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Best of John Robison

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Are Slots Programmed to Pay at One Coin and Not at Full?

28 March 2004

I would like some literature or a booklet or any kind of information about slots.

Thank you,
Macie

Dear Macie,

Here is my list of recommended slot books. They are available online at Amazon and at any bookstore (note that the store may have to order the book for you).

Break the One-Armed Bandits by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
The Video Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
Secrets of Modern Slot Playing by Larry Mak
The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots by John Robison

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

I have a dilemma.

For many years my husband has done our tax returns of which I do not have copies. We have always taken several trips a year to Vegas where I have exclusively played slots. I know that every year my husband asks the casino for the win/loss statements. Due to a divorce, I have used a different accountant than previously to do my tax returns. In 1998 I used a CPA and for 1999 through 2002, I have used a bookkeeper.

Here is the problem. The CPA put my win figure on the "other income" line as $78,000 (not sure where he got this figure and he won't call me back) instead of the win/loss statement from Caesars Palace of $780,000. My bookkeeper, however, has been using the larger figures on the income and expense lines from 1999 on (the win/loss statement always shows a very large figure).

I typically go two or three times a year and lose approximately $5,000 at most each trip. This year I decided to do my own taxes and found that by using the larger figure, I have lost approximately $10,000 in refunds from the IRS.

First I would like to know if it would be best for me to call the IRS and have them figure it out? Will this trigger audits in the years prior to 1998?

I am a bit concerned as I have no idea how my ex figured our income taxes. We owned, he still does, a corporation and was always been hush-hush about everything.

I know that your advice is not considered legal advice, but only an opinion. You are held harmless from any and all liability for which you may give me regarding these matters.

Thanking in advance!
Cindy

Dear Cindy,

The numbers in your e-mail don't make sense to me.

I can see how the number the CPA wrote on your return would differ from that on the win/loss statement. The CPA would claim the total of your W-2Gs as other income. The win/loss statement, on the other hand, shows your net win or loss overall for the year in that casino.

But I can't see how the CPA would claim $78,000 in wins and Caesars would report $780,000 in wins. You'd have to have hit hundreds of jackpots less than $1200 for these numbers to both be correct.

The most likely explanation is that the CPA accidentally left off a zero.

But then I don't know how to reconcile that number with the statement that you go two or three times a year and lose about $5,000 per trip. If this was also your behavior in 1999, how could Caesars have come up with a $780,000 win? Perhaps you and hour husband played on the same players club account and the total includes his play also.

You can try calling the IRS, but I honestly do not know if sorting out this situation is a service they provide. I suspect they will tell you to consult a tax accountant and file an amended return if necessary.

In any case, there's a limit on how long you have to file an amended return and I'm pretty sure it's too late to amend a 1999 return--unless, I suppose, that return is being audited.

You need to get professional advice from an accountant.

John


My question is, are video slots be programmed to payoff more often only when the lowest number of coins per line are played, thus keeping the chance of big wins from occurring very often?

I recently played a penny video game and won $120 by only playing one cent per line for a total of 15 cents. I played for six hours. Every time I increased the number of coins per line, I stopped winning. I kept repeating the process with the same result. So I settled in for the duration, until I thought $120 back into my pocket was enough for this trip.

This was new to me, since I'd done such a great job of losing all my play money before arriving at the last machine. My funds were limited. I started with $5. As I'd build up to $15 dollars, I'd try to use the extra coins per line to increase my winning percentage. Only to keep losing until I was back to my original $5. I thought it seemed consistent.

As I win and win, my greed for more winnings would be the normal scenario to play a higher amount of coins per line hoping for a big win. Only to lose it all. Then add more money and keep trying to get the winning streak again. Everyone around me looked to be playing the maximum and leaving busted after 20 minutes or so.

Could this be for real or just another video slotter's dream?

John

Dear John,

No jurisdiction would approve a game on which the number of coins played influences where the reels stop.

What you experienced wasn't really a dream because you experienced it for real. But the cause and effect you postulated doesn't exist. The results of a spin are chosen at random.

Congratulations on turning $5 into $120. Too bad that can't happen every time you play.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I just read an article stating that some Indian casinos slots do not have RNGs. What I do not understand is why the Indians do not have to report the payout percentages of their machines. Actually I do understand. The reason is that they are not required to.

Perhaps mine is a case of sour grapes having never won at them. I do not go to Indian casinos anymore because I do not trust them. Suggest others do same.

Sincerely,
Earl

Dear Earl,

The law governing Indian casinos is the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). My understanding is that under IGRA, if a state allows organizations to run bingo games and the like, Native Americans are also able to offer the same games.

The trick is trying to make a device that looks and plays like a slot machine, but is really a bingo game under the hood. That's Class II gaming, in which the devices do not have RNGs and do not determine their own results. If I read the act correctly, the Native American casinos have complete control over Class II games and the state is not involved at all. Same deal as with the other groups that offer bingo.

Now, I think there's a difference between weekly bingo night in the church basement and a 30,000 square foot casino with hundreds or thousands of slot-like machines, but I didn't write the law.

If the few Native American casino operators I've met represent the group as a whole, they do not run dishonest games or try to rip off their gamblers. If their paybacks are low, it's because there's little or no competition to force them up.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I won $1000 in a Spin to Win slot tournament at a casino in northern Michigan. Being a Canadian, the casino withheld 30% and gave me a form to file with a 2004 US tax return. I have heard that Canadians can apply for a fast rebate but I can't track down the way to do it. Do you know of any process to recoup that cash now or do I have to wait till 2005 and file?

Thanks,
Stu

Dear Stu,

Congratulations on your win!

Your question reminds me of the time a British man won a slot tournament I played in at the Desert Inn. The other people at my table at the awards banquet wondered about all the tax implications and hassles of a foreigner's winning the tournament. The gentlemen told us that the Desert Inn knew exactly what to do and what he had to do because, he said, they had a lot of experience with the situation. Unfortunately, I don't remember what he said he had to do to get his refund.

I'm not familiar with the regulations concerning withheld taxes and foreign nationals. I suggest you contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or visit its website (www.irs.gov), although I couldn't find anything about fast refunds of withheld taxes to foreign nationals.

If you do end up having to wait until 2005 to get your refund, let me take this opportunity on behalf of the United States government and its people to thank you for the interest-free loan.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


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

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