Great Gambling Gadgets, Part II

In last month’s issue of CEM I talked about how you could do something to generate more revenues by making Shuffle Master’s iTable—one of the two greatest gambling gizmos of this century so far—do gangbuster business for you. If we look into our crystal ball, I think it’s pretty clear that within a few years we’ll see iTables dotting the table game landscapes across the country … if the casinos that put them in go that extra mile to make them work.

This month we’ll discuss that second great gambling gadget, which in my opinion is a best of breed and which already has over 500 installs worldwide: DEQ’s revolutionary G3™ table system. Unlike the iTable, which is an entirely new concept in table gaming that requires a commitment from everyone on property to make it work, the G3 is a simple value-added betting device that lets table game players make multiple side bets with variable denominations on an unlimited variety of linked novelty games that share the same “Magic Progressive” jackpots. The best part is that once the players have made their bets via their Personal Bet Manager, they have opted in to automatically participate in and bet on subsequent hands, too. I know it sounds simple, but this is the first side-bet specific betting technology to debut in the past 20 years that can and will improve table profitability. Oh, and one more thing: Since the inception of side wagers, this is the first gadget that allows the player to bet on either the dealer’s hand or their own.

OK, so much for the sales pitch. (Believe me, I don’t work for DEQ. I’ve just seen how powerful the G3 can be when operators get behind it and do a bit of work to make it work.) Now let’s talk reality. If you’re like almost every other table games operator out there, you’re constantly being bludgeoned about how much your games hold. We’ve all read the horrible stories about how the table games hold has dropped across the board on the Las Vegas Strip (and in every other market as well) and how so many operators have had to resort to 6/5 blackjack and lousy rules, such as paying 3-1 on a three-card flush, in order to keep the hold snug enough to avoid getting bashed by everyone up the food chain at the end of every day/week/month/quarter/you-name-it.

Sticking with reality, let’s take a look at the three elements of table game hold from the players’ perspective. Forget about house edge completely for a moment. The only constraints a player has when it comes to gambling are money, time and desire. Of these three, desire holds the most sway. If we aren’t holding players in their seats, it’s not because they’re out of money or out of time; it’s because they’ve run out of patience and no longer desire to play. And when they lose the desire to play in your joint, they’ll pick up their chips and take their desire somewhere else, either to another casino or to another more enjoyable activity.

If you can increase the desire to play, your players will find the money and take the time. Even if they are playing on a fixed budget (which most players really aren’t), you will win more of their dollars if you provide them with a better gaming experience. And the better the experience, the more players you will have. Then your drop will go up, your win will go up and your hold will hold steady.

Simply stated, the G3 gadget makes table games more enjoyable to play. When I talk to many table games operators, I am often appalled at some of their mindsets—it’s basically “How can we get the money as fast as we can?” versus “How can we get the money as fun as we can?” One of the key reasons that our holds are down is that we’re not holding players in their seats, because they’re not having any fun. Even if your house edge is a trifle high, if your service is top drawer and your staff/player interactions are fun, you will keep players on your games longer.

The G3 will make you more money because it’s been proven time and time again that it keeps players on high-profit novelty games longer. Want proof? Here’s some anecdotal evidence (because most casinos wisely don’t share their secret sauces with anyone) that underscores my point.

There’s a casino on the Las Vegas Strip that’s part of a huge publicly traded gaming company. Last year, before it put G3s on its novelty games, it would typically close the “carny games” before 1:30 a.m., on average. Ever since the G3s were installed, the average closing time on the novelty games has been a bit past 4 a.m. Why? Well, the easy answer is that the players like it—which is always good news. But here’s how this casino’s table games director explains why the games stay open longer: “When our players run out of chips but still have a few credits left on the G3, they don’t get up. Instead, they will buy more chips. Then, when they run out of credits but still have chips, they will buy more credits. This cycle continues until they are either out of credits, chips and cash or they hit some sort of jackpot. It works every time. And our dealers love the game because when the players hit the mid-level jackpots, they almost always tip.” [Note: Quote has been modified to protect the anonymity of the source.]

I asked this table games director if he’d recommend the G3 to the other table games managers at the casino’s sister Vegas properties, and he said, with a wink, “Maybe, maybe not. I’d rather see all of their novelty game players come over here to play.”

