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Changing Black Jack rules

By Chris Lewis - posted Thursday, 22 March 2012


It appears that Australian governments are prepared to support large corporations at the expense of the consumer.   

Take the Victorian Government’s ongoing acceptance of Crown Casino profits, although some may argue that such an industry helps create employment and provides government with taxation to help fund various policy needs.

While Crown already benefits greatly from poker machines, with a previous estimate that gamblers can only expect to get back $90 for every $100 bet, Crown has recently adopted change to increase its profit share from Blackjack tables.

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On a recent visit to Crown (early March 2012), I was dumbfounded that Crown had a Blackjack Plus game with very different rules. In contrast to traditional Blackjack, which traditionally sets an objective for player and dealer to get close to the ideal 21 and not bust, Blackjack Plus allows a ‘stand-off’ (draw) if the dealer gets 22 and the player sits on 17, 18, 19 or 20.  

Blackjack Plus was approved by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) on 3 December 2011, under section 60 of the Casino Control Act 1991 (the Act).

Sure Blackjack Plus offers the player some concessions; that being automatic payout if one draws 21 or five cards and under (score not exceeding 21), even before the dealer plays out his or her hand.

However, such concessions will not offset Crown’s greater take of the cake. Upon my request, a VCGLRspokesperson acknowledged that that the return to the player is lower “than other forms of Blackjack”, but “within the range already established by other table games”. With Crown table games offering a return to player range of 99.66 per cent (natural Black Jack) to 93.1 per cent (Big Wheel), the return to player for Blackjack Plus was estimated to be 97.14 to 97.17 per cent, depending on the number of decks used.

Such estimates may downplay the reality that inexperienced players can lose much more per $100 of turnover than experienced players. 

One gambling odds site Wizard of Odds indicates that such a rule gives the house an advantage of around 6-7 per cent (when eight decks of cards are used), which means that for every $100 turned over, the player would be expected to lose about $6-7.

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According to the site, this advantage is reduced to about 4-5 per cent when the other advantageous concessions to players are considered: about 0.5 per cent for a bet being immediately paid out for hitting 21, and around 1.5 per cent for drawing 5 cards and under.  

So, believing that Crown would offer some choice, I was staggered to learn from one pit manager on the day (a Saturday) that only tables of $50 or more per game had non-Blackjack Plus options.

When I wrote to Crown asking for an explanation to why such a game existed, all I got back was a message “Thank you for your interest in Crown Melbourne. Could you please advise, as to what publication you are preparing the article for?

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About the Author

Chris Lewis has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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