Are Slots Tighter in Las Vegas?

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Brian Christopher at the Harry Reid airport in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a popular market for slot machines, and a player wants to know how good the situation is there for players:

Are slot machines “tighter” or harder to win in Vegas? We win a lot at home, but always lose in Vegas. Next to no bonuses on the same games we play at home. Cindy

Being a commercial casino market, we have some information to work with, although it’s high level. The Nevada Gaming Commission publishes monthly payback data based on groupings in terms of the casinos’ locations, such as the strip, downtown, etc.

Generally speaking, based on that data, the strip has the lowest paybacks for slots, followed by downtown. Off strip properties, especially ones serving locals, tend to have the best payouts.

But that isn’t the whole story, as these broad groupings group a bunch of casinos together. It wouldn’t be a bad assumption to assume that those properties that are part of a chain are many times going to pay at least a bit less than independent casinos that are fighting hard to get player loyalty.

You can take a look at how a casino pays back in other ways to get a sense of their payback philosophy, even if you can’t see slot payback information on the machine:

  • Does a casino offer good video poker tables? 
  • Do they offer 3:2 Blackjack at reasonable minimums? 
  • Do they offer single zero roulette or even double zero roulette at decent stakes vs. the triple zero roulette that many strip casinos are now offering?

All of these are more public indicators of payout – casinos that are chipping away at player-friendly rules across the board are probably doing the same thing on slot machines.

Having said all of this, we don’t know where you’re from, and whether your home casinos are better or worse than a given part of Vegas. If your home casino is owned by the same companies that own casinos in Vegas, it is likely that they’ll be similar in both places. 

We spoke with someone in the know from a major casino corporation, who says they tend to set their floors up the same so the experience is similar regardless of which property of theirs you visit, which makes sense.

But if you have a local or regional casino in a competitive area, it’s very well possible the one at home pays better. Las Vegas is a tourist destination, and for the same reasons a casino can get away with selling 20 oz. bottles of Diet Pepsi for $6.29 (we’re looking at you Mandalay Bay), they can get away with shaving a bit off the slot machine paybacks relative to other places.

But players who know also do their best to escape the strip for better opportunities. Even picking the right casinos downtown using those rule of thumbs we’ve outlined above may find themselves doing just a little bit better, and that can change the experience.

And keep in mind that as slots get more volatile, a session or a few in Vegas can go horribly wrong without payback being any different, because the games are designed to payout bigger amounts, less often, and if you haven’t noticed, a LOT of slot machines in Vegas have been replaced with these newer options in recent years.

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