Ten Things the Gaming Industry Won’t Tell You

SmartMoney has a story that some people need to paste to their nightstands. I am going to grab a few of the items. It is up to you to use the link to read the full commentary about each one.

1. “You can’t win…”

Everyone knows the house has an advantage. But most casino patrons don’t realize just how heavily the odds are stacked against them. Take keno, in which you pick a string of numbers, hoping to match them to what the casino randomly generates. The house advantage is at least 25%, increasing with the more numbers you pick, says John Alcamo, author of Casino Gambling Behind the Tables. The odds of hitting, say, the 10 spot — a string of 10 numbers — are nine million to one. (Getting killed by fireworks is nine times more likely.) Despite those odds, a $2 bet usually pays off at only $50,000 to $200,000.

Slot machines are popular because they offer a shot at a big jackpot for little investment. For example, $3 gets you a chance at the Megabucks jackpot, which links slot machines in Nevada and builds like a state lottery from a base of $5 million. The odds of winning? Nearly 17 million to one. You have a better chance of being killed by an asteroid striking Earth..

2. “…and if you do, we might not pay you.”

While on vacation in Lake Tahoe in September 1996, Cengiz Sengel stopped to show his wife the lights of Reno, Nev. They walked into the Silver Legacy casino, got a $20 bag of quarters and headed straight to one of the slot machines. A few pulls later, three jackpot symbols popped up in the windows. The Sengels jumped up and down, hugging each other as fellow slot players rushed over to congratulate them. They had just won nearly $1.8 million. Or so they thought. A supervisor, claiming the machine had malfunctioned, denied the Sengels the payout. The couple appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court, which this June ruled against them.

Effie Freeman can sympathize. In 1995, she put $3 into a slot machine at the now — defunct Splash Casino in Tunica, Miss., and was stunned to see red, white and blue ducks line up, signaling a $1.7 million jackpot. But the state gaming commission ruled that it didn’t count because the machine had gone into “tilt” mode.

3. “We promise more than we deliver.”

Twenty-seven years ago only seven states had lotteries, and only Nevada allowed casinos. Now 37 states have lotteries, and 28 have casinos (including Indian gaming). Why have policy makers and the public allowed gambling to flourish? One reason is the notion that it creates jobs and commerce.

But research suggests the downside far outweighs the benefits. “The economy as a whole would be much better off had we not allowed [casino gaming] to expand,” says Earl Grinols, a University of Illinois economics professor. Figuring in a broad range of factors — crime, lost productivity, bankruptcy, social services and regulatory costs — Grinols determined that each pathological and problem gambler costs the public $13,600 per year; the total works out to $180 per citizen. That more than negates the industry’s economic benefit, which Grinols estimates at $50 to $70 per citizen.

4. “We know everything about you.”

Casinos have developed sophisticated techniques for targeting and profiling repeat gamblers. Harrah’s Entertainment (HET) has led the way, hiring marketing experts and a Harvard professor. In 1997, the company began gathering details on players when it rolled out its Total Gold frequent-gambler cards (now called Total Rewards) and has built a database of 19 million customers. Players insert the cards into slot machines or hand them to casino supervisors when they play table games. The cards are marketed as a prestige item that helps players accumulate comps such as free rooms, meals and show tickets. But the real purpose is to track the habits of each customer and tailor a marketing plan that will keep players coming.

If you’re a big bettor, you’ll find that casinos know all kinds of creepy information — just enough to push your buttons.”

This won’t stop me from going to Vegas but then again when I go I expect that I am going to lose. So I never take more cash than I am willing to lose. At this point in time I enjoy Vegas for reasons other than gambling- shows, restaurants etc.

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  1. Jack's Shack February 26, 2007 at 8:28 am

    Nah, he was ready to rent an MK saw and proper blades, but he had no sense about how long it would take.

    Did I mention that he figured that building 45 LF of cabinetry should take about a day.

  2. Mark February 26, 2007 at 5:26 am

    “I am laughing. Let me tell you about the guy who tried to save money by cutting his own tile. ;)”

    He used a Skilsaw with an abrasive blade, or some shit?

    (I can just hear some people out there going “you’re not supposed to do it that way?? – GULP”)


  3. Jack's Shack February 25, 2007 at 7:21 pm


    I hope that it works out.

  4. seawitch February 25, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Before Hurricane Katrina hit, the Mississippi Gulf Coast had 11 operating casinos. 7 have reopened since then.

    I like the theatres that two of them used to have. They have been rebuilt since.

    And the Beau Rivage has its stores open once again!

    But a funny thing has happened. Our industrial park has grown so much in the wake of Katrina. Some ship-building companies have moved their operations Louisiana to Mississippi. Other companies are moving into the area.

    These new industrial companies will be key for future growth. The salaries are comparable or even more than what the casinos offer and the benefit of these companies outweigh the infrastructure costs of casinos.

  5. Jack's Shack February 25, 2007 at 5:51 am


    That M&M store is out of control. Three levels- oy.


    I believe, I believe.


    I am laughing. Let me tell you about the guy who tried to save money by cutting his own tile. 😉


    I miss the simple things, like being able to cross the strip whenever and wherever I wanted to.

  6. The Misanthrope February 24, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Las Vegas was a better town when run by the mob. Today, Vegas is an excuse for people to more brazenly act like jerks.

  7. Mark February 24, 2007 at 3:35 am

    Who needs Vegas??

    I’m a contractor.

    (Jack will understand this.)

  8. Amishav February 23, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    Really, what are you a cynic? Don’t you know that people get rich in casinos all the time?

    Its only a matter of time before you can buy that castle. You just gotta’ believe man!

  9. Paula February 23, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    I’ve never understood the thrill of gambling, esp. the slot machines. I like Vegas though, the energy, the movement, the shows, the M&M store! It’s just a fun place to be.

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