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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Casinos Can Get Beaten at Their Own Games!

25 April 2000

Every month the Illinois Gaming Board, the regulatory body for riverboat casino gambling in this state, publishes a report that includes a statistical summary and dockside detail of admissions and adjusted gross receipts for each licensee.

One of the portions of the report that this columnist finds most interesting every month is the one that details the adjusted gross receipts (AGR) to "drop" percentages for the table games in place at each of Illinois' nine riverboat casino destinations.

First a brief explanation of the terms: AGR represents the gross gaming receipts less winnings paid to bettors. Total table drop is the total amount of cash or cash equivalents contained in the drop box for chips purchased at a table game. This does not reflect the total dollars wagered at the gaming tables. Individuals playing table games may be betting with winnings for which there is no accurate means of determining, or accounting for, actual dollars wagered.

It should come as no surprise to you that all the table games turn a profit percentage for the casinos a vast majority of the time, ranging from the mid- to high-teens to the low- to mid-twenties and above, depending upon the game. BUT there are isolated instances in which a particular casino does show negative percentages for a game, which means they DO get beaten at their own games once in a while!

Case in point is the February 1999 report, in particular, the AGR to Drop Percentage at the three craps tables in place at the Players Riverboat Casino in far downstate Metropolis, Ill. It showed a negative 5.24 percent for the game for the month.

It can only mean that those three tables were really "hot" during the month of February, or perhaps some "high rollers" got on a real lucky streak.

I researched the statistics going back to May of 1998, and the only other negative figures I found occurred during December of 1998 at the mini-baccarat tables aboard the Empress Casino Joliet, and again, at Players Riverboat Casino in Metropolis. Empress showed a negative 2.65 percent for the game at its lone table, while Players showed a negative 13.51 percent at its single table for the month.

Indeed, of all table games, craps, blackjack, and to a certain extent baccarat and mini-baccarat, are the ones that can create volatile situations for casino operators, mainly because wise gamblers can keep the house edge or "vigorish" down to a minimum.

The "built in" edge of 5.26 percent at double-zero roulette and a similar house advantage for Caribbean Stud Poker make it virtually impossible for casinos to ever lose money at those games. Over the course of a year, to be sure, they won't lose money at ANY table game, but variations can happen month to month.

Wise craps players who play pass line and come bets with odds, as well as occasional place bets on the six and eight, can keep the house edge hovering around one percent or even below. If you play perfect basic strategy at blackjack or, even better, keep track of the cards, you can also whittle down the edge.

A hot roll at the craps table, especially when there are high rollers gambling, and winning, thousands of dollars on each roll of the dice, is enough to make any casino executive cringe!

The danger for casino executives at the baccarat tables is that the game naturally packs a low house advantage and it traditionally attracts mega-mega high rollers.

I recall a situation at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Not too long after its grand opening, the casino took a giant hit at its baccarat tables. The millions of dollars it lost actually affected its bottom line for its first year of operation.

Casinos have nothing to fear over losing money with their slot machines. Each machine is computer programmed to guarantee a profit for its owner. A major jackpot may affect its bottom line for the month, but over the course of a year it will have earned exactly what it was supposed to have earned, and paid out to players in the form of winnings exactly what it was supposed to have paid out.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp