Casino News Myths vs. Reality

Will Casinos Change the Odds Before Reopening?

Paris Las Vegas slot floor
Written by Joshua

With casinos facing an unprecedented shutdown as a result of the COVID-19 spread, players have been popping up all sorts of questions about things from comps to tier years. But one of the more persistent questions I’ve been seeing relates to something pretty basic:

Will casinos change the odds on their games before reopening?

STATUS: Highly unlikely, for similar reasons to why they don’t change odds at other times.

Right now casinos have completely closed up shop, furloughing or laying off substantial portions of their workforce. The machines are off, the lights dimmed, and the doors locked.

When casinos are given the all clear, their energy will be spent getting a complex set of machinery in motion – the payback settings on the machines are likely the last thing on their mind.

Casinos looking to save a few bucks have a number of ways to cut corners. They could reduce offers, for instance. Changing the machine’s payback won’t necessarily do a thing in the short term, because short term variance can overtake long term considerations for awhile. So any short term changes may not have the intended effect.

If the casino did want to make any changes, like swapping out game hardware or loading in new games, this would certainly be a good time to do so, but many casinos will also likely curb some of the spending on that to just keep costs contained right now.

So it’s also pretty unlikely you’ll see any massive changes on the floor between the day they closed and the day they opened, unless they were already in the process of making a change and/or already purchased items that were awaiting installation.

And about those offers and whether they’ll cut corners, during the recession in 2008, casinos did this and many found their rebound lacking for awhile as a result of it. Some players will likely be skittish, and others will be in high risk groups that delay their return to normalcy for a bit.

If I were a betting man (and this is a slot-based website, after all), I’d expect the first rounds of offers to be more generous than normal to jumpstart things. I also would anticipate them going to their most loyal players. My logic for this is that casinos will need a bit of warming up to get back to their previous standards, and being off the job awhile means people will be rusty.

Loyal players will be understanding and accept a few hiccups, while the casino companies have their loyal players putting them through the paces so they can get back into a rhythm.

So, expect paybacks to be in line with what they have been at a given property, and I would expect offers to be a bit more generous in the initial weeks or months after a property reopens.

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.

6 Comments

  • Hey Josh, this subject caught my attention, I was also kind of thinking the slots might be loose like when a new game comes out, plus you know people talk! Good blog!

  • I live in Reno, NV. I have gambled at three different places here in Reno multiple times since the re-openings and each time…LOSE LOSE LOSE. Now I know you can lose at gambling but I take $200 or more with me and bet $1-1.50/hand and every place and every machine…can not even get up $20. I believe they have tightened the odds greatly. What fun is gambling if you are guaranteed to lose every time. Don’t kid yourself. My good friend has worked for gaming control and as long as they update the paperwork for the machine with the corresponding serial number and submit it to gaming control they can change the odds every damn day! And they have!

    • Hi Beverly! I’ve taken your comments and worked up a full post for next Monday, but to summarize, Reno’s June data is virtually the same as before the closures, so if they had increased the house hold on slots before reopening the data would have begun to surface that already. The fact that it hasn’t just reinforces what I said in the piece.

      Your bet amounts and bankroll indicates you’re under bankrolled for your bet level and may run out of money before completely riding out tough runs. If you’re playing tougher games like links or pot games, that can put you even further behind the curve. Finally, just because casinos can do something, doesn’t mean they will do something or are doing something.

      If you’re not seeing games constantly with disabled messages for a few minutes at a time or constantly opening the same games up over and over to change settings (either of which would be obvious), it’s not happening. And based on the reported paybacks to the state published so far, that backs up my assertion.

  • NONSENSE. I gamble in Vegas, Atlantic City, Biloxi, Detroit & New Orleans and I have NEVER has such a massive LOSING STREAK at slots.

    Make no mistake, I AM A GAMBLER. I pack between $5,000-$10,000 with me on each visit, I read my Win/Loss statements. I know for a fact that the house can and does tighten/loosen slots. A slot programmer in New Orleans, TOLD ME TO MY FACE that they tightened up the slots as much as legally allowed by state law.

    Is the same thing going on in Las Vegas, or anywhere else? I’m not sure because no one admitted it to me, but my Win/Loss reports suggest they have been tightened up. I do fare better in Las Vegas at MGM properties better than anywhere else.

    • Hi Goth Pop! A friend of mine sent me a screenshot of his win/loss from the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas midway through 2021. Over half a million in coin-in, and he managed to have payback of more than 100 percent. Does that mean the Cosmo pays over 100 percent? To use your own word, nonsense.

      Everything you’ve outlined is simply one data point. You cannot surmise a casino’s overall payback from one win/loss record. For the same reason, I can’t look at three years of win/loss at MGM Grand, which for me in a three year swing was under 70 percent, and presume that’s what the casino’s set to pay, not the least of which is that in Nevada, it has to be over 75 percent, per regulations.

      Your gambling budget also doesn’t really matter as much as the game you’re playing and the number of spins. If you’re not doing hundreds of thousands to millions of spins, it’s quite likely you can be some ways away from the overall payback because of something called variance.

      I have lots of people tell me slot techs (I presume that’s what you mean by a slot programmer) told them things to their face, and usually I wince at what follows because it doesn’t make sense or is simply inaccurate. Casinos furloughed or laid off their entire staff, slot techs included, when they closed, and basically opened things as they were left when they closed (which is the article you’re replying to). And I’ve done multiple articles since that indicate, in markets I’ve reviewed, that the paybacks haven’t changed at all since.

      But don’t take my word for it – there’s an easy way to answer this for yourself. Vegas, Atlantic City, Biloxi and New Orleans are all markets with commercial casinos that are required to report data to the state government, including their overall hold, which is the inverse of payback – if the casino holds 10 percent, their slots paid back 90 percent (simple example, not meant to be considered an actual example).

      The American Casino Guide Book, along with recent payback data, has information on how to check the data in all those markets. You can compare 2018 and 2019 to 2020 and 2021 to see how things have evolved. I’ve looked at Vegas and Atlantic City in detail, and it’s been consistent. I plan on looking at other markets in the future, but you don’t need to wait for me to do so as the data’s available for anyone to review!

      I’m sorry you’ve had a bad run, but bad runs are part of gambling, and it’s not nonsense for them to happen without a single change to slot paybacks. Gamblers want to have something or someone to blame for a bad run, but your budget, win/loss and other anecdotal data can’t really tell you what’s happening with slot paybacks. The overall reporting can, and I hope you find what you’re looking for there.

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