The main casino games are:
It may not always be true that ‘the house always wins’, but casino games do tend to favour the house. Games played in a casino are ‘bankers’ games; in other words, they are of unequal chance, giving an advantage to the house. This is known as the ‘house edge’, and gives a degree of the percentage that a casino would expect to retain from each hand or spin.
In Blackjack, for example, the Dealer wins all bets from losing players, even if their own hand is also bust. Players can only win if their hand beats that of the Dealer. In Roulette, the ‘edge’ is achieved by the casino paying slightly less than the true odds for a particular bet. For example, although the odds of winning on a single number are 37-1, the house pays out winners at 35-1. The full list of the house edge in casino games is:
- Roulette: Varying from 1.35% on even chance bets to 2.7% on layout bets.
- Blackjack: 4 decks: 0.51% (0.85% where the dealer may draw on a ‘soft’ 17); 6 decks: 0.55% (0.89% where the dealer may draw on a ‘soft’ 17).
- Casino stud poker: On a standard game: 2.51%; on a game offering “Progressive Jackpot”: 4.3%
- Baccarat: If ‘Banco’ wins: 1.45%; if ‘Punto’ wins: 1.24%
- Craps: Varying from 1.4% for front line bets, to 5.6% for hopping bets; “Any Seven” one roll bets: 16.6%
General information on the casino industry
11.5 million visits are made annually to the UK’s 141 casinos, which employ over 12,500 staff. Most casino goers come from the B, C1 or C2 socio-economic groups, 70% are men and 30% women. The average spend per visit is £45. British casinos aim to provide a responsible gaming environment through staff training and strict regulation of the gaming area. Casinos offer leaflets for visitors offering responsible gaming advice as well as helpline numbers. They also operate ‘self-barring’ schemes that make contributions to the Responsibility in Gambling Trust.
How to become a member of a casino
The image of the casino as the preserve of the very rich and the ultra glamorous could not be further from the truth. Casinos in the UK vary from the plush surroundings of the Claremont to more mass market casinos. The 2005 Gambling Act, which will come into force towards the end of 2007, provides for up to 19 new casinos, the majority of which will be mass market gaming houses.
The new act means that players no longer have to be members of a casino to play. In practice, however, most existing clubs will retain membership. At present, the only way to play in a casino is to be a member or the guest of a member.
Cost of membership is as varied as the different types of casino. Most casinos are free to join, while some of the most exclusive ones charge annual fees in excess of £1000. In practice, however, few of the members will pay this much – the price is high to keep out the riffraff (you, in other words).
With the introduction of a new act in October 2005, anyone can join and play at a casino on their first visit.
It is much easier and more convenient, however, to join a casino online – usually you just need to register your details including a payment card and also you may need to download some software.
The casino experience
The expensive membership clubs come closest to the James Bond experience. Lots of gilt and mahogany, classy fixtures, posh restaurants and cocktail bars abound. These clubs tend to be smaller and more intimate than the more down-market casinos, and tend to attract a very cosmopolitan mix of nationalities, especially in the top London clubs. Private rooms are available on request for serious gamblers who want to play without the distraction of other players.
With the 2005 Gambling Act, the trend will be towards more mass-market casinos, although the act provides for only one Las Vegas-style “super casino”. Mass-market casinos attract a broad cross-section of the population and will vary from house to house. Expect slot machines, live music, food and, from 2007, bingo and bookies. The number of slot machines in casinos is currently limited to 10 per house; this will double when the new act comes into force.
Casinos are all about having fun, and there is a wide range of different types to suit all tastes. There are currently 141 casinos in the UK; novices are advised to do some basic research into which ones will best suit them.
Standards of dress vary from club to club. The top clubs will require a jacket, otherwise the best bet is smart/casual. The James Bond stereotype of black ties and dinner jackets is certainly not true. It’s like going into any well-run leisure facility – you have a broad mix of people, and dress is mostly a matter of common sense – jeans and trainers would be frowned upon.
Behaviour is also a matter of common sense. A good guide would be to behave as you would in a decent restaurant. There’s nothing special about the way you are expected to behave. It’s not a toff’s recreation – the best guide as to how to behave is not so much “gentlemanly conduct”, it’s simple good manners. If you have a big win, celebrate by all means. A casino is a place to go to relax, unwind and have fun with your friends. The image of casinos as tense, subdued arenas of gambling is anachronistic. There are bars, restaurants, live music – you won’t be kicked out for celebrating a big win. The simple rule is that your behaviour should not irritate the other gamblers – you don’t have to have gone to a casino etiquette school to feel comfortable in a casino. It’s in the casino’s interests for their punters to have a good time, so they’ll return and hopefully bring some friends with them. They want people to feel as relaxed as possible, and not only in the general atmosphere of the casino: they want punters to be comfortable about playing and understanding the different games on offer, and will offer demonstrations to people who aren’t sure about the rules or how to play. They’re certainly not meant to be intimidating to first timers – if there’s anything you’re unsure of, just ask one of the croupiers or pit bosses.
The biggest faux pas in casino gambling is simple: cheating. A casino will take a dim view of card counting in blackjack and doubling up at roulette (see below) and if you are caught you will be asked to leave.
Croupiers are not allowed to take chips or money from your hand; you must place your bets on the table. If you join a blackjack game halfway through a shoe it is polite to ask the other players if they mind if you join, though you’ll unlikely to be refused. Don’t elbow yourself into position if the roulette table is crowded: you can ask the croupier to place your chips for you if you cannot reach the table.
There is a guaranteed way of winning at roulette. Place £1 on red; if it comes up black, place £2 on red. Keep doubling up, until you win, and you’ll make a pound. This is frowned upon, however, and it is likely that you will be asked to leave if you’re obvious about it.