A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I was playing a Triple Play Poker machine that had progressive jackpots on each hand as well as a bigger progressive if you got all three royals.
I didn't get all three, but I did get two at once. I was dealt the Ace, King, Jack and 10 of hearts, and on the middle and top hands I drew the Queen. On the bottom hand, I drew a Jack of spades for a high pair.
It was a quarter machine, and my payoffs were $1,038 on the top hand, $1,187 on the middle hand and $1.25 on the bottom.
All those are under $1,200, but the slot attendant brought me a tax form anyway and said I had to sign or they couldn't pay me.
That didn't sound right, but I wanted my money, so I signed. Was that really needed?
A. The slot attendant was correct. Your total payout on the hand was above the $1,200 threshold at which the IRS requires the casino to have you sign a tax form before it pays you
The IRS considers all money won on a single bet to be part of the same payback. Your $3.75 maximum bet on a quarter Triple Play game is a single bet, not three $1.25 bets on individual hands.
Q. I recently received a questionnaire from a large casino company asking my opinions on Las Vegas. I've stayed at their hotels not only in Las Vegas, but also in Atlantic City and in Mississippi, but of late I've been focusing on A.C. It's closer to home and Las Vegas has gotten so expensive. Last year was the first in about 30 years that I didn't make a single trip to Las Vegas, and I used to go three or four times a year.
They were trying to get at why they're losing business. I told them it was mainly expense. I used to feel I got value out of Vegas, but now the hotels have gotten so expensive, and they tack on all sorts of resort fees for facilities I don't use. They even charge for self-parking, for goodness sake.
You've been going to Las Vegas a long time. Do you agree?
A. I think there's still value to be had in Las Vegas, but for me, it hasn't been on the Strip for some time. I generally stay at locals-oriented resorts that keep the costs a little more under control.
The locals casinos and those downtown on Fremont Street also offer better gaming options with better odds. In those places, you're less likely to find the 6-5 blackjack games that are all too common on the Strip and more likely to find higher video poker pay tables. Even the slot payback percentages are higher if you get off the Strip.
Strip resorts draw a higher percentage of revenue from hotels, restaurants, shows, shopping and other resort amenities than they used to. Emphasizing those areas is a natural response to the nationwide presence of gambling -- you don't have to travel to play.
But the concentration of so many places to play remains a huge part of the attraction. Unfortunately, when you walk through the casinos, the gambling is nothing special and in many cases weaker than you can find elsewhere.
I don't want to make this an anti-Vegas diatribe, because I still love my trips there. But I agree with you, the value of staying on the Strip has been diminished by the costs, and the gambling is nothing special.