CEM’s 2013 International Table Games Awards

Judges faced a tough challenge in evaluating this year’s stellar crop of contenders in Casino Enterprise Management’s 2013 International Table Games Awards. But they proved up to the task, giving each of 30 nominated products a thorough examination to determine this year’s six exceptional winners.

The annual awards contest, now in its second year, honors innovation in table games products. A select panel of judges was chosen to review the nomination materials and decide the winner in each of six categories. The categories were:

• Best electronic innovation
• Best side bets
• Best traditional table game
• Best hybrid table game
• Best game protection product
• Best table game management system

Participating in this year’s panel were Rosemarie Cook, vice president of table games, SugarHouse Casino; Phyllis Seguin, director of table games, Caesars Windsor; James Ward, gaming consultant and former vice president of gaming operations, Station Casinos; Jon Muskin, patent attorney, Muskin & Cusick LLC; Ian Davison, vice president of table games, Mohegan Sun; and Joseph Giaimo, regional vice president of table games, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

All worked diligently to rate each product carefully. Criteria included innovation, efficiency, usefulness and benefits. Judges ranked products in each category in winning order, with 1 being the best score from an individual judge. Judges’ scores were then combined in each category to come up with the winner, which was the product with the lowest combined score. Scoring in several categories was extremely tight, with only one or two points separating the winner.

CEM was extremely pleased with the high caliber of products in this year’s competition, and we congratulate all of the companies nominating products this year. “It’s clear from the field of nominations that there is no shortage of creativity and innovation in the table games arena, and that these games and related products are making a difference in table game operations by bringing new concepts and refinements that create value, efficiency and entertainment for the gaming industry,” said Peter Mead, Casino Enterprise Management publisher. “We look forward to seeing what new, exciting products next year’s competition brings.”

With that, we congratulate this year’s winners and present in-depth profiles of the winning product in each category. Read on to learn more about these products and how they are making their mark on the gaming industry.

Gaming Partners International—Total Money Management (TMM)

What if a casino had a tool that could help create more game-play time, while increasing currency security and other efficiencies? Gaming Partners International aims to accomplish that very goal with its Total Money Management (TMM) product, winner of the 2013 CEM International Table Games Award for Best Electronic Innovation.

Total Money Management streamlines cash and chip transactions at the table, resulting in multiple benefits, including increased rounds per hour, greater currency security through instant authentication and validation, reduced manual counting procedures and errors, and additional labor savings and accounting efficiencies, according to GPI Marketing Manager Maricela Maciel.

“What this means to the casino is more table play time by casino players, which, in turn, means an increase in the casino’s bottom line,” Maciel said.

Acknowledging the award, Maciel said GPI is “very proud” of all of its products and table game solutions.

“GPI focuses on delivering solutions that help our customers maximize table game productivity. TMM is an innovative and feature-rich solution that was designed to help casino operators make their table game floor more efficient and thus profitable,” Maciel added.
Maciel noted there is no other solution similar to TMM currently on the market. “As the leading provider of RFID product solutions, GPI is in a unique position to be able to partner with leading bill validation technology companies like JCM to be able to offer this complete solution,” Maciel said.

The product appeals to operators who see the time and labor-saving efficiencies it can provide, Maciel said. “What’s more, it gives them real-time, accurate data about the money transactions taking place at the table, which provides better visibility about floor performance, as well as a higher level of security and control over their bank-note and chip inventories.”

Total Money Management combines the technology and efficiencies of RFID with JCM’s iV8™ high-speed bill validator.

The way TMM works is a player presents a cash buy-in to the dealer. The dealer then places the notes into the iV8 bill validator, which quickly counts and authenticates them. Any invalid items are immediately rejected. The player confirms the buy-in, the notes are automatically dropped into a stacker and the bill validator reports total dollar amount collected to the Chip Inventory System (CIS). The dealer then places the correct amount of chips on the table’s validation antenna. When the chips on the table validation antenna balance with the bills that were received, the buy-in transaction is then validated, recorded in the database and the chips are given to the player.

By automatically balancing cash-in and chips-out transactions, and providing perpetual drop box and chip float balances, TMM eliminates potential errors present in manual chip and cash counting, and other procedures. When connected, casino operators can automate table and shift open and close procedures by providing instantaneous float and drop box balances, and real-time sharing of information with their casino management system.

