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Is it illegal to program near misses?19 January 2009
Just about every losing spin can be converted into a winner by shifting one or more reels up or down a stop. Just about every losing spin is a near miss.
Near misses were not outlawed years ago. It's impossible to eliminate them. What was outlawed was a process called a "secondary decision."
Machines that used a secondary decision worked this way. The RNG was used to select from a pool consisting of particular winning combinations and "loser." If "loser" was chosen, the programming running the slot machine would then poll the RNG again to choose from a pool of losing combinations that favored exciting losing combinations over boring ones. An exciting losing combination, for example, is two Double Diamond symbols on the payline on the first two reel and a Double Diamond one stop above or below the payline on the last reel. A boring near miss is something like an any bar combination that doesn't land completely on the payline.
The problem with the secondary decision is that it made it look like the jackpot symbol was more likely to land on the payline that it actually was. Every losing spin, in fact, provided no information about how likely it was for symbols to land on the payline because different processes were used to select the symbols for winning spins and for losing spins.
Slots using a secondary decision were considered to be misleading. The Nevada gaming commission wrote regulations requiring electronic slots to display the result determined by the RNG with no secondary decision or other alteration whatsoever.
Near misses still occur, but now the frequency with which they occur is directly related to how frequently symbols appear on the virtual reels defined in the programming of the machine.
As for your casinos not revealing their paybacks, I suppose what they have to hide is how low their payouts are — especially if they're so concerned about casinos so far away.
Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at email@example.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
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Best of John Robison