Slot machines by country

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Row of slot machines inside Las Vegas airport.

Slot machine terminology, characteristics and regulations vary around the world.

Slot machines by country[edit]

Australia[edit]

In Australia "poker machines" or "pokies" are officially termed Gaming Machines. Australian-style gaming machines frequently use video displays to simulate physical reels, usually five. These machines have additional bonusing and second-screen features such as free games and bonus levels. They also allow for multiple lines (up to 200) or multiple ways (up to 3,125) to be played.

On multiway games, players play the entire position of each reel instead of fixed lines or patterns. For instance, if a player plays 1 reel on a 243 way game, they receive three symbols in the first reel which pay anywhere in the three positions, while all other reels pay in the centre only, with unused areas darkened. On the other end of the scale, if the player plays 5 reels, symbols can appear anywhere in the window and will pay as long as there is one in each reel. Most games however still require the symbols appearing left to right, sometimes this even includes scatters. Scatter symbols still pay the same as per conventional games, multiplying their pay amount by the total bet and the amount of ways/reels played. Other multiway games give you even more ways by using a 4x5 or 5x5 pattern, where there are up to 5 symbols in each reel, allowing for up to 1,024 and 3,125 ways to win respectively. Aristocrat calls these games Xtra Reel Power and Super Reel Power respectively. These games typically cost more than their 243 way Reel Power counterparts. Recently, IGT has also started to manufacture multiway games. Gaming machine manufacturer Konami Australia also made an alternative way of gaming by using patterns, where symbols pay adjacent to one another. Most of these games have a hexagonal reel formation, and much like multiway games, any patterns not played are darkened out of use. On both systems, scatter symbols still pay in the darkened areas just like standard machines where scatters don't have to appear on a payline.

The laws regulating the use of gaming machines in Australia are a matter for State governments, and as such they vary between States.

Gaming machines are found in casinos (approximately one in each major city) as well as pubs and clubs in some states (usually sports, social, or RSL clubs). The first Australian state to legalize this style of gambling was New South Wales in 1956 when they were made legal in all registered clubs in the state. There are suggestions that the proliferation of poker machines has led to increased levels of problem gambling; however, the precise nature of this link is still open to research.[1]

In 1999 the Australian Productivity Commission reported that Australia had nearly 180,000 poker machines, more than half of which were in New South Wales. This figure represented 2.6% of all the gambling machines in the world,[1] and on a per capita basis, Australia had roughly five times as many gaming machines as the United States. Revenue from gaming machines in pubs and clubs accounts for more than half of the $4 billion in gambling revenue collected by state governments in fiscal year 2002 – 03 [2]

In Queensland, gaming machines in pubs and clubs must provide a return rate of 85% while machines located in casinos must provide a return rate of 90%.[3] Most other states have similar provisions.

In Victoria, gaming machines must provide a minimum return rate of 87% (including jackpot contribution), including machines in Crown Casino. As of December 1, 2007, all gaming machines with support for $100 notes were banned due to an amendment to the gaming laws; all gaming machines made since 2003 comply with this rule. This new law also banned machines which would automatically play with the button held. One exception to these laws exists in Crown Casino, any player with a VIP loyalty card can still insert $100 notes and use the autoplay feature, whereby the machine will continue to play without player intervention until credit is exhausted or the player intervenes. All gaming machines in Victoria have an information screen accessible to the user by pressing the 'i key' button, showing the game rules, paytable, return to player percentage, and the top and bottom five combinations, with the odds shown. These combinations are stated to be played on a minimum bet (usually 1 credit per line, with 1 line or reel played), excluding feature wins.

Western Australia only permits the use of particular forms of gaming machine in Burswood Casino, and no gaming machines may be used elsewhere. This policy (the most restrictive in Australia) had a long historical basis, and was reaffirmed by the 1974 Royal Commission into Gambling:

Japan[edit]

Japanese slot machines, known as pachisuro or pachislo (portmanteaus of the words "pachinko" and "slot machine"), are a descendant of the traditional Japanese pachinko game. Slot machines are a fairly new phenomenon and they can be found in mostly in pachinko parlors and the adult sections of amusement arcades, known as game centers.

The machines are regulated with integrated circuits, and have six different levels changing the odds of a 777. The levels provide a rough outcome of between 90% to an astonishing 160% (200% if using skills). Indeed, the Japanese slot machines are "beatable". The parlor operators naturally set most of the machines to collect money, but intentionally place a few paying machines on the floor so that there will be at least someone winning, encouraging players on the losing machines to keep gambling, using the psychology of the gambler's fallacy.[citation needed]

Despite the many varieties of the machines, there are certain rules and regulations put forward by the "Security Electronics and Communication Technology Association", an affiliate of the National Police Agency. For example, there must be three reels. Also, all reels must be accompanied by buttons which stop these reels, the reels may not spin faster than 80 revolutions per minute, and the reels must stop within 0.19 seconds of the button press. In practice, this translates to "the machines can't let the reels slip more than 4 symbols". Other rules include the following: no more than 15 coins can be paid out per play, credit meter can't go higher than 50, 3 coin maximum bet, etc.[citation needed]

Although a 15 coin payout may seem ridiculously low, the regulations allow "Big Bonus" (~400–711 coins) and "Regular Bonus" modes (~110 coins) where these 15 coin payouts occur nearly continuously until the bonus mode is finished. While the machine is in bonus mode, the player is entertained with special winning scenes on the LCD display, and energizing music is heard, payout after payout.

