Understanding Comps

Earning Tier Credits at MGM Rewards: Empire City Edition

Written by Joshua

After my visit to MGM Springfield to scope out the tier earnings situation, I realized I had another option that I could check out roughly a similar distance in a different direction.

I hadn’t been to Empire City Casino since their acquisition by MGM, as I had moved closer to the more traditional CT casinos and MGM Springfield. But for a few years, Empire City Casino was in fact the closest one to me, a less than 45 minute drive from my apartment when I was working in New York City.

So, I thought it’d be a great time to check the place out, see what had changed, and see what the tier earnings situation looked like.

First off, I was quite surprised at how little had changed. Unlike most other MGM casinos I had visited since the pandemic, the amount of change at Empire City was nominal at best. Machines were still in long, compact rows, an aspect abandoned in most of the other casinos in an era of social distancing. Many of the games that I had seen on my first visit in 2017 were in the same locations nearly five years later.

There were some new games, installation expansions of popular games that had been hard to get on previously, and so on, but it was most of an incremental evolution than anything else. That said, it was incredibly busy, so that incremental evolution is probably not hurting them much.

Like in Springfield, I monitored $100 worth of coin-in on 15 slot machines. Empire City doesn’t have real video poker, so I did not attempt any play on those for a comparison. Also worth noting is that I did not earn a single MGM Rewards Point, but there was the old Empire City meters accruing points on screen. So I’ve replaced the MGM Rewards bucket from my first chart with this one.

Also keep in mind that I’m a Gold member of MGM Rewards, so these numbers would presumably factor in the 20% bonus for Slot Dollars and on-screen points:

MachineDenomTier CreditsSlot DollarsOn-Screen Points
Midnight Eclipse1 cent96$0.1716
Thunderhorn1 cent88$0.1716
Red Hot Tamales1 cent104$0.1716
Jinse Dao Tiger1 cent80$0.1616
Wild Fury1 cent80$0.1716
Eureka Reel Blast2 cent80$0.1716
Bier Haus1 cent88$0.1716
Quick Hit Mechanical 5-Reel Wild Blue1 cent65$0.1716
5 Treasures1 cent80$0.1616
Tree of Wealth: Jade Eternity1 cent80$0.1716
Triple Double Diamond Free Games5 cent80$0.1716
5 Frogs1 cent88$0.1616
Quick Hit Mechanical 5-Reel Wild Red1 cent64$0.1716
Very Cherry1 cent80$0.1616
Ultimate Fire Link: By the Bay5 cent80$0.1716
15 SLOT TOTAL1,233$2.52240

Like with the data at MGM Springfield, there are things we can learn here.

Tier Credit Earnings Vary, But Are a Bit More Uniform

The nature of the way these games are set up means they are likely to be a bit less diverse than slots in the nature of their structure and payback, and that seems to bear our here. A full half of the slots offered exactly 80 tier credits, roughly the midpoint of the ratio I saw in Springfield.

There was only one slot that fell below that number, and I intentionally played two variations, in two banks in different parts of the casino, to see if that was a blip, No, the Quick Hit mechanical reel slots gave a full 20 percent less in tier credits than anything else.

One can surmise that these machines potentially pay better than the standard penny denomination and above, if MGM is using the strategy that tier credit earnings are based on the house advantage of the game. All machines in New York under this lottery-overseen format must pay 90 percent or above, so perhaps the Quick Hit machines are more like 92 percent.

My earnings of 1,233 tier credits against $1,500 coin-in isn’t drastically far off from the 1,318 I earned in Springfield. Springfield earnings could vary much more wildly, depending on the game selection, as a lower house advantage machine would accrue much more slowly. So I don’t consider the two to be that far away from each other, given that understanding.

Slot Dollar and On-Screen Points Earned At a Consistent Rate

The slot dollars on every machine earned was either $0.16 or $0.17, and the on screen points was always 16 points (worth 16 cents). So in the case of Empire City, the earnings are not based on the tier credits, at least today.

If both buckets are indeed their own credits, which I’m struggling to understand if that’s really the case given to my knowledge you can’t spend Slot Dollars at Empire City, even though it showed accrual while there, that would mean 40 percent of the comps earnings rate at Empire City vs. MGM Springfield. So that’s kind of a depressing thought, even factoring in the potential for the games at Empire City to pay a bit better given that mandatory payback minimums.

Of course, the comps earned at Empire City can only be spent at Empire City, and there is a more limited base of options to select from while there. Still, the fact that $1,500 of coin-in yielded about $5 in comps, including my Gold tier 20 percent bonus, whereas it yielded $13 at Springfield, feels a bit underwhelming by comparison.

Of course, that $1,500 of coin-in would only yield $3 in comp dollars with Caesars Rewards, so it could always be worse.

Slot Dollars Can’t Be Spent at Empire City

In the write-up for the new MGM Rewards, it explains that you earn VLT Dollars that can be spent for food at Empire City. My assumption is the on-screen points are what those are, since that’s how it worked before the MGM takeover – the onscreen points were your comp dollars.

But at the same time, I saw Slot Dollars accruing on the app, and showing up on the kiosk. But there’s no way to redeem Slot Dollars on the machines like at other MGM properties. There’s no interface, buttons, or anything that let you access that, which is clearly a limitation of the system that these machines run under in this New York Lottery scratchers model.

Each bucket was accruing at a slightly different pace, and were at different values throughout the day. I had 523 points on my account, presumably points left over from the pre-MGM days, showing on my account upon arrival, but my Slot Dollars bucket was at a different number.

I didn’t attempt to spend my points before leaving, so I’ll have to see what happens when I do. But on the surface it looks like half of your comps earnings can be used for actual comps, spent on site, and the other half will await you when you visit an MGM property that accepts slot dollars, like MGM Springfield or Borgata.

No MGM Rewards Points Earnings

Perhaps not surprising, but yet surprising at the same time to me, was there was no MGM Rewards Points earnings. That is where more than half my comp dollar earnings were located (and therefore probably the missing 60 percent of the comps vs. playing at Empire City).

That’s a bummer, and even a bit frustrating, as I don’t know why one should get punished for playing at one casino vs. another. I could see if the machines pay better earning less comps (and tier credits), but instead Yonkers players just get punished overall.

Certainly this could change, especially if MGM gets permission to convert from a lottery sanctioned facility to a more traditional casino with Vegas-style slots and live table games. But for now, it’s certainly not going to deliver the best value when it comes to comps.

About the author

Joshua

My name is Joshua, and I’m a 30-something who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, games that give you a potential edge, casino promotions and systems and how you can get the most out of it.

2 Comments

  • I record my points and tier credits earned when I play at Empire City in Yonkers, and for me the results were worst. I usually play electronic table games and I was earning 6 tier credits per reward point earned. Early last year, they doubled the amount of tier credits earned. Then they changed to MGM rewards and I saw my tier credits drop to 1.3 tier credits per reward point. I wrote to MGM and they responded with a bland statement of how rewards will Vary depending on amount and game played but they didn’t explain any further. In my own experiments, I earned about 4 tier credits on a 3 reel 0.25 slot machine and 1.3 or less on different electronic table games. I guess that I should be glad that I’m earning any tier credits at all given that other MGM properties give no tier credits for electronic table play.

    • Thanks Joe! I didn’t attempt any table games during my visit, but good points across the board. It definitely seems like tough going under this latest version of the program, especially given how little in comp dollars they’re offering for play.

Leave a Comment