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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Something for Slot Players to Think About

9 October 2002

It's no secret that the most popular slot machines at casino destinations throughout the state of Illinois are the nickel, quarter, and dollar denominations. Reports issued by the Illinois Gaming Board for the last five months illustrate this fact:

Month   # of Units     Hold Percentage     Adjusted Gross Receipts  
Nickel Slots
Feb 2002 2053 9.66 $23,535,657
March 2002    2062 9.66 $26,326,039
April 2002 2109 9.71 $25,411,720
May 2002 2125 9.80 $26,525,934
June 2002 2199 9.85 $25,966,353
Quarter Slots
Feb 2002 3250 6.98 $37,011,839
March 2002 3218 7.08 $40,759,011
April 2002 3214 7.12 $38,530,193
May 2002 3219 6.97 $39,086,964
June 2002 3233 7.03 $37,532,272
Dollar Slots
Feb 2002 3066 5.36 $46,453,894
March 2002 3085 5.39 $51,548,046
April 2002 3064 5.46 $49,383,587
May 2002 3069 5.23 $49,118,175
June 2002 3029 5.28 $46,208,502

"O.K.", you may ask. "So what? I just PLAY the slots. I don't own a casino!" But the fact of the matter is this: The casinos tell you virtually nothing about slot machines. What ever information you can extrapolate from the statistics that they are required by law to turn over to the state will be as much or more information as you could garner from any other source.

Take the above information as an example. Can you see the reason the number of nickel machines at casinos in Illinois keeps rising while the number of quarter and dollar slots keeps dropping? The casino's "hold" on the nickels slots is much higher. Over four percentage points higher each month than dollars and nearly three percentage points higher than quarters.

When you consider that in terms of unit bets, quarters are five-times greater than nickels and dollars are 20-times greater, the amount of money wagered on nickel slots is very high when compared to their higher denomination counterparts. What it also tells me is this: Players aren't just betting a single nickel a spin on those machines. Lured by the jackpots on the multi-line video slots, they're playing 45 coins a play ($2.25) and even 90 coins a play ($4.50).

When players churn through that kind of money on nickel machines, they are subjecting their betting dollars to a much higher casino advantage than they would be investing the same amount of money per spin on dollars and even quarters.

Players seem to love the nickel slots because casino destinations around the Chicago area are filled with them. And it's easy to see why the casinos love them, too. If each machine occupies the same space on the casino floor as a quarter or dollar machine, yet generates revenue three percentage points to over four percentage points higher, why not accommodate the patrons?

This isn't to say that people can't win money playing the nickel slots. Of the tens of thousands of people that play the machines every month, surely there are some winners. But statistics show that, collectively, the players win a lesser share of the total amount of money wagered on nickels than their quarter and dollar playing counterparts.

Do we conclude than if you are willing to invest several dollars or more on each spin of a nickel slot, you'd be better off playing the dollars? Statistically, yes. But that's over an extended period of time. The small windows in time that we chose to play the machines create opportunities to win no matter how the odds are stacked against you.

But if you want to be the smartest, most informed player that you can possibly be, make it your business to learn all you can. Don't limit your insight to what the casinos tell you, or to the marketing and advertising illusions that they create for you.

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