Is there a min­i­mum le­gal slot pay­out?

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By John G.

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@casi­noan­swer­

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