Hi-tech could lift poker

December 31, 2007 3:38 AM
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As GamingToday reported earlier this month, the poker craze in Nevada has apparently peaked as the state’s poker rooms have seen four straight months of year-over-year revenue declines.

To help stimulate business, casinos have implemented a number of promotions, such as the early bird high hands at the Venetian, the pocket aces bonus at Suncoast and free roll tournaments at Tuscany.

But over the next 12 months, technology may begin to exert its influence as it has in virtually all other segments of the casino.

Automated poker tables, notably from PokerTek, are beginning to take hold in card rooms and casinos across the country.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Palm Springs is the latest casino that can lay claim to having a PokerTek-equipped poker room.

"PokerPro is a great addition to our casino," said Lou Crescenzo, vice-president of operations for Fantasy Springs. "Removing our manual tables to put in PokerPro was an easy decision for us considering the system’s capabilities and benefits to us and our players. The response so far has been great, and we’re just getting started."

PokerTek has been selling electronic poker tables since 2005. The tables eliminate dealer error and also increase the number of hands seen every hour. This summer at the 2007 WSOP the company organized a heads-up match between Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak on one of its new Heads-Up Challenge entertainment machines. The Heads-Up Challenge machines are seen primarily in bars while the full-size machines, PokerPro tables, are used in casinos.

The company has slowly been automating numerous poker rooms around the country. The Fantasy Springs upgrade marks the ninth 100% PokerPro poker room that PokerTek has completed this year.

PokerTek CEO Chris Halligan said the company thought Fantasy Springs was a good location for PokerPro tables.

"Fantasy Springs is an ideal venue for PokerPro and they’ve been a good partner in all respects," he said. "We seek properties that understand the player benefits and fundamental economics of automated poker and Fantasy Springs fits that description."

Fantasy Springs is the fourth California property to install PokerPro tables and the first 100% PokerPro property in Southern California.

Earlier this year PokerTek unveiled the first fully automated poker room at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. The room features 15 PokerPro tables along with four Heads-Up Challenge tables.

At a time when casino dealers are champing at the bit for union representation, a completely electronic poker table can be an attractive alternative for poker room managers.

Expect to see more PokerTek poker rooms in 2008, as well as the company’s new heads-up game designed for bars and restaurants. Technology rules and gaming can’t resist it.