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Best of John Robison

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Is this a penny machine or a quarter machine?

29 June 2009

I just returned from Tunica and have a question regarding some of the new machines.

These slots call themselves penny slots but the smallest bet they take is a quarter. Yes the quarter covers 25 lines, but if you can only bet in 25-cent increments does this not make it a quarter slot?

The ones I saw were by IGT.

I would like to know the rules as well as your views on this.

Brett

Dear Brett,

Just a few years ago, Downtown Las Vegas was the only place you could find penny slots. Now you can even find them at the poshest casinos on the strip. But penny slots create a problem for casino management. If a player bets only a few pennies per spin, the slots can't earn enough money to justify their placement on the slot floor.

The solution is to gave players more. One way to get them to bet more is to offer bonuses for max-coin play on a line or overall on the machine. Another way to get players to bet more is to have a minimum bet, just like the minimum bet at a table game.

Are you sure that you had to bet in 25-cent increments? I haven't played a minimum-bet machine yet, so I don't have any firsthand experience with them. When manufacturers first discussed programming in a minimum-bet requirement a few years ago, the thinking was that it didn't matter how you got to the minimum, just that you bet at least the minimum.

One way to meet the minimum on a 25-line machine is as you described, one coin on each of 25 lines. Others are to bet five coins on five lines or three coins on 10 lines or 25 coins on one line.

We're in uncharted territory with these machines. I don't know that any jurisdiction has updated its rules to deal with these machines specifically.

As for my views, if the machine operated as you described (you can bet in 25-cent increments only), then it's no different from playing a quarter machine.

On the other hand, if it's a penny-denominated machine with a 25-cent minimum, the situation is murkier. Do we call it a penny machine or a quarter machine?

Looking at table games for an analogous situation, a $10 minimum table is a $10 table, even though you can bet $15 or $11. The minimum bet determines the "denomination."

But in the slot world in the past, the denomination has determined not only the minimum bet, but also the minimum increment. You bet in credits and the denomination specified how much each credit is worth.

So, should this machine be in with the penny machines or the quarter machines? I went back and forth many times until I arrived at the correct conclusion. I'm going to come down on the side of protecting players. Players sitting down at quarter machines know they are going to have to bet at least 25-cents per machine. Players sitting down at penny machines expect to have to bet at least a penny. I think a 25-cent minimum machine belongs with the quarter machines.

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 reply to every question.

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