The Sands' Jack
Entratter, formerly a partner in New York's Copacabana nightclub, says he must
take in $25,000 a day just to break even, what with 750 employees who are
provided a total of 937 free meals daily and a show star who may be drawing as
much as $20,000 a week. The Sands has 363 rooms, and a 72-room addition is in
the works. There is also the matter of having to keep some $300,000 in cash on
hand to bank-roll the casino.
The two other
Strip operations invariably mentioned along with the Sands as having the
biggest play and thus the largest gambling profits—the Desert Inn and the
Sahara—have a comparable overhead. The Desert Inn has 500 rooms, the Sahara
400, with 200 more to be added soon.
An average room
at the flossy hotels costs $10 to $14 a day, a sumptuous room $20, a suite $35
and a sumptuous suite approximately $60, which is usually quoted as the
absolute top price for accommodations. There was a time when no minimum at all
was required at the after-dinner shows, but now the standard minimum is $3
(plus 22% tax), and $5 is tops. Drinks are 80� to $1 in the lounges. For
gamblers they are on the house, but the cocktail waitress will be hurt if you
do not tip.
Ah, gamblers. It
is not coincidence that the most warmly appreciated stories told by Las Vegas
comedians have to do with losing at gambling. Says Joe E. Lewis: "This is
the only town in the world where you can have a wonderful time without enjoying
The heart of the
matter is, of course, that in the long run no one can hope to beat the
odds—usually figured as percentages—which always favor the house. In the
commonest bet at craps—that the shooter will make a winning roll, or pass—the
house percentage is 1.41. In other words, the house stands to win $1.41 of
every $100 bet on the pass line over a period of time.
Craps is often
said to be the most popular American casino game because of this relatively low
percentage, but many bets on which the house has a much higher percentage can
be made, and are every day. Craps is the big game because it is so fast, and it
probably would remain the champ if the percentages were a bit higher.
The No. 2 game is
twenty-one, or blackjack. Here the house percentage cannot be calculated
precisely. The player's main obstacle lies in the fact that the house wins if
he has a breaking hand (i.e., exceeds a point count of 21 in the draw) whether
the house dealer's hand breaks or not.
In roulette, the
third-ranked game, the house percentage is almost invariably 5 5/19. This is
because the payoff odds are figured on 36 numbers, divided equally between red
and black, while the wheel actually has 38 numbers (including the 0 and
As for slot
machines, the house can make the payoff as high or low as desired but cannot
freeze the jackpot. It is sobering to realize that a nickel machine in Downtown
Las Vegas must gulp 9,660 coins to pay the operator's yearly flat-rate tax and
license fees—federal, state, county and city—before beginning to return a
profit, which is also taxed.
bookmaking places in Las Vegas folded when the federal 10% tax on wagers (this
does not apply to casinos) was levied in 1951. Six remain—four downtown and two
on The Strip. These are prohibited by law from accepting other than walk-in
bets, and really big bets are unheard of.