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Are slot machines tighter? Yup, but by an imperceptible amount

Updated February 13, 2023 - 3:26 pm

I hear it all the time.

These #%$@!! slot machines are getting tighter all the time.

And you know what? Statistically, they are — most of them, anyway.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board recently issued a report on how much casinos won from players in 2022. Not surprisingly, it was a record amount as it seems every time a new report is issued by the Control Board or the American Gaming Association about casino revenue, the amounts are always higher than they were a year earlier.

Buried a little deeper in the annual report is an accounting of what each slot machine denomination and which table game produced the most revenue for casinos.

What’s interesting about that is that by calculating how much each denomination and table game won for the casinos, one can also deduce how much was won by players.

And if you know that, you can figure out which types of slot machines and which table games are the most winnable for those who visit and play.

People who frequent casinos already have a pretty good idea which games give players the best chance to win. But for those who only play occasionally or visitors who don’t see the statistics on an everyday basis, it can be an eye-opening experience.

The machines and games that win the most for casinos don’t change much from year to year, although some machines won more for the casinos last year than this year.

While the numbers statistically show that most denominations of slot machines had higher year-over-year casino win percentages, you would have to play a lot over time to be able to perceive it. Most of the percentage differences of win between 2021 and 2022 are just hundredths of a percentage point. For example, if you know quarter slot machines won for the casinos 8.06 percent of the money put into the machine in 2022 and 8.04 percent of the coin in for 2021, is a player really going to notice any difference?

So based on what the casinos won statewide in 2022 — $10 billion from slot machines and $4.8 billion from table games, compared with $9.2 billion on slots and $4.2 billion on tables in 2021 — the 10.5 percent year-over-year increase in revenue was the result of gamblers betting more, and the win percentage was pretty close to the same.

Billions into slots

Incidentally, players put $139.8 billion into Nevada’s slot machines in 2022, an 8 percent increase from 2021, and placed $35 billion on table games and sports wagers, a 12.7 percent increase over 2021.

So based on what the statistics show, what’s the best slot machines a gambler can play?

As it was last year, it’s nickel slots, which had a 5.09 percent win percentage for the house, or a 94.91 win percentage for the player. That doesn’t mean you’re going to win nearly 95 percent of the time when you play; it means 95 percent of the money that goes in comes back to players. And while we hear all the time about big jackpots that hit in our casinos, they’re few and far between. Most of the money that goes into the machine goes to a lucky few.

Other games that provide a statistical edge to the players: the $5 slot machines, which gave casinos a 5.46 percent win percentage in 2022 compared with 5.48 percent in 2021; the $25 slot machine, which won 5.86 percent of the money last year, but just 5.71 percent for the same period a year earlier; and multi-denomination machines saw 6.13 percent in 2022, but 5.87 percent in 2021.

The machines that take the most from players are the ubiquitous penny slots, which took 9.81 percent in 2022 compared with 9.85 percent in 2021. That’s why there are so many of them statewide.

The Control Board reported there are 47,770 penny slot machines operating in the state — 112 fewer than there were in 2021. But they won a total of $3.59 billion for casinos last year.

By comparison, there are just 923 nickel slots in operation, also 112 fewer than last year, and they won casinos $42.9 million.

Blackjack a big moneymaker

On the table game side, mini-baccarat is the best play with casinos winning 11.19 percent of the money bet, compared with a win percentage of 14.18 percent for blackjack, 15.95 percent on craps and 20.14 percent on roulette. The 2022 win percentage for casinos was higher on all four games compared with 2021.

But blackjack continued to score the most for casinos, winning $1.29 billion, a 14.4 percent increase from 2021, with 2,024 tables in play statewide compared with 1,958 a year earlier.

Close behind was baccarat, the high-stakes preferred game of the Asian high-roller. That game had a 14.7 percent win percentage for the house, and the 399 tables in play statewide won $1.18 billion for casinos, a 25.4 percent increase over last year when 370 tables were in play.

Still, the best bet in the house continues to be sports wagering.

The win percentage on sports in 2022 was 5.13 percent, meaning players took home 94.87 percent of the wagers. The 176 sportsbooks in operation — and that’s how many there were in 2021 — won $446.7 million for casinos, just a 0.3 percent increase from last year.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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