Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING | June 2008 42 J ust as once mighty sailing ships, steamboats and horse carriages were rendered obsolete by innovation, so too can casino games such as Baccarat. Even if Baccarat is not replaced by a completely new table game, it can at least be superseded by a modified form of the game, just as film cameras gave way to digital ones. True casino innovation is rare these days, so when something innovative does come along it is especially exciting. We also know that our industry is known as a copy cat industry, with most casinos copying new or innovative ideas in lieu of developing them. There is nothing wrong with that if the innovative idea is a productive one. Casino gaming has constantly evolved and has experienced its fair share of innovation. Just look at the development and success of slot machine gaming. Slots now outperform table games in revenue terms in most markets around the world except Asia. That could possibly change too as innovation continues with the development of machines and games designed to attract Asian players. For now, though, table games and Baccarat in particular still dominate in Asia. Baccarat is the only one of the traditional big four table games (Roulette, Craps, Blackjack and Baccarat) that does not have a built in mechanism to produce the House Advantage. It is unique in relying upon an external devise, i.e. the collection of commission. Baccarat, especially in Asia, is the only traditional game that has forfeited the rhythm (hands per hour) of the game to the players or customers. The thought of a customer holding a pair of dice while thinking what to bet next (or what to have for dinner) sends shivers down the spines of seasoned casino managers that have this phrase forever imprinted in their minds: “MOVE THE DICE!” Time is money and the number of hands per hour represents money to most casino operators. Yet this is exactly what happens in Baccarat pits today. Consequently, Baccarat usually suffers from a very weak overall hold. In some casinos, the Baccarat HPH (hands per hour) is down to 35 HPH or even lower. Baccarat (Mini- Bac) was a casino game that used to clock over 100 HPH. As a result of today’s “squeeze” games where the players slowly squeeze open the cards, the speed of the game has decreased dramatically, and as a result, the turnover has also decreased. In an effort to compensate for the low Baccarat hold percentage, innovative operators have therefore concentrated on developing and incorporating high percentage“proposition”bets into the game. The unintended consequence of these offerings is that they cause the game to slow down even more by offering more options to just a few players. The great majority of players are too educated to actually bet expensive “prop” bets in Baccarat. How many Craps players would bet boxcars on a regular basis? Consequently, the big money for the casino lays with the low odds bets—Pass / Don’t Pass, Banker / Player—period. Breaking Baccarat down into the different components of the game under actual operating conditions, one will find that the commission process takes up to 60% of the total process time in Baccarat. That’s right, 60% of the time, since the dealer is involved in calculating, taking, mistaking, fighting, apologizing and defending the unwieldy commission. By theway,looking at the other side of the table, the customer is taking the opposite position and also going through the same process. This is not a formula for happiness for either casino management or customers. So, how does one resolve such a bugaboo or dilemma in casinos around the world? One can resolve it via casino innovation. A relatively new version of Baccarat known as EZ Baccarat is just such an innovative new product that plays without the commission dilemma. This is not a new game but rather a new operating system for Baccarat. It is the Microsoft Windows of the world of Baccarat. It is that innovative. This is one of the best solutions to the problem that Baccarat has faced for the past EZ Baccarat Casino marketing consultant Steve Karoul checks out a new form of Baccarat that speeds up game play by doing away with the messy commission