A new technology has come to Running Aces Casino, the first of its kind in the state.
The technology, a type of play called dealer assist, is a new type of gaming equipment that visually displays the live game on a screen. Because the game is run by a live dealer with live cards that show up on each console’s screen, it allows players to digitally play the game.
Because Running Aces is regulated through the Minnesota Racing Commission, the approval had to go through the MRC and had to be tested by the Gaming Laboratories International for the consoles. Seven consoles were installed on Oct. 20, roughly a year and a half since the process to get them to Running Aces began.
Now that the consoles are in place, Director of Casino Operations Lynette Blom has seen a spike in interest from new players.
“We’ve seen a lot of people who’ve never played blackjack before coming in,” Blom said. “We also see other players who play on our other games try it out.”
According to Blom and Running Aces Marketing Adviser Tristan Wilberg, the appeal is due to a lowered amount of pressure compared to the table game. One of those reasons is because of a lack of understanding of the game.
“They don’t know it, so it’s scary,” Wilberg said. “If they don’t know what they’re doing, they don’t want to start, so that’s where can we ease that entry.”
The consoles include a help button, which includes a graph of statistically favorable bets for which cards are dealt. It also includes a low minimum bet, partly because of the lowered labor costs.
“We can explore cheaper amounts, like $1 blackjack,” Wilberg said. “Right now, there’s only one other place in the state that you can play $1 blackjack, but they charge a fee to play. So it’s a different market.”
In the future, Running Aces is hoping to expand past the seven consoles, though each additional console must be approved through the MRC. The hope is that the expansion of consoles could further bring down the cost and would offer a minimum of just 25 cents to 50 cents per bet.
There is also a stigma and intimidation in how people play the game that makes the new consoles inviting, as well.
“The No. 1 reason why slot machines are so popular is anonymity,” Running Aces CEO and President Taro Ito said. “You can be in your own space, you don’t have to worry about talking, interacting, being judged, making mistakes. That’s the single biggest reason people like it is because you can escape into your own world. So this game, unlike traditional table games, allows that gaming experience.”
Ito also mentioned that the consoles and way to play the game is more intriguing to younger generations.
“The millennial crowds would rather sit back, socialize with their friends, surf on social media, and maybe place a bet once in a while,” said Wilberg, who also noted that he’s seen people go up to the bar to order food, play a few hands while they wait, and then leave, which is a move that is socially discouraged at tables.
The technology can open up a new atmosphere, something in the gaming world that is becoming known as stadium gaming.
“It’s a system where you can create a whole new atmosphere, almost like a night-club DJ,” Ito said, mentioning the more party-like atmosphere they hope to bring for the millennial crowd.
“The system frees up sort of some of the manual process,” Ito said. “It makes it easier to settle bets, and then the dealer is freed up to be more spontaneous and interactive. So other locations are finding out that with this stadium gaming, the dealer is becoming a personality, like a DJ. They have like a cult following. It’s like a show.”
The technology opens the door for safer financial transactions, as well. When playing, players place their money in the machine, and when they’re ready to cash out, a staff member hands them a slip to cash out at the cage.
Ito is already noticing that dealer assist is drawing in new players instead of just drawing players from games they are already playing. Blom noted that Running Aces is looking to see what other forms of technology they could bring in to offer in other games.
“Currently our guests love to play not just blackjack, and we have a lot of carnival games they like to play,” Blom said. “That’s one thing we’re looking into to bring in different versions of those games.”
Photo by Hannah Davis