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We’ve all heard the phrase “if you build it, they will come.” It was popularized in the movie “Field of Dreams” and over time has come to mean that as long as you provide something to the people, they’ll come to it.

This is not really a line I would think applies to the casino industry. Hundreds of inventors have built thousands of games to which very few people showed up. The games were built, but they did not come.

It is said only one in a hundred games that make it to the casino floor can be considered successful. These are not good odds and simply don’t seem to mesh with our quote.

But, this week I was reminded  there are some aspects of casino gaming that prove this quote all too well. I was told some casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have begun offering Triple 0 roulette. My jaw dropped to the floor when I heard this! In America, most roulette wheels are double 0, consisting of the numbers 1 through 36 and a 0 and 00.

With a payout of 35 to 1 for a straight number, the payback is 36/38 or about 94.6%. This is a rather significant house advantage, especially compared to the single 0 wheel, which has a house advantage of “only” 2.7%. This at least puts roulette on a par with some lower paying table games and some less than full-pay video poker machines.

At 5.4%, roulette is well below any respectable table game (except sidebets), below virtually any video poker machine and starting to approach slot machine territory. But, with three 0’s on the wheel, the house advantage becomes 7.7% and we are now in the range we will only find slot machines in.

I’m certainly not a big fan of playing slots, but at least some of them offer the chance for massive wins. Roulette generally doesn’t offer this. The top prize is hitting a single number with a below 3% hit rate and a payout of only 35 to 1.

So, why did these casinos choose to offer up this game? Well, obviously they like the idea of the increased house advantage and, in turn, the hold the game will provide them. Roulette requires no real strategy and almost every wager on the table has similar paybacks, so they can’t rely on human error to increase their profits.

They can only offer this game under one condition – if people play it. If the quote applies – they built it, so people will come – then there is no reason for them to pay out any more than what it takes to fill the table.

Years ago, when casinos started changing the payout of blackjack from 3 to 2, to 6 to 5, many of us thought it would never take. Why would anyone play blackjack at a lower payback when it was so easy to find a higher one?

But, as people showed they would play it, more and more casinos switched. Now, it is much harder to find 3 to 2 on the Strip. If those first 6 to 5 tables had been left empty, a strong message would have been sent.

At least with blackjack, the 6 to 5 game still pays more than most table games. While it reduces the payback from near the top to just average, in terms of a table game, at least you’re still playing a game at above 98%. With this new roulette, you’re playing a 92.3% payback game. Your odds of walking away a winner are just awful.

The only way to stop this march to 000 is refuse to play this version of roulette. If they build it and you choose to come, you will have no one to blame but yourself for what will happen to your bankroll. Not only in roulette, but in other games as some of the casinos continue to reduce the paybacks on games that have been in the casinos for decades.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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