Roulette ... the very name conjures up images of a tuxedoed James Bond, Monte Carlo and beautiful women drinking champagne beneath opulent crystal chandeliers.
In Atlantic City players need neither a tuxedo nor a glass of champagne. There are many options for enjoying this simple game, in which a player bets on which slot of a rotating disk a small ball will come to rest.
Until several electronic versions hit the market, gamblers gathered round a fancy wooden roulette wheel, alongside a cloth-covered table that resembled a large rectangular checkerboard. Using gaming chips in various denominations, players placed their bets on red and black squares numbered 1 through 36, plus various options such as an odd or even number, any number in a red or black square, numbers 1 through 18 or 19 through 36, etc. They even could bet that one of a combination of numbers would win by placing their chips on the border between, say, 9 and 12 or at the intersection of 24, 27, 23 and 29.
After - and even while - players complete their bets, the dealer spins the wheel one way and spins a little ball in the opposite direction. Once the wheel is set in motion, the dealer holds a hand over the bets, waving it back and forth to indicate no more will be accepted. As the wheel slows, the little ball comes to rest on one of the numbered slots. That number is the winner. Payouts are based on pre-determined odds that range from 1:1 to 35:1.
For those new to the game, or intimidated by groups of more experienced roulette players, manufacturers have developed electronic versions of the game that are as simple to play as video poker or any slot machine.
Common elements in most of the machines are lists that show the last few winning numbers, options to repeat the last bet or cancel any bets, and even suggestions on the "best" and "worst" choices of numbers to bet.
Except where noted, all the machines accept cash or slot tickets, the machines calculate the payouts and add credits to the player's account. Payouts are by slot tickets. Players can wager as little as 25 cents per chip up to $100 per chip. In addition, some machines have minimum and maximum wagers which can change based on the day of the week, the time or day or even the number of players.
Going Solo: Bally Technology's stand-alone single-player version of roulette can be found at several locations throughout Bally's Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah's Resort, Revel and Tropicana Casino and Resort. Players first select the denomination of their virtual gaming chips, then place bets using the touch screen. Once all bets are placed, the player hits a "spin wheel" button and the machine does the rest. Because there is no actual wheel, the winning number is determined by a random number generator, similar to a slot machine.
Group Action: Four other versions of electronic roulette accommodate six to 12 players, where each person has an individual display screen showing the "table" and a live-action view of the actual roulette wheel, thanks to a video camera that's positioned permanently above the wheel. Like the stand-alone version described above, players first select the denomination of their virtual gaming chips, then place bets using the touch screen.
Dealer or No Dealer: Inspired Gaming Group's version of electronic roulette, available exclusively at Revel, requires a dealer to spin the wheel. Up to 12 people can play at once. Unlike the stand-alone version - and depending on how many players there are, the dealer keeps the game moving. So, you may have to act fast if you want to place a bet during a certain round. You'll find one game not far from the top of the escalator leading up from the Boardwalk. Take a hard right, and walk toward the Planxa Bar. The other game is located by Ivan Kane's Royal Jelly Burlesque Nightclub, next to the auxiliary stage in the center of the casino floor.
Tropicana's I-Table Roulette offers yet another variation and accommodates up to eight players. As at Revel, there is a dealer to keep things moving, help beginners and interact with guests. Players place their bets using virtual gaming chips, but must first purchase the "chips" from the dealer with cash. When players cash out they're given actual gaming chips which must be taken to a cashier for redemption. I-Table Roulette is located on the casino floor in the North Tower at Pit 6.
Rapid Roulette, at each of Atlantic City's four Caesars properties, accommodates up to 12 players, but requires two dealers. The machines accept only cash - just like a slot machine, but payouts are in gaming chips, which must be taken to a cashier for redemption. At Bally's, Rapid Roulette is located in the main casino at the base of the escalator leading to the sixth floor restaurant level. At Caesars the game is located on the second floor casino by the escalator that begins the main cashier. Find Rapid Roulette at Harrah's by the intersection of a variety of table games between Event Central and the Exhibition Bar. At Showboat Rapid Roulette is located near the entrance to the Asian gaming area and the Royal Noodle House.
Organic Roulette at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Golden Nugget Atlantic City is similar, but requires no dealer and runs totally on autopilot. After paying any winners from the previous game, the wheel automatically respins within 30 seconds. At Borgata up to 10 players can play, while at Golden Nugget the game is limited to six.
"Recreational gambler" Darryl D. McEwen, a former professional journalist, is president of his own consulting firm that manages several small national and international trade associations, and provides public relations and fundraising services for a number of charitable organizations. He is based in Wilmington, Del. His column appears every other week.