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The games they offer may be old favourites, but multiplayer systems are adding new – and profitable – twists with new technology, reports Barnaby Page

he classic distinction between slots and table games has been steadily eroded over the last decade or so by the increasing presence, and sophistication, of multiplayer systems – table games

represented virtually on screens, but played simultaneously by a group of gamers, often around a physical table.

They have attractions for both players and casino management. Notably, by combining elements of the slot and table-game experiences, they can attract players from both groups – which are often mutually exclusive – and may serve as a halfway house in converting slot players to table games. Going in the other direction, they can also provide some welcome privacy to high rollers, whose play isn’t quite as exposed to the public gaze on a multiplayer system as at a conventional table.

Importantly for the casino, they can also offer a

legal way to provide something close to table games in jurisdictions where only slots are permitted – because even though multiplayer systems may promise games such as Roulette and Blackjack, in essence they are nothing more than rather grand networked video slots, and will tend to fall under the

At a glance: how multiplayers work

Multiplayer games are electronic versions of

table games. Players interact with virtual on- screen versions of gaming elements such as cards and chips, often through a touchscreen interface, and also use a screen to place bets, raise stakes and so on. Typically, each player has their own dedicated interface for the actual betting process.

Often the players sit round a physical table

as they would in a conventional game, deliberately resembling a classic casino table and accommodating half a dozen or more participants, although many systems also

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allow play from individual terminals or even from remote sites.

Even in these cases, however, the players are still participating in the same game – this is a key difference between multiplayer games and server-based gaming, where players’ terminals are connected on a network but each game is usually an individual event.

There may be a live dealer, either physically

present or shown on-screen. In the latter case, the system frequently incorporates a larger screen showing dealer actions.

Blackjack, Roulette and Poker are the most common games offered on multiplayer systems, although many others are available.

Significant benefits for casinos deploying

these systems include faster play, reduced staffing requirements, improved security, and sometimes a solution to regulatory problems, as multiplayer systems are often treated as a form of video slots rather than a type of table game.

rules governing those. Like other networked gaming systems, such as

server-based slots, they also allow game play and outcomes to be monitored, and games to be quickly changed. Layouts are highly configurable, too; although it is common for multiplayer systems to place players around a real table for visual (and social) effect, that’s not essential to their operation, and individual terminals or unusual layouts can also be employed to maximise the effective use of casino floor space.

Some multiplayer systems combine digital gameplay with analogue elements such as real roulette wheels or dice. Many also offer side games that individual players can try at the same time as the main game.

Most major gaming vendors offer

multiplayer systems, typically complementing their conventional versions of the same games.

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