Are Land-Based Machines or Online Slots Rigged?

By in Slots on
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Slot Machine Row Confused Man

Today, I’m going to answer another reader question which I received recently by email. It comes from Sarah in Scotland who wants to know “Are slot machines rigged?” I’ve copied the email directly below with her permission.

Dear GamblingSites.org team,

I’m Sarah McKeown, and I’ve been a long-time reader of your blog. I’ve found lots of interesting content over the years. I even won a healthy jackpot after playing one of your recommended jackpot slots.

However, I’ve been keeping a record of my bets versus my wins, and I’ve noticed that no matter how many big wins I have, I always end up losing it all again over the long term. Can you tell me if slot machines are rigged? Can casinos fix slot machines to make sure players lose?

Any insights you can share with me would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Sarah McKeown

Sarah, I’m going to answer your questions directly. Yes, slot machines are rigged. However, they’re not rigged in the way you think they are

In this post, I’ll explain how slot machines work, why you lose in the long-term, and I’ll give you some useful tips for beating slot machines more often. Let’s begin!

Are Casino Slot Machines Rigged?

I guarantee you that if you walk through any Vegas casino, or any casino in the world for that matter, and ask every slots player if they won, the vast majority of them will tell you no.

It’s difficult to understand how this could be the case unless slot machines are rigged. And if they are, how in the heck is that legal? Are casinos actively keeping slot machines rigged so that you can’t win? If so, what about all those stories of players who won huge jackpots?

This can all seem rather confusing, but it’s not. The simple answer is that the vast majority of players lose, and a few lucky players win. Each machine is programmed to pay out less than what’s put into it, ensuring that the casino makes a continuous profit over the long run. This could be anything from a 2% advantage on the best slot machines, to a 10% or greater advantage on some of the big-money jackpot slots.

So, in a nutshell, casino slots are rigged to make sure the casino makes a profit, but that does not mean you can’t win on any given gaming session.

Gaming commissions would never allow casinos to run games you can’t win, nor would it be good for business. Players would soon figure out that the games were unwinnable and would stop playing.

Let’s take a closer look at how slot machines work. This will help you understand that while the house always wins, you can win, too.

How Slot Machines Are Rigged

Understanding how slot machines are rigged requires you to understand how they work. Each slot has its game odds, but they all use a similar method of paying out jackpots. Here are some important things to know about slot machines.

Understand Slot Machine RTP

RTP is an acronym for “return to player.” If you read slot machine reviews, you’ll usually find each game has a specific RTP published by the developer. For example, on NetEnt.com, you can find the RTP of Starburst and other games.

RTP is a percentage.

For Example:

Based on Starburst from above, the RTP is 96.09%. What does this mean in terms of money, jackpots, and wins and losses? It means that, for every £100 bet on these games, players win back £96.09.

It’s important to remember that this does not mean you’ll make back £96.09 for every £100 you bet on Starburst. It means that the casino returns £96.09 to all players spinning the reels at every casino which offers Starburst. This includes all of the small wins and losses each player wins on every spin. In the long run, the casino will make £3.91 on every £100 bet on that game, regardless of what happens in the short term.

Hopefully, this concept of RTP helps you  understand how slot machines are rigged in favor of the game developers and casinos but are not rigged in absolute terms. You can win when playing slots, but you can’t win in the long run.

Understand Random Number Generators

Even though the house has a built-in advantage on slot machines, it’s clear that some players do win massive jackpots. Just take a look at this story about a British soldier winning a record-breaking jackpot from a £0.25 spin.

Lots of players wonder when the best time to play slot machines is, which slots are “loose,” and all sorts of other questions. They hope that figuring out the answers will help them win slots more often, but the truth is that this is all a waste of time.

Slot machines decide when to pay out in accordance with a Random Number Generator (RNG). Believe it or not, it’s possible for a slot machine to pay out a jackpot on two spins in a row, although it is unlikely. A Random Number Generator is a piece of software which spits out billions of numbers per second, and if it happens to spit out a number associated with a jackpot, you’ll see the high-value symbols line up across a payline and you win.

