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Jun 21, 2005 4:42 AM

 

Almost as an exclamation point to recent reports that table games are making a comeback, a triumvirate of leading gaming manufacturers last week announced a joint venture to create a high-tech, fully-automated table management system.

Under terms of the agreement, Shuffle Master will provide automatic card shufflers, card reading shoes, card and chip sorters and verifiers.

IGT will supply player tracking, patron loyalty and rewards, as well as bonusing systems.

And Progressive Gaming (formerly Mikohn) will be the provider of cutting edge RFID bet recognition, chip tracking and payoff recognition systems.

Each of the companies will work together to create a new product tentatively called the "Intelligent Table System."

"(This) is a very large and complex undertaking," said Mark L. Yoseloff, Shuffle Master chairman and CEO. "Rather than each company attempting to invent the technology independently, we have decided to combine our collective efforts, with the goal of being able to bring this technology to market in a more timely and cost effective manner for the benefit of our casino customers."

Rich Schneider, president of IGT’s Gaming Systems Division, said the joint effort will result in products that will be superior to those that any one company could develop.

"The extension of casino management and patron loyalty systems into table games is the next logical phase in the expansion of these products," Schneider said.

Russ McMeekin, president and CEO of Progressive Gaming, said gaming on a global basis is ready for a comprehensive table management system.

"The technology has evolved to the right level for casinos to recognize very compelling benefits," McMeekin said. "It is our goal to exceed the expectations of our customers for increasing revenues and profitability from using a table management solution developed through this arrangement."

Although the joint venture isn’t "a major economic event" like the Harrah’s-Caesars merger, it should economically benefit all the parties involved, according to analyst Robin Farley of UBS Research.

"This isn’t a major economic event for IGT, which has already been selling its table-management systems, though it should help sales to be jointly marketed," Farley said. "It’s also a reminder that industry leader IGT as manufacturer of choice has been able to use ”¦ joint ventures to access other suppliers’ technology."

Farley added that the joint venture should end speculation that IGT was looking to purchase a table manufacturing company.

"The deal also seems to reduce any chance at this point that IGT would acquire one of these table game-oriented suppliers since IGT can benefit from leveraging their technology without having to use much capital to access it," Farley said.

None of the companies involved would provide a timetable of when the "Intelligent Table System" would become available for distribution.