Sometimes casinos go awry

Oct 23, 2006 4:38 AM

There are a few things in life that are inevitable. Beyond the cliché "death and taxes" are the third day nose-bleed in the arid desert of Las Vegas, the unscrupulous and greedy "legitimate businessman" getting busted for embezzlement, and mayonnaise, if left in the sun long enough, becoming rancid and causing Charmin stock to rise.

In the world of casino gaming, a property or two going awry of a gaming control board is also inevitable. According to the October 11 issue of the Denver Post article "Casinos told to ante up fines," multiple properties are not taking care to ensure no-shenanigans with their respective slot product. For illegal or defective slot machines, the fines for five Colorado casinos totaled $111,200 and were levied as follows:

”¡ Century Casino, Central City — 5 illegal slots; Fine: $87,500 Note: Century Casino’s machines were purchased directly from the Mississippi Gulf Coast salvage and had not been re-programmed to not accept a wager per decision of more than $5. A major violation of the rules of limited stakes gaming.

”¡ Colorado Central Station, Black Hawk — 18 defective slots; Fine: $15,000

”¡ Double Eagle, Cripple Creek — 15 defective slots; Fine: $4,500

”¡ Riviera Black Hawk, Black Hawk — 10 defective slots; Fine: $3,000

”¡ Isle of Capri, Black Hawk — 4 defective slots; Fine: $1,200 Note: The situation forcing the machines branding as defective was: The glitches would occasionally clear the machine’s memory of the number of games played and the times it has paid out.

According to the article, quoting Don Burmania, Colorado Gaming Division spokesman: Under rule changes that took effect May 30, the Gaming Division no longer inspects new slot machines before they are placed on the gaming floor. Instead, the casinos are left to ensure that their machines comply with state standards. Regulators then check the new machines within 90 days.

The machines in question were found to be illegal and/or defective during a Colorado Gaming Division inspection.

While in major jurisdictions a fine of $87,500 would appear to be a slap on the wrist (many state gaming control boards have levied fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range), at $5 per wager, 1,750,000 bets need to be won by the Century Casino to pay the penalty. In other words at 600 hands an hour (100 hands at six positions on blackjack), it would take 2916 hours or 188 fifteen and a half (15.5) hour contiguous days of winning every bet to pay for this oversight.

Of course, one would need to subtract the operating costs including licensing and labor (and it is doubtful that a table would receive constant action in any jurisdiction), but one gets the idea of the relative severity of this type of fine.

Should the inclusion of machines that allowed more than the maximum bet for over a week on the Century Casino’s floor or slot machines that are not properly recording decisions in the other properties cause pause to the gambling public? Probably not.

In the case of the Century Casino, the offending machines comprise less than 1% of the gaming floor’s stock. Still, with the purchasing of second-hand devices, the machines should have been more closely checked. With the forgetful registers of the other noted machines, it has not been noted that the actual game play and/or probability of winning was affected.

Still, the gaming consumer has the right to wager on appropriately operated, maintained, and controlled slot machines. If something is clearly wrong such as a machine accepting more than the known wager limit (of $5), players should not hesitate to ask slot personnel why there is a discrepancy. If a reasonable answer is not garnered, the slot player should know they have a right (and responsibility) to make appropriate gaming authority representatives aware of potential troubles.

Casino companies who choose to operate in non-traditional markets such as the limited stakes gaming environment of Colorado must maintain a vigilant eye on the device operating processes to ensure that gaming venues are in compliance with jurisdictional regulation.

(Founded in 1996, Yarborough Planning, LLC partners with select clientele to better understand and address business process issues. Core competencies include providing reliable and valid research, strategic / analytic marketing, and accountable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) development and implementation. David Paster is accepting new clients and may be reached at (702) 813-5062 or [email protected])