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Ask the Slot Expert: Rigged Slot Machines at Town Pump in Montana?

1 July 2015

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

I am convinced that the casino games operated by Town Pump in Montana are rigged. When I play, I never expect to win all the time, but to lose all the time is a different story. These places have "player's clubs" that undoubtedly track everything you do at a machine and form a pattern on when/if you win.

Town Pump assures me that they don't do anything to their machines. If that's the case, then how can they be "Montana's most liberal casinos," as they advertise? They own their machines, and even a district manager told me, "We set our machines higher than anyone else."

I was also told that reporting them to the Attorney General's office would do no good because "they own half the state."

When you lose 86 hands in a row in a video poker game, and not get one bonus game in more than 400 plays, then something is definitely wrong. When you need numbers 1,2 and 3 to hit in Keno in order to get to a bonus round never comes up in 234 tries, yet three numbers you DON'T have marked come up 68 times during that play in unison, then something is definitely wrong. When you finally get to a bonus round and then lose every single game, then something is definitely wrong.

The point is, I'm at a loss as to what to do. I don't play the company any more, and have boycotted their gas stations and convenience stores as well, yet who can I report this to, or make a claim with?

You tell me, are these instances uncommon or typical? I find it hard to believe that it's typical of the machine since the same type of machines, same brand, same manufacturer pay out nicely at other places, mostly ones that DON'T have player's clubs or Town Pump names. For example, one lounge never touches their machines until closing time. They're not running to reset the games after every player gets up as Town Pump does, and this lounge has paid some nice tickets to me over the past week. I do admit that when they're not busy at the bar, the machines don't pay nearly as often. "When bar business is bad, our machines make you mad," is a slogan I've suggested to them.

I've taken years of stats on these places, and the numbers add up to one conclusion: these games are rigged. I'm sure, networked as they are, they are programmed to take input from the main office as to when and how often they will pay, if ever. Employees at Town Pump get to these casinos two hours before opening every morning. I would bet they are changing out chips in the computers or altering the machines to be sure they comply with what the home office has handed down, "No one wins today."

I'd be interested in your opinion.

According to the American Casino Guide, Montana allows bars and taverns to have up to 20 video gaming devices. The machines do not pay cash. They print a ticket, which is taken to a cashier to be redeemed. According to the statute on the Montana government website, the machines must be placed in a part of the premises where alcoholic beverages are sold or consumed and where the operator can prevent access by persons under 18 years of age. The maximum bet is $2 and the maximum payout is $800.

Now, let's move on to your statements.

Players clubs: The clubs do track everything you bet, win and lose. But they don't "form a pattern". They merely capture what happens on the machines you play.

How can Town Pump be "Montana's most liberal casinos" without rigging the machines? Slot machines are usually offered with multiple long-term payback percentages. The slot director orders the long-term payback she wants on her slot floor. A strip casino may order a Double Diamond machine with a 92% payback, while the director at a locals casino may order his Double Diamond machine with a 95% payback. The district manager's statement just means that the Town Pump is using the highest long-term paybacks available for its machines.

Losing 86 hands in a row on a video poker game may or may not be unusual. I don't know the paytable you were playing. Losing that many hands in a row would be highly unlikely on a Jacks or Better paytable, but it might not be that unusual on a paytable that requires at least, say, two pair or three-of-a-kind to pay something.

"Not get one bonus round in more than 400 plays": This does not sound unusual. Slot designers always have to strike a balance between how frequently a bonus round hits and how much it pays. If a bonus rounds hits, on average, once every 100 plays, it's not unusual for it to not hit after 200, 300 or even 400 plays. I don't know the hit frequency of your bonus round to be able to say how unlikely it is to not hit after 400 plays.

"When you finally get to a bonus round and then lose every single game, then something is definitely wrong." Unfortunately, I've had many instances in which I've won nothing or very little in bonus rounds. This just sounds like bad luck to me.

Returning to the statute, Section 23.16.1901 (1)(c) in the Administrative Rules of Montana states that the machine must "not have any switches, jumpers, wire posts, or other means of manipulation that could affect the operation or outcome of a game. The machine may not have any functions or parameters adjustable by and through any separate video display or input codes except for the adjustment of features that are wholly cosmetic or other operational parameters as approved by the Gambling Control Division." This section rules out any manipulation by the players club. It also rules out any manipulation by the operator, although one could question what "operational parameters" are.

As a general rule, casinos don't mess around inside their machines. Every time they open the logic drawer of a machine, they run the risk of damaging the components with static electricity. Chips, moreover, can be damaged when they're being removed from or placed onto a circuit board.

If you feel you win more at other casinos, then by all means play there. Vote with your wallet.

If you do have statistics to prove that Town Pump is rigging its machines, your first step would be to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office, which houses the Gambling Control Division. If, as you say, the AG won't touch them because "they own half the state", contact the Consumer Affairs reporter at one of your local television stations. Local news just loves stories about casinos cheating players -- even when they're not true.


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

 

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John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots