Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania blackjack’

Pennsylvania Considering Blackjack Rules

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Journalist Mark Gruetze of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is urging Pennsylvania blackjack players to speak out in favor of the current blackjack rules. For the next 30 days, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will listen to comments on a proposal to make several current blackjack rules permanent. Gruetze is right. Players need to speak up for the good rules.

Pennsylvania has some of the best blackjack rules in the business, including having the dealer stand on soft 17 and, most importantly, all natural blackjacks paying 3-to-2. While that used to be the case for every blackjack table, casinos in many states have asked for the option of expanding and offering further options. In some states, the casinos have been allowed to carry some tables that pay 6-to-5 for a blackjack. As time goes on, more and more of the tables start to carry the worse rules. That is why it’s important to make the regular payout permanent.

Usually the 6-to-5 blackjack games use fewer decks, but they still have worse odds than the regular game. What’s worse is that some offer the low payout for the standard number of decks. If those are your only options in the casino, players will get ripped off.

One of the great things about the game of blackjack is that, with standard rules and using blackjack strategy, players can reduce the house edge to a minimal 0.5%. That means the casino, on average, would only take $1 out of every $200 the player bets. Allowing the casinos to adopt more house-friendly rules turns that on its head and does away with the advantage of playing blackjack rather than other casino games.

Right now, the state Gaming Control Board has a choice to make the current rules, which are friendly to the players, permanent rules. They should do so. To help that become the case, players in Pennsylvania and players who sometimes visit the state’s casinos should notify the board that they support making the rules permanent and oppose and chance for 6-to-5 payouts.

PA Regulators: Blackjack Cheating Not a Problem

Friday, March 4th, 2011

When the state of Pennsylvania decided to allow blackjack and other table games at their casinos last year, some were worried about the impact of cheating. After all, it’s virtually impossible to cheat at slots but blackjack, on the other hand, has a lot of tricks for people who want to cheat the system.

However, according to the state’s regulators, cheating at table games has not been much of a problem so far. Members from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board told the Erie Times-News that, although they don’t have exact statistics for the number of cheaters caught at the state’s casinos, it has not been much of a problem. Most of the gamblers are playing it straight and most of the cheaters caught, they say, were caught early on as players tried to “test the waters” to see if the casinos were up to the challenge. They were.

Greg Fajt, chairman of the gaming board, put it best. “I always say, the casino is the worst place in the world to commit a crime. Everything is on camera,” he said. Casinos have sophisticated security techniques in place to identify and prevent cheating. That includes surveillance cameras, gaming board offers walking the floor, the pit boss walking the floor, the presence of state police, managers and the dealers, who are trained to spot behavior that indicates cheating.

Of those who were caught cheating, the regulators said that most tried the techniques known as capping and pinching. Capping is sneaking extra chips onto your bet when you have a good hand. Pinching is the opposite, sneaking chips away from your betting pile when you see that you have a bad hand.

In Pennsylvania, cheating at a casino is either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on a number of factors, such as the amount of money in play. The offenses can result in a hefty fine and prison time, not to mention being banned from playing at casinos in the state after that.

Pittsburgh casino expands blackjack tables

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The new blackjack industry in Pennsylvania casinos is going so well that casinos can’t get enough of them. Earlier in the year, a Pittsburgh casino requested permission from regulators to expand and add more blackjack tables. Today they got their answer.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has approved a plan by Rivers Casino to expand its table games and build a large ballroom that will total 15,000 square feet. The casino, located in Pittsburgh, requested that the regulatory agency allow them to add a dozen more blackjack tables in addition to four more poker tables and a few roulette tables.

According to Rivers Casino, adding the extra tables will allow them to hire 100 more employees. The casino plans to have the new tables installed and operating by the middle of March. Once the expansion is complete, Rivers will have the third-largest table games selection in the state, with 107 tables in total.

Until recently, Pennsylvania casinos could only carry slots and other electronic games. Tables games like blackjack were banned. However, last year the legislature passed a bill allowing table games in the state’s casinos. Last July, the first table games were unveiled to much fanfare. The state’s casinos have seen sharp improvements in revenue since adding table games.

