Kentucky Looking to Say ‘Yay’ to Online Gambling—Sort of

In what seems to be a positive trend for United States’ gambling, Kentucky is now joining the list of states looking at gambling as a resource to help pull their state out of the recession. Kind of.

Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear is seeking to right his state’s budget, which is $850 million short for the next two fiscal years. Beshear is already speaking as if the revenue from legalizing and regulating interstate gambling will be a definite thing. He’s treating it like it’s the only option available for Kentucky. According to him, the $850 million he would have to cut from other spending would be reduced to $78 million in cuts.

Beshear has been quoted as saying, “[Gambling revenue] will provide a reliable source of income we can use year after year after year to make investments in the institutions and people of this state, to strengthen our efforts to emerge from this recession not shell-shocked and shattered, but ambitious and able.”

Pretty words from a man who is very opposed to online gambling and online casinos—this would include online blackjack. Beshear believes online casinos are “leaches to the state.”

But he’s perfectly okay with gambling face to face. Apparently, playing blackjack in a Kentucky sanctioned casino would be very different from playing in an online casino that is regulated by Kentucky.

Perhaps Beshear should reexamine his stance on online casinos and online gambling like New Jersey and Florida are doing. If it’s revenue for his state that he’s seeking surely he can see the benefit that online gambling being regulated in Kentucky could have for his state.

By regulating face to face gambling within the borders of Kentucky, Beshear would only be making money off of Kentucky residents. But if he were to work with the state’s Legislature to regulate online gambling within Kentucky the potential to reach out and pull in more revenue will increase. Online casinos make playing your favorites, like our favorite blackjack, more accessible. The more accessible it is, the more people will play it.

So perhaps Kentucky should be looking in the direction that New Jersey and Florida are.

Florida is Waking Up for Online Blackjack

It finally seems that the states are waking up in regards to online gambling and online blackjack. Last week, in light of Pennsylvania approving table games, New Jersey is looking at legalizing online gambling for its residents. Now it seems that Florida may go down that road too.

Florida itself doesn’t seem to be really opposed to gambling. The state does have casinos and racinos. The legislature’s decision, I think, came down to which side had more money to lobby with. But anyway, the Seminoles have had their dreams of having a monopoly on blackjack tables done away with. Which is a shame because the Florida budget could use the income that would have come from the Seminoles.

And I’m sure Floridians would have loved to have blackjack tables at all seven tribal casinos.

But closing the doors on the Seminole blackjack tables doesn’t fix Florida’s need for revenue. So similar to how Pennsylvania turned to table games like blackjack to fill in the hole in their budget, Florida is beginning to look in that direction too…only they’re looking at online gambling regulations.

And I have to give them some kudos here. They are acknowledging that Americans gamble online.

Yes, Americans gamble. Don’t even pretend to be surprised.

Florida’s Office of Program Policy and Government Analysis (OPPAGA) is reviewing the good and the bad of legalizing and regulating online gambling, such as online blackjack, within Florida. They have accepted that Americans have turned online gambling into a past time. And they’re seeing the millions, if not billions, of dollars that are being funneled into the revenue of other countries where it has no benefit to the Americans who are playing.

In legalizing online gambling, Florida is hoping to find the money to fill in the holes in their budget, and then put that money to use for the Floridians that are doing the gambling. Hopefully, Florida will legalize online gambling and that will help turn the tide on a federal level.

Blackjack vs. Video Blackjack

I write this after reading a news piece on how the Florida Legislature pretty much shut down the Seminoles’ deal for keeping their blackjack tables. On a side note, it’s possible that the “cease and desist” order could come from the National Indian Gaming Commission within a month for at least three of the seven Seminole casinos. Although, the NIGC hasn’t made the move to shut the tables down yet.

But near the end of the article was an interesting development on the Seminoles part. They are now apparently examining the virtual or video blackjack games found in South Florida racetracks.

These video blackjack games are what caught my eye. The way these games work, players are seated around a TV monitor where they play out their moves on a touch screen in front of them. So the dealer, the cards and the chips are all virtual, but the rules and how the game is played is the same as any ordinary blackjack game.

Now to me this sounds a lot like a mashed together version of a blackjack table and online blackjack.

