Two major casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have tweaked blackjack payout rules in a move experts say is subtle but significant to casual gamblers: They get less money if they hit 21 with just two cards.
Pacific Standard magazine reported
last week that the Venetian and Palazzo changed their payouts from 3-to-2 to 6-to-5 in March of this year, giving themselves an extra edge against players and potentially setting a precedent for other casinos on the Strip.
"It's like a hidden tax that you’re being charged by the casinos. Most people don’t realize that," Henry Tamburin, author of "Blackjack: Take the Money and Run," told reporters at the magazine.
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The new change affects hands that make a blackjack, also known as a "natural 21," achieved by pairing an ace with a 10 card or face card.
At the old 3-to-2 payout rate, players would receive a payout of $15 on a $10 bet, for example. At the new rate, 6-to-5, a $10 bet would net only $12. For context, a winning hand that is not a blackjack or natural 21 would pay out at 1-to-1, so a $10 bet would produce $10 in winnings.
The average player churns through roughly 80 hands per hour, and makes a blackjack every 21 hands, Tamurin explained. That means that a casino, also known as "the house," will save roughly $12 per player per hour across all the tables on the floor under the new payout ratio.
Las Vegas casinos are still recovering from the 2008 housing bust and ensuing recession, and experts say the new ratio — which is likely to go mostly unnoticed by casual gamblers — will help the town eke out a little more profit.
"On the Strip, you get a lot of amateurs and out-of-town people who want more of the excitement with the lights and the noises of Vegas and are less concerned about the specifics of the game," said Dr. William Thompson, a professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and member of the International Masters of Gaming Law. "I think the casinos figure that these are turkeys that we can pluck a little better."
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