There’s no way to manipulate RNGs. You can’t cheat online slot machines no matter how hard you try. Some smart players note that RNGs can’t be truly random since humans create them, but for all reasonable and practical purposes, you can’t manipulate them.

Perhaps, someone will someday spot a pattern in the apparent randomness by using a quantum computer to crunch numbers. But until then, just assume they’re random.

While the slots developer can control the RTP via programming, it can’t control the RNG. There are third-party games testing organizations such as eCogra which test RNGs and verify that they are fair. This doesn’t mean all slots developers play fair, but big names like Microgaming and NetEnt do.

How to Win at Slots — Tips and Tricks

Now that you understand how slot machines work, and how they are rigged without being unfair, it’s time to turn the tables on the casinos. I’ve learned a lot about slot machines throughout my career as a player, and I’m going to share my best tips on how to win slots more often.

Pick Slot Machines With a High RTP

One of the first and most obvious tips is to select high RTP slot machines. These games pay back the most to players in the long run, so you’re better off playing them even if the jackpots are smaller.

Very often, the jackpots are smaller. Since the casinos have less risk to deal with when a smaller jackpot is involved, they can afford a higher payback percentage to players. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

So, which slot machines have the highest RTP? Here are five to get you started.

  • Blood Suckers by NetEnt – 98%
  • Rags to Riches by Cryptologic – 98%
  • Good Girl, Bad Girl by Betsoft – 97.8%
  • Kings of Chicago by NetEnt – 97.8%
  • Wolfpack Pays by NextGen – 97.8%

Those slots have a variety of excellent bonus features, decent jackpots, and higher than average RTPs. If you want to get the most bang for your buck as a long-term player, it’s wise to play them.

Pick the Right Volatility for Your Bankroll

There’s a top-notch article on slot machine variance and volatility here. If you want a more detailed breakdown of what they are, check that out.

Slot machine volatility is important to understand because it will tell you which slots are suitable for your bankroll. Volatility indicates both how often a slot should pay and the average size of the payouts.

  • Low volatility slots pay smaller amounts more often.
  • Medium volatility slots pay decent amounts fairly often.
  • High volatility slots pay less frequently, but wins are more explosive.

If I had a smaller bankroll, say £20, I’d start by playing a low volatility slot such as Starburst. I find that it’s a good slot to build your bankroll with. Once I double up, I usually switch to a higher volatility slot with bigger payouts which occur less frequently.

Managing your bankroll effectively is about the only slot machine strategy which works. Therefore, knowing the volatility of a game is useful information.

Use Free Spins With Low Wagering Requirements

Most online casinos offer free spins bonuses for new players. Lots of them also offer free spins to loyal players who spin slots daily or weekly.

I’ve learned the hard way that not all free spins bonuses give me an advantage. Sometimes, the wagering requirements are so high that the bonus is a liability. This is especially true if it comes with predatory terms such as that I can’t withdraw my deposit until I meet the wagering requirements. Yes, such bonuses exist, I’ve seen it all over the years I’ve been playing!

There are other free spins bonuses you will want to take. They’ll give you a chance to beat the house with its own money and have these characteristics.

  • They won’t require excessive minimum deposits.
  • The wagering requirements will be low, around 20x or less.
  • You’ll be able to keep all of what you win when you wager the bonus.

Free spins with low wagering requirements are available at lots of top UK casinos. There are even casinos with no wagering requirements, and they’re especially popular in the UK market.

Final Words

Thanks for writing to me with this question, Sarah. It’s given me a chance to cover lots of ground with regards to slot machines, and I hope that it answers your question. Are slot machines rigged? Yes, the house has a mathematical advantage which you can’t alter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t win.

Beating slot machines is a case of picking the right games, managing your bankroll effectively, and getting lucky. Don’t forget the last part! Luck is essential. There’s no effective way to beat the slots every time. Happy spinning, and don’t forget to pick up a casino bonus before you begin!

Oliver Hughes

Based out of London, I began freelance writing for the UK section of GamblingSites.org in October of 2019. Having worked in the gambling industry for over 10 years, I now have the pleasure of adding this site to my list of accomplishments as a casino writer. ...

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