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Our 17th annual survey of the best bets in the slot biz

by Frank Legato


Slot players have asked us thousands of questions over the years, but there is one that appears more than just about any other:

“Where are the loosest slots?”

Players are always looking for the loosest slots, meaning those with the highest overall payback percentage. Our magazines publish the payback percentage ranges of slot machines we feature, but that just reflects the range of theoretical payback percentages available to the casinos for a given game (that’s the expected return averaged over years).

Slot Players

There’s no way of knowing the exact payback program bought by the casinos for a given game,but there is a better way of predicting which casinos and which clusters of casinos offer the best returns to players: It’s called history.

The only way of really knowing who offers the loosest slots is to examine the stats—the actual portion of slot wagers that was returned to players over a given period. We measure it monthly with our slot payout charts. Naturally, the longer the period examined, the more accurate the numbers are likely to be. That’s why every year at this time, we gather recorded payback statistics from every casino in the country that reports such numbers publicly.

The numbers we show you are the inverse of numbers reported to the regulatory agencies as “slot hold”—that’s the portion of slot wagers held by the casinos as profit (or put another way, how much money was lost by slot players). We reverse the numbers to reveal the payback percentage, or the portion of wagers that was returned to players as jackpots.

It’s something Casino Player has been doing for a decade and a half, and it is something that changed the slot business. “Loose slots” became a badge of honor in the casino industry—a way to distinguish one property from another—thanks to our payout charts. That’s why you’ll see billboards in the coming weeks across which casinos will herald their Player Loosest Slots awards.

Since we started combining 12 months worth of statistics into our Loosest Slots awards in 1994, this spring issue of Casino Player has become one of the most closely watched of the year. It is, quite simply, the best snapshot of information available to ascertain the casinos and clusters of casinos that have been the most generous on the slot floor in the previous year.

As always, there are a few points we need to mention up front:

First, our report reflects only statistics that are available publicly. Many of the Native American jurisdictions and some lottery jurisdictions do not require casinos to publicly report their slot income statistics. If you don’t see your jurisdiction reflected in the Loosest Slots report, it is always for this reason. We can only report what is publicly available; casinos withhold any business information—such as slot income—as proprietary unless they are required by law to reveal it.

Secondly, you’ll notice that pennies aren’t listed as a separate denomination in our report. Although the majority of regulatory agencies are finally separating penny slots (in New Jersey, it’s penny and 2-cent) in the monthly reports, major markets including Mississippi and Iowa still start the denominations at the nickel slots and include pennies in an “Other Denominations” category.

We decided to focus on numbers available in every reporting jurisdiction, so our report starts with the nickel slots.   However, in this age of multi-denomination machines, the most important number is the overall return to players, and our report gives you that.

This report logs the loosest slots for the year ending December 31, 2009, and presents those numbers as they are publicly revealed. Some jurisdictions separate the statistics by casino; others log statistics for casino areas. In Nevada, for instance, there are separate reports for Reno/Tahoe in the north, and seven parts of Clark County in the south—Las Vegas Strip, Downtown, Boulder Strip, Laughlin, North Las Vegas, Mesquite and Balance of County. (This last category includes prominent casinos such as the Palms and the Orleans, off the Las Vegas Strip.) Mississippi, Louisiana, Colorado and Quebec also report by region.

As usual, our Loosest Slots results were certified by the Ventnor, New Jersey, accounting firm Lavinsky, Horowitz & Pollard LLC.

And the Winners Are…

When it comes to loose slots, Reno is definitely on a roll. For the third straight year, the market with the loosest slots in the nation is Reno, Nevada. And Reno’s slots even got looser since last year—the total slot return went from 94.79 percent in 2008 to 95.11 percent last year.

Congratulations to Atlantis, the Peppermill, the Eldorado, the Grand Sierra, Fitzgeralds, the original Harrah’s, Silver Legacy and the other Reno properties for enabling the market to repeat its Loosest Slots crown.

