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Table game revival!

Jun 1, 2004 5:01 AM

Table games may finally be ready to emerge from "the dark ages."

"Thanks to research, the gap between the tradition of table games and the science of slots will finally be bridged," said Felix Rappaport, president and COO of New York-New York Hotel & Casino during the Gaming Technology Summit last week at Green Valley Ranch.

"There always seems to be issues around control and competition," Rappaport said. "The slot end of our business has become increasingly scientific in recent years, but people bet more money playing table games. It’s time that the technology is utilized in a way that will not intimidate the public."

Rappaport noted the rising popularity of poker as a springboard for other table games such as blackjack and roulette to regain its appeal to young players.

"The number of new poker games is staggering," he said. "Texas Hold’em, 3 Card, 4 Card, River Card poker. Heck, I can remember a game called 2-up that was played at Main Street Station years ago. When I was at Boulder Station, poker never made a lot of money and wasn’t considered the shining part of the casino.

"In the last few years, poker has taken off due to televised tournaments, shows and the celebrity element. Poker obviously has had a resurrection," Rappaport continued. "I’ve had a chance to see the tourist market versus the locals market from both sides of the fence. Hard Rock and Palms has young people playing table games as opposed to slot machines, even though they grew up playing video games."

Rappaport added that the technology is in place where we will see roulette change from the felt tables to illuminated numbers and crap tables become more customer friendly with seating and other creature comforts.

"We are right around the corner from bringing higher technology to table games," he said. "We could see customers playing blackjack and video poker at the same table at the same time. Arcade-style table games are on the horizon. It’s all very exciting and a long time coming."

Rappaport acknowledged that bringing technology to table games is a necessity in terms of higher profits, less errors and a smoother business operation.

"Post 9/11 has brought lots of information about all kinds of security systems," he said. "Of course, the gaming industry has been a pioneer in that field over the years. But now we have the ability with devices like retinal scans and upgraded databases to protect our assets."

Rappaport said that upgraded technology will enable better monitoring of dealt hands in blackjack.

"We will also be better able to chart the average blackjack bet to see who the profitable players are," he said. "Player habits, wagering, likes and dislikes are all vital to our casino better understanding the customer base.

"We recently spent $3 million to create Big Apple Land at New York-New York to get rid of the blaring speakers and make for a much better gaming atmosphere for table players," he said. "We found that placing trees, canopies and alcoves near our slots proved very popular. Players don’t feel as comfortable in a cavernous environment."

Rappaport also sees technology coming to keno, in the form of playing from the guest’s hotel room and creating debit cards for players to use.

"You can play keno now in most hotel rooms, but gaming control is against televising live games," he said. "Whether it’s legal or illegal, people seem to like to gamble. We can’t guarantee more winners, but customers are entitled to the best gambling experience."