Armed with a new and improved electronic baccarat shoe, The United States Playing Card Company is determined to increase sales and support to Asian casinos
As far as the global playing cards business is concerned, Asia’s where it’s at.
“That’s primarily because of the single use of the decks of cards here,” observes Michael W. Slaughter, President of Global Sales Retail and Casino at The United States Playing Card Company (USPC), one of the world’s leading suppliers of playing cards to the casino industry.
The main reason playing cards can only be used once in Asia is because of the widespread practice of “squeezing cards”— where baccarat players slowly peel back each card dealt to them, usually loudly and emphatically expressing either delight or disappointment as the result is revealed. Card squeezing not only prolongs and heightens the drama and excitement of each round, but importantly, also feeds the belief among many Chinese players that they can influence the outcome of the game by channeling their energy into the cards. That belief, bolstered by the other prevalent belief that the outcome of each round can be predicted by referring to past patterns, underlies the insatiable appetite for baccarat among Chinese players.
Of course, the other big reason casinos in Macau have a much higher propensity than their international counterparts to use each deck only once is the much larger sums involved at their tables. Compromising the integrity of the games at Macau’s tables costs much more than any potential savings from reusing cards. “So from a secure supply chain standpoint from beginning to end, the casino wants to make sure they don’t reuse the card,” points out Mr Slaughter. “And in many markets, North America being one, because of the recent recession, operators are getting more conscious about the cost of their business. So there’s a rampant reuse of cards, which gaming experts would tell you puts a weakness into the security of your games, simply because of the ability to mark a card, or muck-up an invalid card in the beginning.”
USPC has its sights firmly set on growing its market share in Macau, where the appetite for baccarat “has created a 100 million deck market,” according to Mr Slaughter. In pursuit of that goal, the company set up a Macau office in December last year, and in February hired Adam McGregor as its vice president of sales for Asia, based out of that office.
“Our key focus is Macau,” says Mr Slaughter. “We’re counting on Adam’s strength in this marketplace to bolster our understanding of the business and understanding of the market. His previous experiences, for us, were incredibly beneficial because of key relationships that he’s developed.”
In order to compete in the Macau market, USPC also has upgraded its entire baccarat solution, and the core element of that is its all new Bee-Tek™ intelligent electronic baccarat shoe, unveiled at G2E Asia 2012. According to Mr Slaughter, compared to competing products, “The Bee-Tek™ shoe uses a different type of reading and printing technology where the print technology is less vulnerable to degradation over time.”
The new shoe is also more secure, adds Mr Slaughter. “From a security standpoint the unique coding technology with the new shoe solves a number of the shortcomings of previous coding systems having a decreased code area and improved positioning. Providing increased security over our prior shoe.”
Furthermore, the new shoe was designed to have staying power. “We spent more than two years on development of this particular product, so what was really key was vetting the technology, making sure it was viable in the long term for the marketplace, and that it had expandability. So we wanted to make sure the technology wasn’t like in the old days when you bought a piece of software and you couldn’t go to the next level with it. We wanted to make sure that it had an open architecture type platform, so we could expand from there.”
The Bee-Tek™ shoe works exclusively with Bee® brand playing cards. “There’s a reason for that,” explains Mr Slaughter. “That exclusivity ensures that you can have a much more secure game both for the casino and the player, simply because the technology is limited.”
In addition to the strengths of its new shoe, Mr Slaughter believes there’s a basic business rationale for USPC to increase its share of the Asian casino playing card market, which is currently dominated by another single supplier. “I think what’s in our favour is every CEO of every business in the world, what keeps them up at night is constant supply chain. And having limited suppliers can inhibit your ability to grow your business, as well as for you to get the best pricing in the marketplace. But more importantly, as a CEO, you never want to be short of a key product that operates your business. So we feel that even as a secondary supplier into the marketplace, we would substantially grow market share just because of that simple level of support as a secondary supplier. But more importantly, we want to be a primary supplier. We think we’ve got the right product and the right service level to be able to do that. “
The Bee-Tek™ intelligent electronic baccarat shoe