Roulette rises to top of popularity list

Jul 18, 2017 3:11 AM

Among the big four of table games (“21,” baccarat, craps and roulette), roulette has usually been the game trailing the group, but recently it has been enjoying a rediscovery by the casino customers. In fact, in May a historically rare event took place – roulette revenues in Nevada exceeded craps revenues. And, trends are showing very strong possibilities roulette will pass craps in annual revenue production inside of Nevada casinos this year.

But what is driving its growth, particularly when the game is generally considered old fashioned, with one of the highest hold percentages for the casino? A basic bet on a roulette table with a “00” is expected to yield a 5.26% advantage to the house, roughly four times that of optimal bets on 21, baccarat or craps.

Even on a single 0 version of roulette (traditionally called European roulette) the house retains a 2.7% advantage, still over two times the house advantage for optimal bets in the other mentioned games.

The felt, the payouts, the layout really have not changed much since its introduction back in 1796 – yes, over two hundred years ago. Yes, the mechanics, some light features, some historical number tracking have improved over time, but not so much has changed. In fact, if any modern day player went back in time or any player from two hundred years ago came forward in time, they would have no problem recognizing or immediately playing roulette.

In talking with Pit floormen and players, growth seems to all be coming from the Millennial demographic. These players seemingly have embraced the social opportunity of the game, and they like the absence of any need for skill or significant game knowledge. After all, how much more simple can it be – walk up, buy chips, pick number and/or color, bet, win or lose, repeat. Plus all your friends can join you as well.

Easy in, easy out, pure luck and hoot and holler with your friends. Nothing to master, no special rules; no good or bad decisions; just pick and bet.

Unlike 21, baccarat and craps where there are specific rules, protocols and their own language of the game – comparably roulette is extraordinarily simple, and there is practically no limit on the number of friends that can join the game with you.

As the game is re-emerging in popularity it is also causing some of the smarter operators to steal a lesson from the Big Six Wheel. Properties that have very profitable and productive wheels usually have dealers that are overloaded with personality. They engage patrons as the go by, verbally pulling them to the game, then keep talking to keep the customer on the game. By using the same practice on roulette the dealers with personalities are holding players on the game longer adding to the party feel and making it seem more interactive than clinical as is often the case in games like baccarat and 21.

As roulette re-emerges in popularity and technology allows new creativity to an old game, start looking for a variety of new side bets and bonus bets on the game. For example, the typical wheel is spun one direction and the ball is spun the opposite direction. As the ball starts to fall toward the numbers it bounces around ultimately landing in a pocket in front of the then winning number. The numbers are always on the outside edge of the pockets where the ball lands, and there is nothing on the inside edge.

Now image either numbers or symbols on that inside edge that spins opposite to the wheel spin and stops when the ball drops, creating a side bet opportunity. I was recently shown such a modification where the inside edge had four quadrants: one hearts, one spades, one clubs and one diamonds that spun opposite the direction of the wheel spin. The intention is to provide additional bonus bets by betting what symbol would match to the number for a higher odds payout or let the player simply bet which symbol would match to the winning number.

While the growth in roulette will no doubt stimulate other creative side and bonus bets, the real point that should be taken is roulette is enjoying a resurgence because of ease of play, and probably more importantly, it is a very socially embracing game that more so than the odds of winning is attracting and holding the attention of the Millennial casino patron. All of which are lessons game designers should pay attention to when creating games for the Millennial Generation!