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JCM has introduced an innovation to the gaming floor which could have real, lasting impact on the way table games are accounted. Trident allows the operator to have a bill validator on any table game, which in turn introduces another level of security into accounting, not to mention the myriad other benefits of a validator. JCM’s Gwen Mathis and Tom Nieman talked Casino International through this superior product.
Trident comes in two forms; it can either be embedded in the table, or on the outside of the table, depending on what the customer needs. A simple thing, this choice, but it states in no uncertain terms the thinking that has gone into Trident: what does the customer need? Every aspect of its design and functionality goes back to the casino floor, to consulting with staff at all levels. And it shows in the quality of design and the innovation that is Trident. But Tom Nieman and Gwen Mathis can explain this best of all, as they've been involved in the project since its inception…
Casino International: Why the two designs for Trident, why not make one universal?
Tom Nieman: So much equipment is being added to tables – for example RFID antennae or power supplies for signs and there are no standard universal blackjack table sizes. Also, leg positions are different, whether it's an 'H' leg or a barrel - It's very difficult to know what you're going to find from a real estate standpoint underneath a table.
So that's why we have moved over to something similar to what the shufflers have done with the shelf off the table. It also makes it ambidextrious as it can work either side of the table, to suit the position of the shuffler. From a blackjack standpoint it answers the question and from the roulette standpoint it will go to the right or left of the dealer; on the left it would be between the dealer and the last player position. Most casinos prefer the right but we are in a position to cater for either.
CI: It's a nice design, and the positioning can be right where the drop box usually is – very close to it, certainly.
Gwen Mathis: It's a cash capture methodology, today cash is just paddled down into the drop box. To introduce a new system we had to do it as seamlessly as possible, and make it as easy as possible for the dealer to switch over. He will now be dropping the cash onto a 'bulk note bezel' and it can take up to 30 notes. So instead of trying to feed the money in the dealer can drop the whole bundle. It is tied into the screen at the pit, the podium, and obviously all the data can be collated and seen at certain access areas around the casino, management etc., depending on what you want. For the dealer you only want them to be able to review their pit and the management will review multiple pits.
CI: What security have you built in?
GM: For the first element to bring the table online we use the BJ1. We are using unlock and lock tickets which have zero value to them, and what they do is to lock and unlock the bezel, so to drop money the ticket will have first been used by the dealer to get online. Casinos had mentioned the need to us to stop any internal manipulation to the table when it is not in use and so this is theft deterrent. When the table is not in use it is offline. The regulators love this idea as no transaction can be done when the table is offline. It also gives them a paper trail for when tables are open and closed which they had not had previously.
TN: So BJ1 unlocks the table and then the dealer will put their own ticket in and the system is notified of this. So the guy running the pit knows when tables are open with or without a dealer. The dealer also knows that when he has entered his or her card they are accountable and the failsafe here also allows for the dealer to move tables, if they forget to check out on a table and they check into another table it will automatically check them out of the previous table. Also, if a new dealer tabs in the table will update the system and check out the previous one. The next generation on from barcode will be a mag card reader so the dealer can run it through, this will be RFID so we can also interface with other RFID units for example the chip trays with RFID. So we are capturing all cash events all non-cash events, for example markers and bets and we have all chip inventory then you have real time win. So you can know that, for example, BJ1 is holding 22.8%, it's not an estimate or a feel, you have it on screen; you can know by table, by type of table, by pit, by casino on a realtime basis.
CI: That makes this an invaluable tool even aside from the security aspects. In fact, that makes this a must-have… Then you have the function of the bill validator on top of that.
TN: Now also remember that today the dealer is also the guy that acts as the bill validator; now the device can do it, it can even detect if two notes are stuck together. So the device will take the notes in and tally up the exact amount as they pass through. The table supervisors are going to find that this is useful as they can easily monitor the tables and discreetly check their dealers when walking past as they will be able to see the drop. Or on a very busy day where the dealers will be calling out to the supervisors the supervisors can make sure that the activity is going into the drop when it has been said that it is – security and accuracy goes way up. On the system the supervisor can look at the buy ins, the dealer, the cash, including the amount of notes that are there, which allows for emergency drops of notes of certain denominations. So now you know where every dollar is in every gaming device. In terms of the game the dealer will be more productive with as few interruptions as possible and it's seamless for the client.
