For decades, blackjack was the king of the table games, proudly presiding over the rest of the casino with legions of followers. But all that has changed over the past 30 years.
With the advent of online casinos and the growing proliferation of video slots, the tables in land-based casinos are frequented by ever fewer players. However, not all table games have suffered in the way blackjack has; some have actually become more popular than before. Let’s take a look at how it all happened.
The Golden Age of Blackjack
Before the days of casinos as we know them today, games would take place in saloons and gaming houses or informally, among friends. Card games were the most popular (and often the only) option in those days since no fancy equipment was required. Blackjack – or 21, as it is also known – quickly became the game of choice because of its simple rules, fast pace, and exciting game play. Later, when actual resort casinos began to pop up everywhere, blackjack took its popularity with it to these new venues.
With the introduction of slot machines, however, table games began to lose some of their allure, although many players still preferred card games that tested their skill as well as their luck.
In 1987, blackjack was the choice of 76% of players on the famous Las Vegas strip. It was clearly the most popular casino game by far, with runner-up, craps, coming in at just 11%.
But the entire casino industry was about to be turned on its head, as online gaming entered the scene.
Enter the Internet Casino
Today, blackjack accounts for just 51% of the unit share in Las Vegas casinos, with some casinos actually reducing the number of blackjack tables on their floors.
This can undoubtedly be attributed to the fact that blackjack has been one of the most successful converts to online gaming. When players play blackjack on the internet, they don’t have to worry about the expense and hassle of travelling to land-based casinos, which are often quite far from where they live. Online blackjack is also a lot less intimidating for inexperienced players since they can play it from the privacy of their own homes. What’s more, the prizes on offer are often bigger than anything available at their local gaming houses.
Baccarat Slides into the Top Spot
Interestingly, not all games in land-based casinos have suffered from the introduction of internet gambling. Some table games have actually become more popular.
Baccarat, a fringe and often absent pursuit in many traditional casinos, has seen a steady increase in popularity just as the number of offline blackjack players has dwindled. In fact, baccarat now accounts for 40% of the revenue generated on the Strip.
Roulette, meanwhile, has been relatively untouched by these major technological changes.
The Future of Land-Based Casino Games
Exactly why blackjack has suffered while other games, like baccarat, have thrived on online competition is not entirely clear. In any event, it is a trend that looks set to continue in years to come, despite a recent slight reversal of offline blackjack’s fortunes.
In order to counter this, traditional casinos have introduced novelties like mini-baccarat, Pai Gow, and three-card poker. Although these games are not great money-spinners, casino owners are hoping that their novelty value will attract players, who may then stay to enjoy other, more lucrative games.
The challenge for casino owners is to decide whether or not to remove tables from the floor as games like blackjack lose popularity, since removing tables can actually worsen this decline. For an idea of how things are going, the next time you’re in a brick-and-mortar casino, check out the number of tables on the floor.