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3 KPIs to Manage Your Table Games Pricing Strategy

Dec 16, 2021

We have established in the past the importance and impact of a good pricing strategy. The COVID pandemic provided a large-scale case study on increased table pricing, the resulting revenue gains and the absence of the long assumed decline in occupancy due to pricing sensitivity.  

North American Main Floor Market Revenue Compared to 2019 Q1

Figure 1: Average % difference of table game win compared to 2019 Q1

A survey of 35+ North American properties shows a 12% increase in revenues in 2021 Q3 compared to 2019 Q1! To determine the cause of this growth, we turn towards 3 operational KPIs that impact revenues:

  1. Average Table Minimum Bet
  2. Table Open Hours
  3. Average Occupancy

In the next chart below, we can immediately see that table minimums were driven up 36%+ post-Covid. Table pricing that had seen relatively minimal increases over the past several years, if not decades, were now being leveraged to maximize the supply that fell short of demand. The last two quarters are seeing a financial gain due to a relaxation of Covid rules while maintaining table pricing with the additional increase in Open Hours and Average Occupancy. Currently the market is more profitable despite a 20% reduction in Average Occupancy and 10% drop in Open Hours.

This poses the question of how much money was being left on the table in the years leading up to the pandemic?

North American Main Floor Gaming Market KPI Trends Compared to 2019 Q1

Figure 2: Average % difference compared to 2019 Q1

In dissecting the chart, we see four distinctive periods and the operational KPIs impacting revenue:

  • Pre-Covid no restrictions (2019 Q2 to Q4) - Ongoing pre Covid operations, relatively unchanged Patron and Open Table Hours, static table pricing. The static revenues reflect the static operational KPIs.
  • Covid (2020 Q1 & Q2) - North American casino closures end of Q1 through to late Q2. 
  • Post-Covid with significant restrictions (2020 Q3 to 2021 Q1) - Properties reopened, operating with table and gaming spot restrictions driving a 25%+ drop in Average Occupancy vs. pre-Covid. The corresponding increase in table minimums optimized Revenue per Open Hour, servicing the highest quality of available player base with the limited supply. A second wave of closures in certain jurisdictions during this period drove a slight drop in Occupancy/Open Table Hours and Total Revenue. 
  • Post-Covid with few restrictions (2021 Q2 & Q3) - Return to restriction-free operations late in 2nd, early 3rd quarter. Sustained Table Minimum increases lead to overall higher revenue of 9% in 2021 Q2 and 12% in 2021 Q3 than pre-closures, despite a continued decline in Patron and Open Table Hours. Had table minimums not been sustained, where would revenue be? How much money would again be left on the table?

The question for operators now is how to manage table pricing moving forward? Should I try to maintain the inflated table minimums or revert back as Open Hours continue to increase? How do I properly assess my current pricing strategy and how do I evaluate the business and pricing sensitivity on an ongoing basis?

How to Identify your Current Pricing Strategy

The first step that our team here at Tangam takes in understanding a client's pricing strategy is to view the current Open Hours for each game in each area as a percentage of total for a given period. Take a look at the illustration below:

Figure 3: % of Open Hours by Game, Area and Table Minimum Bet

We can identify what price points are offered for each game in the various areas. By adding a splash of colours we can also identify table minimums that are not used frequently. This simple view allows you to quickly identify the following:

  1. What are the price ranges and how often are they offered?
    • BJ 3-2 is primarily offered at $25 or 72% of the time. Otherwise, it is offered either at $15 (16%) or $50 (11%).
  2. Are there Minimum Bet offerings that overlap other similar games?
    • BJ 6-5 compared to BJ 3-2 overlap on the $15 and $25 price points. Is it time to stop offering BJ 3-2 at $15? Does it make sense to push more BJ 3-2 $50 hours when BJ 6-5 is operating at $25?
  3. What are the price ranges and how often are they offered?
    • Why is Four Card Poker only offered at $10 while other Carnival games have multiple tiers?
    • Why is Craps offered at five different price points, do they have such a wide range of clientele?

This table above does an excellent job at answering the first point. Unfortunately as we saw with both question 2 and 3, we fall short to properly answer them with Open Hours alone. These are important to answer since it will help an operator determine if we are leaving money on the table or are we pushing players out the door? 

