Pennsylvania’s Blackjack Rules May Not Hang Around

Right now blackjack at the new Pennsylvania casinos is at its best. Players are currently enjoying a house edge of 0.4% if they play according to basic strategy, which is lower than the typical basic strategy blackjack house edge. But such a house edge may not last, and speculation is already building on what will change.

With the opening of any new casino, the games are highly likely to have more player favorable rules and therefore lower house edges. This is done primarily to bring new players in and get them comfortable with the casino in hopes that they will return even if the rules change.

And the rules almost always change.

When the Gaming Control Board of Pennsylvania fist set down the blackjack rules, they did so with the intention of meeting a few months after the casinos had been open to discuss possible changes. The few months is drawing to a close, and member of the Gaming Control Board are not commenting on the possibility for changes to the blackjack rules.

And naturally the casinos are not going to mind changes to the blackjack rules as long as they are favored in the changes, which is likely. The casinos will present and promote the potential of gaining more through taxes with changes to the rules. And the need for revenue was the whole reason for legalizing casinos and blackjack and other table games in Pennsylvania. So I am guessing that if they learn that they could make more for changing a couple of rules, I am willing to bet they would make the changes.

So the state would get more revenue. The casinos would get a lot more in profit. And blackjack players would be left will less money in winnings in the long run.

What rules would be changed?

The Wizard of Odds is banking on them allowing dealers to hit soft 17s and that the natural blackjack payout be changed from a 3-2 payout to a 6-5 payout. The change in payout alone would increase the house edge by 1.4% alone. But both rule changes combined would raise the house edge to 1.9%. Again, that is if you are playing according to basic strategy, and with rule changes like that on the horizon, you had better be playing according to basic strategy.

Now no rule changes have been made yet. But gaming professionals have seen rules change after a casino has been open for a few months, and they have seen which rules change the most often. This is what makes them think that the good blackjack rules Pennsylvania players are enjoying now could be shuffled along for house friendly blackjack rules.

If you live in Pennsylvania you had better get your blackjack in now should the rules change.

Poker Gaming Company Makes Automated Blackjack Table

PokerTek, a licensed gaming company that specializes in electronic solutions—read: games that do not require the hiring of people—to casinos’ table games, will be unveiling their latest automated table game at this year’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas: Blackjack Pro.

Blackjack Pro is like any other blackjack table except that there is no dealer. The entire game is automated with the basic rules of blackjack already programmed into its software. Basic rules aside, casino operators will have the power to set up and alter some of the rules, such as whether or not a player can double down after splitting a pair, or split a second pair of Aces. So the house edge on these automated blackjack tables is not really set.

Casino operators will also be able to adjust the payout options as well. Meaning that if they want to set a Blackjack Pro table to have a 6-5 payout on a natural blackjack instead of a 3-2 because they are using the automated table to support a blackjack variation instead of a standard game, it is possible.

Each Blackjack Pro table will have a central screen so that players sitting around the table are looking at the same screen, rather than each player having their very own screen. PokerTek claims that this will increase social interaction amongst blackjack players.

But what PokerTek fails to understand is that, despite a table holding seven players, blackjack is a one-on-one game of the player versus the dealer. The plays that the other players make do not impact the outcome of my hand.

I am sure that PokerTek means will with its automated blackjack table, but Blackjack Pro is not going to change the basis of blackjack, and it will not turn blackjack into a social game like poker.

Online Blackjack for Florida

Now that blackjack tables have been straightened out between the state and the Seminoles, the state of Florida is now turning its attention to online gambling and the possibility of regulating it. This would mean that online blackjack would be available to those in Florida.

There are two aspects of this online gambling regulation that fit together. One, there are one million residents in Florida who gambling online be they online blackjack players or online poker players or a fan of some other online casino game.

Two, despite the Seminole compact and the $1 billion in revenue it will generate, Florida is still around $2 billion short of its budget after considering the compact revenue.

So what can Florida do with its one million residents who gamble online and its budget shortfall?

They can regulate online gambling, thus allowing revenue to be generated from the online gambling.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) allows for each individual state to choose whether or not to regulate online gambling within their borders. This compliments the enforcement of UIGEA by the financial institutions. See, US citizens are not banned from gambling online, but financial institutions are banned from knowingly processing transactions between citizens and online casinos.

But if a state were to regulate online gambling, residents of that state would be able to gamble online legally, and financial institutions would not be prohibited from processing those transactions going to online casinos licensed by the regulating state.

In short, if Florida were to regulate online gambling, those of you who are in Florida and play blackjack online would be able to do so. So you would get your online blackjack and Florida would get its revenue.

How much revenue? It is estimated that Florida could make $200 million in the first year and $100 million in subsequent years. While it will not entirely cover the budget shortfall, the revenue would certainly help Florida’s state funded programs.

