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Ask the Slot Expert: Changing bingo cards on Class II slot machines7 May 2014
Here is what the IRS website says about keeping a gambling record:
More details are in Publication 529.
The publication contains this guideline for keeping records of slot machine play.
I get the feeling that guideline was written by someone who has never played a slot machine.
My go to guide for taxes and gambling, Tax Help for Gamblers by Jean Scott and Marissa Chien, fortunately offers its own guidelines based on what the IRS has accepted and rejected. They suggest that you define what a session will be based on your gambling habits and record a win/loss figure for each session.
If you tend to play one machine for a long time, you might make each machine a session. If you play one type of machine for a long time, you might have slot sessions and video poker sessions. If you play many different machines, it makes more sense to use time as a session and break the day into morning, afternoon and evening sessions and record your win or loss for each day part or maybe just a total for the day.
The keys are to be consistent and contemporaneous. Use the same definition of a session for each log entry and make your log entries as soon as you can after the completion of the session.
You're right that your collection of W-2Gs can paint a very different picture than your actual results. It's like reading only the happy parts of a book and skipping over the sad parts.
Get Jean's book to get more examples of gambling logs or check out some of the examples and programs online. If you're lucky enough to get a W-2G and you want to deduct your losses, get a professional tax preparer to do your return.
Let's say you're playing a new game I've invented called Color Craps. You throw four fair dice, two red and two white. As you throw them, you have to call out which color pair will determine the result of your throw.
Only one pair determines your fate. In that sense, it matters which pair you choose. But because each pair is fair, the odds of throwing any particular number are the same for both pairs. In that sense, it doesn't matter which pair you choose. The color determines whether you win or loss on any particular roll, but in the long run it doesn't matter which color you choose. It doesn't matter if you always pick red, always pick white, alternate between the two, follow some other pattern, or just follow your hunches.
The same situation exists on the Class II bingo slot. Your bingo card determines whether you win or lose on any particular spin. In that sense, the card you choose does make all the difference in the world. But like with the dice, the odds are the same on every card. In the long run, it doesn't matter which card you choose.
Changing cards is like changing the color of the dice. You haven't improved your odds and you also haven't made them worse. They're the same.
Because there's no mathematical advantage or disadvantage to changing cards, do whatever you feel like doing. It's your choice.
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
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