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Best of John Robison
Thanks for the kind words about my column.
You're right. Casinos cannot easily change the payback on a machine, but it does take considerably less than an act of God. An act of Congress might be a better description.
A disclaimer: I'm specifically talking about Class III games (those that contain their own RNG and determine their results independently). Class II games and machines abroad may operate differently.
Today casinos have to change a chip in a machine to change its long-term payback. Depending on jurisdiction, casinos can either make the change themselves without a witness from the gaming commission, make the change with a witness, or watch as someone from the gaming commission makes the change. The jurisdictions with which I'm familiar all require the casino to file paperwork notifying the gaming commission of the change.
Just opening a machine isn't sufficient to change the long-term payback. The slot technician has to open another section of the machine, known as the logic drawer, in order to change the appropriate chip.
With video poker, the only way the casino can change the long-term payback is by changing the paytable. That change will be obvious to players. With slots, the virtual reel layout is changed and players will never know.
Video poker is no more "chance" than slots or any other casino game. All casino games are random events.
Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
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