The race is on between Florida, California and New Jersey to see who will be the first of the fifty to regulate online gambling, and make online blackjack available.

Blackjack Boats Possible in 90 Days

North Charleston has been talking about whether or not to launch casino boats with games like blackjack on them as a new source of revenue. And as of Thursday casino boats with blackjack are now legal in North Charleston. Huzzah for good blackjack news!

For residents and tourists who are interested in the casino boats, they will be glad to know that the boats could be set up and launching as soon as ninety days from now. Thus far there are at least eight companies who have expressed varying degrees of interest Mayor Keith Summey has said. But he only thinks that a few of those will actually make the investment to create a casino boat business.

The way it would work is that a company interested in running a casino boat with blackjack would have to pay for a licensing fee as well as pay rent for a loading and unloading point. The company would also pay a percentage in taxes from whatever earnings they make off of games like blackjack and slots.

The loading and unloading points would be limited to a certain area, on the Copper River area south of Riverfront Park extending as far south as Shipyard Creek. In short to and from the former Nave Base and Shipyard complex. Any gambling would wait until after the boats had crossed the city’s boundaries so that the actual gambling would not take place within the city’s limits.

Officials of North Charleston are pleased with the now legal casino boats. The reason for the pleased feeling comes from the projected $700,000 in revenue that the casino boats and their blackjack could generate for the North Charleston city.

Blackjack Dealer Charged with Fraud

So it came up in the casino and blackjack news that a dealer in Minnesota was arrested and charged for committing fraud at the Mystic Lake casino he worked at.

Over the course of two weeks at the end of July and the beginning of August more than $18,500 was paid out to three people involved in the scam.

The dealer in question, Jacob Edwin Christensen, was paying those three players, his friend from high school, his landlord’s daughter and a woman he thought was ‘good looking,’ money on hands that they lost at the blackjack table, and did not collect their wagers when they lost.

His blackjack fraud was noticed on August 2nd. Casino staff noticed that Christensen was paying lost hands and not collecting wagers. That day alone $3,875 was made in the scam. When casino staff had reviewed the security tape and confirmed what they had suspected they called the police in.

Police and staff removed the errant blackjack dealer and his accomplice, which turned out to be the friend from high school, from the floor.

Police and casino staff reviewed security tapes from the previous two weeks featuring Christensen. Between the statement of the dealer’s friend and the tapes, it was learned that Christensen’s other two accomplices were his landlord’s daughter and the woman he thought was ‘good looking.’

Of all of the money taken from the casino in the scam, $9,500 was received by the land lord’s daughter over multiple days. The ‘good-looking’ woman received $5,075.

Now the former blackjack dealer’s high school friend had received $3,875 by the time he was caught along with the dealer. However, he paid back $1,825 in chips when he realized the scam was wrong. He also identified who the other two accomplices were.

Christensen was charged with theft by swindle and gambling fraud. Both are felonies

The lesson here, blackjack players, is that while accepting a pay out that the dealer mistakenly paid you is one thing. Accepting multiple mistaken payouts is another entirely, and that can get you in trouble with the law. If a blackjack dealer keeps giving you payouts you know you are not supposed to receive, give the wager back and point out the mistake to the dealer. If he continues to keep paying you wrong, notify the pit boss. See, there are game lessons even in blackjack news.

Blackjack Boats One Step Closer

A little more than a month ago I wrote about the possibility of North Charleston launching casino boats with blackjack as a way to bring in some extra revenue for the city.

Last Thursday the blackjack boats are one more step closer to becoming a reality. The bill, introduced by Mayor Keith Summey and supported by the City Council, had its first reading. A reading is kind of like a public hearing on the bill in which people are allowed to voice their opinions about the proposed bill—in this case, casino boats with blackjack.

Surprisingly, twelve people spoke against the bill’s approval while only one person spoke in favor of the bill. And yet the bills till passed. Just goes to show you how much the North Charleston City Council wants those casino boats.

The reason for wanting the boats is because of the potential $700,000 per year that the city would receive. And everybody right now needs money to cover their programs.

If the bill is passed, casino boats offering blackjack, poker, slots and more will be allowed to sail out of a former Navy base on the Cooper River. The casino boats would take their passengers outside of the state’s territorial line, which is the point when gambling becomes legal. These casino boats would only be allowed to sail within a designated zone, which looks to be the waterfront area of Riverport Park, extending as far as Shipyard Creek.

Any company who is interested in operating a casino boat must negotiate their own parking, docking and departure points. Naturally fees must be paid to the city as well as taxes paid.

If the bill passes its second, and final, reading the boats would then be allowed to begin setting up. It is thought that passengers could be sailing along playing blackjack as soon as this winter.

Nothing like a little cruising while playing some blackjack—I think North Charleston is on to something with these blackjack boats.

21 Blackjack Party

For those of you who have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and who love to play blackjack on the go, you will be quite pleased with what Spin3 is doing with their 21 Blackjack Party app.

