Our annual report on the most generous slots in the USA
Welcome once again to our annual report on where to find the best, loosest slots in America.
It has long been the mission of Strictly Slots to arm players with everything they need to have the best chance of winning. And when it comes to the slots, it’s about knowing where to play, and which casino have loose machines.
Many of you may not realize it, but it was actually our sister publication, Casino Player, that invented the notion of “loose slots” by publishing charts showing the overall payback percentages of slot floors monthly back in 1988.
At the time all casinos in Nevada and Atlantic City had been required to publicly report their “slot hold,” the portion of slot wagers kept from players after all of the dust had settled and the accounting was done. Casino Player’s editors decided to take those numbers and flip-flop them to achieve a “payback percentage?’
At first the casino operators were horrified that such information was now a part of the public domain. But it wasn’t long before they realized they could use this to their advantage and began aggressively advertising their “loose slots:’
Alas, the system wasn’t quite perfect. The payback percentages for any one month were not truly instructive when looking at how generous a casino was with its players. Payback percentages are set at the factory, the result of how many numbers each symbol was assigned in the program. So it takes several months of play for a slot machine to begin to approach its “true” theoretical payback.
This was particularly true when it came to the higher denominations. For example, if a few lucky players happened to hit the $10 or $25 slots for a couple of sizeable jackpots, the monthly payback percentage number could be more than 100 percent, reflecting a number that obviously would be unviable for casinos in the long run. Within several months, enough players would lose on these machines to even out the percentage and reflect the comparatively small house advantage.
So the real gauge of “loose” would instead come in the statistics for an entire year. Casino Player started compiling 12 months of data for the year 1993, publishing the first “Loosest Slots” awards in 1994. And a few years ago, Strictly Slots took over the survey and report.
Players love the report because it is based on historical fact, as opposed to manufacturers’ estimates of theoretical payback. While those theoretical numbers—included in our “Slot Spotlight” section—are accurate for individual machines the actual statistics on which this report is based reveal the casinos that went the extra mile for their players in placing the games with the highest theoretical payback on their floors.
Welcome to the 2018 edition of our Loosest Slots report. For decades, this report has been viewed by casino operators as a competitive gauge for marketing purposes, but more importantly, it has afforded players a good picture of which casinos, by policy, offer a fair shake to the players on their slot floors.
As always, let’s first tackle a few answers to the questions that we always get about the report. First of all, we can’t cover everyone’s favorite casinos. Our results, both in our monthly payback charts and in this annual report, are based on publicly available statistics. And casinos report their hold numbers publicly only if required by law.
That’s the reason why so many Native American-owned casinos are excluded from the report. Indian nations are sovereign nations and are not subject to state gaming laws requiring that they report their slot hold numbers publicly, unless it is part of the agreement, or compact, between a tribe and the state (as in Connecticut).
It’s also why you will not find denominations broken out in many locations, such as New Jersey, where regulators stopped reporting denominations years ago.
And last but not least, the way the numbers are reported publicly is the reason video poker paybacks are not broken out in this report. No jurisdiction reports separate numbers for video poker. As a rule of thumb, though, you’ll find that the casinos with the highest overall paybacks consistently offer the highest-returning pay schedules on video poker.
AND THE WINNERS ARE…
There are many parts of our annual survey that result in no surprises. The top of the survey is one. For yet another year, Reno, Nevada, gets the award for Loosest Slots in the Nation.
The combined 2017 payback of Reno’s gaming halls—led by Grand Sierra, Atlantis, the Peppermill, the Eldorado and others—was 94.69 percent. The second- and third-highest slots in the nation, again repeating last year, are also in Nevada, with Balance of County second at 94.48 percent and Boulder Strip third at 94.34 percent.
(“Balance of County” refers to off-Strip casinos like the Orleans, Hard Rock, The Palms, Gold Coast, Palace Station, Silverton, South Point, M, and the Primm casinos. “Boulder Strip” refers to those casinos on and around Boulder Highway— Sam’s Town, Boulder Station, Cannery East, Arizona Charlie’s, etc.)
While the three Nevada regions were each remained “looser” than any other region in the nation, when it comes to highest payback among casino jurisdictions that list the number of individual winners there is one notable change from previous years. Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Illinois has long held the title of loosest slots among individual casinos. But this year, that accolade was taken by Dover Downs in Delaware which posted a payback of 92.57 percent, while Casino Queen posted a respectable 92.45 percent.
Other notable results this year can be found in Pennsylvania where the top three casinos were Parx Casino (90.96 percent). Valley Forge (90.80 percent) and Mount Airy (90.30 percent).
Over in Indiana, Rising Star took top marks with 91.67 percent, followed by Hoosier Park with 91.63 percent and French Lick coming in third for the state at 91.61.
Additionally, Prairie Meadows in Iowa hold the reigns for top in the state, getting the loosest slots crown at 91.78 percent.
In Atlantic City, it was Harrah’s that topped the list across 2017 with a 91.73 percent payback. Harrah’s was followed closely by Borgata at 91.63 percent and Bally’s Atlantic City with 91.03 percent. Additional awards go to Cripple Creek in Colorado, Foxwoods in Connecticut, Baton Rouge in Louisiana, Ameristar St. Charles in Missouri, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos.
Congratulations to all of our winners—you’ve proven that you give your players a fair shake. And thanks to our readers for allowing us to give you the industry’s most comprehensive report on slot percentages for the last 25 years.
Click the link below to see the winners by region: