Inventing a New Casino Table Game

So you’ve invented a new casino table game! Good for you. Now what? You’ve got some work cut out for yourself. Fifty years ago the average casino in Nevada had about 200 slot machines, 20 table games, and bingo or keno. Craps, roulette, blackjack, baccarat and the big-6-wheel were the popular games, and that’s the way it stayed until the 1990’s when Progressive Games, Inc. brought Caribbean Poker to the casino market.

Caribbean Poker was the first new table game to achieve success, and the market was just right for it for a number of reasons. Firstly, new gaming regions were opening in several new states, and secondly, the game played on the booming success of video poker, by offering a side bet with a huge jackpot (sometimes up to $250,000) for a royal flush. The timing was perfect, and the game odds were just right for casinos and players.

Today, the game is owned by SHFL Entertainment, which was formerly Shuffle Master. SHFL also owns Let-it-Ride, Blackjack Switch, Casino War, and the ever-popular Three-Card-Poker (oh, and of course they dominate the automatic shuffler market, too). So, a new casino table game inventor has some heavy competition.

The First Step for a New Casino Table Game

So, you’ve managed to take your idea to paper, and now that you have devised all the rules for your new casino table game, your first should be to get some friends to try it out and give it a test drive.

Like your first introduction of the game to a casino manager is going to be, you’ve got about half-a-minute to explain it to your friends and get them into action. If you can’t get their attention and explain the game in 30-seconds, you’re not ready for the first step.

That may sound harsh, but players, dealers, and casino managers have to be able to grasp the game very quickly.

Example: blackjack table game – each player and the dealer get 2 cards to start. You draw additional cards to get as close to 21 without going over and the highest hand wins even money, ties are a push, and If you get a ten-card and an ace as your first two cards, that’s called blackjack, and you win one and a half times your bet. Alright, let’s get some chips. Now explain your game like that. If you can’t, you may need to work on the rules. Keep it simple. Keep in mind that slots are more popular now than table games.

What’s the House Edge?

That’s going to be a big part of your game's success. The casino won’t back your game if they don’t make enough money, and the players won’t flock to it if the odds are too high. The odds at blackjack are about 1 to 2 percent for the house, depending on the players’ ability. In turn, the casino holds about 12 percent of all money exchanged for chips. That’s low. Roulette with a zero and double zero had a house edge of over 5 percent, and the casino holds about 25 percent of all money exchanged for chips. That’s high. Get your game somewhere in the middle and you’ll do fine. Don’t know the odds? Hire a mathematician to get the exact odds, and then run 10 million hand trials via computer.

A hold of 20 percent would be great.

Once you’ve met those two criteria (obviously the game has to have some play appeal – it has to be fun and exciting), you’ll need to hire a patent attorney. According to Roy Ritner, Jr., the inventor of Shanghai Poker, the patent search is a long process and can cost as much as $10,000 or more. In the meantime, you’ve got to get started on marketing.

Marketing New Casino Table Games

Before entering a casino to try and meet with an executive about your game, you will need (at the very least) computer analysis of the game results for those 10 million hands of play, neatly placed in a nice binder of some type to leave with your potential client. You’ll also need plenty of well thought-out, professionally produced, flyers for the game. These should also include table signs, rules of play, and a color copy of your table game layout.

A great PowerPoint or YouTube video is a big help, but keep it short and to the point, showing odds, ease of play, and how quickly the average dealer can master the game.

What you are searching for is a casino that will perform a field trial of your game. In Nevada, you’ll need to fill out a slew of paperwork with the Gaming Control Board, post several fees, wait up to a year for review, and then the field trial can start. What the casino gives up is their time, casino space, and respect, if the product is a flop. In exchange, they’ll try the game for up to 30 days, keep all profits, and expect an excellent monthly rate from you should they decide to keep your game in action if it is licensed. Are you ready? Trial review fees can be under $10,000.

When Derek Webb, inventor of Three-Card-Poker was marketing his game, he tried several jurisdiction before managing his first field trial in Mississippi. Smaller markets are likely to be easier to obtain a trial, and every state has different rules and fees for trials. You’ll spend a lot of time on the phone. You’ll also want to spend time at gaming conventions. There are several each year across the country, but none compares to G2E, the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Beating the Competition

Of course you’ll have to keep in mind what Roy Ritner, Jr. has to say: “The competition is fierce. There are literally hundreds of games that have been approved, but only a tiny fraction of new casino table games make it to casino floors.” Ritner should know, his father was an original Las Vegas casino owner.

Ritner’s Shanghai Poker has had several field trials and some success at properties like the Commerce Casino in California and the Palace Station casino in Las Vegas. The goal is to be confident, make sure your patent is clear, make sure your game is easy to understand, fun to play, and easy for live dealers to handle. Then, you just have to be persistent. For most inventors, the effort will be an enormous disappointment because the success rate is so low, and the expense so high.

Of course there is also a great upside, as Ritner explains, “One success is worth a lifetime of royalties, because a successful game with about 200 tables in casinos could be worth over $2 million a year in licensing fees.” That’s a big apple to shoot for, and there's a new market for online casino table games! Expect to spend $25,000 just getting your patent search, math and simulations, and some marketing materials done. After that, it’s not tough to spend another $75,000 on travel expenses, convention fees, licensing fees, and legal fees. Best of luck!