Friday, February 22, 2008

Scared to Play at the Seminole Hard Rock???

I'm not. But an editorial in The Northern Star could lead residents and tourist to question game fairness at area tribal casinos, and fear for their safety in the event that they win big.

The Northern Star ("The Magazine for Pari Mutuel Enthusiasts" link) is a free newspaper distributed at local tracks and frontons. Major advertisers include Gulfstream Park, The Isle at Pompano Park, Dania Jai-Alai, Miami Jai-Alai, and the Cheetah strip club.

The piece I am referring to is an opinion written by managing editor Saul Durst for the February issue. In it Mr Durst compares the operators of Indian Casinos to brutal Haitian dictator Fran├žois "Papa Doc" Duvalier.

Mr Durst recalls a trip to Haiti, where he and his friends hit it big playing Blackjack in a local casino. Upon leaving the casino, they were followed to their hotel by the police who escorted them to their room and instructed them that there would be a car waiting to take them back to the casino the next day. They did go back, and made sure they lost all their winnings because, as Mr Durst puts it: "People disappeared there". He goes on in the next sentence: "I find the same truth may be at the Indian Casinos. Maybe not so drastic but there was no way I would win there so why go?".

I think it's reprehensible to compare the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes to a brutal dictatorial regime. Both tribes have a rich history and culture that is respected and revered by most Floridians. Our state university's athletic programs proudly pay tribute to the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Besides that, South Florida has a large and vibrant Hatian community, many with first hand knowledge of the events during the Duvalier reign. It is totally inappropriate for The Northern Star to use this example to scare people.

Elsewhere in the article, Mr Durst says he would not play the machines or cards at Indian Casinos because he "wouldn't know if they have someone controlling the results" and that he was taught to stay away from the "shady places". I don't know what the house edge is for the slots at the Seminole Hard Rock, but the machines are manufactured by industry leaders like IGT and Bally. These companies produce many of the most popular slot machines found in heavily regulated gaming jurisdictions like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and elsewhere (even South Florida Pari-Mutuels). I seriously doubt either company would jeopardize it's worldwide market share by producing unfair games for use in a South Florida Indian Casino.

The tribal casinos and pari-mutuels are in a fierce competition for the local gambling market share. It's just business. But this article crosses the line, and I find its distribution at our local tracks and frontons shameful.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Roulette and Blackjack Now Playing at Hard Rock

It will be some time before the Seminole Hard Rock installs the live table games (bj and baccarat) included in the compact signed by Governor Crist, but in the meantime gamblers can enjoy electronic versions of Roulette and Blackjack.

800 Class III Las Vegas style slots debuted in late January, replacing some of the existing Class II Electronic Bingo slots. Among those machines are electronic roulette, blackjack, and keno games.

But be forewarned: the house edge is inflated from the normal table versions of these games.

Electronic Roulette - These machines are manufactured by Bally, and have a long, vertical screen depicting a roulette wheel with 36 numbers and a single zero. However, unlike traditional roulette which pays 35 for a single number bet, these only pay 32 (31-1). According to The Wizard of Odds website (link), the difference in house edge is astronomical: 2.7% for the traditional single-zero live game, and over 13% for the electronic version.

Electronic Blackjack - These are Game King (IGT) Multi-Game machines with blackjack, 7/5 Jacks or Better video poker, and keno. The blackjack game has several disadvantages for the player: 1) blackjack pays even money, 2) splitting of pairs is not allowed, and 3) you cannot double down. I couldn't find out the house edge for this game, but paying even money rather than 3-2 for blackjack alone increases it by 2.27% over the traditional game (link).