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Best of John Grochowski

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Tribal slot machines

14 June 2015

QUESTION: A person I know goes to the Hard Rock Seminole casino in Tampa; she plays the $10-a-pull Wheel of Fortune slot machine. She claims she can tell when the machine is going to hit. I disagree; I say that the random number generator has already determined the outcome, so nobody knows when a machine is going to hit.

I know the machines at the Indian casinos are different, but how are they different from the Las Vegas machines? I don't know what a bingo-type machine is. I am guessing even if the type of machine is different from Las Vegas machines, a person still CANNOT tell if a machine is going to hit.

ANSWER: Most tribal casinos today, including the Hard Rocks, have Class III slot machines. Those are the same games as you’d see in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Mississippi, Illinois, Colorado – just about any of the commercial casino jurisdictions in the United States. On those games, results are determined by a random number generator, and there is no way to tell what is coming next.

Some tribal casinos have Class II games, which are bingo-based. That includes some casinos that have Class III slots with RNGs, but also have Class II games. At some, the Class IIs are holdovers from before Class III games were permitted. At others, tribal compacts with the host state limit the number of Class III slots and Class IIs are added to bring extra games to the floor.

You can recognize Class II games by a bingo logo on the screen or machine glass. Instead of each machine having its own RNG, Class II games get a bingo pattern from a central server, and then translate that pattern into slot symbols, video poker cards or some other player-friendly display.

When the server is drawing the numbers, you can watch the pattern being built on the bingo display. If you play long enough, you can get to where you recognize which patterns are going to bring you winners before the reels stop spinning.

So if what your friend meant is that on Class II games, she can push the button to start play, look at a bingo logo and know the result before it shows on the reels, then yes, this is possible. If she meant she can know what’s coming before pushing the button to start play, or that she knows what’s coming on a Class III, RNG-based machine, then no, that is not possible.


QUESTION: Are the slots in Indian casinos set for minimum payouts the same as slots in New Jersey, Mississippi and Nevada?

ANSWER: Unfortunately, that is not public information. The tribes are sovereign nations, and don't have to report their payback percentages to the public.

The tribes do negotiate a minimum payback percentage as part of their compacts with their states. Those minimums tend to be right in line with those for commercial casinos. Without doubt, machines at tribal casinos are set for payback percentages above about 80 percent. However, in competitive situations, the paybacks usually are far above the minimum. For commercial casinos, minimums include 75 percent in Nevada, 80 percent in Mississippi and 83 percent in New Jersey. But in practice, actual average paybacks in those states exceed 90 percent because of the pressures of competition.

It may well be that paybacks exceed 90 percent in tribal casinos, too. I once spoke to execs at a tribal casino in the Midwest and presented a chart showing payback percentages at nearby commercial casinos. I was told my hosts’ paybacks would be at the high end of my chart. But the hard numbers to verify that are not generally available.
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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski