Category Archives: Gambling

Gaming Today Magazine Sold, Print Publication to Cease

A Las Vegas-based sports betting publication, Gaming Today, has been sold to i15 Media.

While the Gaming Today Web site will continue under new ownership, the print publication will cease Feb. 10, 2021, following the magazine’s Super Bowl edition.

Gaming Today has been in print for more than 45 years.

It’s distributed in about 150 casinos, card rooms, race tracks and other venues across the country.

Gaming Today magazine sold

Not to be mistaken for Gaming Late Tomorrow Afternoon magazine. Hey, that could be a thing.

Gaming Today has been hard-hit by the effects of the pandemic, as many of its advertisers are casino companies.

Bill Paulos, the current owner of Gaming Today, said, “While we are saddened the print publication will no longer be found across The Strip, we are grateful the Gaming Today brand will live on within the i15 Media digital family.”

I15 Media manages a large network of gambling-focused news and affiliate sites including Bonus.com and Michigansharp.com, among others.

Paulos acquired Gaming Today in Aug. 2018. Paulos was co-founder and owner of Cannery Casinos. He sold Cannery to Boyd Gaming in 2016 for $230 million.

Gaming Today was founded by Chuck and Eileen Di Rocco in 1976. The magazine was originally called Sports Form.

To mark the end of the publication’s 45-year run, Gaming Today will donate 50 percent of the ad revenue from its final print edition to Three Square Food Bank, Southern Nevada’s largest hunger relief organization.

The move to an all-digital format seems a natural evolution for Gaming Today, but given it has been a fixture at many casinos for decades, the print version will surely be missed by sports bettors and gamblers of all stripes.

It should be noted we have never actually witnessed a striped gambler, but we mostly see them with clothes on.

Eight Casino Games and the Psychology of Why People Play Them

Las Vegas casinos are an absolute blast. Each has a slew of games of chance to choose from, and there’s something for everyone.

One of the great things about casino games is each differs in why they’re appealing, and players of various games often have very different reasons for playing.

The psychology of gambling is one of the best parts. Well, that and hand pays. And free drinks. But mostly psychology!

Here, then, are eight of the most popular casino games and why players play them.

1. Craps: When You Enjoy Meeting New People

Craps, referred to as “dice” by the cool kids, has some of the best odds in the casino. But that’s not really why most people play the game. Craps is social! Because most players have money riding on the same bet, it’s a team game and the camaraderie is unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. If you have a hot roll at a dice table, you’re guaranteed to have a new batch of lifelong friends.

Casino Royale

Remember when crowding around a dice table was a thing?

2. Roulette: When You Don’t Want to Learn How to Gamble

One of the reasons roulette is so popular is it requires virtually no skill. Just put your chips on the numbers and hope Lady Luck is on your side! People sometimes get bent out of shape because a roulette table will have three zeroes. While this is a disadvantage to players, critics don’t seem to understand these two words: Who cares? People who play roulette are having a great time. It’s not about rules or odds. It’s about fun.

Roulette

You don’t have to play all your hunches. Hunches can be real jerks sometimes.

3. Baccarat: When You Really Don’t Want to Learn How to Gamble

Baccarat pretty much has two bets: You bet on the “player” or the “banker.” So, pretty much like a coin toss. The dealer does the rest. Whales love baccarat and fortunes have been won and lost playing this game. Ultimately, though, it’s pretty much a 50/50 game and what’s not to love about a game that takes five seconds to learn?

Baccarat

We learned baccarat at Lucky Dragon. Which closed shortly thereafter. They should’ve put quotation marks around the “Lucky.”

4. Keno: When You Really, Really Don’t Want to Learn How to Gamble

Remember how we said craps has some of the best odds in a casino? Well, keno has some of the worst. The house advantage (also called the “house edge”) for live keno is around 25 percent (and can be as high as 35 percent). In layperson’s terms, that’s an avalanche of suck. Still, keno can provide a low-cost form of enjoyment and, as we’ve said, that’s really the point of gambling, not merely the financial ROI. The strategy in keno involves: 1) Marking numbers. That’s the whole list. Just as with the lottery, winning it out of your hands, so just enjoy the ride.

world's largest keno board

Will you please grow up?

