CASINO ANSWER MAN
by John Grochowski
John Grochowski is a blackjack expert and a well-known and respected casino gambling columnist. His syndicated casino gambling column appears in the Denver Post, Casino City Times, and other newspapers and web sites. Grochowski has written six books on gambling including the "Answer Man" series of books (www.casinoanswerman.com). He offers one-minute gambling tips on radio station WLS-AM (890) and podcasts are available athttp://www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Send your question to Grochowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. Have you heard about the changes in casino taxes? How do they affect table players?
A. The Internal Revenue's proposed changes to reporting requirements would not affect table players. Potential changes apply to electronic games, and would have the effect of tripling the number of W-2Gs players are required to sign, according to casino industry estimates.
If the changes are approved and put into effect, the current threshold of $1,200 in winnings on a single play that triggers a W-2G would be reduced to $600. In addition, the IRS would have casinos use player tracking data to generate tax forms for any players who accumulated $1,200 in winnings above losses in one day.
From a player perspective, a move to lower the threshold is backward. To have the buying power $1,200 had in 1977, when the current regulation was adopted, it takes about $4,800 of today's dollars.
From a casino perspective, there are all kinds of pitfalls, and the industry is raising objections through its lobbying arm, the American Gaming Association. Locking games until players sign tax forms means time when the games aren't open to make money. Some operators have said a requirement to track cumulative winnings in real time would mean expensive upgrades to player tracking systems.
Q. You mentioned video blackjack when answering a question about charity blackjack and even-money payoffs. My question is about regulation in video blackjack. Is a roll of the cards more like the slot reels, with a fixed payback percentage, or like video poker?
A. It's more like video poker. Nevada, naturally enough, took the lead here, and its regulation requires that all games that use representations of playing cards be completely random, with every card having an equal chance of being dealt.
The effect is that video card games have fair odds of card appearance, with the same probabilities as if the cards were being dealt from a physical deck of cards. That applies to video blackjack, just as it applies to video poker. Over the years, we've seen video Caribbean Stud and video 3-5-7 poker, and the regulation applied to them, too. And if anyone ever decided to market video Casino War, it also would have random distribution of cards, with each having an equal chance of being dealt.
Q. I saw a game called Riverboat Roulette in Las Vegas downtown. It had a lot of extra colors besides the usual red-black-green. I didn't stop to play, but I'm going back soon. How does it work?
A. Riverboat Roulette is unusual among roulette games in that it creates multiple-spin wagers, a la craps. It uses a traditional wheel, but has different colors in the spaces between frets, where the ball falls.
The numbers themselves still are on red and black backgrounds -- with green for 0 and 00, so you can still make all the traditional roulette bets. But you also can bet on the three light blue numbers, the four purple numbers -- seven colors in all. Bets on colors pay odds of, for example, 2-1 on light blue or 8-5 on purple -- but non-winners push and stay in action if the winning color is anything but white. They lose only if the ball drops in one of the eight white numbers.
Here's the full breakdown: There are eight white numbers, five each for orange and blue, four each for pink and purple, three each for yellow and teal, and two each for good old red, black and green.
Of those, white is a one-roll bet that pays 7-2. The house edge is the same 5.26 percent as on every one-spin bet on a double-zero wheel except the five-number combo 0, 00, 1, 2, 3, where the edge is 7.89 percent.
The others are potential multi-spin wagers. They win if the ball lands in your chosen color before it lands on a white number. If the ball lands in a different color, your bet is still in action. So if you bet on teal and the ball lands in orange, there is no decision. No chips change hands until the ball lands on either teal or white, and you can accept it as a push and take your bet down if you wish.
That's much like a place bet in craps, where if you've bet on 6, the only numbers that matter are the winner 6 and the loser 7. If the shooter rolls anything else, you can either leave your bet in action or take it down. Same deal with the colors bets in Riverboat Roulette.
Payoffs are 2-1 for winners on yellow or teal, 8-5 for winners on pink and purple, and 7-5 for winners on orange and blue.
Single-spin house edges are 2.63 percent on orange or blue, 4.21 percent on pink and purple, and 5.26 percent on yellow and teal. However, if we assume you're going to leave the bet in action until there's a decision, then the house edges per decision are 7.69 percent on orange or blue, 13.33 percent on pink or purple and 18.18 percent on yellow or teal.
All edges are high enough that I'd consider playing at low stakes only, as a break time from my main games.
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