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Ask the Slot Expert: Paybacks at Indian Casinos

29 October 2014

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Please discuss the Indian casinos in Michigan. Are their paybacks the same as non-Indian casinos? Who regulates them?

I frequent a newer casino in Battle Creek. I never can win. Other casinos seem to pay well but not this casino.

All the slot machines are new. Can they control these machines with the computer software?

Indian casinos are regulated by the federal government via the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and also by the state if the tribe has negotiated a compact with the state in order to offer Class III games.

Long-term paybacks at Native American casinos aren't necessarily lower than those at corporate casinos. I think the operator's philosophy on payback and the amount of competition the casino faces have more to do with the long-term payback on the slot floor than whether the casino is owned by a tribe or a corporation.

Last week I discussed why it's difficult to win on many video slots. Compared with a traditional 3-coin, quarter reel-spinning slot, you may tend to get more play on the video slot for a $75 bankroll, but you can still end up losing the entire $75. On the reel-spinner, it takes only a 100-for-1 payout to break even. On the video slot, assuming 3 cents bet on 25 lines, it takes a 2500-for-1 payout on one line to break even.

Finally, referring to your last question, if by "control" you mean control when a machine hits or tighten or loosen a machine, the answer is a definite no. Slot regulations require that the outcome of a spin be determined by a Random Number Generator that operates without any outside influence whatsoever. (I believe the casino you referred to has Class III, RNG-based machines.) The casino cannot influence the outcomes on the machines, nor can the casino change their long-term paybacks at whim.

My husband is turning 60 on 10/18 and is a slot demon!

I've searched all over for a Quick Hit logo shirt and can't locate one. I've left messages with Bally's, but no return calls. Nothing found on the internet, including EBay and Amazon.

Can you steer me in the right direction?

Thanking you in advance for your prompt reply!

Well, so much for a prompt reply. I hope your husband had a pleasant birthday.

The slot business is different from other businesses in that the consumer, the person who ultimately uses the product, isn't the customer and good press and advertising have almost no effect on sales. When I attended the Consumer Electronics Show, the exhibitors put out the red carpet for an attendee with a Press pass. Good press can mean great sales.

At the Global Gaming Expo (G2E), the reps at the slot manufacturers' booths concentrate on slot personnel from casinos. I may write a great article extolling the benefits of the latest technology from a manufacturer, but that article won't generate any machine sales.

Slot sales and the size of the G2E both went down with the economy. Manufacturers are giving away fewer tchotchkes than they did in the late 1990s. (Note to IGT: Please bring back the frozen coffee drinks you used to give out. Note to readers: We're not talking venti, here. They used teeny-tiny, one-swallow cups like the hospital uses to give out medicine. I used to go back three or four times.) I've never seen a Quick Hit logo shirt, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

Try asking at the casinos you visit. Someone there might have a shirt if Bally ever gave them away. And if anyone sends me a source for the shirts, I'll pass it on.

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at 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