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Table Games Revenues

12 August 2003

There's no doubt as to which table game is the most popular at Illinois casinos. It's blackjack, the same game that rules the pits in other gaming states.

Of the 274 gaming tables in Illinois, 165 are blackjack tables. And of the $21.5 million state casinos earned on the tables in February, the last month for which a breakdown is available, $9.6 million, or 44 percent, came at blackjack.

But on a per-table basis, other games actually earn more. Some of that is due to the size of the tables. Double-layout craps tables, roulette and big baccarat all can accommodate more players than the typical seven-player blackjack tables, and that shows in the revenue numbers. In February, the state's 32 craps tables earned $5.2 million, or $163,277 per table; the 24 roulette games earned $2.7 million, or $112,585 per table, and the two big baccarat tables earned $361,991, or $180,995 apiece.

Other casino games are played on similar-sized tables to blackjack. Some earn more than the $59,193 per table casinos earned at blackjack. For those wondering why space for Caribbean Stud has increased over the years, its 22 tables earned $1.9 million in February, or $88,590 per table. The sample size is much smaller for other games. Three Card Poker earned $593,070, or $59,307 for each of its 10 tables. Mini-baccarat was right up there with Caribbean Stud at $83,648 per table, but there are only five mini-bac tables in the state, leaving total earnings of $418,241. Let It Ride earned $253,976-$63,494 for each of its four tables, while Bonus Let It Ride lagged a bit at $157,613-$52,534 apiece for three tables.

With per-table numbers like that, what's to stop a casino from filling its pits with craps, roulette, baccarat and Caribbean Stud, and ignoring blackjack? In a word, demand. Put 165 Caribbean Stud tables on casino floors and they wouldn't be earning $88,000-plus per table. Supply would outstrip demand. Blackjack is there because customers fill the tables, bringing the casinos more profit overall, even if it's a little less per table.

TABLES VS. SLOTS: Table revenues make up only about 15 percent of gaming revenue at Illinois casinos. In February, the table games earnings of $21.5 million were dwarfed by slot revenues of $120.5 million. That's in line with a national trend toward more revenue from the slots, which has led to casinos devoting more space to electronic gaming devices and less to table games.

For all of 2002, table games produced $287 million for Illinois casinos, down from $291 million in '01. Slot revenue dwarfs those numbers, with $1.54 billion in '02, up from $1.49 billion in '01.

DORMANT GAME: One game that doesn't show up on the Illinois Gaming Board monthly report even though it was one of the original approved games in this state is sic bo. The Asian dice game was played at Alton Belle in the early days of riverboat gambling but hasn't been offered anywhere in the state in years.

A reader who recently returned from Atlantic City, where sic bo remains fairly common, e-mailed to ask if the game is worth playing. My response was that it's not a game I'd play seriously. There are a couple of bets with house edges of 2.78 percent. But the others range from 7.87 percent to 30.56 percent. Ugh.

Sic bo is played with three dice in a bird cage. The cage is turned upside down and the dice tumble. Players can bet on specific numbers from 1 to 6, with an even money payoff if their number shows up on one die, 2-1 if it shows on two dice or 3-1 if it shows on all three. They can bet on the total number of pips showing on all three dice. Other propositions allow the player to bet that a specific number will show up at least twice; that a specific number will show up three times, or, without specifying a number, that any two dice will match or that all three dice will match.

Every one of those bets is a stinker. The only propositions with reasonable house edges are "small" and "big." Bet small and you win an even-money payoff if the dice total 4 through 10 and do not show three of a kind. Bet big and you get even money on non-triples that total 11 or higher. You'll win either bet 48.61 percent of the time, yielding the house edge of 2.78 percent.

The space crunch due to Illinois' limit of 1,200 gaming positions per license means we're unlikely to see its return to this state anytime soon.

JACKPOT TIME: For the second time in five months, Horseshoe Casino in Hammond has paid out a big jackpot at Caribbean Stud Poker.

On April 18, 29-year-old Richard Daluga of Chicago was dealt a royal flush. Daluga had made the $1 side bet to be eligible for the progressive jackpot, so his big hand was worth $192,441.50.

The last Caribbean Stud royal at Horseshoe came on Nov. 13 and was worth $250,040. After a royal jackpot is paid out, the casino resets the progressive meter at $10,000, and a percentage of each $1 side bet is added to the jackpot.

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> 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