In a down economy, it’s normal to start thinking of alternative ways to generate some extra money, but if you’re tempted into thinking that gambling is one of those good alternatives, then you need to keep reading.
Once you step foot into a casino and exchange your money for chips, you’ve sold away your only advantage: staying out of the casino to begin with. Casinos can bring great shows, food, and entertainment, but statistically, they won’t bring you much more than that.
- Gambling is not a good alternative for earning extra cash.
- Each game you play at a casino has a statistical probability against you winning.
- Slot machine odds are some of the worst, ranging from a one-in-5,000 to one-in-about-34-million chance of winning the top prize when using the maximum coin play.
- In 2018, commercial casino gaming revenue amounted to about $41.7 billion; one way to think about all those profits is that they are the result of the accrual of all of the losses from casino patrons each year.
Big Business and Big Profits
To say casino gambling is a lucrative business would be an understatement. In 2020, commercial casino gaming revenue amounted to about $30 billion, a nearly 30% decline from 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic after a seven-year period of steady year-over-year growth.
Still, gambling is big business. and it’s no surprise where those profits are coming from: Tens of millions of people visit Las Vegas in a typical year, with some hoping to win more money than they came in with. There are more than 450 commercial casinos in the United States, according to the American Gaming Association’s State of the States 2021 report. These casinos generated $6.7 billion in gaming taxes for state and local governments in 2018.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court gave U.S. states permission to legalize sports betting if they wish to do so. It is still fully illegal in nine states, including Texas. In seven other states, there is some form of pending legislation.
Games of No Chance
Math is the universal language, and it rarely ever lies. Each game you play at a casino has a statistical probability against you winning—every single time. While this house advantage varies for each game, it ultimately helps to ensure that over time, the casino won’t lose money to gamblers.
For people who are really good at blackjack, the advantage for the casino might be only 0.5%, but certain types of slot machines might have a 35% edge over a player—and other games fall somewhere in between. The slot machine odds are often some of the worst, ranging from a one-in-5,000 to one-in-about-34-million chance of winning the top prize when using the maximum coin play.
The house advantage obviously isn’t insurmountable—people do win (sometimes substantially). However, it does mean that the more you play, the more the math works against you, and the better the chances are of you walking out of the casino with less money in your wallet than when you came in.
The table below compiles some of the house edges for several popular casino games.
|Casino Game Odds|
|Bonus Six||No insurance||10.42%|
|Blackjack||Liberal Vegas rules||0.28%|
|Caribbean Stud Poker||5.22%|
|Casino War||Go to war on ties||2.88%|
|Surrender of ties||3.70%|
|Bet on ties||18.65%|
|Catch a Wave||0.50%|
|Don’t pass/don’t come||1.36%|
|Odds — 4 or 10||0.00%|
|Odds — 5 or 9||0.00%|
|Odds — 6 or 8||0.00%|
|Field (2:1 on 12)||5.56%|
|Field (3:1 on 12)||2.78%|
|Place (to lose) 4,10||3.03%|
|2, 12, and all hard ways||13.89%|
|3, 11, and all easy ways||11.11%|
|Crazy 4 Poker||Ante||3.42%|
|Double Down Stud||2.67%|
|Heads Up Hold ’em||Blind pay table #1 (500-50-10-8-5)||2.36%|
|Let It Ride||3.51%|
|Pai Gow Poker||1.46%|
|Pick ’em Poker||0%–10%|
|Red Dog||Six decks||2.80%|
|Spanish 21||Dealer hits soft 17||0.76%|
|Dealer stands on soft 17||0.40%|
|Super Fun 21||0.94%|
|Three Card Poker||Pair plus||7.28%|
|Ante and play||3.37%|
|Ultimate Texas Hold ’em||Ante||2.19%|
|Video Poker||Jacks or Better (Full Pay)||0.46%|
|Wild Hold ’em Fold ’em||6.86%|
Everyone’s (Not) a Winner
All those profits are the result of the accrual of all of the losses from casino patrons each year. Of course, some of the money may come from other venues within the casino, but the breadwinner for this industry is the games.
Now, think of yourself walking into a casino with the feeling that you’re going to beat those odds (or profits) because luck (whatever that is) is on your side. Not likely. You can’t even bet on winning or losing streaks, either. If you had a slew of bad hands, the likelihood of that turning into a winning streak simply doesn’t exist. It’s just not in the cards—or math, for that matter.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700, or visit ncpgambling.org/chat to chat with a helpline specialist.
The Betting Rip Current
Aside from the entertainment of casinos, some people do get swept into an addiction that far surpasses the entertainment value of the games. Only a small percentage of gamblers reach this point, but unfortunately, it’s estimated that their losses make up a quarter of the profits for the casinos. This is all the more reason to understand the house advantage and how it works against a player who has lost a significant sum and is spending lots of time in the casino trying to win it back. The more a player struggles to get ahead, the more they get pulled into additional losses.
Is gambling a viable alternative for earning extra cash?
Each game you play at a casino has a statistical probability against you winning, which makes gambling an inadequate option for those looking to boost their income. While the house advantage varies for each game, it ultimately helps ensure that the casino won’t lose money over time. While gambling can be entertaining, it's in your best financial interest not to place bets.
How do casinos make their money?
Although casinos may earn some money from food, entertainment, and other venues, the breadwinner for the industry is the games. A significant portion of casino profits are the result of the accrual of all of the losses from casino patrons each year.
Does playing more increase the odds of winning?
The odds for each game are stacked in favor of the casino. This means that, the more you play, the more the math works against you, and the better the chances are of you walking out of the casino with less money in your wallet than when you came in.
The Bottom Line
Almost every time, it’s in your best financial interest not to walk into that casino and place the bet—the math simply isn’t your friend. For those who want to press their luck anyway, make sure to quit while you’re ahead. That winning streak you’re on is definitely all in your head.
American Gaming Association. “State of the States 2021.”
American Gaming Association. “Interactive Map: Sports Betting in the U.S.”
Casino.org. “Casino House Edge Explained.”
Wizard of Odds. “House Edge of Casino Games Compared.”
American Psychiatric Association. “What Is Gambling Disorder?”
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