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ATLANTIC CITY BLACKJACK REPORT - April 2017

by Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete's is America's number casinos gambling author. Frank Scoblete's new books are "I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack!", "I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps! "and "Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!" All available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

Visit Frank's Web site at www.frankscoblete.com.


The Resurrection

Our society loves it when people and places come back from the dead; heck, our major religion, Christianity, is based on such an event. We love movies where the underdog makes a fighting comeback - think the Rocky movies.

Atlantic City has been in a death spiral for the past 10 years. Casinos have been snuffed out one after another. The AH (formerly the Grand with all other names over the years) is gone as are the World's Fair, Trump Plaza, Claridge, Sands, Taj Mahal, Showboat, and Revel. That's eight properties, six of which just recently expired!

The amount of money coming into the city has consistently gone down. Many experts have been predicting that one or two other casinos are heading for the grave, notably Caesars and Harrah's. Atlantic City is no longer a competitor with Las Vegas; its opponents are now casinos in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York

But something good seems to be happening. Income in 2016 suddenly went up. All but two of the casinos made more money in 2016 than they did in 2015.

Here are the statistics:

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement shows that Atlantic City's casinos posted their first revenue increase in a decade. Here's how each casino performed in 2016, compared to 2015:

Bally's: $210 million, up 0.1 percent

Borgata: $769 million, up 3.8 percent

Caesars: $302 million, down 2.7 percent

Golden Nugget: $251 million, up 9 percent

Harrah's: $358 million, down 4.3 percent

Resorts: $173 million, up 6.7 percent

Tropicana: $341 million, up 9 percent

Only two casinos are heading downhill, Caesars and Harrah's. Caesars has been teetering for several years now, and Harrah's is starting to look pale in the face. Yet the other casinos seem to be in relatively good shape (okay, Bally's is basically even), with the Golden Nugget and Tropicana leading the way with nine percent increases.

Of course, even with the overall decline in total gamblers heading to the Queen by the Sea, the remaining players who frequented the recently closed casinos had to go somewhere. That is probably why we are seeing such a slight increase in individual casinos' revenue.

Will 2017 also show increases? Time will tell. But maybe the resurrection of Atlantic City will continue apace.

CASINO RATINGS

We thank many of our readers for helping us to stay as updated as possible. There may be some disagreements in ratings among our correspondents but all these reports are based on individuals' experiences. A word to the wise: it's always best to check out the casinos for yourselves.

Rating system:

***** = Excellent

**** = Very Good

*** = Good

** = Fair

* = Poor

General rules: Atlantic City's casinos basically have the same rules - on occasion this or that casino might change how many splits you can do or offer those horrible 6-to-5 blackjack games. Sometimes casinos will offer surrender (a rarity). Just about all casinos have gone to the H17, although most will have some games where dealers stand on soft 17 (high roller rooms).

The best games in terms of penetration, number of decks and rules are invariably found in the high roller rooms.

Players can double on any first two cards; they can split two or three times (make sure you ask about this or read the signs on the table); aces can only be split once and each ace receives one card (the standard rule all across the country). You can usually play up to three hands but most of the casinos will let you play all the spots if you make arrangements beforehand - obviously the casino is looking for high roller action in such a case. Check out the new wording on many of the layouts - amazingly wordy and almost totally BS as opposed to BJ.

BALLY'S: BJ has cuts are quite variable. All 8-deck games in this place, maybe some six-deckers in high roller room but mid-week the high rollers are usually few and far between. The hitting on soft 17 is now a sad fact. Crews are friendly. Two and one-half stars: * * *

BORGATA: A few 6-deck games can still be found with decent penetration of about 75 percent. A mixture of S17 and H17 but the H17 dominates. You'll enjoy the night clubs and the beautiful people. This is still a somewhat decent casino for blackjack. Overall this continues to be the number one casino in AC. Three stars: * * *

CAESARS: The main floor of eight-deckers has some of the upper-limit tables ($25 and $50) with no mid-shoe entry. All the games in the high roller pit are also no mid-shoe entry with $100 and higher minimums. Six-deck games in high roller room have 75 percent penetration just as most of the regular floor does. High roller room is S17; the main floor is H17. Big question: Is this casino fading? Two and one-half stars: * *

HARRAH'S: Eight decks and penetration is about 75 percent. This is an interesting place for slot players but it is heading downhill moneywise. Two and one-half stars: * * *

RESORTS: Atlantic City's first casino - and it is still around; while next to it is the husks of Tal Mahal and Showboat. Many H17 games on main floor; high roller room is S17. Penetration on all games is about 80+ percent which is darn good. Three stars: * * *

TROPICANA: It is bringing the highest rollers into AC. Blackjack is H17 on almost all games. Has excellent penetration, maybe 80-85 percent. Three stars: * * *

THE GOLDEN NUGGET: The place seems to be doing quite well. I remember when this was President Trump's hotel-casino. The blackjack games in the high roller room are excellent with penetration of 80 percent and top rules such as splitting and resplitting; and standing on soft 17. You can even ask for surrender but supposedly this is a trap for card counters. I doubt it. I haven't seen many card counters in AC the past few years. The eight-deck games in the casino are ho-hum and basically the same as all the other casinos in AC. Crowd loves to play carnival games. The craps games are excellent and - as always - this place has the nicest and most professional dealers you will find. Give it a try. Three stars: * * *

THE BEST BLACKJACK IN ATLANTIC CITY:

Any rating of three or more stars.

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