Can the Casino Change How Much a Machine Pays Out?

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row of slot machines

Here’s a simple question from one of our players:

Can the casino change how much a machine pays out?

Ione S.

When a casino purchases a slot machine, they generally are able to choose from a handful (usually something around 5-6) options for what they want a slot machine to payback. 

In most modern video slot machines, the software allows for a choice to be selected in the configuration screens. (Older slots required a different chip for each payback option; casinos likely have at least some small amount of these around if they’ve been open long enough.)

So, a direct answer to your question, yes, casinos have the capability to change a game’s payouts, within the range of options provided to them by a slot manufacturer.

However, it’s not as simple as a 5 second change. Generally casinos have to open up the slot machine and change its configuration, something that is a deliberate and time consuming process. In some jurisdictions, the gaming commission has to be there; in others, two people need to be there to verify what’s being done (and that it’s being done properly), etc.

When the payback of a machine is changed, it also has to go through a new boot up and security verification process. In that way the machine confirms all is well.

In the case of being changed outside the machine, there are rules around this. In Nevada, a machine must be idle for a few minutes and have no credits in the machine for a change to be made; the machine must indicate it’s gone out of service for the change and a few minutes after as well. This would be very obvious in a casino if that were to happen.

Why are we sharing all this? Oftentimes when players ask this question, they generally want to know if casinos are tinkering all the time with payouts for whatever reason – day of the week, a player’s been winning, etc. They don’t, and generally can’t anyway. 

The reality is slots have a higher house edge than most games on the casino floor. Setting up a game and letting it get played awhile is usually a profitable endeavor for a casino, because over time that game is designed to make money for the house. 

Even if a jackpot or big progressive goes off, that’s among the expected outcomes of a game over time, and those prizes are worked into that overall expectation. 

So they don’t need to tinker – they just need to be patient, and let the machines do their work. And as such paybacks aren’t often adjusted unless a machine is being moved, or a deliberate change for a game was decided.

Instead, most machines are set up based on the casinos’ target for overall payback for a given denomination. Licensed and rented games might be a little below while bought/more traditional games might be a bit higher, but they’ll be around that range. 

And so you don’t need to worry about casinos making constant adjustments – they’re doing just fine with the number they chose.

This is why we always advise players to only use an entertainment budget and bring money they can afford to spend – the expectation is over time you’ll lose more often than you’ll win.

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2 Replies to “Can the Casino Change How Much a Machine Pays Out?”

  • Boots Phillips says:

    Hi there is a bank of a certain style game in 5 areas at our local casino. They have changed the payout on all of these- big time. I know this because no one, even in a busy Saturday night, NO ONE is playing these anymore – there was a group of us that regularly played this style and you could never get a game as they were always taken and we would all sit for hours and hours sometimes all day in the same machine. The casino took all the old style out and changed it with new software and cabinets and all of them do not pay the same as they did and it shows when you walk by these 5 banks they are dead, dead, dead and all of us players are saddened that the fun of an occasional jackpot is gone. Even the small wins gave been squelched.

    • says:

      Well Boots this isn’t a case of a casino changing how much a machine pays out, but changing machines out altogether. You don’t indicate if it’s a same or different game in those banks, nor name the game(s), so it’s harder to know what happened here, but often newer games (even new extensions/sequels of old game themes) are more volatile, and therefore are harder to hit on overall than older games, so what you’re describing isn’t necessarily surprising.

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