Back in February of this year Spin3 was launched, and 21 Blackjack Party was their first game to be sold in the Apple App Store. Spin3 itself is actually a division of Spiral Solutions who is known for being a leader in eGaming services and managing those services.

The Spin3 21 Blackjack Party app has been a hit with those who like to play blackjack on the go, not to mention that this particular blackjack app is free.

But Spin3 was looking to take the abilities of the 21 Blackjack Party app further, make it even more well-known. And recently they found out just how to spread the word about their darling blackjack app: Facebook.

Yes, we are back to talking about Facebook again. But the social networking site is worming its way into everything in some form or another. I remember when people asked if businesses had a company website; now they ask if they have a Facebook page.

I digress.

So how is 21 Blackjack Party opening its little programmed heart to the social networking giant? It is quite simple really. Players who are playing can post their progress to their Facebook pages so that their friends can see just how awesome—or not awesome—they are doing with blackjack. At least that is the surface of this app’s integration with Facebook, but it is never as simple as what is on the surface anymore.

The Head of Spin3, Matti Zinder, said, “Our social lives and our digital lives are becoming more and more connected with more than 150 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices globally.”

But Zinder also says, “It is crucial that Spin3 is active at the heart of new consumer trends and technologies. The ability to link our casino-style games into players’ digital lives represents a new level of integration and a huge opportunity for the mobile casino industry.”

Now I do not know about you, but to me it seems that under the surface Spin3 is using Facebook and 21 Blackjack Party as a bridge to try to increase their own customer base. Let current players post their blackjack progress and hope their friends will want to play too.

But those of you who are already playing 21 Blackjack Party, Spin3’s decision to link its app to Facebook should be a nice addition, especially if you want your friends to know just how good of a blackjack player you are.

Networking and Online Blackjack

What do World of Warcraft and online blackjack have in common?

Initially they are two games in the online gaming world. But as of late they might have more in common than simply being games played online.

Yazino is a fairly recently launched social networking online casino. It is a site in which blackjack players can play online blackjack and other online casino games but are also playing with other players and networking through the site.

In other words, there are two types of online games, and every single online game can be fit into one of two categories: online gambling and social gaming.

Social gaming is like World of Warcraft—payers are able to play the game yet at the same time they are playing with other players around the world and networking within the game. Online gambling is just that—gambling through an online version of a favorite casino game, such as online blackjack.

But Yazino is looking to merge the two types of games into one site. Chief Executive Officer Hussein Chahine said:

“Gambling sites are perceived as dark and seedy while social gaming sites are seen as fun, friendly and engaging. Our ambition is to connect the two and bring simplicity and friendliness to the gaming market along with a social networking experience that sets us apart from the rest.”

In other words get ready to make new friends while collecting old ones and at the same time enjoying a few rounds of online blackjack or whatever online casino game is to your liking.

Actually the idea of playing with friends is part of what is behind the Yazino online casino: “We’ve approached this through the casino environment, which we believe embodies the best aspects of gaming, gathering friends around a table in a competitive and fun environment,” said Chahine.

But with social networking in the ground work of this new online casino, I am sure that Yazino will probably be recommending other blackjack players for you to friend as you play online blackjack.

On second thought, perhaps I should describe this as a mix of Facebook, World of Warcraft and online blackjack and other casino games—kind of all wrapped up together in playing with others like in World of Warcraft (without magic and weapons), yet you are friend collecting like on Facebook while playing online blackjack. Yes, I think that would be the right descriptive mix.

West Virginia Blackjack a Success

August saw the first full month that the Chares Town Hollywood Casino had their blackjack and other table game set up.

While the debate on whether or not to allow blackjack and other table games in the state, the hope was that the addition of table games would boost revenue for the state who is in need of the money.

For those that were supportive of the table games’ addition, you were so very right.

In its first full month of operation, Charles Town Hollywood pulled $9.75 million from their table games. And of that $9.75 million, $2.23 million was from blackjack alone. Of the total $5.88 million that West Virginia received in “privileged taxes” from the five casinos, $3.4 million came from the Charles Town Hollywood.

How is that for generating revenue?

As for the other three casinos in West Virginia, their table game revenue looked like this:

$3 million at the Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino
$1.8 million at Nitro’s Mardi Gras Casino
$1.46 million at Wheeling Island
$776,318 at the Greenbrier Resort Casino

Even with the other four casino revenues combined, the Charles Town Hollywood still pulled in 58% of the August’s table game revenue. And that was with only half of their tables open.

There seems to be a shortage of licensed dealers in the West Virginia area, and as a result, the Charles Town Hollywood cannot open all 85 of their blackjack and other table games. Which is a shame considering how much revenue they generated with only half of their tables open. Imagine how much West Virginia could make if all 85 tables were open. So the table game additions were a definite positive idea.