Misleading Las Vegas gambling claims

By Jeff Haney, Lasvegassun.com

In preparing a survey on the best and worst football parlay cards in Las Vegas casinos, I heard an advertisement proclaiming the Boyd Gaming/Coast Casinos properties have “the best parlay cards on the planet” this season.

Wow! The best on the planet! All right!

I couldn’t wait to bear witness to them, let alone bet on them.

As it turns out, they’re not even the best parlay cards on Fremont Street.

On its standard football parlay card that uses half-points in the spreads, for example, Boyd/Coast pays 5 1/2-1 for going 3-for-3, average for Las Vegas. Lucky’s at the Plaza pays 6-1 on the same proposition, and the Hard Rock and Cal Neva pay

5 3/4-1.

Likewise, on four-teamers Boyd/Coast pays 11-1. Better odds, as high as 12 1/2-1, are available at no fewer than nine other local casino operations.

The pattern continues on Boyd/Coast’s odds on five-teamers through 10-teamers. On every one of those wagers, better odds can be found elsewhere in town.

Sometimes those odds are a little better. Other times, they are significantly better. Most egregiously, for instance, on eight-teamers Boyd/Coast pays only 174-1 while other sports books offer odds as high as

207-1.

Boyd/Coast does not fare any better on its selection of goofy, gimmicky cards, on which the odds are mostly the same as or worse than on similar cards in town.

Yet Boyd/Coast informs us in its radio advertisements that its parlay cards are the “best” on “the planet,” a blatant lie that goes beyond the usual bluster and hype and reflects poorly on legal gambling in Nevada.

Put this one down in the annals of Las Vegas marketing atrocities alongside the Strip casino that touted its “whopping” payoff of 6-5 on blackjacks a few years ago. (Blackjack games that pay 6-5 instead of the traditional and more favorable 3-2 have since proliferated, although the “whopping” tag has faded away.)

In fact, you could argue the current Boyd/Coast promotion is worse. The “whopping 6-5” campaign, while certainly sleazy and demeaning to customers and visitors to Las Vegas, might have been relying on a twisted definition of “whopping” rather than being technically false.

Touting parlay cards as the best on the planet while offering average or below-average odds serves to lower the discourse on the business of state-regulated legal gambling toward the level of a big con.

Considering the success of the state’s gambling industry hinges on accountability and the concept that each customer is entitled to a fair shake, here are some suggestions on how Boyd/Coast should change its ads:

1. Don’t trot out the demonstrably false claim that the properties offer “the best parlay cards on the planet.” Instead, state that in the case of the standard half-point card, for instance, gamblers are better off playing elsewhere in town whether they’re playing three-teamers, 10-teamers or any bet in between. (Yes, I’m dreaming there.)

2. Say the parlay cards are the “juiciest” or the “meatiest” or some other advertising-nonsense word. Yes, this would be meaningless drivel and a waste of everyone’s time, but at least it wouldn’t be an out-and-out falsehood. (Sadly, this is probably the most realistic solution to the problem.)

3. Put forth a high-quality product and then speak truthfully about it in ads. (Yep, dreaming again.)

So if not Boyd/Coast, then who does have the best parlay cards on the planet?

Don’t know, but we can offer a rundown of the best in Las Vegas.

By any standard, parlay cards are big business in Nevada. Last year gamblers risked about $68.7 million on parlay cards in the state’s sports books. The casinos won, or “held,” 29.5 percent of that money, or about $20.3 million, according to the state Gaming Control Board.

Because the point spreads printed on the cards are static, it’s common practice for sports book managers, at their discretion, to occasionally restrict parlay-card wagering on certain games that have had big moves in the line.

It’s up to you, Gentle Reader, to determine which books, if any, are too quick on the trigger in removing games from parlay-card wagering. We don’t take that variable into account.

Our analysis is based solely on the odds payouts on the cards, which vary, sometimes substantially, by casino property even on cards that are otherwise virtually identical.

It’s based on the standard football parlay card, either a half-point card (in the case of 12 sports books in Las Vegas) or a ties-reduce card (the other seven distinct sports books). On a ties-reduce card, a tie against the spread is considered a push and the action is reduced by one selection (a 10-teamer becomes a nine-teamer, and so on).

Oh, and although parlay cards use weird, misleading terminology such as “50 for 1,” we don’t. Here in the real world, “50 for 1” means 49-1. The “for 1” phraseology comes from the bizarro realm of corporate doublespeak, where gambling is “gaming,” the Super Bowl is the “professional football championship contest,” and rank suckers (such as those who think Boyd has the best parlay cards) are “valued guests.”

Following are the best bets, and those to avoid, on football parlay cards in Las Vegas this season:

Three-teamers: Lucky’s and the Poker Palace have the best odds at 6-1. Cal Neva and the Hard Rock are also solid at 5 3/4-1. The worst are Harrah’s, MGM Mirage, Planet Hollywood and Wynn at 5-1.

Four-teamers: The Hard Rock is the best at 12 1/2-1. Planet Hollywood and MGM Mirage are the worst at 10-1.

Five-teamers: Cal Neva, the Golden Nugget, the Hard Rock and Lucky’s pay 25-1. Avoid the 21-1 odds at Harrah’s, MGM Mirage, Planet Hollywood and the Venetian.

Six-teamers: Cal Neva, the Golden Nugget and the Hard Rock are the strongest at 51-1. Watch out for Harrah’s properties, which pay 39-1.

Seven-teamers: Cal Neva is the best at 103-1. Avoid the 79-1 at Leroy’s, Planet Hollywood, Station Casinos and the Venetian.

Eight-teamers: Cal Neva is tops again at 207-1. The Hard Rock is also strong at 204-1. The worst, at 159-1, are Leroy’s, Planet Hollywood, Stations and the Venetian.

Nine-teamers: The best are Cal Neva, the Golden Nugget, the Hard Rock, Lucky’s and the Palms, which pay 419-1. Avoid the Venetian and its 319-1 at all costs.

10-teamers: The best are Cal Neva, the Golden Nugget, Lucky’s and the Stratosphere properties at 849-1. Avoid the 699-1 at Harrah’s, MGM Mirage and Wynn.

Best overall (in Las Vegas, if not the planet): Cal Neva in a landslide.

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