Category Archives: Gambling

Venetian Sticks It to Players with Triple Zero Sands Roulette

It appears all bets are off when it comes to casinos coming up with clever ways to increase profits. Venetian Las Vegas recently introduced Sands Roulette, a game almost identical to traditional roulette, but with an insidious twist, a triple zero.

Most roulette tables in the U.S. have a zero and double zero. Those games have a house advantage of 5.2%. Not the worst game in a casino, but fairly hefty when compared to games like blackjack and baccarat.

Occasionally, you can find a European roulette table, with just a zero, and the house edge
dips down to 2.7%. In Las Vegas, those tables tend to be reserved for high rollers.

Sands Roulette at Venetian, with 0-00-000, means there are more ways for a player to lose,
and the house advantage jumps up to 7.7% (7.69% to be exact, but let’s not get bogged
down in details).

We’d love to show you a photo of the Sands Roulette table layout, but photography is
strictly forbidden at live tables in the Venetian. Therefore, we aren’t able to share the
photo below.

Triple Zero Sands Roulette

Sadly, this isn’t Photoshopped. It actually exists.

Yes, the bean counters are at it again.

While a 2.5% increase in the house edge may not seem like a lot at first glance, it
amounts to a huge windfall for the casino over the course of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of spins.

The frustrating part about this particular revenue enhancement strategy is it’s
implemented in a way that seems underhanded. You won’t see a triple zero on the table, but
rather the triple zero is represented with an “S” and the Sands logo. The Venetian is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Sands Roulette intentionally takes advantage of less experienced players. One Venetian
staffer even said, aloud, “Tourists and conventioneers don’t really care.”

That opinion seemed to be confirmed by the fact the Sands Roulette table (there’s only one
in the casino at this point) was packed during our visit.

That same floor person admitted, “We try new table games for 90 days and evaluate the
results. If it tanks, it’ll go away.” Good to know, although much like 6-to-5 blackjack
(for many years, the game payed 3-to-2), sometimes such “innovations” never go away.

The Venetian staffer followed up with something rather ominous. He said, “If it increases
the drop, they’ll probably try adding another space.”

We’ll let that particular brand of WTF sink in for a moment.

Triple zero Sands Roulette

Sorry, we can’t show you this photo, either. Our hands are tied!

That’s right. Not only is the Venetian exploring new ways to stick it to us, they’re open to upping the ante. Let’s do this until we see what the pain point is, they seem to be saying.

Deep breaths.

Look, we don’t begrudge casinos the ability to increase profits. They’re doing it with paid parking and reduced liquor pour sizes and comp drink monitoring systems.

But is it too much to ask to not muck with a timeless, iconic casino table game? Seriously, WWJBS? (What would James Bond say?)

As mentioned, there’s currently only one triple zero table at Venetian, and we’re not
aware of any others in Las Vegas. It would surprise no one if triple zero games started
popping up at competing casinos in the very near future.

The Sands Roulette table had a $10 minimum, while all the other roulette tables had a $15 limit. One could make the argument the triple zero is a “surcharge” for the “lower” table minimum. Or not.

Will the average Las Vegas visitor realize they’re being dinged when they play the triple
zero Sands Roulette? Will knowing about it keep them from playing? We suspect not. Recreational gamblers don’t obsess over things like odds. These are the same folks playing the Big Six wheel, with one of the biggest house edges in a casino (as much as 24%, the mind reels).

Taken alone, Sands Roulette’s triple zero at Venetian Las Vegas isn’t the end of the world. But it does feel like another symbol of how casinos seem to be jeopardizing long-term trust and loyalty for short-term gain. With each new fee or detrimental change to a game, casinos run the risk of damaging the public perception of Las Vegas as a value-driven destination.

The opining about this state of affairs isn’t limited to us, of course. Our friend Sam Novak at VegasBright.com has a few thoughts well worth a look.

Ultimately, we decide what games succeed or fail. So, choose wisely.

Thanks to Marc Meltzer of EdgeVegas.com and the eagle-eyed folks at the Wizard of Vegas
forum for tipping us off to the unfortunate existence of Sands Roulette at Venetian Las Vegas.

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Caesars Entertainment Rolls Out Comp Drink Monitoring System to All Its Las Vegas Resorts

Las Vegas observers predicted this was coming, and now its here. Caesars Entertainment, which operates nine Sin City resorts, has rolled out its “Red Light, Green Light” (our term, not theirs) comp drink monitoring system to all its Las Vegas casinos.

