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Ask the Slot Expert: How Class II slots work

11 November 2015

I am confused about Class II slot games. Can you explain how they work?

The classes of gaming are defined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). According to IGRA's Wikipedia entry, Class I gaming includes traditional Indian gaming, which may be part of tribal ceremonies and celebrations and social gaming for minimal prizes. Tribal governments are allowed to regulate Class I gaming.

Class II gaming includes bingo and non-banked card games. Tribes can conduct Class II gaming as long as the state in which the tribe is located allows such gaming and the tribal government adopts a gaming ordinance approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission. Tribal governments regulate Class II gaming with Commission oversight.

Class III gaming includes any gaming that is neither Class I nor Class II. Table games and slot machines with internal RNGs fall into this category. Tribes must enter into compacts with the state in order to offer Class III gaming.

So IGRA allowed tribes to offer bingo games, but bingo has a limited appeal. Slot machines are where the real action is. If only there was some way to make a bingo drawing look like a slot machine . . .

Enter the Class II slot machine. The result of a spin is not determined by an RNG in the machine's programming, but rather by the pattern filled in on a bingo card. On a Class III slot machine, the reel result represents the result determined by its RNG. On a Class II slot machine, the reel result represents the pattern filled in on the bingo card if you filled in a winning pattern. If you didn't fill in a winning pattern, the reel result is a randomly chosen losing combination.

Each spin on a Class II slot machine is really a separate bingo drawing. The drawing continues until a certain number of balls have been drawn or a player completes the "game-ending pattern." Players are paid according to the highest-paying pattern they covered on their cards.

The drawing requires a certain number of players to proceed. If there are few players in the casino, you may get a message like "Waiting for more players" when you hit the spin button.

A Class II slot machine with a 92% long-term payback is the same as a Class III slot machine with a 92% long-term payback — they each will pay back 92% of the money played through them in the long run. The difference is in how the results of their spins are determined.

A Class II video poker machine, on the other hand, is very different from its distant Class III cousin. Because the result on a Class II video poker machine is determined by a bingo drawing and not by cards drawn randomly from a deck, it doesn't matter what cards you hold. The pattern filled in on your bingo card has already determined your fate. Strategy is useless.


I was at an Indian casino recently. I started to play a slot machine and noticed a ticket still in the machine. I pulled it out. I thought it was for 60 cents, but when I cashed it out I found out it was for $60.

I left the casino and now I'm afraid to go back. Am I in trouble?

As a footnote, I have left tickets in a machine and have never recovered a dime.

Finding a $10 slot ticket is not the same as finding a $10 bill. A $10 bill is a bearer instrument — there is no way to know who it really belongs to. In this case, possession is 100% of the law.

A slot ticket, on the other hand, has a serial number and is tracked in the ticketing system so the casino knows which machine issued it, when it was issued, the value of the ticket, and when it was redeemed.

I really doubt you're in any kind of trouble. For you to get any kind of heat, the patron who left the ticket would have had to have told a slot floorperson. Security would then have to review surveillance footage to see if they could determine who redeemed the ticket. Then they would have to put your face in their facial recognition software — assuming they have such software — so they would be alerted if you came back to the casino. Much ado for $60.

But if all of this happens to happen and a burly security guard comes up behind you and puts his hand on your shoulder and says he'd like to have a chat with you, just tell him the truth. Say that you misread the amount on the ticket, that you would have turned it in if you knew it was for $60, and offer to give the money back.


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