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AS GOES BJI, SO DOES LAS VEGAS

By Nicholas Colon

Nicholas Colon is the Director of Business Development for the Casino Mega Store, the largest online provider of casino gaming lifestyle products.

For almost two decades, the Blackjack Insider Newsletter has been an integral part of the advantage play community. Month after month, selected members of the Advantage Play (i.e., AP) community have offered their insights on various techniques of advantage gaming. In addition to those insightful articles, several informed commentaries and casino conditions have been reported along with those technical articles. The latter have becoming sparser over the last several months, mostly because the advanced techniques that are required to attack the games (that occupy the gaming floor of casinos) to gain an overwhelming house advantage are well guarded by the most elite professional players.

Sadly, Henry Tamburin, the long-time editor of the BJI, has decided to retire so the monthly issues of the BJI newsletter will come to an end; it will remain only as an archival resource for aspiring recreational and professional players.

Similarly, the casino gaming world, particularly in Las Vegas, has also been put on coast mode. This occurred after a severe downshift in what made Las Vegas great; namely, the nice (often cheap) accommodations, inexpensive food, world-class entertainment, and the chance to win some money. In simple terms it was an exceptional value for adults who wanted to get away from the everyday hustle-and-bustle that was their life, even if it was only for a weekend.

Las Vegas has taken a massive detour from casino gaming. The overwhelming amount of revenue that gaming-center cities generate is no longer from gambling, but from amenities that players utilize when in the gaming town. Low cost buffets, free drinks, show tickets, and free rooms have been replaced by high cost buffets, play requirements toreceive free drinks, and a better chance of getting struck by lightning then getting free show tickets and a comp room. And if that wasn't enough, in their ultimate wisdom casinos have sold off the parking rights to outside companies, and their lots are now charging a fee for parking. In some cases, the cost can go up to $18 a day.

Just as the BJI did not decide one day on the spur-of-the-moment to cease publishing its newsletter, the casino gaming world did not implement these absurd changes overnight. The gaming companies, which include developers and operators, have moved towards a turn-and-burn philosophy for players. This means they extort as much money from their customers as quickly as possible.

An advertised room rate of "$39 dollars a night" translates into $99 a night, after taxes, resort fees, parking fees, and now a new service charge to pay for a professional football team's new stadium (Raiders) that is currently under construction in Las Vegas. Charging visitors for every possible amenity, even when the amenity has always been inclusive, is designed to take advantage of the Monday through Thursday conventioneers. Major cooperation's pay substantial amounts of dollars for rooms, and in fees; the weekend crowds are composed of mostly southern California mid-twenty- something men and women who are looking to blow off steam from their despised mid- 30k salary job.

Groups of these people share rooms and cars to reduce the cost per person. I have a friend who is in butler services at a Las Vegas Five-Star Hotel, and he says it's not uncommon to see eight young adults in a room. Room occupancies are capped at four so there is some deception going on there. Other cost-cutting measures these folks will do is to purchase alcohol and food at the local grocery stores to further reduce their expenses. (They can easily drive to the store in their own car after they drive in from LA.)

The majority of their spending is flash money, usually reserved for night clubbing and drink buying. Whatever money is set aside for gambling is usually a very small amount.

The games are so utterly horrible in most of the Strip casinos that the "players" burn through their $200 bankroll in just over an hour. The reason the bankroll does not last longer is because the games are set at such a high hold percentage that they just quickly chew up the entire player's bankroll. The games are so terrible that the only way the casinos can get people to play them are to set the minimum bets at $5 or $10. As a direct result, grand properties like the Venetian are offering low-limit games with terrible odds. (For example, a triple zero roulette wheel, called Sands roulette, has a house edge of approximately 7.5%.

Additional cost cutting measures are now being put in place across casinos in Las Vegas. For example, at the Boyd-owned local's casinos, they have terminating their voucher program for free Friday Sea Food Buffets. When I found out about this (while trying to redeem a voucher on a Friday), the buffet room was empty. Since the vouchers were not being honored, I left (and so did many other players).

Given these unfavorable playing conditions and reduced value experienced by players it's easy to see why the BJI decided to retire its newsletter following Henry's announce retirement. The casinos don't offer value to their players like they used to; consequently, the BJI has found it more difficult to offer tips to its readers to reduce their cost of playing or to gain an edge when the play. If the GOLMAN SACHS predictions on the economy are right, then a booming 2018 US economy can be expected. Maybe, just maybe, the influx of money will cause the casino operators to re-tool their efforts toward a higher-wager player.

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