The color-coded light system, installed on the back of video poker machines at casino and sports book bars, tells bartenders when a guest’s play warrants a free, or “comped,” drink.

Caesars Entertainment red light green light

Now, at Caesars Entertainment casinos, you have to get lit to get lit.

Las Vegas casinos have experimented with a variety of comp drink monitoring systems, the first being a voucher system at Mirage. The voucher system is now used in the lobby bar at MGM Grand as well.

Then, the Red Light, Green Light system appeared at the sports book bar at Caesars Palace.

Most recently, Cosmopolitan Las Vegas became the first Strip resort to implement a voucher system across all its casino bars, including its remodeled Chandelier bar.

The move by Caesars Entertainment to implement its comp drink monitoring system is a huge development in Las Vegas because the company owns so many casinos. Drink monitoring systems will now be the norm, and a company-wide roll-out at MGM Resorts resorts are sure to follow.

Caesars comp drink system

Today’s thing that looks like a face can also be a friend when you’re looking for a free drink.

We personally verified the comped drink system is in place at these Caesars Entertainment resorts: Bally’s (including Sully’s bar and Casino Bar), Cromwell (Lobby Bar), Linq (includes Tag Sports Bar, Catalyst and 3535 Bar), Flamingo (including X Bar and Bugsy’s, pictured below) and Harrah’s.

Our alert readers have confirmed that the system is in place at Rio, Caesars Palace, Paris and Planet Hollywood.

Remarkably, the Red Light, Green Light monitoring system seems to have been installed at all these Caesars Entertainment resorts within just a two-week window.

Bugsy's Bar Flamingo Las Vegas

Yes, the new system is in full effect at Bugsy’s Bar at Flamingo. One has to wonder what “Bugsy” Siegel (he hated that nickname, by the way) would think of the whole Red Light, Green Light thing. Oh, there would be whacking.

So, here’s how the system works, as best we can decipher, anyway. See, Caesars Entertainment hasn’t made any official announcements about the details of the monitoring system. Implementing the new system under-the-radar was a strategic decision to avoid potential backlash, as one bartender confirmed.

When you sit down at a video poker machine at a sports book or casino bar in a Caesars Entertainment resort, and put $20 into the machine, a blue light comes on. That signals to the bartender that you’ve “activated” the machine. Yes, there are guests who sit at these machines and put a dollar in and expect free drinks. They’re the ones this system is trying to address.

Once you choose your game, and begin play, you’ll need to play “max bet” for 4-5 hands (in most cases, $1.25 a pop, or five times 25 cents), then a green light comes on. That green light means you get a comped drink. Good times.

Las Vegas drink lights

Get the red, a dry spell’s ahead.™

As long as your green light is on, you’re good for comped drinks. This requires consistent play at max bet. There doesn’t appear to be a time requirement. You play, your light stays green, you’re hammered.

If you don’t play max bet, or if you play too slowly, you’ll get the red light. That signals to the bartender you no longer “qualify” for a free drink. You’ll need to meet the qualifications again before the liquor flows freely again.

That’s about it. Simple, but effective.

When we first learned of systems like this, we railed against them, but our position has evolved as we’ve learned more.

In essence, bartenders have always been the comped drink monitoring system. They watched the level and frequency of play and determined who earned a free drink. Now, it’s
automated.

When these systems first hit the casinos, bartenders weren’t thrilled. They felt it impeded their ability to give good customer service, and it also decreased their tips.

When asked during our most recent visit, one Bally’s bartender said, “They’re a blessing.” Now, the pressure is off the bartenders, and an automated system creates an environment where players know what’s expected, and the freeloaders know they can’t get away with scamming casinos for free drinks without a reasonable amount of play.

It’s worth noting bartenders say they have some discretion to veer from the rigidity of the Red Light, Green Light system for Seven Stars and Diamond tier loyalty club members. Those are some of Caesars Entertainment’s most lucrative customers, and it’s unlikely they’d nickel and dime them over cocktails that have a hard cost of mere pennies.

Caesars comp drink system

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because you’re in Vegas.

At the moment, the light system at Caesars Entertainment resorts can’t easily be seen by customers. They’re installed on the back of video poker machines, and most players don’t even realize they’re there. If you want to know which of your lights are showing, you can place your hand behind the light display to see the color reflected, or use your smartphone’s selfie mode to take a look. Or just ask your bartender. They’re not secretive about it at all.

One bartender suggested the lights should be clearly visible to players so guests could easily tell if they’ve earned another free drink. That suggestion, however, didn’t go over well with management due to concerns about the potential of a negative customer response.

