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Is it just your imagination, or is it getting harder to win money gambling in Las Vegas? It seems every time you’re in town there is a new exotic twist to a popular game that pushes the odds even more so in the house’s favor.
A recent “innovation” despised by many is triple zero roulette sporting an astronomical 7.7% house edge. The additional green space has been added to roulette wheels at several Strip properties and is sure to spread like wildfire. The triple zero variation of roulette is generally offered at lower limits than its double zero partner in crime that only provides the house a 5.26% edge.
Another legacy game adaptation that irks long time gamblers is 6-5 blackjack which debuted in the early 2000’s and hasn’t gone away… because for some reason we don’t stop playing. A $10 bet on 6-5 blackjack returns only $12 on a blackjack compared to the $15 that would be paid on a traditional 3-2 game. Like triple zero roulette, the 6-5 variant is often offered at lower limits and patrons are deciding that playing within their budget is more important than chasing better odds.
According to Station Casinos, a chain that will never (fingers crossed) spring this BS on you, the 6-5 variant spreading like wildfire on the Strip gives the house a 400% increase in their advantage over the player. A traditional 3-2 blackjack game gives the house around a .5% edge (assuming good play) while 6-5 pads the casino’s wallet at a 2% advantage over the player. That adds up over time.
I was curious to look at the actual casino win rates reported by the Nevada Gambling Control Board to see how the house win rate has changed over time in response to these morphing table game rules. Is the house actually taking a larger percentage of our money? If so, how much more are they taking today than in the 90s or early 2000’s?
I will also look at casino win rates for Las Vegas slot machines over time on Fremont Street and the Strip to see if Las Vegas slots are getting tighter or loosening up. I don’t think the answer will surprise you.
First, let’s take a look at the house win rate for blackjack and Roulette since 1990 through 2017 to see how the house friendly rules are changing game profitability. Note that in table games, casino win rate is defined as a percentage of the drop, or a percentage of your buy in. For example, if the house win rate for blackjack is 10%, you could expect to lose $10 of your total buy in leaving you with only $90 to blow elsewhere.
First we’ll take a look at the results from Fremont Street:
The roulette win rate is actually becoming more player friendly since about 2000 which I didn’t expect. Keep in mind though, no Fremont properties have yet to embrace triple zero roulette. The steep drop in the Roulette casino win rate in 1993 is difficult to explain, my guess is that it’s an anomaly and the casino just got unlucky.
There is, however, a noticeable trend in blackjack as the house slowly increased their win rate from 10.93% in 1993 to 14.14% in 2017. A clear trend driven largely by casino friendly rule changes.
Next, we’ll look at results from the Las Vegas Strip:
Roulette win rates are a bit all over the place, even appearing to swing back to being more player friendly recently. This is likely because the triple zero variant hasn’t gone mainstream enough to affect results on a macro level. As popularity of the game spreads to other properties, I would expect the win rate to rise going forward.
Blackjack, however, is another story as the house win rate rose to 14.58% in 2017. Simply put, your money is not lasting as long playing blackjack in Las Vegas.
How can you win money in Vegas? How can you make your money last?
Answer: Avoid games that don’t give you good odds! If you aren’t comfortable increasing your wager for a better crack at winning then get off the beaten path where they still work to earn your business.
Now we will take a peek at Las Vegas slot machine house win rates and how they have changed over time. Have Las Vegas slots gotten looser? Are slots looser on Fremont Street or the Strip? Your answers below.
You’ll want to note that slot win rate is a slightly different calculation than that of table games. Slot win rate is expressed as a % of the handle, or total amount of money wagered on the machine as opposed to what you bought in for. For example, if you bought in for $20 and you stretched the money out for a while. Eventually you lose the $20 but you played $300 in spins meaning the casino win rate would be $20/$300 = 6.7%.
The first thing that jumps out at you is that casino win rates have been rising consistently since 1993. Slots in Vegas are getting tighter by the minute at the player’s expense. Another obvious observation is that slots on the Strip are tighter than those on Fremont Street. Take the deuce downtown and give yourself a better chance at winning.
Check out our piece on where in and around Vegas you should go to find the loosest slots. Spoiler – it’s off the beaten path.
It’s certainly not your imagination, stretching your money in Las Vegas is becoming more and more difficult as the years pass and the rules change to increasingly favor the house. Unless the gambling public votes with our wallets avoiding games like triple zero roulette and 6-5 blackjack they will only spread like the creeping charlie infestation in my backyard. Seriously, that stuff is hard to kill.