When I polled other Las Vegas Strip table games directors about why they hadn’t already installed a G3 system, a few of them said— and I wish I was making this up—“We get all of their money anyway.” If this were true, then why aren’t these savvy operators holding 100 percent of every dollar dropped on their novelty games? They aren’t. And they shouldn’t. And they never will. But they can hold a greater percentage of their novelty drops and win more money if they embrace current technologies and make them work for them.

A key reason that the enlightened table game honchos can make more money with the G3 is that it allows them to offer their novelty games at lower initial price points (say, a $5 minimum bet instead of $10), because the high-profit side wagers (anywhere from a 10 percent to a 25 percent edge, depending on how fast they want to empty their players’ wallets) make up for the smaller initial wagers. As an added bonus, the games fill up quickly, and as the capacity increases, sharp operators can then put on their yield-management hats and increase the table minimums anyway.

Of course none of this would work if the G3 system wasn’t embraced by the players. Luckily, it meets six key player needs and, more importantly, wants:

1) High Hit Frequency—With either random “Magic Cards” or relatively easy-to-achieve hands, such as three of a kind, flushes, etc., the players are continually rewarded, which keeps them in credits without rapidly burning through their jackpot wagers. Players get bored quickly and are constantly looking for positive reinforcement. If they don’t get paid at least once or twice an hour, they get frustrated and will either stop making the bets or will pick up their chips and go play somewhere else. Even those players who don’t win so often will see others getting paid, and this will keep their hopes alive—and your net profits growing. The key to reinforcing the high hit frequency is to make sure that you have well-trained and positive dealers who continually point out the winning hands every time they hit.

2) Session-Changing Payouts—Players who are willing to put in lengthy sessions know that they have at least have a reasonable possibility (even though the probabilities aren’t in their favor) of hitting a difficult hand that will allow them to recoup all of their session losses and replenish their gambling bankroll. Again, it’s critical that when these hands happen, a celebration breaks loose in the pit.

3) Life-Altering Jackpots—While their hit frequency is rare, these jackpots serve as the eye candy attractors that motivate most players to make the side wagers in the first place. As an added bonus, when these jackpots hit the tipping point, you can then modify your pricing strategies based on player demand. The very best dealers and floor supervisors make sure to point out near misses and share them with players (even those on other games) throughout their shifts.

4) Multiple-Credit Wagering—Unlike other jackpot bets, players utilizing the G3 can bet more than one credit whenever they’re on a roll, think that they are due, or want to wager on the dealer’s hand. Regardless of the reasoning behind the players’ additional wagers, the casino makes more money. Available data shows us that nearly 50 percent of novelty players will use the device and that the average G3 bettor plops down (or pushes the button) for almost $1.50 per rattle. It adds up. If we put our very best sales staff on these games—those who continually up-sell multi-credit wagers—both coin-in and revenues will grow.

5) The Ability to Win Without Winning—Players can lose a hand yet still win if they catch a Magic Card. And if they think that the dealer’s running hot, they can bet on her hand, too (Except for Mississippi Stud and Let it Ride). These lucky player or lucky dealer outcomes are analogous to the bonus round mentality of the slot world, in that they provide a situation where winning is possible outside the parameters of standard play and should be touted by your staff whenever possible.

6) Dealer Engagement—In many instances (in progressive casinos), dealers actively sell the game because a portion of each wager (2 to 3 percent) is allocated toward the dealer’s tip pool. If you’re smart, you’ll give your dealers a taste. Why? Because the dealers will actively sell the game for you and have fun with your players when they win. Even if you can’t include the dealers in the tip pool for any reason, it’s critical that you put your happiest and most energetic dealers on the G3 games when you introduce them. It’s no secret to most table games operators that dealers tend to be a negative lot, and if they want to kill a new game, it will die. [Note: Dealers do not like “Bet the Set” or “Lucky Ladies” because the players normally have to make those wagers with their “extra” dollar chips, which dealers tend to think would normally be bet for them. Interestingly enough, dealers don’t seem to mind when players bet “credits” on side wagers instead.]

I can’t emphasize enough that the G3 product will work if you work to make it work. That’s not to say that you should drop everything else to the benefit of your novelty games—and in most instances, you won’t even have to. Almost all of the 500 worldwide G3 installs have worked just fine without much attention to detail (more than 99 percent of them are still going strong), but you can maximize your novelty profits if you follow just a couple simple suggestions:

• Approach putting in your G3 system with an attitude of “We are going to make this successful,” rather than “Let’s try this out.” This will make a huge difference in how successful your new install will be.

