Are Casinos Lowering Their Slot Machine Payback Percentages?

By Bill Burton

Over the last year I have heard many players complain that they are not having as many jackpots on the slot machines as they used to have. I first heard this from a few of my friends who said they believed that the casinos were tightening the machines because the bad economy was forcing people to make fewer trips to the casino. I did not pay too much attention to this but then I started to notice other players posting the same opinions on several Internet forums. It seems many of the players have come to believe that every casino was lowering the payback percentage on all of their machines.

A month ago I was contacted by a newspaper reporter from Colorado who requested an interview with me. He said he was writing a story about the casinos lowering the payback on the slot machines that was making it harder for the players to win. He wanted my opinion on the subject and he was surprised with my answer.

Why Players Win Fewer Jackpots

I told him I do believe that some casinos may be ordering new machines with lower payout percentages but I did not believe that this was the main reason why players may not be winning as much as they used to. I gave him the following reasons for my answer.

Over the years there have been many myths associated with casino gambling. One of the most common ones is the belief that a casino can raise and lower a machines payback with the flip of a switch. This is not true because the slot machines have a computer chip in them that determines the pay back percentage. These are set at the factory. In order for a casino to change the pay back, they would have to change the chip. In most jurisdictions there is paper work that has to be filled and submitted to the Casino Control Commission for each machine if the chip is changed. It is time consuming and the chips are very expensive. For this reason, the cost of changing the chip in numerous machines on the casino floor does not make economical sense.

Many of the gambling jurisdictions around the country require the casinos to report the overall payout percentages on a monthly basis. (California is not one of the States) These figures are a matter of public record and are published in some newspapers and gaming publications. I looked back on these figures over the last year and saw that there was very little change most casinos around the country. In some instance there was even some of the payback percentage had increased.

A reason why some players feel that they may not be winning as often is the fact that many players are making fewer trips to the casino so they are not playing as many sessions. So because they are playing fewer sessions they will see fewer big jackpots and fewer winning sessions overall. It is all proportional.

Some players may have decided to play lower denomination machines. Many of the nickel and penny slot machines have a higher hit frequency, which means you will have many more smaller wins but not as many big jackpots.

What to Do

If you still honestly believe that your casino is lowering the return rate on the slot machines you have several course of actions. The easiest thing to do is to play the older machines. It is doubtful that a casino would go through the expense of putting a new chip in an older machine to lower the return rate.

You can try a new casino. You may find that your luck is better at a different casino and a change is your routine will let you enjoy some new experiences.

You can switch to video poker. It is the only machine game that will let you know the payback of the machine by reading the pay table. However, if you do decide to try video poker, make sure you learn the strategy or get a strategy card to bring along with you when you play.

Switch to the table games. Playing the table games is exciting and they offer a lower house edge than the slot machines. Many casinos give free table game lessons so you can learn the basics before you sit down.

Let me close by saying again that I do believe that there will be some machines on the casino floors with lower returns, however I do not believe that is as wide spread as the rumors would have you believe. The casinos are in competition with each other for your business so they do not want to alienate the players by offering games where nobody can win. Remember, as a customer/player you always have the option of taking your business elsewhere. The ultimate decision of where to play is entirely up to you.


Until Next time remember:

Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.

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