The Double Down: The House Always Wins, Now More Than Ever

If you missed any news in the gambling world this week, we’ll deal you in
Double Down

The reels are always spinning in the gambling industry, and “The Double Down” is here every Friday to catch you up on all of the week’s biggest news. Sports Handle’s “Get a Grip” rounds up everything on the sports betting side, and US Bets provides the best of the rest: brick-and-mortar happenings, online casino regulation developments, poker headlines, and more. So pull up a chair, crunch the numbers, and slide forward another stack of chips.

Jacking up the odds

The cost of living keeps going up. And it seems the casino industry is determined to raise the cost of gambling right along with it.

The Wall Street Journal published an article Monday headlined, “Why You’re Losing More to Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip,” and if you’ve gambled in Vegas recently or if you generally pay any attention to the casino industry, it wasn’t telling you anything you didn’t already know.

But the WSJ reaches a wide audience that doesn’t necessarily follow the casino business closely. And now that audience knows about the odds gouging that’s been steadily ramping up and up, to the detriment of the gambler hoping to come out ahead — or at least make their money last a while before it disappears.

The article explained that annual blackjack winnings for the casinos in Las Vegas hit an all-time high in 2022, propelled by the fact that 3:2 payouts for being dealt a two-card 21 have given way to mere 6:5 payouts at two-thirds of the tables on the Strip.

Also, veteran Vegas visitors will recall a time when $10 minimum tables were easy to find. Now, many properties won’t offer anything below $25, and on busy nights, customers can’t find anything under $50.

On top of that, roulette wheels with not one, not two, but three green spots — a “000” having been added — are on the rise. On a wheel with just a single “0,” the player has a 48.65% chance of winning an even-money payout on either red or black. With a “0” and a “00,” it drops to 47.37%. Squeeze in that third green space, and we’re talking 46.15%. That adds up — or, for the customer, subtracts up — in a hurry.

The odds and minimums are more manageable at computerized tables, the WSJ article notes, because the casino is dealing with less overhead. Of course, the lowest overhead for operators is with online casino games. If you happen to live in one of the six states with legal, regulated iCasino — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, or Connecticut — you can play everything from slots to roulette with the house edge lower and the minimum bets way lower than what you’ll find on the casino floor in Vegas.

In Las Vegas, you’re paying a premium for the social experience. And now Wall Street Journal readers know the extent of that and may consider going elsewhere on their next vacation rather than hopping blindly and directly into a pot of water that is already at a rolling boil.

This week on Gamble On …

Every Thursday, US Bets drops a new episode of the Gamble On podcast, and this week’s welcomed US Bets and Sports Handle writer/editor Mike Seely, who offered compare/contrast analysis of recent industry gatherings he attended in New Jersey and Las Vegas:

Make me a match

Trying To Break Into The Online Casino Market, One Card At A Time

What’s the meaning of 8,773?

World Series Of Poker: Numbers To Know

Caesars backs the right horse

Caesars Racebook Goes Live In California Ahead Of Del Mar Summer Meet

Spare change

Betting On Bowling Gets A Little Easier As Tour Finals Approach

‘Megatron Nowitzki,’ a decade later

Michigan Native Ryan Riess Looks Back A Decade After Big WSOP Win

So long, farewell?

Getting Rich Off Richmond: Ted Lasso Finale Fake Odds Are Here!

Wrist and reward at WSOP

The 54th annual World Series of Poker got underway Tuesday, and organizers turned the unveiling of this year’s new-look bracelets into a plum assignment (pun entirely intended). Kelsey Plum, an All-Star guard on the 2022 WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces, stopped by to reveal the 2023 championship bracelets designed by Jostens, featuring 10 karats of yellow gold, a horseshoe incorporated into the design (the recently renamed Horseshoe Las Vegas is one of the two WSOP hosts this summer, and Binion’s Horseshoe in Downtown Vegas was the original host), and the four suits in red and black stones.

Plum also got to make this year’s first ceremonial announcement of “Shuffle up and deal!” prior to the start of the Mystery Millions event — which saw veteran poker pro Matt Glantz obtain the lucky seven-figure bounty by scoring the right elimination at the right time en route to a 40th-place finish. Plum also played in the $1,000 buy-in tournament.

“Kelsey knows a thing or two about championship hardware, so it was a fitting choice to have her unveil this year’s WSOP gold bracelets,” said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart. “We are thrilled to have one of Vegas’ brightest stars be a willing rookie at today’s event.”

— Eric Raskin

kelsey plum 2023 wsop bracelet
Aces star Kelsey Plum displays this year’s WSOP hardware

VGT companies win in Illinois court 

An Illinois County Circuit Court judge ruled this week in favor of two video gaming terminal companies that sued the city of Pekin, claiming its ordinance taxing VGTs was unlawful and barred by state law.

Pekin officials approved a city ordinance last October that assessed a fee worth 2.5% of net revenues generated by registered VGTs in the city. There are currently 233 VGTs in operation at 42 establishments in the city, which generated close to $5 million in net terminal income through the first four months of the year. Based on how tax revenue is split according to the Video Gaming Act, the city’s share of the nearly $1.7 million in taxes generated from January through April was close to $250,000. The fee assessed would have provided $124,000 in additional tax revenue.

In his ruling, Judge Paul E. Bauer agreed with the claims by J&J Ventures Gaming and Accel Entertainment that Pekin’s fee was an illegal tax on operators, since the city was using the revenue to fund public safety pensions and not in relation to video gambling, and such taxes are barred by state law.

VGTs are the biggest generator of gambling tax revenue in the state of Illinois, exceeding the combined receipts from casino and sports wagering. The 45,000-plus VGTs in operation statewide have generated $283 million in state taxes this year, with another $48.8 million going to local municipalities. Casino gambling and sports wagering have generated $111.1 million in state taxes and an additional $30.5 million at the local level. 

— Chris Altruda

More from around the gambling biz

SERIOUS SITUATION: Emergency summit called following 12 deaths at Churchill Downs [Front Office Sports]

THE BIG ONE IS BACK: Wynn to host $1 million buy-in poker tournament in December [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

GOING GOLDEN: After years of planning, a casino opens in Danville [Illinois Newsroom]

DREAMING AND STREAMING: El Cortez table game action comes alive on streamer’s YouTube channel [Las Vegas Sun]

DON’T CLICK THAT LINK!: URL on Maryland license plates now leads to gambling website [UPI]

STRIKING A BLAU: Hudson Yards developer reveals revised $10 billion bid for casino [New York Post]

WAY OFF TRACK: In another blow to track’s future, Pimlico pulling the plug on off-track betting operation [Maryland Matters]

Image: Blundell Design


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