It hasn’t been sunshine and lollipops, though. Adding popular games increases visitors good and bad. Early on, cheaters seemed intent on finding out if they could beat the blackjack dealers, perhaps thinking that new dealers wouldn’t be experienced enough to spot the cheating. They were wrong. There have also been a few cases of negligent parents leaving their children in the parking lots to go play games (usually slots). Those parents have been arrested and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board banned them from all casinos.

Maryland to consider adding blackjack tables?

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Facing a massive budget deficit, the U.S. state of Maryland may consider expanding their casino industry to include more blackjack. The state’s budget deficit is predicted to reach $9.5 million within five years, so the state is in dire need of increased revenue and decreased spending. One possible way to increase revenue is to expand the casino operations.

In September, Maryland opened its first casino. The new Hollywood Casino has over 1,500 slot machines, three-card poker, video roulette and blackjack games. Though figures are not available for their first month’s revenues, a new casino that includes blackjack tables has been found to be an economic stimulus in Pennsylvania and Florida recently.

Governor Martin O’Malley (D) doesn’t oppose all gambling, but he is reluctant to expand very quickly, even stating once that he doesn’t want Maryland to turn into a casino state. However, he was willing to add one casino already. Adding a few more is certainly conceivable. Senate President Mike Miller, another Democrat, may push O’Malley toward that goal. Miller is a proponent of casino expansion and wants to reform the restrictive gambling laws in the state to remove a lot of red tape.

Meanwhile, horse racing in the state has continued to struggle. Some believe that casino expansion will hurt the horse racing industry even more. Now Laurel Park, one of the top racetracks in the state, has threatened to close down. It seems that the only chance Laurel Park has to stay in business and become profitable is to be converted into a casino. Many are now calling for the reluctant O’Malley to join Miller and work on legislation to make that happen.

Pennsylvania may shift blackjack rules toward house

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

If you have been playing blackjack at the new tables in Pennsylvania casinos, you should probably take advantage of the good rules while you can. One blackjack expert (and it’s not me this time) predicts that the state will soon tighten the rules to increase the house edge.

Michael Shackelford is one of the top blackjack experts in the field and probably the best blackjack statistician in the business. Going by the name of the Wizard of Odds (including on his website), Shackleford has an unending supply of stats and odds for the game of blackjack. According to the Wizard, the Pennsylvania blackjack games have a house edge of only 0.4% when proper basic strategy is applied.

The good house edge is due to a number of rules that are beneficial to the player. First, the tables have the standard 3:2 payout for blackjacks. While that used to be a given, many casinos are now using 6:5 payouts, which greatly increases the house advantage. In addition, Pennsylvania blackjack tables have rules that require the dealer to stand on a soft 17 and allow the players to surrender.

While speaking in Las Vegas recently, Shackelford praised Pennsylvania for offering good rules for the player. However, he said that he expects the rules to get worse. “In markets where there’s not a lot of competition, you tend to see lousy rules,” he said.

Some are calling for the casinos to tighten those rules. The most suggested change is to have the dealer hit a soft 17. Another suggestion is to switch to a 6:5 payout for a blackjack. Those two changes would have the biggest impact on the house edge.

In the spring, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will get together and discuss the current rules and the possibility of changing rules. Some casino representatives want the rules changed to favor the house more. However, others worry about losing business. If Shackleford is right, though, the days of a 0.4% house edge in Pennsylvania casino are numbered.

Philadelphia cop caught cheating at blackjack

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

When the U.S. state of Pennsylvania legalized blackjack and other table games, it brought a lot of excitement to the area casinos. Profits have increased, as has attendance, but so has cheating. Blackjack is a lot easier to cheat on than slot machines. Since the blackjack games opened in the Pennsylvania casinos, there have been several arrests and cases of players caught cheating. The most recent case is a little worse than that, though.

