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Wildest Inflation Red Flag: Vegas Table Limits

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Anyone who has been to a restaurant, a grocery store, or the car lot during the Biden administration can’t deny the reality of inflation. But despite what the federal government is saying about the success of its anti-inflation efforts red flags for inflation keep popping up in the strangest places.

Take the Las Vegas Strip. Casinos on the Strip, long known for trying to take the money of everyone from the highest high-rolling whale to the coupon-clipping low-roller camped out at Motel 6 or Excalibur Casino, are now finally admitting that some dollars aren’t worth the effort of taking. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported on the declining number of tables where you could play blackjack in Las Vegas while the amount of revenue earned from blackjack stayed high even as casinos offered worse rules to players, such as paying out 6:5 when a player receives a “blackjack” rather than the traditional 3:2. Strip casinos are also doing away with low table limits, meaning that players that want to risk $5 or $10 on a single hand of blackjack are struggling to find a game.

The optimistic interpretation offered by the article is that casinos on the strip are successfully pivoting to cater to a higher-end audience and are raising not just table limits for games like blackjack but also the price of hotel rooms. But the disappearance of low-priced gambling options is happening at places far from the glamorous Las Vegas Strip. Even 

And it’s not just table game limits where casinos are desperate for more money. Even classic games are seeing their rules rewritten to bring in more dollars per player. While the version of roulette familiar from Hollywood offers 18 red numbers, 18 black numbers, a single green zero where the house wins, Vegas casinos now commonly offer roulette wheels with three zeros, massively increasing the house edge. The Strip is not the only gambling destinations where dollars don’t go as far as they used to with many casinos even removing table games as a way to respond to high inflation and labor costs. (Vegas is a union town. Pass Casino in Henderson and many Caesars Entertainment properties are among those eliminating or scaling back table games. 

Even lotto tickets, perhaps the most affordable way to gamble, are seeing prices rise. The state of Texas is now selling a $100 scratch-off ticket and the Georgia Lottery is experimenting with discontinuing the selling of $1 lottery tickets and replacing them with with $2 or $5 tickets, a doubling or even “pentupling” the cost of tickets for gamblers looking for quick and cheap entertainment.  

When even purveyors of traditional vices start turning down dollars, it’s hard to feel bullish about the currency. Is holding the US dollar turning into a gamble all on its own?

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