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28th Annual Loosest Slots Awards

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Our report on the highest slot returns during an unprecedented year

By Frank Legato

 

The year 2020 was a calamity for businesses of all kinds, but the casino hospitality business took one of the biggest hits from the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent Great Shutdown. Casinos in most places were closed from two to three months, while some—in New York, Downtown Las Vegas and elsewhere—remained shuttered much longer.

Even after they’ve reopened, the slot floors have operated at severely reduced capacity, normally with at least every other machine deactivated to facilitate social distancing.

All of this affected the planning of this annual issue. Since 1994, the Loosest Slots Awards have been based on 12 months of data. The idea of “loosest slots” started with the monthly publishing of charts in Strictly Slots showing overall payback percentages offered by casinos. Shortly after our sister publication,  Casino Player, debuted in 1988, the editors decided to gather all the “hold” data that commercial casinos were required to publicly report—that’s the percentage of wagers kept by the casino—and flip-flop the numbers to show the portion of all wagers that was returned to players as slot winnings, creating the “payback percentage.”

Casino Player published those numbers monthly, as did Strictly Slots beginning in 1998. The casinos resisted at first, but eventually used the “Loosest Slots” designation as a badge of honor. The only problem with the monthly charts was that they reported a narrow window of play. There would be months that high-end slot players killed the casinos, resulting in a payback percentage over 100 percent for the months in some high denominations.

Statisticians have found that a game on a casino floor reaches its true payback percentage in two to three months of play. Therefore, with the longest-closed casinos still logging six months of data, the average payback percentages are accurate. (The chart showing our Loosest Slots winners indicates how many months of play led to each average percentage.)

The numbers still boil down to a guide for players to the most generous casinos in the nation.

So, welcome to the 28th annual Loosest Slots Awards.  As always, a few editor’s notes before we get to the winners:

First of all, not all casinos are included in this report. We are restricted to reporting on the statistics that are publicly available, and for the most part, that includes all commercial casinos and many of the largest Native American casinos. Because Indian casinos are not subject to required reporting to their state regulatory agencies, many of those casinos—notably, in California—consider the statistics proprietary information, and do not report them publicly. Our apologies if your favorite casino is not included.

Next, we are only able to report the numbers that are reported by the casinos. That is why you will not find denominations broken out in many locations—such as New Jersey, where regulators stopped reporting separate denominations six years ago.

Finally, 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 slots and video poker. However, 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…

Reno still rules.

For the 14th year in a row, the loosest slots in the U.S. can be found in Reno, Nevada—home to the Silver Legacy, the Eldorado, the Atlantis, the Grand Sierra and, sadly with its last slot reports, the original Harrah’s, which closed permanently in March 2020 after 82 years.

The casinos of Reno collectively returned 94.53 percent of slot wagers to players last year, topping the nation. However, for the first time in memory, the No. 2 finisher for Loosest Slots is not one of Nevada’s other regions. It is South Dakota, with an average payback total of 93.89 percent.

The normal two-thirds of the Top 3 weren’t far behind, with the “Balance of Clark County”—the Clark County casinos outside of the Las Vegas Strip and Boulder Highway, such as the Orleans, the Red Rock and Green Valley Ranch—returning 93.83 percent of wagers to players, essentially a tie for second place. Right behind that was Mesquite at 93.77 percent.

The Loosest Slots on the East Coast can be found at Hialeah Park & Racing in Florida. Slots have been an important part of the rejuvenation of the historic South Florida racetrack and casino, which returned 93.71 percent of wagers to slot players last year. That return-to-player is nearly two points ahead of second place in the East—Foxwoods in Connecticut at 92.02 percent.

Connecticut casinos, by the way, remain very close in payback percentage, with Mohegan Sun only 0.18 percent behind Foxwoods.

Elsewhere, in Atlantic City, the top two casinos for Loosest Slots have not changed in three years—Harrah’s Resort at 91.8 percent, Borgata at 91.32 percent. Bally’s Atlantic City edged out last year’s third-place winner, Caesars Atlantic City, at 90.88 percent.

