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Deal Me In


Change only happens when customers demand it

Dear Mark: After reading some of your recent columns about gambling in the Detroit Free Press after a recent trip to Vegas, I thought I would share some observations of how Vegas is prying more money out of our pockets.

Regarding ways to pass time at low cost, as I have done in the past, I sat down and played video poker at a bar mounted machine, and ordered a beer. I got an $8.50 bill for a 12oz beer. I asked why I had to pay if I was gambling and was told drinks are now free only on the casino floor.

Add on the "resort fee" most casinos are charging (which, by the way, wouldn't entitle me to use the driving range on their golf course), and you can clearly see why each trip to Vegas seems to be becoming more expensive. Gary M.


Once upon a time, Gary, there was an implied contract between the casino and the player that the casino would offer the gambler free beverages, $3.49 feeding frenzies in the buffet, and $0.99 denizens of the deep for players who were willing to put their hard-earned money in play. That contract in now null-and-void.

Actually, one former Las Vegas casino operator, Bob Stupak, warned us years ago when he intoned the realities of casino gambling in US News and World Report by stating, “It’s our duty to extract as much money from the customer as we can.” Bravo! At least this past owner came clean on the realities of casino gambling.

Today, casinos have raised the hold percentages, cut club benefits/comps, tightened video poker paytables, and tried to cram 6/5 Blackjack down our throats all while cutting the perks, a PBR no less, for our play.

The casino industry I was weaned from was built on fair gambling, cheap food, free spirits and great customer service. Say goodbye to that! Corporate America now runs gambling, ruled by bean counters whose sole purpose is to control expenses while procuring more profits for the house.

Here is where you come in, Gary. Your $8.50 drink is a non-gaming amenity that financially complements the casino’s gambling operation, which their accountants believe provides growth. Your $8.50 cocktail used to be a loss-leader, now it is a profitable part of their business.

Personally, I believe $8.50 for a Pabst Blue Ribbon while a patron is playing video poker at a casino bar STINKS!  I get that food prices won’t retreat to my early years in gaming, but before I get out of this business as I close in on 40 years, wishful thinking on my part hopes that we will see a return to the basics of focusing on honest gambling and excellent customer service. Such as Rule #1: the customer is always right. Followed by Rule #2: if the customer is wrong, see Rule #1.  

As to your mentioned “resort fees,” they are a (usually unadvertised) mandatory fee tacked onto your nightly room rate. In Las Vegas, you will be hard-pressed to find any hotel that does not charge them.

In addition to your nightly room rate, you are now being "asked" to shell out an extra $5 to $30 a night in fees. Furthermore, there are some Vegas hotels happy to charge you a little something extra above the resort fee for a guaranteed room type, early check-in, late check-out, even for double beds, all taxed, mind you, after they are added. This gives off the odor of ordure, too!

All I can recommend here, Gary, is to make sure you read the fine print before you book your room. Resort fees tend to be omitted from advertised rates.

Also, there is no harm in trying to get those resort fees waived, especially if you advise management that you do not intend to use any of the facilities. You will be more successful if you have status with the hotel/casino loyalty program or work directly with a casino host.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “When we put 50 machines in, I consider them 50 more mousetraps. You have to have a mousetrap to catch a mouse.” —Bob Stupak, former Las Vegas casino owner


Guaranteed jackpot not related to random number generator

Dear Mark: How does a casino promise that a specific jackpot will be hit within a certain time frame? For instance, say a machine starts with a jackpot of $25,000 and it is guaranteed to be won by the time it reaches $100,000. If all spins are random, how is this possible? Jim D.


Guaranteeing that the jackpot will be hit within a specific timeframe or sum total doesn’t mean that the random number generator is being manipulated. That would be illegal in every gaming jurisdiction that I am aware of. All displayed results must be selected by a RNG. 

Those "guaranteed to hit" jackpots are determined outside of the reel-spinning game by a separate system that governs the jackpot. This system randomly selects a trigger amount somewhere between minimum and maximum points chosen by the casino. The lucky soul who reaches the running total equal to or greater than the trigger amount wins the jackpot.

When the jackpot is finally hit, the running total resets to its minimum, and the system randomly chooses a new trigger point.


Dear Mark: I would like to take exception to your “busting” numbers in your reply to Skip last week. You said, “Overall, the dealer will bust about 28 percent of the time considering all possible dealer up-cards.” What you failed to mention in your reply are the other built-in advantages the casino has over the blackjack player. Lenard J.


As you see it, Lenard, what would those other “built-in advantages” be? 

Excluding the multitudes of players who play poorly, the ONLY, and I mean ONLY built-in advantage any casino has over a blackjack player is that the casino acts last against every hand dealt. If both the player and dealer bust, the casino already has your money in the tray and doesn’t have to pay you, simply because you had to act on your hand first. The sequence of play determines that if you bust, you lose, regardless of whether the dealer busts or not.


Dear Mark: What is the tipping protocol with a casino host? I am a regular visitor to Vegas but do not have a host assigned. My buddy has a host so I called this person for some help on an upcoming visit, and he was great.....exceeded my expectations. I called my buddy back, and I asked if I should tip this person. His response, "I have no idea, I never tip but wondered what the proper action should be." So, Mark, we would appreciate your advice on tipping and if so, how much? John C.


Although I went into detail last year on your question, (check “tipping” and “host” with my search feature at the short of it is that tipping a casino host is voluntary, but not expected. In many casinos, it is not even allowed, yet, it still happens, with Yours Truly himself guilty in the past of doling out gratuities to casino hosts. 

The casino compensates hosts by a system that relates to the host’s player’s action and the comps given out to the player. The amount that you are gambling, John, determines the comps you are entitled to, so you need never feel obliged to tip for these perks.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Life is like a game of poker. If you don’t put any in the pot, there won’t be any to take out.” – Comedian Moms Mabley