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Ask the Slot Expert: Can the Casino Control Who Hits Jackpots?

27 February 2013

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

When a casino chain orders the same slot machines from a particular manufacturer, would the payback percentage be set in the order and that particular payback percentage machine(s) be distributed among the properties throughout the U.S.? I ask this because it seems the win percentage on a particular game I was playing recently in Las Vegas at a national casino chain was no different than the same game at my local property. However, if you play the same game at a competitor's casino, wins occurred more often.

On the flip side, is each property responsible for ordering their own machines at a payback percentage of their choosing? I understand the hoops a casino has to go through to change the payback percentage after the game is on the floor, so I don’t think each property changes the percentage once installed.

Don

Dear Don,

Each casino company has its own philosophy. As a general rule, though, location will have a great effect on the paybacks the casino orders.

Let's say a company has casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica, and Illinois. Competition is toughest in Las Vegas, so the machines there will probably have the highest long-term paybacks. Tunica would probably be next in line because it has to entice people to travel there. Atlantic City has some competition, but isn't known for having good paybacks, so I think it would have the third highest paybacks. And Illinois -- or any jurisdiction with widely separated casinos -- would have the lowest paybacks because there is no competition next door.

A market leader will tend to lead in all markets, even though it might take 99% payback to lead in Las Vegas and 96% payback in Illinois.

Finally, you are correct that casinos rarely change long-term paybacks on machines once they're on the slot floor. Casinos usually just replace the machines with other machines with the desired long-term payback when the casino refreshes the slot floor.

Jackpots for all,
John


I recently went to the Grand Victoria Casino in Illinois and was surprised to learn that I'd been promoted to a Bronze member. The reason I say I was surprised is because it had been a long time since I last went to their casino; I prefer to go somewhere closer to home. They handed me a pamphlet that showed the "perks" I would receive now. Upon reading the whole pamphlet, I noticed that when a person becomes a Sterling member, one of the perks is "priority jackpot payouts".

This leads me to believe that they CAN control the outcome of slot machines, which is contrary to what the experts say because I've always read from experts that the outcome is random. No wonder I've never won anything BIG. I've been going to two different casinos for years and I've only won a jackpot of $1,200 and one of $1,500. On average I take $200 every time I go and that is why it's taken so long to be promoted. Unfortunately my friends and I have always hoped to win big and apparently that will not be the case.

I'll be waiting in anticipation for your answer.

Thank you,
Connie.

Dear Connie,

Rest assured that the casino cannot control the outcomes on slot machines. Being able to do so is illegal in the United States.

The perk that Sterling members get is priority handling when they need a handpay. If you and a Sterling member hit a jackpot that requires a handpay at the same time, the floorpeople will take care of the Sterling member first.

I don't know what you're definition of BIG is, but $1200 and $1500 are pretty big to me. Unless you're playing a dollar or higher machine, a $1000+ payout is going to be the top jackpot on a machine. Top jackpots don't hit frequently, so I'm not surprised you haven't hit many of them.

Don't give up hope. You never know when a machine is going to pay its jackpot. And the casino can't control it -- even if you're a Sterling member.

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