It begins, on Wednesday this week gambling downgrades by MGM at Borgata Atlantic City took one of it’s first victims. Craps (dice) odds. Historically, Atlantic City was always the “home” of 5x odds at craps games. Las Vegas was known for 3x 4x 5x odds, with some exceptions. The craps odds at Borgata Atlantic City are no longer 5x, but 3x 4x 5x odds.
MGM Gambling Changes at Borgata
This is not only a gaming downgrade, but hits right to the historical core of gaming in Atlantic City. Atlantic City (and Borgata) are known for their dice action. I will go out on a limb to say that the best craps games in the United States are still in Atlantic City, with Borgata being perhaps one of the best places to play dice. This is a bit subjective and biased, but the combination of active tables, “action,” and always a game running are reasons that I say this. Add in excellent cocktail service, professional box-people and no carnival antics (i.e. no Fire Bets or “new” proposition bets) allows one who plays craps to enjoy what was meant to be a very “pure” and fast dice game.
Historically, odds were introduced in Vegas. In one of my favourite books of Las Vegas stories “Tales from the Pit : Casino Table Games Managers in Their Own Words,” Jimmy Wike goes on to explain that he introduced craps odds to Vegas. I thought they were introduced earlier, but from a commentary perspective this gives some insight into the 3x 4x 5x odds offered in Las Vegas.
“I put that in in Thanksgiving 1997 at Bally’s [Las Vegas], and it just went nationwide. I had thought of it as, you bet, on the four, you bet three, it’s three, four, five, and all bets with fulls odds pay seven units. So if you bet five bucks with full odds, you’re going to get thirty-five dollars. Whatever you bet with fulls odds it always pays seven times the flat bet. And, on the lay side, whatever you lay, it’s six times the flat. And I figured it out in kind of a metric like that, but at that time, there was pressure to increase odds, you know, everybody wanted to say, “Do ten times odds, or twenty times odds.” I said, “You give away too much.”
Perhaps, in a future article, we will delve into the history of craps in Atlantic City. But, as far as I know, it was always 5x odds for craps on all numbers in Atlantic City. There are a few exceptions in 2017 which include some 10x odds tables at Golden Nugget Atlantic City as well as Bally’s Atlantic City.
Now in the big picture, the overall house edge change is not that significant. But, there is an extreme psychological factor whenever you adjust odds on a casino game. Even if the adjustment is not that significant, most immediately think, “what’s next?”
For reference, you have a 1.41% house edge (also known as the house advantage) on the pass line bet at craps. With 5x odds, taking full odds (which has no house edge for the casino) the house edge is reduced to around .326% where as with 3x 4x 5x odds it is .374%. What does a house edge of 1.41% mean? In simplistic terms, if you bet $100 over and over in the long-run you would lose $1.41 for every $100 bet. Or one could say that the house keeps/wins $1.41 for every $100 bet or 1.41cents for every $1 bet.
A Sign? More Changes to Come?
Is this a sign of things more changes to come? I think so. Will this specific change last? I do not think so. Unlike charging tourists for parking in Las Vegas or resort fees these changes impact gamblers. Gamblers tend to be rather superstitious and stubborn about change. This is also with regard to gamblers who are not considered extremely recreational tourist gamblers. Vegas has had success with adjusting odds on games, since tourists and convention people just did not notice or care. But gaming is a much bigger part of the DNA of Atlantic City.
My personal opinion is this is a quintessential “poke the bear” scenario. With so many bigger issues for MGM to deal with regarding the conversion of Borgata to an MGM property and Borgata Rewards to Mlife it seems this was something unnecessary to focus on. It is unlikely to really make MGM more money. It might actually drive craps players to Golden Nugget (10x odds) across the street. It more than likely will alienate players, the same players that are already nervous about Borgata being taken over by MGM. Alas, the bean-counters in corporate casino culture don’t really “get it.” Even a “Charter Employee” security guard I mentioned it too said, “How can they do that?”
Is this the beginning of a sad chapter, for the home of the one of the longest craps rolls in history?