Manufacturers turn the tables on slots

Oct 17, 2001 1:53 AM

Ever since 1980, the last year that table games generated most of the gaming revenue in Nevada, slot machines have progressively increased its impact on casinos’ bottom line.

The upshot is that slots currently account for about 65 percent of total gaming revenue, with table games garnering about 35 percent.

In addition to generating nearly two-thirds of a casino’s revenue, electronic games occupy an average of 80 percent of a casino’s floor space ”” more in some venues ”” creating casinos that are less green felt gambling halls than electrified arcades with relentless sights and sounds that bombard the senses.

While slots are clearly king in the casino, table games are not yet ready for the scrap heap. In recent years, there has been a resurgence in the number of new games to hit the market, with casinos allowing”” often times reluctantly””valuable floor space for trial and test runs.

“The magic of any casino is with the table games,” said John Piccoli, a veteran table game manufacturer who brought Caribbean Stud to Nevada 20 years ago. “The challenge has been to make the games equally as exciting as slots, yet simple to learn while allowing for a range of betting choices.”

In addition to developing new and creative table games, manufacturers have the difficult prospect of convincing casinos to give up precious floor space to try a new game.

“If a casino has 10 blackjack tables, the manager doesn’t easily give up one table, or 10 percent of his inventory, to try something different,” Piccoli said. “It’s different when a casino operator has a thousand slots; it’s easier and less costly for him to move 10 new slots into the mix.”

Despite odds stacked against them, table games are beginning to reclaim real estate once lost to the land of slot machines.

“Have faith,” said David Schugar, director of casino operations at MotorCity Casino in Detroit.” After years of status quo, we are seeing table games with colorful signage, progressive meters and easy to play games with a twist.”

Schugar said table games have always appealed to a more sophisticated player, and manufacturers should tailor their games accordingly.

“The new table games we’re looking for have equal or better player appeal than blackjack, and more rewarding hold percentages,” Schugar said.

Schugar added that slot players, “after a day of unabated technological blitz”¦are often starved for the social interaction and fun experience that only live gaming can provide.”

Furthering their resurgence on the casino floor, table games have developed their own response to the traditional slot players club.

Mikohn’s Table Link, for instance, provides the same online accounting and management merchandising tools, profitability, and accuracy currently enjoyed by slot systems.

Table Link is a multi-tiered suite of products that can be applied to existing table games. Player tracking and chip tracking are available, resulting in increased accuracy of player ratings and performance.

As a result of more accurate ratings, table game marketing can take a more aggressive approach toward the advertising budget that slot managers have dominated via the slot club.

Despite the dominance of slots, table games are alive and well, and with some creative and compelling games, tables can begin to once again level the casino’s playing field.