I See Casinos Changing the Payouts – Why Should I Believe You?

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Double Diamond Deluxe three-reel slot machine

We speak to people in the gaming industry quite often, whether it be the makers of games, the casinos that buy them, or those that test them. But despite our sharing the facts, some people are certain we’re wrong. Here’s one example:

I’ve seen them physically turn off payouts in banks of machines several times in a casino in Mississippi. A floor lady walked over to a control panel within my eyeshot, keyed in something after giving me and the lady next to me some dirty looks (we were both playing machines that played music when they hit, and we were both playing TWO machines, as the entire bank was humming).

The lady got upset, went over to the machine, keyed something in, and instantly turned off all 4 machines, which had been happily feeding us payoffs for some time before her arrival. It wasn’t a coincidence, as instantly all four machines ceased payoffs. Not one hit again. We continued to play for several more minutes, but arrived separately at the conclusion she had killed them. (We weren’t together, but arrived at the same conclusion.)

Once more on the same trip the same lady turned off another machine paybacks. Although it was a separate bank, it was within eyeshot of her little magic monitoring station and I had the displeasure of watching her furiously type in her machine, glancing my direction, as a crowd had gathered because my machine was doing some fantastic bonuses and payouts. She nodded, slammed her little hooded station shut and locked it, then strutted away, and my machine had it’s death throes. So, yes, they still can turn them on and off, at least in Biloxi.

GuinJ

Objectively this is good storytelling – it’s a compelling narrative. But based on your single casino trip and decided distrust of a single woman, you’re declaring the following:

  • That a random casino employee would be empowered to decide how much and how often a slot would pay, not the higher ups and the bean counters that have numbers they have to hit.
  • That this person personally cared that you and others in a given bank of machines were winning and had the personal drive that you shouldn’t have this sort of outcome, unlike what we normally see in casinos that the staff want to see you win. Maybe they’d dislike a player for not tipping a slot attendant after a handpay?
  • That these staff members can make changes to a payout on a slot machine or bank of machines without opening it, and the machine requires no reset or reboot after doing so.

Unfortunately, what you’re proposing simply isn’t happening. It is just coincidence, and you’re looking for the boogie man (or woman, in this case) that you can blame for what is just the ups and downs of slots.

We’ve never encountered people in the gaming industry who actively want to see players lose. Are games designed with a house edge? Do casinos want to ultimately win money? Sure. 

But we see all sorts of examples of game designers trying to put a bit more money into the payouts in various ways. Those at the casino want to be able to showcase winners, whether marketing touting jackpots, slot attendants helping handpay winners, etc. 

There are certainly going to be people who don’t like their job, but they don’t have tools to take it out on players who are winning. And while your anecdote is certainly interesting just from the sheer storytelling aspect of it, you don’t actually have any evidence that anything changed on your machine, but you’re convinced because of 2 specific experiences. 

What would happen if angry lady came around after a rough patch and then you started winning? Somehow I don’t think you’d give her credit for this. Most of the stories we hear like this tend to be about why we lost, not why we won. 

Players search for reasons as to why we suddenly start losing, and the answer is simple – the games are designed, over time, to win money from players. 

It’s important to remember that the winning moments on slot machine are a part of the overall set of outcomes that are built into the same game that has a house advantage overall built in. Winners are part of the plan! And so are losing streaks that can happen on such a game. So to your point that you and others didn’t win for several minutes, that’s such a small number of spins in what is a long term expected payback of a slot that often can take millions of spins to achieve.

It’s also important to remember that commercial casinos like those in Biloxi, where this was said to have been witnessed, have gaming regulations they must conform to, as do the game makers that make the games that are installed there.

Games are tested in all sorts of ways to ensure they meet the rules and the fairness that they state they do. Casinos don’t have unilateral control over their machines, even though they may own the games on their floor. They can’t set payouts below certain numbers, they can only change them in certain ways, and they must be transparent about all of this with the gaming commission. Here’s an example of some direct language from the Mississippi state gaming commission about changing payouts:

Rule 3.1 Changes to payout percentage. (a). The theoretical payback percentage of a gaming device must not be capable of being changed without making a hardware or software change in the device.

Mississippi Gaming Commission

The key words here are “in the device,” which means external changes don’t meet regulations. The machine has to be opened up to make the change.

Even if changes to payback were made, which they weren’t, that doesn’t mean you’d suddenly start losing. Players can win, or lose, on any payback level. Dead spins are possible on any game at any payback level, and jackpots can be available on any payback level as well. So making changes alone wouldn’t necessarily yield the outcome you’re describing.

We’re sorry that you had a negative experience, but we can put your mind at ease that there wasn’t an employee running around and sabotaging your game experience. What you encountered instead is the standard variance all of us do when playing slot machines.

Have a question? Submit yours here!


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10 Replies to “I See Casinos Changing the Payouts – Why Should I Believe You?”

  • Joan says:

    Brian, I was very impressed with your very informative and thorough explanation to the upset gambler in Biloxi. You certainly know your stuff and I love reading Flip The Switch. Keep up the great work. Go Team B.C.

  • Brandon S says:

    I work as a game software engineer and due to gaming laws much of the payouts are hard coded. No one besides OSM (original software manufacturer) is able to change it. A few games have adjustable RTP. That is brick and mortar casino slots. Online casinos are an entirely different story.

    • FlipTheSwitch.com says:

      Thanks for sharing from a game developer’s viewpoint, Brandon! We don’t think a lot of people realize how much regulations and game design impact what is even possible.

  • Twila Lintz says:

    Brian, Thank you for your detailed informative explanation to the unhappy gambler. I live in Las Vegas and have always believed when it’s your turn to win, you will win. If it’s not your turn, have fun then go home.

  • Susan Fawcett says:

    Excellent writing on this topic! Thanks to the BCSLOTS team for creating ‘Flip the Switch.’ Now that I have a long weekend, I can hopefully catch up with all of the articles you’ve already written! That is a lot of content!

    • FlipTheSwitch.com says:

      Thanks Susan! That’s the great thing about the site – it’s always there when you are looking for something to read. Happy holidays to you!

  • Peggy says:

    Enjoyed the reply on this article. I understand the lady’s frustration and feeling that the machines were turned off. However, I have always felt that a machine is only going to pay so much and then it is going to start taking it back. It is at that time that it is time to find another machine. Just like life, happiness doesn’t last forever, neither does a hot machine. Happy New Year 2024.

    • FlipTheSwitch.com says:

      The games are designed with a long-term house edge, so they will over time collect money for the casino – they’re designed to do it – so nothing wrong with locking in a win and moving on!

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