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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: When a slot machine differentiates between coupons and currency

10 July 2013

Your column has helped me understand the slot machines overall, however I had an experience recently that irritated me.

I received a coupon for $35.00 in the mail to play at my favorite casino. I inserted the coupon into a slot machine, then noticed that the slot machine next to me was giving a lady lots of bonuses. She got up and left so I hurried and cashed out my ticket and, without looking at it, inserted it into that machine. I hit the button and nothing happened. After trying for several minutes I pushed the help button.

I told the slot manager that I inserted the ticket with about $28.00 and that nothing is happening. She opened the machine, checked here and there and said she couldn't find a ticket for that amount. I insisted and she called a supervisor. The supervisor checked over and over and said that there was no ticket inserted for that amount anywhere near that time.

I was frustrated and said, "Look I'm not crazy, I inserted a ticket for $35.00 in that machine (next to me) and pulled it out after a few minutes to sit in this machine." The supervisor asked a gentleman that was sitting at the machine to take out his ticket and to allow her to open the machine. The man left and she opened up the machine and said that she knew what happened.

According to her I was to play the coupon at the first machine for a certain amount of time and that when I got up the $28.00 stayed in the machine and the person that sat down after I left got the $28.00. OK then, no one ever told me that this would happen, so I told her I wanted my money back due to the fact that that little bit of information is not noted on the coupon. I was getting upset so she called security.

I decided to go to the help desk and they followed me there. I asked for a supervisor and explained what happened. He apologized for the frustration and applied the $35.00 to my account. I was under the impression that I could play any slot machine for however long I wanted.

So sometimes when I read your column and you state that the machines don't differentiate between tickets and money I wonder if that is the case.

It used to be so easy to write about slots when they were mainly in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Tunica, and Native American casinos were not a major market, and casinos gave cashback and bonuses as cash and not credits. Today it seems like I have to qualify many statements with a disclaimer. So here's the disclaimer about whether the slot machine knows the source of the money.

First, we have to distinguish between determining the result of a spin and cashing out. When the machine has to determine the result of a spin, the source of the money is completely irrelevant. All the machine cares about is that you have enough credits to play. The odds of hitting a winning combination have to be the same on every spin, so the machine would not be allowed to have different probabilities for currency versus coupons.

Cashing out is a completely separate process and the machine is free to differentiate however it wants. The casino wants you to bet the bonus cash, not walk with it, so it won't let you cash out the credits once you've redeemed the coupon.

All of the promotions similar to your promotion that I have received have required that I play all of the credits on one machine. In the early days of these promotions, the slot club personnel would warn you to choose the machine carefully because once you inserted the coupon or redeemed from your slot club account, the credits had to be played on that machine. You can cash out what you won, but you can't cash out the promotional credits. That restriction should be (and almost certainly is) detailed in the description of the promotion. I agree with you that the restriction should be noted on the coupon itself or on any materials that were sent along with the coupon.

To sum up, slot machines don't differentiate between tickets and money when you bet them on a spin. When you try to cash out, however, there may be a restriction on promotional coupons or credits you received.

Jackpots for all,
John


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