Just under one year ago, highly-skilled blackjack player Don Johnson won nearly $6 million playing blackjack in Tropicana -- not to mention the other $9 million won in other casinos in Atlantic City, N.J. -- in one night in an assault which has caused the casino's revenues to plummet drastically by nearly $2 billion.
Within six months, Bensalem, Penn.-based businessman Johnson, known in the gambling community as the Blackjack Beast, didn't only clear out Tropicana but all Atlantic City casinos, cleaning up with over $15 million, $5 million from Borgata and $4 million from Caesar's Palace in a case revisited by The Atlantic.
According to Tropicana CEO Mark Giannantonio, Johnson's winnings at the Tropicana set back the casino in its monthly profits for April 2011, placing Trop at the second lowest slot of the 11 casinos in Atlantic City in terms of revenue.
At the time, before being fired, Giannantonio told The Atlantic even instated a hand limit for Johnson of $100,000 while other casinos around the world banned him.
However, combined monthly gaming revenue had been declining on a year-over-year basis for 32 months as of last April, falling from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $3.3 billion reported last year.
To compensate for losses, Atlantic City, along with other hurting casinos, give many freebies to their top high rollers and gamblers, known as whales like Johnson, to entice interest in gambling. The Atlantic reports:
But two years ago, Johnson says, the casinos started getting desperate. With their table-game revenues tanking and the number of whales diminishing, casino marketers began to compete more aggressively for the big spenders. After all, one high roller who has a bad night can determine whether a casino's table games finish a month in the red or in the black. Inside the casinos, this heightened the natural tension between the marketers, who are always pushing to sweeten the discounts, and the gaming managers, who want to maximize the house's statistical edge. But month-after-month of declining revenues strengthened the marketers' position. By late 2010, the discounts at some of the strapped Atlantic City casinos began creeping upward, as high as 20 percent.
The marketers present casinos as glamorous playgrounds where workaday worries and things like morality, sobriety, and prudence are on holiday, The Atlantic reported, to appeal to those on the brink of becoming rich like Johnson before cutting them off after gaining status and wealth.
Atlantic Magazine reported that while Johnson's lifestyle at home hasn't changed much, his social life indeed has, as he now parties and rubs elbows with the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and Charlie Sheen, even hosting a birthday party in Las Vegas for Pamela Anderson.
But how did he rake in so much cash?
Johnson, who was considered a newbie in Atlantic City, went fairly unnoticed as he reportedly played one hand of blackjack per minute, which raised suspicion from surveillance cameras that he was cheating or counting cards. However, his streak was investigated by officials in Atlantic City and they deemed he was not cheating but has beaten the casinos fair and square, in the words of the Atlantic, by studying the game before setting foot in a casino.