Las Vegas Rip-offs: Part 1

In recent years, the cost of the typical Vegas vacation has increased substantially. The days of the $4.99 dinner buffet, $29 show ticket and $39 room rate are a thing of the past. Sure, a visitor can still see a second rate production for $29 and stay in a dump for $39, but a first rate Cirque-quality show, while staying in a nice Strip room? Fuhgetaboutit.

Today, many visitors to Vegas come for the shopping, food and shows. Gambling is an afterthought. These types of visitors are spending less time at the tables and slots. As a result, casinos can no longer operate their food & beverage and hotel departments as loss leaders because they aren’t being subsidized by gaming operations. The Mandalay Bay’s food and beverage department, for example, has gotten so tight that they stopped comping drinks for the average video poker player at their bars. This is a tradition that has been around for decades.

The recent consolidation of casino companies will only lead to further price increases. It doesn’t take a degree in economics to know that less competition is rarely a good thing for consumers.

In today's Las Vegas, there is no shortage of rip-offs. Here are my Top Ten:

1. Single Deck that pays 6 to 5 on blackjacks

Most visitors to Vegas casinos play blackjack or other games for entertainment, and do not thoroughly study the games. While there is always a chance of winning in the short run, it has been said that the built-in casino advantage is the "price of the entertainment" for the recreational player. But with the 6/5 short payoffs on blackjacks, the price is too high.

Let's assume you go to a movie once a month, and pay $8.00 for a ticket. Suddenly, the theatre increases its ticket price to $64.00. Would you still go to that theatre, when other similar theatres would charge you only $8.00? Or would you take your business to one of the $8.00 theatres? By playing single deck blackjack that pays only 6 to 5 on blackjacks, you are doing the same thing as patronizing the $64.00 theatre.

The casinos are taking advantage of the myth among casual blackjack players that "single deck games always offer better odds for the players". This is simply NOT true with the 6 to 5 game. Normal blackjacks pay 3 to 2. The house advantage on a normal single deck game is 0.18%. The 6 to 5 game has a house advantage of 1.45%, more than eight times the advantage the casino has on a normal single deck game.

This isn't merely a matter of shuffling incomprehensible numbers around. Stanford Wong, author of Professional Blackjack, explains: "The math is easy. If the player gets paid 3/2 on a blackjack on a $10 bet, the player gets paid $15. If the player gets paid 6/5 on a $10 bet, he gets paid only $12 for a blackjack. That is a difference of $3, which might not seem like much. During a normal-speed blackjack game, the player averages five blackjacks per hour, meaning the player is shorted 1.5 bets per hour. In the case of a $10 bettor, he is being shorted $15 per hour!" (Las Vegas Weekly, 10/23/03)

UNLV professor Bill Thompson, who studies gaming issues, said, "This is incredibly stupid. Everybody knows blackjacks pay 3-2. Unless they're giving out free bottles of whiskey to everyone who sits down at the table, I don't know why anybody would play this game." (Las Vegas Sun, 11/13/03).

The house edge in a normal six-deck shoe is about 0.63%, much worse for the player than a normal single deck, but not nearly as bad as the single deck 6 to 5 rip-off game.

The Rio in Las Vegas has the distinction of dealing the worst blackjack game in all of North America. They deal a single deck game that pays even money for blackjacks. This game has a house edge of 2.77%, which is almost twice as bad as 6 to 5 and four times higher than the average six-deck shoe game in town.

Other blackjack games to avoid are Super Fun 21, games with continuous shuffling machines (aka CSM’s) and games dealt with a sign on the table that states, “hand held multi deck.”

2. Las Vegas Taxicabs

Vegas cabs currently have the third highest rates in the country. Their rates are higher than cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and even New York City.

They have a flag drop of $3.00 and a $1.80 per mile fee. Taking a cab from the airport? Tack on another $1.20. In addition, you’ll rarely see a cab in Vegas run a yellow light. Cabbies love yellow lights. They’ll slow down a quarter mile before a yellow light. Why? It’s not because of safety, but because they charge a $22 per hour wait time in 20 cent increments. If you’ve sat at some of those Vegas stoplights, you’ll know what I mean. The light cycle at Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard takes nearly five minutes.

To add insult to injury, many cabbies will rip you off by taking “The Tunnel”. This practice is referred to as being long hauled. For visitors staying on the Strip, there is no reason for a cabbie to take the tunnel unless there is an accident on the surface streets (Tropicana, Swenson or Paradise for example.) On a recent crackdown, Nevada Taxicab Authority investigator Rick Jones said, "Like shooting fish in a barrel, it's an epidemic."

"A lot of us do it," said Mahan Washington, a 29-year-old cabby who admitted to tunneling passengers daily. "It's adding about five more bucks to your fare."

"It's slow. I'm trying to make a living. We all do it," said driver Waldo Yepiz, who had to pay a $100 fine after getting cited for long hauling.

The above quotes were from the February 22nd, 2004, issue of the Las Vegas Review Journal, written by J. M. Kalil.

I was long hauled a few years ago before I started renting cars. I waited for the cabbie to get to my destination and I unloaded my bag from the trunk. I then gave him the option of giving me a free ride or having me file a complaint with the Nevada Taxicab Authority because of his fraudulent driving. He wasn’t very happy, but he got the point. Hopefully it saved a future unsuspecting tourist of being ripped off. Save the phone number of the NV Taxicab Authority on your cell phone in case you’re ever ripped off by a cabbie, (702) 486-6532.

If you’re on a guys trip and a Vegas cabbie offers you a free ride to a gentleman’s club, you’re getting no deal. This ride is far from free. The doorman will see you getting dropped off and he’ll alert the cashier. Your cover charge just jumped $10 per head because that’s the kickback the cabbie gets when he/she goes around back and picks up his commission for dropping you off. I have also read reports that this same angle is also used by the brothels in Pahrump, so caveat emptor.

This article was published in the August 21st edition of the newsletter. ISSN 1521-1983-Library Of Congress,Washington,DC Copyright 1997-2004. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part, without the consent of the publisher,, AND author is prohibited.