Fighting for Blackjack Tables: Maryland’s Turn

Over the last couple of years we have see several states put forth legislation that would allow their slot parlors to expand with table games such as blackjack, poker and roulette; other bills have been for the allowing of new fully fledged brick and mortar casinos. Now Maryland is moving forward in their lawmakers scraping for blackjack tables.

The name of the bill that would give the state blackjack tables, poker tables and other table games is House Bill 331. House Bill 331 would allow the five establishments that already offer casino gambling in the form of slot machines the opportunity to apply for a gambling expansion in the form of table games.

Naturally the reason for the bill is to allow Maryland to generate more revenue and to allow their existing gambling facilities to compete with neighboring states who are now offering gambling establishments with both slot machines and table games. Delegate Frank Turner, who is the head supporter of House Bill 331, said, “It is a matter of staying competitive with other states around us.”

And he is right in saying so. Think about it: if you were looking to do some gambling in a brick and mortar casino, would you go to a slots parlor where your only playing options were slot machines, or would you make the drive to a brick and mortar casino with blackjack and poker as well as slot machines? The answer is simple. Americans desire variety, and even if they only wind up playing one kind of casino game, they will tend toward the option that gives them the most options.

Yesterday saw a lot of talk of gambling options for Maryland in the General Assembly. But it will take more than one meeting of the general assembly to determine whether or not to move forward in the table games expansion debate.

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 Worth it in Pennsylvania

Build it and they will come. Or rather, add them and they will come.

There were many people in Pennsylvania that were either skeptical or downright opposed adding blackjack tables to the casinos found in their state. The objections and disbelief ranged from ‘Could that really give the state revenue?’ to ‘Gambling will corrupt our society and communities.’

But the table games were approved this past spring and were installed in nine brick and mortar casinos around Pennsylvania:

Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack, Hollywood Casino Penn National, The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Mount Airy Casino Resort, Parx Casino, Presque Isle Downs, Rivers Casino and Sands Casino Resort.

August was the first whole month in which all nine brick and mortar casinos had their blackjack and other table games open for business. While the table games were all installed in July, they were not all installed at the same time. So August is the first month in which revenue could be compared.

For the month of August those nine casinos brought in from the table games alone $34.6 million. Of that $34.6 million, $4.8 million will go to the state of Pennsylvania in taxes, while another $691,000 will to municipalities.

So that is $4.8 million that did not have to come out of citizens’ pockets in the form of raised taxes, so I would call the installation of blackjack, poker, roulette and craps tables a success.

Shawn McCloud, an analyst for Spectrum Gaming Group, agreed:

“It is an impressive start for Pennsylvania…Obviously, Pennsylvania is going to be a formidable competitor in the table games market.”

Here is the breakdown in revenue generated by the new blackjack and other table games:

Parx Casino: $6,338,617
Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack: $5,918,137
Sands Casino Resort: $4,297,070
Rivers Casino: $4,162,280
Mohegan Sun: $3,533,765
Mount Airy Casino Resort: $3,360,361
Hollywood Casino Penn National: $2,658,762
The Meadows Racetrack and Casino: $2,395,124
Presque Isle Downs: $1,891,056

Blackjack on North Carolina Gambling Boats

Remember when Pennsylvania and Florida and other states wanted to add casinos or add table games like blackjack to casinos already in existence? Well, it is now trickling down to a city level.

Similar to several states, now cities are eyeing gambling as a source to alleviate the strain on their budgets. North Charleston is one of the most recent.

Mayor Keith Summey’s desire to authorize casino cruises will take a step forward when his proposal goes to the city’s Planning Commission next week. And it appears that the City Council will support Summey’s proposal. Seems they see the need for more revenue and do not mind it coming from blackjack, slots and other casino games.

If the proposal is approved these casino cruise boats will offer patrons blackjack, slots and other casino games. And of course there will be dining available—you do not want to put people on a boat without food.

To help earn the proposal’s approval, Summey has stated in his proposal that these casino cruise boats will dock only in industrial areas and away from areas that are “in close proximity to educational or religious uses.”

For those not familiar with the North Charleston area, this puts the casino cruise boats near the area south of Riverfront Park on the Cooper River.

As for the desired revenue, Summey’s proposal offers two options.

The first is to have owners of the cruise boats pay the equivalent of 10% of the face amount of each ticket sold to patrons along with 5% of the proceeds of each trip.

The other option proposed is to just charge a $7 surcharge to the patrons.

Either way the revenue is coming from the money that patrons put into the boats through tickets and wagers made on blackjack, slots and other casino games.

But before blackjack sees itself sailing on the Cooper River a few amendments need to be made the city’s business licensing. Mainly there needs to be coverage for gambling boats in the licensing. There also has to be a repeal of the 1999 ordinance that bans gambling devices.

But with the favor already shown by the City Council it looks likely that Summey will see the reality of his gambling cruise proposal, and blackjack will be floating the waters around North Charleston.

