During a visit to Montreal this week, I stopped by the casino on a rainy Sunday night. The casino, run by Loto Quebec, enjoys — and I do mean enjoys — a monopoly in the Montreal metro area. It’s in a good location, convenient to the city, but off the beaten track on a small island, but its monopoly status allows it to offer 7/5 Jacks or Better video poker. The gold standard, 9/6, returns an average of 99.54% with perfect pay — pretty close to break even for a good player who uses the full extent of player’s club perks and other offers. The 7/5 version, on the other hand, pays back an average of 96.14%, which, though better than most slot machines, is guaranteed to lead to large losses over the long run. Denominations were mostly a quarter and a dollar, mitigating the negative effects of the high house edge somewhat. Blackjack games similarly were poor — those I saw were eight decks, with dealer hitting soft 17 and only five decks being dealt out before the shuffle. Also, there were no free alcoholic beverages offered, though soft drinks were. There is a player’s club, though I didn’t sign up and don’t know what benefits are offered.
While the lack of competition allows a casino to get away with offering poor games, I do give the Montreal casino a tip of the hat for banning smoking, and for offering free parking and admission, which not all government-run casinos do.
Here in New York, I am not optimistic that a state that offers lottery games like Quick Draw will see any need (at least initially) to offer games better than 7/5 video poker. If that’s the case, I will continue to spend my gambling dollars in neighboring states that do, instead of repatriating those dollars as the expansion of gambling here hopes to achieve.