Las Vegas Catering More to High Rollers
For decades, Las Vegas casinos welcomed everyone with outstretched arms. Amidst the neon and wide-eyed tourists, both low and high rollers rubbed elbows while pursuing their mutual quest to beat the house. In the eyes of the almighty gods of gambling, everyone was equal (more or less).
In the last few years, however, the level of equality is rapidly changing in Sin City. Casino executives, always a greedy lot, have implemented new measures to squeeze out budget players in favour of high rollers. This strategy has been highly effective, and it looks as though mid-level gamblers may soon be on the chopping block, as well.
Vegas Reaches All-Time High
At the moment, Las Vegas is pulling in more money than it knows what to do with. Allegiant Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Raiders, is a major reason why, and the city has also worked out a deal to finance a MLB ballpark.
The addition of sports teams, as well as special events and convention attendance, has accounted for 95% of Nevada’s gaming growth. Things have been especially prosperous in Vegas, with the city raking in a record $8.3 billion in 2022. Meanwhile, the state routinely exceeds $1 billion in monthly gaming revenue.
Michael Lawton, a senior economist, recently addressed this $1 billion-per-month trend. “A year ago we had done 13 consecutive months, and I was concerned about the sustainability. And here we are now, we’re at 25, and it’s not a fluke. It looks like that is the new baseline.”
Lowering the Payout
Traditionally, a gambler who got a natural 21 in blackjack won a payout of 3:2. This meant they received $3 for every $2 wagered.
However, this is no longer the norm. Two-thirds of casinos on the Strip (including Caesar’s Palace and MGM Grand) now offer a 6:5 payout. This results in a $6 win for every $5 wager.
That may not sound significant, but it raises the house edge to 1.9%. Overall, this quadruples the odds that the casino will come out ahead of the player.
It’s also becoming clear that this trend won’t be limited to the blackjack table. Originally, roulette had a single zero and a house edge of 2.70%. A wheel with the addition of a double zero would later become the norm in North America, bumping the casino’s advantage up to 5.26%.
In recent years, Vegas casinos have demonstrated utter contempt for their customers by introducing wheels with an additional triple zero slot. This raises the house edge to a whopping 7.69%.
What’s alarming is that only a handful of these were on the Strip a few years ago. In 2022, however, that number jumped to 78 (versus 111 double-zero tables). Within a few more years, triple-zero wheels will be the majority.
Most Popular Table Games in Vegas
If Las Vegas is in the process of reducing odds and payouts, it’s bound to impact all table games sooner or later. Of course, some are more popular than others, so they’ll be among the first to feel the impact.
In case you’re wondering, units per casino are the best indication of a game’s overall popularity. In fact, casinos are licensed quarterly for a specific number of table games, even if they don’t use the full amount.
When you look at the following data, keep in mind that there was a monthly average of 2,678 table games on the Las Vegas Strip in 2022. Of that number, here were the most frequently seen games:
- Blackjack – In 2022, the monthly average for blackjack tables on the Strip was 1,090. During that same period, there were $7.3 billion in wagers.
- Baccarat – The monthly average was 369. Players (mostly high rollers) wagered $7.8 billion.
- Roulette – There were 278 tables per month on the Strip, and players risked $1.9 billion annually.
- Craps – There was an average of 176 craps tables per month, and the annual wagers rose to $2 billion.
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em and 3-Card Poker – Both of these poker variations had an average of 88 tables. Players risked $554.8 million on Ultimate Texas Hold’em, while fans of Three-card Poker made $264.2 million in bets throughout the year.
Advice for Low Rollers
Here’s some important advice for low-rollers planning a trip to Vegas…
Yes, your chances of coming out ahead at the blackjack table aren’t as good. And, yes, these diminished odds are soon to spread to other games on the casino floor.
But guess what? There’s a strong chance that the casino was going to get all your money anyway.
Never forget that the house almost always wins. As soon as you make peace with this truth, you can let go and look at casino gambling as a fun (and ultimately unprofitable) hobby.