The house edge, which is the commission that a gambling agent such as a
casino, a sportsbook (bookmaker), or a lottery administrator charges, is a
yardstick that measures how a specific gambling game is fair and reasonable.
It is one of the most important factors that every player should consider whenever he/she is engaged in any type of gambling, inasmuch as it indicates how much of the money wagered goes to the gambling agent’s pocket and how much is redistributed to the winners. Indeed, a house edge cannot be zero since casinos, sportsbooks, and lottery administrators have to make some money in order to cover their expenses, and to make some profit as well. Yet, a high house edge simply means that the players are unnecessarily being ripped-off, and as a result, any gambling game with a high house edge should certainly be avoided by a
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In this article, we shall compare, in the simplest way
possible, the house edges of a roulette, an evens-odd betting, and a Cash 3
lottery game as representatives of the three major gambling categories.
The easiest way to compute a house edge is to compare the actual winnings that are
paid by the respective agents to the winnings that would be paid in a
fair game or bet. A fair game or a fair bet is one in which no commission
is involved; an obvious model is a game between friends. Therefore, in
percentage form, the house edge is obtained by subtracting an actual game winning
from a fair game winning and dividing the result by the fair game winning,
finally multiplying by 100. Thus,
House Edge = [ (fair game winning – actual game winning) / fair game winning ] *
Because of its simplicity and popularity, we shall consider the roulette as a
representative casino game. A European roulette wheel has grooves marked by the
numbers 0 to 36; the American wheel (also called Las Vegas wheel) has an
additional groove marked as ’00’. So, the European wheel has a total of 37
numbers, while the American wheel has 38. Internet casinos usually make available
the option to select the type of wheel the customer prefers, but the brick and
mortar casinos normally offer only one type. The winning number in a roulette
game is the number corresponding to the groove where a spinning ball lands.
Now, consider a fair game in which 38 friends are playing the roulette at home,
and each one selects a number and places a $1 bet on the number (no two or more
players wagering on the same number). When the ball is spun and lands in a
groove, the number marking that groove will be the winning number.
The person who has selected this winning number collects all the money on the
table thus making him win $37. On the other hand, if the game were conducted in
a casino, the winner would be paid only $35. The difference between the two
winnings applied in the above equation gives us the house edge of a roulette game