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Colorado Casinos Studies Lower Blackjack Payout Scheme

The casino usually wins in any casino table games. Now it wants to pay out less when it losses. Colorado's casino facilities are petitioning regulators to scale down the minimum payout in the game of blackjack, which would tilt the advantage heavily in the favor of the house.

Under the current rules for the game, casino operators are required to pay 3-2 on blackjack, meaning a $10 wager would come back $15.The gaming industry wants to lower the minimum payout to 6-5, which would require casino facilities to pay $12 on a $10 wager when a gamer hits blackjack.

The plan comes as casino facilities are earning less than expected returns from looser gaming regulations that took effect on July 2nd, 2009. Players are criticizing the plan. John Hirota of Longmont said that it feel like casino facilities have all the cards in their possession and they are just increasing the odds in their favor. The 6-5 payout was first introduced in the late 1990's in Nevada for single deck blackjack.

The game usually gives players better odds compared with multi-deck blackjack games-which uses six or eight decks of cards. But casino facilities started using the lower payout scheme on multi-deck games in recent years and about twenty percent of all blackjack tables on the Strip now pay 6-5 on blackjack, according to Nevada-based consultant Bill Zender.

Zender said that usually, the casino advantage on a multi-deck game paying 3-2 on a blackjack is 1.5%-meaning that the house can expect to win $1.50 for every $100 wagers. Taking the game to 6-5 payout increases the odds in the casino's favor to 2.9%.

Don Burmania, a spokesperson for the Colorado Division of Gaming said that Colorado gaming regulators meet regularly with gaming industry officials to discuss gaming rules and casino operators suggested the payout change during a recent discussion.

Under the propose change, the 6-5 payout can be use on any blackjack game. Currently, no gaming facility in Colorado offers single-deck tables. Burmania said that the 6-5 payout scheme is common in Las Vegas Strip casinos now so the Colorado gaming industry wants to be consistent with other gaming jurisdictions. The proposal will be reviewed on February 18th, 2010 during the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission's monthly meeting. If the Gaming Commission approves the payout proposal, casino operators could offer the lower payout beginning on April 30th, 2010.

Casino officials were mum about their gaming plans, which could include adding single-deck and two-deck blackjack games. Assistant general manger J.J. Garcia said that Jacobs Entertainment, which manages the Lodge and Gilpin casinos in Black Hawk, is reviewing its options.

The co-owner of Bronco Billy's Casino in Cripple Creek, Marc Murphy, said that he had not discussed the payout issue with his casino table games manager. The executive director of Colorado Gaming Association, Lois Rice, said that operators are not required to implement the lower blackjack payout scheme. Casino revenue improved 9% during the first six months of regulation changes allowed under the Amendment 50.

The measure permitted casino facilities to raise the maximum wager from $5 to $100, stay open 24/7 and add the games of craps and roulette. Some Colorado officials had projected a revenue boost of up to 25% before the Amendment 50 changes took effect. Slot machines produce 90% of the industry's gaming revenue and blackjack account for three percent. Among the beneficiaries of the gambling tax revenue are the general fund, historic preservation and community colleges.


Tuesday, March 02 , 2010
Emma Green