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Settling the score on gaming in 2012

John Grochowski

John Grochowski

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Updated: January 29, 2013 6:04AM



Casinos, amenities and games in the Chicago area continued to change in 2012. As we head into 2013, let’s look back at a few of the highlights:

♦ Hollywood Joliet (the former Empress Joliet) and Hollywood Aurora both opened new video poker zones. Of the two, the Joliet zone has more to offer. Quarter players get a good 9-5 Double Double Bonus Poker game with a progressive royal and a 50,000 coin bonanza for a sequential royal (98.1 percent with expert play with the progressives at base value). Dollar players can choose between 8-5 Bonus Poker (99.2 percent) and 9-6 Double Double Bonus (99 percent before progressives) with a three-way progressive jackpot.

The Aurora facility does offer dollar players 9-6 Double Double Bonus, but there are no single-hand quarter games that I’d put on the “playable” list.

Majestic Star II in Gary, Ind., continues to offer the best quarter video poker in the area, with a Joker’s Wild version that returns 99.9 percent with expert play. Not So Ugly Deuces Wild (99.7 percent) and 9-6 Jacks or Better (99.5 percent) are the top-quality games.

♦ Blackjack games have continued to get tougher. There now are no low-limit tables in the Chicago area in which dealers stand on all 17s. When the dealer hits soft 17, it adds 0.2 percent to the house edge. That’s a much bigger deal than it sounds, since the entire house edge against a basic strategy player is measured in tenths of a percent — they start at half a percent in a six-deck game and work up or down, depending on house rules.

♦ Gaming options have expanded as multigame video machines made it into bars, restaurants and service organizations. Even with the limit of five games per facility, Illinois is likely to wind up with several times more machines in bars and restaurants than in casinos. Each of the 10 Illinois casinos is limited to 1,200 gaming positions, and industry analysts have estimated the total number of bar-restaurant games could reach 50,000.

♦ Two local slot manufacturers, WMS Gaming and Incredible Technologies, moved into new facilities. Incredible, which made its name in the casual games market with Golden Tee Golf before moving into slot machines, moved from Arlington Heights into new facilities in Vernon Hills. WMS, an industry giant with games such as Jackpot Party, the Monopoly line and the Wizard of Oz, opened its new 120,000-square-foot Technology Development Center as the centerpiece in its six-building technology campus on the North Side. In mid-December, its new video poker products, My Poker and Winning Streak Video Poker, made their debut at Stations Casinos properties in Las Vegas. We’re likely to see them in the Chicago area in the coming year — a 2013 change I’m eager to see.

John Grochowski is a local free-lance writer. Look for him on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.



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