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Ask the Slot Expert: Rigged slot machines at Town Pump in Montana?1 July 2015
According to the American Casino Guide, Montana allows bars and taverns to have up to 20 video gaming devices. The machines do not pay cash. They print a ticket, which is taken to a cashier to be redeemed. According to the statute on the Montana government website, the machines must be placed in a part of the premises where alcoholic beverages are sold or consumed and where the operator can prevent access by persons under 18 years of age. The maximum bet is $2 and the maximum payout is $800.
Now, let's move on to your statements.
Players' clubs: The clubs do track everything you bet, win and lose. But they don't "form a pattern". They merely capture what happens on the machines you play.
How can Town Pump be "Montana's most liberal casinos" without rigging the machines? Slot machines are usually offered with multiple long-term payback percentages. The slot director orders the long-term payback she wants on her slot floor. A strip casino may order a Double Diamond machine with a 92 percent payback, while the director at a locals casino may order his Double Diamond machine with a 95 percent payback. The district manager's statement just means that the Town Pump is using the highest long-term paybacks available for its machines.
Losing 86 hands in a row on a video poker game may or may not be unusual. I don't know the pay table you were playing. Losing that many hands in a row would be highly unlikely on a Jacks or Better pa ytable, but it might not be that unusual on a pay table that requires at least, say, two pair or three-of-a-kind to pay something.
"Not get one bonus round in more than 400 plays": This does not sound unusual. Slot designers always have to strike a balance between how frequently a bonus round hits and how much it pays. If a bonus rounds hits, on average, once every 100 plays, it's not unusual for it to not hit after 200, 300 or even 400 plays. I don't know the hit frequency of your bonus round to be able to say how unlikely it is to not hit after 400 plays.
"When you finally get to a bonus round and then lose every single game, then something is definitely wrong." Unfortunately, I've had many instances in which I've won nothing or very little in bonus rounds. This just sounds like bad luck to me.
Returning to the statute, Section 23.16.1901 (1)(c) in the Administrative Rules of Montana states that the machine must "not have any switches, jumpers, wire posts, or other means of manipulation that could affect the operation or outcome of a game. The machine may not have any functions or parameters adjustable by and through any separate video display or input codes except for the adjustment of features that are wholly cosmetic or other operational parameters as approved by the Gambling Control Division." This section rules out any manipulation by the players' club. It also rules out any manipulation by the operator, although one could question what "operational parameters" are.
As a general rule, casinos don't mess around inside their machines. Every time they open the logic drawer of a machine, they run the risk of damaging the components with static electricity. Chips, moreover, can be damaged when they're being removed from or placed onto a circuit board.
If you feel you win more at other casinos, then by all means play there. Vote with your wallet.
If you do have statistics to prove that Town Pump is rigging its machines, your first step would be to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office, which houses the Gambling Control Division. If, as you say, the AG won't touch them because "they own half the state," contact the Consumer Affairs reporter at one of your local television stations. Local news just loves stories about casinos cheating players -- even when they're not true.
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at email@example.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
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