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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Ask the Slot Expert: There is no proof that slot machines are not rigged

26 August 2015

You would make a great politician. While trying to answer the reader's question "Is there proof that slot machines are not rigged?" you did everything except answer the question honestly. You gave the typical political runaround while trying to build your case for slot regulations, government regulators, state gaming commissions, as all being completely honest and above reproach. Never ever would any of these businesses or agencies even try to pull something over on the general public or lie to them about how they conduct their business, because of course, none of them have ever done anything like that. No business or any government agency has ever lied to the public about their operations in the history of this country have they? So, of course, all you refer to must be of the same caliber right?

You Mr. Robinson are nothing more than a paid for puppet and front man for the gaming industry in this country and nothing more, but at least next time you can answer the question honestly by saying...No, there is no proof that slot machines are not rigged.

Gee, they must have my old address. I'm not getting my checks from the gaming industry.

But I'll admit that you're right. I can't prove that there aren't rigged slot machines on the slot floor. To do so would require inspecting every slot machine program to ensure that they do not contain any gaffes and then ensuring that every slot machine on every slot floor is running unaltered software. That is the nature of proving that something doesn't exist. You have to check everywhere.

Note that ensuring slot machines on the slot floor are running the proper software is what slot regulators do. If there is a conspiracy among casinos, slot regulators and slot manufacturers, it has to be the greatest conspiracy in history. With so many people in on the secret, it's nothing short of miraculous that no one has broken the omerta and gone public.

While it's true that many government employees have lied to the public, do you have any examples of slot regulators (or casinos or slot manufacturers) lying?

Many years ago (about 30), a slot regulator did claim to share a dirty secret about the slot industry. Ron Harris, a programmer with the Nevada Gaming Commission, gave a number of interviews about near misses on slot machines. He claimed that they are misleading to slot players and deliberately programmed into slot machines.

The problem is that near misses are not a secret, dirty or otherwise. They've been around for over a century since the first slot machines. Every time a symbol lands above or below the payline, you have a potential near miss condition. Granted, virtual reel technology gave the slot programmers the ability to make near misses more likely (and the Universal machines' secondary decision made near misses more likely still), but disclosing that slots have near misses is no disclosure at all. It's like saying that it's hot in Las Vegas in the summer.

Gaming regulators and operators and manufacturers say that having games that operate fairly is crucial to the slot industry. Because players can't see how the outcome is arrived at on an electronic gaming device the way they can see where a roulette ball lands or the numbers on the dice, players have to trust that the games are operating fairly. Players have to trust that the gaming regulators are doing their jobs. I hope that most players do believe that their gaming regulators are enforcing the slot regulations in their gaming jurisdiction. If you don't believe that the gaming regulators are ensuring that the games are not rigged, then don't play them.

Finally, thanks for giving me the opportunity to use this quote:

For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible.


As seen in your news letter, "no jurisdiction will allow frequent (ie: day/night/holiday, etc.) changes". Can you give me a source for that statement?

I have a high regard for you, but I can't find anything, anyplace that says that is correct.

The source for the statement is an interview with an Indiana casino operator in John Grochowski's column entitled "Casino Can't Change Paybacks Easily" from a few years ago. The relevant excerpt from the article follows.

I asked a casino operator specifically if that [being able to download program changes to a slot machine remotely] was going to allow him to change games from day to night or big-crowd times to small-crowd times, and he said, no, the gaming board wouldn't allow it, and besides, he wants to see how a game performs before making a change. Once a change is made, he told me, it would be days or even weeks before the gaming board would approve changing the game again... a quick change of payback percentages, as opposed to a quick change of games [like from a slot to a video poker game], is something else. I don't expect regulators ever will buy into that idea... If a game is underperforming, the casino won't change the payback percentage. It'll install a new game instead. It might be quicker to install a new game than it is now, because it'll be easier and faster to do it. But under gaming board supervision, capricious changes of payback percentages aren't likely to happen.

Granted, I'm extrapolating from one jurisdiction to the others, but I've attended a number of regulator roundtable sessions at gaming trade shows and the jurisdictions have much in common, especially because most jurisdictions' regulations have New Jersey's regulations as a father and Nevada's regulations as a grandfather. Each jurisdiction has its own twist, but all jurisdictions share the related goals of protecting the casinos and the players. Regulators share ideas. For new technologies, they look to other jurisdictions to see how they dealt with the technologies.

In the article, John also said that the casino could not change paybacks on its own. Indiana and many other jurisdictions have a double-lock process. Two people, one from the casino and one a regulator, have to "turn their launch keys" in order to send a new payback program to a slot machine.

Downloadable technology matured during the recession. Machines supporting downloadable technology have not made many inroads into the slot floor. Casinos don't see the benefits as being worth the cost of beefing up their slot infrastructure to support the greater bandwidth needed to send program data as opposed to players' club and slot accounting data. If machines supporting downloadable games ever do have a significant presence on the slot floor, regulators may write specific regulations as to how frequently a machine can be changed, just like they wrote regulations limiting how frequently the symbol above and below a jackpot symbol can land on the payline compared with how frequently the jackpot symbol itself lands on the payline.


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