Three other unique features of Pachisuro machines are "Stock", "Renchan", and tenjō (天井?). On many machines, when enough money to afford a bonus is taken in, the bonus is not immediately awarded. Typically the game merely stops making the reels slip off the bonus symbols for a few games. If the player fails to hit the bonus during these "standby games", it is added to the "Stock" for later collection. Many current games, after finishing a bonus round, set the probability to release additional stock (gained from earlier players failing to get a bonus last time the machine stopped making the reels slip for a bit) very high for the first few games. As a result, a lucky player may get to play several bonus rounds in a row (a "Renchan"), making payouts of 5,000 or even 10,000 coins possible. The lure of "Stock" waiting in the machine, and the possibility of "Renchan" tease the gambler to keep feeding the machine. To tease him further, there is a tenjō (ceiling), a maximum limit on the number of games between "Stock" release. For example, if the tenjō is 1,500, and the number of games played since the last bonus is 1,490, the player is guaranteed to release a bonus within just 10 games.

Because of the "Stock", "Renchan", and tenjō systems, it is possible to make money by simply playing machines on which someone has just lost a huge amount of money. This is called being a "hyena". They are easy to recognize, roaming the aisles for a "Kamo" ( "sucker" in English) to leave his machine.

In short, the regulations allowing "Stock", "Renchan", and tenjō transformed the Pachisuro from a low-stakes form of entertainment just a few years back to hardcore gambling. Many people may be gambling more than they can afford, and the big payouts also lure unsavory "hyena" types into the gambling halls.

To address these social issues, a new regulation (Version 5.0) was adopted in 2006 which caps the maximum amount of "stock" a machine can hold to around 2,000–3,000 coins' worth of bonus games. Moreover, all Pachisuro machines must be re-evaluated for regulation compliance every three years. Version 4.0 came out in 2004, so that means all those machines with the up to 10,000 coin payouts will be removed from service by 2007. Only time will tell how these changes will affect the Japanese Pachisuro industry.

New Zealand[edit]

Slot machines, commonly called "pokies", were introduced into New Zealand in 1991. A 2009 study linked the prevalence of slot machines with high crime levels.[4]

United Kingdom[edit]

Row of old fruit machines in Teignmouth Pier, Devon
One armed bandits at Wookey Hole Caves

The provision of slot machines is covered by the Gambling Act 2005. This superseded the Gaming Act 1968.[5]

Slot machines in the UK are categorised by definitions produced by the Gambling Commission as part of the legislation brought in with the Gambling Act of 2005.

Machine category Maximum stake (from June 2009) Maximum prize (from June 2009)
A Unlimited Unlimited
B1 £2 £4,000
B2 £100 (in multiples of £10) £500
B3 £1 £500
B3A £1 £500
B4 £1 £250
C £1 £70
D (various) 10p to £1 £8 cash or £50 non-cash

Casinos built under the provisions of the 1968 Act are allowed to house up to twenty machines categories B to D or any number of C or D machines instead. As defined by the 2005 Act, large casinos will have a maximum of one hundred and fifty machines of any combination of machines in categories B to D, within the total limit of one hundred and fifty (subject to machine to table ratio of 5:1) and small casinos will have a maximum of eighty machines of any combination of machines in categories B to D, within the total limit of eighty (subject to machine to table ratio of 2:1).

Category A[edit]

Category A games were defined in preparation for the planned "Super Casinos". Despite a lengthy bidding process, with Manchester being chosen as the single planned location, the development was cancelled soon after Gordon Brown became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As a result, there are no lawful Category A games in the UK.

Category B[edit]

Category B games are divided into subcategories. However, the differences between B1, B3 and B4 games are mainly the stake and prizes as defined in the above table. Category B2 games – Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) – have quite different stake and prize rules. FOBTs are mainly found in licensed betting shops, or bookmakers, in the form of electronic roulette.

The games are based on a random number generator (e.g. through the application of the uncertainty principle) and thus the probability of getting the jackpot in each game is independent of any other game, and these probabilities are all equal. If a pseudorandom number generator is used instead of one that is truly random, the probabilities are not truly independent, since each pseudorandom number is determined at least in part by the one generated before it.

Category C[edit]

Category C games are often referred to as fruit machines, one-armed bandits and AWP (Amusement With Prizes). Fruit machines are commonly found in pubs, clubs, and arcades. Machines commonly have three reels, but can be found with four or five reels with around sixteen to twenty-four symbols printed around them. The reels are spun each play, and if certain combinations of symbols appear then winnings are paid by the machine, or a subgame is played. These games often have many extra features, trails and subgames with opportunities to win money; usually more than can be won from just the payouts on the reel combinations.

