Slots, One-Armed Bandits, Video Lottery Terminals (VLT)
A slot machine is a casino gambling machine with typical three or more reels and controls such as buttons, levers or touchscreens. The slots are quite popular among gamers (not to mention addiction, which is a big problem). It is estimated that up to 70% of casino's revenues is generated by the slots. The gamer's return ranges from 80 to 90% of the turnover.
The name of the machine derives from the slot for inserting and retrieving coins. The majority of the slots machines has three to five reels. The goal of the game is to spin and stop the reels by a button (or lever / touchscreen) so that a winning line of the same symbols is created.
First Slot Machines – The One-Armed Bandit
The first slots were developed at the end of the 19th century and they were called one-armed bandits. The name of these slots was derived from the characteristic lever on the side of the machine (the one arm) and the fact that these slot machines were able to take all your money (the bandit).
One would expect (as it is common today) that pulling the lever spins the reels in a random fashion, but the one-armed bandits were often adjusted so a player's return was poor. These abuses were removed by tightening legislation.
The popularity of the slots grew fast, so they were installed at the saloons, restaurants or barbers. Initially money was not necessarily had to be a win, but instead e.g. a pack of cigarettes.
Nowadays the slots are electronic or electromechanical machines. They provide greater variability of the game. There are various symbols on the reels – the slot producer's fantasy is not limited – e.g. fruit (the name fruit machine is actually preferred in British English), numbers (777), bells, jokers or poker combinations (poker machine = slot machine in Australian English) belong to the most popular symbols.
The first slots had only three reels with e.g. ten symbols, the new video lottery terminals (VLT) may have five reels with up to 50 symbols. What kind of difference does it make? While the first slots were able to create just a small number of combinations:
10 × 10 × 10 = 1,000 possible combinations, as for the new slot machines there can be up to
50 × 50 × 50 × 50 × 50 = 312,500,000 possible combinations. The bigger the number of combinations, the higher the odds against and the jackpots can be!
The win does not have to be determined by the combination of the same symbols on the original horizontal line only, but there can be multiple winning lines. The big advantage of the modern slot machines is that they can calculate the win automatically, which was quite unimaginable as regards historic machines.
Basically there are three types of the slot machines:
- Classic mechanical slots (one-armed bandits);
- Digital slots (with a LCD touchscreen); and
- Video lottery terminals (VLT).
The digital slot machines can be found everywhere. They often draw attention to themselves by typical flashing or sounds.
Video Lottery Terminal (VLT)
Video Lottery Terminals are the latest innovation in the field of slot machines. They are a part of a wide network (VLTs are operated in various gaming houses and localities) and connected to the online central system that generates random numbers and controls the course of the game. The minimum buy-in might be a little higher than in case of common slots, but the wins (jackpots) can reach millions of dollars.
Player's Return & Casino's Share
As it was indirectly mentioned in the preface the slot machines usually provide casinos with
20% share. It is an extreme profit compared to some other games like Roulette or Craps. Moreover it is hard for a player to find out which slot machine is set to "just"
In terms of stone casinos or gaming houses it can be recommended to play those slot machines that are situated on a busy place such as an entrance. The casinos are interested in attracting the players to the game so the payouts are usually better.
How Do Slot Machines Pay Out?
There is a wide-spread myth – in many cases the players think that the slot machines pay out in sort of regular cycles. That is why they suppose that the longer they play the higher the chance to win they have. But this is not the way the slot machines work. The slots are set to a specific payout and they are not bothered by when and how they let you win.
Let us have a slot machine with 3 reels and 10 symbols on each of them. Then there can be
10 × 10 × 10 = 1000 random outcomes. If the slot machine is set to
20% share, it does not bother about the way it pays out
800 coins (out of 1000) in average. Moreover the longer you play the more likely you will get closer to this outcome – according to the concept of expected value. It is also worth mentioning that most of the slot machines do not require skill, however some of them may do or may give that impression.
A bit of luck may be needed to beat the slot machine, therefore it is recommended to try some other slot machine after approx. 10 lost spins (or coins).
Slots' Earning Power (Example)
The slots provide their operators with considerable earnings both in absolute and relative point of view. Playing the slots is quick and tempting (not to say addictive).
Imagine a slot machine that works 8 hours a day, 30 days a month. If you play e.g.
0.25$ game and a spin of reels takes let us say 5 seconds then the turnover is
3$ a minute = 180$ an hour = 1,440$ a day = 43,200$ a month. If the slot machine is set to usual 10% to 20% share (or profit) it earns approx.
4,320$ to 8,640$ a month in favor of its operator. And it's not too bad, isn't it?