5. Blackjack: When You Like Math

Blackjack, unlike some games we’ve mentioned, involves a degree of skill. That means a player with knowledge of the game (basic strategy) tends to do better than one without. One of the biggest barriers to blackjack is it involves math. Every hand involves addition. Dealers do a lot of the heavy lifting, but it’s still up to players to make a decision, whether to hit or stand, for every hand. If you’re not up for sum math, blackjack may not prove to be of value.

blackjack

Getting a blackjack keeps the math to a minimum.

6. Sports Betting: When You Want To Have Skin in the Game

Lots of people who aren’t this blog absolutely love sports! And many of the people who love sports enjoy betting on sports. Here’s why: Sports betting makes sports a lot less boring. Rooting for your favorite team is one thing, but having money on the line inspires a whole new level of enthusiasm. Proof? During the pandemic, as major sports were shutting down, sports bettors shifted their attention to offbeat sports including ping pong and Belarusian soccer. No, really. The sports themselves don’t matter all that much, it’s all about the wagering action.

Circa sportsbook

If you’re into sports, the new Circa resort has a metric hell-ton of it.

7. Slots: When You Want an Escape

It’s a scientific fact playing slot machines can put gamblers into a trance-like state. Slots are a great way to escape our daily lives, to enter the “zone” where our concerns are set aside while we take a mental vacation. Slot players often lose track of time (casinos aren’t mad about that) as well as their surroundings. Slots are like self-hypnosis, where worries melt away and we’re freed up to reap the rewards of our labor and dispose of our disposable income. Everything in moderation, of course, but slots are a popular diversion from all the WTF in our everyday lives.

Cosmopolitan high limit slots

Cosmo is one of our favorite mental vacation destinations.

8. Video Poker: When You Love to Drink

Video poker has some of the best returns in a casino, but that’s not really why people play and it’s just one small part of the experience. The best part is the drinking! When you sit at a casino video poker bar, it’s expected you’ll play a reasonable amount per hand (in most places it’s a dollar per hand), but if you do, the drinks flow freely. Video poker provides a great value, and while there’s always a risk of “decision fatigue,” video poker players almost always have a great time because Las Vegas never runs out of libations.

Vital Vegas royal flush

We’ve gotten two royals in 20 years, so we’re definitely in it for the hooch.

There are lot of other casino games, of course, but the number eight is lucky, so we don’t want to screw with our mojo. As soon as this story goes live, we’re heading to the casino! Shocker.

We’d love to hear why you play your favorite casino game. Do you prefer solitude or interaction? Math or no math? Do the odds matter most or is the experience that gets your blood pumping?

Whatever game you play, Vegas is the place to do it. Otherwise, it would be Vital Des Moines, and that would just be awkward.

Gender-Neutral Playing Cards: Field-Flattener or Philosophical Flop

A forensic psychology graduate in the Netherlands has proposed replacing the king, queen and jack in decks of playing cards to challenge gender inequality.

The king, queen and jack would be replaced by gold, silver and bronze.

Let the public outcry begin!

Gender-neutral playing cards

First Las Vegas casino that gets them wins.

We know a little something about outcries, as we have a long history of outcrying. (Shout-out to resort fees and paper straws.)

When we first heard about these gender-neutral playing cards, our reaction was a knee-jerk, “WTF? Somebody’s hammock doesn’t reach both trees! Playing cards have always had a king, queen and jack!”

Then, sadly, we spent a little more time pondering this. Damn it.

The inventor of the gender-neutral cards, Indy Mellink, says the fact a king is more valuable than a queen is a subtle inequality. It implies a man is of higher rank than a woman.

Which is usually the point where our outrage would kick in. Nonsense! Face cards are royalty. It’s history! Don’t mess with tradition!

This is political correctness run amok, right?

Four Queens

Who knew Four Queens was ahead of its time, equalitywise?

But then Mellink raised the fact these gold, silver and bronze cards are also race-neutral.

Aw, crap. It’s hard to get too mad at that one. The vast majority of playing cards are awfully, well, pasty.

Here’s Indy Mellink talking about her playing cards.

Just when you think you’ve got a solid case for indignation, Indy Mellink hits us with, “It’s a deck of cards for everyone.”

Wow.

We hate thinking about things in a new way!

Why shouldn’t people have choices when it comes to their playing cards?

Why are most face cards white?

Why should kings trump queens? Or for that matter, why should queens beat jacks?

Once this started sinking in, it turns out our knee-jerk reaction may have been more “jerk” than “knee.”

Honestly, we feel like a bit of a bronze-off.

Plaza loyalty club cards

Fun fact: About two years ago, Plaza Las Vegas revamped its loyalty club from card-based tiers to Bronze, Silver and Gold (bottom row, above). Mind blown.

