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Ask the Slot Expert: Where have all the slot floorpeople gone?

28 September 2016

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: I was a long-term player at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, mostly every weekend for six years from 2001 to 2007. During this time I was very friendly with much of the staff, including the VP. I was a Seven Star Player, which is their highest-rated player.

During those years, jackpots rang constantly and about 30 employees did hand payouts for the above $1,199 hits. A year or two after that, I was told by an employee that there were only three people left doing the hand payouts now since the machines were reprogrammed to give more hits under $1,199 instead of the larger hits, still keeping within the same payback percentages.

The other 20 employees were laid off, saving the casino money. I stopped playing there and started playing at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, which seemed to be the same situation.

Love to know your comments on this.

Answer: It takes far fewer employees to man a slot floor today than in the past. Tickets eliminated the most positions. No more change people pushing heavy carts filled with coins. No more coin redemption booths -- and no ticket redemption booths either; we do our own redemptions at a kiosk. No more hopper fills. Today the slot floorperson's duties are: loading more tickets, clearing machine problems and handling handpays, which now only occur with payouts of $1200 and up.

In addition, there are fewer payouts of $1200 and up now that slot play has shifted from quarters and dollars down to pennies. I rarely see payouts requiring tax forms on penny machines -- although I did see one a few days ago when a lady won over $1300 on the free spin bonus on a Wild Blue Quick Hit Progressive machine. On some machines, moreover, the only way to win that much loot is to hit one of the top progressives. You can't do it on the base game.

Looking at the most recent Winners page at the Suncoast Casino, only four of the 12 players on the page won playing slots and one of those players played a dollar slot. Most played video poker and keno. The next page tells the same story. About half of the players who got a handpay played video poker. Add a few keno players to get to two-thirds. The remaining third played slots.

It's definitely possible to decrease the likelihood of hitting the top jackpot(s) and still have the same long-term payback percentage. They just make some of the smaller payouts more likely to hit. But it's unusual for casinos to change a machine once it's on the slot floor. They usually just wait to replace the machine with one that follows their new philosophy.

Tickets and pennies, I think, are the main reasons that casinos need fewer employees to run a slot floor today.

Although I feel sorry for the people whose positions were eliminated, I think players have benefited from the reduced personnel costs. A casino's overhead keeps going up. How does a casino raise its prices? By cutting back on comps and raising the house edge. More efficiency on the slot floor may have enabled casinos to put off raising the house edge on their machines. Handpays today, in addition, are lightning quick, at least at the casinos in Las Vegas at which I play. An attendant comes by within a minute or two of the machine's locking up. Okay, the rest of the process is paperwork and doesn't seem any faster than before, but at least the process gets started shortly after hitting the jackpot.

I was never impressed with Harrah's when I lived in New Jersey. Although the casino was nice, there was better video poker on the boardwalk.


Question: You wrote, "On 88 Fortunes, you're more likely to go into the bonus round when the wild symbol appears on the screen and you've bet more. On one Lord of the Rings machine, the archer bonus feature is more likely to be triggered at the higher bet levels."

After reading the above in your answer to a slot question, it generated a question of my own:

If you are more likely to go into bonus rounds on some slot machines if you’ve bet at a higher level, how does the machine know you’ve changed your bet to, say, $1 to $2? And, if it does indeed calculate bet amounts as part of the computer program, how and when does the software automatically switch to a different RNG to throw out numbers that include more bonus symbols into your results?

I may not have worded this in a very understandable way, but I hope you can figure out what I mean! I just got back from Atlantic City and played 88 Fortunes at the second bet level, which is $1.68 if I remember correctly. I invested $50 into the machine and did not get the free game bonus or the gold pot pick-em bonus even one time before my money ran out.

Answer: The machines don't switch RNGs. Remember that the only thing the RNG does is generate a stream of numbers. The numbers have no meaning in and of themselves. It's up to the software running the machine to do something useful with the numbers and give them meaning.

On 88 Fortunes, numbers from the RNG determine where the reels stop. If there's a wild symbol on the screen, the software will go back to the RNG to determine if the bonus round should be triggered. Let's say that the output from the RNG will be scaled to a value from 1 to 10. At the lowest bet, the bonus will be triggered only if the value from the RNG is 1. At a medium bet, the bonus will be triggered on values from 1 to 4. At the highest bet, the bonus will be triggered on values from 1 to 7. It's the same RNG that the software used to determine where to stop the reels. The software is polling the RNG again and doing something different with those numbers.

On the Lord of the Rings machine, the archer bonus randomly appears on some spins. Again, the software uses the RNG to determine where to stop the reels. Then it polls the RNG again to determine if the archer bonus should be triggered. As above, more numbers trigger the bonus with larger bets, so the bonus is more likely to hit with larger bets.

It's important to remember that the amount bet has no effect on where the reels stops in both of these examples. The amount bet only comes into play to determine whether the bonus should be triggered -- in the case of 88 Fortunes because a wild symbol appeared on the screen, and in the case of the Lord of the Rings game without regard to where the reels stopped. And in each case, another poll of the RNG is needed to make the bonus decision.

The bonuses run hot and cold on 88 Fortunes -- and on every other machine, for that matter! It's not unusual to not get a bonus on the 30-50 spins you got from your $50.


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. 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