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Best of John Grochowski

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Think You've Won on a Video Slot?

29 November 2000

Casinos always have needed winners. Winners come back to play, and more often than not they'll give back some of their winnings. Even more important, winners tell their friends how much fun they had, and some of those friends decide to find out if they can be winners, too.

The new video slots that are the fastest growing segment of the casino industry have accomplished something that few games ever have before. They make players feel like they're winning, even when they're not.

How do they do it? Partly through easily attainable bonus rounds that are entertaining and fun to play. And partly by giving the player at least some return on a much larger percentage of spins than is possible on a traditional three-reel slot machine. Many of those returns are smaller than the player's bet, but they still make players feel like they're winning.

They are winning more often than on three-reel slots. But are they winning more money?

No.

We have a couple of different ways of looking at slot paybacks. One is the hit frequency, which tells you what percentage of spins will give you at least some payback. The other way is the payback percentage, which tells what percentage of the money wagered is returned to players.

Video slots have a much higher hit frequency than reel-spinning slots. On video Wheel of Fortune, for example, the hit frequency exceeds 50 percent. The player wins something on more than 50 percent of all spins. That's more than triple, and in some cases quadruple, the hit frequency you'll find on reel-spinners. However, on reel-spinners, nearly all wins are for more than the wager. Not so on a multiline, multicoin video game, where a five-coin "win" does little to offset a 45-coin wager.

The payback percentage is another matter. In the long run, we win no more money on video slots than on reel-spinners. In fact, we often win less.

The biggest share of play on video slots is for nickels. Since most new gaming jurisdictions never put in nickel reel slots, we can make an easy comparison. In July, the most recent Illinois Gaming Board statistics available that break down slot paybacks by coin denomination, nickel slot payback percentages ranged from a low of 89.6 percent at Empress in Joliet to a high of 92.8 percent at Casino Queen in East St. Louis. Returns on quarter slots ranged from a low of 92.3 percent at Hollywood in Aurora to a high of 94.3 percent at Casino Queen.

Note that the nickel slots, which are video games, run about 2 percent lower in payback percentage than the quarter slots, which are mostly reel-spinners.

Experienced players may say, "Wait a minute. Isn't that just a denomination thing? Nickels pay less than quarters, quarters less than dollars and dollars less than five-dollar machines, right?"

That has long been the case. But video slots are different in all their multiline, multicoin glory. A player who bets maximum coins on a 45-coin nickel video slot is wagering $2.25, not only more than a quarter player can wager on a two- or three-coin reel-spinner, but more than a dollar player wagers when betting two coins at a time.

Some customers may wager only a nickel at a time, betting one payline, but those players are more than balanced out by others betting multiple coins. Casino slot directors have told me that, on the average, players are betting 15 to 20 coins per spin. That's 75 cents to $1, still more than quarter players wager on a three-coin reel-spinner.

That's all borne out in statistics that show that in new gaming jurisdictions, the average nickel slot machine earns more money per day for the casino than the average quarter and dollar machines.

Slot directors have found that the entertainment value of video slots is enough to keep players at the machines. Players bet more money on nickel video slots than on quarter reel-spinners, but are willing to settle for less payback.

The new equation, it seems, is that the casino doesn't need winners so much as it needs players who feel like winners.


For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski