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Ask the Slot Expert: Are there rules for minimum paybacks for the slots in Indian casinos?

11 October 2017

A few weeks ago a reader asked for a recommendation for a video poker app for iOS. Being a Windows/Android guy, I was of no help. A reader who uses Apple products mentioned VP Pocket, which has a tutorial feature. He also mentioned that you have to be careful that apps work with your version of iOS.


Question: I was wondering who, if anybody, regulates the offshore online casinos that bombard me with e-mails. I played some after they offered me some comp spins, but it seems like the slots don't pay at all if you deposit real money.

Aren't they illegal to play in the U.S.? I have had no problems depositing and withdrawing money from these casinos and I live in Nebraska.

Answer: The offshore casinos are regulated by the jurisdictions in which they operate.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which passed in 2006, didn't specifically make it illegal for U.S. residents to gamble online. It did make it illegal for banks and other financial institutions to process transactions between residents and offshore sites.

Other readers have written me to say that they won on the comp spins and lost on the real spins. The fix must be in.

I take these e-mails with a grain of salt. First, no one is going to write me to complain about losing on the comp spins and winning on the real ones. In addition, many players who lost on the comp spins won't deposit money to play for real. We don't know whether they would have won or continued losing on the real spins.


Question: I was told by a waitress in a casino that the payouts are aligned with the denomination.

Example: I play 5 or 10 cents on the same machine that a lady played 25 cents on and she won $2,200. So I was not going to play there but the waitress said to play the 5 or 10 cents because that will pay, just not the 25 cents for a while. Does that make some sense to you?

Answer: Nope. Makes no sense.

The results on a slot machine are determined at random without regard for what has happened in the past. The fact that a lady just hit a $2,200 jackpot doesn't make it any less likely to hit on the next spin or the next hundred spins. The odds of hitting a particular winning combination don't change from spin to spin. You could have played at the quarter level and had the same chances of hitting a $2,200 jackpot for yourself.

Similarly, what happens at one denomination has no effect on what happens at another denomination.


Question: Do the regulations you quote apply to Indian casinos? From what I read, the rules on payouts at Indian casinos have no regulations or governing body. We play at Pearl River with some success.

Answer: If the tribe has a compact with the state and the tribe has Class III slot machines in its casino, the regulations probably apply. There's a heredity in slot regulations. New Jersey modeled its regulations on Navada's. Newer jurisdictions based their regulations on New Jersey's and Nevada's. Each state personalizes the rules, like setting minimum slot payouts, and some throw in bizarre twists (e.g., New Jersey did not allow casinos to advertise payback percentages and cocktail waitresses were not allowed to offer alcoholic drinks -- they said, "Coffee, tea" and not "Cocktails"; in Mississippi casinos had to be on water). But the regulations governing how machines operate are pretty much the same everywhere.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act doesn't specify a minimum payback and the National Indian Gaming Commission doesn't enforce a minimum. If the tribe has a compact with the state, the compact may specify a minimum. And as far as Class III slots go, I don't think I've ever seen a machine that had a reel layout that paid less than 80%.

Although paybacks may not be regulated, other aspects of tribal casinos are. Some tribal casino operators have told me that they have more regulations to follow than some non-tribal casinos.


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