Slot machines are not rigged - A Casino Employee Explains Why

Slot machines are not rigged – A Casino Employee Explains Why

When working in a casino, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “Are these slots rigged?”

Oh, yes, but in reality, no is the response.

The house has an advantage on all slot machines. The term “return to player” is commonly used to define this figure (RTP). The return to player percentage is, unsurprisingly, the percentage of money won back by a player for every dollar bet.

A more pertinent inquiry would be, to what extent are they rigged?

The player’s true concern is whether or not the computers are programmed to return an excessive percentage of stakes or none at all.

Of course the answer is a resounding “no” in that case.

Why Casinos Don’t Rig Their Machines

A casino license is a blank check from the government of the state or country in which the casino is located.

There will be a required minimum return to player (RTP) or payback amount set by several licensing authorities.

A casino would be taking a significant reputational risk with the gaming public if they set its machines to return less than the state requirement.

A casino caught deceiving its customers will quickly lose its clientele.

State or tribal agencies keep a tight eye on all casino revenue to ensure they collect their fair share of taxes; inspectors will look into the slot machines’ central processing units (CPUs) if there is an unexpected dip in earnings.

The RTP in these areas is typically broken down by region and sometimes even by casino every month and published for public consumption.

A skilled slot player can use this information to their advantage by comparing the RTPs across properties and bet denominations within a single establishment.

Two more variables prevent operators in states and tribal venues without a minimum RTP level from setting their machines too loosely.

First, there’s gambling psychology.

When they put down their money at a slot machine, players expect how long they will get to play it.

No gambling establishment can survive if its customers aren’t occasionally rewarded for their wagers.

The longer they can keep slot players seated, the more money they will make, and the happy their customers will be, and a skilled casino operator will realize this whether the law constrains them or not.

This is related to the other constraining issue, unrestricted market competition.

A player will “vote with their feet” and go somewhere if they don’t feel they’re getting the best return on their slot machine dollar.

If their payback is higher, even casinos in a market with minimal competition could retain customers to Las Vegas or larger regional markets.

RTP rates in Nevada, a state with a lot of competition, range from 90% to 94%.

With only two casinos and a considerable trip to neighboring casino areas, Maine is isolated but offers high RTP rates of 89% to 94%.

This demonstrates how pricing is still relevant even in relatively unconnected economies.

Why All Those Slot Myths You’ve Heard Are Just Myths

The other common slot machine rigging query I get refers to an urban legend.

Slot machine players have long suspected that their machines’ payouts are significantly altered depending on where they play.

Slot players, for instance, sometimes claim that the machines closest to the casino’s main door or cashier cage have a higher payout percentage.

Similarly, slot machines near the table games or the buffet line will have lower return to player percentages to entice players who are only planning to spend a short amount of time gambling.

In fact, if you poll a dozen dedicated slot players, you’ll hear as many different theories on the optimal location and return rates for slot machines as there are people who play them.

What, though, is the reality?

There isn’t a ton of evidence whole back this up, but it’s safe to assume that 50 years ago, casino management set the payout percentages and locations of slot machines based on their own assumptions about what would attract the most customers and generate the highest hold percentages.

These early slots forecasters, however, were often working with only a hundred or so machines at most; today, even a moderately sized casino would have more than a thousand. And as many as 4,000 in extreme circumstances.

Although these machines may come with a variety of pay tables, the casino will likely set them all to the same payout percentage because they are purchased in bulk.

Not 1% more for the games at the ends of the aisle and not 1% less for those in the middle.

Slot managers today are typically too busy to bother about the minute percentage differences in RTP between particular machines.

Slots banks may be strategically placed in high-traffic locations, however this is more likely to be done to accommodate player demand than to increase the casino’s take.

For example, if they want to maximize profits from all penny slot machines, they’ll determine the optimal pay tables for those machines and place an order for them.

The impact of regulations is also relevant. In other states where I spoke with slot managers, the return to player percentage for penny games was already at the bare minimum required by law.

There wasn’t even a nickel game in the casino that paid more than that.

They couldn’t move the machines around depending on payback because the variance across machines was so small.

Most casinos also maintain a tight spread between the rewards for their highest value games and their lowest value games.

The difference between the average payout of a high denomination game and a penny slot machine is around 5%, while some ultra-high denomination slots fall outside of this range.

The average return to player (RTP) for penny slots in Nevada is around 90%, while the RTP for $5 slots is around 94.5%.

Because of how closely the typical payback percentages cluster, it’s okay to arrange machines to maximize the house edge strategically.

Having said that, the United States alone is home to hundreds of slot directors. They’re all going to handle their slot machine area uniquely.

Others may argue that it makes financial sense to position higher payback dollar slots (or perhaps more accurately, high hit rates but lesser jackpots) closer to the front entrance.

But, it’s a long shot that the ordinary player will detect a variation in machines of even a few percent between casinos.

It’s more important to consider how long you’ll have to wait at the ticket redemption machine before you get your change, especially when playing real money slots.

That looks completely manipulated to me.

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