As a self-proclaimed casino aficionado, one of my favorite ways to spend a day involves taking friends on a tour of my favorite haunts. Showing them the ins and outs of a busy casino is always an eye-opening experience—both for them and myself alike.
They get to see how the casino floor works firsthand from someone who has spent thousands of hours as a dealer, player, and journalist. And I get to see what kooky ideas about the casino industry are widely held among the uninitiated.
You’d be surprised at how many myths and misconceptions about casinos are widely held, so let’s put four of the very worst to bed for good. Keep reading below for a few myths and misconceptions about casinos.
1 – The House Pumps Oxygen Into the Casino to Keep You Awake
Ever since the Golden Nugget installed Las Vegas’ first casino air conditioning units way back in 1946, this myth has endured among the casual gambling community.
As the story goes, a sharp casino manager connected the dots between breathing pure oxygen (O2) and increased alertness. By rigging the AC unit to distribute a steady stream of O2 throughout the casino floor, this manager kept his unsuspecting players awake longer than normal. And while they were up past their usual bedtime, these unwitting gamblers did what comes naturally in a casino—they continued to play.
It’s a scheme straight out of a Bond villain’s playbook, and in more ways than one. It’s deceptively devilish, and it’s a work of pure fiction.
The oxygen myth simply can’t be true for a whole host of reasons.
First of all, installing a supplementary unit to flood the casino floor with invisible O2 would cost millions. And that’s much more money than any additional afterhours play might generate. More importantly, the presence of pure oxygen in any enclosed space creates an increased risk of flammable explosion. One strike of the match or flick of the lighter and BOOM! Everybody would be burnt to a crisp.
Casinos collect plenty of cash from players like clockwork without resorting to airborne subterfuge. The insurance liability alone from a case of oxygen poisoning or accidental fire would be enough to sink even the wealthiest casino operator.
The myth has become embedded in the public consciousness despite these simple facts, and it’s all thanks to that unique smell shared by modern casinos.
Because they use the most advanced HVAC systems and air filtration technology to screen out cigarette smoke and other odors, casino air tends to smell a certain way. This unique smell inevitably becomes confused with “something fishy in the air,” leaving players to let their imaginations drift into the realm of myth.
2 – Dealers Delight in Watching Players Lose Their Money
The next misconception about casino gambling originates from the natural defensive reflex all of us feel when we lose.
If you’re a baseball fan and the ump rings up your team’s best hitter, blaming the boys in blue for holding a grudge is a common response. When your boss withholds that coveted promotion and rewards another employee instead, well, it must be because the bastards are in cahoots.
And when a blackjack dealer silently turns over a 9 to turn their lowly 12 into 21, cracking your two Kings for 20 in the cruelest fashion, you might just see a celebratory smirk flash across their face.
Of course, with thousands of dealers working the table game pit on any given night in Sin City, you could actually run across a bad apple who takes pleasure in a player’s losses. With that said, 99 out of 100 dealers plying their trade behind the box want nothing more than for their players to win, to win big, and to win often.
That’s because dealers are service industry workers who supplement paltry baseline salaries with tips (or “tokes” in the industry lingo).
When a tourist taking a shot at real money craps goes on a hot roll, they’ll be more than happy to toss the dealer or stickman a couple $1 dollar chips to share the wealth. But when that same player goes stone cold and sevens out over and over, the likelihood that they’ll leave a tip behind is slim to none.
The best casino dealers know how the tipping game is played, so they’ll work a player by smiling and celebrating a winning bet, or shaking their head and commiserating over a bad beat. Their goal is to foster a friendly atmosphere in which “we’re all in this together,” so no dealer worth their salt truly enjoys watching a player lose.
3 – Slot Machines Can Be Set to Run “Hot” or “Cold” to Suit the Casino
Even experienced gamblers fall for this one, and for the life of me, I just can’t understand why.
The concept of “hot” and “cold” slot machines, or video poker machines for that matter, is a byproduct of short-term variance. In other words, even though machines are calibrated to pay out based on precise probabilities, those probabilities only take effect over the long run.
And I do mean the long run, as in an infinite number of spins or hands stretching out into infinity.
Let’s take the popular Megabucks slot and its massive multimillion-dollar jackpot as the perfect example. The exact odds of lining up three Megabucks logo symbols in a row are set at 1 in 49,836,032. But that doesn’t mean the machine cycles through nearly 50 million spins before paying out on schedule. It simply means that on any given spin, the cumulative likelihood of all three reels finding the elusive symbol combine for that remote probability.
Think about it like this. If you have a bag with 49 white ping pong balls and a single red one, your odds of blindly drawing the red ball are 1 in 50. Nonetheless, you could get “lucky” and grab the red ball on your first try. Conversely, you could just as easily get “unlucky” and make 500 attempts without ever pulling the red ball.
This boils down to short-term variance which, believe it or not, is what makes gambling so much fun.
Despite the cold mathematical facts behind probability and slot machine technology, most gamblers still believe the higher-ups upstairs can control a game’s odds on a whim. If guests are going to the casino next door, maybe the slot manager turns a high-paying machine “hot” to gin up interest. And if the casino needs to pad its bottom line, perhaps they’ll turn the most popular machines “cold” to recoup earlier losses.
Naturally, this is all nonsense for a number of reasons, namely the strict gaming regulations that punish any attempts at machine malfeasance. Furthermore, the machine designers themselves are responsible for setting and programming a game’s odds before it ever reaches the casino floor.
4 – Cheaters Get Hauled Into the Backroom and Beaten to a Pulp
Spawned by an infamous scene from the classic film Casino (1995), this one’s more of an outdated misconception than an outright myth.
In the scene, Robert De Niro’s shrewd casino boss “Ace” Rothstein sniffs out a blackjack cheating scheme. One cheat is eyeing the dealer’s exposed hole card from afar, before signaling the card’s rank to his partner using a concealed electronic device. Armed with invaluable info he shouldn’t have, the player adjusts their bet accordingly and makes the perfect decision every time.
Rothstein summons a security guard to shock the cheater (literally), before dragging him off to a backroom where his goons lie in wait. A few smacks with a hammer later, and the cheater’s broken hand leaves him bloodied and unable to handle chips.
While this may have been standard industry practice back when mobsters ran Sin City, billion-dollar corporations like Caesars and MGM aren’t about to risk a lawsuit by taking the law into their own hands.
If you’re caught cheating the casino—and please, never, ever try to cheat the casino—you’ll simply be arrested, stripped of your ill-gotten gains, and barred from all of the operator’s properties. These lifetime bans are serious stuff too, and while they may not smart like a hammer to the hand, losing your ability to gamble in Las Vegas is a lifelong punishment.
Casinos create such an alluring and unique environment, one where a player’s imagination is free to run wild. There are seemingly-magical machines that make schoolmarms rich, spinning wheels that substitutes for good old-fashioned coin flips, and decks of cards delivering delight or despair.
It’s no surprise to see that so many myths and misconceptions are born on the casino floor. When elements like luck, fortune, and variance combine with cold, hard cash, even the most sensible player can be forgiven for engaging in a bit of mythmaking. But as you just learned, aspects of the casino industry that seem too good to be true usually never are.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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