She Has a Pretty Face But No Heart

Robot deal­ers at casi­nos could shave la­bor costs Can non­hu­man deal­ers “tap into the gam­blers’ psy­chol­ogy”?

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - Companies/industries - −Daniela Wei

The croupier has an hour­glass fig­ure, an un­flap­pable man­ner, and a friendly face. Yet it’s un­cer­tain whether Min, a would-be dealer, can win over the hearts and minds of finicky gam­blers. That’s be­cause Min is a robot in­tro­duced at a casino trade show in Ma­cau in Novem­ber. Min’s cre­ator, Par­adise En­ter­tain­ment, a Hong Kong-based man­u­fac­turer of gam­ing ma­chines, says the de­vice could help the big gam­bling palaces cut pay­rolls and even open new mar­kets.

Par­adise En­ter­tain­ment Chair­man Jay Chun says scan­ners lo­cated in card shoes—the boxes where shuf­fled cards are stored be­fore deal­ing—en­able his ro­bots to rec­og­nize the hands that have been dealt. The bots are also more ef­fi­cient at deal­ing cards, typ­i­cally dis­tribut­ing 30 per­cent more than a hu­man can in any given pe­riod, says Chun, who de­clined to say how much they will cost. More ad­vanced mod­els will in­cor­po­rate face-recog­ni­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties so cus­tomers, es­pe­cially high rollers, get more per­son­al­ized ser­vice, such as be­ing greeted by name or even spo­ken to in their na­tive tongue.

One po­ten­tial mar­ket for the de­vices is the U.S., where casi­nos’ la­bor costs are pro­por­tion­ally higher than at es­tab­lish­ments in Asia. Chun says Par­adise En­ter­tain­ment is talk­ing to pos­si­ble over­seas buy­ers but didn’t iden­tify them.

Elec­tronic ta­ble games with­out deal­ers are a grow­ing seg­ment of the North Amer­i­can gam­ing in­dus­try, says

Christophe­r Jones, a se­nior gam­ing an­a­lyst at Union Gam­ing Group. In­stalling elec­tronic ta­ble games such as bac­carat, roulette, and the Asian dice game sic bo can help casino op­er­a­tors re­duce their staffing needs on low-stakes games and dur­ing slow pe­ri­ods. Also, Jones says, novice cus­tomers may seek out au­to­mated ta­bles to avoid em­bar­rass­ment if they make a mis­take.

Ro­bots can be a good so­lu­tion in gam­bling ju­ris­dic­tions where real deal­ers are banned, says Car­los Siu, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Ma­cao Polytech­nic In­sti­tute’s Gam­ing Teach­ing and Re­search Cen­tre. Gent­ing Malaysia’s Re­sorts World Casino in New York City, for in­stance, uses elec­tronic ta­ble games to get around state gam­bling laws that bar hu­man deal­ers, Jones says.

In Ma­cau, the world’s largest gam­bling hub, ma­chines are less likely to pass muster. Asian cus­tomers are more in­clined to gam­ble in a noisy and crowded en­vi­ron­ment, pre­fer­ring to ban­ter with their dealer than to sit in front of a ma­chine that pro­vides no hu­man en­gage­ment, Siu says. “Gam­blers of­ten slam the ta­ble and shout loudly to pump up the mood,” he says. “I’m not sure if ro­botic deal­ers can tap into the gam­blers’ psy­chol­ogy cor­rectly and give an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse.”

Be­sides, a slow­down in Ma­cau’s gam­ing in­dus­try may re­sult in an over­sup­ply of hu­man croupiers, Siu says. Un­der Ma­canese law, only res­i­dents of the Chi­nese ter­ri­tory can be hired for such jobs, and lo­cal unions have lob­bied the gov­ern­ment to main­tain this re­stric­tion. Even so, Hanson Ro­bot­ics has sold one of its ro­bots— which is in­ter­ac­tive and can make fa­cial ex­pres­sions—to a Ma­cau casino op­er­a­tor, says Jeanne Lim, the Hong Kong-based com­pany’s chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer. She de­clined to say which com­pany bought it. The bot­tom line Robot deal­ers in casi­nos can han­dle 30 per­cent more cards in a given pe­riod than their hu­man coun­ter­parts.

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