As an avid crap player and ex-dealer, I’ll admit to being somewhat intrigued by the development of electronic craps.
Aruze, Interblock, and no doubt other companies have started to create and sell these gambling machines. I’m sure their thinking included some or all of the following: 1) The electronic version could be a training ground for new crap players, who would then gravitate to the real thing. 2) The game would allow small casinos with limited table games to at least offer a version of craps without the significant staffing and operational expense. 3) The electronic games might redistribute, or add to, the gambling budget of existing traditional crap players. And 4) The electronic versions might allow operators to skirt regulatory restrictions that ban or limit craps. It all seems like solid thinking to me.
When I’ve played these games over the years, at gaming shows in demo mode or in live casinos for real money (usually after going broke at a real crap game), I’ve been less than impressed. The game just didn’t have the same excitement of the table game, for reasons I’ll suggest later.
But recently, I did a Customer Experience Audit for a casino client that entailed being a typical customer of that hotel-casino. It wasn’t what I call “The Police Blotter Shopper Survey,” where someone comes in and points out mundane things like employees not wearing name badges and full ashtrays (hey, you can do those things yourself!). No, this Customer Experience Audit was designed to uncover frustrations, and highlight joys, as I was their “customer.”
This client casino doesn’t have a crap table in a traditional table-game area. I was afraid I wouldn’t be playing craps on the visit, but then I noticed an electronic game right next to the pit. “Better than nothing,” I thought. The game (which I later found out was made by Interblock) had multiple player stations and each had a single player rolling (or rather “bouncing”) his and her own dice at a private table for one. To make a long story short, I ended up playing nearly 12 hours (over three days) on this game, won some money, and thoroughly enjoyed it, a big surprise for this five-decade crap veteran.
Originally, I was going to use this commentary as a cautionary tale for table-game operators, pointing out this looming “electronic crap threat” and spurring them to meet the competitive challenge by improving their live crap playing experience. Then I thought, no, I should suggest ways that the electronic table-game manufacturers could make their emerging crap games even better, not as a gaming industry wonk, but as a highly experienced player. As is often the case, I decided to do both, suggesting ways to a better experience for both table-game operators and game developers.
All Crap Games’ Pros and Cons (Traditional or Electronic)
- Craps generates excitement
- Craps has a wide variety of bets
- Craps has some particularly good bets for the players with a low house advantage
- The game has a perceived aspect of controlling your own fate, by players each rolling the dice
- Long-shot bets offer big payouts
- The game can move quickly
- The game has a unique history, with its own language and traditions
- Losing crap rolls can have winning results at the same time
- A player can win money quickly
- A player can have small minimum bets and large maximum bets
- Craps is confusing and challenging to learn how to play
- The game can move slowly
- A player can lose money quickly
- Many casinos don’t offer craps
Traditional Craps—Specific Pros and Cons
- Friendly and helpful dealers can make for a great playing experience
- A good crap game can energize an entire casino area
- Staffing levels can be adjusted to fit the number of players
- Rules and protocols can help a crap game run smoothly
- Minimum and maximum bet levels can be adjusted easily to fit the level of play or the volume of business
- Slow shooters (“dice setters”) can negatively impact the pace (and profitability)
- Unfriendly and unhelpful dealers can make for a lousy playing experience
- Unknowledgeable, demanding or rude players can negatively impact the playing experience
- “Gestapo-like” application of the rules and procedures can dampen the playing experience for all players
- Over time, dealers and supervisors can begin to have more positive interactions with themselves than with players
- There is no seating at the game
Electronic craps specific pros and cons
- A player at the electronic craps playing station always “rolls” their own dice and can play as fast (or as slow) as they want
- There are no betting chips to fumble with
- Payouts every dice roll are computed instantly and accurately
- The game feels like “your own private craps game”
- The cashout at the game is fast and a convenient ticket is issued for easy redemption at a kiosk or the cage
- The female voice in the game that announces results and encourages bets becomes monotonous and annoying, and some of the dice calls (“7 Out, Cold Dice and Warm Beer,” e.g.) are inappropriate
- Mechanical or software glitches can bring the game to a halt, necessitating a time-consuming process to locate a slot mechanic to fix the problem
- Slot mechanics seem to not yet be fully versed on the repair and maintenance of these electronic craps games, which, being relatively new, do not yet receive a lot of play
- The craps monitor screen is loaded with a confusing array of different possible bets, with no clear way to understand them or make them
- “Looky-lous” can hover uncomfortably over electronic craps players
- Odds bet offerings seem less generous than a traditional craps game
- Some player strategies (e.g., odds working on the comeout roll) are not possible in the game
My (free) advice to electronic crap developers
After many years of doubt, I now believe you have an electronic game with great potential. Keep working diligently on improving the playing experience through the touch screen and voice-overs. Engage an expert to keep improving the authenticity of the playing experience. Look for ways to provide meaningful instruction for potential players of electronic craps and for marketing angles for casinos to get their existing players to try the game. Sell the game to table-game (not slot) executives as a complement, not a threat, to their existing business. Create a trained electronic table-game expert on the staff of the casino that fully understands how the whole game works and knows how to fix any problem. Finally, go directly to players to “sell” electronic craps (I’m not sure what that looks like), because if players like it and ask casinos for it, you’ll have more executive casino buyers for your product.
My (free) advice to table-game operators
Accept that electronic craps is here to stay and look at the ways it can help your business. Work with game manufacturers to develop integrated marketing strategies. If you have traditional craps as well, train and motivate your dealers to provide enhanced player-focused service, so players who got their feet wet at electronic craps are welcomed to the crap big leagues of live play and become avid at both. Don’t just slap your electronic craps down in some obscure casino nook or cranny and expect it to take off. Rather, do everything you can to ensure its success.
In summary, craps is arguably the most fun game in a casino, or at least it should be. No longer the bastion of WW II veterans, craps appeals to fun-seeking Millennials and thrill-seekers of all ages who like a challenge in their casino games and are bored by continuously pushing a slot button. While new table games continue to come across the casino landscape, don’t forget the old warhorse—electronic or otherwise.
Earlier posts by Dennis:
- My top 10 casino pet peeves
- Service you can trust. Really.
- I Need Help!
- Top 10 things casino players hate
- Making lemons out of lemonade
- David Kranes: The most unappreciated man in gaming
- Two Dinosaurs Walk into a Bar
- The magic of Barona
- My Top 10 big-picture casino-industry trends
- I am your customer
- The Rad Bar — If I owned a video poker bar
- Stop eroding player value
- What? You’re still alive?