Do Multi-Denomination Slot Machines Pay Out Differently?

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Dragon Link Autumn Moon slot denominations

In a recent post on our Facebook page, we shared a bit of advice (internally we call them “Flip Tips”) as part of our content:

Wondering what denom to play? Higher denoms will generally pay a bit more in the long run, but don’t bet above your bankroll. Penny slots are fine if that’s what your budget allows!

Flip The Switch Facebook page

A reader replied with the following:

Machines that let you change Denom vs forced Denom have different payouts, It’s laid out in the monthly Nevada Gaming Commission reports.

Big Jackpot Winter

It is indeed true that multi-denomination slots are broken out into a separate bucket on the payback reporting posted by the Nevada Gaming Commission. But Nevada reporting needs to be read with the proper context.

What a “Multi-Denomination” Line Means

Having a separate line item for multi-denomination machines doesn’t necessarily mean the machines pay differently at a given denomination than a single denomination machine. Instead, it’s the roll-up average of all multi-denomination machines, including high and low limit, slots and Video Poker/Keno (many often forget Video Poker/Keno is part of payback reporting for electronic machines), across a group of casinos in a geographic area (since in Nevada they don’t report about individual casino payouts).

A machine that offers six denominations will likely have different payback settings at different levels. We’ve seen two ways a machine can be configured (and there’s likely more): One offers a casino the option to set a payback option at each denomination level. Another lets them select an option that sets paybacks on a slightly increasing journey as each denomination step up occurs.

In the former approach, a casino could theoretically set the machine to roughly the same payout for every denomination (what we’ve heard some dub a “lazy” approach). Many casinos will build in step-ups as the denomination increases. It may not step up every time a denomination increases, but certainly shifts as line counts change, for instance.

With the latter approach, the step-ups are already built into the game, so the payout naturally increases as the denomination increases.

Data is a Snapshot in Time

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to data reporting and multi-denomination machines is it’s payback data based on what was played. And on a multi-denomination machine that can have a larger impact.

If a machine is set higher payback on a higher denomination, but is mostly played at a lower denomination, it’s going to impact the data differently than a machine where the higher denominations are played more. 

The data will be less useful in these cases as it’s not clear from the reporting what denominations are played more, and therefore less useful in helping to calculate the payback on a multi-denomination machine. This unfortunately works less in our favor when it comes to transparency, and unless changes to reporting are made in the future it will only get worse.

Different Data Doesn’t Invalidate Our Advice

With the inability to see how casinos are configuring multi-denomination machines, and having a massive rolled up average being the only thing reported, it doesn’t negate the advice we give – generally speaking, as a denomination increases, so does the overall payback percentage. This is true of both moving to a higher denomination single denomination machine vs. stepping up in denomination on a multi-denomination machine.

Just because a multi-denomination number looks different than a single denomination number, you aren’t walking up to a multi-denomination machine, regardless of denom or location (low or high limit), and all bets on any multi-denom machine pay that percentage. So comparing the two isn’t really that helpful anyway, because the data is just more obfuscated in blending all machines of this type together.

The general opinion is as bets increase, the payback needs to be tweaked upward to reflect that higher cash flowing through a machine. When you step up in denomination, the bet ranges also tend to increase. While a casino can take that “lazy” approach of setting all denominations lower, it still doesn’t mean the advice is wrong to players in general, because many casinos will still step up the payouts as denominations increase.

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