The customers we’ve chatted with, though, understand the fundamental purpose of the comped drink system, and figure the only people it will impact are those who expect something for nothing. That arrangement has never actually existed in Las Vegas, despite many who mistakenly believe it did. They just didn’t understand how Vegas worked. Casino revenue has always paid for the free rooms, buffets and show tickets. People did the comping, not machines.

Cromwell comp drink system

Yep, even the Cromwell. At this point, we recommend just paying for your cocktail. It’s likely to be less expensive than feeding a machine in the hopes of earning a comped one.

The implementation of the Red Light, Green Light comped drink monitoring system at all Caesars Entertainment resorts in Las Vegas marks a dramatic turning point in the culture and business of Las Vegas casinos.

It means we’re going to see similar monitoring systems in all Las Vegas casino bars and, in time, on all slot machines across the entire casino floor.

These changes, along with downsized liquor pours and paid parking, have sparked heated discussion among Las Vegas visitors, many contending Las Vegas casinos are compromising the destination’s perceived value for short-term financial gain.

Ultimately, though, painful as they may seem, the changes are smart business, and casinos
are for-profit businesses. Always have been, always will be.

Update (9/27/16): Caesars Entertainment has confirmed that the comp drink monitoring system has been implemented at all its Nevada casinos. A statement reads: “Caesars Entertainment has implemented the comp validation system statewide throughout our Nevada resorts. This system enables us to offer complimentary beverages to those gamers who choose max play at our video poker bar top units.” See more on this story from our friends at KTNV.

It ain’t glitzy, but it is the reality, so play on.

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Transformation of The California Continues With Opening of Sports Book Bar

There’s been a steady stream of changes and renovations at downtown’s California casino,
including the unveiling of a new sports book bar.

Emphasis on bar.

California hotel sports book bar

A new place for dog players, futures, exotics, chalk eaters and other terms we don’t know the meaning of.

The new sports book bar includes a relocation of The Cal’s, wait for it, sports book. The sports
book was previously on the casino’s second floor, and it was sad. The former sports book is
expected to become additional meeting and banquet space.

The just-revealed sports book is shiny and new and happy, and is just inches away from a new casino bar, complete with eight video poker machines, comfy seating and hooch.

California sports book bar

It’s like the den you’d have if you had an uncle named Sheldon.

The Cal’s new sports book lounge has 18 video screens, with wiring telegraphing plans for two
more.

The new sports book bar is easily accessible, right on the casino floor.

We’re putting this among the best sports books downtown, right up there with Golden Nugget’s. Despite the fact we don’t do sports. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

The Cal sports book bar lounge

We are not keeping track of all the remotes.

The new sports book bar is part of a major overhaul of the California, which opened in
1975. Estimates of the hotel’s renovations put the investment in the $40 million range. The Cal cost $10 million to build.

The sports book bar follows the opening of another casino bar, the Holo Holo Bar, in the
space previously occupied by the San Francisco Pub.

Holo Holo Bar at California

Holo Holo means “to go out and have adventures” in Hawaiian. About 80% of guests at The Cal are from Hawaii.

The Cal’s entire casino has undergone a renovation over the last year or so. Read more
about the “mystery pillar” that no longer qualifies as a mystery.

The casino has gotten a serious facelift, including new carpeting, new lighting fixtures,
new detailing and paint. The whole place, described as “Hawaiian colonial,” looks brighter
and more modern.

This is where the transformation of The Cal’s casino began.

California casino renovation

Out with the old, in with the colonial.

Upstairs at the California, Aloha Specialties restaurant also got a refresh.

Aloha Specialties

Nothing too flashy, but new is new.

The hotel’s Redwood Bar & Grill, pictured below, has closed for a renovation, too.

Redwood Bar & Grill

Only in Vegas do we renovate things that don’t really need renovating.

Signs on the Redwood Bar & Grill encourage guests to visit a temporary home, at the Pullman
Grille inside Main Street Station. We haven’t tried it, but we have tried a relatively new restaurant at The Cal, California Noodle House, which gets ridiculously high praise from us, so save yourself some walking.

California Noodle House

We’ve yet to find anything we don’t like at California Noodle House, and we hate everything.

Chances are if you haven’t been to the California in awhile, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the breadth of the changes.

The Cal is one block north of Fremont Street Experience. (Full disclosure: We work in marketing for Fremont Street Experience, and The Cal is one of its partner casinos. Our opinions are our own. Except for the ones we got from 1990s sitcoms. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Prices for food and drink at The Cal are downright cheap, even by downtown standards, so with all the newness, it’s a great time to stop by and check it out.

