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Best of Mark Pilarski
Do Casinos Cheat?6 August 1999
There are two key reasons why casinos don't play the game of deception. First, most casinos are publicly traded companies on the NYSE not interested in exposing their gaming license to loss with any inkling of cheating going on. Also, here in Nevada, you won't find a more regulated industry chock-full of rules that would close a casino down for defrauding the public.
A second, if not even more significant
reason, is the way casinos reap their profits-paying players less than
the true odds. Meaning, every game offered to the player is
mathematically in the casino's favor. Example: When you flip a coin
there is a 50/50 chance of your winning. But instead of getting even
money for every dollar you wager, you are paid 99¢, or 83¢ or maybe even
75¢. This in a nutshell is how casinos operate their license to print
money, paying you less than even money on every bet you make.
I would also note that in 17 years of casino employment, working in seven different casinos, I have never been asked to do even the slightest thing that borders on fraud. I have been asked to speed up my hands per hour dealing blackjack or pick up the pace on a crap game, but that's to get the math to work in the casino's favor-never to cheat.
So, Ron, I would be more suspicious of the wagers you make, not the casino. Let me ask you this: Are you getting back 75¢ (keno) for every dollar bet, or 99¢, (perfect basic strategy in blackjack)?
This past week I was deluged with calls and e-mail about an investigative
report by ABC-TV's PrimeTime regarding slot machines in Nevada
that are preprogrammed for "near-miss" read-outs, which entice gamblers
to play longer. The theme of the discourse was "I knew all along they
were cheating us."
Sorry, but I'll stick with my biased conviction that because casinos have the percentages working for them on each and every slot, there is little chance they would conspire, in this case with a slot manufacturer, to cheat a patron. All pulls of the slot handle produce random results-albeit results that, based on the slot pay table, generally create losers. Besides, near-miss technology is not only illegal in Nevada, but tampering with a computer chip can easily be detected with the right equipment, even by a low-level computer nerd like me. Chips are not only tested before leaving the factory but randomly checked for integrity on the casino floor.
Coincidentally, another TV news magazine
program, to which I promised confidentiality for both the show's name
and content, wanted my opinion about an upcoming investigative report
they were doing regarding a highly sensitive casino issue. Because my
take on the subject matter wasn't the sensationalist spin that would
improve their ratings, my viewpoint will find it's way to the cutting
room's floor. Why should they use me? In the gambling industry they can
easily find someone with limited credentials willing to say off camera
or in silhouette, "Yeah, that's the norm, happens all the time." Sounds
very similar to the PrimeTime investigative piece above.
Best of Mark Pilarski