Slot enthusiasts stuck at home during the coronavirus crisis can still play—if they’re in the right state
by Frank Legato
If you’re a regular slot player—as most people are who read this column—you may be wondering how you’re going to get your slot fix while you’re stuck inside. Never mind that almost all of the casinos in the country are closed. If you’re in a populous state, chances are you are now sequestered under a “stay-at-home” order due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
As I write this, Delaware, my home state, just completed a trifecta of sorts. After the governors of Pennsylvania (my original home state) and New Jersey (the official base of my casino writing) issued stay-at-home orders and closed all non-essential businesses, Delaware followed suit, issuing a stay-at-home order effective Tuesday, March 22, as well as the closing of all non-life-sustaining businesses.
All three states had shut down their casinos the week before.
What’s a slot-lover to do?
Well, in these three states, at least, there is an option if you want to spend your leisure hours playing slots but you’re forbidden from leaving your house except for vital needs—online gaming.
All three states above have legal online gaming sites, which you can access if you’re within the physical limits of one of the states. And you’ll be surprised at the variety of games available on these casino sites.
In New Jersey alone, there were, at last count, a total of 672 casino games available online, according to the iGamingPlayer.com website. There are slot games of all stripes on these sites, including the top games from many of the best manufacturers in the business. There are simple three-reelers, wheel games, “hold-and-respin” games and many of your other favorites that are currently sitting idle in the shuttered land-based casinos.
At the Hard Rock Atlantic City’s online casino site, hardrockcasino.com, you can even play real, honest-to-gosh mechanical reel games, thanks to a new attraction they call “Live Slots.” In a nutshell, this is a room at the Hard Rock with a long row of physical slot machines. Set up in front of them are cameras and microphones recording the actual slot action.
Partnering with the software firm Softweave, Ltd., Hard Rock has set up those physical slots to be operated remotely on a smartphone, tablet or PC. From their couch or armchair, players can touch a spin button on their mobile device to operate the physical slot machines, buying credits, spinning reels and cashing out as if in an actual casino—except the winnings go into the player’s online casino account.
In addition to reel-spinners, the Live Slots room at Hard Rock includes some of the most popular games in the industry that currently are unavailable in online casinos—most notably, the mega-hit Buffalo series from Aristocrat.
The online casinos also offer a hybrid table-game experience, and have from the start two years ago. These are live table games, like the slots, set up in a room with cameras and microphones, plus live dealers. You can play blackjack or roulette from the comfort of your home on these sites, even if you are sequestered under a stay-at-home order by your government officials.
As I noted in a previous column, many of the online slot games are more transparent to the player in terms of payback percentages than the physical slots in a real casino. On many sites, you can actually look up the payback percentage—known in the trade as return to player, or RTP—for every slot game before you actually begin play. You may not be able to shop at JC Penney, but you can still shop for the best slot-game returns at many online casinos.
True, online gaming in the U.S. is still in its infancy. Online casino games and online poker are currently only available in the three states above—New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Nevada offers online poker only, and several states offer online sports betting, which is a moot point right now, since all the major sports have suspended their seasons for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
If this crisis drags out for months like many expect, perhaps other gaming states will initiate online casinos. For now, though, you can still play for money in the above Northeast states. If you’re elsewhere and in slot withdrawal, there is always social gaming— play-for-free casino sites that can be accessed from any state.
Meanwhile, stay safe, stay put, play what you can, and let’s wait out this forced fast from slot play together. ´