This old adage has been taken off the gaming floor and into everyday use. The house always wins, or—the people in charge of running something are always the ones who profit the most from it. But is this saying rooted in reality, or is it the result of bitter gamblers who lost more than they were betting to?
Well, ignoring the gaming aspect for a moment, a casino is a business. A casino, like any other business, operates to make revenue. Without profit, a casino wouldn’t be able to cover its own overhead—that is, electric bills, property taxes, licensing costs, employee payroll—and would have to close. So, yes, the house “always wins” in that the casino is always profiting.
Players at casinos receive certain compensations for playing consistently. Players club members who allow the casino to track their gaming movements can earn casino-sponsored rewards like free food, merchandise, percentages of cash back on lost bets, and free rooms.
These are all legitimate rewards given out to players, but they’re also all geared toward getting those players to come back, much like a store’s reward card or an airline’s air miles club. In essence, players are “winning” and being rewarded for winning—and the casino is rewarding them for their business, giving them an incentive to be loyal customers.
Regardless of wins and losses on the gaming floor, a casino must be set up to make money. It compensates for money lost to winning players with money taken in from losing players and revenue from bars, restaurants, entertainment, and hotel proceeds.
When “the house always wins” comes up, however, most people are talking about the actual gaming floor. Reader’s Digest published an article called “Six Things Casinos Don’t Want You to Know About Your Odds,” and in it, they allege much the same thing I just did—that casinos are built to make money.
They go further, saying that no matter how good your game is and no matter how much you as an individual might win, there are thousands of inexperienced and bright-eyed gamblers out there to make up for every card shark’s abilities.
Casinos count on a certain number of players being gifted, but the draw of trying your hand at gaming is often enough for many people to consider their local casino to be a night out, or a Vegas casino to be a destination vacation. These people often aren’t serious gamers who attempt to rig the system, and the revenue generated from their playing supersedes the revenue taken by players who come determined to take money from the casino.
According to the Digest, games like blackjack and live poker are the worst for casino revenue, as the house only has a 3% advantage in those games. Like the experienced to inexperienced player ratio, though, the casino makes up for potential losses with slots and other games that have a much higher percentage of advantage.
Some people may say that odds like keno’s, which is slanted more than 50% in the house’s favor, is practically stealing from gamers. But everything casinos do is legal—and they’re sure to crack down on behaviors that aren’t legal. Any player caught cheating has instantly earned themself a ban from that casino and, if the casino is owned by a company that owns other locations, all those locations as well. Casinos often heavily prosecute cheaters, especially if they’re found to have accomplices or have been active for multiple incidents.
The odds of casino games are a source of constant debate. Just how likely are you to win? The numbers can change from day to day and casino to casino.
We can be sure, however, that casinos make use of smart business psychology to get players to stay and spend more money. Aside from employing comp strategies and providing food and drinks for free or at low prices to players, casinos are always dimly lit so players are less aware of time passing. Fast music is often used to keep players’ heart rates up and keep them energized.
So casinos may not be employing gangster-esque bodyguards in order to make sure no one’s winning too much, but modern casinos certainly aren’t letting people walk out without making their buck.