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HOME > STRATEGY > Strategies & Tips > Ask the Slot Expert: Are the machines in New York's racinos Class II?

Ask the Slot Expert: Are the machines in New York's racinos Class II?

14 March 2018

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Announcement: I had the privelege of being the guest on Bob Dancer and Richard Munchkin's podcast Gambling with an Edge a few weeks ago. The podcast was recently posted. You can listen to it at https://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/gambling-with-an-edge/podcast-guest-gaming-writer-john-robison/.

Question: I listened to your recent podcast with Bob D. and R. Munchkin yesterday. Therein you mentioned class 2 machines and bingo. I have been playing in the "racinos" in NYS (Empire City and RW JFK) due to the fact that I cannot deal with the cigarette smoke present in other locations. At these locations they have the Bally Fusion BlackJack ETGs. My understanding, per NYS Gaming laws is that these are class 2 machines and that all of the machines, including the ETGs at these casino locations are "video lottery terminals". If this is the case, the BlackJack game is in fact bingo and player actions to hit, stand or whatever have no bearing on whether the player wins (outside of simply leaving the table or surrendering) since by video lottery terminal standards and by what you mentioned, if you are selected to win, you will win.

One of the reasons I'm asking this is because I play perfect basic strategy and I practice with actual cards as well as BlackJack Verite software and I have never approached any EV seen in my live or simulated practice. I've never matched any AV seen in either practice scenario either. I *have* seen EV and AV when playing at Parx (Bensalem PA) *live* and other *live* locations, but again I cannot deal with cigarette smoke.

So my question to you is whether I understood your commentary on the podcast correctly: Are these BlackJack ETG machines actually bingo machines with a predetermined payout rate far below what an actual live BlackJack would have for the given rules? It would explain my near two-year observations.

Related Question: Are all Class II machines bingo on slot machines or not necessarily? I am near Resorts World in Queens, NY and they have lottery terminals, not bingo-like machines.

Answer: The various classes of gaming (I, II and III) are defined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). If you google IGRA (skip down to the third result — the first is International Gay Rodeo Association and the second Interferon Gamma Release Assay), you can get a PDF of the act. Section 6 on page 750 (750? It's not that bad. The first page in the PDF is page 749!) starts the descriptions of the classes of gaming. You can also go to IGRA's Wikipedia page.

Class I gaming includes social games for minimal prizes and traditional forms of Indian gaming as a part of, or in connection with, tribal ceremonies or celebrations.

Class II gaming includes bingo, pull-tabs, lotto and certain card games. Class II does not include banked card games like baccarat and blackjack and slot machines.

Class III gaming "means all forms of gaming that are not class I gaming or class II gaming."

The Video Lottery Terminals in New York are like rip-off, er, scratch-off lottery tickets. The New York Court of Appeals stated in Dalton v. Pataki that the terminal "receives the next ticket from the site controller and displays the predetermined outcome — win or loss." And, according to Telling the Truth about New York Video Poker at the Albany Law website, "the Court of Appeals specifically distinguished the approved video lottery games that were electronic instant tickets from disapproved games of which 'involved a single player pitting his or her skill against a machine'".

I've been using the Class II moniker to describe any machine that does not have an internal RNG and depends on an independent server to determine its results. John Grochowski not so recently pointed out to me that the Classes of gaming are defined in IGRA and in the industry Class II is generally only used to describe machines at Indian casinos. The terms Server-Based Gaming, Server-Supported Gaming and Server-Centric Gaming are used to describe similar machines that are not in Indian casinos.

As far as I know, all Class II machines are based on bingo. If a state allows churches and other charities to run bingo games, then the tribes in that state were also allowed to run bingo games. Put slot machine dress on top of a bingo drawing and, voila, you have a casino.

Actually, a bizarro world casino, at least in the beginning. One time, many years ago, I went to a casino that was transitioning from Class II to Class III. The Class II machines looked a little like machines that I knew, but I had never heard of the manufacturers. As Indian gaming exploded, the major Class III manufacturers realized they were missing out on a huge market and developed Class II versions of their popular titles.

And now to officially answer the questions:

The Video Lottery Terminals at Empire City and Resorts World at JFK are not based on bingo but are more like scratch-off tickets under the hood. This means that, as you have discovered, strategy is useless on the blackjack and video poker machines. Whatever the central server has determined you will win is what you will win regardless of how you play the hand. The house edge is somewhere between 5% and 10%, a far cry from the 0.5% for basic strategy at a real blackjack game.

Speaking of JFK, I'm somewhat sad for the end of the 747 era. When I worked for Pan Am, we would sometimes go to the roof of the Pan Am terminal to watch the Concorde take off. The big ol' 747 would just lumber down the runway, so big it looked like it was barely moving and not going about 180 mph. Then the captain would rotate and the nose wheel would leave the runway and the plane would start climbing, looking like it was struggling for every foot it gained. The Concorde, on the other hand, needed much less of the runway, despite the fact that its takeoff speed was around 250 mph. There was no mistaking the sound of the Concorde taking off. Once it left the runway, it gained altitude like it was weightless. And then it was gone, too small and far away to see with the naked eye.

Moving on to the related question, if we limit the Class II description to Indian casinos, then most, if not all, Class II games are bingo under the hood. If we use it to generically describe any machine without an RNG, then not all Class II are bingo.

We really could use a generic term for any machine that does not have an RNG and on which strategies are useless. Any suggestions?

Finally, as for smoking in casinos, it's time that we drop the fiction that banning smoking will kill casinos. Going smokefree didn't kill the bar business. There are many smokefree poker rooms in Las Vegas. The Westgate SuperBook is smokefree. A few years ago the Gold Strike in Tunica opened a completely smokefree floor. According to U.S. Smokefree Casinos and Gambling Facilities on the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation website, there are at least 782 state-regulated gambling facilities that are required to be 100% smokefree.

A Gold Strike casino executive said they opened the non-smoking floor because players requested it. If your local casino is not smokefree or has inadequate nonsmoking sections, let the casino personnel know. You can download a Smokefree Comment Card to give to the casino at smokefreecasinos.org.

Don't accept smoking in casinos just because that's the way it's always been.

I worked for Pan Am as smoking was phased out on board airplanes. I dreaded having to sit in smoking. At least I could aim the air jet in the Passenger Service Unit overhead to blow the smoke away from me. The only thing I can do in the casino is move to another machine or leave altogether.

Pan Am said it saved an enormous amount of money in cleaning costs once smoking was banned. In the casino I've seen machines with ashes all over them and I've seen players flick their ashes onto the carpet instead of using an ashtray. Smoke gets into the cabinets of the slot machines, too. I'm sure that casinos would save money on cleaning and maintenance if they went smokefree.

I sat next to a maintenance supervisor on a flight once. He said there was only one downside to banning smoking on the plane. The smoke made a gray ring around pinholes in the fuselage, making them easy to find.

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

John Robison
John  Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming's leading publications. Hear John on "The Good Times Radio Gaming Show," broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoons. You can listen to archives of the show online anytime.

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