Reasons to Avoid Gambling at Nevada Gaming Bars

Written by: John Mehaffey , Expert on Las Vegas Casinos, Games, and Travel
5 minute read
Nevada Casino Bars

Nevada is one of the few states that permit gambling at every tavern.  All it takes is a restricted gaming license to install up to 15 machines, depending on the amount of alcohol, food, and merchandise sales of the establishment.  Most bars that install gaming devices use Game King machines.  These are video poker machines that often include keno, blackjack, and maybe a couple of slot games.

All of these games have one thing in common: The odds are worse than gamblers will find in local casinos.

The first thing tavern gamblers in Nevada will notice is that most of the games require a minimum denomination of $0.25.  The bar will require a player to deposit $10 or $20 and bet at least $1 to qualify for a drink.  Free alcohol served quickly is a typical reason players choose a tavern over a casino, so it makes sense to comply with the requirement.

The video poker pay tables tend to have a return of about 97 percent.  A few games may approach 98 percent, but games like 7/5 Double Double Bonus have a return lower than 96 percent.  These returns assume that a player is betting the required number of coins to hit the additional payout on a royal flush.

This adds up quickly, especially since about two percent of the return is a royal flush.  A player that does not hit a jackpot can expect to lose about $0.07 when betting five quarters per hand.  That number goes up to about $0.09 if the royal flush does not pay 800-1.  Most tavern players will not be able to withstand the negative variance and will bust quickly.

Number of Coins to Get Royal Flush Bonus

A typical video poker machine requires players to wager five coins to improve the 250-1 royal flush to a payout of 800-1.  This is not always the case in Nevada taverns.  Dotty’s operates dozens of taverns in Las Vegas.  Its Game King machines offer improved pay tables when compared to typical taverns.  The problem is that Dotty’s requires players to wager 100 coins to hit the royal flush.  This means a nickel player will have to wager $5 per hand to receive full pay on a royal.

The only players that should consider this are those that would otherwise play the $1 denomination where $5 would get the bonus royal flush payout. At that point, a Stations Casino or other local joints would be a better option.

Dotty’s does have one advantage over its competitors.  It offers a machine called a U1.  This machine offers slots, video poker, and keno.  A player may see the return of the game right on the screen.  The real money keno and slot games have a higher return at Dotty’s than most other competitors.

Some taverns offer a progressive jackpot.  These can often require 10 coins to hit.  If they do not, the paytables are often worse than usual.

Worse Blackjack Returns than Normal Casinos

Many bar top Game Kings offer blackjack.  It is available in denominations of $1 and higher.  This video blackjack game operates at a lightning-fast speed.  Players can get dealt up to 20 hands a minute.  This sounds like fun at first glance until one scrutinizes the rules. Game King Blackjack stands on all 17’s.  Many of the machines offer surrender.  Hitting split aces is allowed on some of these machines.  That is where the good rules end.

Most Game King Blackjack machines do not permit double down after splitting.  Some only allow a player to double down on 10 and 11.  The worst rule of all is that blackjack only pays even money on all of these machines.  The house edge for this blackjack game is between 2.5 and 3 percent.  That is four or five times worse than a normal Las Vegas locals casino blackjack game dealt either live or on a multi-player machine.  The speed of the machine will result in quick, massive losses for the player without a serious stroke of luck.

Waste of Comps

Many local taverns have players’ clubs.  These give players free food and slot play.  All local taverns have liberal drink policies, which is why many players choose them over casinos that tend to monitor consumption.  Tavern player clubs also issue mailers that include free slot play and maybe even a food coupon. Low-limit players will find this acceptable. Higher volume gamblers are wasting their action on an establishment that has a limited number of items for comp redemption.  A player willing to give a couple of hours of five-coin quarter action will expect better mailers from local casinos that may include food vouchers for use at higher-end restaurants.

The same logic applies to slots that may be found in grocery stores and gas stations in Nevada.  These games are often operated by the same companies that own the taverns.  The main difference is that grocery stores and gas stations do not have free alcohol for players.

John Mehaffey

John Mehaffey Expert on Las Vegas Casinos, Games, and Travel

John Mehaffey is a poker and casino expert who has been playing online games for money since 2001. He knows how to find the best video poker and table games and writes about casino players' clubs, promotions, and things to do in Las Vegas, where he currently resides.

Learn More About John