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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Do Payback Percentages Vary on Multi-Denomination Slots?

2 December 2009

Even what you think would be elementary and essential information about slot machines that casino goers who wish to be informed are entitled to know is extremely difficult to find.

It is unfortunate that casino operators in particular and the gaming industry in general reveal next to nothing about slots and how they work.

For obvious reasons, casinos prefer to keep slots "magical, mystery money machines" rather than make an effort to educate the public about the math and computer programs that govern them.

The hyping of jackpots, publicizing players who are fortunate enough to win them, and reporting monthly payback percentages (broken down by denomination, not machine) as required by state law are all they tell us.

One question that comes up frequently is whether or not the payback percentages on multi-denomination games change depending upon which denomination is being played.

After doing some research, I discovered the answer to the question is a definite "probably".

Even nationally recognized slot machine authority John Robison, the "go to" expert for all questions pertaining to slots, and my colleague 'gaming guru" at www.casinocity.com, could not give a definitive answer to the question:

"I don't have first hand knowledge about slots, but I have seen the long-term paybacks on multi-denom video poker machines rise with denomination, so I think the same thing could happen on slots, too," he said. "When asked, I say it's possible."

Upon further investigation, I discovered that every major slot manufacturer has the technology to configure independently both denomination and payback percentage on multi-denomination slot machines.

Whether or not this capability is deployed on every multi-denomination slot in every casino remains the question, but there's a good chance it is.

Only the industry's smaller manufacturers do not support this ability, but you do not find such games in most U.S. markets.

It is true that casino operators at properties around the country set payback percentages at a higher rate on higher denomination games because they do not get the same level of play as lower denomination games.

On the other hand, lower denomination games get much more consistent play and consequently are set to lower payback percentages.

According to Robison, there is a puzzling consequence associated with multi-denomination slots in regard to how the money that is played in the machines is reported.

"From what I understand, early multi-denom machines were reported under the lowest denomination on that machine," he said. "The limited communication protocol between machine and accounting system at the time did not allow for reporting the denomination played.

"Therefore, if you played one credit at the dollar denomination on a machine that went as low as nickels, it would be reported as 20 nickels played."

My own investigation revealed that this accounting system is still in place in a majority of markets with the technology that predominates today. In the near future that will change as server-based gaming expands.

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John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp