Classic casino table games have been iconic in the evolution of the gambling industry. In recent years, the rise of slot machines and online gambling has changed the way people gamble. Does that also mean the trends in the popularity of these table games has also changed? According to the Centre for Gaming Research at UNLV, yes.
The Way They Were
Over the past 30 years, major changes have occurred within the gambling industry. Back in 1987, land-based casinos held a strong control over the gambling sector. Las Vegas was king. Atlantic City was the prince. It was just how things were.
Things started to change as gambling became more digitalized. Despite laws such as the 1961 Federal Wire Act and the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act doing their best to stunt the growth of gambling across a number of platforms, it continued to thrive and adapt to the modern world.
The 21st century has not only seen gambling transfer to the online and mobile platforms. It has also seen the rise of other markets. Gambling in Asia is big business now and the likes of Macau and Singapore now offer gambling destinations that can rival the bright lights of Sin City.
However, have these changes in the gambling industry had further-reaching consequences for land-based casinos? Is player behaviour within the casinos now changing with the times?
Welcome to the New Digital Dawn
It seems hard to believe that there was a time when blackjack was the king of the casino table games. In 1987, across the entire Las Vegas Strip, blackjack took a unit share of 75.88% of all games played by players throughout the year. Its closest rival was Craps with 10.53%.
By 2007, that figure had been reduced to 54.97%. Fast forward to the present day and that figure currently stands at 50.86%.
The drop of 25.02% over a 30-year period shows a staggering decrease in the game’s popularity with players at land-based casinos on the Strip.
Blackjack has proved to be one of the most popular casino table games online, alongside Texas Hold’em Poker and Roulette. However, the drop-off had started to happen before the arrival of online gambling. The transition of blackjack to the online and mobile platform has only added to its fall from grace in the land-based casinos.
Unfortunately, as players were able to play blackjack for free at play money casinos the desire to travel to a land-based casino to play blackjack became less appealing. Real-money Internet casinos made the convenience of playing from the comfort of your own home more attractive than playing in a casino full of strangers located miles away too.
Some Games Are Winners Though
In contrast, one game that appears to have benefited from the rise of online and mobile gambling is Baccarat.
As recently as 2004, Baccarat only possessed a unit share of 3.84%. Unbelievably, that figure has now almost quadrupled to 12.18% at the start of 2017.
It would suggest that easier access to playing Baccarat at online and mobile casinos has introduced the game to a wider audience.
Revenue is King
At the end of the day, casino games are all about the profit a casino can make from the,. If a game isn’t making money for the house, the house will not commit to the game.
The amount of floor space dedicated to certain a table game will depend on the revenue it brings in. That is why if a game isn’t performing well in the revenue stakes, it will lose tables. If it loses tables then the revenue is likely to continue to decrease.
On the flip side, if a game performs well, it will have more tables on the floor. The more tables it has, the higher the revenues are likely to be.
In 1987, blackjack revenues accounted for 47.94% of casino revenues across the whole Strip. To give that figure some context, the next game on the list was Craps with a 25.24%.
Baccarat possessed 17.81%, Roulette held 7.30%, and other casino table games made up the remaining 1.71%.
Three decades on and the landscape of the total revenue for each game on the Strip has completely changed.
Blackjack is now only raking in 28.66% of total casino revenue for table games. It’s worth noting that it is on the increase after hitting a low of 23.62% back in 2012. Craps revenue has also taken a huge hit over the past few decades. 2017 figures for craps revenue were down at 8.80%.
In 2017 baccarat has taken over as the biggest money-spinner for land-based Las Vegas casinos on the Strip. 39.70% of the revenue for table games is from the game.
Roulette revenue remains about the same. This could be explained by the game being one of the most favourable for the players on the casino floor. Its small increase to 9.51% could be down to the rise of roulette strategy guides that have appeared online over the past 10 years.
Alongside the rise in revenue for baccarat, revenue from other casino table games is on the up too. Figures entering into 2017 saw other casino table games revenue hit 13.33%.
Without a doubt this has had something to do with Chris Moneymaker’s stunning win at the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event. That victory triggered the global poker boom that saw millions of players take to the poker tables to try and emulate the online qualifier.
Not only was that movement felt online but land-based casinos saw poker revenues increase too.
What Games Will Flourish in the Future?
The statistics give a telling reading into the future of the popularity of casino games. It appears that there will be tough times ahead for blackjack. Casinos are losing faith in the former player favourite.
A number of high profile law suits revolving around the game have cost casinos a fortune. Phil Ivey might have lost his £7.7 million court battle with London’s Crockfords Club but the time and money that went into the legal fight for the casino left a sour taste in the mouth.
There was also the notorious incident of Ben Affleck being banned from playing blackjack for life at the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas.
Yes, blackjack still brings in huge revenue but casinos are losing the heart to keep offering it as its main game. A recent upturn in revenue could well see that attitude alter but it seems that the halcyon days of blackjack ruling the casino floor are long gone.
The rise of Texas Hold’em Poker and other casino games such as Mini-Baccarat, Pai Gow Poker, and Three Card Poker might not bring in the revenue directly but they bring more players to the casino. Casinos know that they can make a profit from those players elsewhere on the floor.
On a positive note, the future looks bright for games such as Baccarat. Even though revenues for the game have dropped off over the past 5 years, the casinos continue to commit floor space to the game.
The online gambling market is expected to be worth $4 billion by 2020 (http://www.cardplayer.com/poker-news/20851-us-online-gambling-market-to-reach-4b-by-2020-research-says) and that will see more players getting a taste for the casino games they might not ordinarily have tried.
Times have been changing for the gambling industry over the past 30 years and that trend looks set to continue for the next 30 years.