A new set of technical standards covering dealer-operated electronic table games (ETGs) came into effect in Macau on Monday. The set of standards – issued by the city’s casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau – is the first of its kind to focus on ETGs that rely on the use of live dealers.
The standards aim “to specify sufficient requirements and controls to ensure operation of dealer-operated ETGs in a manner that is fair, secure, reliable and auditable,” states the regulator’s instruction detailing the new standards.
The document adds: “It is not the intent [of this set of standards] to unreasonably: mandate a single solution or method of realising an objective; limit technology application to gaming equipment; limit creativity or variety of choice; limit marketability; advantage any supplier or manufacturer of equipment; or preclude research and development into new technology, equipment or innovative solutions.”
Dealer-operated ETGs use a live dealer to draw cards or handle dice or spin a roulette wheel, but utilise electronic technology for the placement of bets and for bet settlement. A number of investment analysts covering the casino industry have said that the use of a live dealer appeals to Asian players sometimes suspicious of fully-automated gaming devices. The speed of betting possible via such technology appeals to casino managements because it can produce better yield per gaming seat even at lower minimum bets than are typically seen at traditional live-dealer tables.
With dealer-operated ETGs, a single casino staff member – often linked by live video to a large screen that can easily be viewed by a large number of casino players accommodated at rows of gaming terminals flanking the dealing position – can serve many more players simultaneously than can a traditional table dealer.
In January 2013, the Macau government introduced a cap on the aggregate number of live dealer tables allowed in local casinos. Such tables typically have nine player seats per table. But in Macau, dealer-operated ETGs are given a more generous allowance of seats per dealing position or set of dealing positions, in the case of more then one casino game being offered via the live-dealer format. The city’s gaming regulator allows between 50 and 60 ETG seats to count as equivalent to one traditional gaming table for the purposes of Macau’s table cap, according to some industry commentators.
The new set of standards makes it clear that any dealer-operated ETG submitted for approval to the gaming regulator must first have been certified by a Macau-accredited testing laboratory.
The instruction states the standards apply to electronic gaming products involving a live dealer and where “game play without significant human interaction, including the commencement of game play, is not possible”.
The new set of standards states that when the game format of a dealer-operated ETG “is recognisable as an existing table game, the same probabilities [game rules and pay-outs] associated with the live game shall be implemented”. Messages displayed on the player terminals must be available both in English and Chinese.
The instruction additionally defines multi-game dealer-operated ETGs as products in which “players have choice to select a game to play from a given number of games”. The standards do not limit either the number or the types of games that can be offered under this type of ETG.
Revenue in the Macau market from live multi game products has risen sharply from MOP895 million (US$111.2 million) in 2012, to nearly MOP1.81 billion in the first nine months of 2017, the most recent set of data available, according to the gaming bureau.
The new set of standards also deals with the topic of concurrent play by customers using dealer-operated ETGs. The document sets no maximum on the number of games a player can bet on concurrently using a single terminal.
Commenting on the new rules, the chairman of casino equipment manufacturer Paradise Entertainment Ltd, Jay Chun, said in a press release: “We are delighted to see the release of the standards, setting out objective standards and requirements for the dealer-operated ETG machines, which have been under rapid growth in recent years and are playing an important role in the development of the gaming industry.”
Paradise Entertainment is the parent firm of electronic table games specialist LT Game Ltd. The latter is a very strong player in the dealer-operated ETG segment in the Macau casino market, as LT Game claims it has the only patented multi-terminal betting system for live baccarat available in Macau.
Mr Chun added that Paradise Entertainment was “technically competent” to meet the requirements set by the new standards, and to assist clients to ensure their machines are compliant.
“In future, we will continue to launch new dealer-operated ETG machines and other electronic gaming equipment and systems to provide casinos with more diversified and upgraded products,” Mr Chun added, as quoted in the press release.
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Analyst at Union Gaming Securities Asia