From the dazzling lights of the Las Vegas strip to the crowded pai gow tables of New York’s Chinatown, casinos attract people from all walks of life with their promise of winning big. But the casinos’ success comes with a cost: social and economic damage caused by gambling addiction, the money spent treating compulsive gamblers and the loss of productivity among people who spend their days trying to beat the house.
Casinos are places where people play games of chance and chance-with-a-little-skill, such as baccarat, blackjack, roulette, and video poker. All of these games have a built in advantage for the casino, known as “the house edge.” Casinos make their money by taking this advantage plus a small percentage of the total amount of bets placed. In table games, the house takes a share of each pot, or a flat hourly fee for dealing cards to players. Casinos also profit from “complimentary” items given to gamblers, or comps.
The house edge for most casino games is mathematically determined, ensuring that the casino will win a minimum of two percent of all bets made. The difference between the house edge and the actual amount of bets is referred to as the vig or rake.
While the math behind casino games is complex, casino operators understand how to turn a profit over the long haul. That’s why they make sure to keep patrons occupied as much as possible, offering free shows and buffets, low-fare transportation, rooms and food and drink on the house, or comps. They also employ a staff of security officers to keep an eye on the tables and patrons, watching for blatant cheating like palming and marked cards or dice.
Some casinos offer special perks for the most frequent and biggest bettors, offering them complimentary stays in hotel rooms and suites or meals and drinks on the house. Other perks are offered for a wide range of players, from discounted trips to other cities to free tickets to high-profile entertainment. The Bellagio in Las Vegas, for example, offers a branch of New York’s upscale Le Cirque restaurant and Hermes and Chanel boutiques.
While the mathematics behind casino games is complex, most operators understand how to turn a profit over a long haul. That’s why they make a point of keeping patrons occupied as much as possible, by offering free shows and buffets, low-fare transport and rooms and food and drink on the house, and comps for the most frequent and biggest bettors. Other perks are offered for a widely varied group of players, from the occasional high roller to the sporadic player. The math behind these perks is equally complex, but the overall effect is that the house always wins. And that’s why it pays to know the odds of every game you play.