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Myth-Busting UNLV Study Reveals that Gamblers Can’t Detect Slot Machine Payout Percentages

George Miller

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Myth-Busting UNLV Study Reveals that Gamblers Can’t Detect Slot Machine Payout Percentages
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As casino operators optimize the house advantage, a new UNLV study contradicts long-held beliefs about a player’s ability to detect differences in how much – and how often – a slot machine pays.

 

It’s a common sight on casino floors: patrons jumping from slot machine to slot machine before eventually hunkering down at a game that’s due for the next big payout. But can players – even the regulars who frequent a particular property – really tell the difference between the house edge on one game from that of another?

Nope. At least not according to a series of recent studies led by Anthony Lucas, a UNLV Hospitality College professor and former gaming industry operations analyst.

For the past several years, Lucas and colleague Katherine Spilde from San Diego State University have taken to casino floors on multiple properties in the U.S., Australia, and Mexico to investigate. Their results contradict long-held beliefs by casino operators about a player’s ability to detect differences in how much – and how often – a slot machine pays.

“I think some operators are naturally and understandably cautious of new information that challenges traditional industry practices,” said Lucas. “But we must consider how we know what we know. This is where our work takes on a Moneyball-like aspect – questioning the wisdom of widely held beliefs when data show that a new way of thinking may be better.”

In their latest study, the UNLV-led research team compared two pairs of reel slot games at a “locals” casino in suburban Sydney, Australia, where all wagering occurs on electronic gaming devices.

Their process is relatively straightforward: take two identical slot machines, positioned in similar places on a casino floor, but vary the par – the percent of total coin-in that the machine keeps over time. For example, if the par on a game is set at 10 percent, the machine would be expected to retain $10 of every $100 wagered, on average, over the long term. But in the short term, this rarely happens, increasing the difficulty of par detection.

For this study, researchers compared the daily performance of pairings for the games “Tokyo Rose” and “Dragon’s Fortune X” over a nine-month period. The pars within each pairing ranged from 7.98 percent on the low end to 14.93 percent on the high end.

Researchers measured daily coin-in for each machine as well as its T-win, a formula that multiplies coin-in and par to calculate a machine’s expected value, or its theoretical win. If, over the course of the nine-month test, regular players could detect a difference in the pars, this comparison would reveal whether (and how much) players migrated from higher par to lower par games.

As Lucas predicted, differences between the high and low par games remained stable throughout the length of the study, which meant that there was no statistically significant indication of play migration.

And while the lower par machines had more coin-in over the course of the study period, the T-win was greater on average for the high par machines. The positive impact from the elevated T-win on revenue for the higher par machines more than compensated for the decline in coin-in on those machines.

“Casino operators should take note of the substantial increases in T-win, as they are responsible for optimizing revenues, not coin-in,” said Lucas.

The results were also consistent with findings from the team’s previous studies, which analyzed 11 pairs of games over 180 days at gaming properties in U.S., Mexico and Australia.

So, other than busting one of gaming’s great myths, why does this matter?

Pars are an important factor for casinos looking to optimize revenues, as the bulk of slot revenues come from reel slots, and a lion’s share of a casino’s overall profits come from slot operations. While there are exceptions to this rule, it is true for most of the world’s casinos.

“Ultimately, operators are responsible for optimizing slot revenues, which is no simple task,” Lucas said. “Knowing which par will produce the greatest win is most helpful, but the optimization issue becomes more complex when the possibility of player detection is introduced.”

That’s where industry perspective is mixed, as operators have expressed concerns that short-term gains from higher pars could lead to long-term losses as players leave perceived “tight” slot floors for the greener pastures of their competitors.

To account for this concern, researchers extended length of time from previous work, from six months to nine months. They also expanded the difference in pars between matched pairs from 4.9 percent in the initial study to 6.95 percent in the current study.

In a concurrent study, the researchers compared the Australian data with four, two-game pairings at two similarly situated casinos in Mexico. Par differences for those games were even more drastic – ranging from 7.98 to 8.9 percent.

Despite these factors, in both instances the results still found no evidence of players moving away from higher-par machines to their low-par counterparts, and the high-par games continued to post substantially greater revenues.

“Put simply, our results suggest that greater pars produce greater revenues, without the risk of brand damage resulting from ‘price’ detection,” Lucas said.

Full Study

The study, “Impacts of increased house advantages on reel slots,” was recently published online in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management.

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Industry News

Scout Gaming Enters Distribution Agreement with BtoBet

Niji Narayan

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Scout Gaming Enters Distribution Agreement with BtoBet
Reading Time: < 1 minute

 

Scout Gaming has entered into a distribution agreement with platform provider BtoBet. The deal allows BtoBet to provide Scout Gaming’s full product offering to its vast network of operators.

“We are pleased to add another strong distribution platform to our already broad network of partners. We had a successful co-operation with BtoBet and looking forward to expand it,” Joakim Renman, CCO of Scout Gaming, said.

“We are happy to add the market leading DFS and fantasy sports supplier to our product portfolio of games. We are experiencing an increasing demand for additional sport content and believe that Scout Gaming’s product fits that need in a pleasant way,” Sabrina Soldà, Chief Marketing Officer of BtoBet, said.

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Industry News

Stakelogic Revamps its Super Stake Feature

Niji Narayan

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Stakelogic Revamps its Super Stake Feature
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Online slot developer Stakelogic has revamped its Super Stake feature for delivering more excitement and bigger wins to players.

The Mega Super Stake allows players to place a side bet and enable an additional feature that delivers an insanely high payout once in every 35 spins or so.

With the standard Super Stake feature, the side bet allows players to double their bet but with Mega Super Stake their original bet is multiplied by 2.5 for not just big but mega win potential. Both Super Stake and Mega Super Stake can be built into a single slot game.

“Super Stake has been an absolute game-changer for us and our players so we wanted to build on this and deliver even more entertainment. Mega Super Stake takes the big win anticipation and potential to the next level, allowing players to land massive wins at a regular hit rate from a relatively small stake,” Stephan van den Oetelaar, CEO of Stakelogic, said.

“Mega Super Stake will debut with our next release, Lion Gold, and will then be built into other games where our developers and mathematicians feel it will add the most value,” he added.

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Industry News

Tobias Fagerlund Steps Down as Global Gaming CEO

Niji Narayan

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Tobias Fagerlund Steps Down as Global Gaming CEO
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Tobias Fagerlund has stepped down as the CEO of Global Gaming with immediate effect. The Board has appointed Board member Christian Rasmussen as Acting CEO.

Tobias was appointed as the acting CEO of Global Gaming on 29 April 2019 and has been the permanent CEO of the company since 2 July 2019.

“It is my opinion that Tobias during his time as CEO led Global Gaming in a very meritorious way. Tobias has implemented a large package of restructuring measures and shown evidence of a strong and clear leadership that was absolutely necessary for the company. Tobias has thus with great success laid a good foundation for Global Gaming’s future operations. Now, however, the company is facing a new phase and we have identified a number of measures necessary to further strengthen the company’s position. The CEO has worked from Stockholm, where he has been the company’s only employee, and there is a need for leadership to operate where our operating units are allocated, in Estonia and Malta,” Niklas Braathen, Chairman of the Board of Global Gaming, said.

“On behalf of the board and the company, I would like to thank Tobias for his work, and would like to point out that during the time I have been chairman of the board, we have had a very good collaboration and that I look forward to continuing in various forms,” Niklas Braathen added.

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