Casinos adapt to economic climate

2013-02-15T00:00:00Z Casinos adapt to economic climateJohn G. Brokopp Times Correspondent
February 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

They're never going to hold a "tag day" for casinos, even in today's battered economy. Even though the revenues are down for many properties across the country, it doesn't mean they're not making money. They're just making less than they did when times were good.

Response from the individual properties in the different markets around the country has varied, but the priority has been on evaluating their inventory of games and making the adjustments necessary to weather the storm.

The primary focus, of course, has been on slot machines in penny denominations. Casinos derive tremendous revenues from this product. What's more, casinogoers just love to play them.

It's not entirely a reaction to the business climate. Lower casino revenues reveal people have less expendable income to devote to casino outings. The low denomination slot games are a natural draw.

The inventory of such games in casinos nationwide has increased dramatically over the past decade.

Low denomination games, especially the pennies, are the darlings of the gaming industry. They are major components of virtually every casino's slot machine inventory and represent a major portion of gaming revenues, including the bigger resort properties.

The higher house win generated by low denomination games, coupled with the greater percentage of them found on casino floors, has contributed to an overall decrease in theoretical slot payback at many properties.

The term "penny slots" is a misnomer. The machines should correctly be classified as dollar games that can be played in units of one cent.

That's the only conclusion to be drawn, given the fact that the multi-line/multi-coin play action of penny games translates into dollars per spin for a majority of casinogoers who have migrated to the games in droves.

The popularity of penny games is a phenomenon at casinos nationwide, all the way from the mega-resorts on the Las Vegas Strip to regional gaming jurisdictions, including the Chicago area.

Even Horseshoe Casino Hammond, the last bastion of a penny-free casino slot floor in the Chicago area, took the "penny plunge" with a huge inventory of such games.

There is, however, a significant difference between dedicated dollar games and penny games, which for all practical purposes are played in dollars.

The overall payback on true dollar slots generally hovers around the 93 to 95 percent range, meaning that is the amount of total money wagered on the games that is returned to players as a collective group.

The same figure for penny games ranges from 84 percent to 89 percent in this market, which means players as a whole receive far less return while the casinos generate far greater profits.

The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. Reach him at John Brokopp's Beat the Odds tips air Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM Newsradio 780.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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