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Walker Digital's Perfect Pay baccarat is a game changer for casinos without changing the game

Wednesday, 11 August 2010 18:34
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Walker Digital's Perfect Pay

Everyone's aware of the tantalising promise that radio frequency identification (RFID) gaming tables hold out for the casino industry. Operators would love to be able to use the technology to eliminate the sort of table losses that happen in every casino, no matter how well the casino is run. Those losses are caused by human factors such as dealer mispays, the misrating by the house of a player's value leading to overpaying on 'comps' and the introduction to the table by fraudsters of counterfeit chips.

Now operators can use that technology thanks to Walker Digital Gaming's Perfect Pay Smart Table. Perfect Pay looks like a traditional table, but underneath the familiar felt is technology that's anything but standard. The baccarat format of Perfect Pay, developed specifically with the high play volume Asian markets in mind, gives operators a unique opportunity to measure and monitor their table gambling operation in as much detail as their slot operation. It does that without changing in any way the traditional format or style of the game. Arguably, Perfect Pay actually allows baccarat to be the game players always wanted it to be—a game free of hold ups such as commission calculations or disputes over mispays.

"It's a game changer without changing the game," says Stephen Moore, Managing Director of Walker Digital Gaming.

Breakthrough

"Casinos have pit automation, cage automation and rating automation. But previously there hasn't been the kind of depth to table automation that you see in slot operations, where you track every wager, every win, every loss, the complete handle, with complete security and complete control. That's what we do on a table game that's never been done before," points out Mr Moore.

Not only can Perfect Pay make baccarat the game players always wanted by speeding up play and eliminating player-dealer disputes, but it can also turn house edge from a mystical theoretical number into a reality. And the return on investment (ROI) from Perfect Pay can be measured in months, not years.

"If you catch even one mistake on each table every day—not even on every shift—you achieve rapid ROI," points out Stephen Moore, "and that's without even counting its counterfeit detection capability," he adds.

The 'brain' of Perfect Pay is its RFID technology, including the tags embedded in the gaming chips and the antennae inside the table to recognise what those chips are doing. Perfect Pay turns your casino currency into a self-reporting, self-policing and crucially foolproof part of your table operation.

"Players can't cheat it, dealers can't cheat it, counterfeiters can't scam it and it eliminates dealer errors. What that means is that the good dealers will get promoted and the average dealers will continue to be effective on table games," explains Mr Moore.

Chip recognition

On the outside, the RFID gambling chip looks and feels like a standard gaming chip. On the inside, each chip is embedded with a tiny radio frequency (RF) microchip. When a gaming chip is placed in the betting circle, the antenna emits an electromagnetic field that enables it to read the value of the chip and relays the data to the table's embedded computer and the back office system. Perfect Pay can recognise and read instantly 100 chips stacked 20 high in five columns.

Earlier RFID table designs sometimes attempted to retrofit existing tables with RFID elements, or followed traditional guidelines for table design. In contrast, "We designed every aspect of the Perfect Pay table from the ground up to ensure the reliability and security of the RFID solution first and foremost," says Stephen Moore.

That said, tables are customised for each operator and look no different from other tables on the floor except for two small touch-screens embedded at the dealer position.If the dealer forgets to take one of the losers' chips off the table, the system suspends the game. The dealer can't go on until he or she takes the chip off the table. If the dealer tries to overpay, the tracking system suspends the game. If the dealer underpays, the system display records it. The players then have the confidence of knowing the game is fair.

Foolproof

"With this platform, not only will you catch the cheaters at the moment they cheat, you'll also catch the counterfeiters at the moment they bet, rather than at the cage," explains Stephen Moore.

Using the secure platform of instant chip recognition, Perfect Pay's specially developed software is able to mine the data produced by table play in order to report on game speed, bet mix, table occupancy, theoretical win, actual win and player betting patterns. In addition, electronic tableside displays supplied with Perfect Pay allow supervisors to see real-time information on the game, including cards dealt, hand totals and bets placed. For many Chinese players interested in detecting patterns of play in baccarat, knowing such information is as much about entertainment as it is about game transparency. From an operator's viewpoint, having such information in automated form gives the house real control over its table business. Perfect Pay is also highly flexible, with configuration options for commission or no-commission play, minimum and maximum bets, and programmable limits on table exposure.

"Our proprietary game system tracks every movement of everything on the table. By having all that information, we have perfect knowledge of the state of the game at all times," explains Stephen Moore of Walker Digital. As well as allowing the casino management to know the perfect state of the game, the foolproof nature of Perfect Pay reduces the supervisory workload of pit managers and pit supervisors. Fewer supervisory hours worked means lower operator costs. In expensive labour markets such as Macau and Singapore, that can be a key contribution to building profitability.

Operational insight

Walker Digital's senior management team all have backgrounds in casino operations. That means when they designed and commissioned Perfect Pay, they created the table they had always wanted as operators, rather than the table that 'nearly' ticked all the right boxes. In other words, they brought their skill to the marketplace, not their need.

"There's a saying in business: 'Measure what you wish to manage'," says Mr Moore.

"How do we measure someone betting millions and millions of dollars on table games? Should we have someone standing there with a clipboard writing it down? That's what currently happens in VIP rooms in Macau. We say that as an industry we can do better than that.

"If you have to calculate the commission on an odd number of millions of Hong Kong dollars using a clipboard and calculator, that can slow a game down by ten hands an hour. With our system, it's done instantly. When people see it demonstrated, they love it."

One of the often-voiced fears of table fans and some operators is that technology introduced at tableside will change the fundamental character of the games players love. Walker Digital's Perfect Pay baccarat finds just the right balance between operational and play optimisation and staying faithful to a game loved by many millions over many generations.

"When you sit here and play, it's regular baccarat," states Stephen Moore.

"The difference is, as an operator, you can do player ratings on the system, you can do perfect player tracking. If you want to award points for handle like you would with slot machines, you can do that."

Essentially, Perfect Pay baccarat is a triple live game with the reporting and analytical capability of a slot accounting system. With that kind of capability and that potential for return on investment, the issue for operators isn't whether to switch to Perfect Pay. The issue is can they afford not to?

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