In Indiana, Prairie Meadows took the Loosest Slots crown, edging out last year’s winner Grand Falls. In the new Massachusetts market, Encore Boston Harbor (92.19 percent) edged out Plainridge Park and MGM Springfield. In Pennsylvania, Valley Forge Casino (90.57 percent) edged out last year’s winner Parx.

Repeat Loosest Slots Awards were won by Cripple Creek in Colorado (93.19 percent), Harrington Park in Delaware (91.86 percent), Lake Charles in Indiana (90.9 percent) and the Central Region in Mississippi (91.75 percent).

Our congratulations to all the Loosest Slots winners. As we emerge to full capacity when the current pandemic finally ends, our readers surely will remember you.

 

ATLANTIC CITY

2020 YEAR END

                                                                          TOTAL AVERAGE

HARRAH’S                                                        91.80***

BORGATA                                                         91.32***

BALLY’S                                                            90.88***

                                                                                   

 

Colorado

2020 YEAR END

1-CENT                                                              AVERAGE

CRIPPLE CREEK                                                 91.59 **

CENTRAL CITY                                                  90.60 **

BLACK HAWK                                                    89.86 **

 

5-CENT

CENTRAL CITY                                                  94.55 **

BLACK HAWK                                                    93.39 **

CRIPPLE CREEK                                                 91.90 **

 

25-CENT

CRIPPLE CREEK                                                 94.62 **

CENTRAL CITY                                                  94.12 **

BLACK HAWK                                                    91.99 **

 

50-CENT

BLACK HAWK                                                    94.28 **

CRIPPLE CREEK                                                 92.66 **

CENTRAL CITY                                                  –

 

$1

CENTRAL CITY                                                  94.51 **

CRIPPLE CREEK                                                 94.30 **

BLACK HAWK                                                    93.42 **

 

$5

CRIPPLE CREEK                                                 94.13 **

BLACK HAWK                                                    93.71 **

CENTRAL CITY                                                  92.85 *****

 

Multi-denominational

CRIPPLE CREEK                                                 94.83**

BLACK HAWK                                                    94.14**

CENTRAL CITY                                                  93.88**

 

TOTAL                                                                        

CRIPPLE CREEK                                                93.19**

BLACK HAWK                                                   92.30**

CENTRAL CITY                                                  92.22**

 

CONNECTICUT

2020 YEAR END

1-CENT                                                              AVERAGE

FOXWOODS                                                      90.12*

MOHEGAN SUN                                                88.20*

 

2-CENT

FOXWOODS                                                      90.44*

MOHEGAN SUN                                                  –

 

5-CENT

FOXWOODS                                                      85.12*

MOHEGAN SUN                                                79.76*

 

25-CENT

MOHEGAN SUN                                                84.75*

FOXWOODS                                                      83.54*

 

50-CENT

FOXWOODS                                                      93.27****

MOHEGAN SUN                                                90.58*

 

$1

FOXWOODS                                                      93.06*

MOHEGAN SUN                                                92.41*

 

$2

MOHEGAN SUN                                                95.04*

FOXWOODS                                                      93.52*

$5

MOHEGAN SUN                                                94.67*

FOXWOODS                                                      93.37*

 

$10

MOHEGAN SUN                                                97.19*

FOXWOODS                                                      96.63*

 

$25

FOXWOODS                                                      95.47*

MOHEGAN SUN                                                94.92*

 

$100

MOHEGAN SUN                                                95.14*

FOXWOODS                                                      93.04*

 

Multi-denominational

MOHEGAN SUN                                                93.50*

FOXWOODS                                                      93.40*

 

TOTAL                                                                        

FOXWOODS                                                     92.02*

MOHEGAN SUN                                               91.84*

 

 

DELAWARE

2020 YEAR END

                                                                          TOTAL AVERAGE     

HARRINGTON                                                  91.86**

DELAWARE PARK                                            91.83**

DOVER DOWNS                                               91.80**

 

 

