Crikey‘s tip yesterday about rule changes on Crown table games was spot on the mark. When Crown Casino management have been missing their main floor revenue targets, they have been systematically changing the rules on table games in their favour — not just on blackjack, but roulette and baccarat also. As we have seen in recent Crown numbers, the net result is a direct increase in revenue as punters lose more and they lose faster.

Blackjack has been the big cash cow. According to the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation (VCGR), Crown’s normal blackjack game carries a house advantage of 0.54%. Its new “Sports Blackjack” variation (blackjack pays 6/5, dealer hits on soft 17) has a house advantage of 2.12% — almost four times as much.

But here’s the kicker — you won’t find many, if any, normal blackjack tables on the main floor (public areas) of the casino. On a typical night in August, I counted 19 Sports Blackjack tables open and zero normal blackjack tables open. And some of these Sports tables I noticed had been placed as close to bars as possible. Just perfect to tempt a punter who wouldn’t be too alert to a few less chips with their blackjack payout.

So, it’s clear that the majority of these rule changes only apply to the “grind” — the local players/addicts who the casino relies on to generate its long-term stable income. The high rollers/rich punters wouldn’t dare play a game in the VIP rooms where they are getting paid 6/5 instead of 3/2 on a blackjack or lose a tie bet on baccarat or play a double zero roulette game. Oh, yeah, and don’t expect any detailed explanation of these rule changes on or near any of the tables.

How are they allowed to change these rules, you may ask? Who protects the helpless addicted punters? Any inquiry to the seemingly government-influenced VCGR as to why they are aiding “grind” punters to lose their savings faster, is just met with the response that any rule changes “are assessed by the commission to ensure player fairness”. What is fair about that?

Geoff Cousins was spot on in his Four Corners interview — “frankly just a horrible business”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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