Does Slot Volatility Depend on the Casino?

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Casino sign outside Golden Gate on Fremont Street

A recent comment on our post about low volatility slots yielded this as part of a longer reply, left anonymously:

I have gambled for many many years… almost 80 yrs… Volatility depends I think on the tribe… or casino in Vegas or wherever. You have to be right on with the RNG and you have to be lucky.

Flip The Switch Commenter

While it’s true your timing has something to do with it (we sure have talked that aspect up enough in the world of BCSlots), volatility is not something that depends on the casino aside from the fact that they choose to install some number of more or less volatile slots for their floor. It is instead determined by the design of the slot machine itself.

Casinos can choose their payout percentages, but that selection in and of itself is an altogether different aspect than volatility. Volatility is determined by various aspects of a slot’s design, such as:

  • Hit Frequency: How often does a slot machine pay something (anything, even false wins) out?
  • Bonus Frequency: How often, on average, is a game designed to bonus?
  • Distribution of Money: Is it more of a base game pays game, where much of the money is earned from line hits? Is it more of a bonus pay game, where much of the money is found in bonuses and features? Or is it somewhere in between?

These variables can be balanced out regardless of payback percentage, so you can have high paying, low volatility slots, low paying, high volatility slots, and so on.

So, regardless of how a casino decides to pay out across its casino floor, game choice still matters. There are games that are purposely tougher, but can pay out handsomely under the right circumstances, and there are games that rarely pay huge, but pay smaller amounts out quite a bit.

This is why we wrote our low volatility slots post to begin with – to help players who are looking for games that aren’t as tough. And this is why so many manufacturers were able to easily identify them when we asked for their suggestions – they’re lower volatility by design.

Now, some people connect volatility to the chances of leaving a winner – and having a lower payback percentage can contribute to that too. But that’s not what volatility itself is necessarily about – two slots can pay back the same over time. 

But a higher volatility slot will spread that money out differently, and it’s up to players to decide what makes the most sense for their risk appetite and bankroll.


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