Blackjack and Online Gambling Could be Effected by Florida Elections

Yesterday Florida hosted their primary elections for the upcoming November general election. Up for grabs in the general election will be a seat in the Senate and the governor’s chair. And the winners of both could have a big impact on the future of blackjack in the state of Florida and on online gambling for the nation.

Naturally the Republican and Democrat split can be also put like this: anti-gambling and pro-gambling.

The Republican candidate for governor is Rick Scott, who is not in favor of expanding the casino offerings in Florida. This could mean that when the five year blackjack exclusivity in the Seminole compact expires, Scott might not allow for further negotiations, possibly pulling blackjack out from under the Seminoles. He could also pull back the extended hours and higher limit on poker that pari-mutuels now have.

On the other side is Alex Sink, the Democrat candidate. Overall, the Democrats have a more liberal view of gambling within Florida, seeing it as a source of income and an addition to the tourist industry, which has been down—it seems that Disney is monetarily out of reach for some families and that Harry Potter is not drawing as much tourism as expected.

And there is a third governor candidate—Charlie Crist is running in the Independent party. And after his battle with state lawmakers over the Seminole compact we all know what his stance on blackjack and casinos in that state is. Maybe next time he will be able to definitely send the money to Education.

Let’s not forget the Senate race. This comes down to Marco Rubio, Republican, and Kendrick Meek, Democrat. And this race could have an impact on the future of legalizing online gambling and regulating it.

Rubio is strongly against online gambling. However, Meek, being a Democrat could vote in favor of Rep. Barney Frank’s bill to repeal UIGEA and set up a structure of regulating online gambling in the U.S. If Frank has to table his bill until next year, the Florida Senate seat will have an impact on what is looking like a close race to approve Frank’s bill.

Those in favor of online gambling and Floridian blackjack players will be keeping an eye on the upcoming November Florida general election.

Blackjack Fun Fact Friday—Part II

Fridays are fun days. So I am going to continue with this being Fun Fact Friday. Again, I will take no arguments.

Do you remember a few posts ago when I wrote about the history of blackjack? Well, if not a quick recap: blackjack is, as of right now, credited as coming from France, showing up in casinos there in the 1700s. End of recap.

However the Italians had a game similar to Vingt et Un, the French name for 21, which was the original name for blackjack. The Italian version of the game is called Seven and a Half. French and Italian blackjack aficionados still argue over which country should be credited as being the first to have blackjack.

And to further throw a wrench into that debate is Napoleon. In documentation of Napoleon’s life it was discovered that Napoleon was a big fan of blackjack. So it could be argued that, being that Napoleon was French, that he picked up blackjack from growing up in France.

However, Napoleon spent time a good chunk of his time in exile playing blackjack. He was exiled on the island known as Elba. The Italian island I might add. So it could be argues that he picked it up in Italy.

So we are left with a point in each country’s corner as to who can lay claim as to where blackjack came from.

Now, much to the annoyance of the French and the Italians, the Spanish can lay a claim to being the source of blackjack. After all they do have their own version of the game: Spanish 21. But thankfully the Spanish seem to be more laid back about the debate and are happy to just enjoy the game.

Regardless of where blackjack originally came from, it made its way to the United States in the 1800s. And after a ban in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, has been enjoying its popularity since 1939 when Nevada made blackjack legal.

Blackjack Fun Fact Friday

I have declared that today shall be Fun Fact Friday. There will be no arguing with me on this either.

But I promise to stick to blackjack facts.

To kick off this Fun Fact Friday I am going to start off with when blackjack first came to the United States.

Yes, we all know that it is one of the most popular casino games. Multiple tables can be found in brick and mortar casinos across the country, and more casinos are moving to legalize blackjack in their states so that they too can jump on the blackjack band wagon.

But it was not always this way for blackjack.

When this favored casino game first game ashore in the United States in the 1800s it was not popular. After all it was an unheard of card game, and with all the gentlemen in the clubs in the city and the cowboys out west hooked on poker, there was not a lot of space for a new card game.

In an effort to make blackjack more appealing, casino owners began adding rules and side bets. Some of the surviving side bets have no become the blackjack variations we have today. And while many professional blackjack players today do not advocate side bets, in the 1800s that was how the casinos lured in players.

In fact, that is how blackjack got its name. The game originated in France and was called Vingt et Un, which is French for 21. When the game came ashore in the 1800s it was simply called 21.

But through the various side bets and special payouts offered 21 was renamed blackjack. This is because one of the special payouts was a 10-1 payout given if the two card 21 was made up of the Ace of Spades and the Jack of Spades or the Jack of Clubs. Hence blackjack.

The 10-1 payout has long since been retired, but the name blackjack has stuck. Even when the special payouts and side bets became blackjack variations and the game was returned to what we know it is now, the name was stuck and blackjack’s rise to popularity was set.

