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Best of John Robison

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More on slot machine malfunctions

12 December 2010

[You wrote,] "I don't like the implications of your calling the disclaimer "the weasel clause." It gives the impression that casinos routinely deny players jackpots by invoking the disclaimer."

Well, I did say "occasionally" [in the original letter]. I did not mean to imply that casinos routinely deny jackpots legitimately won, and I apologize for ruffling any feathers. The two situations you mentioned in your article are clearly recognizable machine malfunctions, and I have no problem with a casino denying the player a jackpot under those conditions. However, let me quote from an article you yourself wrote a little over a year ago (http://robison.casinocitytimes.com/article/help-for-a-denied-jackpot-49857).

I've never been denied a jackpot, but I've been privy to the details of a few denied jackpots. In each case, one or more of the requirements for a valid jackpot were not met. Those requirements are: the machine must be in game mode; the player must have made a valid bet; and the RNG must have chosen a jackpot combination.

What lands on the payline doesn't legally determine what you've won. The combination chosen by the RNG does. The combination on the payline should match what the RNG chose. If it doesn't, the RNG rules. That said, I think the casino should pay the jackpot anyway because players don't have access to the output from the RNG. The only display of a result we have is what we see on the reels.

It is this last point that I was addressing. I doubt that all machine malfunctions are as obvious as the examples you gave. In the case of a jackpot displayed but not reported the player will of course bring this condition to the attention of the casino. In the opposite case, however, only the casino would know that a malfunction has occurred since, as you say, the player would get no indication that he/she had won. If it is at all possible for this to happen then I have to believe it has, so is it?

I'm sorry if I ruffled your feathers. I know you were just giving the disclaimer a colorful name.

The point I was trying to make was that the media never presents a balanced report in denied jackpot stories. In some of the cases, the machines are obviously malfunctioning. Yet the conclusion of the story is always some sort of statement that implies that the casino routinely denies payouts by inventing machine malfunctions ("Be careful the next time your machine lands on the jackpot. The casino just may not pay you what you won.")

To answer your question, first, let's make sure we're on the same page. The only way a jackpot could be displayed but not reported is if the RNG did not choose a jackpot, but for some reason the display displayed a jackpot. So I take "not reported" to mean that the RNG did not choose a jackpot.

The opposite case is a jackpot reported but not displayed. In other words, a jackpot chosen by the RNG but not displayed. Because the RNG rules, the machine will do everything it should do for that jackpot -- credit the credit meter, lock up for a W-2G, report the jackpot to the progressive controller, report it to the slot accounting system. Players would have indications that they won.

Is it possible for this to happen? Sure. Humans wrote the software running the slot machines and every once in a while some strange set of circumstances occur that causes the machines to operate in incorrect ways.

Has it ever happened? I don't know for sure. I've never heard of it happening. But then I don't think I would. It's not newsworthy for newscasts that have little time for positive stories. And as far as the casino industry is concerned, unless this is a chronic problem, it's just a routine glitch and the machine will be placed back in service if it passes all of self-tests.

Finally, I think the casino would be within its rights to deny this jackpot based on the machine malfunction disclaimer.

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