Is there a minimum legal slot payout?
Today, we examine minimum payouts: Q. Is there a minimum legal payout percentage on slot machines? Can the casino just make the paybacks whatever they want?
A. In commercial casinos, minimum slot paybacks are set and regulated by state gaming boards or commissions. Those figures vary state by state, but tend to hover around 80 percent. States like Mississippi, Louisiana, Illinois and here in Colorado all have the 80-percent minimum, while it’s a little higher at 83 percent in Indiana and New Jersey, and a little lower at 75 percent in Nevada.
In tribal casinos, minimum paybacks usually are written into the compacts with the states that authorize slot play. In Wisconsin, tribal compacts specify a minimum payback of 80 percent.
These minimums apply to every machine in a casino, not just to the casino’s overall figure. In Illinois, for example, the regulation is written so that is that no machine may have a theoretical return of less than 80 or more than 100 percent. That means having four machines returning 99 percent and one returning 60 percent would not satisfy the minimum requirement. Each individual machine must pay back at least the minimum.
In practice, casinos are competitive and virtually all machines pay more than the legal minimum. In areas where other casinos are nearby, no operator wants to drive away business from players to flock to competitors’ higher-paying games.
Even in areas where a casino is on its own within hundreds of miles, the operator has to play a balancing act between extracting the most short-term profit and keeping customers coming back.
– John Grochowski is the author of six books on casino games. Email him at CasinoAnswerman@casinoanswerman.com.