Nothing can sweeten your holiday more than an exciting and lucky evening at the casino. You walk in the door and notice it looks much like the casinos at home: flashing lights, slot machines, table games, music playing and drinks flowing.
But there are some important differences between Dominican casinos and their North American/European counterparts. We compiled this list of frequently-asked questions and answers to help ensure that your gambling experience in the Dominican Republic is a positive one.
Do casinos in the DR offer odds as good as those in American casinos?
Dominican casinos offer Las Vegas odds. In other words, the amount of profits kept by the casino versus how much is taken away in winnings by the players is the same as in Vegas and is generally considered fair.
However, like all casinos, there are certain games that by their nature offer better odds than others. For example blackjack and poker, if played strategically, can have very good payout levels for the gambler, up around 98 or 99%. Games of pure chance involving no skill usually have poorer odds.
Will I find the same games as in Vegas?
Most of the casino games you find here will look very familiar: blackjack, video poker, craps and slots are all here.
However, you likely won't find Texas Hold 'em Poker or Seven Card Stud. In their place, most casinos offer Caribbean Stud Poker and different versions of Video Poker.
Unfortunately, the British single zero roulette is also absent here, replaced by the double zero version which has worse odds for the player.
Are there any games I should avoid?
Keno and Super Keno have received a bad rap in Dominican casinos for good cause. This isn't the Keno you see in Vegas, where you get a ticket with 80 numbers and you mark the 20 numbers you hope will be called.
Here, the game is played with a marked felt table and bingo-like balls that are selected from a glass case by the player at $5 a pop. Simply put, the odds in this game are absolutely terrible.
Most gambling professionals will warn you against playing ANY type of Keno. Gambling guru Arthur Reber says in The New Gambler's Bible, "In terms of expected value, it is the very worst game for the player to be found anywhere in the casino."
Many a holiday has been ruined by the seductive allure of the huge jackpots in Keno and Super Keno. Just remember, the house edge in Keno is between 25 and 40 per cent whereas in other games it may go as low as 1%.
Games that go by the name of Progressive Keno or Progressive Roulette should also be approached with great caution as they operate on much the same principle: persuade the players to keep increasing their bets until they're in too deep to quit. These dealers are remarkably persuasive and many players who normally have plenty of will power find it hard to walk away.
To complicate matters, the Keno games in the DR are operated not by the casino itself but by an independent contractor who rents the floor space. And since it's a concession, complaints to casino management might fall on deaf ears. Best to save yourself the trouble and walk on by.
Can I bet in dollars or pesos?
You can bet in either currency. It doesn't hurt to keep in mind that the casinos have lower minimum bets if you play in pesos. So if things are getting too rich for your blood, you can slow down the pace by switching from dollars to pesos.
As well, most casinos will cash your travelers checks and sell you chips on your credit card. Plus there are instant tellers in many casinos.
Should I tip the dealers?
Conventional wisdom says that if you tip the dealer generously he will 'help' you perhaps give you some playing tips or other preferential treatment. But it doesn't work like that in most Dominican casinos.
Why not? Because the owners of the casinos don't let the dealers keep all their tips. The tips are pooled and every so often, a set amount is distributed among the staff. But the house keeps a good portion.
Therefore, dealers will politely and gratefully accept your tip but likely won't show you any special favors!
What kind of comps can I expect to receive?
Dominican casinos, like most others in the world, like to pamper players who are spending some money. That means drinks, cigarettes and even snacks are on the house as long as you're playing and not just watching. In this way, the logic goes, you have no reason to leave the premises and will stay longer and spend more.
Some casinos also hand out free chips for specific games or match play coupons that comp you free chips if you buy a certain minimum amount.
What other differences will I notice from North American casinos?
For one thing, the casinos here are probably much smaller than the ones you're used to in the big American resorts. The games are played the same way there's just fewer of them.
Secondly, some Dominican casinos have broken with the global tradition and installed both clocks and windows. The better to know when it's time to head home!
If I have a complaint with a casino, what recourse do I have?
Again, things here are very different than in the US or Europe. There is no Gaming Commission or other government body dedicated to monitoring and inspecting the casinos for fairness. Luckily, the casino managers are highly motivated to protect their image and usually resolve any complaints directly with the player.
Can you offer some tips to improve my casino experience?
- Play only the games you are familiar with and be sure to understand the rules thoroughly.
- Find out what the odds are and play only the games with the most favorable odds.
- Never drink and gamble at the same time. If you lose your concentration, you could wind up losing your shirt.
- Manage your money. Arrive at the casino knowing how much you plan to spend. Only gamble with money you can afford to lose. Remember: the casino has the edge in all games and the odds are always against you!
- Quit while you are ahead. If you're lucky enough to come away with 20% more than you wagered, you've had a good session and can go home feeling like a winner.
- Above all, enjoy yourself. Casino gambling can be fun and entertaining if you exercise restraint!