Full disclosure Ė London (UK) is a short 9 hour 50 minutes plane ride from Vegas, and while Vegas may be one Londonís main airport (itís really hard to tell these days [London geography joke]), theyíre not really that close.
That being said, Iíve just been to Vegas 2 months ago and Iíve taken the opportunity of a brief London visit (which is sort of my home town, although not really for the past couple of years) to take a look at some of its casinos, and there were quite a few night and days from what Iíve seen in Vegas.
Iíve visited 4 of the largest casinos in the city (Probably. Didnít bother checking) Ė The Hippodrome, Stratfordís Aspers, The Empire and The G Casino Victoria (conveniently located 2 miles North of Victoria. Talk about false advertising).
The main reason for this whole trip was the Hippodrome. Recently, MyVegas offered a unique set of rewards (In which to say, they were actually rewarding) to this casino - £5, £10, £25, £50 and £100 in no-neg chips, and they even through in a £10 slot matchplay coupon in the mix (Along with show tickets and restaurant discounts which were amazing value, but I had no real interest in them). The only caveat Ė You may only use 2 rewards a day. THOSE MONSTERS!
To put it in perspective, £190 in no negs and £10 in matchplay are worth roughly $295 in EV. Every casino promotion I got in Vegas through sign ups, American Casino Guide and Las Vegas Advisor (which cost me money) were worth roughly $364 and had to be used in 25 different (and far away from each other) locations.
Boy, do I love no negs. I started with the £100 and the matchplay coupon. The lady at the counter scared me a bit when she pulled out a £100 cardboard coaster that said £100 superodds (apparently thatís the British name for it, as Iíve seen it in 2 other locations) on it. ďOkĒ I thought, ď1 £100 no neg chip. This might be profitableÖ MaybeÖĒ
I took the coaster to the cage where I received 4 £25 promotional chips. ďOk, 4 chips. I can work with that.Ē
After 1 unsuccessful blackjack hand, the dealer suggested Iíd convert them to £5 chips. Yep, apparently you can do that.
The gods have been good to me after that. Iíve turned £190 to £240 and that £10 matchplay earned me a single pound of additional metal imprints of the queen. Which brings me to my next point Ė British slots.
This was not my first trip to a British casino, or a British bet shop, The Brits love to gamble, donít they? Outside of a pub or an arcade, I have never seen a British slot machine that is just 1 game. Every machine is 5-20 games all in one, an assortment of non-specific games that seem to be interchangeable between machines, no real reason to pick one over the other. A large amount of them having low line limit, somewhere between 10-20, few 30, I think Iíve seen 1 99 line and one or two 720. No Monopoly, no Wheel of Fortune, nothing that barely resembles any recognizable brand or a lovable character. No, these you will find in fruit machines.
Iíve never quite understood fruit machines. Theyíre a weird mix of an American and a Japanese slot machines. Usually found in pubs or in one of the very few remaining arcades. If I remember correctly, all Iíve seen were 3 reels, usually branded, could be a gameshow or a cartoon or a board game of some sorts, usually for a small amount of money, like 10p, might have seen a pound machine once. You play the slots as you normally would until you win something. If you win, the amount of money you won is lit up on the board to your right. Then you can play a series of mini games to increase your winnings, either based on an RNG, a quick reaction hit or some weird strategy known only to experts of those weird monstrosities. Iím sure thereís a weird historical reason to how and why theyíre operated, but theyíre not for the casinos and are fairly irrelevant here.
Another thing Iíve (nearly) not seen are video poker machines. With the exception of Aspers that had a few multi-game machines that offer 2 different video poker games, every casino Iíve seen was wildly devoid of them.
What I have seen in most casinos were mechanical roulettes that worked either through a video that monitors a mechanical wheel, a pinball-like attraction and an automated bingo-style machine. I think those were a nice touch to the regular table insanity. I remember seeing a few similar machines in Vegas, but they werenít as present as they were in London Casinos.
Finally, we have the tables. The usual suspects were all there Ė Roulette, Blackjack, Baccarat, Pai Gow and the odd different game like War or Three Card Poker. I think The G in not-Victoria had Craps and the Hippodrome claimed to have one but I didnít see it. Guess itís not as popular in here.
In terms of Blackjack, which was my money waster of choice, about 50% had automatic shuffler, 50% had a 6 or 8 decks (I remember I always had a choice in each casino with the exception of fairly early in the morning when it was quite), all 3-2, all stand 17, no hole card, no surrender (with the exception of really peak times) £5 minimum (£10 at peak times) and some sort of a sucker bet everyone seemed to be betting on. Thereís also this odd social element where people can bet on your bet by placing chips under your circle. Impatient people waiting for the queue seemed to do it a lot, as well as other bettors wanting to get their extra gambling fix. Puts a bit of pressure on you not to bust, but whatever, itís my betÖ
The G in Victoria had one of the strangest sites Iíve seen in any of the casinos Iíve been to. It had so little slots and so many gaming tables, and they were all packed. First time Iíve seen people queuing to play slots.
Another odd observation - British casinos are quiet. I mean, they're not libraries, there is some noise going on, but the slots don't make it sound like the building on fire and the gamblers don't sound like their team just won the sportsball and the drunks... Come to think of it, I can only recall a single drunk person sitting next to me. What a country...
All in all Iíve had a fairly good time. I wanted to collect chips from all four, but I only got Aspers because for some reason the others had an ugly generic blue chip as their £1.
As for the $1 £1 challenge: Hippodrome Ė 0. Empire Ė 0. G Casino - 0. Aspers - £30.
Next trip: Vegas Ė The Couponing part 2 (July 2016)
Only soft drinks can be comped at the table - although some chains charge for all drinks. You usually find table snacks are available - except very late at night it might only be sandwiches. Most London casinos are too busy to allow you to eat meal dishes at the table, although you probably can at a poker table.
I don't recall anyone eating at the gaming table. One group at a pizza next to the slots, if that counts...