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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Can casinos cap progressives?

5 November 2014

Last week we had a question about finding a shirt with Bally's Quick Hit logo for the reader's husband. I wrote that I wasn't aware of Bally's ever making Quick Hit logo shirts for a promotion and asked readers if they knew of a source for the shirts.

A number of readers wrote to say that the logo image is very easy to find online (just Google "Quick Hit logo") and that a custom T-shirt store could make a shirt for her.

I didn't suggest making her own shirt because I'm sure that Bally's has all the legal protections possible for its artwork.


Is it legal for a casino (Indian or otherwise) to cap their progressives?

Certain games on bar machines at Potawatomi Carter casino have progressive video poker, but they cap the royal flush on quarter games at $3,000.

How can they do that? If it's a progressive they should keep it going. Last year they capped their $1 video poker progressive at $10,000.

What happens to all the extra revenue that they earn/win from people playing the progressive? It sure doesn't get added to the starting jackpot of the next progressive.

Even if it is legal, it's sure not ethical or right.

On the same games they also have a progressive straight flush, which is nice to see, but that too is capped — at $125.

This is the same casino that reduced all their video poker pay tables after last winter and changed their point system from $2 coin in per point to $4 per point — and they claim to have the best players club in Wisconsin!

Before any progressive reaches its cap, the casino takes a small percentage of each bet and adds it to the progressives. If the long-term payback for the paytable is 95 percent without the progressives and the casino adds 1 percent of each bet to the progressive meters, the machine is really a 96 percent machine from the casino's point of view. For the player, the long-term payback on the machine keeps rising until the progressives reach their caps. At this point, the long-term payback has reached its maximum value and the machine goes back to being a 95 percent machine from the casino's point of view.

The casino does get to keep the pennies per bet it would otherwise have added to the progressive meters, but I don't see it as stealing from the players. The casino could run the same machines without the progressives. The progressives give the players a chance to win a little bit more.

I agree with you that the casino should not cap progressives, but the times I've seen a capped progressive it was very unlikely that the progressive would not be hit before hitting the cap.

An invitation to slot directors: Tell us why you have caps on progressives.

As for a casino's claim that it has the best anything — that's just puffery. Every business can claim that it has the best without any proof. If it claimed it was better than another, then it would have to be able to prove it.

For example, I have the best slot column. But I'm surely not going to say that it's better than John Grochowski's!


Why can't you deduct your gambling losses from your winnings unless you exceed your standard deduction amount? You simply cannot deduct your losses unless your itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction. This seems totally unfair.

Has any entity in the gaming industry made any attempt to side with the players and initiate action that would eliminate this injustice by the IRS?

I know from past experience that some players that lost thousands wound up also owing additional thousands in taxes on those rare winning trips.

You're right, it's not fair. But the tax code is not filled with fairness. It's filled with favors.

The IRS sort of believes that no one can win playing the slots — but that doesn't mean that it won't go after people who it thinks have not claimed enough winnings — so if it let players claim net winnings on Form 1040, no one would claim anything.

Another injustice: Gambling winnings — but not gambling losses — are included in your Adjusted Gross Income, which is used to phase out certain credits and deductions. You could lose out on a credit or deduction even though you lost money in total at the casino.

Casinos have discussed raising the $1,200 W-2G threshold with the IRS, but I haven't heard of them discussing the tax treatment of winnings and losses. They don't have any skin in this game. It's purely a problem for the players, not for the 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