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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Chicago native creates new bets for old casino standbys

15 September 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Frank Mugnolo isn't one of those table-game inventors trying to come up with the next Let It Ride or Caribbean Stud. The number of successful nontraditional table games can be counted on one hand.

Mugnolo, a certified public accountant from Chicago, sticks with the basics. He's made a good living coming up with enhancement wagers for traditional casino table games.

"Every casino, no matter where it's located, has three basic table games: blackjack, craps and roulette," Mugnolo said. "That will never change and we don't try to change anything."

Through his company, Casino Gaming, Mugnolo introduced his third new wagering option, this time for roulette.

Colors was unveiled recently at The Orleans. The game uses normal roulette rules, but a side wager allows players to bet that the roulette ball will land on either red or black on three straight spins. If the chosen color hits three times in a row, the player is paid 8 to 1 on the bet.

"This is the simplest bet out there. It's a no-brainer, and from what I saw initially, the players seem to like it," Mugnolo said.

The math works in their favor. Colors has a house edge of 4.3 percent compared with the standard 5.26 percent house edge for all the other roulette bets.

The new roulette bet follows his other creations.

Five years ago, Mugnolo came up with a blackjack wager called Automatic Win, in which the player collects on a two-card 20. The game is in 500 casinos nationwide. Last year he unveiled a new wager for craps, 7 Point 7, which pays 2-to-1 when a seven is rolled.

Mugnolo said he recently signed a deal with Harrah's Entertainment to put his table game wagers into the company's casinos nationally.

He doesn't share in gaming revenues but is paid a licensing fee per table by the casinos. Mugnolo's company also provides the new table felts with the unique wagers.

By focusing on traditional table games, Mugnolo isn't hurt when interest wanes on a new table game.

"What I call 'carnival games' don't have a long shelf life," Mugnolo said. "A lot of the states only allow so many table game spaces. So is a casino manager in Indiana or Illinois going to take out a blackjack table that makes money for something that isn't proven? That's why I stay 100 percent focused on a game where you don't have to change anything."

The other key, he said, is creating a wager that is easy for players to understand and for dealers to learn.

"That's what makes it a success," Mugnolo said.

***

One gaming analyst said New York racetrack casinos are giving a boost to two Nevada slot makers, Reno-based International Game Technology and Las Vegas-based Bally Technologies.

Games provided by the two companies, Goldman Sachs gaming analyst Steven Kent said, are grabbing more and more of the available casino floor space at the state's racetracks.

Kent said developments over the next six to 18 months could greatly change the New York gambling landscape, giving another boost to the predominantly Nevada-based gaming equipment industry.

The first development will most likely be electronic table games, including roulette, baccarat, blackjack, and craps reaching the floors by the beginning of next year.

"The (New York) Lottery ruled that the games are legal under current law and manufacturers are currently in the development state to make them compatible with the lottery system," Kent told investors. "These games will allow the facilities to better compete with the casinos in Pennsylvania."

The second development, possibly by the end of 2010, would be a change allowing New York racinos to use a random-number generator to determine game outcomes.

"This would give the racinos the ability to use a wider number of games and also have traditional video poker, where some skill is involved," Kent said.

***

Sin City Brewing Co. opened its third Strip location Sept. 10 inside the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. The store joins the microbrewery's original location at the Miracle Mile Shops at the Planet Hollywood Resort and the Flamingo, which opened in the spring.

Sin City Brewing, operated by Richard Johnson, brews four beers in small batches (100 kegs at a time) using traditional methods, premium raw materials and a strict adherence to the Reinheitsgebot, the 1516 German beer purity law.

Sin City beers -- Sin City Amber, Sin City Light, Sin City Stout and Sin City Weisse -- are brewed and distributed exclusively in Las Vegas. The locations also sell Sin City Brewing apparel.