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HOME > Gaming > Ask the Slot Expert: Did my video poker machine malfunction?

Ask the Slot Expert: Did my video poker machine malfunction?

20 August 2014

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Last night I was sitting next to a gentleman who was playing the Wicked Winnings slot machine and he hit the She Devils with several Ravens. When the total win was finally tallied, it came out to $1,204.60. So this fellow was just $5.60 over the $1,199.00 magic number and received a 1099.

Here is my question to you: Could this gentleman have told the casino (Red Hawk Indian casino) that he just wanted $1,199.00 as a winner, and the casino could keep the rest? I know this may seem outlandish, but what gaming rule would prohibit this?

I don't think I've ever seen a regulation that says a player must accept the exact amount indicated by the machine.

In any case, let's look at this situation. The theory is that by accepting only $1,199, the player could avoid the 1099. The first problem is that all the tracking systems indicate the win was over $1199. There must be a mountain of paperwork to alter the amount won reported by the slot machine. If they don't alter the amount won, this win will be flagged as an exception in the slot accounting system because a 1099 was not issued for a win over $1199. If the amount isn't changed, the IRS will also see this as a violation because the machine and the slot accounting system both indicate the win was $1204.60 and no form was issued.

The biggest problem of all is this: The theory is that one can avoid paying taxes on the win by not getting the IRS paperwork. In reality, taxes are due on all wins regardless of whether one is issued any IRS paperwork. IRS regulations require that casinos issue forms for wins over $1,199 to ensure that at least some people declare their gambling winnings. There's a name for trying to game the system to hide income — tax evasion.

If you were a multi-national corporation with an army of lawyers, you could probably get away with assigning the extra $6 to your Irish cousin so you could avoid paying taxes, but regular folks are going to have to grit their teeth, take the form and include it in their 1040.

Last night I was playing video poker at a casino betting one. All of a sudden I noticed that the 4-of-a-kind payout went up to 80! It stayed there for about a half hour, then reset back to 25. How can this happen? Was it a machine "error"?

It's very unlikely that there a machine malfunction. Machines go through extensive testing before being certified for operation on the slot floor. I can't say that problems have never been discovered after machines have hit the slot floor, but those instances have been few and far between.

A number of years ago there was a video poker machine called Flush Attack, on which the value of the next flush was increased after a certain number of flushes had been hit. These machines are no longer available, but it sounds like the machine you played was similar to it.

I couldn't find the machine online, but if you or anyone can tell me the name and manufacturer, I can find out how the machine operates.

My husband and I recently went to Reno for a three-day getaway. We stayed at the El Dorado, which emphasized it was a family-owned casino rather than a corporate one. While there we played with a players card and racked up enough points so that we ate for free the entire time and had enough left over to pay part of our room bill.

Do privately owned casinos pay their players better than corporate ones?

I've certainly heard plenty of stories about the old days in Las Vegas when owners like Benny Binion gave players a "good gamble" and took care of them with easily earned food and rooms. And it certainly seems today that hosts have less discretion than they used to have and all comps have to be justified using some stringent formula.

I think we have to use a different term than "privately owned" to describe the casino operations we want to examine. Station Casinos is privately owned today, but it's a big corporate operation. Let's call the kind of casinos we're talking about "small operators" because they're not part of some big corporate entity. These operations have just one or two casinos.

I don't have much experience with small operators. All of the casinos in Atlantic City were part of multi-casino companies when I started going there. And almost all of the places I've stayed and played at in Las Vegas are part of big casino companies.

The closest experiences I've had with small operations are the Desert Inn and the LVH casino. I always had good offers from the Desert Inn, but it was nearly impossible to earn comps during a visit. I received offers for free or discounted rooms and other goodies after a trip, but I could never play enough to earn a free room night during a trip. Similarly at the LVH, I thought I had played enough to get at least one room night comped, but they only offered a free night on a return trip. I had a similar experience at Caesars Palace — impossible to get a comp during a visit, but they would send me offers for free rooms and food if I returned. I suppose this makes some sense — I'm already there, so they don't have to reward me, but they do have to offer something to get me to come back.

In any case, I've also played a bit recently at Station Casinos properties and Boyd properties. I haven't tried to calculate percentages, but it seems like comps are easier to earn at casinos in those two companies than at the LVH, which today is the only casino owned by Westgate Resorts.

Looking at your experience, we have to take into account an outside factor. Reno is struggling, so its casinos have to be generous to get players to come back. I think you'll find that most of the casinos in Reno are more generous than most of those in Las Vegas, regardless of the sizes of their parent companies.

In short, I think a casino's generosity has more to do with its philosophy and economic environment than its corporate structure.

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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