The cries about the death of blackjack in Las Vegas have been swirling for years. Blackjack isn’t quite dead in Las Vegas just yet. The number of blackjack games in casinos has decreased but the game with the most tables in casinos isn’t going away anytime soon.
According to the UNLV Center for Gaming Research, just under half of the table games (49.92%) on the Vegas Strip were blackjack when 2019 ended. For comparison, in 1985, more than 80% of the table games in casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard were blackjack games.
The Vegas Strip is different than all other US casino markets in many ways. The type of gambling is certainly different. In fact, it’s different than other parts of Nevada. More than 53% of the tables games in the Silver State are blackjack games. Blackjack is still a popular game with gamblers, but there are fewer tables for different reasons.
The biggest difference in casino games on the Vegas Strip is the variety. The majority of the table games in casinos on the Vegas Strip are still traditional games. Craps, roulette, and baccarat occupy just over 30% of the table games space in casinos. When you add this to blackjack, about 80% of the table games are the same games we’ve seen for years.
This leaves nearly 20% of the tables in Vegas Strip casinos as “other” games. The most popular “other” game is 3 Card Poker. You’ll also see 4 Card Poker, Mississippi Stud Poker, and a few other games taking up space once occupied by blackjack.
There are two main reasons these “other” games have become so popular over the years. The games are simple and don’t involve much if any, strategy. Second, many of these games are volatile and offer big jackpot payouts.
Both of these are attractive to recreational gamblers looking for a fun time with the potential of a big payout. These games help to create amazing Vegas memories.
I’ll never forget winning a few hundred dollars one of the first times I played 3 Card Poker. It was the night of a big boxing match. I treated my buddy to an amazing steak dinner on the patio at Prime inside Bellagio.
New Vegas is all about creating these special moments.
Big Money Baccarat
By the end of 2019, baccarat only accounted for 13.6% of the table games inside Vegas Strip casinos. However, the game accounted for more revenue than any other table game in casinos – including blackjack.
In 2019, baccarat generated 36.87% of the overall table game revenue for Vegas Strip casinos. Even though nearly half of the tables in Vegas Strip casinos are blackjack games, they only accounted for 29.48% of the revenue.
This is a huge change from the 1980s. In 1985 blackjack accounted for 50.25% of the table game revenue on the Vegas Strip. Back then baccarat only brought in 13.60% of the revenue for table games on the Vegas Strip.
This isn’t much of a surprise between the casinos catering to high rollers and the constantly changing rules for blackjack…
Blackjack Keeps Getting Worse On The Vegas Strip
Playing blackjack on the Vegas Strip can still be fun. Unfortunately, that becomes more difficult for the majority of gamblers every year. The rules for green ($25) and black ($100) chip players haven’t changed too much recently. The rules for red chip ($5 units) players at $10 and $15 blackjack games seem to get worse every year.
First casinos downgraded the payout for a natural blackjack from 3:2 to 6:5. Today, some of the machine games only pay even money when a player is dealt blackjack. Casinos have changed the rules on when a player can split at some of the games. Dealers hitting on soft 17 is almost non-existent for low rollers.
The problem isn’t just a higher house edge for the casino and worse returns for players. The bigger issue is players have to read the rules at every game to know what they’re playing. Furthermore, the increasing house edge in low rolling blackjack games on the Vegas Strip means there’s less time for fun and memories.
Even if a player enjoys the grind of playing blackjack, the sessions will be shorter over time because of the new rules. Low limits blackjack isn’t the most attractive game for anyone looking to create a great Vegas memory.
On a related note, the same thing is happening with roulette. The rise of 000 tables is increasing the house edge for the casino. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see similar results in the future.