The Seminoles feel that this is close enough to blackjack that it would give them legal rights to keep their tables. The Seminoles can have any game that is offered in the state. And if these video blackjack games in South Florida are judged to be close enough, it gives the Seminoles what they need. However the president of one of the South Florida casinos says that these video blackjack games are nothing more than a slot machine.

A slot machine? Last I heard a slot machine has reels, virtual or otherwise, that spin. Players win by chance if a combination comes up on said reels. Blackjack has no reels. And if players are playing a game in which the objective is to beat the dealer without going over 21, then I believe it’s blackjack.

According to the South Florida casino president, his video blackjack games aren’t blackjack because they have no live dealer and the cards and chips are electronic. But what is online blackjack then? That’s all electronic, and the last time I checked they still call that blackjack.

So really what is defines a blackjack game? A live dealer? Then what are we playing online?

It seems more that this president was on the side of the legislature and feels threatened by the Seminoles. Why else call a video blackjack game a slot machine?

I believe blackjack should be defined by the game itself, regardless of how it’s played. If the objective is to beat the dealer without going over 21 it’s blackjack.

Attn: New Jersey Blackjack Fans!

Recently Pennsylvania’s State Government approved table games for their casinos and resorts. This happened mostly because of a large hole in the State’s budget that needed to be filled badly. Very badly. But not only would allowing table games, such as blackjack, to be allowed in casinos and resorts provide income for Pennsylvania through taxes, it will also be a boost for the State’s economy.

Next door neighbor New Jersey, known for its famed gambling center Atlantic City, seems to pull those interested in gambling out of Pennsylvania. Now by having table games of their own, Pennsylvania hopes to keep their citizens gambling in-state. They also hope to pull citizens of New Jersey and New York over the state line with games like blackjack and poker. Pennsylvania is hoping that residents of New Jersey and New York will see a place to play their favorite table games and not have to make the drive to Atlantic City. In other words, Pennsylvania is trying to offer convenience in hopes of boosting their income.

But with a reputation of not being one to mess with, New Jersey isn’t going into the night quietly. Queue that “Anything you can do, I can do better” song please. New Jersey is now looking at legalizing online sports betting using an account system to take wagers over the phone or internet. But it doesn’t look like this will be limited to sports betting.

New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak is working with the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association on a bill to make most forms of online gambling legal for citizens of New Jersey. That would include blackjack. Lesniak is looking to go for all of it to compete with Pennsylvania.

Get ready for some serious online gambling competition from these two in the months to come.

That Third Base Chair at the Blackjack Table

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people at a blackjack table getting up in arms about how the person at third base plays their hand. They somehow always ruin the play for the rest of the table. If they hit they’re accused of taking the dealer’s bust card. If they stand then they’re accused of not taking the card that would have allowed the dealer to get a card that would make him bust.

It seems that no one thinks that third base plays blackjack right. …Unless of course other players win their hands. Then they seem to find no fault with how third base played.

In blackjack, there is no way to tell whether that card that third base has a chance of taking or passing on will help or hurt the dealer.

The truth is that we all like to blame others when things don’t go the way we want them to. We’re late for work—it’s the fault of the guy who drove too slowly in front of you. And really? It’s no one’s fault that you lost your blackjack hand. It’s just chance. So if you want to be mad, be mad at Lady Chance. Or Lady Luck if you like.

The other truth about third base in blackjack, in addition to the fact that we like to place blame, is that there is no way to tell if that card will bust the dealer or not. And there’re two reasons for that.

One, you have no idea what that card is. Let’s pretend that I’m going to bet $100 you that the next card is not going to bust the dealer. And if it didn’t you would pay me $100. Would you actually take that bet? No, I didn’t think so. When put that way you begin to realize that you have no idea what that card is and whether it would hurt the dealer or not.

Two, the dealer has this thing called a hole card. So even if you did know what the next card in the deck was, you still wouldn’t know whether it would hurt the dealer because you don’t know what his hole card is. And without knowing what his hand total is, you have no way of knowing whether the next card in the deck could bust the dealer.

