Ask the Wizard: Slots - Slots in Specific Jurisdictions
Concerning the Cash Splash progressive slot game played on Microgaming sites... Is the jackpot paid by all participating casinos? If so, does each casino have the same payout percentage set for these machines or is it set by each casino individually? What about mid-level payouts on these Cash Splash machines? Thank you very much.
— Helen from Memphis, U.S.
I would assume that the odds are the same at all Microgaming casinos. All casinos probably contribute money to the same account from which the jackpot is paid. This way, the individual casino from which the jackpot was hit does not have to reach into their own pocket when somebody wins. Mid-level payouts are probably paid by the casino itself.
When a local gaming authority sets a minimum payout for slots does that minimum apply to each individual machine or a casino average payout? I know some games are set from the manufacturer higher than other and some lower. For example, if the minimum is 87%, then can one machine be set to 60% and another set to 120% for and average of 90% thus exceeding the minimum, or does each machine must pay at least 87%.
— Jim from U.S.
The minimum applies to every machine. Someone with the Gaming Control Board in Carson City, Nevada, told me that every machine in the state must meet minimum payback percentages. The only exception, he said, are on some antique machines in Virginia City.
Have you calculated any of the odds for the slot machines at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino? NC law requires games of skill. As a result of this law all of the common slots such as Double Diamond, Red-White-Blue, etc were installed with a two spin option. After the first spin you may hold or respin any of the three rows to obtain final results. Charts are available on every machine to show the total number of each symbol and blanks in each row. Since these machines are IGT machines I assume that the symbols are weighted and randomly selected as posted. If this is true then the payback % can be calculated just as it is in video poker. Just curious if you had any info.
— David from Peachland, North Carolina
I’ve been asked about these North Carolina slot machines so many times I’m tempted to fly there just to see them for myself. Yes, if they did give the probability of each symbol for each reel then an optimal strategy and a return could be fairly easily calculated. However I have never actually seen such a table and have never worked out the odds.
I have heard it is illegal for a slot machine to deliberately have too many near misses. Can you tell me what you know about this?
To answer your question I asked a well connected gaming consultant and he said Nevada regulations state that one stop on a reel can not be weighted more than six times more than either stop next to it. So if a jackpot symbol were weighted by 1 and both bordering blanks were weighted by 6 then there would be 12 near misses for every one time the reel stopped on the jackpot symbol. This would be the maximum allowed near miss effect. My own results detailed in my slot machine appendix 1
back up this theory well. The red double seven was the highest paying symbol and I saw the blanks above and below it about 5 to 6 times as often:
|Double Strike Actual Results |
|Symbol ||Reel 1 ||Reel 2 ||Reel 3 |
|Double red 7||52||51||55|
The same source said that New Jersey and Mississippi likely have adopted the Nevada regulations.
Do you ever test the slot machines in Ontario, Canada. I’m worried that since the government has a monopoly on gambling in Ontario they are setting the machines tight.
I never tested the machines in Ontario but did test a machine in Montreal. Quebec casinos are also government owned so the concern should be the same there. The 5-cent machine (equivalent to 3 U.S. cents) I played was set to 89.975%. For a small coinage this isn’t too bad and comparable to the Las Vegas Strip. I have played blackjack at the casino in Niagara Falls, as well as Montreal, and the rules were the same as in Atlantic City, resulting in a house edge of 0.41%. I think this goes to show that the government there is not abusing their monopoly but giving the players a decent bet. See my slot machine appendix 3F
for more information.
Many Oklahoma Indian casinos can only use "class 2" poker machines, where "skill" is not allowed to be a factor -- does this mean the hands are somehow predetermined? And would the next hand be the same no matter who played it?
Let me explain what a class 2 machine for the benefit of others. It is a slot machine in which the outcome is determined by the draw of bingo balls. If done well (and it often isn’t) the game will play just like a regular slot machine. I have been to two casinos in Tulsa and the closest thing I found to video poker were not class 2 slots but rather "pull tabs." With pull tabs the player makes his bet, presses a button, 5 cards appear on the screen, and a voucher drops if you won anything. You may take that to the cashier. Although there is a pay table for the 5-card stud hand I do not think the cards are dealt randomly. Rather it is just a visual aid to show you how much you won.
I live in Oklahoma and I have heard that the slot machines here are not really slot machines but you are playing bingo against other players. What is the actually going on?
Oklahoma, and various other Indian casinos, have what is called "class 2" slots. The outcome is actually determined by the draw of bingo balls. Players at different various different slot machines are linked together, each player has different cards but the draw of the balls is common to all players connected via the network. There is generally a "game ending pattern" in which if some player completes it then balls quit drawing for all the other players. However with most manufacturers these game ending patterns are very hard to achieve so the element of competition is negligible. Unless the game ending pattern is achieved a certain number of balls are drawn, your cards are automatically daubed, and you are paid according the highest paying pattern you cover, and there are hundreds of patterns. A video representation of a slot machine is only to illustrate how much you have won. If done well, and they often are not, the games play almost just like a Vegas slot machine.
In Oklahoma we play at the Indian casinos. I understand we are actually playing bingo. If this is true do they have same payback as Vegas machines with the random number generators?
— Sharon from Oklahoma
Yes, that is true. In some states like Oklahoma traditional “class 3” slots are illegal. A way to get around that law is to have a machine pick bingo cards and balls at random. Certain patterns will be mapped to certain wins and the outcome will be displayed to the player like a slot machine win. If done properly, and often they aren’t, the games play just like those in Vegas. If I recall correctly I saw some popular Williams slots like Reel ‘em In when I was at a casino in Tulsa, with just a little bingo card in the corner of the screen. Otherwise they looked the same to me. I don’t know what return they set their slots to in Oklahoma so I can’t help you with that question.
Pennsylvania recently legalized "slot parlors." They are advertising electronic blackjack and baccarat. Do you know if these electronic versions of table games have the same odds and payout as real live games based on truly random deals? Or are they set with specific payout percentage, a la slot machines?
— Kevin from Philadelphia
Here in Nevada there is a state law that an electronic representation of playing cards must have the same probabilities as if a human being were dealing the game. To do business in Nevada a game maker must abide by this law in every machine it places anywhere in the world. So if they use major U.S. brands like IGT or Bally I’m sure the games are fair. However if the games are low-budget imports then I can make no assurances. As with a live game, check the rules before you play. Most importantly, avoid games that pay even money on blackjack.
Here in Pennsylvania we have blackjack games, made by Shufflemaster, where the players use terminals to play against a video screen of a dealer. Technically, only "slots" are legal in Pennsylvania. I heard that the game was "retrofitted" to fit the definition of a slot. What does that mean? If this is just a glorified slot machine, do I really have any control over my fate?
— Chuck from Mountain Top, PA
Yes, you do. I’m told by Shufflemaster that to meet the definition of a slot machine, one player’s actions can not affect the other players, as is the case in live blackjack. To get around this law, each player and the dealer are dealt cards from a unique six-deck shoe. So, you are in control of your own fate, but not that of the other players or the dealer. I understand that the game is programmed with six-deck shoes. According to my simulations, using separate shoes for the player and dealer adds 0.06% to the house edge.