For years, seemingly forever, blackjack has been known as king of the casinos. While slot machines were the most popular game overall, due in part to the sheer number of games, blackjack was always the biggest table game. All of that is changing, though. Last year, for the first time blackjack was passed by another table game for Las Vegas revenue.
Last year, baccarat brought in $1.2 billion of revenue for Nevada casinos, making it the first time that blackjack had been outgained by another table game. The trend doesn’t seem likely to reverse anytime soon, either. Baccarat brought in $279.9 million more in revenue than during Las Vegas’s peak in 2007. Meanwhile, blackjack revenue declined by 31% during that same time period. This is despite the fact that blackjack is found at virtually every Nevada casino, while baccarat is only at a small number of resorts. In the last decade, casinos have added 149 baccarat tables, while blackjack tables have decreased by 815.
Experts think they know the reason for this change. Blackjack and baccarat attract different types of players. Blackjack is a mass-market game that is popular with mid-rollers. These are middle-class people who want more strategy and higher stakes than penny slots but don’t want to get into high stakes games. Certainly there are high-stakes blackjack games, but most blackjack players wager around the middle of the spectrum. That adds to the mass appeal of the game.
Baccarat, however, is more of a niche game that is favored by upper-class high rollers, especially Chinese players. Those players like the exclusivity of the game and its high stakes. People who have enough money to play high-stake games of baccarat are not as affected by the recession as players of mid-level games like blackjack.
When the recession hit, people had less disposable income because they had less overall income or feared losing income (such as by losing their job). That hurt the main crowd of blackjack: tourists who have enough money to enter a casino and play some table games, but not enough to throw down big money. The high rollers, however, still have plenty of disposable income, despite the recession, and are therefore still able to play baccarat. As the recession continues, this trend will likely continue. If the economy improves, the game of choice may shift back to blackjack.