The best thing that you can do in blackjack is to not blame or put pressure on whoever is sitting at third base. They don’t have the power to affect the dealer. If you lose your hand blame it on the cards you were dealt. In this way you won’t be putting negative feelings out on the top. Just remember that in blackjack third base can’t make or break the dealer.

A New Blackjack Variation: Streak

Mao Gaming has created a new blackjack variation: Streak. Like most variations, this excludes Pontoon, this new variation is based on a side bet.

The game of blackjack itself is played the same as it regularly would—there are no special rules here that change how you play. Streak comes down to its side bet. And in this one you’re betting on the how many games in a row you can win. Just win, not get blackjack. All you have to do is beat the dealer like you normally would.

At the beginning of a round of Streak Blackjack, after placing wager for that round, you can make one of four side bets: that you will win 2 times in a row, 3 times in a row, 4 times in a row or 5 times in a row. The payout for the streak bet pays out as follows:

Win 2 in a row: 3-1
Win 3 in a row: 7-1
Win 4 in a row: 17-1
Win 5 in a row: 37-1

In this variation when you have to push a hand it doesn’t count against you. And when it comes to splitting hands, if you win one split and lost the other, it will cancel itself out—think +1 and -1. If you win one split and push the other it will count as a win; and if you lose one split and push the other it will count as a loss.

Because you play to win at blackjack anyway, many players feel that this is a pretty decent variation and side bet. In Streak you’re betting on how many times you can win, which you’re trying to do anyway. But let’s look at the house edge on winning each of the streak bets:

Winning 2: 9.7%
Winning 3: 14.3%
Winning 4: 8.4%
Winning 5: 8.2%

Now other than winning three in a row, the house edges for the Streak side bet don’t seem that bad. But if you lose the side bet, that’s more money lost on top of the money lost while playing the regular blackjack portion of the game. And when you look at the house edge of 0.5% after basic strategy, which way looks like the better game to play?

As with all side bet blackjack variations, stick with a regular blackjack game.

Tribal Casinos vs. Online Casinos

It is well known that Congressman Barney Frank is at the head of trying to make online casinos and online gambling legal in the United States. He is trying to put through the U.S. Congress HR 2267, Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act.

Basically Frank is trying to make it legal for us to wager on casinos games, such as blackjack, within the U.S. It would also allow the U.S. Federal Government to regulate and tax online gambling. And if online casinos became established within the U.S., it would allow the Federal Government to tax those online casinos.

It would be more revenue for the U.S., who could use the money.

Enter the tribal casinos.

Tribal casinos are some of the most prominent land based casino organizations in the U.S. And they are, of course, against Frank and his bill to legalize online gambling and online casinos within the U.S. No, it’s not because they’re suddenly against gambling. Just online gambling.

Daniel Tucker is the recently re-elected chairman of the leading organization of tribal gaming. And he is quoted as saying that Frank and his bill are “the greatest threat to Indian gaming in 20 years.”

This could be attributed to the fact that playing in online casinos can be done in your home, without any travel. Online casinos make playing your favorite casino games, like blackjack, more convenient. And therein lies the threat that has the tribal casinos up in arms.

Tucker feels that online casinos are a threat because they “will transfer billions of dollars from Indian Reservations.”

From Indian Reservations.

You can see where their concern lies. And while I have nothing against the tribal casinos—they offer quite a nice place to play in—it seems that they aren’t liking the idea of facing their first real competition. They could face other land based casinos with their own land based casinos. But how can they compete with the convenience offered by online casinos. And rather than put their heads together and try to find a way to compete, they would rather challenge a bill that could generate some much needed revenue for the U.S.

One advantage that tribal casinos have over online casinos is that they offer a whole experience. While online casinos’ gaming software can try to replicate the lights and sounds of a casino, it’s still not the same as being in a real casino.

Good News for Pennsylvania Blackjack Players

Blackjack players in Pennsylvania have cause to celebrate.

After months and months of debate, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted last night to approve table games. The racinos and slots-only casinos already in the state will be allowed to expand their offerings with the sorts of table games that can be found in Vegas—including blackjack.

Tuesday night saw the Pennsylvania Senate approving the bill. And Pennsylvania State Governor Ed Rendell has already said he would sign.

The good news coming from this bill isn’t limited to giving Pennsylvania blackjack fans a place to play; it is also good news for the state itself.

