Sands Bethlehem Experiments with a 150 Electronic Table Game Stadium
The Sands Bethlehem Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania opened the US’s largest live electronic table games room last week. Players who have visited the gaming “stadium” are calling it the future of gambling. So are officials at the Sands, which is owned by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas casino company, the Las Vegas Sands.
Sands executives have invested in the electronic table games because they are trying to lure younger gamblers to their facilities. The stadium is meant for millennials, who are tech savvy and averse to playing slot machines.
Hybrid table games offer the fast pace of slot machine gaming with the more thought-provoking feel of a live dealer game. Electronic gaming tables offer blackjack, roulette, or baccarat to gamblers willing to sit at the station and play. Designers want to offer younger players an experience similar to what they had growing up: gaming in comfort and without a lot of company.
One Player’s Reaction
Early feedback has been positive. Matt Weissman, a 29-year old resident of Cincinnati, snapped a photo of the gaming stadium and sent it via text to his brother. Weissman said to his brother, “Dude, you gotta check this out. Biggest collection of [hybrid table games] I’ve ever seen.”
The Morning Call, a news publication from Allentown, depicted Weissman’s reaction as a common thing. American casinos have been concerned in the past few years, because gamblers in the millennial generation have less interest in slot machines. They see them as boring, because they have no element of skill.
Meanwhile, the hybrid table games have become a factor in Asian casinos, especially in the cities of Macau and Singapore. In those gaming capitals, slots row is not the factor it has been in the United States and Australia, where slots (or pokies) general 70% of the revenue. Asians prefer live table games, but when they play at gaming machines at all, they prefer the electronic table games.
Asian Gambling Habits
It is no coincidence that Sands Bethlehem is experimenting with the electronic gaming stadium. Las Vegas Sands Corp became the biggest casino company in the world, based off of its vast operations in Singapore and Macau. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and the Venetian Macau in China are two of the largest casino operations in the world. Las Vegas Sands has seen the growth in popularity of these games first-hand.
Competitors are experimenting with the machines, too, but those casinos have bought a few dozen. Mohegan Sun near Wilkes-Barre added 20 of the hybrid machines. Parx Casino in Bensalem bought 50 electronic table games systems. Each of those are solid investments, but nothing like the Sands.
Sands Bethlehem’s Decision
Sands Bethlehem closed down Infusion, its failed juice bar, and made space for 150 machines. At a cost of $5 million, the Philadelphia-area casino now has the largest hybrid gaming stadium in North America. Sands CEO Mark Juliano said his casino hired 40 new employees to help run the new gaming station.
Juliano said his casino wanted to become known as the place for electronic table games. He told Mcall, “We thought about phasing it in, but decided if we’re going to do it, let’s do it big and let’s do it right. We figured it would take something this size to create an energy — to make it a place that people gravitate to.”
Reasons eTable Games Could Fail
Being the early adopter has its risks. First of all, any bugs which occur could hurt the gaming station’s reputation, which could hurt Sands Bethlehem’s reputation among an important set of potential gamblers. Millennials are known for complaining loudly on social media if something offends or annoys them.
Also, the electronics might work perfectly and people still might not enjoy the gaming style. At the end of the day, people are still playing blackjack and roulette and they’re doing so against a house edge. Millennials might decide they simply prefer to play video games, online games, or smartphone games. Even if they want to gamble, they might prefer mobile casino games.
Sands Bethlehem thinks it is going to be a popular option. Others in the Pennsylvania gambling industry are keeping an eye on the experiment, ready to make adjustments if the electronic table games stadium is a hit.
Speaking of the other casino operators in Pennsylvania, Richard McGarvey of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said, “You can bet they’re all watching to see what happens at Sands. If this turns out to be popular, they’ll all want them.”
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