are the same for everybody.
“So if you’re dealt a blackjack, 44 people get dealt blackjack at the same time,” Cinelli said. “It’s almost like a craps table. It gives you that environment. It’s an exciting experience for the whole group.”
It’s also the perfect concept for smaller bettors.
The limits on most blackjack games throughout the Strip have risen over the years to the point they’ve discouraged customers who just want to have a little fun at a minimal risk, especially during the prime casino hours.
For that crowd, Stadium Blackjack has come to the rescue.
“It’s very difficult to deal a live version of blackjack at $5 and make money,” Cinelli said. “Just the wages and everything else that go into dealing a live game, it is very hard for a casino to make money.
“That’s pretty much why you’ve seen $5 blackjack disappear off the Strip. This (Stadium Blackjack) allows us to bring that product in and still be profitable. We want to be a place that offers a product for anybody that walks in. We feel we have that.”
What’s more, Cinelli said Stadium Blackjack, which debuted in late September, has quickly produced “a very favorable margin” for the casino.
“We’re getting almost as many hands per hour as we’d get on a live table (with significantly fewer players),” he said.
Cinelli said it’s also bringing in new customers.
The Venetian has been closely monitoring whether players are simply switching from regular blackjack tables or slots to Stadium Blackjack.
What they’ve learned, according to Cinelli, is Stadium Blackjack is attracting customers who weren’t playing other games on a regular basis at The Venetian.
“Incremental business is really important to us,” Cinelli said. “That’s what we’ve found this product has done. We’re seeing a very high percent of incremental play.”
Here’s how Stadium Blackjack works: Players take a seat at one of the stations with a live dealer in front of them.
After the first two cards, each player makes his or her own decision on what to do next by pressing a button on their terminal.
If you want to split, you can split,” Cinelli said. “If you want to hit, you can hit. If you want to stay, you can stay.”
Cinelli said the format creates a much more comfortable environment for blackjack beginners, who often can be made to feel bad if they hit or stay at the wrong time and botch a hand for everyone else at a regular table.
“Your decision doesn’t affect other hands,” Cinelli said. “It’s not as obvious. You just don’t see that intimidation.”
The Venetian also hosted the field trial for Stadium Baccarat three years ago. Cinelli embraces being the “guinea pig” for these types of projects.
“We really push hard to be first to market,” he said. “Some properties like to take the wait-and-see approach. We, in most cases, prefer to be the market leaders and test things.
“That’s the way I’ve been. That’s the way a lot of our executives around here have been. We just like to be the ones to say we’re the only ones who have that product.”
A Stadium-like ETG system also has been developed for two other games, casino war and roulette.
Cinelli plans to add casino war when it becomes available, but probably not roulette.
“I’m hesitant on roulette,” he said. “I just don’t know if it’s as well received in that delivery format. I get the feeling roulette is more of a social, communal game and people like to be around the table. “Once we get all of the options available to us, we’ll really look and see what makes the most sense for us.”