American roulette and European roulette are nearly identical, but there is one key difference that distinguishes the two games from one another: the American roulette wheel has one more slot than the European roulette wheel. That slot is marked with a pair of zeros.
An American roulette wheel has a total of 38 different slots. A European roulette wheel has 37 slots. That’s the only real difference between the games.
This may seem like a minor difference, but it actually has a profound effect on the game. The presence of that additional slot nearly doubles the house advantage of American roulette.
- European roulette house advantage: 2.7%
- American roulette house advantage: 5.26%
Why is the house advantage higher in American roulette?
The house advantage is higher in American roulette for two reasons. First, look at all the even money bets in roulette – red/black, even/odd and high/low. Those wagers all lose if the ball comes to a stop in a green slot. It doesn’t matter which side of the bet you take, you will always lose if the ball lands on green.
Since the American roulette wheel has two green slots and a European roulette wheel has one green slot, the odds of landing on green (and losing your bet) are higher in American roulette.
Secondly, the payouts for every wager are the same in both versions of the game even though the American roulette wheel has more slots. This means that you are taking slightly more risk in American roulette without getting a bump in payouts.
A bet on a single number in either version of roulette pays 35 to 1. On a European roulette wheel, the odds against winning are 36 to 1. This is where the house advantage comes into play. The payouts are slightly less than the odds of winning. Over time, the casino will capture your money.
An American roulette wheel has slightly worse odds of 37 to 1 (thanks to that additional 00 slot). However, you still only get paid 35 to 1 on an American roulette wheel. The odds of winning are worse but the payouts are the same. This is why American roulette has a higher house advantage than European roulette.
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