Gambling has been evolving since our ancestors started filing down animal bones, eventually ending up with cubical ivory dice. The invention of block printing helped to popularize playing cards. In the 19th century, the telegraph led to the first remote gambling: off-track wagering on horse races. Slot machines have incorporated a variety of technological advances to increase their appeal.
It continues to evolve as I type.
By applying knowledge gained from securities trading to mobile technology, Cantor Gaming is changing the way people gamble.
Cantor has its remote gambling system in three casinos (with a fourth on the way). Known as eDeck at M Resort and PocketCasino at the Venetian and Palazzo, it’s soon to be arriving at the Hard Rock Hotel, as well. The eDeck device, which can be obtained inside the sports books, looks like an iPhone permanently configured for a gambling application. On it, players can wager on a variety of casino games, including table favorites such as baccarat, blackjack and roulette, and a small selection of slot games.
It’s a way, Cantor executives say, of opening up the gambling market within the casino.
“We’re not looking to steal play,” Cantor marketing director Tina Alicea says. “We want to give people who usually wouldn’t play a chance to try something different.”
That’s the key: eDeck offers a fundamentally new way of gambling. Players go at their own pace, without having to worry about dirty looks from other players if they accidentally “steal” a dealer’s bust card by hitting at the wrong time. Nor do they have to wait for the dealer to shuffle, or be hurried by other players. They can bet 20 times a minute or once an hour, and no one will care. And with Xtra Odds, a feature that lets players hedge or press their initial bets as the game is dealt, there are plenty of new wrinkles on these old games.
There’s not the camaraderie of a fantastic run at the craps table, but eDeck isn’t necessarily for loners.
“We see people playing with eDeck while they’re with friends at the lounge or at the pool,” Cantor chief technology officer Sunny Tara says. A group doesn’t have to split up because no one can agree on which game to play.
In-running sports wagering is an outgrowth of eDeck. As a sporting event progresses, bettors can take action on the shifting odds. There are also proposition bets that unfold during the game—the success of free throws in basketball or the outcome of a drive in football—that are only possible on eDeck; by the time a bettor got to the traditional window to place his bet, the play would be over.
Cantor’s eDeck provides gambling for the Twitter generation: quick action and plenty of choice. At M Resort, players can bet between $5 and $500 a hand, anytime; no more $25 minimum blackjack on busy nights. Choice, according to Tara, is the essence of Cantor’s products.
“It’s about giving the player complete control, the flexibility to bet how they want,” he says.
The new approach is apparent in blackjack, where casinos routinely battle “skill” players. Blackjack on eDeck, which reshuffles instantaneously after each hand, is immune to counting cards, though playing perfect strategy shaves the house edge to about one-half of 1 percent. No matter how much you win on eDeck, which allows blackjack players to double down, no one will “86” you for counting cards.
The same is true for sports betting, where Cantor hopes to make up on volume what it loses to “sharp” bettors.
“We welcome anyone here if the price is right,” M Resort race and sports book director Mike Colbert says. By attracting more action on both sides of the bet—something that in-running wagering is designed to do—Cantor’s approach limits the volatility that is the bane of most sports books.
That will likely be the key to eDeck’s success: For now, adding incremental revenue is fine, but ultimately, allowing more choices will let casinos offer better odds and run more profitably.