John Grochowski

John Grochowski

In an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, many casinos have temporarily closed, with Illinois and Massachusetts being the first states to halt casino play.

Even in states with casinos with open casinos, many players are choosing to stay home.

We can expect an increase in online play in states where it is legal – New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania for most casino games, and those three plus Nevada for online poker.

Over the last year or so, I’ve received a number of questions from readers about online play. Let’s try to answer a few.

Keep in mind that these apply to state-regulated play. Also, don’t take this as a recommendation that you play online. I don’t want to push anyone into gambling anywhere. I just try to provide useful information for those who choose to play.

**Are games random?

Yes. Games in licensed online casinos are subject to the same randomness standards as games in brick-and-mortar casinos.

In all states with licensed online gaming, the same gaming boards and commissions that regulate play in physical casinos also regulate online play. Regulations are enforced by state enforcement divisions – in New Jersey, for example, the Division of Gaming Enforcement has authority over both online and brick-and-mortar play.

**Are the odds as good online as in regular casinos?

In some cases, they might be even better. I’ve had operators tell me slots – especially penny games – have higher payback percentages online. I’ve not seen revenue reports to back that up, so let’s just list that as a “maybe” for now.

In other games, the odds online and in physical casinos are the same given equal rules and pay tables. A double-zero roulette game with standard payoffs will have a 5.26 percent house edge on all bets except the 7.89 percent on the five-number basket regardless of whether you’re sitting at a table or playing on your pad.

If all rules are equal, blackjack games will have the same house edge online as offline. The same goes for video poker: 9-6 Jacks or Better is the same regardless of venue.

That leaves it up to players to shop for the best deal and look for better blackjack rules or video poker pay tables.

**What are the pitfalls of playing online?

Online versions of table games play much faster than games at physical tables. There’s no waiting for other players to make decisions. Bets are settled instantly instead of waiting for dealers to make payoffs around the table. Chips don’t have to be stacked. Dealers don’t have to wait for trays to be stocked.

You can play as fast as you can make decisions. At a full seven-player table in a live game, you might see only 50 hands per hour, ranging up to 250 if you’re playing head-to-head with the dealer. Online, you might exceed 500 hands per hour.

That’s a game changer. At a $10 wager per hand, a risk of $500 at 50 hands per hour becomes $5,000 at 500 hands per hour.

**What’s the biggest difference in the playing experience?

Speed of play aside, the biggest difference is in social interactions. An extremely social game like craps, with its we’re-in-this-together feel and celebratory mood when a shooter is on a roll, can feel flat online.

On the other hand, slot and video poker players barely notice a difference, and quieter games like blackjack translate well to online play.

Just be really careful not to get caught up in the faster games and bet more than you intend. It can all go so fast.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).