Good gambling is more difficult to find in casinos

Dec 24, 2013 3:00 AM

Las Vegas is changing. The Vegas Strip mega-casino-resorts are more focused on the resort side of the business than the casino.

Every new project on the Vegas Strip includes expanded shopping, dining and drinking areas. The casinos are left alone. Even gambler friendly downtown Vegas is changing.

Much of the downtown expansion is for the same kind of businesses as the Strip – shopping, dining and drinking. The newer and renovated casinos downtown are similar to their brothers on the Strip and are also looking ahead to the customer of tomorrow. It makes sense for a business to follow the dollar.

It’s not as if the casinos want to kick gamblers out. Gaming is still 30%-40% of casino-resort revenues in Las Vegas. That said good gaming is becoming more difficult to find.

Video poker pay tables aren’t as friendly as we’d like and there’s more 6:5 blackjack than ever. Some casinos have both low video poker returns and 6:5 blackjack while some may have one or the other.

Younger gamblers prefer table games while older gamblers tend to gravitate toward the machine games. Years ago a representative for a casino company on the Strip said tourists generally don’t care about returns on casino games.

In this discussion it was mentioned that blackjack players on vacation don’t care if it is 3:2 for a (2-card) 21 or 6:5. Judging by the amount of people playing blackjack on the Strip you can see this assertion may be right.

The younger gamblers on the Vegas Strip could play $25 blackjack to get a 3:2 game but they’d rather risk $10-$15 a hand and are fine playing 6:5 blackjack. It’s understandable if a player only has $100 to risk in blackjack that they’d rather play 6 to 10 hands at $10 or $15 versus 4 hands at $25.

Downtown Vegas is a little trickier because it’s still known as the place for gamblers – locals and tourists alike. The casinos have to tread lightly on their games since age doesn’t entirely matter to their business.

Downtown doesn’t have the big name chefs, shows and clubs. They have to trust that their gaming, modestly priced drink and dining options are attractive to a variety of customers.

With that in mind, most casinos downtown offer 3:2 blackjack for all limits. This game is attractive to gamblers of all ages. The $5 single deck blackjack game at El Cortez is one of the best in Las Vegas. It is low enough limits where any edge a gambler can find won’t crush the casino’s bottom line.

Likewise, most casinos downtown will offer good video poker pay tables. You may have to search for them. They’re sometimes hidden deep in the casino with lower returns at bars where tourists play.

Some casinos looking for a younger customer won’t even offer good video poker pay tables. At least gamblers aren’t being totally shut out.

Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gambling and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Follow Marc on twitter @eastcoastgamblr. Check out his blog at Contact Marc at [email protected].

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