California hotel casino Las Vegas

Bonus: No resort fees. Unless you’re into the kind of thing.

While you’re there, of course, don’t forget to grab a cone at Lappert’s Ice Cream on the second
floor. Yes, they recently cut their ice cream selection in half (our beloved chocolate chip fell victim to the downsizing), but what’s left is still some of the best ice cream in Las Vegas.

Lappert's Ice Cream

If only [bring back] subliminal messages [our damned chocolate] worked [chip].

If you drop by The Cal, we’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment, Tweet us or send a message via carrier pigeon. Note: We only mentioned that last thing to confuse the Millennials.

California Newness

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How to Find the Loosest Slots in a Las Vegas Casino, Guaranteed

Wouldn’t it be great to know the loosest slots in any Las Vegas casino? Well, you can, and it’s easier than you might think.

A “loose” slot, of course, refers to a machine that pays out frequently and in large quantities, every player’s dream. Those machines are also described as being “hot.”

In the parlance of casinos, loose slots can be said to have the lowest casino “hold.” The hold percentage is the part of a machine’s “coin in” that the casino keeps. Hey, these casinos aren’t going to carpet themselves.

Las Vegas slot machine

Just no.

The lower the hold percentage, the more a slot machine pays back to guests. The secret to finding the loosest slots in a casino, then, is knowing which machines have the lowest hold percentage.

Many believe this information is a closely-held secret, but here’s an easy way to find out which slots are the loosest: Ask someone who knows.

Crazy, right? Every casino with slot machines has a Slot Manager, often called the Slot Operations Manager. This person, who you will never see without a suit and tie (yes, they tend to be male), knows precisely what the hold percentages are for given machines, or more typically for banks of machines.

It’s the Slot Manager’s job to monitor how machines are performing, if they’re delivering sufficient profit to the casino given the space they take, if new machines are needed, where they should be placed on the casino floor and myriad other duties.

If you want to know which slots in a casino are the “loosest,” simply ask a Slot Manager.

Loose slots

These are some of the loosest slots at The D Las Vegas. How do we know? We asked.

Here’s how.

Ask anyone on the floor if the Slot Manager is available to chat. Slot attendants and cocktail waitresses can be very helpful tracking them down. Hint: Be professional and courteous.

Introduce yourself to the Slot Manager and let them know you’re interested in locating the slots with the lowest hold percentage on the floor. Slot Managers are busy people, so while there’s no harm in schmoozing, don’t be shy about getting to the point.

In most cases, a Slot Manager will either point you toward a bank of machines or escort you there. Express your appreciation accordingly, and it’s time to play!

That’s it. No, really. It’s that easy.

All this begs the question: Why would a casino employee tell a player the best-playing slots in the casino?

Simple: Casinos just want people to play, they don’t care which machines they play on.

Why? Because no matter which machine you play, the house has the advantage. It’s built right into the machine’s microprocessor. Even if a machine has a great payback percentage, say 98%, it will keep $2 for every $100 put into the machine. Many machines keep significantly more.

loosest slots

As a rule, slots are looser at locals casinos than downtown casinos, and both pay back more than slots on The Strip. The more you know.

Now, if you can’t locate a Slot Manager, you can fall back on tried-and-true ways to find the best-paying slots.

A solid rule-of-thumb is the more active a bank of slots is, the higher the payouts tend to be. Casino regulars see patterns, so follow their lead.

It’s also good to know that the higher the machine’s denomination, the more generous and frequent the payouts. For example, a $5 coin machine is going to have a higher payout percentage than a quarter machine, and so on.

$500 coin slot machine

Go big or go home. It’s Vegas!

And finally, don’t discount the advice of those slot attendants and cocktail waitresses we mentioned. They, too, can see patterns in machine payouts. They may not be privy to the same information a Slot Manager has, but they can often point you toward the machines showing signs of being “hot.”

The next time you’re in a casino, remember our simple tip for finding the loosest slots: Ask a Slot Manager.

And remember to have fun when you play. That way, whether Lady Luck is in the mood or not, you’re always a winner.

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 21: Good Vibrations, EasyPlay App and Howard Hughes

It’s time for another excruciating episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast!

This is episode 21, which means the podcast is finally old enough to gamble. What could possibly go wrong? (Don’t bother asking about the “Good Vibrations” thing. It’s better left unsaid.)

