The newly crowned jewel of east coast casinos, MGM National Harbor, recently opened near the Potomac River in Maryland. For better and worse, the beautiful new casino has brought the Las Vegas experience to the east coast.
On the positive side, the restaurants at MGM National Harbor are chock full of celebrity chef’s that so many people who visit Las Vegas love. On the other side of the fence, MGM National Harbor brought the 6:5 blackjack payout that casino visitors in Las Vegas loathe.
Casinos in the state of Maryland have traditionally paid 3:2 when a player is dealt a natural blackjack. However, the state regulatory board that oversees gambling just loosened their blackjack rules. While casinos have flexibility with the rules of other games, blackjack had been fairly restricted.
Casino operators now have the choice to spread 6:5 blackjack. They may also have dealers hit on soft 17. These changed were made in an effort to help MGM Resorts International, and other casinos in the state, “succeed.” By saying “succeed” they mean to “make more money.”
The proliferation of 6:5 blackjack in Las Vegas casinos started slowly over 5 years ago. It’s now rare to find a blackjack game on the Vegas Strip with a minimum bet under $25 that doesn’t pay 6:5 when a player is dealt a natural blackjack.
This change in the payout for blackjack adds 1.39% to the house edge in favor of the casino. When the dealer hits on soft 17 another 0.22% is added to the house edge. Altogether, the rules changes are about 300% better for the casino. While the rules make blackjack a worse bet, it’s still not the worst bet in the casino.
Not every casino in Maryland has chosen to change the rules of their blackjack games. For the time being three of the six casinos in Maryland will only deal 3:2 blackjack. Hollywood Casino Perryville, Maryland Live, and Rocky Gap have decided to keep their games the same. In fact, not every blackjack game at MGM National Harbor pays 6:5. There were holdouts in Las Vegas but many casinos on the Vegas Strip have switched to the 6:5 payout for blackjack.
Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore has followed MGM National Harbor into the world of 6:5 blackjack. In a statement to the Baltimore Sun, a Horseshoe representative said: “This has enabled the casino to offer games with a wider range of minimum bets, thus appealing to a broader range of guests.”
On the surface, changing the payout for blackjack from 3:2 to 6:5 isn’t much. The house edge triples but is still only around 2%. However, this changes the appearance of the game. A large part of the appeal for blackjack has been that skill could make the game beatable or close to it. This change makes the game nearly impossible to beat over time no matter your level of skill.
The person buying in for $100 once a year may not see much of a difference. However, the change is drastic for the casino operator. For example, every $25 hand dealt blackjack now pays $30 instead of $37.50. Multiply that $7.50 difference by thousands of blackjacks that might be dealt every day. Then multiple those thousand of dollars per day by 365 days per year. You’ll see that there’s a lot more money heading to the casino.
Read Why Las Vegas Casinos Spread 6-5 Blackjack for more information on why casinos offer the reduced payouts when you’re dealt a natural blackjack.