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When Circus Circus first opened on the Las Vegas Strip in 1968, it had only a showroom, some restaurants and a casino—no hotel. Today it is full-fledged resort with 3,770 guest rooms, an RV park, three swimming pools, an indoor amusement park, and full-service meeting and convention facilities[1]. What has endured half a century of change, however, is its steadfast emphasis on “playful entertainment,” amply evident in the high-wire and trapeze acts performed directly above the 101,286-square-foot gaming floor and reflected in its catchphrase, “Act your age somewhere else” [2]. For blackjack players, it’s all about low stakes action and having fun.

Circus Circus Tables & Games

Blackjack takes center stage in the main pit of Circus Circus. The vast majority of its 49 gaming tables are dedicated to versions of 21 [3], and there are three basic games offered: single deck, double deck and a six deck shoe [4]. All games have the dealer hit on soft 17 and allow doubling down after splitting (DAS), but they do not offer surrender or re-splitting of Aces (RAS). The best value here is the $25 double-deck table with a House edge of  0.45%, but the most popular table is the six-deck one with a $3 minimum and a House advantage of 0.64% [5]. Tables betting limits go as high as $3,000.

According to one study, the overall House edge at the Circus Circus blackjack tables is 0.68%, which places it right in the middle of all Strip casinos [6]. Like so many other Las Vegas gaming venues, Circus Circus has introduced $5 and $10 single-deck games that pay only 6:5 for a natural blackjack instead of the standard 3:2. However, at “select times daily,” blackjack in the “Rockin’ Party Pit” pays 2:1, which gives the player a significant boost in odds. Look for flashing red lights to signal the periods when this special rule is in effect throughout the day, every day.

There also used to be live blackjack tables at the Circus Circus’s neighboring affiliate called “Slots A Fun” [7], but that property has replaced all of its table games with machine versions. For blackjack players, there are three five-seat machines: two “Royal Match 21” units and one “Bet Set 21” unit. The minimum wager is $1.

What’s Different

According to Frommer’s travel advisory [8], Circus Circus is “the last bastion of family-friendly Las Vegas.” The existence of clown acts, juggling, acrobatic performances and a noisy carnival midway may put off more serious blackjack players, but it is perfect for parents seeking a place for their kids to hang out while the adults play. Children are not allowed on the casino floor, of course, but the mezzanine level is almost always packed with teens playing arcade games, while a steady stream of pre-adults can be seen strolling the carpeted walkways between the gaming areas en route to Adventuredome in the rear. For those new to blackjack, free lessons are offered at 10:30am daily [9].

Players Club for Frequent Blackjack Players

Although Circus Circus is part of MGM Resorts International, it does not share its “Circus Players Club” with sister properties along the Strip. Instead, the loyalty program stands alone, rewarding gaming machine and table play with such benefits as “free slot play; special event invitations to parties, concerts, and tournaments; comp dollars to use at our dining outlets; complimentary and discounted room nights; and priority hotel check-in” [10]. New members are eligible for free gifts such as T-shirts, specialty drinks, free buffet dining and two free room nights for “points” earned within 72 hours of joining. One point is awarded for every $2 in slot play or $10 for video poker. For new table game players, $15 in promotional chips may be purchased for $10 or $45 worth for $30. Blackjack players must be rated based upon their average bet size and time played. The premier membership tiers—Platinum, Diamond and Sapphire—come with additional benefits “like room upgrades, valuable discounts, VIP line access, complimentary show tickets, and exclusive event invitations” [11].

The Inside View

It’s unlikely that Circus Circus will shift its focus away from families any time soon. MGM Resorts has shown no interest in bringing the hotel-casino more in line with its other Strip properties. Quite the opposite, in fact, corporate management is raising the ante on family attractions by moving ahead with plans to introduce a small-scale water park on the resort’s RV park grounds[12]. In early 2013, the county zoning commission approved plans to construct a 5.5-acre facility with “a lazy river, 90-foot water slides and special attractions … for guests staying at Circus Circus only” [13]. That’s good news for blackjack-playing parents, providing yet one more place to park the kids during the day.

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