Monday, February 19, 2007

Vegas Myths

I've been getting a lot of questions about casino operations from my friends. Here's the top few questions and their answers.

Q. Is it true the carpet is intentionaly ugly so that people have to look up at the slot machines?
A. No. The carpet is intentionally ugly to hide drink stains and heavy traffic.

Q. Architects make casinos difficult to exit on purpose to keep people on property, don't they?
A. Not really. The main reason casinos are so confusing is that most of them have evolved over many years. Building a casino is VERY capital intensive and as such most companies are stretched as thinly as possible when the facility opens. After a few years, the casino has some success and money to expand. The architects then squeeze the new amenity into whatever space is available and try to integrate it into the old structure which causes the confusing layout.

Q. Is there really a back room where they rough up cheaters?
A. No. Liability is too high to rough up "advantaged players" (the euphamism for card counters). Actual theives are turned over the police department. Casinos make a special effort to keep very good relationships with the local police departments.

Q. Do casinos really pump oxygen into the building to keep people awake and playing more?
A. No. Costs too much.

Q. Are there really cameras watching everything?
A. Yes. Every square inch with the exception of bathrooms and guestrooms can be monitored from a central location. In fact, I'm pretty sure there's a camera on me in my office right now. Not kidding.

Q. Do casinos give away free drinks to get people drunk so that they'll gamble more?
A. Um, why else would they give away drinks?

Q. Does the mob run Vegas?
A. Not anymore. There are some stories the old timers tell about the mob but that's been gone for well over 4 or 5 years now....

Q. How do they make money on the buffet?
A. A surprisingly large component of a restaurant bill is the labor portion. Buffets essentially limit the direct labor costs.

Q. What's the best bet in the casino?
A. Backing odds on craps and 100% video poker payback machines.

Q. What? There are video poker machines that guarantee over 100% payback?
A. Yes. However, the player must play PERFECT strategy which is very difficult to do.

Q. Can casinos set the odds on the slot machines?
A. Technically, I don't believe you can set the odds but you can manipulate the payout.

Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. If you have any casino questions, e-mail them to me and I'll try to answer them if the information isn't proprietary.

On a related note, I recall from a gaming law elective I took that Nevada law prohibits payouts of over 100%. The casinos would like to use low dollar machines as loss leaders, but the authorities are concerned about the potential for money laundering.
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