Simple Pricing Strategy Analysis

Now that we know what our offerings are, it is time to determine if there are any changes that we should make to improve profitability. There are four adjustments that you can make to your pricing strategy:

  1. Scenario 1. Reallocate Open Hours from one Table Minimum bet to another in the same game type
  2. Scenario 2. Reallocate Open Hours from one Table Minimum bet to another minimum bet of a different game but from the same game family
  3. Scenario 3. Introducing a new Table Minimum bet
  4. Scenario 4. Removing or no longer offering a Table Minimum bet

With each Table Minimum Bet offering, we find two important operational KPIs that help understand at a high level if the pricing strategy is effective: Average Occupancy and Empty Table Percentage.

Here is an example of data-driven example that highlights both Scenario #1 and Scenario #2.

Blackjack 3-2

Blackjack 6-5

Pricing strategy modifications to consider:

  1. Scenario #2: Reallocate pricing hours to a different game in the same family. The data is suggesting to add more $15 BJ 6-5 from $15 BJ 3-2. When comparing the Average Occupancy between these two game types are very similar (3.9 vs 4.1), actually showing a slight preference for BJ 6-5. The empty table % also shows that both games are highly sought after and there is no sensitivity at this tier. Consider moving more hours to BJ 6-5 which has a higher house edge.
  2. Scenario #1: Reallocate hours from a lower price point to a higher price point. The data is suggesting to add more $50 BJ 3-2 hours from either $25 or $15 BJ 3-2 price points because of the low empty table % and the high Average Occupancy. Potentially during peak times this should even be busier and we may be pushing out our $50 players.

Here is a different example of scenarios #1 and #4.

Craps

Craps has a spread of five different price point offerings. The operator is trying to be as inclusive as possible to best serve everyone. Our two additional KPIs are allowing us to better understand that this pricing strategy may not be as effective. 

  1. Scenario #4: Removing or no longer offering a Table Minimum Bet. The data is suggesting to no longer offer $5 Craps. The Empty Table % at $5 is more than 3x higher at $5 than $10 and the Average Occupancy is 2x more at $10. The $5 tier is most likely offered on off peak hours but is the $5 pricing strategy really attracting more players during those times? One other data point worth reviewing is the Rated Average Wager to see if this is really attracting players that would not otherwise play. Also by offering $5, it will take the property longer to price up back to $10 or $15 potentially missing out on having the table at the right price. Consider no longer offering the $5 tier.
  2. Scenario #1: Reallocate hours from a higher price point to a lower price point. The data is suggesting that we are pushing $25 players out the door when the table is priced at $50. The $50 tier has more than  2x the Empty Table % and also 2x fewer Average Occupancy. Note that as the Table Minimum Bet increases, we do expect an increase in Empty Table % and decrease in Average Occupancy but drastic changes definitely need an in-depth review. How much do these metrics improve for the $50 tier during peak times? If they do not then consider no longer offering $50 perhaps except on public holidays.

What is your Pricing Strategy?

Casino operators today can appreciate the impact of an optimal pricing strategy as they help move their businesses forward and the North American market has been an excellent case study for this. Now today as we continue, the pricing strategy needs to be continuously reviewed and tweaked as market conditions change. We shared a simple framework with three operational KPIs: Table Open Hours %, Average Occupancy and Empty Table %, that any operator can put in place with the data they currently collect to help make better pricing strategy decisions. As you continue to pull those yield management levers, we always suggest continuously measuring both financial and operational KPIs to validate that you are moving in the right direction.  

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Authors

Patrick Denis

As the Senior Manager of Analysis and Optimization at Tangam Systems, Patrick has been helping clients for over a decade to understand and solve their business challenges and drive performance improvements for their table games operation. He earned a Bachelor of Computer Science at Ryerson University and a Master of Science specializing in Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence at one of the top programs at York University.

Shane Lett

As the Director of Casino Operations Strategy, Shane possesses over two decades of operations and table games management experience in Canadian casinos. At Tangam, he liaises one-on-one with clients to successfully roll out Tangam's optimization products and helps clients all over the world implement data-driven management to achieve their revenue management objectives.

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