Do Casinos Own or Lease Slot Machines?

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Vanna White on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine

There seems to be a subset of the player base that are curious about the economics of casinos. Many questions focus on the ownership of the slots themselves. For instance:

Do Casinos buy the slot machines or lease them?



Do the casinos own the slot machines or do they contract with slot machines companies and share the revenue? If so do slot machines companies bid for locations on the slot floor?

James H.


I would like to know more about the slot manufacturer and casino relationship. Do casinos lease machines or buy them? If a slot hits a progressive does the manufacturer receive a percentage?

Christine N.

Each one of these questions sort of tinker with different ways slots can be acquired, but all three ideas are in play. There are three main ways a casino gets a slot machine on a casino floor:

  • Purchase: Casinos can purchase certain games, effectively making a one-time payment to have the game indefinitely on the casino floor.
  • Lease: Casinos pay a daily fee, which can vary based on the title and its popularity, to have a game on the casino floor. Some games can be both purchased and leased, letting casinos decide which direction they wish to go with it.
  • Participation: Casinos share in the revenues with a slot manufacturer. This is more rare but the game types where this would come into play are pretty generally those with the massive progressives, such as Megabucks.

Slot manufacturers release a wide range of games for both the purchase and lease markets to offer casinos options in both categories (manufacturers will often call purchase options as “core” products and lease or participation games as “premium” products). Casinos will traditionally have a budget and can only lease and buy a certain number of machines at a time, so you’ll often see a limited number of games with popular licensing and so on.

Do you like to play the shiny new slots?

But casinos have been investing in more new machines in the past couple of years, and it makes sense why, if our player poll on Brian Christopher’s YouTube channel is any indication: Almost half of you like to try new slots, and another third play a mix of the old and the new. So that’s a lot of players looking for these games to play!

One reason why you see popular theme games disappear faster from casino floors (think games like Wonka, Monopoly or Wheel of Fortune) is that with leased games, they have to continue to perform to justify the lease. The combination of new games coming out and older games often losing popularity means a quicker life cycle.

As to whether game makers bid for locations, it’s more about whether a game maker can convince a casino to do something with a space. For instance, Aristocrat, which makes the Lightning Link games and their cousins, have encouraged casinos to develop Lightning Link lounges to offer a larger number of the games to draw in players, which seems to have worked in some locations – the one by us at Agua Caliente tends to always be busy.

We’ve also seen certain themed games basically own a casino floor position for long periods of time. At Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, Wheel of Fortune has occupied a certain area of the casino floor for many years – at one point a giant installation with a massive wheel was in place, eventually replaced with a couple of carousels of slots that have evolved over time, but have always been Wheel of Fortune machines.

Ultimately, casinos have the final say in what they put on the floor, and data always wins out – it’s going to be a combination of economics, player popularity and learning from what’s working at other casinos (installing the hot new game that is taking off elsewhere), and then making continual adjustments as player interests evolve.

To that last question about progressives, if a casino banks a machine in house, it’s likely an owned or leased machine, meaning the manufacturer makes their money off that sale or lease. If it’s a wide area progressive game, it is more likely to be a participation game, as the progressive is offered and paid for by the slot maker, and they do so in part because they participate in the revenue earned.

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