As I approach the one year mark of writing daily articles for this website, one thing has become quite clear: There’s a subset of you who basically can’t or don’t trust casinos.
With the latest COVID-19 situation, there are many, many players who are claiming (without evidence) the casinos are in the process of tightening up the machines to make their money back after they’re allowed to reopen. I expect things to be exactly as they were before, but there’s clearly a subset of people who don’t trust casinos.
I have simple advice for you if you find yourself in that category: Don’t gamble. Seriously.
The concept of gambling generally requires a level of trust between the casino and the player. We know that mathematically every casino game is designed to, over time, provide an advantage to the casino. Casinos don’t need to do any trickery or find ways to trap people into leaving money behind – the games will do that for them.
Some believe that casinos will purposefully change game rules or settings around to make more money in various scenarios. I won’t repeat all the various ways of this, but it’s powered an entire category of posts on this site under Myths vs. Reality. But it’s pretty simple – they don’t need to do this.
I took a look at the statistics of two of my home casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, recently. They’ve been reporting payback data for decades. And the slot machine payback they offered in the 1990s, when the first opened, is basically the same today. Don’t believe me? Here’s Foxwoods and here’s Mohegan Sun.
The reality is that there’s a lot of data out there. Nationally the paybacks have been on a very slow decline, and it’s had an impact on how much people are willing to gamble.
In some markets paybacks increase a bit when new facilities open and the competition is hotter, but most of the time it’s more likely to be played out over increased comps than the less obvious payback percentages, since comps are more visible to the player. It’ll also play out via table game rules promotions or improvements.
If a casino is caught violating rules, and they would eventually be caught because this is not an industry that’s left to its own devices, this would be a massive violation of trust between the player and the casino. If it was found a certain slot machine company had developed technology to skim payback, and it was caught, players would avoid those machines like the plague.
Casinos need to maintain that trust, as do slot developers, states that allow gaming and depend on the revenue, etc. So there’s precise regulations on everything from how much a machine has to pay at minimum to how a game gets certified to be in a casino to begin with. They pore over the programming, the math models, the various ways players can place a wager, and do everything they can to avoid problems.
Bugs happen, and humans make mistakes, but for the most part, everyone does their part to ensure it’s a fair game. Even table game dealers will generally resolve things quickly in favor of a player if a one-off mistake happens and it’s pointed out, especially if it’s a smaller wager – the cost of arguing, running away a player, or even pausing a game to check the cameras isn’t worth it.
So I repeat my advice earlier: If you’re a player who thinks casinos regularly make decisions designed to turn the screws on players at every turn, gambling is not for you. It’d be better to save that money and put it towards something with which you have more faith. It’s easy to go on tilt and be upset when a bad casino beat happens, but there’s also players earning those jackpots too, and at some point it could be you.