At the back of house, as with the gaming floor, TMM eliminates manual counting errors and procedures in the cage and counting areas. Both manual inventory and cash balance entries into the casino management system are eliminated, and fill and credit manual accounting procedures and processes are automated. Casino operators have access to real-time monitoring of table cash/chip balances and accounting of cage and fill bank transactions. MG

SHFL entertainment—i-Table Roulette

The combination of a standard roulette table with an electronic interface is what establishes i-Table Roulette as a hybrid table game. Its ability to increase rounds per hour, profits and security is what made it a winner in the Best Hybrid Table Game category.

“i-Table Roulette is a hybrid table game that fits the same footprint as a standard roulette table, yet can yield approximately 50 percent or more spins per hour due to the electronic paying and taking of wagers,” said Julia Boguslawski, SHFL entertainment vice president of investor relations and corporate communications. “The electronic format eliminates dealer errors, player cheating and typically returns a casino a hold percentage three to five points higher than a standard roulette table might otherwise enjoy.”

The use of an electronic player terminal for pays and takes has a number of other advantages. Staff can spend less time calculating payouts and stacking chips and more time interacting with guests. A single dealer can run an entire table as no chipper or second dealer is needed. Furthermore, the game offers greater flexibility in staffing as it is easy to understand—anyone from a seasoned roulette dealer to a newcomer can operate it with minimal training. Casinos can even staff the game with hosts or models to bring additional excitement to the table.

Though the use of technology makes i-Table Roulette a more modern game, increasing its appeal to a younger generation of players, it still has the traditional feel of a roulette table that older players love. “We designed i-Table Roulette to look and feel as much like a traditional roulette table as possible; the vivid graphics of the game board in the central screen are very lifelike and the touchscreen betting interface is intuitive and easy-to-use,” Boguslawski said. In addition, i-Table roulette retains the use of a live dealer to spin the ball—a crucial component of the game for many roulette players.

Boguslawski reports that i-Table Roulette is being well received by many age groups: “Younger players find the touchscreen interaction to be a familiar and fresh update to the traditional format, and older players appreciate no longer having to reach across the felt to place wagers, worry about watching their chip stacks for theft or monitor the table for mispays.”

Customers are pleased with the increase in the number of spins they see at i-Table Roulette. By automatically resolving all wagers at the end of each round, i-Table Roulette increases game speed and table productivity. According to Boguslawski, typical installations are finding that an average of 30 to 35 spins on a regular table are now reaching more than 50 per hour on i-Table Roulette.

An increase in spins generates more revenue for the casino. And savings are also seen with i-Table Roulette due to the reduction in operating expenditures. The game requires less pit supervision and less dealer training. Additionally, because game play is conducted with electronic chips, fewer fills are needed, and rfid chips and sensors are unnecessary.

To play i-Table Roulette, players buy in directly to the dealer with cash or chips. Their terminal is then credited with the monies presented. The dealer touches the “New Game” option on the terminal, opening wagering to all players. When the clock nears zero, the dealer spins the ball. No bets are allowed once the clock reaches zero. The dealer then waits for the ball to drop, and confirms the number on the dealer terminal, instantly paying and taking all wagers. When a player is ready to leave, he or she can simply inform the dealer who will cash out their balance in casino chips.

According to SHFL entertainment, the game is secure from beginning to end. Because of the betting clock, players cannot past-post or move chips to cheat the game. Due to minimal chip handling and automated bet resolution, dealer errors and chip theft are virtually eliminated. The table’s electronic betting interface removes capping and pinching bets, while the system’s bet resolution technology and game logic combine to prevent player/dealer collusion.

“It’s an honor to receive this designation, particularly given the caliber of the panel of judges, who have deep knowledge and experience in the industry,” Boguslawski said when informed of the award. “Many people have had a hand in bringing i-Table Roulette from the drawing board to the casino floor, and many long hours have been put in by members of our organization at all levels. This award is a testament to their dedication, talent and drive—without this team, there would be no product. To see i-Table Roulette come to fruition and accomplish what is was intended to do—and more—gives SHFL a real sense of affirmation that we’re helping our customers be successful, which is part of our mission statement. When they win, we win.” AA

Galaxy Gaming Inc.—21+3 Classic

Winner of the CEM’s 2013 International Table Games Award for Best Side Bet, Galaxy Gaming’s 21+3 Classic has found side bet success by capitalizing on the tremendous popularity of both traditional blackjack and Three Card Poker.