FLORIDA

2020 YEAR END

                                                                          TOTAL AVERAGE

HIALEAH PARK                                                 93.71**

FLAGLER DOG TRACK & MAGIC CITY             93.44**

MIAMI JAI-ALAI                                               92.36**

 

INDIANA

2020 YEAR END

                                                                          TOTAL AVERAGE     

HORSESHOE SOUTHERN INDIANA                 90.19*

TROPICANA                                                     90.09*

MAJESTIC STAR II                                            90.07*

 

 

IOWA

2020 YEAR END

1-CENT                                                              AVERAGE

GRAND FALLS                                                   90.25**

PRAIRIE MEADOWS                                          89.87**

WILD ROSE – CLINTON                                     89.75**

 

5-CENT

DIAMOND JO – DUBUQUE                               94.78**

LAKESIDE                                                          94.72**

PRAIRIE MEADOWS                                          94.54**

 

25-CENT

AMERISTAR II                                                   94.97**

DIAMOND JO – WORTH                                   94.50**

PRAIRIE MEADOWS                                          94.20**

 

$1

PRAIRIE MEADOWS                                          94.44**

RHYTHM CITY                                                   93.99**

Q CASINO                                                         93.83**

 

$2

RHYTHM CITY                                                   94.87**

AMERISTAR II                                                   94.17**

ISLE CASINO HOTEL WATERLOO                     93.77**

 

$5

WILD ROSE – JEFFERSON                                  96.79**

CASINO QUEEN – MARQUETTE                        96.02**

RHYTHM CITY                                                   95.97**

 

$10

WILD ROSE – JEFFERSON                                  96.27**

PRAIRIE MEADOWS                                          94.76**

RHYTHM CITY                                                   93.30**

 

$25

GRAND FALLS                                                   94.27**

RHYTHM CITY                                                   94.15**

HORSESHOE COUNCIL BLUFFS                         93.71**

 

$100

AMERISTAR II                                                   103.82**

PRAIRIE MEADOWS                                          96.29**

HORSESHOE COUNCIL BLUFFS                         88.31**

 

Other

LAKESIDE                                                          95.40**

HARD ROCK                                                      94.86**

WILD ROSE – JEFFERSON                                  94.50**

 

Total                                                                          

PRAIRIE MEADOWS                                        91.59**

GRAND FALLS                                                  90.73**

WILD ROSE – JEFFERSON                                   90.59**

 

 

LOUISIANA

2020 YEAR END

1-CENT                                                              AVERAGE

SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER                                     88.98***

NEW ORLEANS                                                 88.96***

BATON ROUGE                                                 88.90***

 

2-CENT

SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER                                     90.40***

NEW ORLEANS                                                 89.83 ***

LAKE CHARLES                                                  87.37 ***

 

5-CENT

LAKE CHARLES                                                  93.51***

NEW ORLEANS                                                 93.41***

SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER                                     92.27***

 

25-CENT

LAKE CHARLES                                                  92.70***

BATON ROUGE                                                 92.68***

NEW ORLEANS                                                 91.91***

 

50-CENT

BATON ROUGE                                                 94.54***

NEW ORLEANS                                                 92.77***

LAKE CHARLES                                                  92.62***

 

$1

BATON ROUGE                                                 93.51***

NEW ORLEANS                                                 92.94***

SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER                                     92.72***

 

 

$2

SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER                                     95.71***

BATON ROUGE                                                 93.21***

LAKE CHARLES                                                  93.19***

 

$5

BATON ROUGE                                                 93.94***

LAKE CHARLES                                                  93.54***

NEW ORLEANS                                                 93.11***

 

$10

BATON ROUGE                                                 94.86***

SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER                                     92.71***

LAKE CHARLES                                                  91.89***

 

$25

BATON ROUGE                                                 96.77***

LAKE CHARLES                                                  92.88***

NEW ORLEANS                                                 92.18***

 

$100

SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER                                     95.69***

BATON ROUGE                                                 93.34***

LAKE CHARLES                                                  91.41***

 

TOTAL                                                                        

LAKE CHARLES                                                 90.90***

SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER                                   90.64***

BATON ROUGE                                                90.32***

 

 

