The video poker paytables at Spirit Mountain, Oregon, were changed over the last few weeks. The 9/6 Jacks or Better Game King Uprights games were changed to 8/5 (98.5% return). The older, and better-paying machines, are being replaced with newer lower-paying multi-game machines.
Clearly the days of video poker are over not just in Las Vegas, but in the Indian casinos as well. In some Washington State casinos, you will not find any video poker at all.
Furthermore, the casino now is only giving 1/4 of the comps they used to give when you play video poker or electronic blackjack.
Comps for blackjack and craps are near non-existent, and that has a lot of long-time players grumbling that the rooms they normally got on a Friday/Saturday are now hard to come by.
In asking around, the word is that the players are simply not spending enough to keep things as they were. The costs of electricity, water, and fuel are on the rise. The buses they run to the cities cost more.
We had a mild winter here, so weather is not the issue.
It is simply that the cost of business is going up but wages are not. Casino management apparently are not gamblers and treat the biz of a casino as a normal business, and it is not. So the squeeze is on the players, who the management thinks will play poor-paying video poker. However, the machines sit idle even on a busy Saturday night, and many players have told me that once the older machines are gone, they are gone as well.
The "devaluing" of video poker has been going on for over a decade now. Before the Desert Inn closed, the slot director there told me that I was not going to like the video poker after they reconfigured their slot floor. Fortunately(?), the DI was sold before the high-paying video poker machines were replaced and it closed soon after, so I never got to experience their new video poker philosophy.
As you said, weather is not the driving force in devaluing video poker. Economic conditions are. And, as you also said, the casino business is not like other businesses.
As I write this, Starbucks is raising the prices on some of their drinks. It's fairly easy for Starbucks to increase the prices of its products. Reprogram cash registers, change the price on the menu board and your venti latte costs you 20 cents more than it did yesterday.
But how does a casino increase the price on its product? The only thing it can do is increase the house edge against players.
The casino has much more flexibility on expenses. It can cut back on comps. It can cut back on promotions. It can cut back on personnel. With the advent of ticket-in-ticket-out (TITO), there are no more change people pushing carts on the slot floor. Machines need far fewer hand-pays and the only time a slot floorperson needs to interact with a winner is when a tax form is needed. Let's also not forget that hard count (counting coins and tokens) is a thing of the past and casinos no longer have to keep hoppers full of coins or tokens. The savings from TITO have probably enabled many casinos to delay devaluing their video poker.
Of course, the casino's goal is to increase revenue. In addition to raising prices, it can increase revenue by increasing sales. But as you point out, players' wages are not increasing and many players are cutting back on their gambling budgets.
One thing struck me about your last sentence. The casino is busy on a Saturday night, but the new, lower-paying video poker machines are idle. Presumably, the players are playing video slots, which have much lower paybacks than video poker. The casino may not have any incentive to bring back or retain high-paying video poker.
Nevertheless, as you point out, you don't have to play the lower-paying games.
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