Las Vegas is much more than the "Gambling Capital of the World." The city is really two gambling worlds in one.
There are the mega resorts, which cater to the tourists and the high rollers, as well as the properties that have become known as "locals," which are casinos that build strong bases of regular customers among the area's residents and destination visitors.
"Locals" casinos are well-known for their low-minimum table games, large inventories of video poker with strong pay tables, friendly staff and good food at affordable prices.
U.S. casino destinations in Colorado, Tunica, Miss., and elsewhere are content to brand themselves as places where average recreational gambling enthusiasts can go for low-minimum table game action, fan-friendly slots, Las Vegas-style live poker and solid video poker.
Many of the poker rooms are exciting venues in energized environments to which fans seem to flock.
This gambling is geared toward what average fans of the pastime expect and deserve and not necessarily what the "Harold Heavy Bucks" of the gambling world want.
The casinos are appealing and the people who staff them are friendly and accommodating.
Getting to know regular customers on a first-name basis is what separates locals-oriented establishments from mega-resorts, and that's a good thing.
It's a far cry from the way state-regulated casino gambling was introduced in some jurisdictions around the country, including Illinois in 1993 when gamers had to call in reservations for a gambling session, fork over as much as $18 admission per person, board the vessel in a veritable cattle call, then be requested to depart when the session was over to make room for the next herd of eager gamblers.
Or how about trying to get to the casino on time to make the boarding time before the doors closed, only to get stuck in traffic?
Those are days Chicago-area casino fans are happy to forget.
Even though the industry has matured, it has a long way to go. Gaming in many areas is still a seller's market where the demand for gambling (according to industry analysts) exceeds the supply.
As long as this situation remains, many casino fans are going to have to live with what the present license-holders choose to give them.
This is the way it is with most U.S. gaming jurisdictions.
Casino operators cater to the market dynamics, so some regions are more "player-friendly" than others.
In major population centers, including the Chicago area, the biggest emphasis remains attracting high rollers.
Table games with a $5 minimum bet are the exception rather than the rule. Some destinations don't even offer these kind of games.
Some of the most profitable casino operations place little emphasis on video poker and the games they do offer have anemic pay tables.
These operations' success is based on high-roller table game and slot machine play.