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 is ‘Transformational’

Last week blackjack tables in three western Pennsylvania casinos opened:Rivers, Meadows and Presque. They ran the blackjack table test on July 6th and then opened completely on July 8th, much to the pleasure of local residents.

The addition of blackjack tables and other table game such as roulette, craps and mini baccarat are now pulling patrons away from the slot machines in favor of casino games they feel more in control of, especially blackjack.

Staff noticed a difference in the noise, energy and excitement of the casinos’ patrons when the table games were opened. They truly feel that the addition of blackjack and other casino table games is the reason.

“Primarily, they [table games] are the most exciting part of the gaming floor – the noise and action there dominates the rest of the casino,” said gaming expert David G. Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz is the director of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas’ Center for Gaming Research.

So what makes for the change in the dynamic at these western Pennsylvania casinos? Can the addition of blackjack and other table games really have that big of an impact? And can they really push slot machines off to the side?

Yes, table games can change the dynamic of a casino floor, but this is because table games, like blackjack, offer a different playing experience. Table games offer players more camaraderie while playing. Even though blackjack is a player vs. dealer sort of game, having other players at the same table boosts the feeling of ‘we are in this together,’ whereas slots are a more individual game.

Because of the single player feeling and the actual design of the machines themselves, slots can literally be pushed off to the sides of a casino, against the walls and to line walkways.

Patrons seem to be quite happy with the addition of blackjack. Bill Shuba, who is a blackjack player, says that he probably will not be back to the casino in West Virginia he patronized before the addition of the blackjack tables to the western Pennsylvania casinos. In his words, “[They] probably won’t see me anymore.” This was said before he sat down at a $25 minimum blackjack table at the Meadows on the blackjack tables’ debut.