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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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More Mysteries with Multi-Denomination Slots

10 May 2006

I've always found it curious that even though gamblers may wager in $2 increments on multi-denomination slot machines at some properties in Illinois, there is no summary of activity for $2 machines included in Illinois Gaming Board's monthly reports at any casino in the Chicago area.

The lone exception statewide is the Casino Queen in East St. Louis, which has revenue reported on two $2 units. Apparently the catch is that unless a casino has dedicated $2 slot machines that only take bets in increments of two dollars, revenue generated from games with a $2 incremental wagering option are reported elsewhere.

During my initial contact with the Illinois Gaming Board in an effort to have my question answered, I was informed that the money wagered on $1/$2/$5 slots is reported as revenue each month in the one dollar category. Gene O'Shea, communications director for the Illinois Gaming Board, reports that new procedures are forthcoming: "There is a need to update and make changes to the Website to adequately reflect what is being bet in each denomination, something the public at the present time is unable to determine. The IGB will be working with the casinos to correct the situation."

It is one of the accounting problems created by the proliferation of multi-denomination slot machines, and it can be a very important one depending upon how seriously you take the percentage "hold" and "payback" percentages that are compiled each month for each denomination in a property-by-property breakdown.

Incidentally, in the event you're interested in viewing the monthly reports just log on to the Illinois Gaming Board's Website at www.igb.state.il.us and click on the "monthly reports" link located on the left side of the home page.

Multi-denomination machines are a convenience for players and a tremendous advantage for casino owners. Whereas at one time slot machines were dedicated to specific denominations, which restricted the level of play and the revenues the units were capable of generating, players may now select the denomination they're most comfortable with at the touch of a button.

An important factor that is being overlooked, however, is that the payback percentage for slot machines is determined by the particular denomination that's being played. As a rule, the higher denomination, the higher the payback percentage will be, as is typically the case with the percentages on single-denomination machines.

It holds true for traditional reel machines as well as video units in any set of denominations on any multi-denom game. Casino operators order the percentage payback they wish on any particular denomination from the manufacturer.

In last week's column, I discovered from my communications with the Indiana Gaming Commission that all monies wagered on multi-denomination machines at casinos in the state (with the exception of the Horseshoe Hammond) are reported in the machine's lowest denomination. For example, on a quarter/half dollar/dollar machine, the activity is reported as coin-in for quarter games. Horseshoe groups all the activity on all of its multi-denom units into a separate category.

If we are to assume that the percentage payback programmed into a machine's two dollar and five dollar modes are higher than that of the dollar mode, the conclusion is that the payback percentage reported for all of the casino's dollar games may be higher than it actually is.

A similar case can be made with any set of denominations on any particular machine. The statistics obtained from the money wagered on the higher denominations will always make the lower denomination look better.

To further complicate the issue, if the money wagered on multi-denom units is grouped into one category rather than broken down, we really don't know the true percentage payback on any of the denominations on the machines.

Having access to payback percentages on each casino's machines, broken down by denomination, has always been the only tangible, concrete information for players. Have multi-denom games made payback percentages proprietary information as well?

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