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Best of John Robison
Ask The Slot Expert19 September 2002
I don't know exactly what regulations there are on the Native American casinos in California, but I'm very sure that they are nowhere near as regulated as the casinos in Nevada or New Jersey. In any case, you can be fairly sure that all games made by manufacturers you see in Nevada (IGT, Bally, WMS, etc.) will be fair games wherever you find them.
One thing to check is whether the machines you're playing in California have the same paytables as the ones you play in Nevada. Lower-paying paytables in California than in Nevada could account for what you have experienced. I suspect this is what is going on because you didn't mention specifically that, say, the 9/6 Jacks machines you play in Nevada seem to pay better than the ones you play in California.
Changing chips can either be done by the casino (in Nevada, provided the casino has a Manufacturer's License, most do) or by the state gaming commission with multiple witnesses or something in between. I don't know what is allowed in California. In any case, to prevent cheats from gaffing the code in the machines, chips are always replaced and never re-programmed in place.
Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Best of John Robison