SugarHouse dealer invents easier game of craps

Thomas McCann (left) demonstrates Props & Hops, which simplifies craps by reducing the types of bets. His supervisor, Mark Grochala, took the idea to a SugarHouse boss.
Thomas McCann (left) demonstrates Props & Hops, which simplifies craps by reducing the types of bets. His supervisor, Mark Grochala, took the idea to a SugarHouse boss. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 01, 2014

Call it craps for the Google generation.

Props & Hops is a new game at SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, where Thomas McCann, a table games dealer, has experienced a much younger crowd than he was used to during nearly three decades in Atlantic City.

McCann, 52, had the idea of simplifying craps - a complicated game of dice with multiple ways to wager - after seeing multitasking young gamblers wanting to "talk on their phones and try to gamble at the same time," he said Tuesday.

"They don't have patience like players did in the past," said McCann, who has worked at SugarHouse since it opened in September 2010.

McCann mentioned his idea of simplifying craps by focusing a game on two types of bets - proposition bets and hop bets, which is where Props & Hops got its name - to his shift supervisor, Mark Grochala, one day in late 2011.

Proposition bets and hop bets are relatively simple one-roll bets in craps, which means the outcome is known quickly. Genuine craps includes confusing combinations of multi-roll bets that are tough to follow while tweeting.

McCann said he dropped the idea after that single conversation, but Grochala did not.

He took the idea to Rose Cook, SugarHouse's vice president of gaming, who gave Grochala and McCann guidance on what they had to do to get the game onto the casino floor.

"It seemed like a good opportunity to introduce a part of the [craps] game to people to help get them into the bigger game and take that intimidation factor out," Cook said.

Cook, who worked at the Borgata in Atlantic City for seven years before moving to SugarHouse before it opened, helped launch a game for a supervisor there, she said.

It's not unusual for casino workers to have ideas, Cook said: "I think people who watch these games or deal these games day in and day out, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, they do have ideas. It's rare that somebody follows through on their idea."

It wasn't easy, McCann and Grochala recalled Tuesday during an interview in the Refinery restaurant at SugarHouse.

For help, McCann turned to a Mount Laurel accountant he knew from his days at the Claridge, when he was in charge of distributing tips to dealers and used the accountant to help oversee the process.

After multiple checks to lawyers (for a total of less than $50,000), McCann and Grochala had a company, called ShftMgr L.L.C., that was approved as a licensed vendor by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board last June. The board officially put Props & Hops on the books by approving temporary regulations the same month.

Gaming board spokesman Doug Harbach said he did not know of any other casino employees in Pennsylvania who had games approved in the state.

A "soft launch" of the game started April 1. SugarHouse, which is gearing up for a $155 million expansion, has the game exclusively until Oct. 1, when McCann and Grochala can start leasing it to other casinos.

McCann and Grochala are optimistic that they have come up with a simpler form of craps. In the first month, "there have been repeat customers, which is a sign they like it," McCann said.

For SugarHouse, one possible outcome is that Props & Hops will help it gain more full-fledged craps players.

"It makes a very difficult game easier. You can learn it in bites," said Wendy Hamilton, SugarHouse's general manager.

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