by Matt Bourie
Everyone wants to know how they can win more often when it comes to playing slot machines, and many look to payback percentages as a good tool for predicting a winning slot machine.
However, it’s a much more nuanced tool than the general public might think, and it’s important to understand these statistics, and how you might be able to use them to your advantage.
Let’s take a look at some slot machine payback percentages to understand how they work, and how they might affect your next trip to the casino.
What It Means
Payback percentage refers to all the money bet in a slot machine that is returned back to the players. As a simple example, if a slot machine takes in $1,000 and returns $950 to the players, then that machine would have a payback percentage of 95%.
In reality, each machine in a casino has its own payback percentage which is programmed into a computer chip in the slot and it is a long-term number that will be realized over the life of the machine. This means that the longer the machine is played, the closer the actual payback percentage will be to the amount that it has been programmed for.
During the course of a few hundred, or even thousands, of spins anything can happen on a slot machine, including losing money for the casino! However, after several hundred thousand, or millions, of spins, the law of averages kicks in and the slot machine will pretty much end up paying out close to what it was programmed to do.
The problem for slot machine players is that when they play a machine they have no idea what that machine is programmed to pay back to the public. Casinos don’t tell the players this information and there is nothing displayed on the machine to tell players what it might be.
So, what can a slot machine player do to find which slots might be programmed to pay back at a higher rate?
Well, it turns out that many states actually release information on the payback percentages of slot machines at all casinos within that state. However, the information released is always based on the denomination of the machines rather than revealing each individual machine’s payback percentage.
This means that you would only be able to see the average of what all slot machines in a particular denomination paid back to the public and you won’t be able to see what any one individual slot machine returned to the public.
How to Find Slot Machine Payback Percentages
The americancasinoguidebook.com website compiles information on slot machine payback percentages for casinos in all U.S. states and it posts them here – https://www.americancasinoguidebook.com/slot-machine-payback-statistics.html
When you visit that page you will see that some states release information on their slot machine payback percentages, while some states keep that information hidden from public view.
And, for those states that do release their information there are differences in how it it is compiled. In some states, such as New Jersey and its Atlantic City casinos, the information is compiled for individual casinos and it only gives the average payback percentage for all of the machines at each casino.
For example, the information below, provided by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, covers the average electronic gaming machine payout percentages for the 12-month period from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020:
So, if you were heading to Atlantic City to play some slots you might want to use this information to play at the casino that has the highest payback percentages for their machines and avoid playing at the casino with the lowest average returns. In looking at the statistics you can see that Harrah’s average return at 91.70% is almost 1.7% higher than at the Ocean Resort Casino.
In Nevada, the slot machine payback percentages are not released for individual casinos. Instead, they are released by geographic area. For example, here is information showing slot payback percentages for the greater Las Vegas area’s casino for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2019 and ending June 30, 2020:
1¢ Slot Machines
The Strip – 88.38%
Downtown – 88.97%
Boulder Strip – 90.49%
N. Las Vegas – 90.51%
5¢ Slot Machines
The Strip – 91.62%
Downtown – 93.14%
Boulder Strip – 96.32%
N. Las Vegas – 96.10%
25¢ Slot Machines
The Strip – 89.06%
Downtown – 93.52%
Boulder Strip – 95.18%
N. Las Vegas – 96.21%
$1 Slot Machines
The Strip – 92.00%
Downtown – 93.72%
Boulder Strip – 94.93%
N. Las Vegas – 94.88%
$1 Megabucks Machines
The Strip – 86.01%
Downtown – 86.48%
Boulder Strip – 86.96%
N. Las Vegas – 85.36%
All Slot Machines
The Strip – 91.81%
Downtown – 92.16%
Boulder Strip – 94.05%
N. Las Vegas – 93.08%
The highest-paying returns are shown in bold print and, as you can see, the machines in downtown Las Vegas always pay out more than those located on the Las Vegas Strip, but even better returns can be found at the “locals casino” that are located in the Boulder Strip and N. Las Vegas areas.
