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A New Year’s Brush-Up on Some Fine Points

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I normally play a nickel or a quarter on video keno. It seems players who play for a larger amount like a dollar on the same machine always seem to hit big. Does the denomination of money make a difference or is it the selection of numbers that affects winning? I am still trying to figure this game out! Lori M.

To the second portion of your question, Lori, “Does the selection of numbers affect winning?” the answer is YES as to the number of spots played, but NO as to which number will appear.

Video keno operates using microprocessor technology and randomized sequencing. On a properly functioning video keno machine, there is no “which numbers to play” strategy. No specific numbers or combination of numbers is any more likely to appear than any other numbers or combination of numbers.

The reason you are not winning, Lori, isn’t because you are a nickel – rather than a dollar – player, but because video keno is a negative-expectation game. It has a house edge, and a hefty one at that. Also, it’s bootless to compare yourself to fellow players playing a larger amount. You are just experiencing the randomness of video keno machines against your relatively short gambling timeline.

Yes, video keno has better pay tables than its live counterpart, creating a house edge as low as 7.5% versus 28%, but exactly how many spots are you trying to hit? That 7.5% edge doesn’t come into play if you’re trying to catch 10 out of 10. The chances of hitting 10 of 10 are, at best, one in 10 million.

My advice, Lori, is to seek out the highest-paying pay tables. Scrutinize each pay table to find which one gives you the lowest house edge. Play far fewer spots so the odds against hitting a winning ticket are not so astronomical. Deliberately play at a leisurely pace, and use your slot club card to offset your losses.

Dear Mark: You mentioned recently regulation of casinos, but how about Indian-run and -owned casinos? Are they regulated by the state? Denny H.

The genesis of who’s watching whom sprouts out of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, enacted in 1988 as Public Law 100 497, which provides the jurisdictional framework that presently governs all forms of Indian gaming.

The Act establishes three classes of games, each having its own regulatory scheme. Casinos that offer slot machines, banking card games, roulette, craps, as well as wagering games and electronic facsimiles of any game of chance, fall into a class III category, which is often referred to as casino-style gaming.

Before a Tribe is allowed to open a Green Felt Jungle, the following conditions must be met: (1) The Tribe must negotiate a compact with the state and the compact must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior; (2) The particular form of class III gaming that the Tribe wants to conduct must be permitted in the state in which the tribe is located; (3) The Tribe has to adopt a Tribal gaming ordinance that has been approved by the Chairman of the State's Gaming Commission.

All gaming regulations are spelled out in the tribal compacts signed with the governor of each state. These compacts cover everything from games allowed, how they are played, internal and external audits and security. Actually, Denny, a lot of the same do’s and don’ts apply that a non-Indian casino would have.

It is important to note that the regulations and methods of Indian gaming are forever evolving, and yes, because every Tribal-State compact is different, not all are written with the toughest controls in place. Scandals can, and will happen. But at a minimum, Denny, these agreed-to compacts allow the state to be at least a co-regulator, allowing for watchful eyes over your play.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The greatest advantage in gambling lies in not playing at all.” - Girolamo Cardano (1501-76) Book on Games Chance