Slot Payback Smarter Gambling

Strip vs. Downtown Slot Machine Payback, Revisited

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Written by Joshua

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about the weird case of slot payback percentages downtown slipping behind strip casino payback.

After taking a peek at the data while writing about Vegas Advantage and some of its recent downtown content, I thought it was a good time to take a fresh look at slot machine payback numbers between downtown and the strip.

So let’s start with the overall take. November 2021 is the latest data posted at the time this was written. How is the overall slot machine payback on the strip vs. downtown?

Here are the overall win percentages for the strip vs. downtown for the 12 months ending November 30, 2021:

  • Strip: 8.23%
  • Downtown: 8.37%

Casino win percentages are the inverse of payback. So the lower the win percentage, the more players were paid back in that time. Lower is better, so the strip eked out a win against downtown.

Let’s now look at overall numbers, month by month, for the last 12 months:

MonthThe StripDowntown
Dec 20206.37%8.53%
Jan 20218.14%6.83%
Feb 2021 7.33%7.74%
Mar 20218.42%8.98%
Apr 20218.50%8.80%
May 20218.30%8.24%
Jun 20218.72%9.23%
Jul 20218.52%7.76%
Aug 20218.56%9.27%
Sep 20218.55%8.96%
Oct 20217.74%7.41%
Nov 20218.68%8.37%

The strip won 7 months, and downtown won 5 months, which makes sense given the narrow win the strip had in the year range covered.

Since penny denomination is the bulk of the machines on casino floors, and what many play, let’s also examine the differences in win percentages between them for the same time period. Let’s start by looking at the overall 12 month win percentage for penny denomination payback for the year ending November 30, 2021:

  • Strip: 11.51%
  • Downtown: 11.05%

Here downtown is a half percentage point better – a win, but not the definitive win an area that’s classified as having “value” would drive. And when you think about places like El Cortez advertising slots that are 40 percent looser than the strip, other casinos within downtown must be pulling that average down.

For a bit more comprehensive look, here’s a month by month breakdown for the past year:

MonthThe StripDowntown
Dec 20209.38%11.87%
Jan 202112.31%9.44%
Feb 2021 10.46%10.43%
Mar 202111.64%11.01%
Apr 202111.68%11.56%
May 202111.34%10.17%
Jun 202112.22%12.29%
Jul 202111.81%10.56%
Aug 202111.85%12.16%
Sep 202111.92%12.12%
Oct 202110.61%9.83%
Nov 202112.51%10.98%

Here, downtown wins eight months, and the strip won four. Again, with a half percentage win over the strip, it makes sense that downtown takes more of the months.

So what gives? Why is downtown a bit better for pennies but not overall? A few thoughts:

  • The downtown area’s value prop scenario may also mean it draws a different type of gambler. Since the numbers are based on actual coin in and out, if you have more high rollers playing higher denomination games, which tend to have a lower house advantage, that could skew the numbers. This is seen by the mere 5 $100 denomination machines downtown vs. 75 on the strip, for example
  • The consistency of the numbers pulled on the strip, barring one or two months where they’re well outside the range and probably just statistical anomalies, are likely thanks to the massive number of slots on the strip vs. downtown, and the amount of play they get comparatively to downtown, where there was a wider range in numbers overall. It doesn’t take as many big winners, or lack thereof, to skew the numbers downtown.
  • I maintain the opening of Circa a year ago has introduced a downward tilt in the numbers, given signs that they’re not a high paying casino relative to others downtown (000 electronic roulette; below average for downtown video poker tables, etc.). Meanwhile, on the strip Resorts World has opened, another casino competitor, and with additional competition beginning to creep its way into the strip and nearby, I expect this will continue to evolve.

As mentioned in the Vegas Advantage write-up, it’s important for players to look for the good value and which properties are touting it, as that’s where you’re likely to get a better shake for your gambling dollar.

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast 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, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.

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