Turning the tables on card sharps
Macau's densely packed casino floors and high-stakes gambling are creating special opportunities for makers of sophisticated gaming tables that come with security features to deter cheats.
But casino vendors say nothing can replace old-fashioned vigilance for stopping card sharps aiming to bring down the house.
The Galaxy Waldo Casino recently bought 56 baccarat tables capable of monitoring every move dealers and players make throughout a game.
The tables have been jointly developed by Bally Gaming Systems and United States Playing Cards.
First, a laser scanner reads a bar-code pattern printed in invisible ink on each card, verifying that each one leaving the card shoe is genuine and belongs to the Waldo. Then, when the dealer places the cards on the table, the system ensures they are placed in the exact order they left the shoe.
The table also keeps track of each gambler's bets, recording information used in customer loyalty programmes.
Similar tables are being tested at Sociedade de Jogos de Macau casinos.
Scott Madding, international casino sales manager of United States Playing Cards, said the systems were needed as Macau's casinos had tables that were often packed with people, several layers deep, unlike the more spacious and orderly casino floors in Las Vegas.
Minimum bets are typically higher at Macau's casinos, meaning huge amounts of cash are on the table at any given time. 'It is only in Macau that players have unlimited access to the cards. They can squeeze them, fold them as they want,' Mr Madding said.
But rival card supplier Angel Playing Card said technology did not guarantee maximum security - watchful eyes did.
Angel Playing Cards representative Kazuya Nakashima said: 'There are guards and there is a control room to monitor everything. Gadgets cannot do that work for you.'?