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What Is A ‘Whale’ In Gambling and Why Casinos Love Them



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If you hear someone talking about a casino whale, you might feel confused. What does this term even mean and what is it about them that makes them so popular with casinos?

Here what you should know about casino whales and why they are easy targets for the industry.

The Definition of a Casino Whale

You’ve probably heard people mention high rollers at some point. These are players that gamble with big bankrolls. They often play big stakes and will tend to stay in the casino for a long time while spending a lot of money.

Well, some definitions state that a casino whale is simply a high roller. However, others go further and state that a whale has an even bigger bankroll and lavish style than a standard high roller. Either way, this is someone who isn’t afraid to place big wagers regularly.

You might also see the name cheetah used for these players. They’re comfortable gambling with hundreds of thousands of dollars in each game and for this reason other players like to watch them gamble.

The term casino whale is sometimes used negatively, to refer to someone who gambles a lot of money but isn’t very good at the game. However, it’s usually just a reference to their gambling habits rather than a statement on how good or bad they are at the games.

There’s no clear definition of how much a gambler has to spend to be classed as a whale. In Las Vegas, a high roller is probably going to have a credit line from the casino, which could start at $250,000 and potentially run into millions of dollars.

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How Do Casinos Treat Them?

Casinos love to see whales playing. This is the same regardless of whether it’s a physical one or a casino with slot machines online, as both types offer incentives and comps when they play. This can range from loyalty points to cashbacks, or from use of a private suite to special gifts.

They may even have some sort of personalized service while they stay in the casino or in the hotel part of the complex. If they’re staying there, they can expect to be offered one of the best suites in the hotel too.

These clients are regarded as VIPs and the casinos will do everything that they can to keep them playing, while encouraging them to come back regularly. Of course, there’s also an element of fear that they may get a massive win on one of their lavish bets.

This means that casinos are more at risk by encouraging whales than they are with low rollers who wager less. If the high roller wins, the casino will have lost money on their betting as well as on the extra services given to them for free. It’s a risk they’re willing to take, though.

Why Do Casinos Love Them?

The truth is that whales make up an extremely small percentage of the total numbers of players that use a casino. In fact, the vast majority of players will spend small amounts and might not stick around as long as a whale. 

So what about the fear of them winning a lot of money that we mentioned earlier? There have been some extremely famous cases of whales winning huge sums of money at games like roulette or baccarat. A single spin of the roulette wheel can give them a win worth millions of dollars.

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Casino games are essentially random but are set up to give the casino an edge. The house edge is a small percentage that they expect to win on the total staked by all of their players. It works for big bettors just as it does for those spending more modestly. 

For example, European versions of roulette have a small house edge of 2.70%. While this doesn’t mean that they collect $2.70 from every $100 wagered, it’s a good starting point for understanding how profitable whales can be.

Let’s say that a regular bettor spends $500. They might come out ahead or they might lose, but statistically speaking we would expect the casino to take in a profit of $13.50 from their playing time. On the other hand, if a casino whale comes along and puts on $100,000 in stakes on European roulette in the casino will be hoping to claim $2,700 from that total. 

Of course, a single whale that gets a big win can skew their house edge figures for the day or even the full month. The longer they spend playing, the greater the chance of the house edge affecting their results, according to the law of large numbers.  

With the case of land casinos, having a whale playing is also good for business, as it’s likely to encourage other players to stay and watch them play. It might even give some people the incentive to play with bigger stakes if they see the whale winning.

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