The most dramatic difference between the best and worst returns can be found in the quarter slot games, where those on the Strip average a return of 89.06%, while those same quarter games located at N. Las Vegas casinos returned an average of 96.21% Amazingly, that is more than a 7% difference between those two averages. Of course, a smart casino gambler would be wise to use this slot machine payback information to get better returns on their gambling dollar by playing at the “locals casinos” when visiting the Las Vegas area.
Finally, we can take a look at the states where slot payback information is compiled for each individual casino, plus for all of the slots in each denomination at that particular casino.
As an example, the below is information is provided by the Connecticut Division of Special Revenue and it gives us information concerning Foxwoods’ slot machine payback percentages:
These figures reflect the total percentages returned by each denomination of slot machine from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.
Below is information provided by the Connecticut’s Division of Special Revenue concerning Mohegan Sun‘s slot payback percentages for that same time period:
In looking at the slot machine payback percentages for the two Connecticut casinos you can see that there is really not much difference in the average payback percentage for either casino in each denomination of slot machine.
What you can discern from these statistics, however, is that basically, the higher the denomination of the slot machine, the higher the payback percentage. We have been writing about slot machine payback percentages for more than 25 years and we would have to agree that this is a basic truth about slot machine payback percentages.
Whenever you go to a casino you can be sure that the penny slot machines will have the lowest payback percentages, usually around 84% to 88%; quarters would be next highest, around 89% to 92%; dollars around 92% to 94%; five dollar slots around 93% to 95%; etc. The lone exception to this rule might be for nickels, where sometimes they pay out at a slightly higher rate than quarters. Other than that one exception, you can be pretty sure that casinos always set their payback percentages based on this one rule: the higher the denomination, the higher the payback percentage.
Now, if you think about this from the perspective of the casino, then you can probably understand why this is done.
A casino sets aside a certain amount of space for a slot machine and their expenses are basically the same, regardless of the machine’s denomination. However, the average bet made on each machine will probably vary by denomination. Meaning that the higher the denomination of the slot machine, the higher the average bet that will be made on that machine.
So, if the average bet on a penny slot machine is 80 cents, and the average bet on a quarter slot machine is $1.50, then the casino must take a higher percentage of the 70-cent bet to cover its costs.
As an example, an 85% payback on a penny machine with an average bet of 80 cents would generate 12 cents in profit for the casino on each play. However, for a quarter slot machine with an average bet of $1.50, the casino could afford to raise the payback percentage to 92% because at that rate the casino would still be generating the same 12 cents in profit, simply because the average bet is higher.
So, knowing this basic rule about slot machine payback percentages can it be used to help you win more often on slots? Actually, it can!
The best way to use this information about higher denomination slot machines having higher payback percentages is when it comes to deciding which denomination machine you should play based on your average bet.
For example, you’ve probably seen people playing penny slot machines and hitting the max bet button on each spin. That can easily result in bets of $3 to $10 per spin, depending on the machine, but let’s just say that the average max bet on a penny machine is $6. Since penny slots have an average return of about 88% that means the casino is making an average of 72 cents per spin.
However, at an average bet of $6 per spin, these same slot players could easily to move up to quarters or, even dollars and get a better return on their play. On a quarter machine with an average return of 91%, the expected loss per spin would be only 54 cents, and on a $1 machine, with an average return of 93%, the expected loss would be even lower at 42 cents.
So, if your average bet is high enough, rather than always playing penny slots, be sure to look into playing a higher denomination slot to help lower the casino advantage against you.
This should definitely help to make your gambling bankroll last longer and also allow you to spend more time playing your favorite slot games.
And, with a little bit of luck, all that extra time you spend playing your favorite slot machines could result in you hitting more jackpots. Good luck and have fun!
Matt Bourie is the editor of the American Casino Guide book. He has been writing about casinos for more than 12 years and he also co-hosts the American Casino Guide YouTube channel which has had more than 40 million views. A new video is released each month that discusses a new casino gambling topic and you can subscribe for FREE at https://www.youtube.com/americancasinoguide
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