You will hear it several times a day in your local betting shop and often the casino too – “this thing is rigged!” But are slot machines and fixed odds betting terminals rigged? How can they be truly random, when they are programmed to payout a certain percentage of their intake? Read on and dispel a few myths about slot machines.
It is common knowledge that slot machines and fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) are programmed to pay out a certain percentage of what they take in, after all, there are laws that regulate these things. But how can the machine’s programmers manipulate a fixed payout percentage if the machine is truly random? Surely the slot machines must be fixed to recoup losses after a big payout, or employ some other non-random, underhand method?
This is just not true. Slots really work in a similar fashion to the table games in your local casino. Take roulette for example, where there are 37 individual numbers (on a standard European roulette wheel) and therefore 37 outcomes, but rather than being paid a “true odds” payout of 36/1, the casino awards you just 35/1 for your win.
Your number could win six times in a row, but there is no need for the croupier to suddenly start paying out less to other roulette players to recoup those losses, the casino simply continues to offer its players a slightly negative expectation bet and over time, the roulette tables will recoup those losses naturally and after a significant period of time, the casino will have awarded a normal payout percentage on their roulette tables. No roulette players walk around the casino shouting about how the game is “rigged”, do they?
So with the slot machines, it works in just the same way. Admittedly there are hundreds if not thousands of possible reel combinations, instead of just 37 like on the roulette table in the casino, but the principle is the same. The machine is set to pay out slightly less than the true statistical probability of an event happening.
Each symbol on a reel corresponds to a number, which a random number generator then picks and the slot machine or FOBT displays accordingly. Any combination of numbers that awards a prize will have a set probability of appearing and the machine simply awards the player slightly less than the true probability.
If the slot machine has a bonus feature where the player can make choices, the prize is not pre-determined. The player’s choices really do have an impact and if they are lucky enough to do well, the machine simply recoups its losses over time via the method explained above.
It is also worth considering that if a slot machine developer were caught cheating somehow, they would almost certainly be ruined. No player would ever trust them again. Why on Earth would they risk their reputation and livelihood when they could program honest slot machine games and earn a guaranteed percentage for the whole of that machine’s life?
So just like any other casino game, slot machines are not cheating the player in an underhand fashion. Slot machines are only “rigged” in that they offer players slightly less than true odds, but anyone who enters a casino knows that they are facing a house edge in any game that they participate in.
In short, you can trust that slot machines truly are random.