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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Are today's slots tighter?

19 June 2013

Being a Las Vegas resident for over 5 years now, I very much enjoy and look forward to reading your columns. Your expertise has helped me considerably.

I have a question concerning a Match Play coupon I played recently at Red Rock Casino. I had a $15 Match Play certificate, good only for even-money bets. So, I placed a $15 cash bet on "Red" at the Roulette table, along with the coupon. Red came in. I was paid $45 in chips total ($15 original bet + $15 for winning the original bet + $15 for the match play). I thought I'd be paid $60 in chips, an additional $15 for the Match Play coupon. I collected my winnings and then spoke to the pit boss who explained to me that I don't get $15 for the original bet on the Match Play coupon. Is this correct? And, knowing this, is it a good idea to continue to use these Match Play coupons?

Much thanks for the columns.

Tom

Dear Tom,

Thanks for the kind words.

Your match play coupon was handled properly. I've never heard of a casino exchanging a match play coupon for cash after winning the bet. I think casinos have (rarely) let you keep the coupon riding as long as you kept winning and collecting it only after a loss.

For those not familiar with them, match play coupons usually work this way. The coupons have a specific value ($10, say) or a maximum value. They can be used on any even money bet at a table game, e.g., red, black, odd or even at Roulette; pass or don't pass at craps. The casino will match whatever your bet is if you win, pretending that you bet twice as much. Say you bet $10 with a match play coupon. If you win, you get paid $20 (as if you had bet $20) and the casino takes the coupon. If you lose, the casino takes your $10 bet and the coupon.

It's not a good idea to use match play coupons; it's a great idea. They're like changing an even-money bet to one that pays 2 to 1.

Jackpots for all,
John


I started going to casinos in 1986 and the federal withholding on jackpots was $1,200 then as it is now. Do you think the government will ever raise it to adjust for inflation? Has any casino group ever tried to get it raised?

Also, have the casinos tightened their machines in order to cover inflation? Case in point: the three quarters I put into a Double Diamond machine last week are worth less than the three I wagered 27 years ago in 1986. The casino cost of operations rises yearly yet the max bet stays the same. What do you think?

First, a small clarification. When you win $1,200 or more, the casino is required to get your social security number and file a form declaring your good fortune with the IRS. The casino does not necessarily withhold anything from your winnings.

I think there is absolutely no chance that the threshold value will be raised anytime soon. Even though we're supposed to declare all of our casino winnings, no one does and we routinely think of winnings under $1,200 as being tax-free. Most of us don't keep any records -- until we get a W-2G. And even then, I think most people either use win/loss statements to try to come up with a loss to deduct or just pay the taxes on the winnings. This is easy money for the government. In the current economic and political climate, I don't see Congress raising the threshold and losing some tax revenue.

I don't know of any efforts to try to raise the threshold. Even though I think getting a W-2G on winnings of $1,200 or more is unfair (there's nothing comparable for table game players; you should only have to declare net winnings, not W-2G winnings), there are other things more unfair that Congress should address first.

Have casinos tightened machines? I have two answers: a qualified yes and an absolute yes. The qualified yes is due to replacing higher denomination machines with penny machines, which have lower long-term paybacks. Having more penny machines in the mix causes the overall long-term payback to go down, even though the casino still has 88 percent payback on quarters, 92 percent payback on dollars, etc. The absolute yes is based on how difficult it is to find high-paying video poker machines now. It used to be fairly easy to find 9/6 Jacks or Better machines on the Strip. Some casinos have very few of the machines today and some casinos don't have any.

You raise an interesting question. How does a casino raise its prices? It can lower long-term paybacks, cut back on comps, get players to play more, and raise prices in other areas. Casinos use all of these techniques to increase revenue.

Jackpots for all,
John


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