Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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ASK MR. SUN:

Why not go to single-zero roulette?

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Dear Mr. Sun: Why is it that casinos in Monte Carlo and all over Europe make enough money with single-zero roulette while U.S. casinos, including Las Vegas casinos, use double-zero, doubling their odds? That’s not fun and as a result I simply don’t play roulette here. I believe double-zero roulette, tighter slots, etc., are a factor in Las Vegas’ gambling revenue going down month after month. — Alexander, Denver

Double-zero roulette wheels, which have both a zero and a double-zero, were the standard in gambling halls worldwide until the mid-1800s, according David G. Schwartz, UNLV’s esteemed gaming historian. That’s when Francois Blanc — whom Schwartz describes as the Steve Wynn of 19th-century Europe — won a gambling concession in Bad Homburg, Germany, and used single-zero roulette to attract gamblers.

Blanc’s German casino became the most popular in Europe. And when he and his brother later took over operation of the Casino Monte Carlo, their more gambler-friendly roulette wheel expanded its reach and become the continent’s standard.

Gamblers have good reason to prefer single-zero roulette. It gives the house a 2.7 percent edge, compared with double-zero roulette’s 5.26 percent house edge.

Las Vegas grew up outside the European tradition and thus double-zero roulette was its standard. Single-zero roulette was reserved for high rollers. Single-zero and European roulette are offered at Aria, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Green Valley Ranch, Luxor and Rio, among others, according to a survey by wizardofvegas.com.

Amid the recession, however, Las Vegas casinos are offering single-zero roulette beyond the high-limit rooms, experts say. That wizardofvegas.com survey found Aria, Mirage and MGM Grand offering European-style roulette in their main casinos with $25 minimum bets.

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