When you think of gambling on the Vegas Strip, you think of blackjack. The game of blackjack has always been the most popular casino table game and for many is the first thing you think of when you think of Vegas. However, revenue from blackjack has taken a hit recently, and it’s not the money maker that it has been in the past.
In 2009, the amount of money won by casinos in blackjack dropped by 20% and the amount wagered on the game fell to its lowest amount ($8.917 billion) since 2003. In 2009, money made from blackjack made up just 9.7% of all casino revenue, which is the first time in history that it has been below 10%. In addition, the hold percentage, which is the percentage of money won compared to money wagered, fell to 11.3%, also the lowest in the history of Las Vegas.
So what happened? Well, the most obvious reason for revenue being down is the recession. Tourism in general is down, including visits to Vegas. Fewer people visiting Vegas means fewer people gambling at casinos. However, that doesn’t explain why blackjack is making up a smaller percentage of casino revenue.
The reason for that, according to some experts, is that casinos have shot themselves in the foot. In a quest to make more money, many casinos have tightened the rules on their blackjack games, putting in place stricter rules on splitting and doubling, having the dealer hit a soft 17, and in some cases making a natural blackjack pay out 6:5 rather than 3:2. In addition to tilting the odds more in favor of the house, many casinos have raised the minimum wager requirements and gotten rid of the $1 tables and in some cases even the $5 tables.
But how would that cause the casino to make less money? Well, getting rid of the low-limit tables has caused some of the inexperienced gamblers to stay away from blackjack and play other games instead. Newer gamblers want games with lower limits because they seem like lower risks. Those same players are more likely to play with bad strategy, which gives the house better odds of winning. Eliminating those bad players means a larger percentage of the people playing blackjack do play proper basic strategy, which lowers the house edge.
In addition, the tightening of the rules has caused some of the high-end players to play different games instead. One of the biggest beneficiaries of that is baccarat, which has seen an increase in popularity at the same time that blackjack has had a down tick.
So what does this all mean? Getting greedy can end up costing you money. That is true for players and it is true for casinos as well. It’s worth remembering, especially during tough economic times.