Is the Casino Tight? Or is My Timing Just That Bad?

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When it’s hard to win, we often try to figure out where the breakdown occurs. Here’s an example:

I find my local casino to be VERY tight on payouts (penny games). Do you think it’s the casino? Or my timing?


It could very well be both! Here’s some things to consider.

Penny Denomination Games Typically Have Lower Paybacks

Historically, casinos have rewarded higher denomination players, who are expected to spend more money over time, with higher payback percentages. In reality, the denomination is only one component, and doesn’t fully factor in other aspects that can determine a bet, but that was the primary way casinos handled this for a long time.

More recently, some casinos have begun to look at the overall per spin bet when setting payouts instead. Some penny games can do up to $30 a spin! But since payouts are set per denomination, it’s still most likely that penny denomination will be set to a lower number.

All Payback Settings Have Big Wins

Even the lowest paying machines have the ability to hit something. Games have to be able to deliver the various payouts it promises, so whatever top progressive or top line hit has to be in there somewhere. Some states even set a limit of how low the odds for that top payout can be.

So timing will generally will have something to do with it regardless of the return to player percentage a machine is set to provide over time.

Some Casinos Pay Better Than Others

It’s fair to note that some casinos are simply more generous. For some states, the payback data is a bit more transparent than others – we previously shared a list of where some of that information can be found.

If you’re in a location where that data is available, you can review to see if you’re getting a reasonable outcome for your entertainment dollar.

Slots Are Getting Harder

Penny slots in particular have been transformed in the last number of years to be much more volatile. Bonuses are much harder to get now than, say, 10-15 years ago, with the potential for bigger wins when you do get them, but no guarantee the wins will be bigger.

As a result, only 15-20% of slot machine sessions, on average, are winners, based on recent data. And so that 1 in 5 or 6 machines that does yield a win needs to be a pretty good one to give you a chance to claw your way ahead. It doesn’t leave much room for success, and can be why many players find it harder to win nowadays.


In the case of your question, it can be the casino, your timing, the games you’re playing, but more than likely it’s a mix of all three. Penny slots have among the worst odds in the casino, but one good bonus can set things off in the right direction, so it’s certainly not impossible. It’s just not necessarily easy.

Have a question? Submit yours here!

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