Some of the greatest strides for equality have involved ending things that have “always been that way.” Often, biases are so entrenched in our culture (including in our casino games of chance), they’re invisible.

Interestingly, our reaction to these new cards says a lot about who we are. Where do these emotions come from, and why?

So, damn it, we’re probably going to buy one of these gender-neutral decks of cards. Here’s the official Web site.

Will you be seeing them at your casino’s blackjack tables anytime soon? Unlikely, but maybe you should.

They not only show us a new way of looking at playing cards, but also a new way of looking at ourselves.

Update (1/20/21): Following our story going live, Indy Mellink stopped in and left a comment. She’s shown herself to not only be smart and creative, she’s also a great marketer and clearly has a keen eye for talent.

Indy gender neutral cards

What’s not to love about Indy?

Gird Your Bank Account: Cashless Slot Machine Systems Are Here

Casino technology company IGT announced its cashless gambling system, Resort Wallet, has been approved by Nevada gaming authorities. Hello, mixed feelings.

The system allows gamblers to access money directly from a slot machine, rather than having to insert cash or trek to an ATM.

A player simply uses their casino loyalty club card to transfer cash into a secure digital wallet, either at the casino “cage” or via a Resort Wallet-enabled slot machine. Then, the player can use their PIN to apply funds to any game, as well as being able to cash out to their digital wallet at any time. Which is definitely going to happen. Definitely.

cashless slot systems

Please let this photo also serve as a reminder to avoid gambling with $50 bills. Superstition thing.

As with everything in life, there are two sides to this story.

On one hand, the technology makes it convenient for players to gain access to their money.

On the other hand, the technology makes it convenient for players to gain access to their money.

Specifically, easy access to money raises a number of concerns, and not just for those with a gambling problem.

The main benefit of cashless systems (convenience, or the removal of obstacles between a gambler and their money) is also the main reason such systems tend to receive some blowback.

Cashless systems remove many of the barriers to accessing and gambling one’s funds. You know, barriers like standing up, stretching your legs, meandering to an ATM, paying an ATM fee, walking back to the machine, loading it up with actual cash money, all that.

Those “barriers” are considered by many to be important safeguards for players.

In the heat of the moment during a losing session, you’re forced to stop and look around and take part in the aforementioned meandering.

You may go to the restroom. You may grab a coffee. You may unsuccessfully hit on a complete stranger. You may even reconsider whether you want to gamble more.

Let’s face it: Las Vegas was not built on people reconsidering whether they want to gamble more.

Gambler diaper

Hate getting up from your slot machine? We invented these. You’re welcome.

Recently, advocates of cashless systems, typically casinos or providers like IGT, promote these systems as “reduced-contact” and “safer,” using the pandemic as a marketing angle, but those selling points are obviously self-serving.

These systems are about making it easier for players to get and gamble money, plain and simple.

They’re also about making money seem as little like money as possible. (Remember, these are the same folks who insist upon calling it “gaming” rather than “gambling.” There’s a reason.)

Why do casinos use chips rather than cash? Because when a gambler uses chips, it doesn’t feel like money they’re gambling. It’s just chips.

casino chips

It’s not money, it’s discs of fun!

Cashless systems take that even further. In a moment of decision, sometimes fueled by alcohol, players don’t touch anything at all but their loyalty club card.

Still, we’re a big fan of individual choice and personal responsibility, so we’re solidly on the fence about such cashless systems.

We actually like the option of having access to our money at the tables, either through a marker (casino credit) or a tabletop device.

We wrote about such “tabletop ATMs” back in January 2020. These machines let players access money without ever leaving the table. They’ve already been used at Palms, The D and Strat. If the world had ended, we’d have heard about it.

Cashless table games

Yes, there are fees. No, we don’t remember what they are. We’re here to drink, not “remember things.”

Another cashless slot machine credit system, Marker Trax, is being tested at Ellis Island, just off The Strip.

Looking ahead, IGT got a patent for slot machines to accept Bitcoin and other “crypto,” as the kids call it. The mind reels.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about cashless gambling systems. Player’s friend or enabler?

Coincidentally, in IGT’s news release, a spokesperson for the company said, “We’re grateful to the Nevada Gaming Control Board for enabling this momentous debut in the state.”