Also the same as last year, the other two in the top three for Loosest Slots in America were other Nevada markets—the Boulder Strip casinos (Sam’s Town, Boulder Station,  Arizona Charlie’s, Eastside Cannery, etc.) were right behind Reno in generosity, returning a combined 94.96 percent of slot wagers to players; and just behind that at 94.8 percent was the “Balance of County” market, which includes off-Strip Las Vegas casinos like Orleans and the Palms, and outlying areas such as Primm.

As in every year for the better part of a decade, the markets that list numbers for individual casinos are dominated by the Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Illinois. The Casino Queen returned 94.31 percent of wagers to its players last year, which again easily tops the survey among individual casinos.

In Atlantic City, there was no surprise at the top of the survey: The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa takes its seventh straight Loosest Slots crown. That’s one Loosest Slots award for every year Borgata’s been in business.

Close behind, Trump Taj Mahal and the Atlantic City Hilton tied for second place at 91.46 percent, and Tropicana was right behind those two at 91.45 percent.

There were a few surprises elsewhere in this year’s survey: Indiana’s Loosest Slots winner is the Hoosier Park racino, which did not even place in the top three last year. Hoosier Park’s 92.03 percent return to players edged out Indiana Live! at 91.9 percent and Blue Chip casino (last year’s winner) at 91.77 percent.

Another new winner in the Midwest is the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo, which takes the Loosest Slots crown for Iowa at 91.86 percent—barely edging out another Isle property, at Marquette, only two hundredths of a percent behind; and the Prairie Meadows racino in Altoona, a hundredth of a percent behind that.

Speaking of close contests, the two casinos of Connecticut continue their neck-and-neck competition in loose slots—this year, Mohegan Sun edges Foxwoods by a scant 91.65 percent to 91.35 percent.

Elsewhere were all repeat winners: Cripple Creek in Colorado; Lake Charles in Louisiana; the Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos; the President in Missouri; Lac Leamy in Quebec. These casinos have earned a virtually permanent spot at the top of our survey.

One last thing to remember before diving into our Loosest Slots stats: Payback percentage is important, but it is only one element that should be considered in your choice of casino. Consider the variety on the slot floor, whether you are comfortable, the service, the amenities… Most of all, play where you have fun.

But all other things equal, the most money given back to slot players is certainly a good measurement when picking where to play.

Congratulations to our winners, and kudos for making a more fair gamble one of your priorities.

