Much has been made over the past few years about the deteriorating gaming conditions on the Vegas Strip. Blackjack was the first casino game to offer worse rules and a larger house edge. It’s nearly impossible to find a blackjack game on the Vegas Strip under $25 that pays the traditional 3:2 when a player is dealt blackjack. Most casinos offer games with a 6:5 payout for lower limits blackjack. The rules get worse from there.
Last year The Venetian introduced a triple zero version of roulette. This takes a game with an already high house edge and makes it even bigger. This follows a move by Wynn Las Vegas to reduce their odds for craps from 3x-4x-5x to just 2x. Meanwhile, slot machines seem to be holding more money than ever.
The vast majority of visitors to Las Vegas don’t seem bothered by the decreased gaming rules and odds. The Vegas Strip has plenty more to offer with some of the best restaurants, big name shows, the most popular nightclubs and dayclubs, and more. Las Vegas is more than just the gambling capital of the world.
The Vegas Strip casino operators are now generating the majority of revenue from non-gaming parts of the business. Gamblers are a small piece of the pie. However, when you head to downtown Las Vegas you’ll see that gambling is thriving. Nearly half of the casino revenue in downtown Las Vegas (see page 8 of this report from UNLV Gaming) last year came from gambling.
One reason gamblers have flocked to downtown Las Vegas to gamble are the fair payouts. The odds and rules for most games remain true to their roots. Most blackjack games pay 3:2 when a player is dealt blackjack. Many craps games offer 10x odds and one casino even offers 20x odds for a game that can have a tiny house edge. The El Cortez even promotes that their slot machines are 45% looser than the Vegas Strip.
Gamblers are also going downtown for value and budgetary concerns. The smaller house edge in casino games will often allow a bankroll to last longer. In theory, every gambling dollar should go farther in downtown Las Vegas.
Additionally, it’s not difficult to find a table game (blackjack or otherwise) with a $5 minimum bet in many casinos. If that’s too expensive, you can play quarter roulette at El Cortez or even bet twenty-five cents on a quinella on Sigma Derby at The D. Here’s a look at some of the best odds and cheap games you’ll find in downtown Las Vegas.
Main Street Station – 20x odds (Pass Line house edge – 0.099%)
The D, Downtown Grand, El Cortez, Golden Gate, Plaza – 10x odds (Pass Line house edge – 0.184%)
Binion’s, 4 Queens – 5x odds (Pass Line house edge – 0.326%)
Blackjack ($5-$15 under 1% house edge)
El Cortez – House edge 0.30346%
The D – 0.45688%
Downtown Grand – 0.48263%
Golden Gate – 0.45688%
Golden Nugget – 0.55051%
Fremont – 0.60225%
Main Street Station – 0.60225%
Video Poker ($0.25 and less)
California – 100%+ return
The D – 99.17%
Downtown Grand – 99.94%
El Cortez – 100%+
Four Queens – 100%+
Fremont – 99.95%
Golden Gate – 98.49%
Main Street Station – 100%+