Economic Inequality as Explained by Vegas Table Games

A mere few weeks after my road trip to reopened Las Vegas, I found myself back in Sin City just a couple of days ago. This time around, I actually did a bit of playing — my second-ever time hitting the table games — and, surprisingly, managed to come out ahead. However, it was while perusing these games that I started to recognize some of the inconsistencies that exist from table to table and property and property.

As you wander the casino, you’re likely to notice that not only are there different types of games but that there are also different minimums for some seemingly identical games. However, if you look a bit closer, you may realize that some of these aren’t as equal as they may seem.

For example, as chronicled by the blog Vital Vegas, the triple zero roulette table (sometimes given cutesy yet diabolical names by the various properties) has been making its way around the Strip as of late. “What’s the big deal?” you might ask. Well, the more zeroes that make their way onto the wheel, the larger edge the house has over players. Think about it: if you bet odds or evens on a roulette table, you’d expect to have a 50-50 chance of winning. In reality, the typically-two-but-sometimes-one zero makes that not quite true — and adding another 0 makes it even less true. Yet, knowingly or not, guests still flock to these tables in part because the minimum bet tends to be lower.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to roulette. The same is also true of Blackjack where tables with smaller minimum bets tend to come with fewer player-friendly rules. While tables in the high limit rooms might see the dealer staying on soft 17 (meaning they have an ace and other cards that add up to six) as opposed to hitting and allow you to surrender (opting to retain half of your bet if you decide to back out of a hand after the cards are first dealt), this might not be true of games you find on the main floor. In fact, one of the most egregious differences is that, instead of the traditional 3:2 payout of Blackjack — where a $100 bet yields a $150 payout if you get an ace and a 10 only — some lower limit tables only pay 6:5. This means you’d only get $120 for your lucky hand if you bet a C-note. For these reasons, it behooves a black-chip player to stay at a high limit table rather than venture to a green-chip table even if they’re betting the exact same amount.

I trust you can see where I’m going with this (if you read the headline, at least): these discrepancies more or less mirror some of the concepts of economic inequality. These are typically expressed with such cliche sayings as “it takes money to make money” and “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.” However, there are other examples as well. Consider how loan products for lower-income earners come at a much higher cost than they do to those who make more. What’s worse is that, just like with payday loans, these costs might not seem like such a big deal until they’re extrapolated over the long run. This is perhaps most like the casinos where the impacts of the triple zero roulette or 6:5 Blackjack might not be felt immediately, but are more likely to present themselves over time.

The good news is that, when it comes to Vegas, you can choose whether or not you want to play these games that have less-than-favorable rules. Unfortunately, that’s not always an option in other financial realms. At this time, there also aren’t any slam dunk solutions to solving some of these issues (although I do believe that universal basic income could certainly help). In the meantime, whether you’re spending time in Las Vegas or considering financial options, it may be worth pondering some of these inequalities that exist as you encounter them.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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