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Best of John Grochowski

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About those slot machines

28 April 2016

Slot machines are the most popular games in casinos, and slot players’ questions frequently show up in my e-mail.

Mostly, the questions are “how do I win” variety. But here are a few I’ve been asked more than once that look beyond your results for one session.

  • How much do slot machines cost?

That depends. There’s a wide range, depending on what type of machines were talking about. For a simple game with three mechanical reels and no elaborate bonuses, we’re talking in the neighborhood of $14,000. Something more elaborate, with two — and sometimes three — video screens could push $25,000. The more bells and whistles a machine has to attract players, the more it’s going to cost.

Not all machines are sold at those levels. Prices are negotiable, and volume discounts are common.

Some machines can’t be bought at any price. In the casino industry, they’re known as “revenue participation” or simply “participation” games. Those include some of the biggest, glitziest, most exciting themes manufacturers can put on a game. Participation games are not sold to the casino. They’re leased or placed on casino floors on a revenue-sharing basis, and the manufacturer or distributor continues to own the game.


  • What goes into producing a slot machine?

“Producing” is the correct term here, as modern slot machines are entertainment productions just as surely as are movies, TV shows and recorded music. A game designer might take inspiration for a game theme from his own imagination, from earlier games, or from licensed themes. When Bally Technologies designed the new Pawn Stars slots, a negotiation bonus was a natural fit. Same deal with NASCAR and the U-Race bonus. For Spielo and Bejeweled, the bonus event mirrors the game you’d find online as a casual, non-gambling game.

Sometimes the ideas, design and math come from independent design studios. Even the largest slot manufacturers maintain relationships with independent designers. Case in point: IGT games including Gems Wild Tiles and Multi-Strike Poker came from the Chicago-area studios of Leading Edge Design.

But regardless of where the idea comes from, it needs to be run past colleagues and managers, storyboarded with input from graphic designers and artists, and the mathematicians who will make the game perform up to payback specifications.

With the early steps behind, game animators and audio teams can go to work. Some of the work can be contracted out, but manufacturers today build and maintain professional-quality animation and design studios.

It’s an involved, multi-level process that doesn’t even take into account the engineers and the physical building of the games. Some of the parts, such as touchscreens, ticket printers and the bill validators that scan and accept your money are purchased from outside vendors.


  • How are progressive slot machines linked?

We’re far enough into the computer age that it’s becoming common to link machines by Internet protocol, or IP networks, or via Ethernet. Slots today are computers with gaming trappings, and those on an IP network must have an IP address that corresponds to the host.

Whether on linked progressives within an individual casino, or on wide-area progressives that link machines in several casinos, a wager on any machine in the network will simultaneously raise the jackpot display on all machines in the network. When someone wins the jackpot, all other machines in the network re-set to the jackpot starting point, and the pot begins to build again.


Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski