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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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The Slots Are Out to Get You

12 November 2003

Visit any casino in the Chicago-area and the evidence is clear: Slot machines, both the traditional reel variety and the new wave of multi-line video version, dominate the gaming inventory.

Actually it's the same story in Las Vegas, only the casino and hotel destinations there have such gigantic floor space that they can afford to have more table games.

Slot machines are the "cash cows" of the casino industry. All of the marketing energy, direct mail solicitations, and product research and development revolve around them.

Is there any wonder? During the month of June the 9,704 electronic gaming devices in place at the nine active Illinois casino properties generated adjusted gross receipts of $125,232,880, dwarfing the $22,058,975 held at the state's 292 gaming tables.

Since state-sanctioned casino gambling came to Illinois a little over a decade ago, table games have dwindled noticeably while slot inventories continue to grow. It's a no-brainer for the casino owners and operators. People love the lure of chasing jackpots, even though the odds of catching a big one can be in the hundreds of thousands to one or higher against you.

The casinos make money off the table games to be sure. As a matter of fact, the average "hold" on all of the games is appreciably higher than the slots. During the month of June, Illinois casinos held 13.95 percent at the 176 blackjack tables, 19.98 percent at the 34 craps tables, 27.31 percent at the 23 roulette tables, 21.74 percent at the two grand baccarat tables, 17.67 percent at the nine mini-baccarat tables, 22.52 percent at the three Let It Ride tables, 25.28 percent at the 20 Caribbean Stud Poker tables, 15.06 percent at the 14 Three Card Poker tables, and 31.26 percent at the three Pai Gow Poker tables.

Of all the above table games, only blackjack requires skill to play correctly and reduce the house edge as low as possible. All of the other games have a built-in house advantage that guarantees a profit from players as a collective group.

The difference between the revenues generated by slots as opposed to table games is sheer volume. So much more money is wagered on the slots more frequently and at such a greater pace that they are bound to be the main bread winners.

As you read this, slot machine manufacturers from around the globe are preparing to meet in Las Vegas later this month for a gaming convention to introduce all of the new models, designs, and technology geared toward separating you from your money. Are you prepared to fight?

The entertainment value and interactive features of the new wave of slot machines are truly remarkable. They're fun to play, but as we observed in last week's column, they have an addictive quality to them that requires players to be on guard when it comes to fully enjoying their recreational casino outings.

In order to protect yourself against slot fever, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the table game options available at the casinos. Table games are played at a much more comfortable pace, giving both you and your money a rest. Learning to play them can enhance your casino experience so that you don't become a slave to the slots.

The actual mathematical advantage that the casinos enjoy at the table games is much lower than the revenues they generate. Reckless and uneducated play contributes to this fact. For example, many people who sit down at a blackjack table really don't know how to play the game correctly. Many people who play craps spend inordinate amounts of money on the bets that pack that highest house edge. Casinos thrive on such players.

Learning to play the table games, and, more importantly, learning to play them skillfully and correctly, can help arm you against the relentless grind of the slot machines and the marketing war the manufacturers and the casinos themselves wage against players.

You're going to have to do it yourself, too. When's the last time you received a piece of direct mail from a casino encouraging you to play a table game?

Playing the tables is completely different than playing the slots. At the tables you interact with other people. The important thing is not to be intimidated. Take the time to learn them and to play correctly and you'll be a well rounded, informed gambler who will be able to be the master of your own gambling destiny.

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