Dear Mark: In your recent article you told a reader that “there is no magic switch that’s flipped from some secret location” to get more dough out of people. My question is this. Here in Reno, casinos talk and advertise about “we’ve loosened our slots,” or, we have “the loosest slots in town.” Is this a myth? Steve

As I stated in that column, Steve, it is not cost effective for casinos to vary their payouts on slot machines when the circus comes to town. Instead, let’s concentrate on your other inquiry, that of “loose slots.”

When it comes to slot machines, there is no verifiable return for slot paybacks of any one machine, or any particular casino in Reno, just its geographic location. Fortunately, for you, Reno casinos have always been competitive and liberal with their returns. Nevada is home to the top three sections of America with the loosest slots, and Reno has remained #1 for eight years running. So, as for the general use of the term, “loose slots,” there is no myth here.

Essentially, Steve, the looser the slot machine, the more money it returns to the player. That said, a loose slot doesn’t mean the player has any additional advantage over the house. The casino still has an edge on your play, but looser slots offer better returns. Every slot machine in a casino is programmed to return a certain percentage, over a specific period, of the dollars wagered.

“Loose” slot machines are only “loose” relative to other machines in that gaming jurisdiction, or even within that casino itself. The rub, Steve, is that even if some machines in Casino A are “looser” than Casino B next door, there’s no way to verify which machines on the floor pay back what. And keep in mind that slot machines hold some of the largest house edge ratios for casinos no matter where you play.

I am skeptical of those “Loosest Slot” ads mainly because that term is never machine-specific. Even explicit numbers such as “up to 98 percent return” should be labeled, without qualifiers, for that claim to be meaningful. “Up to” could denote but one machine out of a bank of machines that is set to pay back at 98%, which technically, complies with that advertisement.

What is a certainty, Steve, is that casinos do not set every slot machine to the same payback percentage. Typically, they will have a mix of machines with both higher (looser) and lower (tighter) payouts scattered across their casino floor.

Aside from the fact that, comparatively speaking, Reno does happen to have looser slots compared to other gaming jurisdictions, don’t be misled by the term “loose” slots. Remember, in most instances, those loose slots are unidentifiable.

Besides, since slot machines make up approximately 85 percent of a casino’s revenue, just because a casino says their machines are loose doesn’t mean they are a smart bet. The payback percentage of a loose slot is the overall percentage that a slot machine will return over the long run, based on millions of spins, and not when your hind end is sitting front and center.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:

There’s a place in the world for a gambler
There’s a burden that only he can bear
There’s a place in the world for a gambler
And he sees
Oh yes he sees. – There’s A Place in the World for A Gambler, Dan Fogelberg