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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Table Trac (TBTC) Google checking

Google search for casino table automation

bizjournals Nov 2001 news article: Enterprise Information Solutions of Tukwila, Washington got the rights to distribute Table Trac systems in Washington state. More here. Ok, so my question is why did nothing happen with this? This is bad news because it means TBTC made some inroads into Washington state and nothing came of it.

GamingFloor.com article from 1999 written by Andrew MacDonald: This is a good article that looks at successes and failures over the years. What I want to see is lots of failures because TBTC has been seen fairly good adoption. I want that to be the exception rather than the rule.

The article mentions Safe Jack was developed as a fully automated Blackjack game but with a dealer (uses RFID chips). In Dec 2001, there was a licensing dispute where Mikohn Gaming Corp believed it has exclusive rights to distribute. "In an Oct. 10 letter to Mikohn, the defendants wrote: 'It should be sufficient evidence, that more than six years after we initially transferred the intellectual property, Mikohn is not in the position to deliver a single piece of the device and has lost our updates and source codes. This behavior has shortened our royalties and the value of the device significantly.'" I don't see anything recent about Safe Jack.

According to the article:
Field trials of "Safe Jack" commenced at Bally's Las Vegas and were monitored with great expectation by Table Games Managers world wide. In late 1998 the field trial was ceased and the "Safe Jack" tables were withdrawn. Mikohn have, however, announced that Harrahs will be utilising a "cut down" version of the "Safe Games" technology which merely tracks players turnover on the various Table Games using their chip in chip technology.
About this time, Digital Biometrics (formerly DBII, here's their S-3 from 1999 they merged into Visionics in 2000) started promoting "Trak 21", with pattern recognition to determine cards and bets. As of mid-2001, they hadn't gone anywhere. Nothing else found. According to the article:
"Trak 21" never appeared on a casino floor as a live trial and has virtually disappeared from the market. In its wake however, a group from Israel, called Gaming Management Ltd, are now promoting a similar system called "BJ-Guardian". They will be looking for a Beta-site in mid 1999 to test their visual pattern recognition system.
Nothing found for these guys.

The article then goes on about technology advances with slot machines (mainly customer focused) and with table games (mainly operating efficiency issues):
My own opinion is that table games are social whereas slot machines are personal. It's like console video games vs computer video games, foosball vs pinball (for those who remember such things), twister vs DDR, etc. The thing is, casino table games are about players and the dealer interacting. The automation should remove as much of the non-social aspects as possible without interfering with the social parts. In a sense, putting RFIDs in the chips takes something away from the social interaction with the dealer. People want their bets to be recognized. The risks and rewards should be controlled by the dealer. At first, I thought that Table Trac should have something like a paper money machine instead of having the dealer recognize and enter the amount. But that would be wrong. The dealer needs to fully acknowledge the risk taken by the player and anything that stops the dealer from counting is bad.

The article goes on to say that table game revenues have been flat while machine revenues have grown. This is a long term trend worldwide. And...
The total experience and "value" derived [from slot machines and earning "points"], allows players to rationalise their gambling experiences where ultimately, over time, they must lose.

This is an important issue in customer retention rather than attraction. If regular Table Game players, over time, do not feel they receive "value" then it becomes more and more difficult for them to rationalise their continued behaviour. Purchasing an intangible product with associated tangible benefits is important for gaming's survival and growth. This fact has been recognised for many years by all successful casino operators.
The article talks about what table games need (jackpots, reduced price entry, accurately tracking turnover and player results, full accountability in transactions). Table Trac addresses the last 2 of these.

The article says requirements are:
By reducing the skills needed for a dealer, the key attribute becomes personality and not dealer skills [and trustworthiness]. (yes) This reduces the cost of running a table which allows the casino to lower minimum bets.

The author of that article also worked on developing Rapid Roulette in Australia to solve some of the issues he mentioned.

In other news: June 14, 2005, IGT (IGT, website, sec) and Shuffle Master (SHFL, website, sec) and Progressive Gaming International Corp (PGIC, website, sec) announced they would work on table management automation, "Intelligent Table System". Done in three phases: 1) Table manager doing much of what Table Trac does, 2) RFID chips, 3) Card manager.
Shuffle Master will be the provider of automatic card shufflers, card reading intelligent shoes, card and chip sorters and verifiers. IGT will be the provider of back-end table gaming management systems, including player tracking, patron loyalty and rewards, as well as bonusing applications. Progressive Gaming will be the provider of RFID bet recognition, automated gaming chip tracking and payoff recognition. Each company will cooperatively interface their respective products into a combined product offering to be known as the Intelligent Table System (“ITS”).
This is very big.

There's also a wireless system by Venture Catalyst Incorporated (VCAT). The system is currently in use at the Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino in San Diego, California; the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada; the Greektown Casino in Detroit, Michigan; Stratosphere Casino Hotel & Tower and Arizona Charlie's Boulder and Arizona Charlie's Decatur in Las Vegas, Nevada; and Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino in Laughlin, Nevada.

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