A noted industry
expert recently told an audience at the Global Gaming Expo that advantage
blackjack players can cost casinos as much as 3% of the total win.
As a long-time casino-operations and marketing guy who's been in and
around blackjack pits since the late '60s I felt the need to take issue
with the above statement.
It's impossible to accurately measure how much advantage players hurt
a casino's bottom line. After all, if we knew who they were, we wouldn't
let them hurt us the first place. However, there's no question that
the knee-jerk overreaction to the threat of sophisticated blackjack
players on the part of most casinos cost them significantly more than
3% of their potential win.
In order to examine the mistakes most casinos make when dealing with
the blackjack threat, take a look at how three prominent casinos --
Bellagio, Binion's Horseshoe (Jack's only), and Barona -- do it right.
There's no question that a few top players are taking advantage of these
top operations. But they still make the most money in their markets.
Why? Because each of these three operations subscribes to a business
model that relies on the same successful core blackjack philosophies.
They Never "Sweat the Money"
Blackjack pits have charters, whether officially blessed by senior management
or not. It only takes a few minutes of observation to know whether a
casino is a "sweat shop" or the embodiment of blackjack enlightenment.
Some front-line employees believe that being hard (on winning players)
means that they're working hard. Savvy operators, on the other hand,
understand the math of luck and don't lose their composure when players,
especially if they're new or unknown, start to win.
Here's a blueprint for doing it wrong: As soon (but only) as a player
"jumps" a bet, immediately pick up the phone and tell surveillance
(within earshot of the guest) to keep an eye-in-the-sky on him. Then
ask the player if he wants to be rated. If he doesn't, glare at him
and loudly tell the other bosses in the pit that he's a "refusal."
If he starts to win, call another boss over so the two of you can stare
him down and bleed over every bet the house loses as if it's coming
from your very own pockets. Don't even think about kibitzing with the
player or offering a free room or dinner. Do everything you can to make
his experience as unpleasant as possible and, if you're lucky, maybe
he won't come back.
If this sounds like the way your casino handles winners, you're not
in the minority. Changing a sweat culture is terribly difficult, because
the negative message invariably comes down from the top. This mentality
lowers morale and frequently winds up with an embittered crew that treats
every guest who bets more than the table minimum as the enemy.