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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Problems with a casino drawing and a casino

27 November 2019

Question: I am a top-level VIP and was scheduled to receive 8x entries in a $50,000 total drawing over several hours. I was playing 9/6 Jacks or Better averaging $10 a bet. Furthermore, I was earning at $2 per point. And about 98 percent of all remaining video poker machines were at $5 per point. Additionally, business was extremely slow through about 3 pm. Normally, drawings are held at high traffic times like Friday and Saturday night. This was held on Sunday starting at noon and you could begin earning entries at 10am. So I thought I had a best case scenario.

I began earning at 10am. At 1130am I noticed my entries were extremely low for the number of points I had earned. I went to the players club and spoke with several people, including the supervisor. After convincing them I was shorted, they admitted there was a problem and they would investigate. I suggested that my multiplier was not active.

I asked them to postpone or cancel the first drawing when 50 winners were being called. You could win more than once. They continued to hold the drawing even though they knew the entries were inaccurate. They approached me just prior to the last drawing when only five names were called and said the problem was the multiplier and it had just been fixed. I disputed this problem.

After several months of pursuing an explanation, they said adding $500 in free play was proper compensation. They proceeded to take 500 out of my promotional offers. My monthly benefits went from about 800 to 0. I felt they weren't really compensating me. And I never agreed to 500.

I've been trying to resolve this dispute for many months, mainly due to a non-responsive management team. They eventually said I didn't have a valid issue, and that the lead shift manager's decision was final. And that his decision replaced the gaming department, I requested arbitration. They have not responded. I had several disputes and they never once followed the patron dispute procedures in the compact.

I thought they were required to follow publicly published compact rules. They have never followed compact rules. I tried many times to contact the tribal offices and the corporation which oversees casino operations. They won't speak with me. They keep referring me back to the lead shift manager, who said his decision was final.

I went to gaming, and they said the same. I asked numerous times why they don't follow the rules of the compact. They don't answer. I sent two letters to the tribal offices requesting arbitration as stated in the compact. Still no response. Called the state gaming commissions numerous times. No call backs. I feel others have probably not had their disputes handled properly also. How are they allowed to operate while being untruthful, unresponsive, and grossly neglecting the compact?

Your advice on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: You didn't mention whether you were the only one affected. If everyone was supposed to get 8x entries, then it doesn't matter that the multiplier was not working. Each person's probability of being called is the same, with or without the multiplier.

Of course, I can't find the incident online again, but I remember many years ago an incident with electronic bingo machines in, I think, Canada. The software in the machines was not operating properly, but the flaw did not affect any individual player's chances of winning. The gaming commission ruled that the flaw had to be corrected, but because it didn't affect a player's probability of winning, the claims were dismissed.

If, on the other hand, only players at your tier level -- or only you -- were affected, then you have a legitimate gripe.

There is a lot of information we don't know. In addition to how widespread was the multiplier malfunction, how many entries did you have and how many entries in total were there in each drawing? How many drawings were there, how many people drawn in each drawing, and how much did each person win in each drawing?

Despite these unknowns, I have the feeling that $500 in free play was fair compensation. Your expected value is probably much less than that. As for decreasing your monthly benefits, the casino is free to offer you anything it wants in terms of bounceback cash, buffets, dining credits, etc.

Funny that you mentioned that you had several disputes with this casino. I just had a conversation with a video poker acquaintance about having disputes with a casino and how far one should go with a dispute. His feeling is that it's not worth it to complain about every little thing that might go wrong in a casino. He said that he knew someone who was a constant complainer and that person eventually stopped receiving offers from a casino. The casino apparently decided that this person wasn't worth the effort. Your casino might have made the same determination in regards to you, especially if you're playing high-paying video poker.

My acquaintance and I agreed that one should choose one's battles wisely.

I once saw a person complain that he lost about $10 on a pat hand because one of the hold buttons didn't take and he didn't notice the problem before he hit the Draw button. He was a nickel player, so the payout was pretty hefty, relatively speaking. A supervisor from the casino checked some logs on the machine and, from what I could overhear, couldn't really tell whether the player had pressed the button, but the supervisor paid him the amount he should have won.

I've had screw-ups that have cost me $5 or $10, but that mistake isn't as signficant playing dollar video poker. I've never made a mistake with more valuable hands. My level of care is directly correlated with the value of the hand. I frequently report malfunctioning buttons to floor personnel -- and because I play regularly where I play, they know that if I say something is wrong, there's a 99% chance that something really is wrong -- but I've never requested compensation when I've lost out because of a button problem. It's always been a small amount, though, as I said before.

I have, on the other hand, requested that a casino make good on an offer. On two occasions, I didn't get the point multiplier that I won on a kiosk game or was offered in a mailer, and I pointed out the problems to the casinos in question. On another occasion, I didn't get the free play I should have earned in a promotion because one of the machines I played had a technical issue that made it think I was constantly pulling out my card and reinserting it. And on yet another occasion, I didn't get to play a game that popped up on the card reader because of a technical issue with the machine I had played. (I didn't ask for or expect anything for this last problem, so I was quite happy when the casino gave me $75 in free play.) On these last two occasions, I was able to alert the casino to configuration issues with some machines.

The casino should follow all of the rules of a promotion and players should be aware of the rules. There's usually some boilerplate langauge in one of the rules that allows the casino to use its discretion in dealing with any problems that may arise and that the casino is not responsible for those problems. And, of course, the casino "reserves all rights," though I have no idea what those rights might be.

It was just over a year ago that Bob Dancer wrote two columns about a dispute he had with a casino (Part 1, Part 2) and how this was the first time in his long video poker career that he thought his problem was big enough and his case strong enough to go to the gaming board.

In many ways, it’s surprising that I’ve had no previous disputes. I know of video poker pros who have dealt with them dozens of times because they believe that the casinos are always trying to cheat them. Others I know regularly take an “it’s the principle of the thing” approach and seek redress for the smallest slights.

To me, there’s a cost associated with going to the GCB. Winning a decision can lead the casino to decide you’re a trouble maker and no longer welcome your action. And any employee involved in that decision may soon work for another casino causing your “unwelcome” to spread without further incident. So, to me, the GCB is going to be a last resort when I’m essentially “out the door” anyway and am concerned with how much I get to take out the door with me.

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