The discussion comes up over and over about what Las Vegas needs to do to rebound. Since it is extremely unlikely any new industry is going to come in to save the city it has to be tourism. Some people here think that as soon as the rest of the country rebounds Las Vegas will too. Many people that are in the gambling industry disagree though. An economic rebound will help convention business and in turn help with hotel room rates but the real money is made on the casino floor. Let’s look at where the casino games have gone over the years.
Blackjack – This is a game that has the most varied rules from casino to casino. The absolute worst blackjack version is 6/5 blackjack. Typically this 6/5 on dealt blackjack rule is placed on single deck blackjack games. Some players flock to a single deck blackjack game thinking it is going to be easy to count the deck. The problem is that the 6/5 on a dealt blackjack instead of 3/2 adds about 1.4% to the house advantage. On top of this there is sometimes a restriction on whether you can double any two cards, double after the split or resplit aces. In almost all circumstances the dealer also hits a soft 17.
Speaking of hitting a soft 17 that is another rule that needs to go. This adds just over .2% to the house advantage as well. Nowadays it is rare to find a blackjack game that stand on all 17’s outside of high limit areas. With these and other awful new blackjack rules and variations it is no secret why people stopped coming to Las Vegas to play blackjack.
Roulette – I’m not one to play roulette. To me it is beyond boring but some people love it. Most of the roulette wheels in Las Vegas have two zeros on them. There are some exceptions in high limit areas and on a few main floors but they are few and far between. The house advantage on double zero roulette is 5.26%. To compare, in Europe single zero roulette is standard and on top of that the En Prison Rule brings the house advantage down to 1.35%. Why would international tourists come to Las Vegas to play roulette when the house advantage is nearly four times higher? European casinos are able to survive on single zero but it seems Las Vegas casinos can’t.
Craps – 10x-20x odds craps games were common years ago. Now most of the strip has moved to 3-4-5. This means that on a 4 or 10 a player can bet 3x their pass line bet, 4x on 5 and 9 and 5x on 6 or 8. The house advantage on a 3-4-5 game is double what a 10x game is.
The reason behind making it 3-4-5 is because it encourages players to place numbers they otherwise would not do. This is because in a 10x games a player could bet $5 on the come, then when a number is established they pay $50 in odds. Since there is no house advantage on the odds bet the player is getting $55 in action for just $.07 in house advantage. With the 3-4-5 whatever point the player has on their line or come bet the odds equal exactly what the place bet would be. For example if a player bets $5 and the point is 8 they could bet $25 in odds. If this bet wins it is paid $30 ($25 odds win $30 + $5 line bet). If they just bet the 8 for $30 they would win exactly the same since every $6 wins $7. This effectively takes away the point of betting the line in an attempt to make an odds bet.
Video Poker – It used to be 9/6 and 9/5 Jacks or Better was everywhere. Now 7/5 and 6/5 are common on the strip. You typically have to play in high limits to get 9/6 Jacks or Better. Some locals casinos as well as Main Street Station offer it but as a whole good video poker has gone. High variance bonus games like Double Double Bonus Poker have become popular. In those type games two pair pays even money while hands like four aces have a much higher payout. The pay scales on those games also typically tend to be bad and on top of that most players don’t play it correctly adding even more to the house advantage.
Slots – Penny slots are the biggest moneymaker for Las Vegas. They tend to pay back just over 90% on The Strip, and slightly higher downtown and in local casinos. Even high limit slots only payback about 96%. Slots are also high variance so it isn’t uncommon to lose endless hands in a row before hitting any type of jackpot or even big win. This means that people can get the feeling of being ripped off.
Live Poker – For some reason Harrah’s, now called Caesar’s Entertainment, thinks it is a good idea to rake 10% up to $5 when the Las Vegas standard is $4 and in some smaller rooms even $3. This takes more money off the tables faster.
Comps – Earlier this month Las Vegas Sands, which owns Palazzo and Venetian, stated they would be doing away with comps except for the highest of rollers. They are doing this even though fourth quarter revenue jumped $43 million. This seems to be the theme. Give players less and make them play more. It is tough to even find a $5 Subway footlong on The Strip anymore. Even downtown at the dormant Plaza the Subway wants $8 for a footlong. What happened to giving gamblers good, cheap food?
Airfare – It has gotten very expensive to fly to Las Vegas. Gas prices are part of this but the excessive junk fees airlines are pouring on doesn’t help either. Maybe the casinos don’t want people that are put off by $500 roundtrip airfare even coming but with all of the money won off slots by the airport and all of the dependence the city has on tourism maybe they could do something to help lower the junk fees coming to and from Las Vegas. Even Allegiant Air, who was once the solution, has jacked their fares up and charge for absurd things like a convenience charge for using their website to book a ticket.
Resort Fees – This is the one thing Harrah’s has right. They don’t charge a resort fee even though most other properties add this junk fee on at the end of your stay. It can be anywhere from $5-$25 a night and really doesn’t include much of anything.
Las Vegas is turning off people that used to come to Las Vegas for an enjoyable, affordable vacation. Not only are they doing this with inferior gambling but also with cutting comps, jacking up food prices and adding hidden junk fees. At some point this gambling only mecca will dry up if Las Vegas does not go back to their roots of offering a good time with good gambling.