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Best of John Robison

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Do New Casinos Have Loose Slots?

18 October 2004

Hello, John,

I think your site is excellent. Very informative!!

I have a quick question. A brand new casino just opened up in Niagra Falls on the Canadian side. It is supposed to be state of the art. It`s been compared to Bellagio in Vegas!!

My question is: When a new casino opens up for the first time, is it generally true that the slots are usually a little looser for the first couple of months to keep the traffic flow of people coming back? I heard this from someone and am wondering if I shouldn`t take advantage of this if it is true.

Thanks, John.

Mike

Dear Mike,

That's an old wive's tale. It costs too much money for a casino to change the paybacks on machines for them to tighten machines after opening. Unless there's a change in ownership or a radical change in casino philosphy, the paybacks are going to be the same.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

Great column as well as the others with the Scoblete network.

I am wondering about the payback percentage on multi-denominational machines. I play these occasionally in Michigan at Kewadin Casinos. You have the choice of 25 cents or 50 cents or $1 on the same machine, e.g., Crystal 7S, Triple Stars, 12X pays, etc. This is selected before the play starts and can be changed anytime between plays. Are the payback percentages different for each amount like conventional machines? Thus would I be better off playing 1 coin at $1 than 2 @ 50 cents or 3 @ 25 cents?

I know there is always the bonus of full coin if you hit the top prize but aside from that we all like play time for our cash and a better payback percentage may do that.

Keep the info coming.

Stu

Dear Stu,

Thanks for the kind words about my column and thanks for mentioning the other columnists on the Scoblete Network. Frank has pulled together a group of the best writers in gaming and I'm pleased to be the managing editor of the network.

It's impossible to answer your question definitively without having access to the programming of the machines, of course, so the best we can do is guess. First, we have to guess whether the casino has different payback percentages for the different denominations offered on the machine. I have seen multi-denomination machines have different video poker paytables at different denominations, so it's definitely possible.

But would a casino change the payback percentages on a slot game, where the payback cannot readily be determined by the player? Players will never know whether the payback percentage changes when they change denomination on a game. The casinos do have different percentages on their single-denomination games, so we'll assume that selecting a higher denomination on a multi-denomination machine also chooses a higher payback percentage program.

Now we have to guess whether the higher payback percentage results in a lower expected loss per spin. It's easy to compare one coin at the dollar denomination versus two at the half-dollar denomination. The risk is the same ($1 per spin), so the higher payback percentage we think is used at the dollar denomination does give you a lower expected loss per spin.

Comparing three coins at the quarter denomination to one coin at the dollar denomination is more difficult. Your risk at the quarter denomination is 25% less than that at the dollar denomination. Lowering the amount you risk per bet is one of the most powerful tools players have to limit their losses at the casino. The change in payback between quarters and dollars is going to have to be pretty big to overcome the change in risk.

Michigan doesn't report payback percentages. I looked at the paybacks reported by other states to see if I could take a guess at what the difference in paybacks is. Unfortunately, it's impossible to make a general statement about the difference. In some casinos, the dollar machines pay back only marginally more (0.5 percentage points) than their quarter machines. Furthermore, in some jurisdictions, the dollar machine paybacks in some casinos are lower than the quarter machine paybacks in others. The only statement I can make is the statement I always make: Higher denomination machines tend to have higher payback percentages than lower denomination machines.

I would guess--and be pretty certain--that your payback percentage playing at the dollar denomination is higher that when you play at the quarter denomination. The house edge at dollars has to be less than 3/4 the house edge at quarters to make your expected loss per spin lower playing dollars.

Comparing the quarter and dollar paybacks reported by various casinos across the country, I see some instances in which the house edge at dollars is less than 3/4 that at quarters, but more instances in which it is not.

I would guess that the dollar payback percentage on your multi-denomination machines is not high enough to warrant the extra risk. I would guess that you'll have a lower expected loss per spin playing 3 quarters per spin than one dollar per spin.

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