When the Game is Changed Out, Does the Payback Change?

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Wheel of Fortune machines being installed for a tournament

Sometimes casinos will update games on the floor. That led a player to ask a fair question about that process:

I play a bank of Money Link slots at my local casino. They changed some to the newer versions, but kept the same cabinets. Would my favorite cabinet with the new version play with the same percentage payouts?

Betty M.

From a practical perspective, Betty, it will be more or less the same. The full answer is a bit complicated but stick with us and we’ll explain the details.

As we’ve talked about on the site, games tend to be developed with six payback options. Each game, the options will be slightly different. One game might have an option that’s 90.04%, and another might have one that’s 90.12%.

Even though the number of choices is usually similar, the exact amounts will differ. Casinos for all practical purposes round up or down to the nearest percentage when looking at the options, as the options tend to be spaced out by 1-2 percentage points per step. 

If their goal is a 90 percent payback on 1 cent denomination slots, for instance, they’re going to choose the setting that’s closest to that. So they’d choose the 90.04% on that first machine and the 90.12% on that second machine. If it’s a licensed game they might hew a touch lower and non-licensed games a touch higher, but that’s more or less how it will work out in practice.

It’s probable that the two versions of the game series don’t have precisely the same payback, as usually multiple games within a series have slight adjustments. This is especially true with brand extensions (think Double Money Link vs. Money Link).

So they might not pay exactly the same, but for all intents and purposes they’ll be close enough that as a player you’ll find it similar. And that hopefully can put your mind at ease a bit when playing a game.

One thing to know though is that often when a brand is extended, whether additional themes in an existing series or a new series under a brand, the trend is to make the game more volatile. It may feel tougher even with the same payout percentage.

That’s by design, and if you find the new version too hard for your taste, there’s nothing wrong with playing the original version instead, presuming you can find it.

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