Friday, August 21, 2015

When is a Racino Not a Racino?

Question: When is a Racino Not a Racino? Answer: When you can play table games there in addition to slot machines! Well, electronic table games at least.

The two New York State racinos in the New York City Metropolitan area - the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway and Resorts World Casino in Queens - have offered electronic versions of Roulette, Baccarat, Craps, and Sic Bo since they opened. Those tables get a fair deal of play although the customer trust factor for electronic craps and roulette is far less than the confidence that players have in the Baccarat games since Baccarat is and always has been a game of pure chance. Nevertheless, the racinos make money on these layouts. 

This past week both racinos made good on a legislative enhancement that went into effect last April that allows racinos to offer electronic games of "skill," which, presumably, includes electronic Blackjack tables. While not what I would call a "game of skill," in the same vein as poker or backgammon, blackjack does have a basic strategy which, in the long run, separates the good players from everyone else. One way or the other, the electronic Blackjack tables have been installed and have met with immediate success. 

 According to an article in the Journal News this past week, writer Matt Coyne ( reveals that Empire City already has two banks of blackjack terminals yielding 24 seats. Another 50 or so seats were in various stages of readiness and the short term goal is to have 200 seats very soon and up to 500 as soon as they can get the machines from the distributor. 

Resorts World has at least 60 seats in operation with another 300 or so planned this fall.

With blackjack the question always is what are the payouts, how many decks are being used, and how often are the cards being shuffled. While I do not have any information at this point if the machines are hitting or standing on soft 17s (the trend has been to hit these since the odds of improving and winning are better than not doing so for players and for the house), or on how many decks are being used and how they are being shuffled (card counting or even card estimating is almost out of the question with electronic blackjack layouts since casinos often do not reveal how many decks are in play), I do know that naturals 21s are being paid at 3 to 2 and not the nefarious 6 to 5 that has been adopted in almost all brick and mortar casinos these days. 

That's good news and if those payout odds on blackjacks remain, playing these machines will be a fair deal for decent players. One way or the other, it's a good start.

Since the legislature has approved games of skill for racinos throughout the state and since poker is almost universally regarded as a game of skill, the big question is if and when these racinos will install electronic hold 'em tables that allow players to compete against each other? Although I am not sure if they are still there, the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas had a few of these machines going and they were given fairly positive reviews. 

The Aliante Casino, a small former Station casino in North Las Vegas, has had the machines on the floor since last fall but the last time I was there (March - April 2015) they were not up and running. Many cruise ship lines use the PokerTek Website machines since they are inexpensive to operate and monitor. Review on CardsChat These kinds of tables would be an extreme improvement for New York racinos which, until recently, have had very few options for sensible, intelligent gamblers. Another Review

Although true table games have been approved for three casinos around the state, and although there are a few Indian casino options in what we New Yorkers call "upstate,"  the chances of a real Las Vegas type casino operating in the New York Metropolitan area in the near future are slim. Electronic blackjack tables are a step up; electronic holdem machines would be a giant leap for all of us.

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