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Gambling Statistics Don't Lie

31 October 2001

By John G. Brokopp

Whereas gambling enthusiasts may sometimes have to view casino advertising claims and marketing spins with a jaundiced eye, the statistics from the nine Illinois riverboat casino destinations that the Illinois Gaming Board publishes each month are straightforward.

The most profitable table game in the state just happens to be blackjack. During the month of June 2001, for example, the 181 blackjack tables in place at riverboat casinos around the state showed adjusted gross receipts of $10,843,774. Craps was a distant second with $6,448,750.

Table games revenues, in turn, are dwarfed by the figures generated by video poker and slot machines. While table game adjusted gross receipts for June totaled $23,717,446, electronic gaming devices took in a whopping $123,165,370 during the same 30-day period.

The most revealing statistics for consumers are contained on the page that lists the "hold" percentages for electronic gaming devices and table games at each of the Illinois riverboat casino locations. I always find it noteworthy that Empress Casino Joliet, the Chicago-area casino that has the most player friendly blackjack rules, almost always returns more to players than the other locations.

Take the month of June 2001 for example. The adjusted gross revenues from Empress Joliet's 18 blackjack tables came to 8.75 percent. Compare that to the statewide average of 14.64 percent. The competition ranged from a high of 23.17 percent at downstate Alton to 14.37 percent at Harrah's Joliet.

May 2001 was a similar story. Empress Joliet's hold percentage was the lowest (9.94 percent) while Alton was the highest (21.49 percent). Statewide average was 13.75 percent.

You have to go back to the figures from March 2001 to find the last time that Empress Joliet's Blackjack tables weren't at the top of the player's list. That month Harrah's Joliet was tops with 8.78 percent while Empress came in at 10.59, still way below the statewide average of 12.61 percent.

This doesn't come about by accident. Empress Joliet blackjack offers some of the best rules and the highest limits in this gaming market:

    1. Six-deck games as opposed to the greedy 8-deck variety in play at some other locations.
    2. Dealers stand on all 17s. At many place dealers hit soft 17s.
    3. Players can double down on any first two cards.
    4. Players can double down after splitting.
    5. Players can resplit aces.

There was one bit of distressing news I uncovered while going over the latest report. Table game positions are dwindling while slot machines are increasing. Empress Joliet for example had 22 blackjack tables in May but only 18 for June. Statewide, blackjack tables decreased from 187 to 181.

The much more profitable and cost-efficient slot machines are replacing table games in Illinois. In May there were 9,283 slot machines in casinos around Illinois. In June that figure had increased to 9,324.

CASINO NEWS: The lottery fever that surrounded the $280-million Powerball Game recently brought to mind the story of Joe and Dolly Hornick of Beaver Meadows, Pennsylvania, perhaps the luckiest couple in the world, at least when it comes to winning money.

Last June they won $206,000 in the Pennsylvania Lottery. Three weeks later they won another $71,000. Oh, did I mention they had previous lottery scores of $2.5 million in 1989 and $68,000 in 1997?

There's more to their good monetary fortune: After their June lottery bonanza they visited the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City and between the two of them hit jackpots of $480 (twice), $980, and $1,375. They list other slot scores of $9,970, $10,700, and $2,000 in recent years.

Here's the kicker: On a trip to Florida they stopped off at a gas station, bought some scratch-off lottery tickets, and won $6,673.

Joe would only give this tip: "It takes a buck and a lot of luck."

The only anecdotes the story didn't contain were how much money they've lost through the years. Now I bet that'd be interesting!

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.

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