• Launch your new initiatives with as much fanfare as possible, both through your marketing department and internally. Make it a big deal, because it is.

• Set your jumbo jackpot so that it appeals to everyone. Other than the initial seed, the jackpots are funded 100 percent by the customer. Everything else comes from the reserve. Players spend their own money to give themselves the shot at the big prize. They also fund the mystery prizes. Everything comes off of the meter.

• If you’re in a locals market, set your payback schedules as loose as possible. It’s been proven time and time again that the looser you set your novelty games (with frequent paybacks), the longer your guests will play. They will then become more loyal to your casino and migrate away from your competition, and in the long run, you will make more money.

• If you operate a casino that’s part of a destination resort, setting a low house edge isn’t nearly as important as making sure that your dealers buy in to the “fun factor” when introducing new gadgets. Of course, some joints are so hopeless that you’d think that their service role model was based on the “kick you in the nuts” dealer in National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation. In fact, it’s so bad with some Vegas properties that they might as well list their phone number as 1-U-NO-WIN-HERE … wait a minute, one already does! Don’t believe me? Just call it. An operator at a Vegas South Strip casino will tell you the name of the joint. Though in all fairness, the 866 area code spells U-NO, and without it you are left with WIN-HERE. But wouldn’t an 800 or 877 number been a better choice? But I digress. Let’s get back on track with the G3’s profit potential.

• Use the G3 to create peak experiences. Sure, we all like to win, but winning, whether it’s a frequent 20-to-1 payoff or a jumbo jackpot, can be turned into a magical experience if your dealers and floor supervisors celebrate and share in your lucky player’s success. All people crave positive human contact, and this great gizmo creates “forced engagements” when the floor supervisor validates a win, and this allows people to connect with them. That’s why it’s so important to train and script your dealers and floor personnel and to put your most exuberant staff on these games so that everyone cheerfully shares in every jackpot win.

• Understand your return on investment. Here’s the simple math: The G3s cost less than $1 per hour, per game. And if you don’t dare to pay a dollar a day, consider this: Nobody doesn’t make that off of the game. (How’s that for a double negative?) DEQ will give you a free look, and if the G3 doesn’t pay for itself in spades, you don’t pay. It’s kinda hard to argue that sort of ROI, and it’s about the easiest sell to a CFO or casino manager of all time. And if that alone weren’t reason enough to take a shot with G3, DEQ also includes a really nice double-sided, full-color animated display that shows the payoffs and ever-growing jackpot meter … and the displays can also run ads, casino promos and live TV or real-time sporting events in full or split screen modes on each game … which attracts players like moths to a flame. Gratis. That’s right, all of this, all free. Plus, unlike other side wagers that aren’t electronically tabulated, the G3 system compiles and reports on all wagers and house profits so that your ROI numbers are pristine and unmistakable. A detailed reporting system provides every possible metric a casino could ever dream of, from hands per hour to average bet per person per round.

The G3 is almost like a freak of nature in the gambling world in that everything you make off of it is stone-cold “found money” that falls to the bottom line without any increase in labor. With the right staff on the games, the G3 takes typical $10 bettors and turns them into $11 or $12 players, and all of those extra wagers are cast on high-margin bets.

If the G3 didn’t work for the players, it wouldn’t work for anyone. But if you work to make it work for the players, it will work for you. Until now it’s been limited to novelty games. That’s about to change.

Once in a very great while the planets align just right and a new game or side bet comes along that fundamentally changes the table game landscape. For decades, casino operators have been looking for the perfect blackjack progressive side bet, and now it’s here. It’s called Bad Beat Blackjack, and using the G3, players can now make $1 to $5 wagers while betting that they are going to lose with a 20. [Full disclosure: I helped develop this game.]

Players win without winning based on a sliding scale, depending on how many cards the dealer takes to make a 21. For a natural, it pays 10-for-1, a three-card draw pays 25-for-1 and so on, up to and including a dealer seven-card 21 against a player 20, which pays the progressive jackpot.

The wager can also include random Magic Cards, which pay 20-for-1 or Lucky Player random cards that pay 5-to-1 (based on where the player is sitting…your choice) that increase the players’ hit frequency to satisfactory levels.

In the first 30 days of the bet’s beta test at a Southern California casino, the early results are better than expected, and it’s creating quite a stir with staff and players alike. It flows with the natural order of blackjack and nothing changes, other than the fact that players get paid when they lose with a 20. It will be showcased at DEQ’s booth at this year’s G2E.

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