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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Ask the Slot Expert: IRS proposes changing slot jackpot threshold for W-2G

25 March 2015

Thank you for your recent article about VLTs (Video Lottery Terminals). In the Horseshoe in Baltimore (a Caesars Entertainment property), are their video poker machines VLTs too? They have a few full-pay video poker games. Is it still 99.54 percent for 9/6 Jacks or Better?

I do not want waste my time there if the video poker is a lottery controlled by server.

In one sense, it used to be much easier to answer questions when I first started this column almost 20 years ago. The only significant gaming jurisdictions were Nevada, New Jersey and Mississippi, and the machines operated the same way in each place. Now there are so many more jurisdictions, each with its own twist on how slot machines and casinos should operate.

In another sense, it's much easier to answer questions today. I can frequently find what I need to know on the Internet.

I found Maryland's gaming regulations online and this link http://www.dsd.state.md.us/comar/getfile.aspx?file=36.04.01.14.htm contains the regulations for the Random Number Generator. The following is an extract from that page:

B. A video lottery terminal shall determine the occurrence of a specific card, number, symbol, or stop by utilizing:
(1) One random number generator; or
(2) Two or more random number generators working collectively.

Even though Maryland calls its machines "video lottery terminals," the machines are Class III slot machines. The video poker machines at the Horseshoe deal from a fair deck and 9/6 Jacks has a long-term payback of 99.54 percent when played with perfect strategy.


I was working on a slot machine and found cashout vouchers, but their validation dates are from last year. Should I just rip them up? Or are they worth something?

I don't know what "working on a slot machine" means. Were you "working" on a machine the way crooks with monkey's paws and other cheating devices used to "work" on slot machines?

Actually, I think you bought a used slot machine or are restoring a machine for someone. If you worked for a casino, you would know that you can't redeem tickets you've found.

I don't know what you mean by "validation date." Do you mean expiration date or issue date? In any case, tickets expire. Each ticket should show either an expiration date or an issue date and a statement that the ticket expires after a certain period of time.

I'm reminded of a ticket scam some casino employees ran a few years ago. They looked in the ticket system to find tickets nearing their expiration dates, figuring that the players to whom the tickets were issued would not be coming back to redeem them. The scammers reissued and redeemed the tickets, and after a bit of research by casino security, they were rewarded with revocation of their gaming cards and rescission of their job offers.

If the expiration date of a ticket has not yet passed, the ticket is worth face value. But you should rip the tickets up or return them to the casino. The tickets don't belong to you and, unlike cash, they are traceable.


I have good news and bad news of interest to all slot players.

First, the good news. The wish of many slot players has been answered. In early March, the IRS issued a proposal to alter the threshold for triggering a W-2G.

The current threshold of $1200 was set in 1977. This is a few years before my initial casino visits and quite a few years before my regular visits. This is also before the Telnaes patent (virtual reels) and computer-controlled slots, which made large slot jackpots possible. At the time, I suspect that a $1,200 jackpot was a fairly rare event.

Not so today. Top jackpots on dollar machines are almost always over $1,200, and $1,200 wins are common on $5 and $10 machines. Many players think the threshold is too low.

And not fair. A table game player could bet $1,200 on, say, red at a roulette table and win $1,200 and not be given any paperwork whatsoever.

And now the bad news - The IRS is proposing lowering the threshold to $600!

The reasoning is that lowering the threshold brings slot machines in line with lotteries and sweepstakes, ending some confusion. The IRS also says that the slot floor is automated now, and lowering the threshold will not be a burden on the casino.

The casino industry has objected, saying that despite the automation, there is a large increase in paperwork and machines will be out of service much more frequently and for more time overall pending the issuance of the tax forms to the players.

The proposal is currently in the 90-day comment period. There are about two months left. I'll let you know the final decision.


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