First, thanks to everyone who says nice things about this blog. I find it a real compliment when people say they read it. A writer’s nightmare is when no one reads what they write!
Now to your questions and issues.
Q: A friend and I both play at Harrah’s properties. Which is most advantageous, one of us to be a higher Diamond or both of us to be just Diamond level?
Q: We will be in Vegas in March. Where do you suggest the best slot play and bargains are?
Sorry to say it is almost impossible for me to tackle questions like these because the answer depends on so many factors and I don’t know your personal circumstances. What is your gambling bankroll? What games do you play? What is your main gambling goal? Answers to those and many other questions play into the answer to your main question. But the longer you study and research the subject of gambling – in hard-copy writings and on the Internet – the more often you will able to find the answers to your own questions.
Q: Have you ever done an article on what I call the 40-centers. I would love to see what return the casinos get from [penny machines].
The Casino Player magazine gives this information monthly for all US casinos who reveal their financial information. However, as a general rule, penny machines are big profit makers. The return to the player is usually the smallest percentage of all denominations, but they are popular because the low roller can risk just a small amount per hand. The players who loads up the max coins on most of these machines would do better playing quarters or even dollars where they would get a higher percentage return on their money.
I’m getting a lot of these, here and in private e-mails. Again, I can’t answer many of them because I don’t know your particular circumstances. Tax issues are so complex and, again, depend on so many individual factors. All I can do is refer you to the book Tax Help for Gamblers for some general help and then suggest you consult your own tax preparer.
One reader here said one of his win/loss statements was wrong, listing a win on a day he knew he wasn’t even in that casino. I am not surprised at that. After some 20+ years of win/loss statements, I dare say that we have had more with wrong or incomplete information than ones that exactly matched our personal records.
Here is how I start out the section about win/loss statements in the tax book: Some people feel they can skip having a diary if they get win/loss statements from casinos at the end of the year. These are valuable as supporting evidence of play, but many tax-court decisions have upheld the IRS position that they don’t substitute for a gambling log.
My co-author Marissa continued: The biggest problem with casino win/loss statements is all of the disclaimer language that they put at the bottom of the statements.
The reader who brought up this issue did receive an answer from the casino after he disputed the win/loss statement they sent him, and their explanation just reinforces our warnings above. They wrote: Unfortunately we cannot alter the Win/Loss statement. It specifically states it is just an estimate so if you have your own records I would suggest you use those for tax purposes.
So I suggest no one should stress about their win/loss statements. Just file them away; you shouldn’t send them – or your diary either - with your return anyway. And if you are audited, the IRS will look at your diary first!