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Let's be fair-o to faro

12 January 2004

Dear Mark,
I recently read that the most popular Nevada casino game in the 1800s was faro. The Virginia City casinos were kind enough to offer the game 24 hours a day "for the convenience of miners from all shifts." Have you ever heard of faro being played in modern times? Any idea as to why it disappeared? Andy K.

Like you, Andy, I sure would love to see the game reappear in towns like Virginia City, Deadwood, or on a Mississippi riverboat. So popular was the game once, that faro could be found in just about every saloon in every Western one-horse town.
Faro, sometimes spelled pharo, pharaoh or pharaon, was a card game invented by the French, who adapted it from the Venetian game of basetta. French gamblers called the game Pharaoh because one of the honored cards bore the likeness of an Egyptian Pharaoh. Thanks to an exiled Scotsman named John Law, the game immigrated into this country at New Orleans, moved up the river on the Mississippi steamboats, and then spread across the Wild West.
Faro's demise came from a combination of many factors; two stand out. The opportunity for dealer cheating at faro was greater than with any other card game, and, more importantly for the guys who ran the joints, faro had a low house edge.

Dear Mark,
Does someone from Canada have to pay taxes on lottery winnings in this country? Terrence L.

All Lottery prizes are subject to federal, state and local income taxes. For U.S. citizens, state lotteries are required by law to withhold estimated taxes at the rate of 25% (federal), and each state has a certain percentage to withhold for any prize over $5,000 paid to a U.S. resident. Our friends from the North are subject to an up-front, flat, 30% estimated federal rate as well as that particular state's withholding rate. By the way, Terrence, don't think you're off the hook if your win is just under the $5,000 threshold. Winners of less than $5,000 will receive a W-2G form in January to be filed with their yearly federal, state and local income taxes. The guvmints' edge puts casinos' to shame.

Dear Mark,
Are there any land-based casinos operating in Nevada where I can bet with them online? Tommy D.

Not a chance, Tommy. Nevada regulators forbid Nevada casinos from doing business with any Internet casino sites, or with an online site of their own where you can gamble. Nevada regulators also consider websites that take bets from Nevada and other U.S. residents to be breaking federal and state laws.

Dear Mark,
I live in Nevada, but I have a brother living in Ohio, and a sister who lives in Michigan, who, when the jackpot is high enough, will play my favorite numbers in the Mega-Millions lottery. According to my brother, I have 180 days to collect on a winning ticket. My sister swears in Michigan that it is a year. Who is right? Hector G.

No kinfolk bickering needed for this one, Hector, 'cause they're both right. In Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Michigan, you have a period of one year from the drawing date to turn in a winning ticket. They like to call that the "anniversary" date. In Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Washington and Ohio, the time limit really is 180 days. In Maryland, the limit is 182 days from the drawing date. (I'd ask Sis to bop right down to the pay window in no more than a week.)

Gambling quote of the week: The holiday season is always a bad time of year for amateur gambling addicts. They are weak people, as a rule, and they are not built for grueling long-distance work. -Hunter S Thompson

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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.