New game revolutionizes Roulette 
Aussie companies spin a straight-up.
Judi Kelly

     Imagine a game that has the traditional qualities of roulette –  the same odds, a real roulette wheel and dealer - the game of pure chance and excitement of the ball landing on a winning number. Add dedicated touchscreen terminals and extended betting features incorporated in a clever, imaginative patent application lodged in countries around the world – and the results are extraordinary.

    The new game of Rapid Roulette has been operating at Melbourne’s Crown Casino for the past few months, attracting queues of both table game and slot players – and all the while, exceeding profitability of their American Roulette tables by more than 75%.

    Rapid Roulette’s benefits have a flow-on effect. The compact unit reduces labour overheads for the casino by increasing the number of betting positions for each game. As it’s semi-automated, there is optimal game play, with the spin rate jumping from an average 36 games per hour to 45. Floor space is also maximized, offering a modular choice of six to 24 terminals per game.

    Indeed, profitability is not the only reason to explain Rapid Roulette’s winning streak. Players can also bet on slot options such as mystery jackpots, progressives – and even quinellas and trifectas, if they’re racing enthusiasts.  Perhaps most importantly, initial indications at Crown’s 350 table, 2500 slot complex show that the players have taken to the game with an absolute passion.

    Following the spectacular success of Rapid Roulette game in Australia, Crown Casino and video gaming company StarGames are preparing themselves for a global assault of the casino market.

    Essentially, Rapid Roulette combines mechanical table gaming with the latest electronic technology to offer the player a multitude of familiar betting options as an adjunct to the century-old game of roulette.

    Rapid Roulette is a simple solution to the on-going battle for casino operators to attract players away from the slots and back to the table.

Increased attraction of table games

    “Rapid Roulette is the first game to apply our patented concept of a table game combined with electronic betting features for the player,” said Andrew MacDonald, Executive General Manager of Table Game Operations at Crown Casino. “Roulette is a single result and has the high odds and payback volatility of gaming machines, and therefore attracts slot players”.

    “In addition, roulette has the ability to cover multiple bet options for a low wager like a slot machine, and from a player’s perspective there’s a pseudo level of skill – even though it’s a game of pure chance.

    “Having spent some 20 years as a casino executive on the gaming floor, we also know a lot of our slot players like the game of roulette,”  he added.

    MacDonald investigated the prospects of semi-automation, full automation or chip-in-chip developments, which allows the operator to track the players and calculate turnover.

    The perfect opportunity to develop the new game came about through StarGames, an Australian public company focused on the manufacture of video games and new opportunities. StarGames had already developed a fully automated roulette game known as Aussie Roulette using touchscreen technology and a central controller.

    Crown, cognizant of its management agreement in Victoria, required a semi-automated game, so that it could be classified as a single table as opposed to a multi-terminal slot machine.

    “A fully automated roulette game is classified as a multi-terminal gaming machine, here in Victoria. Each terminal represents one slot, which is effectively a graphic representation of the live game,” explained MacDonald.

    “Our game of Rapid Roulette is different. We use a real roulette wheel and a real dealer. However, we have an advantage in that we automate the bet process, and add extra functionality.

    “Players can place their own bets via their own terminal. They don’t have to place their chips on a table and find that some other player has grabbed their winnings,” he added.

Background & technical specifications

    Melbourne’s Crown Casino, the largest casino in the southern hemisphere, has a license for 350 table games and 2500 slots.

    In March 1999 the project was approved to reverse engineer Aussie Roulette, and the Victorian regulators were supportive of the concept, particularly with regard to its security aspects from an audit point of view. The mechanical and manual processes associated with traditional roulette no longer apply – although the dealer is still critical to the game.

    Crown was involved with the streamline gaming controller, interface to the dealer and casino management system. StarGames refined the automated transaction station, touchscreen monitor and central controller.

    In simple terms, it’s like a routing operation. The roulette dealer receives cash from the player, enters the amount at the streamline gaming controller which is transferred to the central controller. Within a matter of seconds the information is processed and posted as a credit back to the player’s terminal station.

    The entire development, including a full six months of dedicated teamwork to reverse engineer and develop the game as semi-automated with dealer components, was an astoundingly short one year.

    Testing agency BMM International checked the first complete unit at Crown’s training school, where it was approved in the first quarter of 2000.

    Rapid Roulette at Crown, with 12 betting stations, is classified as a single table game according to the regulatory authorities in Victoria.  The joint venture patent involving Crown and Stargames specifies that the game is based on the “dealer-determined game, dedicated to electronic betting at the table…”.

    The game was first tested at the casino in early June by means of a challenge tournament with 576 selected Crown players competing for a $100,000 prize pool. This was followed by an invitation only celebrity evening with around 400 participants, which was covered by TV.

   Four units, each with 12 player stations, went live two weeks later in mid June. Limits were progressively increased from a $2 minimum outlay as players became more familiar with its functionality and the game increased in popularity.

    “We are still experimenting with different limits from $1 to $20, to establish the best mix,” said Mr MacDonald. The maximum $500 bet equates to a total outlay of $30,000 per game if all spread betting options are taken. “To date, the $10 and $20 minimum outlay tables are performing extremely well,” he added.

    MacDonald acknowledges that the current four units are located in a “dead” area at the far end of the casino, although an additional 12-player station was installed in a high profile location in mid-August. “Due to excess demand, we have purchased another table where there is good traffic flow.” We have also ordered a further 10 tables from Stargames which are expected to be installed in October this year.

StarGames, the manufacturer and marketing representative of Rapid Roulette, has entered into an agreement with John Huxley (Casino Equipment), to distribute the product worldwide with the exception of Australia, New Zealand and North America. The product will be displayed at the John Huxley stand at the World Gaming Congress & Expo in October.

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Judi Kelly
KellyCom Pty. Ltd.
Gaming Consultants

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