The Lowdown on Payout Percentages
Every slot machine has its own odds for winning. Once you add up the odds for each possible prize, you get the machine’s payout percentage, also known as its return to player (RTP). In general, slots are programmed with payout percentages between 82% and 98%. The Megabucks slot machines in Las Vegas, for example, had a reported 87.1% RTP in 2012.
Payout percentages increase when the bet size goes up – for the most part. The penny slots will be closer to the 82% end of the spectrum, but if you’re betting $25 at a time, you can expect payouts nearing the high-90s. The RTP will dip again to around 95% if you’re a high-roller playing the $100 slots. These figures are approximate, and they apply to slots around the world; depending on where you play, the percentages can be more or less favorable to the players.
Casinos set the payout percentages on their slot machines electronically. Each machine is built with a certain RTP built into the software, and to change the payouts, ca`sinos have to manually change the software. This takes some effort in most cases, although some newer machines can be altered remotely. These slots started appearing in 2006 in Nevada, where the Gaming Commission established a rule that the machines had to be idle for at least four minutes before reprogramming.
Whichever machine you’re playing, the slots are monitored to make sure the software is approved. In Nevada, where the minimum RTP is set at 75%, this is done by random audit. In New Jersey, the Gaming Control Board has to be present anytime the software is changed, to ensure the minimum payout percentage remains at 83%.
PARS in the Springtime
Casinos will occasionally advertise a “loose” slot with a specific payout percentage in the 90s, but they’re generally unwilling to tell you exactly which machines have which payouts. However, each machine has a “PARS” sheet, which stands for Paytable and Reel Strips. These PARS sheets occasionally find their way on the internet. This can give players an idea of what kind of RTP they can expect, but even then, each machine can be programmed in multiple ways.
Once you’ve got the general idea how payout percentages work, you can make a few strategic adjustments to maximize your slots experience. For example, instead of playing five coins per line on the $1 slots, you can play one coin per line on the $5 slots, where the RTP is more favorable. You’ll also get higher percentages, in general, from the simpler slots, especially at less fancy locations. If you want those flashing lights, you’ll have to pay a little more.