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Poker News: November 28, 2007

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Copyright © Report on Business

HEADLINE: E-table shuffles poker dealer toward the door


Poker is a necessary annoyance for casino executives.

Televised tournaments and pop culture references have made poker a player favourite, but the games, in which players bet against one another, don't make much money for the house.

A startup company from North Carolina is trying to change that with electronic poker tables called PokerPros that don't require live dealers. These tables, which debuted in 2005 but aren't yet offered in Nevada, have big implications for the casino industry.

Because electronic tables play faster than traditional games, they can increase what the casino takes from the pot over time, yielding a profit that more resembles that of other, more lucrative table games. They save labour costs by replacing dealers with a computer that deals electronic cards to players on a flat screen much like Internet poker games. And these games don't require shuffling machines and aren't subject to human error.

That prospect might be a few years away on the Strip but it's catching on elsewhere, PokerTek Inc. chief executive officer Christopher Halligan said.

"That people like to touch cards and interact with a dealer seems like a common sense assertion," said Mr. Halligan. "But it's false."

Unlike in, say, blackjack, poker players rarely interact with dealers, and many players, from the young ones familiar with online games to old-timers, prefer the speed and efficiency of electronic games to the paper and felt version, he said.

Seven U.S. casinos, Carnival Cruise Lines cruise ships and even some Macau casinos have opted for the electronic tables, which are now undergoing testing with the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Mr. Halligan says casinos could charge a higher fee for the option of a live dealer similar to banks that have charged customers for using tellers instead of ATMs. PTEK (Nasdaq) rose 44 cents (U.S.) to $7.25.

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Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on November 26, 2007

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