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Best of John Grochowski
Chicago-Area Slot Paybacks27 July 2004
Slot players looking for a little better run for their money frequently ask which Chicago area casino pays back to players the highest percentage of coins wagered.
Month in and month out, the simplest answer would be that Grand Victoria in Elgin has the highest payback percentage. In March, the most recent month for which we have a breakdown, Grand Victoria slot machines returned 94 percent, while runner-up Empress in Joliet returned 93.2 percent.
But the question isn't really as simple as it seems. Do all slot players get the most for their money at the same casino? No.
Different casinos have different customer bases and different marketing goals. A casino that focuses on customers who play $1 slots may not be giving the best deal around to quarter players, or nickel video players.
So when I take periodic looks at slot paybacks in area casinos, I like to break it down by denomination. Let's look at the three most popular denominations of slot machines -- nickels, quarters and dollars -- and compare March payouts in the Chicago area, both in Illinois and Indiana.
Illinois: Empress, 87.9 percent; Hollywood, Aurora, 87 percent; Harrah's Joliet, 87 percent; Grand Victoria, 86.3 percent. Indiana: Trump, Gary, 89.9 percent; Majestic Star, Gary, 89.8 percent; Harrah's, East Chicago, 88.4 percent; Horseshoe, Hammond, 86.1 percent.
When deciding where to play, think about who needs your type of business. Low-limit slot play is bread and butter for Trump and Majestic Star, and they lead area casinos in payback percentages on nickel games.
Grand Victoria and Horseshoe, on the other hand, are the area revenue leaders. Higher-limit play drives their bottom lines. They trail the field in nickel payback percentages.
Harrah's East Chicago has the most nickel slots, 575 of its 1,867 total machines. Trump has fewer machines overall, with 1,689, but nearly as many nickel games with 564. At Majestic Star, 487 of 1,521 slots are nickels. Trump and Majestic Star further emphasize low-limit play with two-cent slots -- 101 at Trump, 68 at Majestic Star -- and there also are 52 penny slots at Majestic Star. No other casinos in the area have two-cent or penny games.
Horseshoe, with the most slots in the area (1,984) shows its high-end emphasis with only 282 nickel games. That's fewer than you'll find at most casinos on the Illinois side, even though the Illinois casinos are much smaller. At Empress, 347 of its 1,172 slots are nickels, followed by Harrah's Joliet (316 of 1,211) and Hollywood (308 of 1,161).
Grand Victoria has just 94 nickel slots among its 1,072 machines. That's one reason it usually ranks as the area leader in payback percentage -- it has fewer low-paying nickel games to drag down the overall percentage.
Illinois: Empress, 94.2 percent; Harrah's Joliet, 93.7 percent; Grand Victoria, 92.3 percent; Hollywood, 91.9 percent. Indiana: Trump, 93.5 percent; Majestic Star, 92.4 percent; Harrah's East Chicago, 91.0 percent; Horseshoe, 90.6 percent.
Empress, which recently beefed up its quarter reel-spinning slot inventory, is usually at or near the lead in this category. Grand Victoria has the most quarter slots among the Illinois casinos in the area with 367, but a larger percentage are video reel games than at other casinos. Harrah's Joliet has 357 quarter machines, Hollywood has 334 and Empress has 332.
On the Indiana side, Trump is the usual payback leader, but the biggest selection is at Horseshoe, with 700 quarter games. Trump is next with 486, followed by Harrah's East Chicago with 466 and Majestic Star with 396.
Illinois: Grand Victoria, 95.0 percent; Empress, 94.7 percent; Harrah's Joliet, 94.5 percent; Hollywood, 93.9 percent. Indiana: Trump, 94.1 percent; Majestic Star, 94.1 percent; Harrah's East Chicago, 93.8 percent; Horseshoe, 93.8 percent.
Grand Victoria relies on premium players. How else would it post $32.8 million in revenue in April, $10.9 million more than nearest Illinois competitor Harrah's Joliet? (Horseshoe was closest in the area, with $32.1 million.) Naturally, its slot emphasis is on dollar-and-up games.
In addition to posting the highest payback percentage on dollars in March, Grand Victoria has the most dollar games among Illinois casinos in the area. It has 434 dollar machines, followed by Hollywood (396), Harrah's Joliet (395) and Empress (357). In Indiana, Horseshoe has 595 dollar machines, followed by Harrah's East Chicago (566), Trump (450) and Majestic Star (428).
Look up the denomination ladder and Grand Victoria also has the most games among area casinos in Illinois at the $5 (83 games), $10 (11 games), $25 (10 games) and $100 (2 games) levels. It's the higher percentage of high-limit play that makes it the area leader in payback percentage. That's something for low-limit players to keep in mind when they decide where to play.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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