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Slots: Is What You See What You Get?13 August 1999
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood bits of information that casinos make readily available to gamblers, and often times boast about in advertisements, is the percentage "payback" figure for slot machines.
Granted, you won't find any casino promoting the slot machines that have percentage paybacks in the high 80s or lower 90s, but when you start getting into the mid- to upper-90s, then you're talking about time to beat the drums.
Some establishments have drawn special attention to the slot machines on their casino floors with 98 percent payback, and in some instances, "up to" 99 percent payback. Some of the machines are even labeled for the slot player, as are the 98 percent machines at the Hollywood Casino Aurora.
The popular perception of such machines is generally favorable. Afterall, a slot machine that gives 98 or 99 percent of the money it takes in back to the players while keeping only one or two percent for the casino can't be all bad, right? As somebody once pointed out to me on one of my gaming trips: "Why would you want to play another machine when you can play one that is labeled as a 98 percent payer?"
The truth of the matter is that most machines in casinos across the country pay back far less than 98 percent. But the bottom line to always remember is that slot machines are by far a casino's biggest money maker, no matter what the advertised payback. Every one of them is a gold mine that needs no pay, health benefits, or vacation time. And when the time comes for retirement, there's no pension to worry about. It's out with the old and in with the new.
Casinos take their slot departments very seriously. They don't want to mess around with units that pay for themselves in a little over a month, then reap the bulk of the yearly corporate profits for their owners.
That's the reality of the situation. We as players, armed with that knowledge, only have to be aware of what we're up against when we play slot machines. A major step in that direction is knowing exactly what is meant by the term "percent payback". It's not as simple as figuring everyone who sits down at the machine and plays it is guaranteed to get back 98 or 99 percent of the money they put into it.
Rather than basing payback percentages on the short term, casinos figure it out over the long term. The machine is in fact guaranteed to pay back 98 or 99 percent of what it takes in, but it does so over the course of its useful life and the thousands upon thousands of people who have sat down in front of it over that period of time.
Let's use a simple short term example to clarify the long term problem: Say that a casino were to guarantee a machine with 100 percent payback--it gives everything back and keeps no profits for the casino (okay, it's just a hypothetical). Say that five people walk up to the machine and each of them loses $100. The sixth person then steps up and winds up winning a $500 jackpot. The machine made good on its promise. It gave back everything, even though five people lost $100 apiece. A sixth player was the lucky one who got the jackpot spin and collected the money.
Don't be fooled by casino boasting. Slot machines are not created equal, and some are better to play than others, to be sure. Some give away the money a little at a time to make good on its advertised percentage payback, while others give bigger amounts fewer times. Over the long term it's all the same to the casino, but unfortunately, not so for the players. The only hope for any of us is to be one of the lucky ones.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
Best of John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp