You can count Mike Sexton, the "Ambassador of Poker" himself, among those who feel the Excalibur's move to an all-electronic poker room last week is a trend that is here to stay.
"I think it's the wave of the future, at least as far as low-stakes games are concerned," Sexton told Casino City on Wednesday. "It just makes so much sense for the casinos and I think once the players get used to it, this is something that could be seen in poker rooms up and down the Strip."
For now, however, Excalibur is the lone property in Nevada to feature a poker room with no real dealers, chips or cards. The last "live action" at Excalibur came on Sunday, Aug. 17. Five days later the poker room reopened with 12 PokerPro tables from PokerTek. The reason given for the change in philosophy was that interest in the poker room at Excalibur was suffering a steady decline the last three years. The hope is that the electronic format will attract online players as well as beginners, who may be intimidated by a standard poker game.
MGM Mirage, which operates 11 casinos in Las Vegas, including Excalibur, said the move wasn't something it expected to see proliferate to its other properties.
"It's a great fit for Excalibur," said Scott Ghertner, MGM's senior vice president. "The Excalibur is a low-end kind of room, as far as stakes are concerned. We think this product fits that group of players."
But Sexton is confident that if the new room is successful at Excalibur, many other casinos will follow suit.
"The problem for casinos is that a lot of the time – especially during off-peak months – they have a bunch of dealers in the poker rooms just sitting around because it's just too hard to predict what kind of traffic you're going to get," said Sexton, a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner who is also known as the voice of World Poker Tour television coverage. "If the casinos can save money on staffing, then they can make more money, and we all know that's the name of the game. And the players don't have to pay as much rake, so it's good for everyone."
Sexton said he was in Australia two years ago and walked into a poker room stocked with PokerPro tables.
"The place was alive with excitement," he remembered. "There were people of all levels playing and having fun. I knew right then and there that this concept was something that would stick around.
"Generally speaking, poker players are pretty much set in their ways," he continued. "They don't like change. I remember when the four-colored deck debuted at the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods [in 1992] and they were all screaming and hollering. But once everybody gets used to a change, they can adjust. That's what I see happening with these tables. I would not be surprised at all to see more and more of them crop up in Las Vegas in the very near future."