Galaxy Gaming’s 21+3 Classic is a player-optional proposition wager added to the game of blackjack. Using each player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card, the wager wins when those three cards combined achieve a flush, straight, straight flush or three-of-a-kind. 21+3 does not affect the base game of blackjack or alter basic blackjack strategy.

Judges found 21+3 appealing as a blackjack side bet and appreciated that it did not affect the base game. One judge said the wager “looks good” and would be considered for the future at his casino, while another remarked that 21+3 made for a good side wager, particularly because of its straightforward nature. “Simple is best,” the judge wrote.

Galaxy Gaming Senior Sales Specialist Bob Pietrosanto said Galaxy is honored to have earned CEM 2013 International Table Games Awards for its 21+3 side bet and High Card Flush table game. “Based on the gaming industry pedigree of the [judging] panel that voted, it truly is validating for both our games that won,” he said.

“Ultimately, it’s the actual pit players who determine if a game is superior from another,” Pietrosanto said. “Initially it’s our job to get any of our proprietary games on a casino floor, but it’s the players who decide if a game stays or goes. In regard to 21+3, based simply on the number of placements we have in casinos throughout the world, players see great value in making the bet. After we initially placed 21+3 games in casinos, the most common feedback we got from our clients is that they want to add more games to their casino floor. Again, driven by results and player demand.”

To use the side bet, a player places a bet on the regular blackjack hand and also places the optional side bet on 21+3.

21+3 uses the player’s two initial cards with the dealer’s up card to form the three-card poker hand.

After placing the wagers, the player will be dealt two cards, both face up. The dealer also receives one face up. If the player made the 21+3 wager and these three cards form a winning poker-hand combination, then the player wins a 9-1 payout relative to the 21+3 bet. The 21+3 side bet is won or lost before the blackjack game gets under way with its “hit and stand” phase of the game.

The addition of 21+3 on any blackjack table does not affect basic strategy for the primary game of blackjack, and players need not know special poker strategy to play 21+3, according to the company.
“21+3 is a true Three Card Poker Pair Plus-type side bet for blackjack, where you can enjoy both games at once. As a game designer, I generally discourage the mixing of disparate games, but this one was done really right, and is a true exception that proves the rule,” said Dan Lubin, Galaxy Gaming manager of table game development.

Lubin also noted that getting players to give 21+3 a try will be “a cinch, as just about all casino players are familiar with Three Card Poker.” And he noted the game excels at two of the most important keys to a game product’s success: ease of play and general comfort level.

There are approximately 1,400 installs of 21+3, an indication that it is among the most popular side bet products for blackjack. Lubin also noted that it has an extremely low house edge for a side bet, with 3.24 percent on a six-deck shoe game. This is because the side bet is particularly count-resistant, making it next to impossible to advantage-play the product, he added.

What the game does do is add excitement by bringing together two of the best known and most played games on the casino floor. MG

Galaxy Gaming Inc.—High Card Flush

Simple to understand. Fun to play. Patron-pleasing payouts. These are a few of the key attributes of Galaxy Gaming’s High Card Flush, winner of CEM’s International Table Games Award for Best Traditional Table Game.

High Card Flush was one of two Galaxy Gaming products to win an award in the competition.

Galaxy Gaming Senior Sales Specialist Bob Pietrosanto said Galaxy is honored to have earned awards for High Card Flush and its 21+3 Classic game. “High Card Flush recently won the Best New Table Game of 2012 at a table games conference in Las Vegas, so I guess Galaxy is on a little roll,” Pietrosanto said.

Galaxy Gaming’s High Card Flush is a stand-alone game recently introduced in some regions of the United States. Among the casinos offering the game are Harrah’s, Edgewater and Colorado Belle Casinos in Laughlin, Nev., and The M Resort and Planet Hollywood casinos in Las Vegas.
Pietrosanto called High Card Flush a “very simple game [that is] doing very well so far.”

In the game, each player receives seven cards, and the object is to get as many cards of the same suit as possible. The hand with the better flush wins.

In evaluating the game, one judge wrote, “This game is very easy to learn and easy to play.” Other judges called the game “promising” and “interesting.”

The game offers three distinct aspects. First, there is the competition against the dealer. For example, a four-card flush beats a three-card flush; a five-card flush beats a four-card flush. If both player and dealer have the same number of cards in their respective flushes, the highest ranking card will win. If both hands are a perfect copy, the hand will push.

The only “qualifying” rule is that the dealer must have a three-card, nine-high flush in order for both the ante and raise bets to be in action. If the dealer has less than that, the ante will automatically win even money, and the raise will push.

