Yasushi Shigeta, President and Chief Executive Officer of Angel Playing Cards, describes how the ANGEL EYE shoe safeguards Asia’s all-important game
Baccarat is by far the biggest earner in Macau, the world’s most lucrative casino gaming destination. It is also the saving grace of the Las Vegas Strip, where following the onset of the global financial crisis, baccarat has bucked the overall declining trend to become the highest grossing table game, driven by the insatiable appetite of Asian players flocking to baccarat tables the world over. Clearly, there is too much at stake to risk the game being compromised by security threats, dealer mistakes or manufacturing errors.
Angel Playing Cards Co., Ltd. has emerged the biggest single supplier of playing cards to the global casino industry in large part because it is considered best suited to ensuring the integrity of the baccarat game. It does this by providing not only playing cards manufactured to its highly-exacting standards, but also a revolutionary electronic baccarat shoe, the ANGEL EYE. Over 7,500 ANGEL EYE units have been deployed at casinos worldwide, and they have been very favourably received and embraced in the market.
The ANGEL EYE shoe was the judges’ overwhelming choice for “Best Table Utility Product” in Inside Asian Gaming’s Supplier Awards – 2012. It has revolutionized the game of baccarat in three important ways: i) it has done away with the cheating technique of “card switching”, ii) it has greatly reduced dealer payout mistakes, hence decreasing losses for casinos, and iii) whereas previously game results were recorded on paper, the ANGEL EYE has made it possible to control data management and display the game results on an electronic scoreboard.
IAG spoke to Yasushi Shigeta, Angel’s President and CEO, about the evolution of the ANGEL EYE and his company’s commitment to accuracy.
IAG: Please tell us what led Angel Playing Cards to develop the ANGEL Eye shoe.
Mr Shigeta: Development of the ANGEL EYE electronic baccarat shoe began in 2002. At that time, a few casinos approached Angel and asked us to create a machine to prevent “card switching”— which is a cheating method where the player changes a live card on the table with a concealed card, in order to gain an advantage in the game
Based on these requests from casinos, the ANGEL EYE was developed to prevent card switching, to decrease dealer mistakes, and to detect counterfeit cards.
The first generation ANGEL EYE I was developed in 2003, and was designed to be attached onto a normal baccarat shoe. The rank and suit of the dealt cards and the game result was confirmed, and could be shown on an external monitor.
Building on our experience with ANGEL EYE I, we released the ANGEL EYE II in 2005. The shoe integrated the card dealing compartment with the central processing unit (CPU), and enabled the results to be calculated and displayed through built-in LED lights and LCD monitor on the same device. The integration allowed the shoe to become more secure, with no risk of hacking during data transmission, and forgery of game results becoming difficult.
The market response to the ANGEL EYE II was overwhelmingly positive, with much feedback from casinos informing us that: Instances of card switching decreased dramatically; miscalculation and mis-payouts by dealers due to wrong interpretation of results decreased dramatically.
We were able to meet the requirements the customers had presented to us at the beginning of ANGEL EYE development.
The subsequent generations of ANGEL EYE, such as ANGEL EYE II-EX , ANGEL EYE III, etc., added a new security feature called the “Casino Reference Code” function, which enables the detection and flagging of any cards with incorrect codes. Currently, most Macau casinos utilize the ANGEL EYE with this function.
What are the main differentiating characteristics of the ANGEL EYE (compared with other electronic baccarat shoes) and what competitive advantages do those differences offer?
There are three functional differences, each of which gives the ANGEL EYE a big competitive advantage:
1) ANGEL EYE reads the cards at the external exit area of the shoe, as the cards are being drawn onto the gaming table.
2) ANGEL EYE does not directly read the rank and suit printed on the face side, but reads a code which represents the rank and suit
3) Angel provides a unique Casino Reference Code, which represents specific casinos.
By only reading the rank and suit after the dealer draws the card out from the shoe, ANGEL EYE protects the fairness and integrity of the game for both the player and casino. Because the card is read after the draw, the possibility that the casino side can know the result of the draw before the bets are made is eliminated. Conversely, even if a player attempted to hack the system to obtain the card result, ANGEL EYE would not have read the card before the draw, so the data does not exist beforehand for the player to hack.
By reading codes, it is possible to prevent counterfeit cards from entering the system. As ANGEL EYE reads special codes, it will flag any foreign card as an error. Casinos can rest assured that all cards which are read by ANGEL EYE are legitimate Angel cards.
The unique Casino Reference Code provided by Angel to represent specific casinos enables ANGEL EYE to detect not only counterfeit cards, but also cards which were produced by Angel for other casinos. For example, codes without the casino reference code will be able to be read simultaneously by the shoe, allowing the non-detection of a foreign card (cards with a different code meant for other casinos). For this reason, it is essential that the Casino Reference Code detects a foreign card as an error card.
Angel emphasizes its aspiration is to make products that are 100% accurate. Just how important is that?
If an electronic shoe commits an error once every 1,000 cards, it works out to three to four errors every day on each electronic baccarat shoe. Even if the frequency of errors drops to one in every 10,000 cards, there would still be an error once every three days on each electronic shoe. That kind of frequency would negate the merits of implementing an electronic shoe, and so that level of accuracy [one error out of 10,000] is not sufficient.
Angel goes to great lengths to ensure the ANGEL EYE operates smoothly every single day. In order for the ANGEL EYE to perform stably and accurately, it is important the cards used in the shoe are produced to Angel’s usual exacting standards. The precision of card cutting and code printing is critical. Angel conducts 100% inspection for both the cut and the code print. Striving for our goal of 100% accuracy, all manufacturing processes of ANGEL EYE, from assembly to final configuration as well as inspection before shipment, are conducted in our factory in Japan. Operation checks and inspection before shipment are repeated many times. Inspection and compatibility testing is done using cards with the actual specification as the cards to be used in the casinos.
ANGEL EYE shoes delivered to casinos are serviced by our professional technicians, who monitor the shoes to maintain reliability through regular service and maintenance work. Furthermore, in order to ensure security, even the casinos’ staff are prohibited from disassembling the components of ANGEL EYE shoes. All repairs or upgrades, including software, are managed and conducted by Angel staff only.
The ANGEL EYE shoe