In the United States, the public and private availability of slot machines is highly regulated by state governments. Many states have established gaming control boards to regulate the possession and use of slot machines. Nevada is the only state that has no significant restrictions against slot machines both for public and private use. In New Jersey, slot machines are only allowed in hotel-casinos operated in Atlantic City. Several states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri) allow slot machines (as well as any casino-style gambling) only on licensed riverboats or permanently anchored barges. For a list of state by state regulations on private slot machine ownership, see U.S. state slot machine ownership regulations.
Native American casinos
Native American casinos located in reservations are not permitted to have slot machines unless the tribe first reaches a pact with the state in which it is located (per Indian Gaming Regulatory Act). Typically, a pact entitles the state to receive a percentage of the gross revenue from slot machines.
Slot machine classes
Some states have restrictions on the type (called “class”) of slot machines that can be used in a casino or other gaming area. “Class III” (or “traditional”) slot machines operate independently from a centralized computer system and a player’s chance of winning any payout is the same with every play. Class III slots are most often seen in Nevada or Atlantic City and are sometimes referred to as “Vegas-style slots”.
“Class II” slot machines (also known as “Video Lottery Terminals” or “VLTs”) are connected to a centralized computer system that determines the outcome of each wager. In this way, Class II slot machines mimic scratch-off lottery tickets in that each machine has an equal chance of winning a series of limited prizes. Either class of slot machines may or may not have a player skill element.
Some Class II game characteristics 1) The player is playing against other players and competing for a common prize. 2) There is certain to be a winner in each game. The game continues until there is a winner. 3) In a given set there are a certain number of wins and loses. Once a certain combination has happened it cannot happen again until a new batch is initiated. This is most obvious in scratch card games that come in a pack. Once a card has been pulled those winning combinations cannot occur again until a new pack of cards is installed. One game is dependent on previous games. 4) The player must be an active participant. They must recognize events as they occur and must recognize when they have won and announce their winning. Bingo is an excellent example here. 5) All players play from the same set of numbers as they are announced.
Some Class III game characteristics 1) The player is playing against the house. 2) There is a very real possibility that the player may lose the game. 3) Each game is independent of previous games. Any possible outcome can occur in any game. 4) Wins are announced automatically.
In general a game must have all characteristics of a Class II game to be a Class II game. Any characteristic of a Class III game makes it a Class III game. The casino pays a fee to the state for each Class III game and can only purchase so many Class III licenses. There is no such restriction for Class II games. Class II games are not so nearly regulated by the state.
Many American casinos offer free memberships in “slot clubs”, which return a small percentage of the amount of money that is bet in the form of “comps” (complimentary food, drinks, hotel rooms, or merchandise), or sometimes as cash back (sometimes with a restriction that the cash be redeemed at a later date). These clubs require that players use a card that is inserted into the slot machine, to allow the casino to track the player’s “action” (how much the player bets and for how long), which is often used to establish a level of play that may make a player eligible for additional comps. Comps or cash back from these clubs can make a significant difference in the maximum theoretical return when playing slot machines over a long period of time.
Row of slot machines inside Las Vegas airport.
Generally referred to as poker machines or pokies, but officially known as ‘Gaming Machines’, Australia has one of the highest concentration of poker machines per head of population in the world, with changes in regulations leading to a profusion of poker machine venues across the country. Various objectors, including many branches of the clergy and also charities for the poor, have criticized the spread of the machines, as they claim that it has led to a huge rise in the levels of “problem gambling” – gambling to a level that causes financial and social stress to the gambler and their families, as well as the general levels of gambling.
Australian-style poker machines use video displays to simulate (usually) five physical reels. These machines also have additional bonusing and second-screen features such as free games and bonus levels. They also allow for multiple lines (up to 50) or multiple ways (up to 243 ways) to be played. This higher level of complexity has meant that greater revenues can be obtained by operators, but also that the potential for problem gambling to develop is increased.
Poker machines are found in casinos (approximately one in each major city) as well as pubs and clubs (usually sports, social, or RSL clubs). This greater accessibility is also seen as a potential contributor to problem gambling.
The first Australian state to legalize this style of gambling was New South Wales in 1956 when they were made legal in all registered clubs in the state.
Laws governing gambling in Australia are controlled at the state level and as such, they vary from state to state. In the state of Queensland gaming machines in pubs and clubs must provide a return rate of 60% while machines located in casinos must provide a return rate of 90%.
