Answer for new casino games likely right in front of us

May 30, 2017 3:00 AM
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Over the years, I’ve often written about the progression of table game inventions. Generally speaking, there has not been a massive leap forward at any point. 

The reason I often suggest to stick with poker style or blackjack based games is because the casino industry is not one that is going to take to having a 65-card deck with a 5th suit. Change happens rather slowly in the industry.

 Each new successful game has generally built on the concepts of the prior game and made one important change that progressed the industry forward.

That said, sometimes, the next big thing is so obvious, you have to wonder how you never thought of it. The casinos are full of games that meet this criteria. California doesn’t allow standard roulette tables in its casinos. 

You can’t have 37 or 38 slots each with a separate number and let the ball drop in and pay people based on the number selected, whether it is black or red, whether it is odd or even, whether it is between 1-12, etc.

Oh well, I guess California casinos will simply have to do without roulette because what can you do?

Along comes a company that takes a close look at the regulations and figures out that the real issue is the numbering scheme and the use of a ball. So, they create a horizontal wheel that looks more like the Big 6 Wheel lying down. 

Instead of the numbers 0 through 36, each slot on the wheel has a card in it. When the wheel stops, the card for that slot is picked and payouts happen according to the rank and suit of that card. They don’t use the whole deck, so they can keep the odds pretty consistent with the roulette payouts. Essentially, they simply just swapped the 38 numbers for 38 cards and all of a sudden roulette exists in California. When you see the wheel, you almost guaranteed to smack yourself in the head and wonder why you didn’t think of that!

I remember when I was in my 20’s, my father and I used to be amazed on the amount of downtime that happened in a casino when a slot machine ran out of coins to pay out. For some of you younger folks, you may not realize this, but slot machines (and video poker machines) used to pay out on every spin/hand. 

Now, it was one thing if you want a few hundred dollars (in quarters) if it ran out of coins. But, nothing was more frustrating that putting a few quarters in, playing about 10 hands and having the drum spin after you get a Full House paying 9 and hearing that sort of empty sound. 

The machine would stop and put up a message saying “Call Attendant”. You’d have to turn on the call light and if you were lucky, within a few minutes someone would show up, who would then radio security who would bring over trays of coins to fill the machine. 

All because you won $2.25. The whole process could easily take 15 minutes. It is your money in the machine, so you weren’t going to walk away.

As a young computer professional, I couldn’t understand why the machines didn’t work more on credits. You load a card with $20, you put it in the machine. At the end of the session, you take your card out with whatever you had in the machine in credits. You could go to another machine to cash out or load it back up. 

Even today, we haven’t quite evolved to this point. But, I remember when I arrived in Las Vegas many years ago for a visit to find that many machines had been converted to Ticket In/Ticket Out. I’m sure I wasn’t the only, but I had this idea about 10 years before it became the norm in Las Vegas. So, why didn’t I do something about that?

Lotto/Keno can be kind of boring. You pick a bunch of numbers. X number of bingo balls are selected and you hope for a match (or matches). To me, there isn’t a lot compelling about it. 

A friend of mine, John Feola, came up with the idea to have there be 52 numbers to correspond to 52 cards. You still pick numbers, but instead of picking bingo balls, the random process converts each of the numbers to a playing card. If you picked 5 numbers, you now have a 5-card poker hand. You are paid according to the rank of your hand. 

This game was sold to the Massachusetts lottery a few years ago. I remember telling him it is amazing that no one thought of this years ago!

So, if you’re thinking about inventing a casino (or lottery) game, just look around the casino or keno parlor and take notice to what is going on. Perhaps the next big thing is an obvious answer to an obvious problem!