The revenue from this bill—expected to about $250 million—will fill in the gap in the state’s budget for this fiscal year. It will also prevent around 1,000 state employees from losing their jobs. And there will be jobs, an estimated 10,000, to come since the casinos and racinos will have to have employees to man their new table games—calling blackjack dealers!

Larger casinos in Pennsylvania will have to pay a licensing fee of $16.5 million. The smaller resort casinos will only have to pay $7.5 million. But the casinos will also have to pay a percentage in state taxes as well. For the first two years, it is a 14% tax which will drop when those first two years are up to 12%. But there is also a 2% local tax which will remain in effect.

It is predicted that in the next 18 months $320 million in revenue will be generated—and that is much needed in that state.

It could take up to another six months before blackjack and other table games are installed while licensing and regulations are sorted out, new employees trained and the tables actually installed.

With this sort of increase in state revenue and in job creation, it’s a wonder other states with casinos don’t take another look at gambling as a source of money for their states. And why the federal government should consider licensing and regulating online gambling for revenue too.

But within six months, blackjack players in or neat Pennsylvania will have a place to play without having to travel to Atlantic City or Vegas.

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part I

Blackjack rules aren’t the same from casino to casino. I’m sure most casinos are happy if you believe this, but it’s not the truth.

The rules of the game can sometimes vary from casino to casino. Some rules will be casino favorable while others are favorable to the players. Some casinos try to give themselves an edge business-wise by offering players blackjack games with rules that favor the players.

Over the next few blogs posts I’ll cover what some of these player favorable rules are and why you want to play in games with these rules.

Single Deck Games
The first type of game for you to look for is a single deck game. When blackjack was first played in casinos it was played with only one deck. Over time the casinos figured out that they could increase their edge if they had each game played with more decks of cards. And that’s how we got to the six and eight deck games we have today. These multi-deck games give the house an increased edge by 0.5%.

But the single deck game has never died out. Over the last few years, casinos have begun offering single deck games to compete with their neighbors. But you would have to know that a single deck offers better player odds than a multi-deck game. The casinos that are not offering single deck games are hoping that players will remain ignorant and assume the there’s no difference between the two types of games.

But the one thing you want to watch out for when looking at single deck games are the ones that offer a 6-5 payout. The 6-5 payout actually cancels out the player favorable odds from the single deck game; in fact, the 6-5 payout actually increases the house edge.

When looking for a blackjack game, keep an eye open for single deck games, just not those with 6-5 payouts.

Keep an eye open for Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part II

Word on the Hi Lo 13 Blackjack Variation

While cruising the online casinos, I saw a variation of blackjack that I hadn’t seen before. Or maybe I just had just missed it in my other online casino perusals. The variation that I found was called Hi Lo 13 Blackjack.

Hi Lo 13 Blackjack is played pretty much the same as any other blackjack game, although there are restrictions on doubling down and resplitting isn’t allowed. But then such restrictions shouldn’t surprise us after all. We’ve all come across them before. So really this variation isn’t played any differently than what we’re are used to.

What makes this blackjack variation different is the Hi Lo 13 part. Players are offered not one, but three side bets. These side bets, like most others, don’t have anything to really do with blackjack. I think side bets were created just to jazz up the game.

The side bets offered in this game center around the number 13. Players can place a side bet that the first two cards they are dealt will either be less than 13 or equal to 13 or—you guessed it—more than 13. While the under and over 13 bets give you more opportunities to win, the equal to 13 bet is just throwing money away because, come one, how often are you dealt a 13?

The thing that’s frustrating about this variation is that if you were a card counter and had counted the remaining deck as being rich in low cards, you could potentially make some side bets that your first two cards would be less than 13. But we all know that you can’t count cards online. This one is like having a piece of cake held over your head and it’s just out of reach.

So. That being said, like all other variations this one should be avoided too. Side bets are prime opportunities to lose money which is why they are not the best blackjack games to play. And since the actual game is the same as regular blackjack, and if you’re not making side bets, why play a variation when you could play regular blackjack?

Now if I could find Hi Lo 13 at a land based casino then I’d be more inclined to play it since you can use some card counting then.