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June 24, 2021

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Old school odds: Riviera offering taste of vintage Vegas gaming

The Riviera

Steve Marcus

The Riviera

The Riviera is offering a taste of the 1980s and '90s at some of its gaming tables.

That’s how long it’s been since people say they saw the kind of gaming attractions being advertised this week at a Strip casino.

Among them is 3:2 single-deck blackjack, which was last in style in Las Vegas when Duran Duran was still considered trendy. The Riviera also has rolled out a retro version of roulette with one zero on the wheel instead of two, which slightly increases players’ odds, and is offering craps players a chance to back bets on the pass line with a wager of up to 1,000 times more. That’s a relic that experts say has been unheard of in the past two decades.

“We’re never going to be the newest or the biggest property, but we want to become the top bet on the Strip,” Riviera spokesman Tony Bender said.

The Riviera’s throwback games are a novelty in that they have given way to versions less advantageous for gamblers. For instance, casinos have replaced 3:2 single-deck blackjack — in which the house pays $3 per $2 bet on a 21 — with a lower payout of $6 per $5 bet.

With equal rules and payouts, fewer decks are better for the player.

But experts say the Riviera’s goal isn’t to stand up for consumers but rather to use the attractions as bait to draw visitors to the casino and increase traffic to modern versions of blackjack and other games more favorable to the house.

Al Rogers, a former professional player who now publishes books about gaming, pointed out that only one of the Riviera’s 30 blackjack tables offers the single-deck, 3:2 game.

Anthony Lucas, a professor of casino management at UNLV, said 1,000-times craps betting would be risky for the casino except as a draw for more action.

“It’s going to be a roller-coaster ride for the operator,” Lucas said. “There are going to be big swings, with big wins and big losses. And the casino isn’t going to make more money, unless they get a lot more people at the tables.”

That’s just what the Riviera hopes to do, said Noah Acres, vice president of the casino.

“We’re bringing in players who normally would not be coming into our casino,” Acres said.

The pass line bet is considered the safest bet, with the slightest advantage to the casino. The odds bets have no edge for the house, which is why Lucas said the 1,000-times betting makes little sense from a management perspective.

But Acres said few players come in to make only those two bets.

“They end up playing the whole table,” Acres said. “Our goal is to give a good experience to the player and enhance it with our people and the way we treat them once they get here.”

The point is to provide an entertaining gaming experience, Acres said. He recalled a recent weekend where one player came in with a $100,000 cashier’s check. He was staying at a larger, fancier resort on the Strip. The player lost, Acres said, but enjoyed the old-time action.

“But he heard about the odds at the Riviera and came here,” Acres said. “We made a good profit off of him, he had a great time, and he said he was coming back.”

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