Utilization: The Gold Standard of Side Bets
The most important issue involving table-game side bets that the wise casino executive can strive to accomplish is to find ways to maximize side bet utilization. The term “utilization” represents the percentage of main game blackjack players who also wager on the game’s side bet. If 20 out of 100 blackjack players on the average place a wager on the side bet the same moment they place a wager on the main bet, you have a side bet utilization of 20 percent. The higher the utilization, the more profitable the side bet becomes. If you can drive the side bet utilization upward from 20 percent to even 30 percent, this will increase blackjack game revenue and push the hold percentage up as well.
Knowing that side bet utilization percentage is important to the casino. I am always surprised when I ask a group of key table game executives if they know the present side bet utilization, and few people can give me an answer. Identifying your blackjack side bet’s utilization percentage (and average bet amount) and developing a strategy for effectively increasing that percentage is very important and is one of the steps a casino executive needs to take in order to make table game operations more profitable. Following are some ideas on how an increase in side bet utilization can be accomplished.
Get The Players Involved At The Moment They Buy-In
When a customer first sits down on a game, the dealer needs to make sure the customer has the correct denomination in which to place the side bet. If the customer buys in with several hundred dollars and the side bet requires $5 chips, be sure the dealer gives the player $50 to $100 of the buy-in $5 chips. If the player questions the dealer about the lower denomination chips, have the dealer point out the side bet, advise the player that the side bet is quite popular and most players will ask for $5 chips during their buy-in. This procedure directs the customer’s attention to the side bet, provides the customer with the denomination needed to place wagers right away, and also provides the customer with an opening to ask questions about the side bet.
It Is Up To The Dealer!
The dealers are usually the reason why side bets are successful. The dealers are also the reason why most side bets fail. If you do not have the dealers onboard promoting the side bet, you will be fighting an uphill battle. I have seen dealers who believe the side bet is taking away the lower denomination chips that they perceive is their “tip money.” In past situations, I have explained to dealers that the money wagered on side bets is still their money, but it is sitting in escrow. Once the players hit a larger payout or win several side bets during a relatively short period of time, the tips come back to them usually in larger portions. In addition, the dealers need to realize that the side bet is considered a gambling alternative to the main game. Customers who wager on the side bets provide the dealer with a secondary flow of tips which is separate from the main bet in blackjack.
Why Not Advertise?
Advertising of any new promotions or rule changes are important. This also goes without mentioning for blackjack side bets. Both in-house and outside advertising is important. Newspaper, magazine, and even billboard ads can also be “sniped” or altered to include mentioning the side bet. Snipe banners can be included in ads that mention food and hotel specials.
Advertising in-house can be as simple as placing temporary signage on tables, especial on dead games. You can add informational pin-on “buttons” to the dealer’s shirts. “Ask me about the XYZ side bet.” The buttons inspire the customer to interact with the dealer, giving the dealer an opportunity to interact with the customer. This is a perfect time for the dealer to answer any question the customer might have and will remove the barrier people naturally have when faced with something unfamiliar. Do not forget the hotel rooms and restaurant tables. Include a simple promotional ad on in-room brochure, on the informational channel of the in-room television, and on the paper placemats in the restaurant.
Using Utilization as a Measurement Tool
Do you know when your present side bet has run out of acceptance by the customers and time to replace it with another side bet? The best tool to use is your utilization percentage. You need to establish a base-line percentage and monitor its progress from month to month. Start by recording side bet utilization percentage about two months after you have initiated a “new” side bet on your blackjack game. It will take at least that long before interest in the side bet levels off and you can establish a legitimate utilization percentage average. If you establish a level of 25 percent, monitor that average monthly. If the percentage starts to decline, decide how you can “supercharge” or promote the side bet to move it back to its previous level. If that fails and the percentage drops and stays down, it is probably time to look around for another side bet to use as a replacement. Once a side bet slips down to a utilization percentage of 15 percent or less, it is probably time for a blackjack side bet change.