In this installment, we chat about the new real money slot tournament app from MGM Resorts, EasyPlay, and hear an exclusive interview with Michael Jabara, President & CEO of OneLive, Inc., the company that developed this new Web-based app.

EasyPlay app

The EasyPlay app from MGM Resorts lets players enter real money slot, bingo and video poker tournaments.

We also dive into the state of downtown Las Vegas and its future, and round up some of the Las Vegas news you know and love (mainly because you read this blog).

Rounding out the episode, we explore one of the colorful characters that made what Las Vegas is today, Howard Hughes.

It’s all that and so much less on this episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast, so take a listen, already.

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MGM Resorts Takes Real Money Slot Tournaments Mobile With Web-Based EasyPlay App

MGM Resorts has launched a new Web-based app, EasyPlay, being touted as the “first mobile casino slot platform in the country.”

The EasyPlay app allows players to participate in virtual slot and bingo tournaments away from the casino floor at MGM Resorts destinations. The difference between this app and other “just for fun” social casino games is the prizes are paid in cash, on site.

EasyPlay app mobile casino

It’s easy to play. Which may have inspired the name, EasyPlay. Just a hunch.

EasyPlay (the official style is “easyPLAY,” but we have an aversion to random capitalization and shouting) can be accessed free via a Web site.

For the time being, one must be logged into the Wi-Fi at an MGM Resorts hotel-casino to use the app and take part in the virtual tournaments. (EasyPlay tournaments are also be accessible on InteractivePro Tables located throughout MGM Resorts.)

There’s a small cost for tournament entries, and tournament jackpots vary based upon the number of participants.

The EasyPlay app makes it a breeze to see how many people are taking part in a given slot or bingo tournament and where you rank against other participants, all in real-time.

EasyPlay slot tournament app

EasyPlay was developed by a Las Vegas company, oneLIVE, Inc. We’ll let them get away with the random capitalization and shouting just this once because we sort of like their app.

MGM Resorts sees this app as the next evolution of casino gambling, although, technically, the tournament element keeps this type of mobile gambling from being considered “gambling,” because mobile gambling isn’t legal in the U.S. at the moment. It’s complicated.

Of course, MGM Resorts and the game developer have made sure EasyPlay has the blessing of Nevada Gaming Control Board.

MGM Resorts reps seem to have high hopes their new app will appeal to younger gamblers, specifically, those pesky Millennials. Will Millennials like slot machines more because they’re on a smartphone? It’s possible. They do seem to enjoy competition, and EasyPlay slot tournaments certainly provide that experience.

EasyPlay app

“What the hell is bingo?” ~Millennials

The EasyPlay app is being described as “the new keno,” which sounds about right. We’ll definitely use the app when we’re having lunch at a casino restaurant or a cocktail at a casino bar. But mainly that second thing.

The fact there are real money payouts certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

If you win one of the EasyPlay slot tournaments, just go to the casino cage, provide a valid I.D. and your e-mail address, and you’ll get your cash. (All the usual rules apply for wins greater than $1,200, you’ll have to fill out the appropriate tax forms.)

Other details: A payment method is set up within the app prior to play, entry credits can be purchased for varying amounts (starting for as little as $1), you can play free trial games, and the app lets you check winnings, credit balances and scheduled tournaments with ease.

EasyPlay casino app

Just scan the available tournaments and dive right in. You’ve got 25 spins to get the high score. No pressure.

If you have questions, visit an M Life players club desk (yes, we know it’s “M life,” don’t get us started) at your favorite MGM Resorts casino.

Here’s some sweet news coverage of the release of the EasyPlay app. By “sweet,” of course, we mean this Las Vegas blog is featured in it.

Casino social games have been a huge windfall for casino companies (yes, people spend millions of real dollars purchasing virtual coins), and casinos are champing at the bit for real money mobile gambling to be legalized.

In the meantime, virtual tournaments it is, and EasyPlay may end up being your new favorite obsession when visiting an MGM Resorts casino in Las Vegas. Those resorts include Aria, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Monte Carlo, Luxor, New York-New York and Excalibur. Sorry, but at Circus Circus, you’ll have to play slots the old-fashioned way. (Circus Circus is owned by MGM Resorts, but isn’t part of the M Life players club family.)

Here’s a tip: Even if your chances of winning a tournament look bleak, don’t give up. We’ve personally seen someone get six million points on one spin, so a miraculous, come-from-behind victory isn’t out of the question.

If you give EasyPlay a try, let us know what you think, and if you win a jackpot, our usual commission applies.

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