After many years of working in gaming, I have only recently started to study and play the popular game of Baccarat. I’ll be honest, I’ve always found the game slow and boring.
But in the biggest gaming jurisdiction of Macau, where I have spent most of the last 13 years, Baccarat still represents over 80% of the play rates. In fact, in some casinos, it is the only game you will see.
So, what is the attraction?
Besides the deep superstitious following amongst Asian players and the fact that it seemingly has the best odds (“lowest theoretical house-hold %”).
I think you may as well toss a coin for your money, it’s almost the same. You may get the odd rush when you hit a Tie or Pair on the side bets but really there isn’t much excitement when that happens.
We can all agree there is no get rich quick in this game, its payouts are mostly even money and as such you need to bet big to win big. In the past, that’s been okay for many Macau players, (though times may be changing). But for some (including me), it doesn’t drive the adrenaline as much as it could.
For those of you who haven’t had the honour of playing this game in Asia, you may need to be both patient and brave. First, expect to wait a few minutes between hands for the players to bet, because most want to interpret the last results and the trend with their double-sided pens and paper.
Once the cards are dealt, some players will blow, bend and squeeze them hoping for their luck to come through.
Finally, the odd few will sometimes bang on the table loudly, before throwing the cards back to the dealer in disgust (not to mention unleashing some choice words at this “Gweilo” who bet against their prediction and won).
Even after you survived a few slow rounds of that, you would have to think “ is there a better way”. Maybe it’s my slots background but couldn’t we use technology to add some bells and whistles. Bringing some theatre to the game would make them more entertaining and rewarding. (at least use the screen better, currently its like watching paint dry)
As the industry finally moves out of the dark ages with table games by adding “SMART” technology to tables, shouldn’t they focus on being more customer-centric? Maybe by improving the way we give players information, they can make better decisions faster and at the same time, have more fun.
On the Electronic Table Games (ETGs) and Stadium type gaming, players can already access up to 10 and more live tables and make their bets at one terminal. The trick is tracking the results on all tables from the large LED screens, then managing to place your bets at the best tables at the press of a few buttons.
Stadium type gaming has grown rapidly in recent years and attracts a younger or “Millennial” market. However, very few migrate to traditional tables as most either feel intimidated or see them as “old school” with less of the social element they enjoy. These players are savvier with media and information. They want instant gratification, they don’t want to think and work things out. Why do they need to? Siri, Google and Alexa can all tell them what to do and where to go instantly. So, is there something to learn here?
Certainly, the new features on Stadium games in places like City of Dreams and MGM Cotai Macau have shown that highlighting superstitious trends and hot tables have driven more play. Products like X-Stadium have made the screen more exciting and marketable, plus the revenue in this segment is also reported to be on the rise.
Surely adding similar animations and features on live tables to highlight results and trends or show better predictions for players, would have to be better than trying to decipher dots and dashes on a boring screen.
New features that emphasise luckier tables and build “near miss” excitement to side bets could increase action and may attract a newer market segment.
Table displays, pit or zone signs could be integrated to market hot tables, hot zones, driving players to their ideal tables faster. For the record, I am not suggesting to remove all tradition, just disrupt it enough to bring it into the 21st century and market the game in a much more entertaining way.
Take “Lucky 6” for example, this bet has become very popular in Macau and other jurisdictions despite the poor marketing and lack of excitement currently seen on some tables.
With payouts of 20 to 1 odds in Macau and some jurisdictions offering 50 to 1 odds for a (3 Card 6-Points Banker win), you would think “Lucky 6” should be celebrated and marketed better “Jackpot Style”.
Unfortunately, besides a new logo on the table, “Lucky 6” often goes by unnoticed, even when somebody wins. There is certainly some lost opportunity here, imagine how much more popular you could make it with instant marketing at the table.
We are in a digital age where information and technology depict 90% of what we do. So we should take advantage of this to capture new slices of other market segments. Maybe even attract that elusive and affluent millennial crowd. Though certainly start with driving more excitement and entertainment with the already captured market at the table. I’m sure the smarter EGM operators will be quick to implement this technique when “Lucky 6” eventually reaches the ETG Stadiums.
After the dismal start to 2020 worldwide, when most forms of entertainment have been restricted to your home sofa. When the world restarts, maybe it is time that we moved into a new realm of casino excitement for all and bring some new life to boring old Baccarat. As for me, I hope I can seek my luck on the trend board and get my bets on the table faster, before I miss out.
As the Chinese proverb goes “Heaven’s fortunes move in cycles, he who finds his fortunate time succeeds, he who misses his fortunate time fails”. (proverb 2033)
About the Author: Peter Johns is an accomplished gaming executive with over 30 years in senior management and operations. He has set up and opened electronic gaming floors and casino projects both in Macau and throughout the region.
Currently, Peter has invested his time into a new company called IDX Game Ltd. in conjunction with its parent company idNerd Studios Hong Kong. Their aim is to bring innovation and creativity back into traditional gaming. Peter also consults on several land-based and online casino projects. He is a keen follower of technology and the millennial generation and is passionate about change and creating a difference.