Q. I've heard that 17 is the most frequently played number in roulette because that's what James Bond played in the movies. Wouldn't that be a danger to the casinos, if one number got more action than the others?
A. I heard the same thing when I was a beginning player, and I mentioned it in print a time or two early in my career. I don't think it's true today - it's been 42 years since Bond bet black 17 in "Diamonds are Forever," and I don't think many players today have 007 on their minds when they bet.
Even if they do pound 17 a little harder than other numbers, it would be a danger to the casino only if the ball landed on No. 17 more often than we would expect by random chance.
To make up an extreme example, let's say there are 38 spins of a double-zero roulette wheel, and each number turns up once. There is one $10 wager per spin on each of the other 37 numbers, but 37 $10 wagers per spin on No. 17 - half the money wagered is on No. 17. That's $370 per spin on 17, and $370 per spin on everything else. Multiply that $740 per spin by 38, and you get total wagers of $28,120.
Each of the other 37 numbers wins once. On each winner, the bettor keeps the $10 wager and gets $350 in winnings, leaving $360 on the bettor's side of the table. Multiply that by 37 winners, and the non-17 bettors have $13,320.
The Bond bettors have one win, and they keep their $370 in wagers plus get $12,950 in winnings. Add that up, and those who bet on 17 have $13,320.
Combined, the Bond and non-Bond bettors have $26,640 at trial's end. Subtract that from the $28,120 in wagers, and the house has kept $1,480. Divide the house take by the bet total, then multiply by 100 to convert to percent, and you'll find the house has kept 5.26 percent.
What's the house edge on single numbers in double-zero roulette? It's 5.26 percent.
As long as the wheel is balanced and the numbers come up in the normal proportions, there is no danger to the house if one number draws more action than the others. Properly maintaining equipment and keeping the game random is far more important to casinos than worrying about player tendencies, Bond or no Bond.
Q. How much do slot machines cost?
A. That depends. There's a wide range, depending on what type of machines we're talking about. For a simple game with three mechanical reels and no elaborate bonuses, we're talking in the neighborhood of $14,000. Something more elaborate, with two - and sometimes three - video screens could push $25,000. The more bells and whistles a machine has to attract players, the more it's going to cost.
Not all machines are sold at those levels. Prices are negotiable, and volume discounts are common.
Some machines can't be bought at any price. In the casino industry, they're known as "revenue participation" or simply "participation" games. Those include some of the biggest, glitziest, most exciting themes manufacturers can put on a game. Participation games are not sold to the casino. They're leased or placed on casino floors on a revenue-sharing basis, and the manufacturer continues to own the game.
Slot managers prefer to own their games, and most try to keep the number of participation games on their floors to a minimum. However, they can't just ignore the participation games, because that's where manufacturers put the themes and features that are most attractive to players. One upside to slot directors in using a participation game: if the game doesn't perform to expectations, doesn't draw enough players, the casino can get rid of the game and not be stuck with the cost.
Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com. Casino Answer Man runs every week.