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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Chicago-Area Casinos Get Their Two Cents In

27 October 2004

The much anticipated debut of "penny slots" at Chicago area casinos in Illinois should be looked upon with a mix of joy and caution by players who have become familiar with them, either on trips to Las Vegas or, locally, to the Trump and Majestic Star Casinos in Gary, Indiana, where they've been in place for some time.

Two-cent multi-line video slots were introduced in May at Argosy's Empress Casino & Hotel in Joliet. They were recently added to the casino floor at the Hollywood in Aurora, and are sure to spread to Harrah's Joliet and even perhaps the Grand Victoria in Elgin in the near future.

The games are in reality a misnomer. Even though it's possible to make plays pennies at a time, the multi-line, multi-coin nature of the games encourages plays that add up to 30 cents, 60 cents and $1.20 at the lower end of the scale all the way up to several dollars and more at the high end.

Penny games are proving highly profitable for casinos across the country and in some places are surpassing nickels and quarters in gross revenues. Illinois casinos became eager to bring in the games, but they had to wait for cashless "ticket-in/ticket-out" technology to make it feasible.

The introduction of the cashless voucher system meant that casinos did not have to go the trouble and expense of minting penny tokens for people to play the machines.

There's no doubt the games are very fun and entertaining to play, but it would be wise to keep in mind that just because the denomination is low doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to play longer on a short bankroll or have a better chance of winning with a smaller bet. On the contrary, the opposite could be true.

For example, the "hold" on the 17 machines that Argosy's Empress had in operation during the month of May was 14.10 percent as opposed to 6.19 percent on their quarter games and 5.21 percent on their dollar games. Argosy recently increased the number of penny games on its floor to 41.

If you are thinking about playing the two-cent games, remember this important fact: If you make plays between, for example, 50 cents and a dollar or more, you're subjecting your bankroll to a hefty house edge that can eat up your money in a hurry if you catch a cold streak.

That same fifty cents in a quarter machine or that $1.25 for a max-coin play in a quarter video poker machines subjects your money to far less of a house advantage.

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