Fruit machines in the UK almost universally have the following features, generally selected at random using a pseudorandom number generator:

  • A player (known in the industry as a punter) may be given the opportunity to hold one or more reels before spinning, meaning that the reel will not be spun at the next play, but will instead retain its setting at the previous spin. This can sometimes increase the chance of winning, especially if two or more reels are held.
  • A player may also be given a number of nudges following a spin (or, in some machines, as a result in a subgame). A nudge is a single step rotation of a reel of the player's choice (although the machine may not allow all reels to be nudged for a particular play).
  • Cheats can also be made available on the internet or through emailed newsletters for subscribers. These cheats give the player the impression of an advantage, whereas in reality the payout percentage remains exactly the same. The most widely used cheat is known as Hold after a nudge and increases the chance that the player will win following an unsuccessful nudge. The cheats give the player an incentive to play the latest games.[citation needed]

It is known for machines to pay out multiple jackpots, one after the other (this is known as a streak or rave) but each jackpot requires a new game to be played so as not to violate the law about the maximum payout on a single play. The minimum payout percentage is 70%, with pubs often setting the payout at around 78%.

These machines also operate differently from truly random slot machines. The latter are programmed to pay a percentage over the long run. Fruit machines in the UK are usually based on a compensated mathematical model, which means that a machine that has paid out above its target percentage is less likely to pay out than were it to have paid out below that percentage.

United States[edit]

In the United States, the public and private availability of slot machines is highly regulated by state governments. Many states have established gaming control boards to regulate the possession and use of slot machines. Nevada is the only state that has no significant restrictions against slot machines both for public and private use. In New Jersey, slot machines are only allowed in hotel casinos operated in Atlantic City. Several states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana and Missouri) allow slot machines (as well as any casino-style gambling) only on licensed riverboats or permanently anchored barges. Since Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi has removed the requirement that casinos on the Gulf Coast operate on barges and now allows them on land along the shoreline. Delaware allows slot machines at three horse tracks; they are regulated by the state lottery commission. For a list of state-by-state regulations on private slot machine ownership, see U.S. state slot machine ownership regulations.

Native American casinos[edit]

Native American casinos located in reservations are not permitted to have slot machines unless the tribe first reaches a pact with the state in which it is located (per Indian Gaming Regulatory Act). Typically, a pact entitles the state to receive a fraction of the gross revenue from slot machines.

Slot machine classes[edit]

The following statements are generalities, not actual laws for every jurisdiction. These classifications may vary from state to state. 15 U.S.C. 1171 et seq. governs gambling machines or "slot" machines. This provision is known as the Johnson Act.

Some states have restrictions on the type (called "class") of slot machines that can be used in a casino or other gaming area. "Class III" (or "traditional") slot machines operate independently from a centralized computer system and a player's chance of winning any payout is the same with every play. Class III slot machines are most often seen in Nevada or Atlantic City and are sometimes referred to as "Vegas-style slots".

"Class II" slot machines (also known as "video lottery terminals" or "VLTs") are connected to a centralized computer system that determines the outcome of each wager. In this way, Class II slot machines mimic scratch-off lottery tickets in that each machine has an equal chance of winning a series of limited prizes. Either class of slot machines may or may not have a player skill element.

In general a game must have all characteristics of a Class II game to be a Class II game. Any characteristic of a Class III game makes it a Class III game. The casino pays a fee to the state for each Class III game and can only purchase so many Class III licenses. There is no such restriction for Class II games. Class II games are not so tightly regulated by the state.

Class II game characteristics[edit]
  1. The player is playing against other players and competing for a common prize.
  2. There is not necessarily a winner in each game. The game continues until there is a winner.
  3. In a given set there are a certain number of wins and losses. Once a certain combination has occurred it cannot occur again until a new batch is initiated. This is most obvious in scratch-card games using cards that come in packs. Once a card has been pulled from a pack, the combinations on that card cannot occur again until a new pack of cards is installed. One game is dependent on previous games.
  4. The player must be an active participant. They must recognize events as they occur and must recognize when they have won and announce their winning. Bingo is an excellent example here.
  5. All players play from the same set of numbers as the numbers are announced.
Class III game characteristics[edit]
  1. The player is playing against the house.
  2. Each game is independent of previous games. Any possible outcome can occur in any game.
  3. Wins are announced automatically.

Slot clubs[edit]

Many American casinos offer free memberships in "slot clubs", which return a fraction of the amount of money that is bet in the form of comps (complimentary food, drinks, hotel rooms, or merchandise), or sometimes as cash or a promise to pay cash at a later date. These clubs require that players use cards that are inserted into the slot machines, to allow the casinos to track the players' "action" (how much each player bets and for how long), which is often used to establish levels of play that may make players eligible for additional comps. Comps or "cash back" from these clubs can make significant differences in the maximum theoretical returns when playing over long periods.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]