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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Why was money withheld from my jackpot?

24 October 2012

Anyone who has played the slots can tell you it's no pRNG when the same numbers comes up 3-4-5 times in a row just above the line or just below the line. How can that be RNG or pRNG? If it happens once, OK -- but not when you go to a different machine and it's the same thing.

You're making a mistake if you're assuming that having the same symbol land above or below the payline on multiple spins means the RNG has returned the same result on each spin.

First, most symbols appear at least twice on most physical reels. The symbol above the payline may be the same on two spins in a row, but the physical stop that landed on the payline may have been different.

Second, moving to the virtual reel, most physical stops appear more than once on most virtual reels. So, even though the reel stopped in the same place on two spins in a row, the RNG actually actually chose two different virtual stops.

Finally, let's say that the software did choose the same virtual stop a number of times in a row. It's possible that the raw output from the RNG just happened to lead to the same virtual stop multiple times in a row when scaled to the number of virtual stops on the reel. In fact, this should happen if the results are random and we can calculate how frequently it should happen -- just like we can calculate how frequently we should throw three, four and five heads in a row.

The bottom line is that whatever lands above or below the payline is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what lands on the payline. Slot designers can lay out their virtual reels so the blanks above and below a high-paying symbol land on the payline more frequently than the symbol and give you these meaningless near-the-payline near misses frequently.

Jackpots for all,
John


Dear John.

I would like to say both my husband and I enjoy reading your articles. We recently returned from Palm Springs and spent most evenings in the different casinos. I got hooked on this Whale slot machine and fed it most of the week. On the last night I played with much determination and it decided to give me the major jackpot.

The payout was $1,800, by far the most I had ever won. I was told I would lose 30 percent to the tax man. My husband explained that quite often you will see a jackpot at $1199, therefore and would not have to incur this cost.

My question to you is why do they tax on the entire amount and not the amount over $1199?

Does this occur in every state?

Don't get me wrong. I am still very ecstatic with the $1,200 I was able to pocket but "ouch" to the $600 I had to donate.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Kindly,
Cathy

Dear Cathy,

Thanks for the kind words about my column and congratulations on your jackpot.

I'm not sure exactly why the casino had to withhold $600 from your jackpot, so I'll cover two different scenarios.

First, if you are a non-resident alien, the casino has to withhold 30 percent of your jackpots over $1,199 and send it to the IRS. You then have to file a return to get some or all of it back. California also wants 7 percent of your jackpot.

Second, if you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien and you did not provide your Social Security Number, the casino is required to withhold 28 percent of your winnings for the feds and 7 percent for California.

Now, you asked why the amount withheld was based on the entire jackpot and not just on the amount over $1,199. The entire amount of your jackpot is income and has to be reported on your tax returns; $1,200 just happens to be the threshold below which the casino is not required to report it.

The withholding isn't necessarily a donation. When you file your tax return, you may get some or all of the amount withheld back -- or you may owe more -- depending on your tax situation.

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