According to Galaxy Gaming, it is the two side bets that have sparked even more interest in High Card Flush. Both of the side bets are driven by the pay tables’ odds-based payouts. The first of these is known as the “Flush” bet. For this wager, players hope to receive a four-card flush or better. If they do, they will win an odds-based payout ranging from even money, to 300 to 1. The second “Straight Flush” side bet involves players betting they will get a straight flush within their flush.

For example, if a player receives a five-card flush, that player will win an odds-based payout for the flush wager. However, if the player also has a three-card straight flush within that five-card flush, the player also will win on the straight flush wager. The straight flush wager pays from 7 to 1 up to 8,000 to 1 on most pay tables.

“The game is so accessible and straightforward. [It] is so easy and instinctual for a card player that it is pretty much into a jump-right-in-and- go kind of game, like Three Card Poker,” said Dan Lubin, Galaxy Gaming manager of table games development.

Lubin noted there is no length limit to a flush. “In this game, every hand has a flush, so it’s now just a question of presenting the best you’ve got, or folding, if you’re not confident. And for same-length flush showdowns, it’s all about the highest flush winning,” he said, acknowledging there are bonus bets for length of flush and for getting straight flushes of at least three cards in length.

While the game is easy to play, it does give players enough decisions to keep the game interesting, Lubin said.

“All in all, High Card Flush is elegant and exciting to play, and I predict it’ll be a mainstay on the floor,” Lubin said. MG

eConnect Inc.—Blackjack Countdown

As protecting the integrity of a card game is crucial to a casino’s success, a good game protection product is a must. eConnect’s Blackjack Countdown, the winner in the Best Game Protection Product category, is a great tool for helping casino operators quickly determine when an advantage player is at a blackjack table.

A strategy used by players, primarily at blackjack games, to determine the probable advantage a hand gives the player or the dealer, card counting can greatly decrease the house edge. Card counters quickly keep score of the number of high- and low-valued cards seen with each hand in order to place much higher bets when the hand favors them and lower bets when the house is favored. This decreases their own betting risk and minimizes their losses.

Identifying an actual card counter can be a challenge. Sometimes, what appears to be an advantage player may simply be someone up on their luck, and removing that player from a table may deter them from revisiting the casino. With eConnect’s Blackjack Countdown surveillance personnel can better distinguish a lucky player from a card counter.

“This anti-card counting software will help casino operators quickly determine when advantage players are on a blackjack table,” said eConnect Marketing Director Chris Swanger. “It integrates with existing surveillance systems and smart card shoes, and uses advanced business intelligence to show real-time advantage play, allowing the casino floor [staff] to make quick decisions about backing advantage players off the game.” The software monitors all intelligent shoes and alerts surveillance once the blackjack card count hits thresholds predetermined by the surveillance team.

To create Blackjack Countdown, eConnect developed a program and algorithm that allow everyone from the novice to the seasoned casino-surveillance operator to become a proficient card counter with very little training. Once the deck becomes “hot” the casino employee will look for increases in player-betting patterns that normally identify an advantage player. If confirmed, the casino floor personnel may back the player off the game or ask them to leave.

By using Blackjack Countdown to more accurately pinpoint a card counter, less employees are required to monitor tables. “eConnect [Blackjack] Countdown does the work equivalent to dozens of employees,” said Swanger. “One person can effectively monitor dozens of games to search for advantage players. It is 100 percent accurate, allowing surveillance to effectively spend time on the right priorities.”

Swanger also notes that Blackjack Countdown integrates with the current digital surveillance system, allowing the casino to leverage existing assets. Thus, even if the casino operator or surveillance team misses times when there may be advantage play occurring, the system provides reports that looks at historical patterns. This becomes a great tool in keeping advantage players away from the blackjack tables.

“Blackjack card counters rely on casino surveillance teams to fail at catching them and while the surveillance teams do find card counters, many others go unnoticed due to the lack of human resources and other circumstances,” said Travis Whidden, eConnect’s chief technology officer. “With Blackjack Countdown, the software engine proactively monitors the cards and lets the staff know where to look for advantage play. We essentially reduce the amount of time wasted on table audits and instead we look at the true count just like a card counter would. Our system thinks just like the card counter, except it’s operated by the casino. This helps to reduce the gaming operator’s risk and evens the playing field between the player and the casino.”

eConnect has received a tremendous amount of feedback on the accuracy and effectiveness of its product. According to Swanger, professional blackjack player Mike Aponte was thoroughly impressed by the system. A former member of the team of MIT students that won millions at blackjack tables around the world—the inspiration for the movie 21—Aponte commented he was glad this system wasn’t around when he was on the MIT team.