MAINE

2020 YEAR END

TOTAL                                                               AVERAGE     

OXFORD                                                           91.25***

HOLLYWOOD                                                   90.26***

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS

2020 YEAR END

TOTAL                                                               AVERAGE     

ENCORE BOSTON HARBOR                             92.19***

MGM SPRINGFIELD                                         91.76***

PLAINRIDGE PARK                                           92.47****     

 

MISSISSIPPI

2020 YEAR END

1-CENT                                                              AVERAGE

COASTAL REGION                                             90.85*

CENTRAL REGION                                             90.83*

NORTH RIVER REGION                                     90.30*

 

5-CENT

CENTRAL REGION                                             95.37*

COASTAL REGION                                             94.59*

NORTH RIVER REGION                                     91.15*

 

25-CENT

CENTRAL REGION                                             95.01*

COASTAL REGION                                             94.12*

NORTH RIVER REGION                                     91.12*

 

50-CENT

CENTRAL REGION                                             93.93*

COASTAL REGION                                             93.37*

NORTH RIVER REGION                                     91.06*

 

$1

CENTRAL REGION                                             93.74*

COASTAL REGION                                             92.80*

NORTH RIVER REGION                                     92.14*

 

$5

CENTRAL REGION                                             95.53*

NORTH RIVER REGION                                     93.63*

COASTAL REGION                                             92.65*

 

$10

CENTRAL REGION                                             95.79*

NORTH RIVER REGION                                     94.08*

COASTAL REGION                                             92.84*

 

$25

NORTH RIVER REGION                                     93.73*

COASTAL REGION                                             92.27*

 

$100

COASTAL REGION                                             95.08*

NORTH RIVER REGION                                     92.55*

 

OTHER

COASTAL REGION                                             95.08*

NORTH RIVER REGION                                     94.15*

 

TOTAL                                                                        

CENTRAL REGION                                            91.75*

NORTH RIVER REGION                                    91.74*

COASTAL REGION                                            91.65*

 

 

NEVADA

2020 YEAR END

1-CENT                                                              AVERAGE

RENO                                                                93.03**

LAKE TAHOE                                                     90.89**

MESQUITE                                                        90.27**

 

5-CENT

MESQUITE                                                        95.97**

RENO                                                                95.71**

BOULDER STRIP                                                95.65**

 

25-CENT

NORTH LAS VEGAS                                           96.05**

BOULDER STRIP                                                94.73**

BALANCE OF COUNTY                                      94.56**

 

$1

RENO                                                                95.32**

MESQUITE                                                        94.44**

BALANCE OF COUNTY                                      94.25**

 

$5

RENO                                                                95.12**

LAUGHLIN                                                         94.59**

LAS VEGAS STRIP                                              94.57**

 

$25

RENO                                                                98.32**

LAS VEGAS STRIP                                              95.41**

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS                                 94.17******

 

Multi-denomination

RENO                                                                95.36**

LAKE TAHOE                                                     95.29***

BALANCE OF COUNTY                                      95.10**

 

Total                                                                          

RENO                                                                94.53**

BALANCE OF COUNTY                                     93.83**

MESQUITE                                                        93.77***

 

 

NEW YORK

2020 YEAR END

TOTAL                                                               AVERAGE

TIOGA DOWNS                                                91.72*****

RESORTS WORLD CATSKILLS                          90.91*****

RIVERS                                                              90.70*****

                                                                                   

 

OHIO

2020 YEAR END

TOTAL                                                               AVERAGE     

JACK CLEVELAND                                            92.32**

HOLLYWOOD COLUMBUS                               92.21**

HARD ROCK CINCINNATI                                91.94**

                                                                                   

 

PENNYSLVANIA

2020 YEAR END

TOTAL                                                               AVERAGE     

VALLEY FORGE                                                 90.57**

PARX                                                                90.47**

THE MEADOWS                                               90.17**

 

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

2020 YEAR END

TOTAL                                                               AVERAGE     

5-CENT                                                             94.81*

$25                                                                    93.64*

$5                                                                      93.24*

                                                                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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