Casino myths exposed

For many, many years casinos were shady establishments run by nefarious characters. Sure, the first officially recognised casinos like the Casino de Venezia (opened in 1638) were high end gambling salons that attracted the cream of society. But much like cream rises to the top, so do dead fish and the lure of riches associated with gambling drew a lot of underworld characters into the industry – and for those who tried to oppose them, they were often sent to “sleep with the fishes”.

Las Vegas is famous not only for its reputation as one of the world’s most popular gambling destinations, but also for its relationship with the Mafia and other organised crime syndicates. Characters like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky, known mobsters, were instrumental in turning Las Vegas into the gambling oasis it is today.

For many gamblers who are banned from casinos, who have crippling gambling addictions or are in areas where casinos are outlawed, the only way to get their bets in is to use illegal means. Luckily for us South African gamblers, casinos are perfectly legal, and we have a huge variety of casinos to choose from. These casinos are all heavily and strictly regulated (like legit, licensed online casinos) to ensure us fans of games of chance are being treated fairly and within the scope of the law.

But there are still a number of misconceptions out there as to what casinos do to cheat us and to how casinos are operated.

The CasinoPlay crew have gone undercover to pull back the curtain of mystery that surrounds the casino industry and to expose some of the myths we hear so often. Well, we say we went undercover but actually we just hit up the petty cash tin and went to Monte for a few hours. But you get the idea!

This is what we found.

Pumping in oxygen

This is one of the weirder claims: casinos pump in oxygen through the air vents to keep gamblers awake and spending more time at the games. It kinda reminds us of the rumours that certain nightclubs back in the day would put amyl nitrate (poppers) into the smoke machines to get the party people going for longer and buying more drinks. Man, those nightclubs must have had the best drug dealers to allow them to just shove substances into the air willy-nilly.

Anyway, we’re giving away our age here, so back to the oxygen.

While there is a scientific basis behind saturating air with oxygen to increase awareness and attention (pilots often do it within airline cockpits) the spaces we are talking about makes that highly ineffective and therefore unlikely. Add to this the cost of medical-grade oxygen, the fact that the casino would need an O2 factory on site to produce enough of the gas, and the increased risk of fires (oxygen is highly flammable and a known accelerant) and you can quickly lay this particular rumour to rest.

Casinos rig the games and equipment

This particular myth is honestly ridiculous. It’s a myth that is persistent in both online and land-based casinos and claims that casinos tamper with slot machines, card decks and shoes, roulette wheels, and pretty much every aspect of the games they host.

While there may be a lot of illegal casinos who do this (mostly because they only attract the desperate and who’s going to complain if they are engaging in illegal activity at an illegal establishment anyway?) the legal casino industry is, as mentioned earlier, heavily regulated and consistently audited to make sure they are operating according to the law.

And there’s another big reason why casinos wouldn’t rig their games: they are already making a fortune! The house always wins is not a suggestion, it’s a fact. Casinos and casino games are designed to always give the house an advantage and ensure they are profitable over the long term.

And finally, if there was a rigged system, let’s say a roulette wheel with a bit of a bias, the experienced players at the table would quickly pick up on it and use it to their advantage and to the loss of the casino.

It’s a lose/lose outcome for the casino whichever way you look at it, so we can confidently call BS on this myth.

Casino myths

Card counting is illegal

For those with the mental acuity to effectively card count – card counting is most certainly NOT illegal. Casinos DO frown on the practice because it gives the player an ‘unfair’ advantage over the house, but it is perfectly legit as a blackjack strategy.

And the Hollywood trope of the card counter being led into a back room so his fingers can be broken? Really? Not only would that be super illegal and result in arrests and a massive lawsuit against the casino, but it’s also totally unnecessary. Casinos have the right to refuse entry to anyone so all they need to do is politely ask the player to leave. And get security to escort the out if they put up a fuss.

Card counting is actually made that much more difficult just by adding more decks to the play and shuffling the cards more frequently to keep the card counters always starting from scratch.

It’s completely about luck

Luck is the BIGGEST factor in any game of chance but it’s not the only one. Knowing the rules and having a good, solid strategy will raise your chances of having a winning experience.

There are many examples through the ages of people being told they’re lucky and replying with some form of: yes, I’m lucky, but I find that the more I practice or play, the luckier I get.

Tight and loose slots

Also known as ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ slots this refers to the myth that slot machines and slot games payouts can be predicted based on how often or how recently they have paid out.

Loose or hot slots are those that haven’t paid out in a while and are therefore ‘due’ a big jackpot, while cold or tight slots have already paid out and are thus in an ‘idle’ state while they collect more money from players.

This is utter tosh. Slots, especially modern slots, are all run using a Random Number Generator, a software programme that literally crunches millions of numbers per second to spit out a completely random sequence that tells the game where to stop the reels. It makes absolutely no difference to the RNG whether or not the game has or has not paid out at any stage.

casino myths exposed

Loyalty cards affect winnings

Most casinos have loyalty and VIP programmes (much like the online casino loyalty and VIP programmes). Players are rewarded for spending their time and money at the casino and given comps, freebies, and exclusive offers based on this. These loyalty programmes come with a card that can be inserted into the slots or presented to the dealers before the player begins their gambling session.

There’s a myth that states that these cards affect the gambling outcome, that members get an added advantage or are paid out more often than non-members. Again, tosh!

Loyalty cards and programmes are completely separate from the workings of the games. All they do is track your playing and spending habits to establish what sort of rewards you deserve. VIP players may seem like they are getting great wins regularly, but this is more likely to be a result of them playing more regularly. And with bigger stakes.

Some myths are true

While a lot of these myths are patently rubbish, there are one or two that have a basis in fact.

The lack of clocks is one. Most casinos are housed in the middle of complexes and have a very artificial lighting atmosphere (usually set to mimic a late afternoon/early evening vibe). This is done purposefully to relax players and trick them into thinking it is always the beginning of the evening rather than late at night. The lack of clocks reinforces this by not giving players an easy way to check the time. It keeps players in the casino for longer and spending for longer.

Keeping an eye on your gambling time is just as crucial to a fun gambling experience as keeping an eye on your bankroll and money management.

The other myth-is-actually-fact is that you can order free drinks while playing. Yes, you can. Casinos will usually comp players with a free drink or two, normally something non-expensive like draught beer so don’t try order double Macallan single malt scotches. And while it may seem like a small perk for players, you should totally avoid it.

Alcohol consumption (and obviously drug use) affects your gambling – and not in a good way. Drinking while playing leads to rash decisions, risky play, impaired reflexes, and poor judgement. All of which lead to decisions that will lose you games and cost you money.

Play sober. Play responsibly. And play your game for fun.