Queen of the Nile (manufactured by Aristocrat), one of the most popular Australian poker machine games, also very popular in some American casinos
Slot machines are usually known as fruit machines and AWP (Amusement with Prizes) in Britain. Fruit machines are commonly found in pubs, clubs, arcades, and some take-away food shops. These machines commonly have 3 or 6 reels with around 16 or 24 fruit symbols printed around them. These reels are spun, and if certain combinations of fruit appear, winnings are paid from the machine, or subgames are played. These are very similar to slot machines seen in casinos and elsewhere around the world, but the term “fruit machine” is usually applied to a type of machine more commonly found in pubs and arcades. These games have lots of extra features, trails and subgames with opportunities to win money, usually more than can be won from just the reels. However, the jackpots from these fruit machines are strictly limited.
Currently in the UK, the cost of an individual game may not exceed 50p. The maximum payout for a individual game depends on the type and the location of the machine, but is typically £25 in pubs where people under the age of 18 are not allowed entry. It is known for machines to payout multiple jackpots, one after the other (this is known as a streak) but each jackpot requires a new game to be played so as not to circumvent the maximum payout. The minimum payout percentage is 70% in Britain, with pubs often setting the payout at around 78%. Private members clubs are allowed “club machines”, which have higher jackpots and are allowed to charge more per game.
These machines also operate in a different fashion to American slot machines; whereas slots are programmed to pay a percentage over the long-run, there is no reason why a jackpot cannot be paid straight after one has already been won – this is because over the long-run the percentage payout will be the same. However, in the UK, a fruit machine takes on an amount above its payout percentage before winning, so if a payout is 95%, a machine will make the player lose £10 before paying out £9.50. As such, it is sensible to watch for people playing these machines but not winning as the likelihood of a win increases. This, however, is called Sharking.
This type of fruit machine is popular across Europe (in the countries where they are legal), and very popular in countries such as the Czech Republic, Russia, and Ukraine.
It has been alleged by the Fairplay campaign that UK fruit machines employ fraudulent techniques in which gambles and chances which appear to be random are in fact pre-determined and cannot be affected by player choices. 1
…at this point, you’ll have gambled the win up to £25. However, the machine doesn’t want you to gamble any further. If from the 5 you select “High”, the machine will spin in a 3 and you’ll lose. If, on the other hand, you select “Low”, the machine will spin in a 9 and you’ll lose…
The claims centre around the emulation of fruit machine hardware on computers, which allow for the machines RAM state to be saved at a particular point and replayed making a different choice. The fruit machine industry has hit back at the allegations. Currently the issue has supposedly been considered by the UK Gaming Board (now the Gambling Commission) and warning notices and possibly modifications are to be put in place, though it is unclear as to whether this has happened. This is infact the law now in the UK and all machines carry a warning notice informing the user that the machine may at times offer the player a choice in which they have no possible chance to win.
Japan has a relatively new involvement in slot machines, roughly since after the American occupation during the World War II era. Most machines can be found in Pachinko parlors and the adult sections of amusement arcades, known as game centers.
The machines are regulated with IC chips, and has six different levels changing the odds of a “777”. The levels provide a rough outcome of between 90% to an astonishing 160% (200% if using skills). Indeed, the Japanese slot machines are “beatable”.
Despite the many varieties of the machines, there are certain rules and regulations put forward by a commission. For example, there must be three reels. Also, all reels must be accompanied by buttons which stop these reels, etc.
“Hot” and “Cold” machines
Standard slot machines do not get “hot” or “cold”. The odds of hitting a winning combination are determined by a random number generator contained in the machine’s software and is exactly the same with every spin. Such slot machines are never “due to be hit” if they haven’t paid out a jackpot in a while. (Exception: UK-style AWP machines are progressive which means chances of winning will increase over time if the machine has not paid any wins out. Many also “force” wins on players in order to meet the payout percentage).
There is a science to the placement of slot machines on the gaming floor, but the highest paying machines are not necessarily placed in high-traffic areas. Typically, machines of similar payback percentages are grouped together, with 1% or less difference from machine to machine in the group.
- In most jurisdictions, casinos cannot alter the machine’s payout percentage by time of day, day of week, or remotely via a computer.
- Using a slot club card does not affect the machine’s payout percentage. The card just allows the casino to keep track of the amount wagered by a player and issue complimentaries accordingly.
- You leave a machine. Another player comes up and immediately hits a jackpot. You think, “If I had played just one more time, I would have won that jackpot.”
- A machine returns a higher jackpot for playing more coins. You play fewer coins, and a winning combination appears. You think, “If I had played more coins, I would have won more money.”
In both cases, you did not “miss” an opportunity to win. The results of modern slot machines depend on exactly when you play them. It is very unlikely in either case that you would have received the same result if you had played just one more time or just one more coin.