When I used to work in a Licensed Betting Office, I quickly became fed up with the constant complaints from the regular players of the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) that the slot machines were not random at all, but rigged to pay out at certain times. You hear it in casinos up and down the country too, but it’s incorrect. Slot machines and FOBTs are random. Here’s why:
Think about a roulette wheel. Everybody knows that on a European wheel (that is, a roulette wheel with only one zero slot) the odds of hitting a single number are really one 1 in 37 or 36/1. When your number comes up however, you are paid at 35/1, giving the casino a slight edge and therefore a mathematically guaranteed long term profit.
Is the roulette wheel rigged? Of course not and only an idiot would think otherwise. There is nothing to prevent your chosen number coming out three or four spins in succession and nor is there anything to prevent a run of three or four hundred spins without seeing that same number.
The point is that a roulette wheel can guarantee a fixed payout in the long term, whilst remaining random and therefore fair. Slot machines and FOBTs are no different, in that the combinations of events are programmed to occur a certain percentage of the time and when they do happen, the payouts do not reflect the true odds of the event occurring.
Sure, there might be thousands more possible combinations than the 37 in our roulette wheel example, but the principle is the same.
Speaking of roulette, my favourite complaint from the betting shop punters came when they were playing the roulette game on the FOBTs. “Three times in a row that number just came out? That’s really random, isn’t it?”
Surely you’d have to be more concerned if you played roulette for a long period of time on the FOBT and you didn’t see any repeat numbers? After all, it happens on a real roulette wheel, so if it didn’t on the FOBT, then you’d know it was rigged!
I recently read a letter to an authority on slot machines, who claimed that slots must be fixed because whilst attending the opening night of a refurbished casino, she heard a member of staff claim “A big crowd means we’ll be paying out a lot tonight”. How could he know that?
Sorry to disappoint the conspiracy theorists, but simple mathematics is once again the answer.
Imagine a slot machine that pays out 95% and imagine a player putting £1000 into the machine. In theory, the slot player will win back £950 and the machine will keep the other £50.
If the same slot player put £5000 into the machine – five times the stake – then it follows that the payout will be five times higher and the money retained by the machine will be five times higher.
The truth is that a busy casino opening night will see more players and therefore higher turnover than on a quiet night. The member of staff was simply acknowledging that fact.
One last point to consider. Knowing that casinos are guaranteed to make money from every single game in the building (and similarly, online casinos are guaranteed to profit from their online games) due to the built in house edge, why do they need to cheat?
Any casino, betting office or online gaming company that were found to be rigging games would be closed down immediately and even if they weren’t, word would spread so fast that nobody would play with them. They would lose their entire business and livelihood.
Slot machines can be trusted. Fact!
Good luck in the casinos!