Table Games: Are You Missing Out?

Table Games: Are You Missing Out?

With slots so competitive these days, Lee-Ann Johnstone asks if the time has come to look again at table games, where the evolution of new game variants and side bets are revolutionising the space.

Published 24th April 2016

Following the London Affiliate Conference (LAC), I was surprised at how much I learn, and continue to learn, each time I go. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m all about mingling with “authentic “people who are passionate about their business as well as this industry. I have a lot of time for people who are happy to share their knowledge freely - as I do. Working for a payment processor in the iGaming space affords me the opportunity to visualise the market quite broadly. Bearing witness to diverse conversations at events is a real privilege for me, especially as I’m personally involved in fostering affiliate growth.

So…what did I learn at LAC?

Despite being involved in iGaming for over 15 years, I came away from this year’s event realising I don’t actually know everything there is to know about gambling! I discovered there are micro environments growing within each gambling channel and there are still valuable opportunities to increase revenue all around us. We just need to know where and how to look. I spoke to a variety of interesting people about this particular topic during the course of the event and I have pulled the threads of these conversations together to open up a potential opportunity, which some might have missed. I learned a lot about table games and the evolution of side bets within these games. I heard how table games continue to provide a valuable opportunity to increase revenue in what is already a very competitive market. I learnt some fascinating facts that make me want to question why table games have long been considered the “poor cousin” of slots, and to question why this should remain the case now that new game types and side bets in particular are revolutionising the sector.

Table games, you say?

It appears that table games have in the past 10 years, largely been disregarded by both affiliates and operators in terms of being a viable, niche revenue opportunity. I did a bit of research and found that outside of traditional blackjack, poker and roulette, there is very little detailed material available on the subject of table games or side bets. There don’t appear to be many sites dedicated to explaining and reviewing the side betting games that now exist within these traditional table games. This all seems at odds with the fact that there has been a major change within the table game market in recent years as the casino industry ( both online and land-based) has seen the rapid adoption of many new table games and blackjack side bets in this sector. Having worked at various casino operators in the past, I can validate that table games never were a priority to market. Slots have remained an acquisition marketer’s focus as they have traditionally driven a higher portion of revenue and have more content and promotion appeal: new games are launched frequently and graphics are becoming more and more sophisticated as development improves the game technology. But, herein lies a problem...Most casino operators have the same games suite, customer support and loyalty schemes, making it difficult to really differentiate their brands to acquire and stand out from the competition. A “blast marketing” approach still seems to apply, instead of delving a bit deeper to segment and target more niche players.

Why is this?

The short answer: part misconception, brand mis-focus and a touch of ignorance regarding the micro evolution of games and technology that is now underway in this channel.

Did you know:

  • The table game sector makes up roughly 40% of casino revenues?
  • Roulette and blackjack make up 70% with poker against the dealer, baccarat and “other” table games capturing the other 30%?
  • Online casino NGR in 2015 was circa €8bn and table games (and side bets) therefore make up €3.2bn?

No, nor did I!

These numbers are, far too significant to ignore, and demonstrate that we have not paid enough attention to the evolution that has been taking place in both the game mechanics and the enhanced returns they now provide. Traditional blackjack pays out a theoretical RTP of 99% - 99.6%. The many different versions of the traditional game tend to consist of only minor variations such as how the cards are dealt, what hands you are allowed to split or what cards you can double down on. The fundamentals are the same, and you will get some people who are prepared to bet and win big, but after a while the game becomes a little dull. Understandably, if someone plays this game well, it could have a very big negative impact on an affiliate’s revenue and is probably one of the main reasons why a wider berth has perhaps been given to this niche area.

What’s changed then?

The evolution of differentiated lowstakes, high-win side bets that have been introduced on casino games platforms. Popular blackjack game variations such as Perfect Pairs now provide a 6.11% house advantage (93.89% RTP). This means a huge amount of incremental win over a month or a year for the house, and potentially a larger percentage of revenue share for the affiliate who referred that player to the game. The availability of a side bet housed within traditional table games has become so successful in terms of increasing revenues that it is now common place to see not one, but two or more variations of side bet provided for each hand. I believe the popular “6 in 1” game even offers a game with six side bet variations and up to 21 opportunities to win on each deal. Side bets now provide an enhanced return to the house over standard table games, but because of the way casino merchants calculate NGR on player activity coupled with the negative roll-over policies that still exist in some casino affiliate programmes, table games are now possibly missing out on additional marketing focus and brand support from the affiliates who are able to niche target these players directly online. Consider that technology is changing rapidly and table game ideas and designs are changing alongside these advancements. This means a totally new generation of table games players are coming through the ranks who are hungry for fast-paced action and decision and skill-demanding games. Coupled with that, table games technology is now highly geared for “snacking” clientele, on the go and on their mobile.

The big question: are you missing an opportunity?

We know that table games players are different to slots players; however they are still viable revenue-generating customer segment, yet don’t seem to be on anyone’s radar. Could they be overlooked as a strong value proposition? Considering the recent changes Google made to their search layout, which has been geared towards optimising search results for a mobile view, does this provide a key opportunity to rethink table games players as part of a disruptive casino marketing strategy?

  • If you are an affiliate – could you take a bit of time to see what opportunities really exist on the back of this information in order to expand your traffic-driving capabilities? You may want to start talking to your affiliate account managers at various casino brands to try and differentiate your commercials for targeting these sources of good quality, high-value casual gamers and work together to build a profitable partnership in this space. Clearly there is value to be had here with not that much competition at present. There is a footprint to be made in this channel - is now the right time to go make it?
  • If you are an operator – are you taking note of sector trends, do you see the player stats and data internally and can you make use of this growth to differentiate your brand? Is there an opportunity to grab some market share in this realm of high-value players (probably at a cheaper cost than traditional slots-targeted members)? If you’re offering a mobile-optimised platform, should you be ignoring this segmented value-driving audience? We all know that finding ways to diversify your product/brand offering in one of the most competitive gaming niches is probably not going to be time wasted. Partner with your affiliates, as well as your games suppliers and payment solutions providers, to create marketing strategies that can work together to enhance this lucrative segment or at least help differentiate your casino brand and create a successful business case to support it.
  • Timing is everything, so be sure to look out for niche opportunities where you may have overlooked them before. You never know what could happen!

“Popular blackjack game variations such as Perfect Pairs now provide a 6.11% house advantage (93.89% RTP). This means a huge amount of incremental win over a month or a year for the house, and potentially a larger percentage of revenue share for the referring affiliate.”

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