Mount Airy Casino Downgrades Video Poker Terminals, Leaving PA Players With Few Good Options

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One of the last great bastions of video poker in Pennsylvania has gone down the same sordid path as so many others.

On a recent scouting trip to Mount Airy Casino it was discovered that the state’s ninth place casino in revenue has downgraded the pay tables for its $1 vp machines. The machines in question are those in the high limit room, and the uprights near the hotel entrance.

Previously, Mount Airy boasted the best video poker payouts in the state, offering various 99%+ machines at the $1 level. The downgrade leaves players from Pennsylvania with a dearth of viable playing alternatives.

What machines took the hit?

From the looks of it, at least five popular video poker variants were beaten with the downgrade stick.

  • Jacks or Better
  • Bonus Poker
  • Double Bonus Poker
  • Double Double Bonus
  • Deuces Wild

Previously, all of these games returned near or over 99%, with Jacks or Better offering the best return at 99.54%. Cashback from Mount Airy’s slot club brought the return up to 99.59% for the game, with top tier rewards (Onyx) players achieving even higher returns via monthly bounceback.

Jacks or Better has been downgraded to the 8/6 pay table, with select machines displaying 8/5. The 8/6 variant of the game returns 98.39%.

Bonus Poker previously paid 25 coins for most four-of-a-kinds, 40 coins for four 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s, and 80 coins for four Aces. The game now pays 30 coins across the board for four-of-a-kinds — a rarely seen pay table that returns 99.48%, down from 99.17% previously.

Deuces Wild perhaps took the biggest hit, with the pay table changed from the 98.91% LV/Illinois airport version to one that returns just 97.58% — which is on par with what most other Pennsylvania casinos offer.

It is presumed that the downgrades are at least in part, a byproduct of Pennsylvania’s oppressive 54% tax rate on slots, which has caused most PA operators to offer bottom barrel returns on their one armed bandits and video poker machines.

According to video poker authority site vpfree2, the $2 and up denominations have retained their favorable pay tables, for now.

Viable land-based vp options grow scant

With the downgrade, PA land-based casino now offer exactly zero 99%+ video poker terminals at the $1 and below level.

In order to see favorable tables, players will have to either ante up at least $10 a hand at Mount Airy, or those with deep pockets could take their chances at Harrah’s Philadelphia, which offers a variety of 99%+ games at the $5 and higher denominations. As of August, Harrah’s generates more revenue than all but five Pennsylvania casinos.

Currently, the best $1 games are Double Double Bonus (98.98%) and Deuces Wild LV/Illinois airport, found at Valley Forge Casino.

Alternatively, video poker aficionados could navigate to Atlantic City, which offers a bevy of video poker games that both return over 99% and can be played for quarters. Bally’s and the Borgata remain the best AC casinos to play multiple good vp games on the cheap.

Better yet, PA residents could turn their attention online. Right now this will prove somewhat arduous, as online gambling is legal in their neighboring states to the east and south (New Jersey and Delaware), but not in Pennsylvania itself.

Still, for PA players willing to shack up in New Jersey (they do not need to hold residence there), they’ll find a variety of single line Game King games that offer the same returns previously found at the $1 level at Mount Airy Casino, but for as little as $0.10 a round.

A better solution may be coming soon

Pennsylvania is strongly considering passing legislation that would legalize online gambling. The legislation would be part of a larger omnibus package that would also see the legalization of daily fantasy sports, and perhaps an online lottery.

A proposal that would allow land-based satellite casinos to be constructed throughout the state is also being floated around, according to Chris Krafcik of Gambling Compliance.

Pennsylvania is currently in the midst of a months long budget impasse. The delay has caused the state to suffer a credit downgrade, and with no future bailouts coming, there is an extreme sense of urgency to fulfill a $2.2 billion shortfall.

The legalization of online gambling would fulfill a hefty portion of that shortfall, as license fees alone stand to generate upwards of $100 million. And that’s not taking into account recurring tax revenue, which could amount to $50 million per year, and possibly much more, at the currently floated 15 – 20% tax on gross gaming revenue.

The tax rate would be on par with that imposed on NJ online casinos, suggesting that Pennsylvania operators would be able to offer similar returns on their games. For video poker players, that means 99%+ return games could be returning soon, only they’ll be available from PCs and mobile devices, and not at land-based casinos.

Recent chatter suggests that Pennsylvania could legalize online gambling as early as this week.

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