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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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How Far Can Casinos Push the Envelope?

30 December 2009

How low can casinos go?

It is almost as if some operators are looking to see how far they can go before players revolt over giving the house an even fatter edge than it already enjoys.

If the tables remain full and the slot seats occupied, the casinos push it a little further and try something new to see how gamblers will respond.

For example, changing the rules and adding side bets with bloated house advantages are traditional ways casinos boost the revenue-generating power of table games.

Now, with gaming revenue in Nevada in steady decline for nearly two years, some properties have resorted to establishing an even more disturbing trend.

Instead of just changing the rules, they are lowering the payouts.

Casinos in Las Vegas have targeted blackjack, the most popular table game, as a means to fatten up their bottom lines by paying 6-5 for a natural 21 at multi-deck tables instead of the standard 3-2.

Deflated 6-5 blackjack is nothing new for Vegas. It began a number of years ago, but as a "give and take" proposition: The give was the opportunity to play a single-deck game, the take was a reduced payout for a two-card 21 and some rules that favored the house.

Introducing 6-5 blackjack to multi-deck games is all take and no give. It is strictly a way to exploit destination travelers who are in Las Vegas to have a good time and can't distinguish a good blackjack game from a bad one.

It appears Harrah's Entertainment is the worst culprit. It has brought 6-5 blackjack to some of the six and eight-deck shoe games at six of the properties it owns on The Strip, including Bally's, Bill's, Flamingo, Harrah's, Imperial Palace and O'Sheas.

Other gaming companies are following suit at Hard Rock, Hooters, and Red Rock. Even properties in the Downtown district, including Fitzgerald's, Four Queens and Golden Nugget have jumped on the bandwagon.

What's so bad about 6-5 blackjack? Being dealt a two-card natural (21) is one of the perks of the game and a contributing factor to its inherent low house advantage, which can be as generous as under one percent depending upon your level of play and the house rules.

A 3-2 pay out for a blackjack translates into $7.50 for a $5.00 wager, $15.00 for a $10.00 wager and so on. The return at 6-5 tables is $6.00 and $12.00, respectively. It's a significant difference that inflates the house edge at such tables to around two percent, which in essence corrupts the game's skill factor.

Professional blackjack player and author Ryan Board (www.championshipblackjack.com) has picked up on this "trashing" of blackjack and rationalizes that uneducated players "don't understand the math behind the game and can't realize just how bad it really is".

Unless gamblers reject this greedy trend, it will continue and likely expand. Casinos recognize a gravy train when they find one.

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