As a group, slot players are really the most important players in the house
By Frank Scoblete
Slot machines are simple, really; I mean really, really simple. More money goes in them than comes out of them. That’s it, really—a very simple game.
Now, yes, very smart people have developed these machines (which used to be called “the one- armed bandits” because players had to pull a lever to activate the machine) and computers now run them and run the RNG (the random-number generator, which is actually a pseudo-random-number generator) that determines which symbols will come up on the screens.
The machines are beautiful devices and they attract the largest number of players of any game in the casino and online. Some casinos and venues count them as 75 to 90 percent of their revenue. Really.
They are clearly the majority game in all the major areas in the country, too. Think of Las Vegas and Atlantic City as huge slot machines, because without those formally “one-armed bandits” these venues would be quite small—or non-existent. Casinos now need those bandits big time.
Slot machines took over the casinos in 1984 when both Las Vegas and Atlantic City established that they now made more money and had more players than the table games. The rest is history.
I like slot players, I really do, as they are a curious lot in many ways. First of all, take their patience. They can go losing decision after losing decision after losing decision without going bananas, as would most table-game players.
They know something vital to slot play and it is this: the winning decisions are often not fast, furious or even guaranteed. They know that most decisions will be for small sums and that they really must experience some moments when a decent jackpot hits the screen. That usually indicates a potential winning session.
A second trait, just as important, is this: slot players have no real idea as to whether a machine they are playing is “loose” or “tight” or “in between.” There is no real way to say that the Horrible Twins pours out credit slips like no tomorrow. Or that it has a 99 percent return rate.
Blackjack players, craps players, roulette players, Pai Gow Poker players and video-poker players (among most of the other games) all know or should know the established house edges on all of their bets. I do realize that some players do not know any of this information but it is all there to learn.
Smart players know what they are getting into when they play those games. They can actually plan strategies on how to protect themselves somewhat from a few of these house edges.
Slot players cannot do any of that. They must play the machine and hope it is going to get hot or, at least, get somewhat generous. I am guessing the slot players’ prayer is a really simple one: “Please don’t get cold!”
Yes, players can leave the machine they are playing but they will be going to another machine and they still won’t know what that machine is all about.
The third aspect to slot play is more in the court of the casino bosses in determining what kind of comps slot players should receive. As a group, they are really the most important players in the house. There are even some slot players who play machines worth $100 or more a decision.
I have seen such players having to sit at machines with a casino aide who writes down their hits over $10,000 to be reported to the government.
[Please note: There was a time, long, long ago, in a world far, far away, where gambling wins were free from taxes. That changed in the 1970s when the politicians saw the amount of money that could be extracted from casino players through taxes. Table-game players try various methods of hiding their wins of $10,000 or more, with greater or lesser degrees of success. Dealers’ tips were also taxed at that time.]
Sadly, you win that $10,000(+) and then lose the session, and that win is still sent into the government. The house edge on taxes is really, really far greater than the house edge on almost all casino games. That is a fair assessment, in my opinion.
The fourth fact is that slot players at times do become entranced by their machines. I’ve talked to thousands of them and most will mention that playing the machines is often akin to meditating. Maybe that’s why they can handle long losing streaks; they are in another state of consciousness. The machine is merely the method of transcending the world.
Will slot machines remain the number one game in the casinos in the future? I see no reason to believe some table game would replace them. They have something simple to sell; it doesn’t take any study to play them. You just sit or stand at a machine and put in your credit slip and hit the play button.
More money will still go into the machine than will come out of the machine. Players understand that in their hearts and heads. And that’s really, really true.
All the best in and out of the casinos!