Atlantic City

A.C. Hilton                                       92.56

Tropicana                                        91.30

Trump Taj Mahal                            90.78


Trump Taj Mahal                            92.04

Tropicana                                        91.93

Trump Marina                                  91.90


Trump Plaza                                    94.26

Showboat                                        92.93

Resorts                                            92.88


Showboat                                        94.32

Resorts                                            93.67

Trump Taj Mahal                            93.53


Showboat                                        95.51

Trump Plaza                                    94.98

Trump Taj Mahal                            94.85


Borgata                                            91.76

A.C. Hilton                                       91.46

Trump Taj Mahal                            91.46


Central City                                      93.82

Cripple Creek                                  93.47

Black Hawk                                     93.06


Cripple Creek                                  95.29

Central City                                      94.55

Black Hawk                                     94.08


Central City                                      95.32

Cripple Creek                                  95.20

Black Hawk                                     94.64


Cripple Creek                                  95.04

Black Hawk                                     95.00

Central City                                      94.62


Cripple Creek                                  93.86

Central City                                      93.59

Black Hawk                                     93.08


Foxwoods                                        90.34

Mohegan Sun                                 87.87


Foxwoods                                        91.64

Mohegan Sun                                 90.91


Mohegan Sun                                 93.32

Foxwoods                                        92.86


Foxwoods                                        94.30

Mohegan Sun                                 93.50


Mohegan Sun                                 91.65

Foxwoods                                         91.35


Alton Belle                                       93.15

E. St. Louis                                      93.09

Rock Island                                     92.43


E. St. Louis                                      95.48

Alton Belle                                       94.92

Rock Island                                     94.54


E. St. Louis                                      95.55

Alton Belle                                       94.79

Rock Island                                     94.39


E. St. Louis                                      96.71

Elgin                                                 95.92

Alton Belle                                       95.89


E. St. Louis                                      94.31

Alton Belle                                       92.99

Elgin                                                 92.94


Majestic Star I                                 94.94

Majestic Star II/Trump                    93.05

French Lick                                     91.69


Belterra                                            94.08

Majestic Star I                                 93.78

Ameristar                                         93.42


Majestic Star II/Trump                    94.37

Majestic Star I                                 93.91

French Lick                                     93.63


Hoosier Park                                   97.16

Indiana Live                                     96.97

Majestic Star II/Trump                    96.64


Hoosier Park                                   92.03

Indiana Live                                     91.90

Blue Chip                                         91.77


Riverside                                         94.19

Diamond Jo                                     94.08

Dubuque Greyhound Park & Casino     93.25


Dubuque Greyhound Park & Casino     94.62

Rhythm City                                     94.36

Diamond Jo Worth                          94.27


Argosy of Sioux City                       95.11

Rhythm City                                     94.92

IOC Marquette                                94.83


Isle Of Capri Bettendorf                                96.29

Rhythm City                                     95.84

Prairie Meadows                             95.75


Waterloo                                          91.86

IOC Bettendorf                                91.84

Prairie Meadows                             91.83


New Orleans                                   90.93

Shreveport/Bossier                         90.89

Baton Rouge                                   90.13


Baton Rouge                                   93.46

New Orleans                                   92.48

Lake Charles                                   92.25


Lake Charles                                   93.98

New Orleans                                   93.90

Baton Rouge                                   93.85


Lake Charles                                   94.75

Baton Rouge                                   94.43

New Orleans                                   94.16


Lake Charles                                   91.45

Baton Rouge                                   91.26

Shreveport/Bossier                         91.18


South River Region                        95.19

Coastal Region                               93.10

North River Region                         92.10


Coastal Region                               94.55

South River Region                        93.86

North River Region                         93.78


North River Region                         94.76

Coastal Region                               94.64

South River Region                        94.19


South River Region                        95.64

North River Region                         95.30

Coastal Region                               95.29


Coastal Region                               93.10

South River Region                        92.65

North River Region                         92.48


Lumiere                                            94.20

Mark Twain                                      94.16

St. Charles                                       93.76


St. Jo Frontier                                  94.60

St. Charles                                       93.97

Lumiere                                            93.75


President                                         95.80

Isle of Capri, K.C.                            94.97

Argosy Riverside                            93.91


President                                         95.40

Argosy Riverside                            94.96

St. Charles                                       94.85


President                                         91.80

Isle of Capri, Boonville                   91.72

Mark Twain                                      91.68


Mesquite                                          95.42

Boulder Strip                                   95.42

Balance of County                          95.26


Boulder Strip                                   96.85

North Las Vegas                             96.44

Balance of County                          96.03


North Las Vegas                             96.95

Boulder Strip                                   96.51

Reno                                                96.21


Boulder Strip                                   96.20

Reno                                                96.05

Mesquite                                          95.87


Reno                                                95.11

Boulder Strip                                   94.96

Balance of County                          94.80


Charlevoix                                       92.24

Lac-Leamy                                      91.08

Montreal                                           87.37


Lac-Leamy                                      92.30

Montreal                                           84.42

Charlevoix                                       73.39


Lac-Leamy                                      94.77

Montreal                                           92.50

Charlevoix                                         8.69


Charlevoix                                       96.83

Lac-Leamy                                      95.68

Montreal                                           94.64


Lac-Leamy                                      93.13

Montreal                                           92.47

Charlevoix                                       92.28

Our 17th annual survey of the best bets in the slot biz.

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