Florida Casino to Open $5 Blackjack Tables…Finally

For as long as there has been blackjack in the state of Florida, $5 blackjack tables have not been a common find. But then we are talking pre-legal, compact approved blackjack within the state. Now that there is a compact between the Seminole tribe and the state of Florida giving the Seminoles a five year exclusivity to blackjack, the layout of the blackjack landscape is changing. For the better.

This coming Friday, August 20th, the first twenty four hour, seven days per week $5 blackjack tables will open at the Seminole Casino Hollywood.

The Seminole Casino Hollywood is not a new casino. It has been around for the last thirty years. But this is the first big event for this casino in several years. And it is all thanks to the exclusivity on blackjack that the Seminoles now enjoy, which went into effect this past July.

The opening of the new twenty four hour, seven days per week $5 blackjack tables will begin with speeches made by Seminole Gaming CEO, Jim Allen. There will also be speeches made by Seminole leaders. Once the speeches are done with, Seminole Casino Hollywood General Manager Adrian Fox will then say the magic words to get the gambling underway: “Guests place your bets.”

And speaking of guests there are several notable VIPs of the eighty four that will be present to break in the new blackjack tables this coming Friday. Among them is former NFL star Zach Thomas, Jimmie Walker and Alfonso Ribeiro, as well as other local media personalities. And naturally Seminole Tribal Council members will also be at the tables to play the first hand at these twelve new $5 blackjack tables.

Blackjack Origins

Every now and then it is good to take a step back and appreciate where something came from. Like a birthday—you celebrate where you came from once a year.

This is not a birthday post for blackjack, but more of an appreciation. Kind of like when you go to a museum or paid attention in history class to a lesson that you liked. Not everyone knows where blackjack game from, what its history is. Studying a casino game is one thing, but true appreciation comes from knowing the game. And that includes its history. So today we are going to take a look at the history of blackjack.

I know that Captain Jack Sparrow liked to blame things on the French. But in this case blaming the French for blackjack is a nice thing indeed.

While blackjack has a bit of a murky past—seems no one really kept track of things like we do today—but the most agree that blackjack originated in France from a couple of other card games: Chemin de Fer and French Ferme.

Wherever and however it actually came about, we do know that I was showing up in French casinos in the 1700s. At least that is when it was first documented as being somewhere. In the French casinos it was then called Vingt et Un, which is French for 21.

At some point 21 crossed the Atlantic and made it to the United States in the 1800s as that is when it was first document as being played here. In the western U.S. gambling—and blackjack—was legal between the 1850s and 1910.

In 1910 casino games and gambling were declared felonies. But in 1931 Nevada had a change of heart and made gambling and casino games legal again. And that is when blackjack began to reign as one of the most popular casino games.

The 1980s brought blackjack to Atlantic City. And it has continued to spread from there. Twenty states now have legalized gambling with more doing so as they are drawn to the money that could be made from taxes to fill in their budget holes. In addition there are seventy Native American casinos spread out around the United States as well.

Blackjack has come a long way since it first showed up in French casinos in the 1700s.

Barney Frank, a Step Closer to Legalizing Online Gambling

Barney Frank’s bill, HR2267, which would legalize and regulate online gambling in the United States, is taking a step forward. And hopefully this means that we are one step closer to being able to play online blackjack in the States.

Tomorrow, July 27th, HR2267 moves into markup. When a bill is in markup it is discussed, amended and rewritten if necessary. In the case of HR2267 it is intended to find ways to appease those who are opposed to it. But the point of the bill is still to regulate online gambling.

If Frank can get HR2267 to pass in the House and Senate, and get it signed into law, every state would be able to choose if they would like to regulate online gambling in their state. Having regulated online gambling not only would legalize it for US citizens, and bring in much need revenue on both the state and federal levels.

How much money?

Well the Joint Committee on Taxation has figured that by legalizing online gambling and regulating it that could make about $42 billion for the government over the course of ten years. As for the states, they would be looking at about $30 billion going into their coffers.

And I do not know of a state that does not need the revenue.

But first HR2267 must overcome its opposition. It seems that the most opposition comes from religious conservatives who feel that online gambling would corrupt Americans. In response Republican Congressman John Campbell had this to say:

“I don’t gamble. I don’t partake in it, but freedom is not about legislating what I like to do. Freedom is about allowing Americans to do what they want to do.”

And in that statement, Campbell hits it on the head. Professional poker player Annie Duke was right behind Campbell, saying, “HR2267 provides this freedom in a safe and regulated environment and I urge everyone on this Committee to support this common sense policy. However, you feel about gambling on the internet, I would suggest that gambling with freedom is far more risky.”

Hopefully HR2267 on legalizing online gambling and regulating it can be moved through markup by Frank and on to the House. Americans want to play their blackjack, poker, slots and more online, and with this country being founded on freedom, why should Americans be told how to spend their entertainment money.