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Ask the Slot Expert: Cold winter means bad video poker in Wisconsin?18 June 2014
The Golden Age of video poker is over. When I started going to casinos regularly in the late 1990s, 9/6 Jacks machines were plentiful even on the Las Vegas strip and a dollar through a video poker machine counted the same as a dollar through a slot machine. Today good video poker paytables are getting harder to find and most slot clubs require more play from video poker players than slot players to earn the same reward. (We really can't complain, though, when the long-term paybacks on video poker are much higher than those on the slots.)
I checked online and found that the Potawatomis have a compact with the state of Wisconsin, so their casinos offer Class III machines. When they changed the paytables on their video poker machines, they lowered the long-term paybacks on the machines.
I don't think you can blame the change on the cold winter, though. It's more likely due to an overall strategy of trying to earn more revenue from the slot floor. Many casinos are replacing their high-paying video poker paytables with lower-paying paytables without going through a brutal winter.
One possible reason for the replacement is that video poker players are getting better. Some slot directors I've spoken with said that players were giving up about four to five percentages points in long-term payback by playing hunches instead of a mathematically derived strategy. When more players play with a strategy and get closer to the maximum payback possible from a paytable, the casino has to lower the paytable to maintain the same hold. Another possible reason, of course, is that it just wants to earn more money from the machines.
I watch the world news almost every evening and I can't remember a time when every single broadcast had a story about extreme weather in some part of the country. I fear that you have more tough winters ahead. Is the casino going to lower the paybacks again after the next cold and snowy winter?
I don't know what the rules are for shutting down progressives in Wisconsin. I didn't find anything online. In New Jersey, it used to be that the casino had to wait until the progressive was won before it could shut down the machine or machines feeding it. Alternatively, it could move the excess above the reset amount to another progressive machine or link. Casinos complained that it took to long to replace underperforming machines, so they are now allowed to cancel the progressive and keep the money after giving 30 days' notice to the public.
I think that is unfair. The casino funds the reset amount. The players fund anything above that and that money belongs to the players. According to an article on NJ.com, when New Jersey allowed casinos to cancel progressive jackpots in 1992, the casinos kept $16.6 million in the first three months and that extra revenue "often made the difference between profits increasing or decreasing at the time."
It's ironic that legislators think they are protecting the public when they limit the number of casinos in an area. What they're actually doing is giving a casino a monopoly on gaming and the ability to set the price. I'm not saying that State Highway 32 in Wabeno has to turn into the Las Vegas strip, but having two or three casinos relatively close together forces them to compete with one another and players usually benefit from the competition.
As for the bad food and lousy comps at Mole Lake, that reminds of the joke about two people complaining about a bad restaurant. One person complains that the food is not good and the other says, "And the portions are so small."
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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