Are Slot Machines Getting Tighter? A Conversation

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As a follow-up to articles we’ve written here on the site about the evolution of slots, we spoke with the team at the American Casino Guide Book about why some of those changes are happening:

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Josh O’Connell, head writer at Flip The Switch, spoke with Steve and Matt Bourie around some of the changes that are making slots feel harder than they used to be. While machines aren’t necessarily paying lower than they used to as an overall rule, they are more volatile – and that volatility plays a lot into whether a session will be a winning one or not.

Our conversation was based on some of the points shared in our article about why our money isn’t lasting as long as it used to on slots. There’s a number of core reasons for it, all of which contribute:

  • Bet requirements, both minimum and maximum bets, are growing. Growing bets means more money wagered in a period of time, and more money being exposed to the house edge on a game. Slot already have a high house advantage, so spending more money on them will simply, on average, increase the amount casinos make.
  • Games are getting faster. The speed at which the reels spin and stop, the speed at which they count up, and other design decisions all get a player set to make their next spin faster, and that’s not even counting in players who choose to speed stop the reels.
  • Bigger prizes are available, but are harder to get. This is the volatility aspect – for game makers to add these bigger bonuses, bonus upgrades, Grand progressive jackpots, that money has to come from somewhere, and that’s some of the pays made along the way. Shifting money to harder to reach places makes bigger winners, less often.

Two different sources we’ve spoken to in the past year have indicated that a winning slot session is happening somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the time. That means one winning session somewhere around every five or six slots, and that’s an average. Players who report having no luck getting any machine to pay are just catching the bad side of that average, and it explains why it’s so rare to have a day at the casino where it feels like the machines are all cooperating.

Josh recently had an example where five 100x bonuses in one two hour cycle, but that’s basically all he got, so while he left up for the visit, it wasn’t up too much relative to his bet size. One or two of those bonuses not happening and he would’ve ended up down for the day. It really provides an example of how tough some of the games have become, and why it can make players feel like slots are tighter nowadays, even when overall they’re paying out a similar amount.

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4 Replies to “Are Slot Machines Getting Tighter? A Conversation”

  • Brandon wagner says:

    So would you say the older less volatile games allow for longer average play time on the exact same bank roll and if so if your not chasing grands or progressives would older slot machines provide a better security net to stay closer to even overall?

    • says:

      Hi Brandon – less volatile games generally means less crazy swings, so on average, yes. More of the money is in the line hits and come more frequently than that once in a lifetime grand jackpot.

      But it’s important to remember they’re still slots, and you can still have a bad run, so it’s not a perfect scenario. And with the house advantage baked in, we’re still expected to lose money over time.

  • Skipper bud says:

    Why do slot machines have to go so damn fast slow it down like it used to be I played in Vegas for 20 years made some money every year I went back recently nothing. I know things changed you know things changed let’s keep up the lies and people will still go back

    • says:

      The data for Vegas is published and public. If those numbers are holding steady (and they are), other things are changing, which is the point of the conversation. As such, that’s where these changes are coming from. And if you made money for 20 years on games that are designed to make money for the casino, what most likely also changed here was simply your luck. Thanks for leaving a comment!

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