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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Changing Paybacks on Machines

12 December 2004

I really enjoy reading your column and have learned a lot! Thanks.

However, there is one thing I feel I have to disagree with you on. I live near Tunica, MS and frequent the different casinos there. I know you have said many times that the casino cannot change the payouts on machines as they are set in the factory, however, I have three friends that all work at different casinos and all are slot techs they all tell me that the gaming commission will come into the casino and be there as a witness as the machines are adjusted. Have you ever heard of this?

Sharon

Dear Sharon,

I have definitely heard of casinos changing the long-term paybacks on their machines. I never said that they couldn't.

What I did say is that they couldn't change the paybacks on whim, at the drop of a hat. There's no switch that the casinos can throw to change machines from loose to tight and vice versa.

Changing the payback on a machine requires changing one or more chips in the machine, specifically where the virtual reel layouts are stored. In Las Vegas, all casinos have manufacturer's licenses and can change the chips themselves. All they have to do is file the proper paperwork with Nevada informing the state that they payback has been changed.

In Tunica, and in other jurisdictions, the local gaming commission must witness the changing of the chips. In still other juridictions, a commission representative must make the change.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Mr. Robison:

Could you tell me if any of the following might affect the payout percentage of a slot machine? Thank you.

1. Deactivated drop door switch
2. Inoperative coin-in/coin-out meter
3. Logic Board not locked
4. Logic Board latch broken
5. EPROM not registering a signal
6. Coin-to-drop meter malfunction
7. Malfunctioning mechanical metering device
8. Software for games being shipped separately from machines

Please see www.mnrg.org for more details. Thanks again!

David

Dear David,

Some of the situations you described require a more technical understanding of the inner workings of the hardware and software in a slot than I have, but I'll take a stab at them and publish any corrections slot techs may send me.

First we need to clarify what kind of effect you're looking for. I think there are three possibilities we have to consider. One possiblity is something that influences the RNG to select more winners than it should. A more technical description is something that affects the randomness of the RNG.

The second possibility is gaffing the machine. A cheat alters the software by injecting code into the normal code path followed by the machine. For example, the RNG polling routine could be changed to return a winning combination instead of a losing combination. Another example would be to reprogram the machine to award credits even though a losing combination landed on the payline. Some cheats have worked for slot manufacturers and hidden gaffs in the software supplied by the manufacturers. Ron Harris, a former Nevada gaming commission employee, gaffed machines when they were in the field.

A third possibility is some sort of electrical malfunction that causes the hopper to spit out coins. I don't know if you would really consider this possibility to be affecting the payback percentage for a machine. The programming is still paying back the proper amount. It's just that the machine doesn't have as much many as it should in its hopper, just as if someone had stolen coins from the hopper.

Now let's look at your scenarios. There's no way any of them would influence the RNG--in fact, there's nothing that should affect the randomness of the RNG--so we can rule out possibility one.

As for possibility two, most of your scenarios are hardware related, not software. Only scenario 8 deals with the software and the mere fact that the software was shipped separately from the machine does not mean it was tampered with. Shipping containers can be secured so that the recipient knows no one has opened the box since it left the factory.

Turning to possibility three, one hardware problem could lead to another. A short could energize the hopper circuitry and cause an improper payout. But slot machines are tested so thoroughly that I doubt anything but a truly bizarre coincidence of events could case this to happen.

A few specific comments about some of your scenarios:

1, 2, 6, 7 - These are all hardware problems and involve hardware that has nothing to do with the core workings of the machine.

3, 4 - This is kind of like asking how my not locking my garage door affects the performance of my car.

5 - The machine should fail its POST (power on self test) if this happened, if it was even able to get that far in its bootup sequence.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hello,

Do native American casinos have a master RNG? Example: the machine's RNG and a master to the whole casino to determine a winner. I have noticed some nights dollar banks hitting and not quarters, nickels and vice versa?

Or is it set up per bank of machines? Or just the machine itself? Does every machine have to pay a jackpot at some time?

Thanks. Please email me answer.
John

Dear John,

Sorry, but I get too many questions now to send individual replies to any but special cases.

Native American casinos with Class II gaming have a master RNG. Their games must be bingo drawings in disguise. A master server with the RNG is used to draw the numbers in the bingo drawing. The drawing results are then sent down to each machine, which covers the numbers drawn on its bingo card and it uses the pattern covered to determine which symbols to land on the payline.

The phenomenon you witnessed was a result of normal randomness.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

I'm strictly a Keno player. I have hit 8-of-8 for $2500 on a quarter machine. I also hit 4 9-of-10, 22 8-of-10, 7 8-of-9, and 7-of-7 11 times. But lately it's been tough, odds seem to catch up to me. So I switched to 5-cent Pattern Keno. For a nickel it's possible to hit $1600. I came close 5 times, 8-of-9 for $52.

I enjoy your column. Keep up the good work.

Where can I get a 4-card Keno CD?

Thanks,
Walter

Dear Walter, Thanks for the kind words about my column. And congratulations on your former good luck playing Keno and many wishes for a return to good luck in the future.

Masque Publishing's Deluxe Casino Pack has a Keno game, but I don't know if it's the 4-card version that you're after. You could ask at the Masque site (www.masque.com). It's available directly from Masque and from www.greatstuff4gamblers.com. I did a Google search on 4-card Keno and found this site (http://www.filesland.com/software/four-card-keno.html) that has some 4-card Keno games.

John


Dear John,

I have been reading your articles for some time now and find them quite informative.

I am a blind person who loves visiting casinos from time to time. I heard that Alliance Gaming had developed a talking slot machine using the voice of Ray Charles. I have in fact checked this out and it is true.

My question is where are these machines? They were rumored to be at Bally's in Las Vegas but when I called bally's said no. Would it be possible for you to find out? I would greatly appreciate it.

In case you are wondering I have a talking computer which allows me to access the net and thus able to read e-mail and so on.

Thank you for your time.

George

Dear George,

Bally Gaming (a division of Alliance) definitely did develop two Ray Charles slot machines. Bally has a "where-to-play" page for the Ray Charles games (http://www.ballygaming.com/gameroom/where_to_play_list.asp?GameId=15) and, unfortunately, they're tough to find. There's only one casino in Nevada with them, four in Atlantic City, a couple in California, and four in the Central U.S.

I don't know how current this list is. You can send an e-mail to webmaster@ballygaming.com and I'm sure they'll be able to help you find out if any other casinos have the machines today.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't send a reply to every question. Also be advised that it may take two or more months for your question to appear in my column.

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