Electronic table games find renewed interest from casinos in wake of COVID-19 Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · September 8, 2020 at 7:00 am Scientific Games executives view Hard Rock Casino Vancouver as a potential showcase for the company’s newest electronic table game products. The Las Vegas-based gaming equipment provider took over a section of the venue’s 80,000-square-foot gaming floor and added 20 player stations, four dealer podiums, and a 6-foot-by-30-foot video monitor. All that’s needed now are gaming customers. Hard Rock Vancouver (photo via Facebook) COVID-19 has kept Hard Rock Vancouver and other British Columbia casinos closed since March 16. Other parts of Canada, including Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Quebec, have allowed casinos to reopen under new guidelines, including physical distancing. Ironically, the pandemic is the primary reason the casino industry has focused its attention this year on electronic table games, often referred to as ETGs. The games offer social distancing and are a product that lends itself to the health, safety, and cleaning protocols that have been implemented in response to coronavirus. Scientific Games Vice President Rob Bone, who oversees the ETG business, said at least 80% of the Las Vegas-based company’s current backlog is dealer assisted electronic table games, where a casino employee serves multiple customers who are playing from their own station. “I’m confident this segment is going to grow by 10% to 25% in the next 12 to 24 months,” said Bone, who oversaw a similar electronic table game product offered by Interblock Gaming before he joined Scientific Games last year. “The demand is out there,” Bone said, adding that Hard Rock was ready to unveil the system when coronavirus struck. The Scientific Games product gives players their own stations – “socially distant apart” – for games such as blackjack and roulette. “With casinos only allowed to sit three or four players at any one table, the operators have realized ETGs are a much better cost-effective way to offer table games,” Bone said. In a July research note following Scientific Games second-quarter earnings announcement, Union Gaming Group analyst John DeCree said the company highlighted the demand in electronic table games and products that promote cashless transactions, sanitation, and social distancing. Rob Bone, Scientific Games DeCree suggested Scientific Games has an opportunity by getting aggressive in grabbing market share in various products, “with casino companies constrained for (capital expenditures), and some smaller gaming suppliers likely struggling with liquidity issues.” In Las Vegas, reopened casinos are giving electronic tables a hard look and with multiple companies offering ETGs, including International Game Technology and Slovenia-based Interblock. In some locations, live table games are replaced with ETGs. Palace Station General Manager David Horn, who also serves as Station Casinos’ head of table games, said he is trying out products from all companies at different properties. The floor space at the Station properties is large enough that traditional table games haven’t been removed. He said the company sampled electronic table games in 2018 at the Red Rock Resort but removed them for lack of play. The times are now different. “There has been some interest and by utilizing games from all three companies, we’re getting an idea of what the customer likes,” Horn said. “In my world, (ETGs) have allowed us to hire back more dealers.” The dealer assisted games have grown in popularity, Bone said. “The design potential and innovation for this type of product are limitless,” he said. Through its $5.1 billion acquisition of Bally Technologies in 2015, Scientific Games acquired the intellectual property of SHFL Entertainment, which developed the first electronic table games. Scientific Games also the proprietary table games titles, such as Three-Card Poker and Let it Ride, that can be implemented into ETGs. The original ETGs, which have since enhanced the images of the video-based dealer, are an electronic version of blackjack. The games were primarily used in states that didn’t allow live table games but classified the ETGs as slot machines or video gaming devices. Now, the age of coronavirus safety protocols, games that utilize electronic chips and cards are gaining in popularity. Bone is confident Scientific Games will stand out, which is why the Hard Rock Vancouver reopening will be a welcome moment. “It’s a beautiful setup,” Bone said “The Hard Rock was ready to unveil the games. We all believe the location will be a success.” Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.