A number of casino industry equipment suppliers say they have observed a trend of casino players in Asia shifting their interest from traditional live-dealer tables to electronic table games (ETGs) amid the pandemic.
Possible factors include the relative ease of cleaning ETG play surfaces, and the ease of maintaining social distancing rules by keeping alternate ETG terminals switched off. A number of Asian casino operators has reported on the challenges posed by getting players at live-dealer tables to adhere to social distancing rules.
Jim Preston, product director of electronic table systems – Australasia at Scientific Games Corp, suggested in the firm’s recent online event for its customers, SG Asia Summit, there were signs of players having “moved across from live tables to the ETGs”.
He added there had been a “massive increase” in ETG play in Singapore – a city with two casino resorts – versus pre-Covid-19 levels of ETG play. Mr Preston said casino operators had been “very conscientious” about the frequency of cleaning processes on ETG terminals.
Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands casino resort, run by a unit of United States-based Las Vegas Sands Corp, confirmed recently that its live-dealer tables are currently restricted to a maximum of two players, under tightened Singapore rules amid an uptick of Covid-19 there.
Executives from casino equipment suppliers Interblock DD and Weike Gaming Technology (S) Pte Ltd respectively told GGRAsia that they also had seen heightened player interest in ETGs on Asian casino floors.
“There has certainly been a shift from players who usually play at the traditional table games where crowding is expected, to ETGs where they have their own space,” Interblock’s president for Asia Pacific, Michael Hu, told GGRAsia.
He added the change was due to “several factors,” from “government-enforced social distancing for all indoor settings, the self-consciousness of individual well-being” regarding “fear of viral spread; and increased awareness of hygiene,” in relation to touching “physical chips, and cash handling”.
Apart from players’ preference for fewer interactions with other people amid Covid-19, casino firms have had renewed focus on operating costs, a factor mentioned in a number of quarterly earnings calls recently by listed casino businesses with Asia-Pacific interests.
Weike’s regional sales manager Andrew Lim noted to GGRAsia that casino operators may be “experiencing manpower crunch,” or wishing to “minimise their long-term costs from running live tables” relative to the cost of running ETGs.
Singapore, Macau, Vietnam and ETGs
Weike’s Mr Lim said the firm had observed the shift of players from live tables to ETGs in “Singapore, Macau, and Vietnam”, and believed that more markets in Asia could be experiencing such a trend.
“We foresee this trend may continue during and even beyond this pandemic, as players get more used to playing on the ETGs, and operators do also see the many advantages associated with ETGs despite higher initial setup cost,” he stated.
Interblock’s Mr Hu explained that with his firm’s products, it was possible to adjust the distance between ETG player stations of a so-called “stadium” setup, allowing a “1-metre or 1.5-metre gap” or any other spacing required by operators. The firm also offers a product it terms a “protection shield”, for use between player stations, offering a further physical separation of casino-floor customers.
Such fixes had helped “maintain the maximum possible number of ETGs operational” throughout the first year of the pandemic, in 2020, Mr Hu told GGRAsia.
While the Covid-19 pandemic continues, gaming operators and suppliers have been looking for means to adapt existing technologies to the new situation and to keep players entertained, the Interblock and Weike executives respectively said.
Interblock’s Mr Hu stated: “Operators are…looking for creative ways to adapt existing technologies for new uses, such as integrating ETG stadiums with live table games.”
One way of doing that, he said, was to link ETG terminals in a stadium setup to a live-dealer table that would otherwise only be able to host perhaps a maximum of three players. Such product integration also allowed players to enjoy live-dealer interaction, without physical contact with playing cards, gaming chips or cash, the Interblock executive added.
Weike’s Mr Lim observed that what he termed “community games” – such as baccarat, blackjack, roulette, and sic-bo – that would usually be played on live-dealer tables, were often being played by groups of people shifting to ETGs.
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