Slot Switches: The Inside Story
Q Do casinos "flip a switch" to make their slot machines pay more? Do casinos "reprogram" their machines to pay out more jackpots at certain time of the day or on certain days of the week?
A No casinos do not. Here’s why:
The heart of a modern slot machine is a computer device called a Random Number Generator, or RNG. The RNG randomly selects numbers in a particular range, usually zero to a few billion. Each number in the range corresponds to a unique combination of symbols on the slot’s reels. The RNG never stops working. Every millisecond a new number is selected, one after another.
When you put a coin in the slot and push the spin button (or pull the handle), the number that happens to be on the RNG at that moment is delivered to a mechanism that controls the reels. They spin and give the impression that the contest has yet to be decided, but in fact it’s all over. The symbols that appear simply reflect the number selected by the RNG.
So, the RNG controls the frequency of jackpots. A casino can purchase a machine with an RNG that is loose, tight, or anywhere in between, but once the RNG is set, then it's tough for a casino to change. Why? Because each machine is tested, approved, and certified to pay a particular way by a gaming commission or other regulatory authority.
For example... In Nevada, every slot machine MUST pay back at least 75% over time. In Atlantic City the payback percentage is 83%. Most slots pay in the neighborhood of 90% over time, but the point here is that regulatory agencies do not allow a casino to flip a switch and change the payback percentage. The regulators want to reliably know that machine #xxxxx will operate in X manner and will pay back X percentage over time. No surprises. No mysteries.
And how do the regulators enforce the rules? Let's look at how the process is handled in New Jersey...
Every RNG in Atlantic City is individually certified and sealed by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement. A casino CANNOT change a machine's payback unless the casino does the following...
The casino makes an application to the DGE.
The machine is opened under DGE supervision.
The DGE breaks the processor's seal and supervises the program/chip replacement.
The DGE creates a new seal, and re-certifies the machine.
The Division of Gaming Enforcement maintains a database of every slot machine in the state of New Jersey. The specific payback percentage of every machine is part of that database. Every RNG is numbered and tracked.
The above procedures are typical for most regulatory agencies throughout the U.S.
If a casino wants looser (or tighter) slots... then it must pull the old machines and replace them with new/alternate machines that have also been certified. That's why it's a good idea to track loose machines by numbers. You can quickly identify them if they're moved.
So rest assured, a loose machine on Tuesday will still be loose the following Saturday. The casino is NOT flipping switches.
One caveat to the above information. It doesn’t apply to slot machines that are unregulated (illegal), and it doesn’t necessarily apply to slot machines in countries outside the United States.
If you’re playing those machines, then you’re on your own.
Want more info on slots and how to quickly identify loose machines? Get the the Unofficial Guide to Casino Gambling. It's available in the SmarterBet.com online bookstore.
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