This time it involves one of Philadelphia’s Finest. John Gallagher, 56, was allegedly caught cheating at blackjack during a game at Parx Casino. According to law enforcement officials, Gallagher was seen using what they called a “card-counting device” during the blackjack game. No arrest was made and Gallagher has not yet been charged with a crime.

However, Gallagher abruptly retired on Tuesday after 32 years of service in the Philadelphia Police Department. According to Lieutenant Frank Vanore, the State Police are investigating Gallagher for “committing a crime outside of Philadelphia.” In addition, Internal Affairs has begun an investigation of the incident.

Gallagher joined the Philadelphia Police Department in 1978 and, according to sources, was well-liked by his colleagues. Still, it seems that he made a big mistake. One of the great things about blackjack is that players can actually gain an advantage over the house if they keep track of the cards. If you count cards using only your mind you are not breaking any law (though the casinos don’t like it). However, using any external device – which can range from a rubber band to a notebook to electronic devices – is illegal and can land you in jail and placed on a blacklist that bans you from that casino and others.

Cheaters caught at new PA blackjack tables

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Not long ago, along with other blackjack fans, I applauded the launching of blackjack tables and other table games in Pennsylvania casinos. The blackjack tables quickly attracted fans of the game, but they also attracted cheaters. I guess I should say alleged cheaters.

Three examples immediately come to mind. At the Hollywood Casino in Grantville, Pennsylvania, Claudie Kenion III was caught trying to change his bets on winning hands. When his hand won, he would sneak extra chips into the betting circle. He was arrested for attempting to cheat at blackjack and is accused of doing this technique for 13 hands. This happened on only the second day of blackjack tables at this casino.

Then there is Thomas Albright, who was arrested at a Hollywood Casino in East Hanover Township, Pennsylvania after he was caught trying to do the opposite of Kenion. Albright tried to sneak chips that he had bet out of the betting circle on hands that he lost. He was quickly arrested and charged with theft in addition to being banned from the casino for a minimum of 30 days.

Then there is the man who last weekend was seen cheating at Mount Airy Casino in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania. The man, who hasn’t been identified to the press, was caught trying to use counterfeit $100 chips at the blackjack table. When he was approached, the man fled the casino and is still at large. If apprehended, the man faces a theft conviction among other charges.

I point this out for a couple reasons. The first is to show that the casinos notice when people cheat. The dealers and other casino employees are trained to look for suspicious behavior and there are also surveillance cameras that cover the entire casino floor. The other reason I point this out is to show the harsh penalties that go along with being caught cheating in a casino. In the state of Pennsylvania, anyone caught cheating at a casino faces up to five years in prison and a $150,000 fine. Depending on the amount that is stolen, they could have a felony criminal record. In addition, they can be banned from the casino for an unspecified amount of time.

Blackjack games open in Pennsylvania

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Tuesday saw the U.S. state of Pennsylvania celebrate the launch of table games in their casinos, which had until then housed online slot machines. The Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs hosted a grand-opening ceremony, where the Mohegan tribe’s vice chairman, Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum, offered a blessing.

There was then a free ceremonial blackjack hand played by four lucky customers chosen at random. In that hand, the players competed for a prize of either $25,000 or a new Mercedes. Two of the players beat the dealer and won the money, but the other two didn’t walk away empty-handed. As a consolation prize, they won $5,000.

The Mogegan Sun casino, located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, now offers 46 tables of blackjack, poker and more. That is not the only improvement made to the casino this week, though. The casino also instituted a new rule where all drinks are on the house for players at tables with a $25 or more minimum.

Nearby Mount Airy Casino Resport also opened table games this week. Like the Mohegan Sun, they now offer free drinks, but there the drinks are free for anyone who is gambling on the gaming floor, whether you are playing at a high-roller table or a penny slot.

All of this is good news for blackjack players and drinkers (for players who like both, it’s a great deal). It is common for casinos on the Las Vegas Strip to offer complimentary drinks to anyone on the casino floor, but smaller casinos outside of Sin City usually have not had that practice. By instituting those perks, the Pennsylvania casinos are signaling an intent to compete with the big players in the casino market.