Swanger informed CEM that eConnect is pleased with Blackjack Countdown’s success and plans to patent it. “There is no similar product in the market place,” he said. “It is proprietary and unique in the way it is designed and deployed. It currently has a patent pending with the United States Patent Office.”

The eConnect team is delighted by the recognition the product has received with this award and thanks the judges for their selection. “We are thrilled with this honor,” said Swanger. “We knew that we had designed and developed a great product; however, we were delighted with the tremendous response from the gaming community. It really gives us a great feeling of accomplishment.” And despite achieving the title of Best Game Protection Product with Blackjack Countdown, Swanger shared that eConnect’s work is not done. In his opinion, even a great product can always be better, and eConnect is already enhancing Blackjack Countdown based on customer requests. AA

Genesis Gaming Solutions Inc.—BRAVO Poker

Emerging the winner in the Best Table Game Management category was Genesis Gaming Solutions’ BRAVO Poker system. Judges paid the product a number of compliments, and one even said that his casino currently uses it in their poker rooms.

“It is a complete poker room management system that allows for accurate monitoring, tracking and managing of the entire poker room,” Genesis Gaming Solutions President Randy Knust said when asked to describe the product. “BRAVO Poker enables poker room supervisors to monitor and manage most poker room functions, such as player tracking, lobby tracking, game setup and maintenance, waiting list functions, room statistics, player history, dealer speed, kiosk utilization, promotion tracking and complete tournament management.”

Knust also explained that on-table tracking units allow dealers to perform a number of tasks at the table, such as checking players in and out; placing calls for casino chips, food and beverage service and supervisor decisions; and tracking the number of hands played. Thanks to the tracking units, supervisors are also able to monitor the entire floor from one screen. Management is immediately aware when a seat is available and players are automatically called from the electronically displayed waiting list. Thus, seats are filled quickly and quietly.

A popular aspect of the BRAVO Poker system is its tournament software. BRAVO Tournament Watch enables casino personnel to set-up and track all poker tournament activities from player registration through payout. It quickly and efficiently registers players, randomly assigns tables and seats, tracks buy-ins, manages the tournament clock and expedites player payouts. The software also increases operational efficiency of the poker room through features such as game set-up and maintenance, waiting list sign-up and management, and dealer rotation. It can provide management with a wealth of information through point tracking, table drop analysis, statistics capture and analysis, player session history, dealer decisions and speed.

The BRAVO Poker Live mobile application is also a great tool for delivering up-to-date information. “BRAVO Poker also enables casinos to communicate directly to players in real-time using our BRAVO Poker Live mobile application,” said Knust. “Leveraging the power and data from the BRAVO Poker system used in casino poker rooms throughout the country, BRAVO Poker Live gives casinos the ability to instantly publicize poker room tournament schedules and current promotions directly to players. It also gives players up-to-the-minute information on live play, waiting lists, tournament and promotional activity at all participating poker rooms.”

Recently, the BRAVO Poker system was chosen to manage the World Series of Poker® (WSOP), held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, making it the fifth year in a row that BRAVO Poker has been used to manage the event.

“The BRAVO Poker system is the best available for managing poker tournaments,” said Howard Greenbaum, vice president of specialty gaming for Caesars Entertainment Corp. “The WSOP is the longest-running, largest, richest and most prestigious gaming event in the world, and we needed a system robust enough to handle the amount of information and activity required to run this event. The BRAVO Poker system has been an essential tool in managing this tournament in the most efficient manner possible.”

To make sure its product is indeed one of the best, Genesis Gaming Solutions works closely with customers to ensure that the system provides the most effective tools for the casino. This provides information used to update BRAVO Poker and develop new features. According to Knust, the feedback from customers continues to be positive. They appreciate the ease of use for both dealers and staff, the reliability and stability of the system, as well as the many modules offered with it, he said.

Proud of this accomplishment, the Genesis Gaming Solutions team thanked the judges who selected BRAVO Poker from among many other incredible products. “We want to thank the panel of judges, as well as Casino Enterprise Management, for naming BRAVO Poker as the Best Table Game Management System,” Knust said. “We are truly delighted to have been singled out for this prestigious award. All of the judges on this distinguished panel are highly qualified industry experts and being recognized by them is truly an honor.” AA

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