Keeping Live Dealer Tables Alive Through Creativity

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The pandemic brought some abrupt and sweeping changes to casinos. Social distancing limited the number of people that could play at one time, and for areas like table games which involved live dealers, one of the side effects was a raising of minimums to account for the reduces number of players, and the more expensive cost accordingly of offering games.

But the minimums never really went back down. Table minimums in most casinos remained elevated since, and it’s taken games that were accessible to some bettors and pushed them away.

I’ve been one of them. For awhile I was pretty into craps, especially when I could find a $5 table. I didn’t mind a $10 table, and $15 generally is a stretch (although I had the odd good run on it at Caesars Palace a couple of times). But $25 minimums on Craps is not unusual nowadays, and for a game where you want to generally make more bets, that can just get out of hand quickly.

On Blackjack, $5 and $10 tables have given way to $15 and $25 tables much more often. Carnival games may still have lower minimums, but often you have multiple bets that can quickly drive up the per hand cost in other ways.

Are live tables going to become something only those with bigger budgets can afford? Well, no, thanks to other changes going on in the industry.

An inevitable part of the casino floor revolution has been the slow removal of table games and their being replaced with electronic tables. This allows casinos to offer lower stakes than can be afforded at live dealer tables. But is that the only way?

Fortunately, no. Even in markets like Las Vegas you can still find $10 Blackjack, whether at the off-strip OYO or more locals-focused casinos like Rampart ($10 3:2 Double Deck Blackjack was a wonderful find last time I was there).

Craps is tougher, of course, because of the need for more employees to set up bets and watch over the table. Where a Blackjack table can serve six players with one dealer, an average Craps table can serve 12 players with four staff. When you don’t have a consistently busy craps table that can be an expensive burden to bear.

I was heartened to see the Four Queens experimenting with a baby craps tub – effectively it’s half size, only requiring two employees. It’s not exactly the same as you don’t get the experience of a long table to roll the dice, but it still keeps the original idea alive.

Aruze brought out a product called Roll to Win Craps that merged technology with one live dealer – no chips, just a big table, touchscreens and dice. (Oh, and a massive, bright and obnoxious LED screen under the table in a characteristically Aruze way.) There were problems with that approach, but it seems likely that technology will take over the chip counting and betting parts over time, limiting the live portion to managing the game flow, whether the dice rolling or the card dealing.

At least that still keeps the spirit alive of the approach, even if it speeds up the game, putting more money at risk vs. the more traditional live table dealing. But it’s great to see various ideas being put to the test in an effort to keep it alive.

It’s just not the same experience playing solo at an electronic craps or Blackjack station, and even stadium Blackjack and other solutions like it feel more sterile and less social. Vegas and casinos inevitably evolve, but the goal should be in part to maintain the social environment that made it so fun to begin with.

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