Blackjack in Pennsylvania Casinos Tomorrow

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

It has taken over six years, but blackjack and other table games are finally coming to Pennsylvania casinos tomorrow. Earlier this year, Pennsylvania’s state legislature passed a bill allowing 700 tables to be put in their casinos. Governor Ed Rendell then signed the bill into law. Tomorrow, the first 202 tables will arrive and be put into service.

With the addition of table games to the Pennsylvania gambling industry, people in the area won’t have to go as far as Atlantic City, New Jersey if they want to play blackjack. Rivers Casino and the Meadows Casino have already completed testing of their blackjack tables under the supervision of the Pennsylvania Gaming and Control Board. Thousands of players took part in the trial runs, while gaming officials kept a close watch on the event so make sure everything runs smoothly. The first full implementation of table games in the state starts tomorrow.

Aside from blackjack, the state’s casinos will also have poker, roulette, craps, baccarat and more. The state has already made $165 million in the last fiscal year in licensing fees from ten casinos for the privilege of offering table games. In the new fiscal year, which began this month, the state hopes to make an additional $15 million in licensing fees as well as $75 million from a 16% tax on revenue from the tables.

Governor Rendell said that the casino expansion is “good for the people of Pennsylvania” and various casino operators have said that, while people like playing the slots, most of their customers are excited about the addition of table games.

With blackjack and other table games coming to Florida and now Pennsylvania, here’s hoping that many more states in America follow suit.

If you don’t live in the United States or don’t live near any casinos and want to play blackjack, there are plenty of online casinos where you can play your favorite game. Online blackjack offers the same fun and skill of the traditional game with the added bonus that you can play with the comfort of your own home and tipping is not expected.

PA May Revoke License of Foxwoods Casino

Friday, April 30th, 2010

It’s not easy to open a casino in the United States, or anywhere for that matter. There is a ton of red tape, regulations that need to be met, licensing requirements, and big investments have to be made up front. Now one Pennsylvania casino may go out of business before it even begins business.

Foxwoods Casino is a proposed $500 million casino that is supposed to be located in south Philadelphia, along the Delaware River. However, it still hasn’t been built and there is no indication that it would happen anytime soon. Now it is in danger of having its license revoked.

Foxwoods Casino received a gambling license to operate slots, blackjack and other table games back in December of 2006, but has run into nothing but problems since then. To highlight a few of the problems, they have been indecisive about where to build the casino, some citizens are opposing it, and there have been major problems with financing.

That’s the big one. It takes a lot of money to build a casino because not only do you have the normal costs that go along with starting a company, you also have tons of different fees that go to the government. Original investors in the casino have backed out and Foxwoods is now looking for more financing. Last month, Nevada casino developer Steve Wynn showed interest in rescuing the project, but then backed out.

The Gaming Control Board has lost patience with the Foxwoods Casino project. Cyrus Pitre, a lawyer for the Board, stated that he is filing a complaint to revoke their gambling license. Foxwoods officials would then have 30 days to fight the revocation and prove that they still have the means to open and run the casino. There could also be a lengthy appeals process in the courts.

Yesterday, the Gaming Control Board rejected a request by Foxwoods Casino for six more months to line up new investors. The Board thinks that Foxwoods has had enough time to get financing and is ready to move on. The Board also upheld a $2,000-per-day fine on Foxwoods – which is currently at $300,000 —  for missing a deadline to submit data showing their progress.

If Foxwoods has their gambling license revoked, that would allow other casino developers to come in and compete for a license. Donald Trump showed interest in the past – even attempting to get a Philadelphia casino license in 2006 –  and may be a player in the future if Foxwoods loses their license.

So if you live in the Philadelphia area and were excited about a new casino, you might want to look elsewhere, because it will be some time before one is running near you. The good news is that western Pennsylvania approved the licenses of two new casinos, the Meadows in Washington County and the Presque Isle Downs in Erie County. But should have slots, blackjack tables and more by July. Then again, we’ve seen how hard it is to get a casino up and running around there…