CI: What other benefits are there?
GM: Benefits wise, compare it to a shuffler. The shuffler had a direct effect on income as it increased the amount of hands per hour; hands per hour is revenue. This is helping on the operations side saving efficiency rather than revenue – so it's cost savings. The dealer is still doing the same operations so there is no saving there. The supervisor doesn't have to physically check as he can check on screen so this gives him some time back which the casinos have already realised gives him more time to cover the tables more often and to also interact with the customers more. He can then get more people signed up to the players club and pay more attention to the players which is always a good thing.
The real advantage comes when you start doing the drop as dropping a table now becomes like dropping a slot machine, so the drop process gets more consistency across the board. Also when it gets back into your soft count you can use the ICB [Intelligent Cash Box]. Having the cash split from the paperwork is saving 10 to 20 minutes in the count room, per table. Also the notes come out all facing the one way and you have a record of all transactions too. A live report from the pit; the asset number (table no.), the time when it came out, a tremendous amount of information. So accounting will have the live record and the ICB record and the official account, which is what the accounts machine turns in when they count the cash. At this stage you will have the ticket with the drop box so you can directly reconcile what is in the box. A three-way combination to check.
CI: It's easy to see how this would benefit a larger casino, but what about smaller operators?
TN: For smaller casinos who do not have a count room in their house you could actually send the box directly to the bank as it carries all its direct information. So they would take a reading off the box for their records and send it to the bank.
The whole goal was to bring the same mentality that applies to the slots side of the house to the table games. It's the only aspect in a casino that has not been automated and it's been that way for decades so why not use technology to give a real time reading right at the base level of the transaction?
CI: How did the product develop?
TN: We have worked very closely with the industry to ascertain their requirements and key factors. We have been in a beta development mode for a little over 18 months and we have four or five locations with 7,000 live table days and all that information has been feeding back to us and has led us up to the launch of Trident at G2E. So now we are booking orders and scheduling installations and starting January 1st, we started installing.
GM: Some casinos still drop per shift, that's three times a day. There is a lot of extra expense dropping it three times a day - They won't need to as there's a paper trail. You will know exactly what was taken on the day and when.
Another benefit is that, for example, today in Nevada, if you look at all those casinos on the strip, they will have 60 tables each and there will be Monday through Thursday 30 to 40 per cent of those tables closed, they will still have to drop those empty cash boxes as the State doesn't know they didn't open up, which is time, trouble and expense for them. Once our system is online they will not need to physically drop the boxes as they will know when the tables are online or offline. There are huge cost savings there.
CI: What problems do you envisage with people taking on Trident?
GM: The most important thing is that taking a pit from manual to automated is that you need to walk before you can run because you want to bring everybody along with you. If you introduce too much too soon it's mind boggling. So get them use to the hardware for cash capture mode, then add ticket capture then it seems a simple thing as we add more. Also the house can see the information. What you don't actually want to do is to interfere with what actually brings in the revenue.
CI: How do you see this growing? Have you had any feedback?
TN: We think over the course of the next three to five years we will see a significant amount of the worldwide table population and they will hopefully end up with our system. We haven't seen a competitive system to ours, we keep expecting to. We have a significant first in market product for cash capture. When it comes to cash capture we have been doing it for 20 years in the slots and have dominated we have the right brand name to step up and do this. One of the big guys in the industry actually said to us that currently, as you know, the tables are all estimated and that knowing exactly to the dollar what they are going to take to the bank or to keep in the cage is the work of genius. At present they estimate how much money to put in the cage so they can do business the next day and then bank the remainder. He suggested that if he could pull 1% or more than they are currently doing to the bank each day it would be really significant.
Trident is robust and it supplies what the industry needs and we strongly feel that putting in the time that we have has given us a great product.