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Is Craps Dying?14 December 2006
World War II was the glory time for the game of craps. Sailors and soldiers and private citizens in the cities of America loved the game. From South to North, young men played it with abandon. It became the most popular game in the casinos after World War II as well since all the vets wanted to play a game they were intimately familiar with. Craps was king and all the big rollers and big shots played the game when they went to Las Vegas.
Slot machines were for women; card games like blackjack for less than real men. If you were a real casino gambler, then craps was your game.
Boy, have times changed.
Today, slot machines rule the casinos. According to Harrah's extensive study of casino gamblers "A Day in the Life of a Casino Gambler," fully 74 percent of all casino players are slot players. A staggering 81 percent of all women casino gamblers play the slots and a hefty 67 percent of all men do too. Blackjack comes in second with 9 percent of the total take and craps and roulette are tied for third with 2 percent each. That two percent translates into about 1.2 million players.
In truth those 1.2 million craps players are a rather large contingent and probably compose more craps players than ever existed at any time in the United States history after World War II. Still, with 53 million casino gamblers in the United States, craps is now a low-end priority.
And we are starting to see the consequences. Many Las Vegas casinos have decided to save money on craps by eliminating their box personnel. Craps is a labor-intensive game. You have two dealers, a stick person, and a boxman (sometimes you have two boxmen). That's a lot of salary for maintaining a game. Cut back on the salary and craps will make more money. That's how the reasoning goes.
I have even heard talk in the back rooms that the stick person's job will be the next to go and that each dealer will have a stick to take care of the dice when they are thrown at their end. We have not yet seen this development in any casinos as of yet but if it's in the air, it could easily wind up on the tables.
So why are the casinos ripping away at arguably the most exciting game ever to be played in the casinos? Obviously, in corporate America a property must show an increase in profit each and every year. Casinos are no longer mom and pop operations; they now have shareholders who expect to see the value of their shares increase year after year after year.
You will note that many casinos have now started to use the 6-to-5 blackjack games in place of the normal 3-to-2 blackjack games. [These figures refer to the payout for a two-hand 21 - a natural.] By doing this, the house has about a 1.5 percent edge on good blackjack players. It has about a 2- to 3-percent edge on most of the rest. That is triple what the normal blackjack game has. It makes three times as much money for the house. It also means the players are losing three times as much money.
By changing the rules of blackjack, the blackjack players are being socked. Fewer players are actually playing the game but these players are losing more than enough to make up for the reduction of blackjack players. For now that is.
By eliminating the box personnel, the casinos will also show a greater profit at craps - that is, until players get annoyed with the slowness of payoffs in crowded games and the failure of the dealers to be able to resolve disputes.
My basic philosophy of gaming is that change is bad. Most of the changes I have seen in the casino industry have not been good for the players. Slot machines are hungrier, table minimums are higher, and pit personnel have become far less personable with players who are not high rollers. I think all this has to do with the corporatization of the gaming industry. The results in my perspective are hurting the games I love to play.
Let me give you a prime example of what I mean. For many years the very best craps game in Las Vegas was at Treasure Island. While it had the typical 3X-4X-5X odds on their line bets, the dealers and pit crews were the friendliest and most professional I had run across. There was a time when every single dealer and pit person could have been up for a reward as "the best" in their areas. They had six to eight craps tables, they were always filled, and the action was fast, fun, and delightful. They had the best double-deck blackjack games, too.
A trip to Treasure Island was a trip into a gambler's paradise.
Today, the place has declined. It is now a part of the MGM-Mirage Corporation. And what has the corporation done to the formerly great Treasure Island? First, they changed the name. It's now called TI. Then they changed its look. It is now a "happening" place for younger patrons - drinkers, partiers, and girl and guy pursuers. They changed the pirate show outside the casino to make it sexier. It's boring as can be. Oh, and they ruined their games, that's the greatest sin. All the multiple-deck games are dealt from a continuous-shuffle machine; there are only two double-deck games left for $100 minimums; and those awful 6-to-5 blackjack games abound.
And craps? Four tables, with one usually opened in the morning and two opened in the afternoon. The action is anything but fast and furious. In fact, some of the current dealers will not win any rewards anytime soon.
Will Treasure Island's fate signal the fate of other corporate-owned casinos? It's hard to say. But craps seems to be taking a hit as the boxmen are replaced. It might just be my morbid imagination but - it is possible that craps might be in its first stages of dying. God, I hope not.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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