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Best of John Grochowski

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Adding table games to an All-Slot Casinos

26 June 2007

My friend Bob always seems to have a casino question for me, but usually they're game-oriented.

"Is it better when the blackjack dealer hits soft 17 or stands on soft 17?" Or, "What do you do when straights on Double Bonus Poker pay only 4-1 instead of 5-for-1?"

Answers: The house edge is lower in blackjack when the dealer stands on soft 17, and when Double Bonus pays only 4-for-1 on straights, I don't play. But you get the idea. Specific questions about specific games. So I was a little taken aback when he sat down at lunch and asked, "So what do you think about West Virginia?"

West Virginia?

"Yeah, West Virginia. They're voting on whether to add table games at their casinos."

That they were. The state legislature had approved table games at what are now all-slots casinos, leaving it up to voters in the counties that host casinos to give the final approval. I was just a little surprised Bob was thinking about it.

"It just caught my eye. What do you think? Is that going to make a big difference to them?"

It'll make a difference, to be sure. Table games attract a different type of player than slots do. Some slot players are intimidated by table games, and some table players wouldn't be caught dead at the slots, though there is a lot of crossover between the tables and the machines nowadays.

"Won't it also attract a bigger player than slots do? Bring in the high rollers?"

It leaves open the possibility of attracting big players, depending on casino goals and marketing. Some players in that area who like to play high-limit table games and now take their play to Atlantic City or Las Vegas might spend some of their gambling dollar at home. But mostly the tables are likely to be populated by average players.

"How big is that?"

Depends on the local economy and conditions. In the Chicago area, especially in Illinois where the limit of 1,200 gaming positions per license keeps the supply of tables tight, a $25 player is a pretty average player. In other markets, a $25 player is a premium player, with a greater population of $5 and $10 tables.

"Don't you think there are plenty who would play at $5 and $10 in the Chicago area."

Sure, but the supply of tables is so tight there are enough players to fill most of them at $25 minimums and up. Supply and demand.

"OK, play along with me here. Let's say you're an all slots casino, and you get permission to add table games. Then let's say you have enough players to fill your blackjack tables at $25 a hand. Do you start clearing out slot machines to make room for table games?"

No.

"No? Why not?"

I'll qualify that a bit. I would certainly add some table games. The tables add atmosphere to the casino, and bring in players who wouldn't otherwise come in the door. But provided I have enough slot players to keep my machines full, I wouldn't do any wholesale scaling back of my slot floor.

A little math: A blackjack player betting $25 a hand at a full table, moving at about 50 hands an hour, risks $1,250 per hour. An average player will lose about 2 percent of that, or $25. A player betting three quarters at a time on a three-reel slot at 500 spins an hour risks $375 an hour. On a machine paying 92 percent, the player loses an average of $30 an hour.

Think about that. A quarter slot player is worth more to the casino than a $25 blackjack player.

"Then I take it a dollar slot player is a gold mine. But what about all those nickels and pennies?"

Nickel and penny slot machines --- and the odd denominations like 2 cents and 3 cents --- are all machines with multiple lines, accepting multiple coins per line. You can bet 200, 250 even 500 coins at a time on many of these games. Not everyone does that, but the average bet is high enough, and the average payback percentage low enough, that most modern casinos make more money per machine per day at penny denomination than they do on quarters or even dollars.

"So I guess you wouldn't go ripping out penny slots, either, huh?"

Nope. Penny slots are the fastest-growing games in casinos today, and slots in general have long since become the major profit centers for casinos. When I started writing regularly about casinos in 1994, slots accounted for more than 60 percent of gaming revenue, and were headed toward 70 percent. Today, they account for more than 80 percent of gaming revenue, and are headed toward 90 percent.

"Back to where we started. If you were an all slots casino, and were allowed to add tables, would you?"

Yes. I'd prefer to do it with expanded space, but I'd want sweeten my business with the customers who won't play the slots. I'd do it with my eyes open, though, understanding that in today's casino climate, the slots are the industry's bread and butter.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski