Las Vegas Sands Triples House Advantage of Most Blackjack Games

March 24, 2014
Las Vegas Sands Triples House Advantage of Most Blackjack Games

Las Vegas Sands is a vocal opponent of regulated online gaming in the U.S. The company created the Coalition to Stop Online Gambling to lobby its cause. The company that does not want Americans to play $1 hands of online blackjack with favorable payouts has slashed player returns on most of its Las Vegas blackjack games.

Venetian and Palazzo added a placard to all traditional shoe blackjack games on the main casino floor disclosing that all natural blackjacks now pay just 6-5. This rule change was enacted last week. This makes these two Las Vegas Sands properties among the worst places to play six-deck blackjack on the Strip.

The move affected over 50 tables between the two casinos, but spared Free Bet Blackjack, double deck, high limit, and video blackjack. Players looking for a 3-2 six-deck blackjack game at Venetian or Palazzo will need to visit the high limit salon where the minimum bet is at least $100 and often in the $200 range.

A payout of 6-5 means that a player dealt a natural blackjack will only receive $12 for every $10 wagered. The payout on a traditional 3-2 blackjack would pay $15 for every $10 wagered. The house advantage on a 6-5 blackjack game is 1.39% higher than that of a 3-2 game.  This is why describes 6-5 blackjack as a game to avoid.

The only other casino in Las Vegas that pays 6-5 on all traditional shoe blackjack games is O’Sheas, which is more of a bar with a party pit than a casino. Casino Royale does not have any 3-2 blackjack games, but it only spreads Free Bet Blackjack and Blackjack Switch.

Casinos started rolling out 6-5 blackjack games in single deck form. This offset some of the concerns card counters caused. Most party pits, where women are often scantily clad, also spread 6-5 games. It is rare to find these low payouts in traditional casino pits. Most casinos that spread these short-pay games will also offer 3-2 games with the same or slightly higher minimum bet at other tables on the main floor.  Venetian and Palazzo do not.

Regulated Online Casinos Offer Better Payouts

Regulated online casino sites in New Jersey and Delaware offer blackjack with minimums of $1. The house edge on these games is about .5%.

The new Las Vegas Sands’ blackjack rules place the house advantage at 1.98%, according to a blackjack calculator at Wizard of Odds. (Rules: Six decks, dealer hits soft 17, double any two cards, double after splitting, no resplit aces, no surrender, 6-5 blackjack)

While online blackjack games offer higher returns to players than most Venetian and Palazzo tables, Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson is “morally opposed” to it. During an interview with Bloomberg Television, Adelson described online gambling as “a train wreck, it’s a toxicity, it’s a cancer waiting to happen”.

Effect of 6-5 Blackjack on Players

The Venetian often posts a minimum bet of $15. Some of the 6-5 shoe tables have a minimum bet of $25. A player betting $15 per hand now theoretically loses approximately $.30 every hand, as opposed to about $.09 per hand at a 3-2 table. A $25 bettor loses about $.50 per hand on average at a 6-5 game, compared to $.15 per hand at a 3-2 table with the same rules. This assumes basic strategy is followed, something that is likely lost on players that would sit at a 6-5 shoe game.

Deviation from perfect play grows the house edge substantially. Wizard of Odds states the house edge of a player that refuses to hit a stiff hand is 3.91% when playing a 3-2 blackjack game. A player that always hits a hand of 16 or less gives up a house advantage of 5.48%, while a player that always assumes the dealer has a 10 in the hole gives the house an advantage of more than 10%.  The 6-5 blackjack rule adds 1.39% to the edge in all of these scenarios.

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