There are lots of various beliefs about Class II games, specifically Bingo Machines. Many players believe, because they are found at tribal gaming facilities that don’t have any minimum payback or reporting requirements, they must pay lower. Right?
I’ve got over some examples of how that may not be the case. There’s cases like Ho-Chunk Gaming in Madison, Wisconsin, that proudly touts its 95 percent payback. There’s other examples that Bingo machines, when in the same facility, do better than their Vegas-style slot counterparts in part because they simply pay better.
But regardless of that, where many players get curious is how a bingo machine determines its payouts and still delivers a slot-like experience. Bingo is a player vs. player game – you’re all buying into a game and someone ultimately wins and someone loses.
The house edge is built in to the payouts for the game, but it’s not house banked as it were – the prizes are based on the players making wagers. The hit rate on bingo games is many times 50 percent for that reason, but how they determine the payouts is then calculated in various ways.
In an article written awhile ago, as it talks about what the Seminole Hard Rock team did to make Class II gaming competitive with Vegas-style slots, it gives two examples of how the Bingo game payouts can be structured to bring it more in line with slot machines.
Stack of Payouts Available
For higher hit rate games, the 50 percent hit rate is probably fine. When a winner is found, it goes to a predetermined set of possible payouts and awards one of them. Those payouts are arranged to ultimately ensure that over time, a house edge is achieved and a payback percentage is maintained.
Based on the payout selected, the reels then produce an animation that shows a win of that amount. Thus, the game’s outcome is determined outside, the amount won selected, fed back into the machine and the “for entertainment purposes only” animation displayed.
Keep in mind a winning spin is a spin that pays some sort of prize. You could spin a $1 spin and win a nickel. You could win $1. You could win $1,000. “Winning” spins are not always winning spins. But that’s also how casinos can balance the games out.
Hidden Winning Spins
What happens when you have a slot machine that has a much lower hit rate? The way the Seminoles solved it was to have a bonus feature on the screen. If the game had a 14 percent hit rate, the remainder of the 50 percent’s worth of “wins” would award a bonus symbol on the reels. Collect enough and a single credit would be added to your balance.
By going this route, it allows for a lower hit rate on games with simpler paytables or higher volatility, while ensuring the game pays as it should and feels the same.
Things Continue to Evolve
Game companies have continued to innovate since then, so it’s likely other techniques have been developed. But the above is to indicate that there’s been a lot of time, money and effort to develop a Bingo machine experience that has a similar look and feel to slots, while coming from playing the game of Bingo.
And as far as payouts, all the major companies are heavily involved in the development of these machines, just like they are Class III slots. Aristocrat bought VGT, a popular Bingo machine developer, awhile back, as an example, and has now brought themes like Buffalo and Timber Wolf over to the VGT side of the aisle. Scientific Games has brought popular themes like Dancing Drums to the Class II environment.
It stands to reason that just like these companies set floors on game payouts to ensure a fun and exciting experience for players on the Vegas-style slots, so would they for Bingo machines. In the article, Charles Lombardo, who worked on the technology for the Seminole Hard Rock casinos, was quoted as saying the paybacks needed to be in line for the manufacturers to go along with it:
“Over the long hall, any player is going to know if you screw with percentages; they’ll know the difference. And, a manufacturer is not going to give us their title if we are going to misrepresent that title (with low payback). We don’t want to kill a title.”Charles Lombardo, Corporate Senior Vice President of Casino Operations at Seminole Gaming at the time the article was written
So like many player fears and myths, Bingo Machines should be right up there with other slot-style games. They may work or feel a bit different because of the requirements of Bingo, but their pays should be reasonable and fair.