How Do You Know the Players Card Doesn’t Make a Difference?

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Brian holding a players card

A player recently asked how we know a players card doesn’t make a difference, elaborating that Brian should play without his card in a challenge to see how many jackpots he gets. The player also questioned why we would assume a slot machine doesn’t know how many jackpots you have, saying:

A slot machine is a computer that can read your card. It probably knows how many jackpots you have won also.

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Around doing a challenge to see, one session won’t be enough information to prove or disprove this. A slot machine’s payback is achieved over hundreds of thousands or millions of spins. 

Slots also don’t care who’s playing – that’s information above and beyond what it needs to operate, and these features simply aren’t built in to the computer. Players love to assign all sorts of things are happening because it’s a computer and it can happen, but that doesn’t mean it does happen.

But we have much better information to work with, and it comes directly from the sources – in this case, those who make the systems that would need to talk to each other to make this viable.

The Slot Manufacturers Confirm This

Slot machines are not designed to have players card systems manipulate payback settings, and cannot manipulate payback settings based on a card being in or out, or a specific player’s card being inserted. We’ve spoken with multiple slot manufacturers who have confirmed this on their side.

Slots don’t capture player data – players data sits solely in another system. They do keep track of a history of wagers and outcomes, but it’s not linking a given spin to any given player, and the game has no understanding of players inside the slot’s game design or logs. The players card system is what keeps track of players, how many wagers they’re making, etc.

Slots also work agnostically – they don’t even need a card reader system to properly operate – you don’t need to insert a card at the Harry Reid airport in Las Vegas, for instance, to play.

The Players Card System Makers Confirm This

We’ve also spoken with the companies responsible for players card systems (some are the same as the manufacturers, but there’s others beyond them) that also confirm players card systems do not have the ability to adjust payback on a slot machine based on who are playing the machines.

Players card systems are almost entirely read only – they’re reading the information that’s happening so the casino knows what a player is doing – what bet level, how many bets, how long they’re playing. The only thing players card systems will push to a machine is free play, when activated.

The Regulations Don’t Allow This

Slot machines oftentimes have very specific, and elaborate, rules in regulations around how payback settings are set and changed. In some situations, you need the gaming commission on the floor, multiple staff, paperwork has to be generated, the machine has to be opened, etc. This belies the idea that a quick electronic setting will change payback settings.

This is generally the biggest thing many struggle with: The gaming industry, because of the money involved, is highly, highly regulated.

Take Nevada. There are complex rules about when payback settings could be changed. Let’s say someone wanted to change the payback remotely and electronically, something only a small minority of casinos have the setup to do. Here are some of the things that would need to be true:

  • The machine must have been idle for at least 4 minutes.
  • The machine must not have credits in the machine.
  • The machine must be disabled while the change is being processed, and then be idle for another four minutes, meaning it remains disabled.

If you put your card in and it were to attempt to change the payback percentage, that’d be a lot of time the machine would be down – a player would be bound to notice. And yet we don’t see social media postings about a bunch of machines suddenly going out of service and so on, which is one surefire way we’d know the casinos are making changes.

Not in Nevada? Because Nevada is one of the most mature and established markets, many other markets use Nevada’s regulations as a foundation for their own, or have equally complicated scenarios to ensure fairness and security.

The Reality on Players Cards

What players who believe these ideas that paybacks can be tinkered at will ignore the most straightforward notion of things: Slot machines have among the highest house advantages in the casino, and make plenty of money without any needing to tinker with anything.

If a slot machine is holding 10 percent for the house over time, an average of $10 is won for every $100 wagered. A look at data in some markets like New York, shows the average machine wins hundreds of dollars for a casino daily. Multiply that by hundreds of machines, across 365 days a year, and a more logical question forms: Why do they need to tinker? 

The goal isn’t to take everyone’s money as quickly as possible – they want winners, ups and downs, so players feel like they got something out of the experience. They want people holding the big checks to inspire those who hope they’re next. 

All these ideas presuppose the notion that any winning is bad so we must punish them – and that works against the casinos in the long run, because they need some form of winning to give people faith that there is some sort of fairness in play.


So don’t worry about that players card hurting you. Yes, casinos know when you win jackpots, but that doesn’t mean they’re holding it against you in the form of payback on the slots. That’s not how the machines work.

Instead, remember that players cards are your ticket to earned comps and offers, something that can only be given if the casino knows you’re playing. The players card is an agreement to share information for offers and comps.

Have a question? Submit yours here!

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