New figures from the Nevada Gaming Control Board have shown that the classic gambler’s suspicion is partially true – slot machines have gotten more restrictive. However, it is not in any way that would be obvious to players; according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the changes are quite slight.
Across all Nevada casinos, slots paid out 0.02% less to gamblers in 2022 than the year before. Even with this reduction, casinos still won more money overall – in 2022, they made $10 billion from slots, compared to $9.2 billion in 2021. This is mainly due to the higher amount of money being fed into the machines, rather than any adjustments to the payout percentages.
In 2022, players put $139.8 billion into Nevada’s slot machines, an 8% increase from the year before. The decrease in the payout percentages was very minor, with quarter slots returning 8.06% of all money put into them in 2022, compared to 8.04% the year prior. This difference is so small that it can be attributed to mathematical variance, which would be impossible to detect by the average gambler.
Typically, slot machines are programmed to pay out a certain “theoretical payout percentage” or RTP, which differs between jurisdictions. For example, the minimum payout in Nevada is 75% legally, while in New Jersey it is 83%. The RTP is set by the slot machine manufacturer in accordance with the local regulations and the casino orders the machines with the preset payouts. The random number generators and game codes for each machine must be approved by the Gaming Control Board and casinos are not allowed to change the machines.
So why do casino-goers think the slots are getting tighter? Perhaps it is a way for them to make sense of their losing streaks, as the human brain is naturally inclined to find patterns in randomness. Although the RTP is built into the game dynamics, each individual spin is still random and the result is determined by the random number generator at the moment the button is pressed. Betting on a series of coinflips, for example, gives you a 100% RTP but you can still lose after ten flips, leading you to believe that you were cheated even though the coin toss was fair.
It is also important to note that the RTP is returned to players unevenly, with most of it going to the lucky few in the form of big jackpot wins. But