Hey, we don’t make up the news, we just report it. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Megabucks Hits for $15.5 Million, We’ve Got Exclusive Details

On Christmas Eve 2020, a lucky player won $15.5 million on a Megabucks slot machine at Suncoast casino.

The dude’s name was Kevin.

But wait, there’s more.

Megabucks winner Suncoast

At least somebody’s 2020 didn’t entirely suck.

The exact jackpot was $15,491,103.27.

While taxes for such jackpots vary, The Man takes about a 40 percent bite.

Still, the jackpot was the largest in Nevada in eight years.

Megabucks winner Suncoast

Three credits, $15.5 million. Two credits, a paltry $20,000. Lesson: Just spring for the extra buck.

We were the first to share news of the Suncoast jackpot, mainly because our ever-vigilant Twitter followers noticed a Megabucks machine at another casino had reset to $10 million. That happens whenever somebody wins the jackpot.

Megabucks

The Megabucks reset is reliable jackpot alert system.

We naturally visited Suncoast to check out, and possibly fondle, the winning machine. Lighten up, it was consensual.

Suncoast is a locals casino owned by Boyd Gaming, about 15 minutes west of the Las Vegas Strip.

Suncoast

Suncoast rents that sky just to make our photos look better.

Apparently, Kevin (a part-time Vegas resident, who also lives in Alaska) put $40 in the lucky Megabucks machine before his big win.

For posterity, we’d like to share the winning machine number was 9669. The machine’s location was 5501. (See photo below.)

While casino practices vary slightly, you can tell a machine’s I.D. number and location by looking for the big red arrows.

Slot machine numbering

It’s like a GPS for slot techs.

The winning machine sits next to the casino’s Peng Zu restaurant.

More controversially, it’s near Du-par’s restaurant. The Megabucks winner apparently dined there following his windfall. A casino insider contacted us to share Kevin failed to tip the staff after his meal. Awkward.

Megabucks

This Megabucks machine is currently a local celebrity.

Whether the player tipped staff for his $15.5 million win is unknown.

Anyway, we’re confident Kevin will circle back and lavish staff with gratuities galore.

It was probably the shock.

Megabucks

Megabucks is what’s known as a “progressive” slot machine, which could explain why it’s always redistributing wealth.

The irony in cases of multimillion-dollar jackpots is the player often has little or no cash on them. Large jackpots are paid by check (by the machine manufacturer, not the casino) often over many years, so it’s not uncommon for players to “forget” to tip, or not have the cash to tip, at the time of their win.

Nailed this jackpot during our visit. Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice?

Whatever the circumstances of a win, there’s always a collective thrill when somebody snags millions of dollars on a slot machine. (Also known as collective envy.)

Megabucks jackpots are part of what keep the Las Vegas dream alive! One spin or pull of the arm can change your life forever.

Downtown Grand Halts Table Games Midweek

In another lovely sign of the challenges facing Las Vegas casinos at the moment, Downtown Grand has stopped operating its table games on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

While Downtown Grand’s casino table games area has never really been considered lively, at least they had one, and the experience was always enjoyable.

Downtown Grand

We love Downtown Grand’s casino because it’s quiet. Just not closed quiet, please.

Downtown Grand is the latest casino grappling with weak demand mid-week. Winter is always slow in Las Vegas, but without NFR and conventions, we’re pretty much screwed.

Adjusting table games hours can help reduce labor costs, and slot machines end up doing the heavy lifting on revenue generation for casinos.

For example, Circus Circus bailed on its table games mid-week. The worst part is all the kids are now limited to the definitely-not-gambling games in the midway. Bummer!

Circus Circus

A casino without table games is like an “O” without a “69.”

Hotel towers are partially closing as well. Mandalay Bay, Mirage and Park MGM close their hotels midweek, for example.

Encore also closed midweek due to soft demand.

Palazzo recently announced it would temporarily close its hotel tower seven days a week.

Rooms, schmooms, don’t take away our roulette, blackjack and craps! We need something to do after our chicken parm at Triple George.

Downtown Grand’s situation is particularly interesting because it recently opened a new hotel tower. While we’re pretty sure Downtown Grand has never earned a dollar of profit from its casino, it’s had strong demand for lodging in the past, hence the expansion.

Sadly, the new tower opened in the middle of the pandemic.

Downtown Grand hotel tower

Come hell or high water, Vegas keeps making new things.

It feels like Las Vegas is being tested.

Hang in there, Downtown Grand. We’re rooting for you, and we’ll be by to try our hand at those excellent video poker machines at Furnace bar soon.